Grateful

When the dust starts to settle the view becomes crystal clear. I’m not going to fib …the last few months have been a whirl wind.

A new job, a sold house, a move, downsizing and the wonder filled news of a new grand baby. Whew… that was quite a run.

The ironic part is, I don’t think its quite over. We’ll see, but for now things have settled a bit and it feels like it would be a good time to just sit back quietly for a minute and be grateful.

Gratitude. Taking a moment or many moments in a row to just reflect on life and all the things that have gone so well. From the deck of our new place, as the sun starts to peek over the foothills my heart fills with love and peace and gratitude for so many things.

We celebrated our wedding anniversary recently and I was reminded of how grateful I am that he is in my life and even more so that we are sharing this life together. All the cliche’s seem…well cliche’ but what a gift to be married to someone you respect, someone who challenges you and the one who will forever be the best friend. We laugh together and still talk for hours every week. We share idea’s and thoughts and this journey to who knows where! And, there is no one else on the planet I’d rather do that with.

I’m grateful for change and for the beautiful places I get to enjoy living. I never dreamed this would be my life. Just a girl from a very small town in Oregon, living a dream she didn’t even know she had. Oh the adventure we’re on.

I could list the things my heart is grateful for today and none of it would be a surprise:

Kids and their kids. I’m so proud of all of them and how hard they work and how well they love. Its a great blessing to like your adult children.

Hope for the future and a contentment that I have rarely known in my life. Being loved and loving. People in my life who pour in to me simply because they love me.

Sunrises and sunsets. Breakfast with new friends and lunch with old ones. Giggles of the young and deep sighs of contentment as those around me age. And the knowledge that this life is a grand adventure that I am blessed to be on.

Oh what a life. I am incredibly grateful.

What have you noticed lately that you’re grateful for? I look forward to hearing your gratitude’s.

~rache

Kayaks

Since the very first time I met him I have known that MP enjoys the outdoors, specifically camping, hiking and kayaking.
One of our first over-nighters was a run to Stanley where we spent both mornings on the water and both evenings near the camp fire.

We’ve kayaked all the local ponds and many of the lakes and he once went to Glacier park with a friend and spent a couple days on the icy water there. We’ve had lots of good talks in them, one pretty good argument and lots of memories of the stillness of mornings as the sun started over snow capped mountains.

Once, on a cold May morning I dumped my kayak in a icy cold lake in northern Idaho and MP still gives me grief about that now and again. Man was I cold.

We’ve taken great adventures and made great memories in those kayaks.

Part of downsizing has been having to make choices about what we are keeping and what we are parting with. MP has blogged about our journey at MiddleAgeMark.com too, but all along we have both had to make decisions about what is important to us.

We decided the kayaks needed to be sold about a month ago. They were taking up a lot of room in the storage unit which we had agreed to get rid of by months end and last weekend we spent most of a day cleaning it out and making decisions about the rest of what was in it. The kayaks were bulky and took up too much room and we hadn’t used them in two seasons.

With plans to spend as much time as possible in our baby house in Mesa and lots of our future summers in Florida on a catamaran, it seemed like time to let the kayaks go. So MP posted them and they sold within days.

Just another of our adventures in downsizing and minimizing. MP said the guy who bought them had plans for he and his wife to use them locally. Kayaks should be used, often. I’m glad they will be in the water again soon, and I’m also glad we aren’t storing them any longer. Sometimes the hardest part is just making a decision. After that, acting on it comes easily.

Next weekend we will finish cleaning out the storage unit and cancel it. That is going to feel amazing and also mean that that part of the journey is finished. It means the process of moving is officially over.

Bring on the next adventure.

~rache

Old Photo’s and Echoing Dreams

On occasion I write more along the lines of poetic journaling then as an informational blog post. Below is one of my experiences in downsizing our home and the emotional balancing act of choosing what to keep and why.

The large 16×20 photo looks like something out of a 1970’s Home and Gardens magazine. Each child posed perfectly by the unseen photographer. Her in a pale-yellow dress, long hair down her back and a large matching bow atop her head.

His dark hair a contrast to everything light about her. His eyes ebony and his smile a little unsure. These two children loved each other deeply already. Him just 10 months and her almost 5 they had been together for all but the first 4 days of his life.

“How would you like to get a brother today?” the lady on the other end of the phone asked. I’ll never forget that call. So much hope. So many adventures. Such unforeseen heartache.

The photo had been in the garage atop a pile of other things for two weeks. What to do with a photo like that?

Keep it? For what? Who else would want it? No one. Throw it away? Oh Lord, what would our mother say?

I saw it each time I came home from work and each morning as I left. It made my heart hurt a little every time. What am I supposed to do with that big, outdated photo of two kids who haven’t spoken in years?

“You are no longer those children” my heart realized one afternoon. “And that is why you ache at the thought of throwing it away”.

How nice it would be to be those two kids again, loving each other. Playing together. Each liking who the other was.

But that time is past now. And while the memory is sweet, the photo is faded and the two children portrayed no longer exist.

The ache remains after having thrown the photo away. But it had never really been about the picture. It was always about the loss of each to the other and the shattered dreams of the people they had hoped they would be.

Holidays like Halloween (Is it really even a holiday?)

I started writing a post about Christmas and gifts and what our family does (which I’ll post a little later) but while writing I realized we do a pretty cool thing for Halloween as well. And believe it or not, this tradition was started prior to realizing a more minimal way of living.

Each Fall, some of the adults in our family gather the babies (anyone under 16 qualifies) and we go to the pumpkin patch. We go on a Saturday morning and we drink some cider, eat some of those baby donuts, and we wander around looking at all the goats and pigs and ponies. We have been known to take the kids down a slide or take cute photos as they come around in the kids sized train. Whatever we do, it seems to always result is someone covered in hay.

But the real reason for going is for the pumpkins. We get a couple large wagons and we begin the trek through the pumpkin patch looking for the perfect ones to either carve or decorate. We inspect dozens and buy almost as many. Big ones, round ones, tall ones, white ones and of course, baby ones. (And the occasional gourd too!)

The next day, the entire family gets together for carving, painting or decorating along with pizza and football. We’ve been doing this tradition for about 8 years now and it marks one of my favorite times of year and family events.

The reason I wanted to share this is that it is perfect for those of us who have downsized or are choosing a more minimal lifestyle. The pumpkins make great decorations and fun family entertainment, and when the season is over they are bio-degradable and do not need storing! Each person can decorate or carve however they want to, encouraging creativity even with the slimy insides and in the end no closet space will be needed to store it. Win!

For a holiday that I might say I’m not a huge fan of (mostly because the concept of buying candy to give to strangers so my kids can go to a strangers and ask for candy never really made sense to me) I do enjoy this family tradition that not only allows for fun family time, it also affirms our dedication to minimalism.

What does your Halloween look like? Any ghoulish idea’s for fun filled, minimal impact, decorating or dressing up? Please share.

Happy Fall everyone! See you at the pumpkin patch.

~rache

The Rules of Dis-engagement

The very best thing we did as a couple in the process of downsizing was to talk about it before it began. I think it was the vital piece of making this process successful.

MP and I agreed that we wouldn’t give input on what the other chose to keep unless asked. If there was something that held value to one or the other of us, it stayed and needed no explanation. That was a great way to start the process because I knew there would be no pressure from him and no need for me to try to make him understand my choices. And it didn’t leave either of us with feelings of resentment for having been ‘made’ to get rid of things. I would highly recommend that agreement if you’re thinking about downsizing. It takes trust that you’re both on the same page but it alleviates a lot of stress if you can make that commitment to each other.

After we talked, one of the first things we did was rent a small storage unit as a place for the few unknowns to go, like the kayaks. We went through closets and donated clothes that were either out of date or didn’t fit or we no longer liked. I took 20 purses to the Idaho Youth ranch along with 15 pairs of heals I hadn’t worn in years. MP took shirts still in their dry cleaner bags and slacks that had more pleats in the front than a curtain. We took kitchen gadgets and stacks of dinnerware. Somehow I had ended up with 25 champagne glasses…I mean I love a good mimosa, but that is A LOT of champagne glasses.

Then….we had a garage sale. And the deal was, whatever didn’t sell went straight to donation. It motivated us to sell so we didn’t have to haul it!

I’m not going to say it was all easy. I let items go for penny’s on the dollar and for a numbers girl, that can be a tough pill to swallow. But I knew items were going to someone who wanted them or would use them. I had to let go of my emotional attachment to some items that quite frankly, I just liked.

We sold all of our furniture except our bed, my art desk and MP’s work desk. We sold some items that were bought specifically for the house to the new buyer and then we donated some more.

Up until then, it hadn’t been too hard.

The real emotions came when I had to make decisions about sentimental items. My grandmothers china, items made by my kids. Photos.

I did a lot of reading during that time. I found some great articles online about emotional attachments to things and how to live smaller. One of my favorite podcasts about minimalism is The Minimalists and they have a blog that I have mentioned before specifically about sentimental items that really gave me some clarity. My other favorite blog regarding FIRE and downsizing is Middleagemark.com. He has a great perspective on the same journey. 😉

And I made decisions relatively slowly. I rarely decided the very first time I picked precious items up or looked at the really important things. I would spend a few hours or sometimes a few days deciding what stayed and what got donated. I would often pick up the items and hold them in my hands, remembering who gave them to me or a memory of its use. I used Marie Kondo’s approach and thanked each item for the gifts it had given me. And I reminded myself that I was not getting rid of the person or the memories. Just things. I would always have the memories and events with those I love. I even took pictures of a few items.

And then, I let a lot of things go.

Sometimes I drove home very quietly.

And that’s ok.

I knew I was doing the right thing when I had decided to keep an item my grandmother had made for me when I was 6 or 7. I took it to our new place and planned to store it in my closet. I sent her a photo of it, thinking it would be a fun memory for her too. Sadly, at 94, she doesn’t remember it. I was only going to keep it to honor her, when in reality, honoring her is in my heart, not in a wall hanging she doesn’t remember making. It was a good lesson about why we keep things. I donated it so another young girl could have a Holly Hobby on her wall.  Gran will like that when I tell her even if she doesn’t remember making it.

I won’t go into everything we donated or kept, but I will say I opened three boxes I have hauled around for 30 years only to find my report cards from 3rd grade and some hand turkeys I had made around the same age. Sigh…  what a waste of space, time and energy.

Our journey may not be your journey. You may have kept things I didn’t or visa versa. Each person has to be ok with their decisions. I am. I have no regret. I don’t remember people less because I don’t have things they gave me or pictures of them. My love for them is not diminished. Just the stuff that filled my closets and corners.

So, talk to your other before you start and lay the ground rules. Then, just start. Do the easy stuff first and remember there is no right or wrong. Everyone gets to do this their own way. And that means you too.

What is your story of letting sentimental items go? Maybe you’re still working on the smaller stuff. That’s great! I hope these thoughts help you through the process.

Let’s talk again soon.

~rache

My Space

I love art. I love looking at art. I love making art. I love trying new forms of art. Its like therapy for me. Not cheaper by any means, but very, very good for my soul!

At the House of Wales, I had transformed the downstairs living room into an art studio. I had ripped up the carpet and had a cool concrete floor that always felt eclectic to me. I had a painters table, a high top workstation, three book shelves full of ‘stuff’ and two cabinets with paper and die cutting machines.

On a cool, rainy day I could spend 4 hours down there barely stopping for a glass of water. It was my safe, creative, totally mine, space. And I really, really loved it.

When we started looking at downsizing, we only looked at three-bedroom places. One office for MP and one for me and my art. We knew from being at the Baby House, I was going to have to have space to do my craft if it was going to be our home. Pulling everything in and out of tidy bins each time I wanted to work, wasn’t acceptable.

Then, we walked into the two-bedroom condo on the fourth floor and we both knew it was where we were going to live. At first, thinking about it was just fun. Then, we went back to see it again and started asking the tough questions…

  • MP has to have an office, so where does my stuff go?
  • Could we share the space?
  • Is it big enough for two completely different uses?

These may not seem like tough questions, but MP and I do some thing very differently. Like…when he works his office is spotless. Every pen (he only uses one at a time) is at a perfect perpendicular to the desk. He has one pad of paper out with notes neatly scribed on their designated lines. His desk has no scraps of paper or sticky notes or stray paperclips. Just clean, organized work space. It’s one of the things that makes him so great at what he does.

Then there is me when I ‘work’. It brings me great pleasure to be so deeply involved in something that all the scraps of paper end up on the floor or tubes of paint lay open on the table. Who has time to worry about those things when I have a project that is coming together!  When I get halfway through a project and it isn’t coming out quite right, I set it aside and wait for inspiration to come. At the HofW that meant half painted canvases along the walls and cut out dies scattered here and there so they could be added unexpectedly to a project that was then perfect. 

As you can see, the idea of sharing a workspace was…well…worrisome. So, we talked about it. What would sharing look like. He mostly uses his office during the week and I mostly use my studio on the weekends. So, we compromised. He would share his office chair, and I would make sure the top of my workspace was cleaned off before I went to work on Mondays. That way, I had the whole weekend to leave stuff out and he had a tidy workspace Monday-Friday.

The other part of moving was I had to take a whole art studio’s worth of supplies and space and narrow it down to a closet and a workstation. I was more than a little concerned about how to make this work. While I may not be a tidy crafter, I am a LEAN one and I don’t want to have to open a box and rummage every time I need a pair of scissors. That makes the process ugly to me. So, I found a few new ways to store things. I have open shelving in the closet that makes things easy to access. MP has been gracious about allowing me to have the entire closet in the spare room (I think he may have one small box on a top shelf). I have a rolling cart that comes out and stays out all weekend with the things I use most on it. I have organized all my paper by color and put it in hanging folders. I looked at each thing as I packed and decided whether to keep it. Most of my supplies came with me. A few oddities got donated or given to friends.

Its not a whole studio with a cement floor anymore, but it is a wonderful and bright place to work. Sometime MP joins me on the weekends and plays his drums or writes to soft music and we both work on our projects in the same space. I like those times a lot. Something about the independence of working on our own things but being together at the same time, makes those days incredibly intimate.  I always laugh a little when we meet on the patio at the end of one of those days with a cocktail and one of us asked the other…”How was your day”?

Its really important to know what the ‘needs’ in your life are and what the things are that are just nice. I NEED a place to practice art. It brings me a peace and calm like few other things can. I need to have a creative outlet and I need to know the space is mine. I was willing to exchange things that were less important to me for a place to be creative and practice art.

If nothing else, I hope this shows you that everyone can do this their own way. There are no rules. There are some people that might think I am crazy for using so much of our limited space on art. Maybe your thing is cooking (that’s my second by the way) or a musical instrument. You can live minimally and still have the things you love most. That’s the point!  You have more time and space for those things if you weed out all the clutter of the things that are just filler.

What have you made space for in your life that brings you the most joy? I would suggest you always find a way to keep those things regardless of the size of your home. They make you who you are and who others love.

I’m off to paint or cut paper or make cards. Until next time…

~rache

8 Reasons We are Choosing Minimalism

We didn’t set out to live our new life minimally. It started about a year ago when we decided we wanted to be debt free in 22 months. When you have a goal like that you start considering everything you spend money on. It makes it so much easier to say no to something if you know the pay off means no debt! So we stopped accumulating things and started cleaning out about 9 months ago.

Second, we had talked for two years about our house being more than we needed and each time we came home from the Baby House in Mesa it became clearer that we didn’t need that much room. Then, floating in the pool, we decided to sell.

And then it was just time to commit. We were not just downsizing, we were truly minimizing. And with that understanding and commitment we took the leap.

Here are a few of the things we have discovered along the way and reasons why minimalism is appealing to us:

  • We don’t want to leave our kids having to sort through our stuff someday
    MP and I often discuss what aging might look like and what we want it to look like. We’ve both seen people age and continue to gather things along the way, only to pass away and leave the entire clean out process to their children. This seems incredibly unfair since we have a choice to take care of it now. So we started the process early and plan to stay downsized to ensure our children aren’t left the unpleasant task of having to go through and dispose of our stuff. This article, posted by the Minimalists, shines a bright light on this subject.
  • We are frugal and enjoy saving money.
    Ok…I confess. I love a good spread sheet. I’ve been known to play with the monthly budget numbers for hours just to see what tweeking one bill or another would do to the savings. The idea here is pretty simple. If you spend less then you make, you can save more. And saving more means we get to realize our dreams sooner. We have our hearts set on a week on a catamaran. I’d like to do that within the next couple years. Check out MP’s blog for photos of this dream!
  • We eat very healthy and minimizing our shopping saves time, money and energy
    We eat at home most nights. On occasion we have a date night and go to a local place for a cocktail and dinner, but we usually cook at home. Eating healthy is a high priority for us, so we often purchase similar items for meals each week. For more on this topic check out my blog on grocery shopping minimally.
  • We were tired of spending a whole day of each weekend taking care of yards, pool, hot tub and house
    Ok, truth be told MP spent more than one weekend day a week taking care of the House of Wales. Between the pool, hot tub, yards and upkeep he was putting in 20+ hours a week to keep it looking beautiful. That is a great thing if you enjoy it and you want to do it, but when it was just the two of us and we could find all the same amenities without the responsibility, we opted for the Condo! We’re loving our downsized life and can’t wait to see what it affords us in time, dollars and energy.
  • We really like a clean house
    The minimalist lifestyle offers a way to live with less and in so doing it creates a place of peace to come home to every night. Less stuff means less stuff to clean, pick up and keep organized. Since we both really like to live in a picked up and clean home this lifestyle choice just adds to our contentment and peace.
  • We want to travel…a lot of places.
    One way to help make travel more enjoyable is to not have to worry about what’s happening at home while we’re away. By choosing to live in a place without outside doors we know our condo will be safe. By adding the Dwelo feature, we can control lights, heat and locks from where ever we are so not only do we feel secure when were away, we can be frugal with our utilities too.
  • We want more time with our kids and grandkids
    We really like our kids. They are all really cool, adult humans. So hanging out with them is not only fun but very fulfilling. We have soon to be three of our grand children living within just a few miles of us. By downsizing our expenses and needs we hope to have more time to spend with our kids and their adorable teacup humans.
  • Less stuff means less stress.
    We both work high pressure jobs. Our home needs to be our haven of peace and calm. Not having clutter equates to less stress. Not having as many things to maintain, means less stress. Having time and space to do things we care about, like meditating and working out means less stress. As you can see….less stress is VERY important to me and living minimally perpetuates that.

These are some of the reasons we are choosing to live minimally. I’m looking forward to this journey and seeing how these changes effect our future choices and adventures. What area’s of your life have you minimized and how’s it working out for you?

More on our adventure soon. Stay tuned!

~rache