Back to “Enough”

December 1, 2015

A year and a month ago life got so crazy, so chaotic, that the idea of keeping up with blogging never even entered the picture.  Six months ago we went through another extreme shift and suddenly, writing seemed possible again.  So I’m jumping in today, babystepping pathetically back, figuring out how to use the “brand new WordPress site” (which most likely isn’t actually brand new at all), resetting my long-forgotten password, stealing a few minutes to reacquaint myself with this.

We’ve gone from two kids, to our beautiful surprise baby girl, to two foster children for nine months.  (Hmmm…nine months.  How appropriate for a rebirth.)  Now we’ve shifted back to our original three and have had a few months to get used to the idea of “just us” again.  “Enough” has been a moving target over the past three years.  Each time I get used to the idea of where we’re at, it changes.  Again.  Frequently.

I haven’t stopped thinking about it, though:  what is enough?  Getting ready for a new baby…moving in two kids and all their things…moving baby out of her room to use it for our foster son….moving older daughter’s things to make space in her room for our foster daughter…completely emptying a room downstairs to use as a bedroom for the baby…

What is enough?  I definitely wish we’d had less “stuff” to move around last year, and I’d been purging for ages.  (My husband did point out,  Aren’t you glad you did all that simplifying before this started?)  Now, after the kiddos have moved out and we’ve gotten a little back to normal, I’m starting to feel breathing room again, both physically and mentally.  We’ll see where things go from here.

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Tiny Houses

November 14, 2013

I am on a tiny house kick.  It started innocently enough, reading simplifying books again.  That cross-bred with my older daughter’s love of “house books” (decorating books checked out from the library), and I suddenly found myself introducing my older two to the joys of Sarah Susanka’s “Not So Big” series of books.  One of my new favorite memories is watching my daughter go through Creating the Not-So-Big House with my mom, explaining to her (in a way only an eight-year-old can) that “there’s lots of details….See?  That’s a detail…..”

Towards the back of that specific book, we found the Pears and Cherries and Hilltop cottages, located in a little cottage community in Whidbey Island, Washington.  My daughter and I both fell in love with those cottages:  so simple, so tiny, and so perfect.  So completely impractical for a family of five.  (A side note:  I’m not really one for jealousy, but “Thou shalt not covet the Pears and Cherries kitchen” needs to be engraved under the photo in that book.)

That led to a few more books; the latest was today when I found Tiny Homes by Lloyd Kahn at the library and pulled it off the shelf.  I really thought the kids might have moved on, but it fell open to “The Hobbit House” and both kids “awwwwww”‘d in unison.  We brought it home.

I’d read Tammy Strobel’s book (You Can Buy Happiness (and it’s Cheap) ) earlier this year; she lives in an amazingly tiny house after a journey of downsizing, baby step by baby step.

I look at all these houses (and they are tiny houses; Strobel’s house is built on a 8’x16′ trailer) and I am completely fascinated.  How do you live in a space that small?  Is part of it living in a climate where you can be outside often?  Is it simply having a smaller family?  I understand the “less stuff” part.  I’m not 100% sure, however, where we would put all our people.  🙂

I’m not sure why I’m so drawn to all these little places.  Maybe it’s just the idea of being quiet and alone, without all the kids and the dog and the chaos.  Maybe it’s the idea of having dramatically less to clean.  Maybe it’s the freedom of having to deal with so much less stuff.  I don’t really know.  It’s been fun reading, though; especially with my older two.  I love that the minute the baby is napping, they’ll ask if we can snuggle and look at a book.  And in spite of how incredibly enticing these tiny homes are, I love that I can put the baby to bed in her own room, upstairs, and then come down to cuddle on our sofa in a completely separate space, and read.

I’ve been reading minimalist blogs for a while, and it seems to have been a very trendy topic for young singles or young marrieds.  I often found myself rolling my eyes and muttering but wait until you have kids.

Well, now I’m being challenged by a new discovery:  blogs written by families, with children (sometimes lots of children), and their stories of simplifying and downsizing (sometimes really downsizing).  Finding out a family of four can thrive in a one-bedroom apartment is a bit of a shock to the system.  All my blathering on about decluttering loses something when I face the fact that we still have a stinkin’ big house.  I’ve wondered often in the past if the size of our home made those who knew me gag:  what a hypocrite!  what kind of simple living is she talking about?

[Full disclosure:  our home is, according to 2010 numbers (all I’m finding at this point), a totally American average 2300 square feet, with its finished basement.  I think it’s huge, but the homes 2 1/2 times the size of ours to our immediate east tend to put a different perspective on things.]

I’ve thought a lot lately about our home, about moving, about really downsizing and what that would look like.  Some things I’m mulling over:

First of all, there’s the very basic cost analysis.  The work we would need to do to sell this house, for what we would get for the house, to then buy (nope, not renting, sorry–there’s another reason I’ll never be a “true” minimalist) another house….the math doesn’t add up.  And I’m selfish:  even though I like the idea of downsizing, I tend to look at home prices and say “but our house is so much nicer for the price!”  Paying more for less house (a very real possibility in our location, especially with what we have left on the mortgage) doesn’t really appeal to me.  Paying less for less house seems to mean copious amounts of renovation…. defeating the purpose of paying less in the first place.

Secondly, I’m incredibly blessed to have the space we have, and am reminded of it each and every time we go on vacation.  Any time we stay in a hotel, I spend 95% of my time there in high-stress mode, constantly reminding the kids to be quiet:  there are people next door; there are people downstairs; there are people sleeping…. I turn into monster-mommy, trying to clamp a lid on my little ones normal noise level.  The same thing happens at home, too, on Saturday mornings:  shhh… Daddy’s still sleeping.  But wait:  at home, on those Saturday mornings, I get to say go to the basement; you can be as loud as you want down there.  Stress level:  zero.  That, for me, is a wonderful blessing.

Also:  we host.  A lot.  Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, birthdays….our families rotate hosting duties, and we have people over, often.  Having that space to spread out after a holiday meal is wonderful.  Even on Saturdays, if my family comes over, we spread out:  my dad might be reading in the relative quiet of the front room, my mom and sister and I chat in the kitchen while my son plays with Legos at the kitchen table, my daughter “does gymnastics” in the living room, and baby cousin bounces in her seat in the living room/kitchen doorway.  We have room to host, in a comfortable way.  And if all the people get to be too much for someone, they can hide upstairs or in the basement when needed.

Which brings me to my last point; my most important point.  We are currently planning to adopt from the foster care system.  Having that space–that ability to be away from someone–is something that I want to hold on to at all costs.  When and if we have more siblings in this house, I want to be able to have the kids separate when necessary:  Sweet boy, head to the basement for awhile; you need some time alone.  I know that there will probably be shared bedrooms in our future, which makes having extra space all that more precious.  I think of our front room our “away room,” an idea from The Not So Big House, and I joke that the big blue chair in the corner is the “alone chair,” where you go when you want to be alone.  So far I’m the only one in this house that uses it (haha), but I think that idea is going to be important when we start meshing who-knows-how-many new personalities into this home.

I know, absolutely, that my intentions of not moving don’t really matter.  We’ve “moved for the last time” three times now, and I fully recognize that my plans are not always God’s plans.  A job loss, a fire, a tornado….all sorts of things could happen to force my hand.  And I’ll take that as it comes.  But right now, I’m going to focus on simplifying and decluttering, and continue being content and incredibly grateful……but not downsizing.