Downsizing: Deciding Where to Move in Transition

Small Space Living Garden Herbs

This sign is a piece of a crate that has seen better days. My parents bought peaches at a roadside stand over 60 years ago. I found the crate in their attic several years ago.

I know what you are thinking… I would go nuts in 1000 square feet with two kids, a husband, and a family pet. Add on top of that the fact that I play (aka work) at home and you probably think I should be in the funny farm by now. I have had several people ask me how we decided where to move, so this post is about the choices we made.

Should It Stay or Should It Go?

One of the things that has helped with this transition is that we only have things we love… well the adults anyways. I have read so many books on how to declutter kids, and all I can tell you is that the process evolves just as their interests do.

I make sure that the possessions that inspire me to play (aka work) and nurture relationships win a place in our home. My husband frankly, is the least cluttered person of all of us so this was not hard on him at all.

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This was not easy at first, because just prior to our downsizing, I had a small wedding design business. I did about 20 weddings a year. All handmade, rustic, vintage style and I had the props to prove it. I had old doors, farm tables, vintage chairs, and more. Upon deciding to downsize, we decided to shut down the business. We were moving more than an hour north and it just was not feasible to continue. It was a relief in some ways. I started this business with a friend to supplement (replace) my lost consulting income that dried up overnight. She and her family moved and I kept the business going. I loved working with flowers and plants and styling an event.

I loved getting to know the local flower farmers. I had the right ingredients, but the wrong business.

This process has taught me to live with only the things we love and that my former business had all the right ingredients, but the wrong recipe.  I did not have to give up on the elements that gave me so much joy, but I did have to find the way to incorporate those into my work in a way that everyday would feel like play.

Key Ingredients for a Happy Downsizing Experience

One of the key stops on our downsizing path came from, where we chose to try this experiment. We had to get real about what we could afford, but we (I) had conditions. I did not want to feel punished. I knew we needed a reality check, but I also knew that I would not have the staying power if I was not at peace about it. Call me weak, but I knew myself well enough to be sure I set myself and my family up for success.

What Are Your Musts?

We chose a Townhome with an attached garage. This was important for a mom of two kids that had not lived in the apartment since before we were married. It also felt more like a home.

The golf course seems excessive, but it was about the environment. I did not want to feel boxed in, so even if the Mad Scientist could not afford golf (yet) we could see the beautiful rolling grass and nature.

What do you have now that drew you to that home? Try to think back to the day you chose it and why.

Professional Help

I used a Realtor to find this property. This is the first property she recommended, even though I looked at the others. I was not convinced I had to be in a Townhome. This seems silly now, as most days I feel like I am on a vacation.

Finding a Quiet Place

The last thing that was on my list of requirements for working from home. A quiet place to make phone calls and write when I need it. I use the business center that is available in the community to find a quiet place to work. I also have taken calls in my micro garden. It is a beautiful way to enjoy outside and still get some work done.

My two micro gardens are always just outside the door if I need a minute or 10 of calm. I always enjoyed gardening before, but micro-gardening is more peaceful. It is all the good parts of a garden, the scents and scenery, with none of the stress or obligations of tending to a large space. I also bring clips of herbs and cuttings indoors to liven up the place. I will write more about how to start a micro garden in future posts.

The key here is that everyone needs a personal space. Even if that means a corner with a comfy chair, headphones, Pandora, and a book.

Why You Need to DeClutter Now

What you may not know is that I feel more engaged and in touch with a greater level of creativity than ever. Why? A cluttered, complicated life is a recipe for disaster. It is like a layer of fog over your life. More and more families are trying to do it all and be everything to everyone, except the very people that matter… themselves.

I hope this gives everyone a better idea of where to start when downsizing with kids. We have had a happy experience that has changed the way we live. It is not easy in the beginning, but if you take the time to consider what is important you will be glad you took the plunge. The best advice I could give you is to stop worrying about what everyone will think, and just do what is right for your family.

Opting Out of a Frantic Life and Into an Inspired One

Opting Out of a Frantic Life and Into an Inspired One

 

It did not hit me until the “Kindergarten Round Up”postcard arrived from the local public school district that our decision to opt out of public education really sank in.

Opting Out of Kindergarten

Intellectually, I knew that my children already know many of the requirements to exit Kindergarten and that they are already learning organically as they did when they were infants. It still gives one a little pause when you know that you are going against a cultural norm or expectation. Luckily we are in a state, where it is so common to homeschool that you barely get a second look from many.

I was reading an article by writer Ben Hewitt about how he and his wife Penny Hewitt are unschooling their kids – freestyle. The article highlights their two sons and their ability to roam on their property and the stories they tell at the end of the day. They talk about a very small amount of time spent on actual studies and the rest is hands on learning.

We are currently living in a suburban golf course community, but my children spend so much time outside.  We chose this for a downsizing experiment and we have everything we need. Whether that be swimming, local parks, or just playing outside of our small home. The elements of fresh air and open spaces is still available and in my opinion vital to their development. You may not have acres for your kids to roam, but local parks are close by. We often joke that we could be tour guides for the best parks within a ten mile radius.

Nature Soothes the Soul

As much as I would love to live in a country house on acreage, our small living experiment is just what we needed to escape our self-imposed prison. Our two tiny porch gardens are not only a retreat for me and the boys, but also for our neighbors. Many have stopped by on their morning walks to say how much they enjoy our small oasis, and how it brings such beauty their morning walks.

The idea that nature soothes is not a new one, but how far off track we have gotten from enjoying the health and learning benefits of nature is startling. I recently had a conversation with a school psychologist, who remarked how surprised she was to drive through a town recently and to see children outside playing. We talked about the amount of time children spend indoors and how the number of children that knock on her door has increased. Isn’t this crazy?

When we lived in our former suburban nightmare, it was common for the boys and I to go out for a walk or a hike around the lake and not see any children. Not one! These master planned neighborhoods are built with green spaces to promote health and well-being, yet there is no one home during the day to enjoy them.

This is not a judgement against those living that life, rather a message that nature can heal what stresses them. It can give our children a place to run, learn, and grow into the grounded people that know how to handle the stresses of the world. It can give tired moms a place for a personal retreat. It can heal a frantic world.

In Search of a Calling

In Gregg Levoy’s bookCallings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life he writes about listening for your call. I find that modern life has to be simplified to hear that call. This is a terrific book for helping you get quiet and listen to what your life is trying to tell you. It also reminds us that we do not have to change the world, we just need to live authentically in ours no matter what your resume says.

I know this because I am living proof. I was finally able to tune into how to live a life that was truly ours, but it took simplifying our lives to block out all of the noise getting in the way.

You can simplify your life without radical downsizing like we did, but getting quiet is essential for anyone struggling to identify their best work.

It is difficult to find quiet time for reflection, with no “place” for it in your life. This can be as simple as a cup of tea and a blanket. This is a signal to your body that you are taking the time to nurture your soul and by extension your life.

To create a place to nurture your soul can be as simple as a small spot for plants and a place to sit and enjoy them. Even in our 1000 square feet, we have nature tucked into places to bring as much peace and harmony into our very active household as possible.

Whatever your plan for the upcoming autumn, take a few minutes today to find a small spot to begin soothing your soul to hear your call to your best life.

Why Movement Makers Need Advocates

MovementMakersNeedAdvocates

 

“You have great talent as a writer and a coach.” Jeff Sandefer, Acton Academy Austin

I just completed work for an educational movement that I wholeheartedly believe in and not a moment too soon. As an advocate and coach, I know my role and it is my greatest joy to be able to do this kind of work knowing when it is time to move out of coaching and back into my role as an advocate. The world of education is experiencing a revolution and not everyone is happy about it. Many people are afraid of change, just because of the uneasy feeling of not knowing what lies ahead.

It is particularly difficult when you become a parent. I had a higher tolerance for risk before the boys were born, but I have learned that fear holds you back and that is what we will teach our children. I want them to explore their world and how to use their gifts in it.

I always knew I wanted to be a writer, but I was afraid to do it. It was not practical.  How do you make a living as a writer? This was before, during, and after music. Writing unlike music has always been there.

“Come on now, buckle down and find a real job” is something that would knock around in my head…and I did just that over and over again until I identified my ideal work.

I loved writing as a kid, and it was not until my first college creative writing class that I ever experienced the red pen of death. It was like a death for me. I lost confidence. I lost my voice. The one that was not afraid to say what needed to be said. I am brave when I write.

The world of work is changing and movement makers are building companies, brands, and tribes, but they need something. They need the champions of the brand. The advocates of their vision to show the maker the things she has hidden from herself. Seth Godin talks about having your customers be your brand advocates and I take this one step further. What if those advocates are also connectors and amplifiers?

As makers, they are often so deep into their world of making that there is a language they develope. A hidden world that is not always transparent to those wanting to peer in to get a closer look. Makers guard their vision. They have to in some way or their vision would never become anything. They can work to share their vision without intrusions into their world.

How does a maker use the skills of an advocate to share their message?

It is a delicate balance of two very different skill sets, that actually do not work together well in an organization. If an advocate is to do their best work, they have to be shielded from the day-to-day necessities that go into building a movement. Their excitement and passion for the cause will be affected if they are too in the actual making. They will know too much. Advocate types soak up emotions like rays of sunshine and for that reason the day-to-day running of a business is not a good fit for them. It deletes their energy. It affects their effectiveness.

So, how do advocate types create a living? First, they need to know that they are an advocate, and they have to use their skills in advocacy and sharing on themselves. They need to see how their talents and gifts are needed in the new economy. More importantly they have to understand the makers.

Understanding the makers and helping them understand your talents of bringing their vision to the world is a recipe for unbelievable success.

I am an advocate. I will champion causes that will change the world if I believe in them. Advocates feel compelled to do something that leaves a legacy.

Many of them know this, but are afraid to say it out loud. They accept jobs just to have income, instead of designing or seeking the perfect fit.

There is a perfect fit for the advocates. There is a place for a champion of a cause. That cause can be anything, from the writer who must share her struggles through stories that might help one child overcome their struggle in life. It might be a photographer who feels a need to document the lives of ordinary people in such a profound way that leaves their mark on history. It might be the mother who strives to create the most nurturing home school environment for their children. It might be the coach who wants to help others own their future.

It might be you.

I coach advocates, champions, and artists. It is my calling to bring their art into the world, and to keep reminding them that the world needs their art. The world needs to hear their song.

What is your calling? Are you brave enough to name it?

 

 

Interview with Kathy from Live Small, Love Big

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Kathy:

I have enjoyed reading David & Conner’s posts from An Unschooled Future for some time now, and am honored to have a place on his blog.

Originally posted on An Unschooled Future:

I came across Kathy’s blog a while ago and found her experience in simplifying her life very interesting.  

In many ways we have also done this, in others we haven’t.  Irrespective, I find her views to always trigger new thoughts.  Besides, I loved A Simple Life when I was a kid (for those of you familiar with old British comedy) and in some ways Kathy’s push for a simple life reminds me of this.

And of course, a simplified life combined with homeschooling makes for a good read – I had to ask her more about it.

How many children do you have? What ages?  Are they all homeschooled?

We have twin boys that are five years old. Yes, we do homeschooling in the sense that they are not and have not ever been enrolled in a formal preschool or school.  My approach is as much a reflection of…

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Finding Inspiration to Live Small

Small Living Provence in Texas

This past weekend, the Mad Scientist and I hit the road for a little R & R which included a couple of trips to Texas Hill Country wineries. We had a wonderful time, even though it was so hot you could hear it. You see, Texas summers have a unique sound. The steamy heat and symphony of insects is as Texas as it gets.

Small living has been a project of ours, but on this particular day I was inspired. We only visited this winery after the recommendation from a couple we met on our first winery tour at Dry Comal Creek on Saturday. The tours and hospitality at Dry Comal Creek just outside of New Braunfels is worth the drive, but this second visit was like stepping into Provence, France – Texas style.

With my camera ready, we walked up to this little jewel just outside of Gruene, TX. The story behind this beautiful small structure is as interesting as it’s owner, Lewis Dickson. La Cruz De  Comal is a feast for the eyes, and the wine is as delicious as the scenery.

It was inspired by his time living in France. He described a way of life focused on experiences. I understood what he meant, after my travels there in my early 20s. It is less about  a prescribed life as an imagined one.

Small Texas Living

One of the things he discovered by living there was the pride  that the people of each village took in their work. No matter what type of work they did, it was their pride in doing it to the best of their ability and reverence that struck him. There was a respect for everything, from the local butcher to a restaurant owner. He went on to explain that all the children are taught at an early age about wine and food, and have an appreciation for the best that life has to offer. It was a story about living a rich life. Not based on money, but experiences.

He brought back a little of Provence to the Texas Hill Country, to carry on the tradition of doing his best work. Lewis Dickson has a true calling as an Artisan Winemaker. Everything bottled by hand, and with such care. Living off the land and respecting it’s unique offerings.

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This really is what living small is all about for me. It is about removing all the distractions so that we can live a life full of experiences along side my growing passions in photography and words. It is about allowing our children to find their way in this new world, by making their own map.

We can learn so much from simply exploring and listening. The lessons learned at La Cruz De  Comal will be long lasting, as the images of a little Texas-style Provence dance in my head.

Interview with Paula from Rainforest Minds

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Kathy:

This is one of the best descriptions of how kids want to be self-directed in their learning that I have seen. This is a great read for any parent considering homeschooling.

Originally posted on An Unschooled Future:

I am really excited to have an interview with Paula from Rainforest Minds today.  I noticed her articles for gifted adults almost as soon as she started blogging and have been wanting to sit down and pick her brains over a coffee ever since – this interview is the closest that I have got to that so far.

Paula is a professional Counselor with more than  20 years in practice, she also holds a Masters in Education and was formally a gifted education specialist.  She specializes in working with gifted adults and youths and consulting with the parents of gifted children.  She has published a number of articles on giftedness issues and has also been an instructor in this area at the University of Oregon.

Paula uses the analogy of a rainforest to talk about giftedness, to explain its complexity and also to try to side-step some of the baggage that the term…

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Live Like a Summer Vacation

Live Your Life Like Summer Vacation

 

“What you shared with me, just about how you had so much more free time and felt as if you were on vacation….Just thinking on that led me on a huge decluttering spree this week and I do feel much more free to sit and read a story or play cards with the kids on the porch without that pile of stuff calling my name.  “

~ Traci

I always feel so grateful that sharing our story over a cup of coffee can help another family. Traci is such a wonderful woman, and is the owner of Treehouse Learning Community. She sent me this message in an email, and asked that I share more about how we have been decluttering.

I will be honest with you, this was not easy at first because simplifying is 80% mental. It took me a long time to realize that. Once I did, I realized we could not only overcome the cluttered life, but celebrate the simple life.

This quote goes right to the heart of our new life design. It is posted near my desk, so I can remember what we are striving for in this new life.

“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” ― Seth Godin

Vacation Meal Planning At Home

I used this strategy recently with meal planning. I had started to resent dinner time. I just had this idea it was one more thing to do. I fell into the trap of researching recipes and healthy eating, but I would spend so much more time and money doing it, only to feel more stressed.

Rethinking Weekly Meal Planning

I did my weekly grocery shopping, sans list. I had just one idea as I headed out the door, “shop like you are on vacation and you rented a house for a week.” I even told my husband my plan. He is used to my “mini presentations” and is a really good sport. We end up laughing a lot as I have a “new plan” to present!

I found myself breezing through the store, choosing healthy options and easy curated meals. Favorites for everyone that celebrate summer and the fun day we had. One meal was ingredients for pizza night and the boys are in charge. Yes, five year olds can make dinner. They have to ask for help with the oven for safety, but know how to decide what temperature it should be and how long to cook it.

My bill was 30% less than a normal week, and so much more fun. I built in a night to eat out and enjoy each other, and found my experiment so fun that I plan to keep it going! My husband likes to grill, so a couple nights are his, a couple for me, and one for the boys, and one out. That seems pretty simple don’t you think?

Redesign Your Life Like a Summer Vacation

Think back to your favorite childhood or your favorite family vacation. Where were you? Who was with you? Where did you stay?

Some of my warmest memories as a kid are from summers visiting relatives. We rented a house in Cape May, NJ. I can walk through it in my mind. There were so many people, remember big Irish family here, so we ate in shifts. I remember the story of my Dad and Uncles getting in trouble with the”Aunts”, because they decided to put all the fish they caught in the bathtub. Seriously!

I remember the porch. I remember riding my bike to the beach and around town. As I write this, I can see the waves crashing and feel the cool breeze. I can see my Aunts all sitting together laughing at the story of the day.

We traveled there with our children for a family wedding a couple of summers ago.I felt like a different person. I got up and ran to see the sunrise and walked back to pick up coffee and breakfast for all my sleepy beach bums. I smiled, laughed, and soaked it all up.

A good friend of mine told me their family plan last year. Her husband was beginning a fellowship at a hospital soon, but after it was over they would be living at a beach. She knew clearly where they were headed and how she saw her life raising her family. Your plan does not need to have a beach it, but do you have a plan?

Can you duplicate this type of feeling on a daily basis? Even with the crazy world calling your name?

Our ingredients were family, bike, beach, morning run, and laughter. Seems doable to meI Some of my cousins moved to the beach with their families a few years ago. They commute back into Manhattan when necessary, but had a family plan in mind. The memories of childhood summers drew them back.

My husband and I were talking about our next move and what we ultimately want our life to look like. We had the same theme, slower pace, water, fishing, family, love, laughter, and together. The new world of working anywhere is essential. What else could you wish for?

I had never heard of a family plan, but read about the idea and realized something. I had these ideas, but we had not shared it with each other. We had done this “dreaming and scheming” before we were married, but had gone with the flow since then. Once we began to declutter our life, we made room for these types of intentional conversations.

I for one, and am excited about our beginning of a family plan. Ready to start yours? It could be as simple as dancing your way through the grocery store for your “vacation meal planning”, or as big as you want it to be. It is your life, and that is the most wonderful part of all.