Escaping our Suburban Nightmare Is Complete

Finding Your Calling Through NatureOur journey to escape our suburban nightmare is complete. What began as a Hail Mary to downsize our life, became a pivot point. A point when nothing will ever be the same again. When I began writing about our journey, I had no idea where it would lead.

It led to me rediscovering my love of nature. It led to my finding my calling in the truest sense of the phrase. It led to a new hometown and a new direction in life.

Was it easy? No. Did I have doubts? Of course. Would I do it all over again? In a heartbeat.

So where in the world are we? We moved to Wyoming! One of the most beautiful places I have ever been. So much has changed, and so much remains the same.

I have decided to turn this blog into a free eBook. As I see the number of people that have visited over the last two years, I can see how we are not the only family who is looking for a change. I wanted to put it in an easy to digest format. You can see the edited version as I publish it The Great Suburban Escape – One family’s journey to find a life they did not need to escape from. Just like the blog – it will remain free. My way of paying it forward and thanking all of the teachers I have had along the way.

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.

Designing a Family Life That Matters Starts With Failure

Process of Living an Intentional Life

This process of living an intentional life is not an easy path. If it were, I believe many more people would do this and stop going with the flow.

Living small has many opportunities and challenges, but it is a plan without a defined road map. You still have to decide which way to turn and where you want to go, but the reason for going has not changed.

Knowing Your Why

There is a power in knowing the reason we want to do anything. It is that power that takes much of the emotion out of decisions. It does not take all the emotion out, however. As a woman, the emotional side of decisions is there, but understanding my why keeps the tsunami of doubt from crashing in on my journey.

When I was reading about minimalism, I found many men and their perspectives. Their blogs helped me see a different way of thinking, but my mother’s heart was not settled on the idea of minimalism for the sake of joining a movement. Reading their blogs helped me see how my husband might see this change, which is very helpful for us as a couple, but I also needed to hear from someone more like me.

I did want a simpler richer life, but I did not want to get rid of things for the sake of getting rid of them. I edited through many things, and continue to do so. I am a sentimental soul, so defining what is meaningful is a process. This whole plan is a process.

Questions and More Questions

The process of seeing your life, and working through it to make intentional decisions for me requires a sounding board. My husband is a good sport, and a great sounding board, but I don’t want to have him feeling like a constant sounding board. I also have greatly reduced the need for such a process, but I still need to work through an idea.

My question I ask most often these days is, “ Why are we doing this?”

I believe that if you are embarking on something new, and out of the norm, choosing your sounding board wisely is essential for success. I have a friend that is a great for this. We never want each other’s life to look like the other’s, but rather give a safe non judgmental sounding board. We don’t talk often, texts of kids photos happen regularly, and an occasional call when the time is right.

This is important. Spending too much time getting other people’s take is not productive. Strike out on your plan for simplifying your life. It is okay to fail. You cannot win, without some failures.

We are processing through working more with the kids at home most of the time. Juggling new experiences for them and for me. We are processing through the right balance of independent learning for them. It is a process of discovery. One that you can only discover if you chart a course and begin.

We begin again each day. They are leading us to the best way for them to learn. We just have to process through it and watch them discover the world while we rediscover ours.

 

 

 

Mirror, Mirror – What is Your House Trying to Tell You?

Mirror Mirror

 

“Why does this keep happening?” He cried.

My sons are five and one of them has been experiencing the frustrations of the limits of his abilities and this was his response. His frustrations are short lived, but passionate nonetheless.

I love that he can express himself in an environment where he will receive love and understanding. I also know that this is completely normal, and we have to hold back laughter at times when he expresses himself. Don’t judgehe is brutally honest with his feelings and I love it!

Our homes are a mirror of our lives, and there is no better reflection of that environment than a child. Today it seems families are running hither and yon, chasing activities, play dates, and something more for their children, when perhaps less is actually more.

Often people spend more time planning their weddings, than they do designing their life. Until this eye opening process, we were just going along this conveyer belt of life,but then we jumped off and said enough already!

Designing a life, not unlike any creative endeavor, takes time and reflection, but once you open the door to a life that is uniquely yours, you can’t do anything but walk through it.

Recently, I had some feedback from a reader, who remarked where are all your articles about getting organized? Isn’t that what downsizing is all about? You must be the queen of organization or something to be able to live in such a small space!

I realized that what we have been through is so uncommon today, that I really had to pull back the curtain and explain the difference. We have been remodeling, but not our space, our lives.

Purging Clutter

We started with a bold move to a smaller space, and began purging clutter. With every bag and box of stuff, I felt lighter and more optimistic about our future. Every area of my life has improved.

Purge Obligations

We moved on from purging stuff, to purging obligations. We were not an overscheduled family to begin with, but we (I) lost the guilt that came with choosing to be choosy.

I remember joining a mother’s group for preschool children, and reading an email upon joining. It said, basically, that you must attend most of the meetings or you would be dropped from the group. As I read this, I felt this nagging feeling in my stomach, that said “are you kidding me?” Instead, we went, and the children enjoyed it, but at times I felt like it was one more thing on my to-do list.

I am much more careful of activities now, and really take a good look at our week before I add anything. Our kids use their imaginations so much to have free play, and be in nature, that organized activities are not necessary. They are a nice change of pace, but my intention has changed to a question of if this is a valuable activity of not.

Family Bucket List

Next, we began to dream about what we wanted, really wanted, and began to create a label for that. I wanted to direct my children’s education and would not settle for just going with the masses, we would find a better way than public school. We may not know what that looks like, but we will find it.

We dreamed about choices for our family, activities we wanted to try, and places we wanted to go.

Begin a Life of Intentional Decisions

We began a life of intention. No more going with the flow. We wanted to create a life where we felt like ourselves at home, in our lives, and in our work.

This is what we want our mirror, mirror, to say.

Live Small Love Big – welcome home, darlings.

Discover 3 Ways Living Simply Leads Children to Success in Life

3 Simple Steps to Create Innovation at Home

Does a simpler childhood, one without too many external obligations lead to a greater degree to the certainty or awareness of strengths, so that those children go on to become entrepreneurs, and leaders?

I was walking through the grocery store as this idea was spinning in my head, yes, I am like that. Any time filled with silence and my imagination goes on a expedition.

I know that conscious simplifying has led to that effect for myself, and I am wondering how this change will affect the kids as they grow up. If they are curious about something, they learn about it. They learn from watching you. If you have a life that allows for experiences together. You will be surprised at the effect, some subtle, some not.

I do think family experiences are different around the world, and in the US our differences are regional as well. In Texas, it is different than in the Northeast, where much our of extended family still lives. Here, though, it is not uncommon for a family to be scheduled every night of the week with external obligations, and top that will traditionally school hours for kids, which in my opinion is a recipe for disaster.

It is this lack of silent time, time time to explore ideas, be curious, and connect the dots that ultimately hinders innovation.

I am thinking this as I walk to the aisle with magazines, I just cannot resist. I am a bit of a challenge for publishers, though, if they were to put me into a category, they may have trouble with that one. I look at home decor magazines, homesteading, technology, and business content, health, and psychology. Yes, there are some things that don’t make the list, but not many. I am the definition of a self-directed learner.

This month’s Wired Magazine jumped out at me. Another whiz kid, perhaps? Had I known the story behind the cover, I would have purchased it, but it was the image that made me curious enough to put it in my cart.

The piece on Oculus founder, Palmer Luckey, featured on the cover would help answer my question about how to lead your children and yourself to the place of your greatest achievement’s and impact. Luckey it seems, is a child that has “omnivorous curiosity”, an 18 year old homeschooled young man from California.

He was curious (step one), he had the time to follow that curiosity (step 2), he was in an environment that allowed him to feel at ease and without distraction(step 3).

In our home, the most often question I hear our sons that are now 5, is why? Everything is about why, why indeed.

How many other leaders and innovators can you think of that have a life similar to this? I can point to so many that value space for their creative juices to stir, but I have my own personal example. One of my uncles was a chemist, and he worked on many innovative projects in the field of Chemistry, one being the Manhattan Project. Now, whether or not you agree with the outcome of that historic project, one thing I can see if that his family life was simple. He spent time in quiet contemplation.  As a child, I would not understand this, even though he was kind and welcoming on our visits. As an adult, I can see that he needed quiet to sort through his ideas and thoughts.

It is our responsibility to show our children that a place for simple contemplation and innovation is not only okay, but will lead to their greatest strengths. They are always watching and learning, and it is up to us to lead by example. Not to give them all the answers, but to let them ask the questions and seek the answers.

That really is the recipe for the ultimate success in life. Editing your life to a point that allows for those 3 simple things, will make the greatest impact on your life and well being. It is about leading a richer life, with room for everything that makes it possible. I have always been curious, and I find that the more we remove distractions, the more answers we find.

 

 

Creative Simplicity Leads to a Richer Life

 Watertower Texas

 

I about as good a minimalist as I am a yogi. This process of forced downsizing has been enlightening in that you cannot deny the choices you make about anything. What you spend your money and time on matters to your well-being.

As we go throughout our life we value different needs that are essential to our survival, and sometimes getting stuck in fulfilling one need and forget the others. This leads to pain. The elusive balance is in creative simplicity. A happy accident that has emerged from our downsized life is the choice and time for reflection that it allows.

I have lived in many large cities, but none for the long term. As a creative thinker, my mind is always moving, thinking, and wondering how what is happening can relate to something I am working on whether that be writing here or working on other projects.

I don’t want a simple life. I want a rich, creative, innovative life and that is not a minimalist attitude as far as I can tell. Some believe we have a limited amount of resources. I, on the other hand, believe that we need to have a simpler day-to-day life to create real art and see those resources.

In the War of Art, by Steven Pressfield he talks about winning the inner creative battle. This work is a great example of the resistance we all have to change, and how to propel your greatest work. Art is not just for artists. Art is a well loved family. Art is the legacy you leave on this earth. Art in your relationships. Art can be your work. It all starts with a creative plan for finding what is true to you and designing a life around that.

For centuries, creative thinkers have had moments of outright brilliance, but for many today our brilliance is hiding under a sea of possessions. If you love your collection of ____, then by all means keep it. If it inspires you, it is worthy of time and space. If it drains you – let it go.

For me the larger house was a drain, because of the resources needed to honor that space. I have family members with much larger homes, and due to that being an area of passion and creativity they love their large home and it in turn gives them juice.

It is not about your square footage. It is about the energy of the space.

Simplifying is only the first step and had I stopped there I would not be any further on the road to My Happy Place. I want simplicity of an environment that will create the happiest, creative energy.

Do you ever notice how some writers will go to the mountain to write? They have so many ideas swirling around in their head that they need a place of solitude to untangle them.

Now on the flip side of that coin, what if they never left that space? What if they lived in such simplicity that it did not replenish their inspiration bank? How much art would be left on the floor of that writing cabin, due to lack of variety and inspiration?

My mother-in-law just moved out of such a space. She rented a home in the Texas Hill Country for the last couple of years, that was formerly a writer’s retreat. It was a retreat. The back deck looking out into the hills and the wildlife that visited each day inspired me. She did not feel inspired after a time of being there, she felt constricted by its distance from the things and people she got her juice from.

As we look for our next move, I have been looking for research that would help me identify a neighborhood or town in the Austin area, that would be the right fit for me. So I could feel settled.

What I realized actually hit me after reading an article about personality type and Washington DC neighborhoods. It also seeped into my conscious thought again when I was at the farmers market event with the kids.

Expats experience this when they seek retirement on sunny beaches, only to get homesick and need to sell their real estate.

Knowing yourself and your needs is key, next asking your spouse or partner to do the same. We all need both variety and the stability of certainty in our lives, and it is up to us to find that.

Simplifying the areas of my life that are not a part of me that gives me juice was the first step. The next step is getting past looking at real estate in terms of square footage and price, but what need is most central to you.

Penelope Trunks talks about how living on the farm centers her, but she has a need for variety as well, as she travels to Chicago with her son weekly to music lessons, or her travels back to NYC.

I feel that same pull. A place that provides the solitude to be creative and in turn successful is key, but close enough to the things that give me juice are necessary like music, people, and the art of experiencing life.

This is something that is missing in the real estate profession. Understanding that families may say they need this many rooms, but what is missing in their needs list will make the difference in their happiness with their purchase.

I realize for me that minimalism does not work. I need a home base that is simple, beautiful, and full of a calm energy to be at my best, no matter what the square footage. Does your space make you more successful at home or work?

Working motherhood is the ultimate in terms of certainty and variety for me, but having a home life that supports that is the absolute key to success.

My New Favorite Habit To Simplify My Day With Kids

 

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” The reasonable man tries to adapt himself to the world (environment), while the unreasonable man tries to adapt the world (environment) to himself, therefore, all progress depends upon the unreasonable man. -George Barnard Shaw

Where in the world did we get the idea that we need to be busy and scheduled to be productive, grow, and learn? Our downsizing has brought so many positive aspects to our life, one being the idea of pause and reflection. I am learning this through others and I am a work in progress.

I was having a conversation with my mom yesterday, about how she grew up. Third to the oldest of nine children, her father a civil engineer, her mother a full-time homemaker until her father’s death when my mother was thirteen in 1944.

I know a lot about how her life evolved after this point in her life, but yesterday I was asking more about life when she was a young child. This conversation took place as I notice this urge to always feel the need to be busy. Anytime I had extra downtime I wondered to myself if I should be scheduling more activities for the boys. My new habit of reflection and intentional planning for my day has resolved this urge.

“ All the mother’s were home all day. There was no pressure to be somewhere else, no planned play dates, no driving all over…”she said.

Kids played, people had time in the community to catch up with one another, and summers were spent at the lake. It was simple and happy. You don’t need much with kids to be happy. She has great stories of her mischievous brothers, and even after her father passed, her mother made sure their life stayed as consistent is possible. She took in sewing to pay the bills and worked from home – now you can see where I get it.

Was it a different time? Yes. Do you have to have a crazy schedule every day? No. You control your life and whatever that means to you. My life may not be your way, but do you know what your idea day looks like? I know I didn’t.

The pause is a time to look at my goals and outcomes and see if this new idea added to it or was just something to be done. This is my new morning habit.

How this relates to our life now, comes back to the conversation with my mom. She asked what we did today, and I said, “the usual park, play, reading time, and independent play, that and I worked before they woke up and will finish tonight. Nothing too exciting, but the results are happy kids and a happy mom.”

Are you busy filling up your calendar, or taking time to pause? Everyone enjoys a different pace for their family, and for mine it seems at least for now slower is better.

My new habit of morning reflection, creates an intention for my day that is the most productive habit I have learned this year. There is a power in a pause.