Apr 29, 2017

On Worms & Minimalism

Check out sweet Rosie yesterday, playing with a worm she dug up in the garden. My kids are at their happiest when they are let loose in nature with nothing but a stick or their bare hands. Which got me thinking it might be worth sharing my minimalist dreams of late...

During the renovation, we've packed away all of our furniture and belongings into the guest room and garage. Even the attic is emptied out! And we've had to admit something to ourselves that we kind of knew all along: we are swimming in STUFF! Since moving in four years ago, amid the chaos (aka survival-mode) of parenting very young children, we managed to accumulate way more than we ever intended. We've been shoving things in attics and closets rather than taking time to decide if we actually want them anymore.

At the very beginning of our renovation, we found it simple to load up the car with donations and toss trash into the dumpster. We emptied out entire carloads worth of stuff and it felt great! Now things are slower. We're down to the nitty gritty - the toys and knick-knacks and books. The baby clothes and kids' art and school work (an entire chest of drawers worth of it). It may take us a while to methodically get through all of it, but I feel lighter with each pile that leaves the house.

When I started thinking through our goals, here's what I zeroed in on:

Less Consumerism
A part of our new thinking is to stop BUYING so many things. This is harder than I thought, because I've realized what a well-trained consumer I am of all the things I don't need. I try to stop and think about whether I really want to look at something at the bottom of the toy bin in a few weeks, or whether I'll wear a top more than once. Quality over quantity is the goal, with an eye on only buying things that will last a while.

Only Keep What Makes us Happy
Another goal? We don't want to move anything back into the house unless we truly LOVE it. If I'm honest with myself, all of my "projects" (broken or old dining chairs, things needing reupholstery or paint, artwork with broken frames) are not worth the money I'll save DIY-ing, if they cause me stress each time I look at them! We hope to do any refinishing, hire professional upholsterers, or just replace with new, BEFORE any of these things go back into our home. The money I might save by trying to repurpose decrepit furniture on my own is just not worth the mental cost right now. It's taken years to admit this to myself - I love projects, but at some point I want a completed house that I can look around without thinking, "oh, that will look so much better when I paint it...," or "if only I had time to finish sanding and staining that piece it would be perfect..."

Family Ideals
Part of this whole process is a real stripping down not only of our stuff, but also of what matters to us as a family. I don't want to spend all of our free time wading through toys and piles of clothes. I know that life with less will be easier and happier. Getting there is pretty hard, but we're working on it. Toys are a big challenge because the kids have acquired so many. Things that were gifted, in particular, cause guilt. Books are tough for me, probably because I value books and reading so much. However, I know we have way too many choices!

I just started the audio version of the book "Simplicity Parenting" (http://www.simplicityparenting.com/), and a big idea that resonated with me is that kids' quality of life improves when they have fewer toys. Too many choices, too much stuff, and too much busy-ness overwhelm them - and even cause anxiety. With a smaller selection, they will play longer and delve deeper, expanding their imaginations and creativity. This is a huge motivator! 

Another resource I've enjoyed, if you're interested, is http://www.becomingminimalist.com/. And Ben and I watched this Netflix documentary, which sort of jumpstarted this whole mission of ours. https://minimalismfilm.com/

Apr 23, 2017

Playing Catch Up - and Floors!

Renovations are a feat of endurance. They are a balancing act between client and contractor. A sweet couple who opened their home to us to view our contractor's work before our project started, said something awesome that stuck with me. They basically said, "This is the most money we'll spend on anything at once, probably ever, so we decided to just have fun with it." I couldn't agree more! When I start to sweat the details or get aggravated, I remind myself what a dream it is to be able to make my ideal house. I LOVE choosing all the little pieces of the puzzle that will make our space perfectly suited to us, and have been gleefully planning this for four years since we first moved to this sweet spot.

Converting the kids' playroom into a multi-purpose space (kitchen, office, tv room, play area) has definitely had its challenges (why do we have so much STUFF??), but it's an adventure and something none of us will forget!

For a quick rundown, here's what's happened so far:

1. Demolition - two walls torn down, doors widened, carpets ripped up (hallelujah!!), kitchen removed and trashed (unfortunately our cabinets were too old to donate as I'd planned). This step took a little longer than expected because we needed to add a huge steel support beam, but now we're nice and secure!

Here's a pic of the initial demo - standing from the entry hall, this looks at what used to be a separate formal dining room and kitchen. Both were too small, so voila! One big space now! We widened both doorways going into the family room, but worked around our brick wall. I wanted a more open, airy space, but not totally wide open. A little separation keeps rooms feeling cozy, I think.

2. Electrical, plumbing, bringing in gas for our cooktop.

3. Drywall

4. Floors!!! These have been our biggest bump in the road thus far. Our existing subfloors were basically unusable, so there was lots of extra time and expense put into redoing them. But now our hardwoods are IN. We went with a character (or Euro) grade 4" white oak. Locally sourced which makes me happy. They are glorious. Once painting and trim carpentry are done, the crew will be back to sand and stain. Choosing a stain color will be my next challenge, but I really like them light! Maybe a very pale brown, just so it's not impossible to keep them looking clean.

Next steps will be installing the actual kitchen, new front doors, white mortar rub on the brick, then building our new bookshelves and drop zone. Phew - little by little, we are getting there!!

Oh, and lest you worry Ben and I have given up our DIY ways - here's what we've been working on this weekend. More paneling painting and painting the last remaining wood stained doors. It's brutal work, but it's saving us thousands of dollars. We spent the hours painting fantasizing about how lovely this will all be when it's done. And drinking beers of course. The kids kindly entertained themselves for several hours by collecting worms on the back patio!

Apr 12, 2017

Back from Hiatus! And Fun News!

Hi sweet friends - I'm still here, I'm still here!

Believe it or not, this blog has been on my mind for the past few years as it sat dormant. Life took over, as it should have. Parenting two small kids full time is all-consuming, with big highs and big lows. It's a season of life that is a beautiful, crazy whirlwind, and I can sense that as a family, we are slowly shifting into a new season now.

I've started freelance writing again on a part-time basis. Rosie began three-year-old preschool, and Max started (gasp!) kindergarten!! Lots of new beginnings! Kindergarten has been wonderful and joyful and sweet. I've been so grateful to see my guy thriving and excited about school, and gaining confidence every day. But it's also daunting. Packing the lunches and arriving on schedule; remembering the assignments, the forms, the spirit days, my volunteer shifts, oh my! The mornings now require that my kids are not only dressed, but also PRESENTABLE. Clean faces, brushed hair, tidy clothes - because that's just how it is when you are in real school!

So all of that rambling is to say - life has been rich and full and busy, but writing is calling to me. I love that I have the amazing opportunity to work again doing what I love. But I need to write for myself as well. For fun, to keep the creativity alive. And what better excuse to bring back "Cookies & Beer" than a major home renovation project?

Yep, we are two months into a full-on demo of the main floor - it all started with our (my) desire for hardwood floors. I could not handle white carpeting with small kids for another minute, by god! We quickly realized that if we intended to change our home's layout within the next few years, even just a little bit, it really should be done at the same time as the floors.

Fast forward through a few months of intense deliberation and financial analysis, and we found ourselves interviewing designers and eventually signing on for the little project that turned big. It started with floors and a modest kitchen update, and it kept growing - and growing, until we landed on a plan that took out two walls, widened doorways and gutted the kitchen. Oh, and then I wanted to upgrade our built-in bookshelves and tear out a closet to make way for a mudroom. Because when will ever we do any of this again? We decided to go big or go home! So here we are...

Luckily we found a fabulous designer and contractor who are along for the ride and are helping us make sure it's all just what we're dreaming of.

This project is scary and it's a major upheaval in our home life. But it's also fun and thrilling, and we are trying to make the most of our camp-out style, kitchen-free life for the moment. The payoff will be a home that works for our family, that feels beautiful and functional, that is easier to maintain and more eco-friendly.

If home renovations are your jam, then feel free to check back here - I'll try to post updates as we go along!