Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Money making? Money saving? Or saving within the spending?

Women, no matter what their work schedule looks like, can feel overwhelmed and even guilt-ridden over how we save or make money. We talk about mommy guilt. Oh, the mommy guilt.  I think there's so many ways this can manifest for women.  One way though that is not as obvious as breast vs. bottle or home vs. day care is wrapped up in the choices about how we make or save money.  I want to detangle it from the rest. It's a guilt that is clouding up our big picture.

I don't thrift shop. My sister-in-law, Jessica, does and she's dang good at it.  She would be my go-to guide if and when I needed to dip into that resource. Not only is she good at it, but it brings her joy. That's the trick. Enjoying the way we provide or finding enjoyment in the ways we provide.  We chatted about that this past weekend when we spent an extended weekend in Alabama meeting brand new baby Grace & catching up with family.

The truth is I hate shopping.  I always have.  The only time I really found enjoyment in shopping was about a year ago when I would, after a week of watching my boys as well as my nephews (and especially weeks when Paul was also traveling), go to the mall on Friday night for a couple hours to walk around and feel like a grown-up again. That was fun, but it is definitely not my norm.  The soul suck is strong when I cross paths with a rack of clothes.

Those glorious day care days! :)
My norm is going without.  I've had the same coat for 7 years. I wore my shoes down so badly in college, my parents asked me to throw them away. Every year I tell myself I'm going to buy a pair of boots... and I don't.  There's a beautiful sense of savoring in that for me. I don't want things all at once in a mad rush. I don't even necessarily want them when I can afford them. I still want to wait. There's probably a curious subset of the population just like me--the waiters.

But it's not like I'm some amazing money saver just because I wait for a lot of things. There's other things I just buy outright. All I'm saying is that I know my strength.  I also know my weakness as well as my parameters.  That's me personally, but then there's something even bigger -- our family dynamic.

Paul and I are better at making money than saving money. And I actually here mean "the saving within the spending" kind of saving. Actually saving the money is not the problem. Actually making the money is not the problem. It's the "saving within the spending" that is not our strength.  We do okay.  We make a lot of homemade food.  We know when to catch good sales. We know you can stack savings.  We know sales loop around continuously. Our negotiating skills are okay. But it is actually not worth our time to toil hours and hours over how we purchase things.  We take on work better than we cut out coupons.

I feel like there's scandal in that--to say that our family identity is more closely aligned in making money than in the saving within the spending of the money. It shouldn't be that way though.  There's honor in all forms of stewardship.

I'm so grateful that our generation is getting back to the roots. There are calls for less materialism and consumerism. There's a call to return home (read Homeward Bound!).  There's a call to do meaningful work. That's all good. But I feel we've thrown the baby out with the bath water.  We can't be all things.  Build up a home of DIY from A to Z and build a stocky career.  Or at least not the mom AND the dad.  This equation of do all the things just doesn't work.  You can't work 50 hours and brew your beer and mow your lawn and shop at 3 different stores to get the best deals on groceries and wash your diapers and clean your house and make that organic well-balanced meal.  You can't. So stop.

Stop telling yourself that if you finally get it together you are going to do all the things. You were not made to do all the things.  Your eyes are open and my eyes are open and we can see all the things because they are all over this screen. What your friend did for her kid's birthday. That Halloween costume another mom made. The food your friend keeps posting on Instagram.  Good for her. Not for you. Right? Can I get an Amen?

I'm not advocating being lazy or wasteful.  I'm not advocating sloughing off responsibility. I think there's so much reward in homemade pizza or dirt turned over by our own hands.  What I am saying is that each person can't be it all nor should they try.  They have to say no to a great many things to say yes to the either money making or money saving methods that help their family thrive.

Essentialism.  Honing in on that one thing. What's your one thing? Don't let all the other details drag you down.  If you find time for them--awesome. But if you don't? You're totally fine because you are doing your thing!

As women lean into supporting one another I hope we can respect those differences.  I hope we can see there is no shame in a woman working to make money just as there is no shame in a women sorting through hand-me-downs or baking bread.  We are all providing for our families. We are all, by our work that can look drastically different from our neighbors, friends and even mothers, clocking in so we can clock out for time with loved ones (today and/or maybe a tomorrow we are storing up for...)

We all have beautiful gifts that come alive and light up when we strike those things that both meet our purpose and give us delight too.  It might be in homeschooling or in working part-time or in being an independent seller or being a freaking hawk of a buyer at the grocery store or in slipping into those slacks each day and driving into work.

I'm going to be thinking more on this too. I'm going to think about what I do that helps make or save money for my family. I'm going to think about opportunities that I need to explore and be open-minded t
o. But I'm also going to choose peace that my family and the way we run our finances and make the numbers work for us is just as unique as the next family. There is no better. Just good stewardship in different forms. Saying no to some things. Saying a big yes to others. But living with a focus on providing in the way we've set out to do.

*     *     *

How do you save or make money?  What is your personal strength? Where would you like to grow in how you spend, save, or make money? Chat with me in the com box down below! 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

How you can utilize quarters to frame your personal life

This year I've dabbled with personal quarters, and I'm excited to use them next year with even more intention. Personal quarters are time-wise aligned with tax quarters or fiscal quarters, but for the purpose of your growth, individually. 

1st quarter: January - March
2nd quarter:  April - June
3rd quarter: July - September
4th quarter: October - December 

I've done an imperfect job this year of trying on the personal quarter. Regardless, I've really enjoyed the new perspective. 90 days is that sweet spot.  It is enough time to get big things accomplished, but it isn't so little time (like a month) where stopping to plan and reflect gets in the way of actually doing the work.

Here's a specific illustration of how the use of personal quarters helped me this year. My 3rd quarter was very medical.  We had ER visits that led to the boys' diagnosis of hemophilia. I had a lot to learn. Essentially, think crash course in hemophilia. There were numerous, numerous long conversations with specialists, our pediatrician, our at-home nurse, and our insurance company. I walked through a bit of the grieving process to readjust expectations and let my momma heart breathe.

Then, I was looking at the last three months of the year & felt joy. I've become accustomed to new starts every three months.  I was able to frame July, August, & September around this positive sense of learning lots about my boys and hemophilia, something waiting in them for two years for us to discover.  Even though that aspect of our lives is not neatly tied up and put away, there won't be the same intensity with which we had in this specific chunk of months. I was able to start October fresh & joyful.  I was able to look forward and not feel stuck, to readjust and feel renewed to keep going.

That's why I love stopping every 3 months to pull everything back together to rewrite the plan. It makes room for the unexpected, but also helps me remember not to get distracted from my original intentions.

Here are some ways you could use the personal quarter framework for you. Pick and choose what you want:

1.  Use a personal quarterly review guide.  You are welcome to use this one that I created. (I modified it from something I found on another site and as soon as I find that site I'll give her due credit here.) You also could create a simple one for yourself that's essentially directed at reviewing the previous quarter and planning for the quarter ahead.  I get such a sense of pleasure in taking pen to paper, but you can also walk through these questions with mind maps or talking through them with someone else.

2. Block out a 2 - 3 hour chunk of alone time to think.  Journal at Panera. Go on a long hike. If you are in a survival season, maybe just a super long soak in the bathtub, candles lit and lights dim. Just pick your flavor of whatever that will allow you space from everyday life and especially that long to do list.  This is time to think big picture.  Replay scenes from the last three months. What did you feel? What did you learn? Now visualize what you want the next three months to look like, to feel like. Are there things in your value system that need fed? You don't have to write down a single thing to make use out of personal quarters. Sometimes the best growth happens when we stop to be still and listen.

3. Retool the budget. Where our money goes is a good indication of our values.  Security. Friendships. Time with family. Flashy, nice things. Freedom.  It will show up in the numbers, so updating a budget also serves as a way of thinking about your value system as well.  Then there's changes. Salary changes. Changes in family size. A notice that your mortgage bill went down. New opportunities that cost or bring in more money. Just on a practical level, I've found updating (as in actually revisiting what amount we are allowing for each area, not in making sure the numbers are accurate) the budget every three months is the most realistic.    *I would love to share how we use our online bank, Simple, to budget (it's flipping awesome--the best!), but I need to figure out how to do that tech-wise and if there's any interest, so let me know if that's something you would like to see.

4. Celebrate! If you don't take time to acknowledge the great things that you accomplished or ways in which you grew, you are robbing yourself of extra energy to take on even more.  I've found celebrating insights, new skills, and achievements to give me both gratitude and contentment. It isn't all about being goal driven. It's about seeing that life is both good and bad and that there is always good to be recognized. Life will go on. There will always be difficult things. We should take time to savor the good things too! Date night. A special, related purchase. A bottle of wine and a special meal made side by side at home with your husband. Stop, celebrate and be glad.

5. Keep it simple with answering this one statement-- "I need____________________"
How would you finish that statement? For me, right now, I need everything in its place in our home. That's why I'm reorganizing all the spaces in our house for my 4th quarter.  This need was really "highlighted" as soon as we started homeschooling.  What this statement really delivers is tackling your biggest problem.  If you can take on your big problem, other things will fall into place as a benefit.  Do you need to feel healthier? Do you need to have more time? Do you need to reconnect with your spouse? Do you need to feel happier at work?

Now answer this question: What needs to be true in order for _____________________ ?
 & fill in your need. Ex: What needs to be true in order for us to feel peace in our home? What needs to be true in order for me to have time to be creative? What needs to be true in order for me to get a promotion?

How do you set goals? Do you set monthly, quarterly or yearly goals? Have you every tried to use some version of personal quarters?

Monday, October 19, 2015

What do you wish you had known about caring for your dog before bringing it home?

Paul and I are talking about getting a dog. It may be a very long time before I'm ready or we may decide not to get a dog at all, but I'm at least open to considering it now. 

Before the twins were born, I would have laughed at the idea of us having a dog. But then along came Alistair and Emerick.

I've never seen little kids so obsessed with dogs. When they see a neighbor walking a dog across the street on the sidewalk, they ask to open the door so they can blow kisses. 50% of the tantrums the twins have ever had are over not getting to go hang out with a dog they've spotted.  

Emerick especially wants to pet every dog that walks near.  Yesterday, he took a book to bed with him about a therapy dog named Lola. This is usual behavior for him, schlepping a dog-related item around with him all day long and still clinging to it at night. When I checked on him, he had the book under his head as he was sleeping. And actually, it's not just dogs with him. Dogs are absolutely #1 for sure, but when he was at Paul's parents' house, he (a two year old who had never been around chickens before) was scooping up chickens and cradling them in his arms.  It astounds me the way kids are so strikingly their own person. 

Here's where you come in. I need your advice, input, and wisdom. I want to know what you wish you had known before buying your dog. <please>

Was it more expensive than you thought it would be?

Did your dog's demeanor end up different than what you knew that breed to be? 

Did you have trouble training the dog?

Did you learn something in the buying process? 

Did you end up doing all the work taking care of the dog?

I guess these questions are tilted pretty negative. If you had positive, unexpected things about your experience, that would be good for me to hear too.  

The three most daunting things about a dog for me: 1.) long term decision  2.) smell   3.) just more work.  And there's the costs too, which we've already looked at, and those are pretty sobering.  

That's me being real with you.   I would love to make my boys happy, but we can visit someone else's dogs or maybe have a lower maintenance animal if we decide dogs are too much (see #3).  

So, give it to me. Be honest -- please.  Good, bad, whatever.  Anything you think might help. 

You can post anonymously or message me as well if you want to be more discrete. ;)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

When there's something lodged up in your heart

I'm camped at the dining table. I think it's because of the sun coming through the windows along the back of our house. Those windows, despite a fragmented mural of smudged little handprints, are flooding my home with happy. And I need that sunshine today.

Ever have one of those weeks where you just get whammy after whammy of slams from real life? 

That's me this week, so far. It's nothing that bad really. It just adds up.

Thomas cussed in PSR on Sunday. He spent an hour writing letters of apology when he came home. I get that. I cuss. I've been stressed as +%&% trying my best to keep the twins from hurting themselves this summer ever since we found out they have hemophilia.  I average one really tiny heart attack about once a day when someone gets hurt.

I've had to reverse five years of being chill. I've had to turn this ship around and be on high alert and keep things um, mild--- you know, because it's easy to have three boys playing together without things getting rough. Boys don't like to tumble and jump and climb. I don't know if you've ever met boys, but they like to keep things calm. Really, really, really calm.

Anyway, so there was Thomas's cussing which wasn't funny but I 100% got. it. And poor kid.  He never once said, "I learned that from my mom." I was waiting for him to spill that out in front of Sister Jeanne. I was waiting for him to say that his mom runs around calling out for Jesus in loud ways, but it never came. He just kept saying that he knows that bad word. And I wanted to tell him telepathically that I owe him for life.

It's hard to see your sins take shape on your kids and walk around bumping into things.

Yesterday, I took the kids grocery shopping.  A woman stopped me and said...

"I have utmost respect and admiration for you....

(and then the smile 1000% disappeared from her face before she continued with--)

"I nearly raised my two younger twin brothers and I wouldn't envy any of your life for the next 18 years."

And then she strolled off leaving me with my kids hangry and wanting to prowl about like wolves through the grocery store but strapped in our two stuffed carts.

Last night I told Thomas not to interrupt me on the phone unless someone was on fire or letting out blood.  But then I saw why he still tried to interrupt me on my phone call. He had gone to fix the crayon on his closet wall and had done a wonderful job except for one small point: He had scrubbed the wallpaper off along with the orange crayon. Ok. Awesome. So the wallpaper needs to be removed and the closet needs painted.

Yesterday, I could have sworn Emerick woke up with pink eye. I saw white puss. I heard a long babbling story from him and lots of crying. Who knows what goes on in that room sometimes.  I Googled all the stuff I needed to know and was at the ready. But that passed.

But then at the opposite end of the day Thomas was curled in a ball and said his stomach hurt real real bad. And he said maybe he had poop lodged up in his heart.  I gave him water and told him a vitamin might help because I was also dealing with the twins and needed a stall tactic.  He mentioned maybe eating a leaf a couple days ago. I went to question him about this and found him passed out in my bed.

Then the twins had their speech evaluation today. Maybe there will be more speech evaluations. Maybe not. I know I will get Alistair's hearing checked. Add it to the list! You know what I mean. The list. It's just so long, right? At some point I'm not going to feel like someone is punching me in the gut when we are assessing what's "wrong" with my child. I'm just not there yet.

And the guilt from having twins. Having multiple kids. Just wondering all the things.  Do I listen to that kid enough? Do I read to child #2 more than child #3? Do I take them out enough? Do they have enough friends? Was this nature? Was this nurture? Will this go away? Will I ever feel like I do enough? Do I do too much? And that's when you need to chill out. That's when you know your brain is fried and you need to just. shut. up. and deal later.

But wait, there's more.  But Ashley, you've already complained enough! NO. NOT DONE!!

Here's how Paul's travel goes for me. He travels almost every week. We are on week 5 in a row. And I'm normally fine. Totally fine.  Really. It's like I was built for this. Minus I do love hanging out with Paul and I miss him, but when it comes down to it we all do what we need to as part of the plan. Anyway, yesterday I just felt so... lonely. So terribly lonely.

Staying at home is already lonely. It's like the only bad part of staying at home I just can't find a pretty way to tie up. And then you put travel on top of that.  To laugh with your spouse at home??? There's nothing better.  You are with illogical but adorable children all day and then your spouse comes home, helps you a bit, and you can laugh at your adorably illogical kids dancing together to loud music. You can look at each other and know without saying it that you love your kids so much and you are so, so grateful. Without that touchpoint each night. Without that talking to someone reasonable, discussing goals and tasks and thoughts and things you learned--that's really, stinking hard.  Note this. After this season of life where motherhood of littles is intersecting with SAHMhood and Paul's constant traveling all in one place--I will never, ever overlook the loneliness of others. I totally, absolutely get it.

Anyway. Yesterday was one of those rare times where I just felt heartbreakingly alone. And then I went on a walk at the Y and things weren't magically better. It was bedtime so that was better.  I stayed up reading The Martian, reading about his loneliness.

And then I woke at 1:00 a.m. to what sounded like a big dog and a little dog yapping like crazy for 20 minutes and so I was convinced that a killer slash robber was on the loose and coming for my house and so then I didn't fall asleep again until no memory at all because I was wired from life preservation overdrive and I woke up way late to hangry kids all over again.

Gosh. I don't know why I'm telling you all of this. I don't even have some wonderful wrap-up. I was going to slap one on but nah.  I'm not reading into any of this. I'm not making something of it more than it is.  Sometimes we just see a lot of crap at our feet all at once and we have to roll up our sleeves and get to work.  

Also, sometimes I like to write about women working or not working on this blog.  I like to make things pretty. But let's get real. There's really awful parts about staying at home. There's really awful parts about working. The other way too. Great things too! Let's just cut the crap and be honest with each other.  Sometimes, you can love what you do but not like it at all that day.... or couple days. But that's really fine!

How's your day today? And don't shy away from telling me your day is awesome. Seriously. I want to know! Actually, I would love to hear about someone else's day--help me get my mind off me!

Much love!


Monday, October 12, 2015

Walk with me and we can not quite know together

Since coming home to care for the kids, letting go of my job as a teacher, I’ve fumbled in answering that question of how long I plan to stay.   “Hmm. I don’t know.” I’ve said those gray words so many times. No great crafted answer. Just a vague, unfinished statement.

And I hadn’t known for a while for all kinds of reasons. I’m supporting Paul in what he does and he’s supporting me. It’s romantic and difficult and good. I’m loving homeschool and getting good (better) at being a homemaker which I find surprisingly fulfilling. And then there's the time with my kids--that thing that I just can't quit no matter the strewn toys and long days. 

Stepping away from teaching was exhilarating but scary. My feet ached for firm ground and yet I wanted even more to stay put & make something of something new. It was the most daring ordinary thing I will ever do.  

I know a bit more of my plan now because I’ve gone ahead and made a path.  But there is always openness to what we do not know and what we can not predict.  Hearts change. Careers change. Families change. Some of these changes we feel slowly, some click as quiet as a switch inside our soul, and others tumble on top of us and turn us inside out in no time, no warning: “Up ahead. Total life reboot.”  

+   +    +    +    +

I had thought that this vulnerability in uncertainty walked with me because I quit my job, but I learned this year that this particular vulnerability harbors no prejudice. Uncertainty walks with all of us.  It wasn’t a symptom of not having a paycheck. It is a symptom of being human. 

Throughout this year, women have come over to talk, coffee mug in hand and maybe kids playing at our feet. Old friends. Family members. Friends I’m close with now and who visit often.  I’ve listened to stories of things I missed before or things that are so new they’re raw and far from finished. I’ve listened to the hearts of women and I’ve seen how not alone I am.  

From afar, these women upheld lives that looked like perfect plans unfurled.  Or if not that, at least tidy, under control, secure.  I had made assumptions.  I had compared their front stage performance to my back stage scrambling.  I had mostly gotten it all wrong.  

I hurt all over just looking at this photo.

I’ve seen the truth of life laughing at our plans and not just mine.  I’ve seen the truth of my friends living outside of certainty and yet walking forward because life didn’t stop to fix up things and throw a rope when it was needed.  These women. Their lives.  So many things shattered, mended and hurting, so many things you couldn’t know from Facebook and Instagram, so many things outside of their plans that shaped their stories [and shape their stories] and have bloomed on their gorgeous faces because their faith and character pulled them through but not perfection.  Not anything near perfection.  So many things that they still just don’t know. 

All of us. We’re doing what we can with what we have. Obstacles ignite our creativity and stump us too. No guide to tell us why the bleeping hill just doesn’t end or how many miles more to the water.  We walk with confidence, with the things we know to be good.  We have joy in making plans for being our best selves.  But we have blank spaces too that we don’t yet have answers for. Hearts spilling over with silent grief. Cracked hands from tough work.  A turning over in our minds of things we wish we could control but can’t. 

Do you have plans? Yes?! Me too! So many plans. 

But do you also feel wonderment and gratitude for the things beyond the plans? 

Adventures you can not see. 

Splashes of color where you have pulled out a fresh, blank canvas. 

Inevitable turns up ahead that will have you doing things you don’t want but need, can’t know how but want, and won’t plan but is an unfinished part of you already just waiting for completion.

Me too! 

Plans are very, very good. But the things outside our plans, maybe even especially that which mystifies or frustrates or grieves or tires or stretches or pulls us to our knees in humility because the freaking roof blew off our box…

These are good because this is what has us grow the most. We become something we weren’t before. We become something that even our most perfectly perfect of beautiful plans can’t hold a match to because those plans were of the stuff inside us and this is of the stuff beyond. 

Where you find discomfort.  Where you find blank space.  Where you find vulnerability in uncertainty.

Go there.  I will meet you there & walk right along with you. I’ll laugh with you or cry with you or just get quiet with you.  Whatever you need, friend, but I’ll meet you there.  

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Day in the Life - All photos, No words

Wednesday, October 7th

6:00 a.m.

7:00 a.m.

8:00 a.m.

9:00 a.m.

10:00 a.m.

11:00 a.m.

12:00 p.m.

1:00 p.m.

2:00 p.m.

3:00 p.m.

4:00 p.m.

5:00 p.m.

6:00 p.m.

7:00 p.m.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Reclaiming my home

I’m reclaiming the spaces of my home.  It took one signifiant repurposing of the 3rd bedroom to set into motion a purging and reorganizing of every space in our home.  

Whether it was the long string of time we’ve now lived here (4 & 1/2 years), the drowning in chaos that comes with having a few small kids at home all day all week all year, or my own underdeveloped skill set for homemaking, our house had become a puzzle of shuffled chaos. 

It’s easy to think I’ll get to that another day when I have more time.

Earlier this summer a family member pulled out her phone and I saw a notification for over 2,000 unread emails. I won't say who here, but she knows because I gasped. ;) 

I could not sleep at night if I didn’t know exactly what those 2,000 were about, if I hadn’t sorted them and called them by name. I could not think clearly without those emails in their respective homes. 

But yet my house was just as much an unclaimed, waiting mess of stuff.  Things are mostly in their places but cozied up next to neighbors who had found their way there by accident and never left.  In the kids’ room mostly toys but also binders & board games. In the laundry room mostly cleaners but also tools & manuals.  In the garage, mostly… okay, everything is in that garage… but also lots of garden essentials that would have a wonderful home in our shed if only just escorted. 

And so it is I’m reclaiming the spaces of my home.  It feels good. It also feels a bit embarrassing, but I’m used to that.  As an INFP, I live life in a dreamy landscape and then reality sometimes bites me in the ass just as I’m musing at the pink sunset. That reality right now, teeth deep in my cheek, is that the linen closet provides the impression a drunk person was in charge of cleanup after a camping trip.  

Contents of our linen closet. I wish I was joking. 

Here is exactly how I’m getting everything in their places and booting out all the rest:

  1. I’ve set a deadline for myself: 

Paul and I listened to a podcast a couple weeks ago that made me rethink deadlines.  Essentially, our work expands to the time we give it.  Often we aren’t getting what we want done because we aren’t setting a deadline to do it. 

I’ve set a deadline for New Year’s Eve.  It’s always been one of my very favorite holidays.  Since I was a little girl, my love for a new year has known no bounds. It’s a bit ridiculous how excited I get.  This is what is pushing me. To know our family is starting a new year with all the things we love and need in their right places so we can seamlessly work hard and play hard too—the best! 

2.  Follow a thorough system. 

This is just how I’m doing this. I’m incorporating a lot of things I’ve learned from professionals like being comfortable with extra space in areas and getting as many alike things together in one place to increase simplicity. With those gems, I made my own system appropriate when one finds their home is a kaleidoscope of unorganized nonsense and they have to mostly start all over. 

1.  take everything out

2.  think of the function that is best for this space & declare what it is and what it is not 
3. bring as many things for that function into this space (and do not worry yet about lack of space or extra space) & take all extras that were in this space but now don’t belong to an interim space to be pulled from later (for example: basket in the garage or spare room)  

4. make order of what is here without buying extra things to do so (buying organizational stuff is often a distraction from the real work of making decisions & you can do this at the very end when you know you truly do not have any extra container but need one)

5. come back (later when other spaces are established as well) and make decisions about letting go of things that no longer belong
       * caveat: if purging is so obvious and automatic that it takes no energy—do it right away

5.   paint, decorate, and organize with whatever is needed to do it. 

3.  Thinking grateful thoughts and multiplying benefits.

This weekend I worked on creating a board game closet.  Right now, there’s no fancy system in it.  I just have all things in that group in this space and the space makes sense because it’s as close as possible to where we will use them. 

As I put everything in place I did two things.  A prayer of gratitude for the past.  And then a thought about a more productive future. 

I thought of all the memories we’ve made so far with those games and puzzles. Thomas naming the states our extended family members live in and where Nana went on vacation.  Paul schooling me in Monopoly. Sharing beers and laughs with friends over games of Wizard and Telestrations and Taboo. Piecing together 1000 piece puzzles with Thomas last winter as the snow fell just outside the sunroom windows. 

And then I thought of how a new home for these things means more likely use and easier cleanup. Organization is not a blueprint for living in a museum home, seeing our things tidy and beautiful at all times.  Organization's ultimate purpose is so we can live a full, rich lives. Lots of play. Lots of work.  Access to the things we need in the way that works the best for our family.  And that’s how I think of it as I’m moving things.  A laundry room that makes me want to fold and sort.  A kitchen that calls your name in to bake.  A kids’ room that allows for play but doesn’t also give mom a heart attack… still crossing my fingers on this one. Send your suggestions.  At this point, burn all the things is an option I’m strongly considering.  

+     +     +     +     +     +

So there you have it.  A “how I’m doing it” from someone who is totally making it up as she goes.  I’m not too proud to share that I’m not great as housekeeping. It’s humbling to see that I’m really bad at something that is a good chunk of my job at the present. 

But I’m 30.  30 is, for me, a license to freely admit my faults, and to work on them with joy.  

Life is too short to hide from our shortcomings.  Embracing them and learning intentionally how to wade through the new, foreign, or messy in order to get to the things we know we need is much more fun! 

Leave me a comment. Let me know if you have had similar “findings” in your house. If and when you’ve purged or reorganized or if you need to now.  If you’ve got tips, tricks, or advice, I’m all ears for that too! 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Our house is unorganized and I'm on it.

On Monday I disassembled the guest bed that was in our 3rd bedroom. I cleared out everything that didn’t fit the [new] single purpose of an office and study space. Our guest bed was getting so little use and it far from fit the needs of our family. As soon as the bed was out, I felt I could breathe. It was all wrong before. And now the room was right. 

The next day I continued.

I took three loads of stuff out of the garage to give away or recycle, hauled even more to the curb, and spent 4 hours rearranging our storage layout and all the things in it. Our garage is extra long but not extra wide. Previous owners put in cabinetry on the right side of the wall. It has always been all wrong, and we are finally having a contractor take it out. This is why I was out there. I was shifting all storage from the sides of the garage to the back where there has always been dead space. 

Yesterday, I took out everything from the laundry room and the cleaning closet. Thomas asked if he could earn money helping. I pulled things down and he organized them on the table. Housed in our laundry room cabinets were a freak show of miscellany. Paint sample cans. Abandoned socks. Tools. Empty boxes. Cleaning products I didn’t know we had. More screws than I could ever know what to do with. And enough manuals to build a tower as tall as Alistair & Emerick. 

Through this process all week I’ve been excited but not anxious to rush. I’m telling myself: no shuffling, no hiding, no shortcuts. If this thing in my hands isn’t sparking joy or its purpose expired some time ago, it’s time for it to go. And then I’m taking each item and putting it in its home not based on space I see or lack of space or where things were before. I’m putting it where it makes sense and with all the other things that it makes sense with.

This whole process of re-claiming my home is bringing me immense joy. We have better access to our tools and things which let us work and play with ease. In three days, I’ve gutted a disease of sorts which has caused us unnecessary stress and waste of time and replaced it with a visual declaration of “all things in their place.” 

Much of the beginning of 2015 I dwelled in this head and heart space of feeling and knowing that caring for twins is ... "challenging".  Of course my kids bring me tremendous joy. I am crazy lucky to be at home and I treasure my time with them. But I also felt like grabbing friends and family and saying, "YOU DON'T GET IT. THIS IS HARD."

Adjusting to life with three boys was [is!] very real and instead of handling it, I looked outside of myself and believed lies that if I was just “that mom” or I had “those kids” or I had “that set-up” my life would be easier. Ha! Maybe that is true. But what a bunch of crap that is wasting time on a life that isn’t yours when there are about a million things we can do at our fingertips to simplify, re-energize, and strike success with the one we do have!

Just about a month after the fog of my hard-heart lifted, homeschooling started. I’m going to admit something now that is even more shameful than the fact that I had tools in my laundry room, bottles of cleaners in my garage, and a guest bed I’ve always hated set up in a room we very much needed. 

Paul travels a lot. He does about 75% travel. He’s in Chicago this week. In the two weeks before that he had taken two trips each week. I used to post on Facebook that he was leaving or coming home or maybe blog about it here, but it’s such a normal part of our life that posting about it seems kind’ve silly now. 

This is our life, and I’m happy to be a part of it. Normally, I could keep up without extra help at night— the dinner clean-up, baths, books read to the kids. But with homeschooling now. WOAH. Like, woah. Could. Not. Just....No. Here it is… Here’s the kicker…. Since school started, three times Paul has come home to a house that was not clean. It was mostly clean. It was pretty clean. But it wasn’t that clean that a man who’s been busting his butt to provide deserves to come home to.

I’ve actually typed the words out to him: “I’m really struggling.”

Have you ever had this? A new stage of life. Maybe a baby. Maybe a promotion. Maybe a new house. Maybe, like me, homeschooling. And you can feel the growing pains. You know you are going to make it through but in transit you are looking like one. hot. mess. You’re not just dropping stuff, you are tripping over yourself and falling on your face. Well, if you have—then you know what my life has been like this year. I’ve mostly been a mess. 

And that’s why all this cleaning, pitching, purging, and creating a new vision for my home and how we live in it.

I’m in a good place right now.  A very, very good place. My eyes are not on anyone else’s life. Not the woman who has a man who is home at six (been there). Not on the momma of one sweet and tender, calm maybe, little girl (thought that). Not on the momma I’m going to be when I magically transform (NO effort!) into a well-oiled machine of both gentle nurturer and competent homemaker.

All I’m thinking about is where I am today and what I can do about it. I refuse to feel shame for the paint cans and messy garage, the slow claiming of my space, the past consumerism that stuffed our lives beyond good enough, or my lack of ability to magically transform into super-mommy or super-homeschool teacher.  I'm only thinking about the work. It's true what they say, that it doesn't matter about your past, but in light that it's always time to get to work on the right now.

I’m glad to be here doing the work. I’m grateful for a husband who trusts and believes in me. I’m happy for another beautiful day to be empowered, imaginative, and to pull out weeds and cultivate delight.