Category Archives: Simplifying

24. …and then everything changed

When I last posted, we were in the midst of some big life changes. We had decided to downsize, to move to the city to minimize Mike’s commute, and to otherwise simplify life.  I’m happy to say that we did it!  Well, mostly…

Meet Sadie!

Meet Sadie!

What better way to simplify than to have a baby?  We found out that I was pregnant the same day  we signed the contract on our new, downsized home.  Ironic, right?  Sadie was most definitely a surprise; but of all the curve balls life could have thrown at us, a healthy, strong baby is a blessing. Through all the change, though, we have continued to homeschool.  More to come soon on that topic.  Right now, I hear someone waking from her nap.

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22. Letting Go- Part 2

Things I’ve let go of this week:

the house…

Selling the house

When one door closes…

We’ve decided to move to the city to be closer to Mike’s work.  We built a great life in the suburbs, but Mike is hardly ever in it!  This move will reduce his weekly commute by 12 hours!  That’s 8 hours he can spend with the kids.  Right now, he’s out of the house before they wake to avoid the morning commute.  On a good night, he’s home around 7:30 or 8:00.  So, the kids get a hug and kiss, about 10 minutes to play with Dad while he settles in, and it’s off to bed.  Weekends are our only real family time.  Why???

Neither of us ever questioned this before now.  We just accepted that if we wanted to give our kids the best life possible, we had to sacrifice certain things.  But, as I’ve begun to simplify and try to live more intentionally, I see that the most important thing for our family is just that…our family.  The kids miss their dad, and their dad misses them.  It doesn’t have to be this way.

The realization hit me during one of my recent decluttering bouts (I’ve used my free time during Mike’s busy travel schedule lately to empty every room, drawer, and closet in the house).  This night, I was cleaning out the chest in the family room.  I looked around the room and noticed something interesting; we have very little art on our walls (by choice), but what we do have says something.  In the kitchen, we have a large print of downtown Chicago in 1955 (brought from Mike’s Chicago office) and two paintings of fruit (gifts from my friend in Chicago).  In our bedroom, we have one color drawing of the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco.  In the entry, there are three photos of the kids: a photo of Ryan at his uncle’s wedding, a photo of Ashby taken by my sister at a local park, and a photo of both kids playing on Ocean Beach in San Francisco.  Finally, the family room: three wedding photos (all in San Francisco) and three black and white drawings of San Francisco (a view from the Golden Gate Bridge, a view from the Bay Bridge, and the Palace of Fine Arts).  Notice a pattern?

We love San Francisco!  It’s where we were married, where we first lived together, and where Mike works.  But, we couldn’t raise kids in the city…or could we?  Since we homeschool, the schools aren’t a factor.  We are already in southern Marin three days a week between science, Mandarin, and theatre; our driving time will be equal or better coming from the city.  And, we’ll finally be able to use all the memberships we pay for already (but use far too rarely due to the drive): the Academy of Sciences, the DeYoung Museum, the Asian Art Museum, the SF Zoo…

When we moved into this house, I thought I’d be here forever.  We spent five months renovating it and the next two years doing complete makeovers on the front and back yards.  We finally finished this summer.  So, yes…it’s hard to let go.  But, when I get sad, I remind myself why we are doing this: 12 hours…breakfast and dinner as a family.  It’s a simple choice.

This is a house.  It was here before us, and it will be here after us.  “Home” is wherever we are…all four of us.

21. Letting Go: Part 1

Streamlining my closet, dresser, and nightstand energized me.  Here are some other things I’ve let go in the past couple weeks:

All my photo albums except our wedding album, a scrapbook I made before I had kids (includes my favorite pics from early life), and a photo book I made chronicling our time living in New York, New Jersey, and Chicago

– My photos from 2004 and later are digital, and I still have them on Phanfare (not an affiliate link…I don’t like to put those on my blog.  But I can email you a referral code if you want 20% off).  The digital photos take up no space in my house, and I can access them from anywhere.  I did convert  three or four paper pics to digital by taking a picture of the print with my iPhone.  As for my older photos, I never looked at them. I packed them and moved them 9 times in 10 years, and I never looked at them.

It may seem drastic to throw out photos and photo albums, but I still have my memories.  And, if I can’t remember something without a picture, it probably wasn’t that special to me in the first place.

All kids’ school work from years past and all first-grade textbooks

– I saved a couple writing samples from both Ashby and Ryan (one from the start of the year and one from the end) and placed them in a one-inch binder.  At this rate, I’ll be able to fit samples from all our homeschooling years for both kids

Their history and science narrations are kept in notebooks on their own library shelves.  Ryan, in particular, pulls out his first-grade history notebooks regularly for bedtime reading.  So, I have no problem keeping them.  When they cease to be used, I’ll recycle them.

As for the textbooks, both my kids are past first grade.  So, why do I need them?  Next year, I’ll add second grade to the list…and so on…

All but six sets of my everyday dishwear

– Why do I need 12 sets of dishes? There are four of us!   What I’d really like to do is get rid of it all and just use the China.  I love my China, and I never use it!  (The only reason I kept any everyday dish sets is that I’m not 100% certain the glaze on the China is lead-free. If I can verify that, the everyday is gone!)

All but my two favorite sets of bed sheets (plus one flannel set for winter)

– I only ever use these sheets anyway.  Why let the rest take up so much shelf space for no reason?

Unnecessary kitchen gadgets

– This was easy.  Do I really need an olive grabber?  English muffin baking rounds?  Two vegetable peelers?  Eight cheese spreaders?  I think not.

Extra cookware

– This one…not so easy.  I love to cook, and on some level, parting with anything All-Clad seemed wrong.  But, come on!  How many times have I used my All-Clad wok?  Or, my mini All-Clad wok?  They are quality tools, but I don’t need them.  So, off to Goodwill they went, along with some heavy duty braising pots, sauce pans, and my adorable All-Clad butter melter (just a doll-sized pot…used only for melting butter).  How ever will I live without it?!

There were sauté pans, cookie sheets, tart pans, bread pans, mini bundt pans, mini muffin tins, and mini springform pans, too.  All gone.  Hopefully, they will find their way to someone who needs them and uses them.

I feel much lighter now.  What next?

20. Definitely Less

I have spent the past couple weeks clearing out the house, and I’m nowhere near done.

It started with washing the outside of the windows. Usually, that’s Mike’s job. But, he was organizing the garage, and I’d been wanting to try a new method I read about on Happily Occupied Homebodies’ blog: warm water, vinegar, and Dawn soap with a couple clean rags. Simple. I spent a couple hours on a beautiful, cool summer day washing and drying the windows while I listened to my podcasts. I found it it very satisfying and therapeutic. A seemingly insignificant and mindless job, right? But, it was so peaceful…and interesting to look at my life from this perspective. I mean, how often do you stand on the outside of your windows looking in?

I saw some folded laundry in the family room, a couple plastic kids’ cups on the kitchen island, a few picture frames I had yet to hang (more on that later) resting between my nightstand and wall. But, as I cleaned the small window in the master bath, I realized how much I liked the look of the pale blue walls, the round mirror, the tiny white sink, and nothing else. It was so clean, with nothing unnecessary cluttering it. What if the whole house had that feel?

I organized my closet the next day and donated two big bags of clothes I never wear, 8 pairs of shoes (after Ashby tried on all of them), all but one fancy clutch, all but one tote bag, and all but a few of my favorite scarves. I threw out all the mementos I’d been storing in there: childhood diaries and more recent journals, old photos, birthday cards from Mike and the kids…everything. I still have all the memories these things represented. I don’t need the stuff.

I’m not the first to say it, but It’s the truth: I am not my things. So, why load myself down with things? For me, it’s a simple choice…let go.