Since having my fourth wee babe this past April, I feel I’ve received a thick dose of reality in what I can and cannot handle. There is a limit, after all…
Mr. Ollie is 6 months old now, and in the time between his birth and the present, I’ve delved into some steep self-discovery.
• Realization #1 • I learned that taking care of two Great White Pyranees pups plus four children under the age of five, including a newborn, was not amongst the list of circumstances I can handle well, no matter how badly I wanted to. There’s apparently nothing so alluring to me as appearing to have it all under control when I truly don’t.
The pups are in two wonderful and beautifully capable new homes as of this May, and I have my wits back, along with my patience. My conclusion from this humbling lesson is that we are not supposed to have any dogs for a while. (Duh.)
Furthermore, I currently have not the desire nor the energy to train dogs the way I wish to, and I will not subject myself to training a new pup until the boys are able to do most of the care. Also, I have enough encounters with southern bodily substances on a daily basis to be relieved from the task of caring for two enormous puppies, thankyouverymuch.
• Realization #2 • It is remarkable how much adding a single person (and a miniature one at that) to a family can increase Mt. Laundry. Absolutely astonishing. I’ve never been so overwhelmed with laundry. And I have a small house. But we had a lot of laundry… So, Caleb’s natural response was: get rid of all the things! I was hesitant about this approach at first, but after revisiting my opinion on the subject, my eyes were opened to truly see the amount of Stuff we have accrued in our short six years of marriage, and found that it was indeed the answer.
• Realization #3 • I need to write. It is not a hobby, it is a fundamental need. For now, I picked journaling back up, after years and years of inconsistent documentation of my mental world. It’s still a challenge, as is anything for me concerning the pursuit of consistency, but I am now in more of a routine regarding physically writing in a journal. And getting back into practicing my handwriting is a refreshing biproduct of it. I love the act of writing nearly as much as the writing itself… Something about forming words as beautifully as possible. My future writing goals include more work on my novel(s), and learning to write them, but that is for another post…
• Realization #4 • I must take care of myself. This means getting to bed earlier than this night owl has ever managed on a daily basis, rising early, exercising in some capacity, and eating healthily. Of course.
So, I’ve run a half marathon, and that was stop one on my post-partum weight loss journey. Down nearly thirty pounds and planning some strength training for the month of November as I get back to my no-sugar diet, which has been instrumental to this weight loss! (Again, I’ll keep you informed in future posts…)
• Realization #5 • I’m a much more disorganized person than I’d like to admit. Becoming a mother of four as of April effectively pushed me out of my many comfort zones, from a state of controlling (or attempting to control) All Things to a new reality of accepting, relinquishing, and redirecting when it came to my home and my children.
Realizing that I need to begin with changing myself was the first step – I do have the control to change the way I do things – it is part of my role as the homemaker that greatly shapes how our home is run, how it feels, how it functions.
An inspiring book, Design Mom, lent to me by my sister-in-law (thanks a million, Emily Wilson!), motivated me to reassess the way I do (or rather, don’t do) things in our home, and moved me along the direction of newly aspiring minimalism.
I relish home design books with good pictures, and this one is chock full of ’em. And the underlying theme of the author’s decorating style is functional simplicity. She regularly considers the positioning of the components of her home, and assesses their current functionality, their value, their purpose. If anything changes, so does the room, and she adjusts to improve it and try something new that can work better. Or, if she decides she simply doesn’t like something anymore, she changes it. Now, obviously not all of us have the luxury of changing things at the drop of a hat, but it does help to remind oneself that decoration doesn’t have to be permanent, nor should it be. I forget that all too often.
And yet, spending as much mental energy as I’m sure she does on the movement of the home absolutely needs to be put into balance as well. There are so many more important things to be getting on with, I feel. But it’s for a time, really – rearranging one’s home does not have to be a constant, but rather, a means. How exhausting that would be, otherwise!
Back to Design Mom – I just loved her fresh take on running a home, establishing and maintaining systems that work, and making a house into a sanctuary for everyone in it, all the way down to the youngest child in the family.
So, as I looked around my own home, I took mental note of a few things – my initial observations were:
1 – We have a lot of clothes. Waaaay too many items of clothing, towels, fabric in general, etc.
2 – There are too many toys. (And we have significantly less compared to the average American household where toys are concerned.)
3 – We’re running out of space.
4 – We don’t use a lot of the stuff we are currently storing/keeping around.
It all started with the night Caleb and I went through the eight plastic bins of kids’ clothing size newborn to 4T, and downsized to three bins total – 2 boy, 1 girl. The snowball effect was activated. We became hooked on minimalizing.
I paid more attention to the things I liked about friends’ houses and how simplicity and functionality and beauty can combine in a lovely, inviting home. I read up on minimalizing tips, found some new blogs, and started going through possessions and piling up the Goodwill box, I mean carload.
I’m learning that minimalism is a process. Not something accomplished overnight, by any means. It is far too hurculean a task. No, not a task, a lifestyle alteration.
Presently, after a couple of months at this, we are down to a happy amount of clothing for the boys, as well as the kids’ toys. We are still going through our own clothes, books, DVDs, CDs, craft supplies, etc. And we keep going through the same things and discovering that we can live on less stuff. It is the most freeing thing… And it’s addicting. I find that I’m now too eager to just give away things, and sometimes have to check myself and ask if we still use it enough to keep it, which is sometimes true.
But sometimes one has to go from one extreme to the other in order to come to balance. I don’t think we’ll get too extreme, but I’m certainly finding that we now have not only more space for storage, but plenty of it. We’ll easily be able to live in our three bedroom/two bath little ranch style house for several more years before even thinking about adding on or doing major home improvement. And that gives me peace of mind.
I keep thinking about the holy fathers and monks and how unattached they were/are to their very few possessions. And I think it can be a very Orthodox way of living to rid oneself of all the possessions the world tells you that you must have.
I’m finding that not only do I forget what I’ve confiscated after I do, but more – I don’t miss them. I don’t miss the things! And life goes on without them taking up space in my home.
Now the challenge will be to not replace all that I’ve gotten rid of with better things. Ha.
More on minimalizing later. I’ll tell you about my wardrobe next! Also a process, but one I’m heartily enjoying. You’ll see why.
Until then, God bless you always and especially today.