~excerpt from my 2017 journal
Is it vain that I want my life to look different? I think I really want my life to feel different to me. I want to be able to see my values by looking at my home...pulling back the curtain on my closet...opening my fridge...looking through my date book or checking account. I want all of those things to bear testimony to my inner life. I want those things to reflect beauty and light. I want them to reveal a devotion to something decidedly other than consumerism + worldly care. Love and acceptance and inclusion evident.
~excerpt from my 2017 journal
In an effort to keep things simple + to reduce my spending, I committed to purchasing only replacements this year. The replacements I was talking about were the things that needed to be replaced. Things like batteries + lightbulbs...kitchen towels + intimates...working plumbing and such. :) It's a bit surprising to me, but there were actually some significant lessons to be learned from the focus on replacements only:
-In a simple home, this is a great way to live. Period. Since we've moved quite a few times (+ twice overseas...without a shipping container), I've spent quite a bit of time thinking about what we truly need to live comfortably. Once we have these necessities, there is really nothing left to do...but live...and replace as necessary.
-This is a great way to slowly + thoughtfully convert to fair. I don't mean that we just replace good, functional pieces with fair pieces. That would be wasteful in most cases. But as things wear out or cease to work over time, we can replace them with sustainable, fairly made pieces...that, yes, may cost a little bit more.
-Replacements often feel like boring purchases, but when we buy less...they just might become exciting. Maybe replacing worn, cream towels with white towels sounds boring...but when the new, white towels are fair-trade certified + organic cotton + dry faster + can be bleached + you've waited and saved...it is sort of exciting. Drying off with that new towel is a notable experience each morning + they look so nice and bright hanging there.
-Not everything needs to be replaced. If the item is not necessary, take this chance to realize that... + don't replace it. Try living without it for a while. Empty space is often a valid + desirable replacement. :)
-Replacements often make the best gifts. Mr. Tribe received replacement (+ upgraded) headphones for his birthday. Jo received a replacement (+ handmade) bathrobe for Christmas. Julia received that replacement, wooden comb in her stocking. All were genuinely appreciated, happy makers. :)
I'm definitely carrying this habit through to 2018!
My love/hate relationship with jeans is not news around here. I love the idea of soft, worn, pale denim patched + loved over a lifetime. At the same time...I often find that the denim I own is too tight or loose or stiff or dark or low-waisted... I just can't seem to find the right ones for me lately.
So, I decided to stop talking about it and test out the idea of going without jeans. They just seem so essential...and in another version of my own life, they may be. For the month of October, I decided to set my jeans aside + dress without them. It's no big feat...I have other pants. :)
The thing is that I just didn't even miss them.
When November rolled around, I let one of my two pairs of set-aside jeans go...and tried wearing the other pair. I wore them to run errands one day...but changed when I got home. I tried to put them on a few other times, and they just didn't last. So...am I ready to let that last pair of jeans go...not exactly. Yesterday I put them on + they just felt right...so who knows. :)
I share this here...not to encourage others to get rid of their jeans...but to offer a thought about it being ok to step away from something that no longer serves our needs + desires. The world tells us that so many things are necessary + normal...but it's ok to let some of them go if they just don't add value to our lives...and especially if they conflict with our values. Here are a few of the "normal" things I/we have let go of:
-single use plastic + packaged food (as much as possible)
-tumble drying our clothes
-a second income
-having a lot of clothes
-a fabric/yarn stash
-a second living room
-lots of seasonal decorations
Letting go might just let us breathe easier (sort of like elastic waisted pants!). ;)
We've been going to yoga lately, and the littlest things will bring me to the edge of tears. When we are nearing the end of our practice, our teacher often says that we may want to say "thank you". A thank you that I realize I almost never say...to my own capable body. When we take the stance called five star, we stretch our hands up wide + spread our legs...and our teacher says, "Take up all the space you need. You belong here. You are enough." My usual tendency is to try to take up as little space as possible when I am in a group. I want to be small, to attract no attention, to get in no one's way.
I think that "stuff" can be a way that we try to pile identity onto our small selves in order to matter...even if only to ourselves. We can use "stuff" like stickers or hashtags to label ourselves. Wear a leather jacket...put on the laid-back badass sticker. Pile up the intellectual books that I mean to read...put on the smart sticker. Cover the walls with concert posters, collect 1000 vintage records, + fill the closet with band tees...put on the cool, music lover sticker.
Am I still a badass if I show up to the protest without the leather jacket? Am I still thoughtful + curious if I simply check out a couple books at a time from the library (+ read them)? Am I still a music lover if my music simply streams through my headphones? These questions just sound silly...of course.
But I also know that we can get hung up somewhere between the last two paragraphs. And by all means, if the leather jacket or the record collection makes you happy... and there is enough room for it...and caring for it is a joy...keep it (or the best parts of it). If it has become a burden or a source of frustration...you are enough. Our things don't make us who we are. Two band t-shirts that get rotated every Saturday could be just right. A collection of the 12 books that really made an impact on how we think might be treasured rather than buried.
At some point we just might realize that that there isn't a "thing" that adds to who we are.
I am enough. You are enough. We get to take up all the space...not our stuff.
The holidays are on the horizon + before the mood turns toward shopping, let's consider improvising. Entertaining is a tricky topic, because it looks different for all of us. For some of us entertaining is sporadic, and borrowing or just making do is practical. For others of us it is a regular practice, so having a little arsenal of items on hand may be a better option. (We'll try to keep the emphasis on little... + do as much double duty thinking as possible.) I'll do my best to offer some ideas to spark some further individual thought. :)
If we are entertaining in a smaller space, numbers matter...especially as the temperature dip making outdoor spaces uninhabitable. Consider saving larger scale get-togethers for warmer weather, when they can be held potluck style at a park. Each family can bring their own table service, lawn chairs, and a dish + dessert to pass. At a certain point in my extended family's growth, we started gathering in a park on Labor Day for my grandma's birthday rather than at one family's home for Christmas. This had the added benefits of taking the focus off gifts (except for Grandma) + taking some stress off of the holiday season. Another option might be to get together with far away friends/family at a third location + camp or rent an Airbnb together...whether at the holidays or at another time of year.
Ok, so now we may be thinking about less people as well as less extra entertaining "stuff". This "stuff" mostly pertains to eating...and if there are overnight guests, also to sleeping + grooming.
When it comes to food, consider ::
-borrowing :: any extra plates, silverware, or serving ware needed :: alternatively keep 12 (or appropriate number) salad sized plates + make do (no paper plates)
-using jars as drink ware :: Bonne Mama or Mason jars work well for us + we always have plenty on hand (no plastic cups)
-serving what is easy to serve :: if we don't want to keep 12 mugs, maybe serve apple cider instead of coffee :: if we don't want to keep 12 bowls, maybe don't serve soup...or serve it in wide-mouthed Weck or Ball jars that can serve other purposes in daily life :: if we don't want to keep a roasting pan just to use it once a year, maybe make shepherd's pie or lasagna the new tradition
-potluck :: not only does this decrease prep work, but the amount of dishes + platters needed :: decreases costs + allows everyone to contribute + participate
-using the counter or dining table as a buffet :: (no extra long table or extra dining chairs necessary)
-doing a dessert buffet, hors d'ouerves, cheese board, or some combination to decrease whole meal expectations + preparation
-thrifting a table cloth + ripping it into a bunch of reusable napkins :: pull the loose strands + leave the fringed edges (or sew the edges, if you like) (no paper napkins)
-stackable stools, if extra seating is necessary :: they can be used as bedside or coffee tables in daily life (or can be packed away compactly) (folding chairs can be compact too)
-bringing an outdoor table in for extra seating + covering both tables with table cloths for a more uniform look
Overnight guests often require some additional stuff. Providing an extra space to sleep along with a bit of privacy can get tricky. Some of us have extra blankets + bedding, but this may not be the case when we are really trying to live light. After each of our moves overseas, we didn't have extra bedding or towels for guests. We were able to borrow a mattress + bedding when we lived in London. Back in the States, we have used our camping air mattress for guests. Since we are all in need of bedding + towels at the same time, it can be tricky to improvise. (We've done that too, but I won't expand upon it.) :)
Simplifying + improvising may be more about space than stuff in this area. Many of us don't have the desire to heat, cool, clean, maintain, + pay for the extra square footage of a guest bedroom...but it may make sense to dedicate a portion of a closet to a thoughtfully curated collection of guest "stuff" (if we have frequent overnight guests). A few options + alternatives can be found below.
When it comes to bedding, consider ::
-letting camping equipment double as guest bedding...a tent set up on carpet could even offer a little extra privacy or be fun for kids
-borrowing/sharing with family or friends (although this could get complicated around the holidays)
-letting the guest bring their own air mattress + bedding
-air mattress (es) :: they pack away compactly
-japanese mattress or folding cushions (can be stored in a closet)
-fold up bed frame (above) for those who need a raised bed or for college kids who come home more often
-a folding screen or tension rod + curtain to put up in a doorway without a door :: for privacy
-throw sized pillows :: take up less space + could be used in daily life
-turkish towels :: take up less space + could be used as a beach towel or throw in daily life
I truly believe that a simple home can offer a lovely, relaxed invitation to come be a part of our uncluttered, relaxed, calm lives. Entertaining, after all, is about enjoying the company of those we love + sharing our most precious gifts of time + presence. Whether we are offering tea + a store bought cookie or a holiday meal, simplicity is beautiful.
Do you have any tips for entertaining with less? Please share!! :)
Renovating sounds like a somewhat luxurious pursuit. Obviously, there are the inconvenient (to say the least) construction messes + hassles...but to have a "new" space sounds just dreamy. Yes, I've been talking about budgets + paying down mortgages this year...so I feel the need to let you know that this was not really one of those purely luxurious endeavors.
The girls have been going downstairs to use the loo (how does one speak of these things delicately) + brushing their teeth in the kitchen sink for about a year. We've had plumbers out to inspect this frequently overflowing toilet three times over the years. Each time the response was that the toilet was good...hmm. When the sink began leaking, the fix offered was to cost almost as much as a whole new sink cabinet. You see where this is headed...toward the long time that it takes between let's-do-this + no-really-let's-do-this.
So this summer, this bathroom (finally) got an update. We used our favorite Sherwin Williams low VOC High Reflective White paint to brighten this space up. I'd been dreaming of replacing that old sink + cabinet for quite some time, so I knew that I wanted the Ikea Hemnes/Odensvik combination. The price/style ratio can't be beat, in my opinion. The spacious drawers make it so much more functional than the old cabinet. A simple Ikea mirror tops it off nicely (and is so much easier to clean than the ornate frame that hung here before). I was able to sell the old mirror for more than the new one cost. :)
Of course the flooring under the old cabinet didn't reach the wall, so it had to be replaced too. I decided to go with Coretec Plus Ivory Coast Oak. It is waterproof vinyl that looks very realistically like wood and has a cork underlayment. Its core is made from recycled wood + bamboo dust. It is CARB compliant + GreenGaurd certified (which pertain to off gassing + VOC's). There was no smell at all related to this flooring + I am so happy with its look, feel, + performance so far.
Once I had the flooring figured out (which was no easy task), I didn't have much energy left to decide on a toilet. I picked the first nice-looking (easy-to-clean looking), water-saving, not too expensive toilet on the Home Depot website. It was in-stock and ready to pick up in a couple of hours. We like that it has the dual flush options (and that there has been no more overflowing.)
The original tub/shower is functional, so it went unchanged. I took this chance to replace our bath towels with white "air weight" towels from Coyuchi. They are fair-trade + organic cotton, + I was able to pick them up during a sale. White towels are my preference as they can be bleached, if necessary. A metal over-the-door hook allows the girls to hang their towels on the back of the door (good-bye too small towel bar). The only real embellishment here is the wall hanging made from a collection of shells + driftwood collected during a holiday in Wales. Simplicity is beautiful (+ easier to clean). :)
This was a big replacement expense. We paid for it with cash from our savings. If this had been our only bathroom, we may have had to do things a bit differently (maybe piece by piece)...but we waited until we were ready to pay cash for all the components + the labor. This is our main bathroom, so there was some inconvenience involved with waiting. Just sayin'...inconvenience + patience are often parts of budgeting. I think they just make money more real...to us + to our children. Jo + Julia understand the limitations of our budget + that makes me feel...not embarrassed, but like I'm being a good parent.
We feel so blessed to have this "new" bathroom. :)
One of the signs that confirms to me that I've found a sweet spot with "stuff" is that improvising starts to come into play. The accomplishment of using what is on hand rather than taking a trip to the store is quite invigorating. A few ways that I've had to/gotten to improvise lately:
In my wardrobe:
-I was told that I needed to attend a wedding (as the + 1) at the last minute. With no dress in my current wardrobe, my black jumpsuit + flats worked out just fine. I threw my handmade denim linen jacket over my arm just in case it was chilly. This isn't what I would normally think of wearing to a wedding, but I think it was probably a better choice than most I could have shopped for.
-Temperatures dipped + I needed a little-bit-warmer-something to throw over my tank + leggings on the way to exercise. I'd normally wear my long-sleeved indigo tee, but it was air drying. I stole a long-sleeved tee from Mr. Tribe's side of the closet. :)
In the kitchen:
-Crushing hot peppers called for gloves, which I didn't have. Instead, a pint jar used to crush them in my large bowl worked well.
-Julia outgrew her cold weather pajamas. Her old sheet had just enough good spots left to cut a pair to sew (above). A Japanese pattern book from the library supplied the perfect pattern. (I love that lots of people get to share it!) The "free" t-shirts that she gets from her Youth Symphony work well as pajama tops.
How have you been improvising lately? I'd love to hear!!
As we leave the dentist's office, an interview plays on the radio about the devastating earthquake in Mexico City. The woman speaks of the grocery store where she shopped being destroyed, newly homeless people whom she knows, and the panicked search for her loved ones following those unexpected moments of terror.
We stop at our grocery store for a couple of bottles of milk + a bulk treat. At home, I warm up some milk for yogurt + set about recording my expenses with the help of my online bank account. When I try to log off the page, it says that I am not connected to the internet. I like to know that the bank page has logged off, so I try a few more times...no luck. I help Julia with her geometry assignment.
After washing my lunch plate, I notice that the clock numbers are not lit on the stove. I try the light switches + realize that our power is out. I text Mr. Tribe, noting that my phone battery is almost dead. Since I have no internet, I decide to pick up a book. I start reading Empathy by Roman Krznaric. I write down a beautiful quote. I realize that I won't be able to get the car out of the garage later without the power door, so decide to go see if I can open the door manually.
As I drive the car out of the garage and park it in the driveway, the radio relays the voice of a man in Puerto Rico describing what his family has been eating since the hurricane...some root vegetables + bananas from their backyard. When they are gone, he doesn't know what they will eat. The interviewer asks if he thinks he will leave Puerto Rico, + he says that everyone in the whole country can't leave.
Back inside, I realize that the timer I set on the stove for the cooling milk isn't working. The milk hasn't cooled too far past the desired temperature, so I grab the yogurt to stir in + it dawns on me that the fridge isn't working. I start thinking about the few jars of frozen tomato sauce I have been able to eek out of my failing garden + how they will be ruined (along with the milk I just bought + the rest of the week's food) if the power stays off for too long. I wash the dishes + wonder how long we'll have hot water.
It's warm + I want to turn on the ceiling fan. At least it's not as hot today as it was yesterday. And then it hits me. I don't know how it took so long for the pieces to come together.
"Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other's eyes for an instant?" ~Henry David Thoreau (the beautiful quote from Empathy)
This was written before the horrific events of this weekend. There is just so much sadness.
In our house, there is a place for my crafty stuff (a portion of a closet downstairs)...a place for my clothing (in the closet I share with Mr. Tribe)...and a place for Jo + Julia's clothes (in their respective closets). Clutter is not always visible stuff that needs to be cleared away to make room for a more tidy space (but sometimes it is). :)
Clutter becomes clutter (even in organized spaces) (which ours is not always), when it is no longer serving a purpose. Clothing that we no longer choose to wear is clutter. Craft supplies that are not going to become finished projects in my home are clutter. Kitchen items that I no longer use are clutter.
About two or three times per year, I go through closets and cabinets. I check in with our stuff to see if it is still serving a purpose. Stacks of things usually form. Letting go is as easy as bagging it all up and dropping it at a charity shop...or as difficult as organizing a yard sale. The goal is simply to connect our outgoing stuff with new owners who will use it. I know that if my stuff goes directly into the thrift arena, it may not sell and may eventually clog the economy of another country...or simply end up in the landfill.
Obviously, my primary goal needs to be prevention. Unnecessary purchases are ill advised. Even with great vigilance, however, stuff does come and go. Clothes are outgrown by growing children. Well-intentioned purchases are sometimes unsuitable. Things outlive their usefulness in one place.
Here's what I did this time to connect my outgoing stuff with new owners:
-Tried to sell a few things on Ebay (brand name items), Etsy (vintage items + craft supplies), + Craigslist (bulky pieces). I set a time limit + if things don't sell in a couple of weeks, I donate them. I need to keep this stuff moving.
-Finished a few unearthed sewing projects. A pillow cover for Jo, a yoga bag for Julia, some pillow cases + a jumpsuit for me.
-Craft supplies that don't sell will be donated to a craft supply resale shop. Some were donated (mailed) to The Social Justice Sewing Academy.
-Made some useable bags out of scrap fabric instead of dumping it. Donated them. Added the tiny scraps to my rag bag of spent fabric (spent cleaning rags, threadbare sheets, holey intimates) + brought that bag to Goodwill to be donated for rags, insulation, etc.
-Tried to sell a few of last year's homeschool textbooks + other books on Amazon (checking to see if they are worth more than about $7) or Ebay. If they didn't sell in a few weeks, tried selling them to Half Price Books (best when you have a bag full) or donated them to the library book sale.
-Cleaned kitchen cupboards + made plans to use up lingering ingredients in the next week. I try to do this monthly.
If we had a lot of games, puzzles, or unused coloring books + supplies, I'd look for some to donate to Houston Emergency or equivalent Florida organization. Take a look at their list for other inspiration. This could be great motivation for children to look through their things while thinking of children who lost all of their books + toys due to flooding.
I recently read Carmella's twist on William Morris. William Morris said, "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or beautiful." Carmella adds, "Is it useful or beautiful for our lives right now?"
I don't need to hang on to that which could be useful or beautiful to someone else right now.
Finding satisfaction is probably one of my main topics around here. I'm sorry if it is repetitive...I just haven't mastered it yet. Satisfaction...that feeling of enough-ness...it is so elusive for me. Sometimes I grasp it...but then like sand through my fingers...it can be hard to hold on to!
I do think I'm getting better though. Planning + noticing "enough" are habits which I am trying to be conscious of + to cultivate. We could call this "satisfaction training".
I've spent plenty of years doing the exact opposite. I didn't mean to...and that's probably the problem. I unknowingly enrolled myself in "wanty training". Strolling the shops, just for fun...perusing magazines, just for inspiration...pinning images on pinterest, just for later...cruising instagram, just to keep up. It's all just wanty training. I'm pretty wanty buff.
In years past, when I saw shopping as the best entertainment, I'd just always be on the lookout for something cute. I never really stopped shopping. If shopping is entertainment, it is always better when a purchase is involved. We all know about the high that comes from purchasing...but what about the remorse + guilt that come slightly after that? I know all about that too. Now that I'm in satisfaction training, however, it usually feels better to come home empty handed...for real! I know that I already have enough...+ frankly, more would often just feel like too much. Yuck.
In my wardrobe, I find one of the habits that helps me glimpse satisfaction is to decide when the time for shopping is over. The process I employ in order to reach this point involves:
-choosing to have less (so important!!)
-organizing seasons (warm, cold, + transition, for me)
-assessing what worked + didn't work at the end of each season
-revisiting that assessment at the beginning of the next corresponding season + reassessing what is left to work with
-making a list of items to look for
-thrifting, sewing, + browsing
-calling it good (i.e. enough...satisfaction)...shopping break!
That last one is truly the key. Looking at the season's pieces altogether and deciding that I have enough...that is the point at which I can take a huge, deep breath + let it go. No more buying necessary. I have enough!!! (my mind can scream triumphantly!) What liberation! What glorious freedom!
In our diet we address enough by plating food first rather than eating "family style" (with serving bowls/platters heaped with sides + main dishes). This allows us to see that our plates contain enough, before we start eating. It also allows us to savor what we have instead of gulping it down in order to beat others to second helpings. Sweets are my weakness...so I'm still training in that category. Setting some guidelines about what + how often is enough...+ sticking to that works well...when I stick to that. :)
In our home, the feeling of enough might result from something along these lines: last Saturday I rearranged our living room furniture...and then dusted + rearranged the bookshelf bits. I like it. Then why do I immediately wonder what I could add or substitute to make things better? Why am I always searching for better? Yikes!
Today, (admittedly, after cruising my pinterest board + a couple home websites) I looked around. I took in each piece...the vintage butterfly chair that I've always wanted...the carmelly leather of Mr. Tribe's chair...the vintage woven stools that I scored on craigslist...the couch that I love. And I caught that fleeting glimpse of satisfaction. My living room is good! It is not perfect, but it is so, so good!
I wanted to write it here...put it into words...think it through...recognize it...+ name it...enough! I wish I knew that these feelings were mine to keep forever...that they would never leave...but I'm in training...and that's OK. I'm getting stronger all the time.
Summer satisfaction actions:
-no more clothes (except the ones that I've planned + already have materials to make)
-no more home stuff
-ice cream...just not every day :)
-notice, name, + revel in enough
on a journey toward zero-waste, simplicity, + compassion :: daring to choose fair one choice at a time