I consider it a good day when I remove an even number of socks from the dryer. I always put in an even number, that I know. With military-like precision, I unroll each and every sock from the hamper and verify its mate before throwing it in the wash. But somehow, by the end of the drying cycle, something’s gone awry. There’s usually one, lonely sock.
I keep the single socks. What else can an optimist do? I once made a cardboard box to go above my wash machine and labeled it “Sock Orphanage.” Soon, it was overflowing with socks, yet when I dumped them all out to sort them, none of them seemed to match.
One day, I realized that my husband, also an optimist, had been stashing lone socks on his side of the bed in a drawer. I gasped with such wonder and awe at this discovery, emotions not typically associated with socks. I ran to my own sock orphanage, and dumped the two collections of socks on the bed. I nearly cried with joy. So many happy reunions!
Other than the isolated instance of the sock stash reunion, I mostly feel as though I lose just as many socks as I keep–it’s a little disheartening. Then came the game changer: crazy socks. My kids’ hampers have banana socks and goat socks; socks with unicorns and hamburgers, flags, avocados, and even bearded lumberjacks. We’ve lost fewer socks since this tiny tweak. Also, crazy socks are funny. And colorful. Also, there are entire stores devoted to crazy socks, and they are stores filled with whimsy and surprise and imagination.
What an unexpected place to find happiness.
I hope you find some unexpected happiness today. And may all your socks have mates.
There are a lot of things we don’t talk about with our acquaintances. Certain things, like money, or sex, or illness, or past traumas. Or mistakes.
The line, “Please don’t air your dirty laundry in public” is one of those idioms addressing this phenomenon of secrets. “Please, we don’t want to hear about that unpleasantness.”
(Just to be clear: airing other people’s dirty laundry? That’s a no-no. Keep your hands in your own laundry, please.)
I, for one, am a fan of hanging out laundry in public. And by that, I’m referring to actual laundry. You know: sheets, and pillowcases. Towels and underwear. Years ago, I heard a rumor that in the somewhat conservative suburb where I live, there is an ordinance against hanging your clothes out on a clothesline. It prompted me to immediately purchase a clothesline. Consider it my own form of suburban civil disobedience.
The laundry police have never stopped by my house, even though I religiously hang freshly cleaned laundry out on the line to dry. I love the ritual of pulling out cold, damp clothes from my basement washing machine, carrying them upstairs in a clothes basket balanced on my hip, then shaking them out on my deck and attaching them to my line with wooden clothespins. Almost immediately, you can feel the moisture from the fabric being pulled out by the warmth of the sun. All that free energy, plus the added bonus of being outside and hearing birds sing in the back yard while you do a mundane chore. I don’t often compare myself to Snow White, but my clothesline does make me feel a bit like that domestic Disney waif.
In the same way, this blog is a way for me to air a little of my “clean” laundry. The process of downsizing our home began four years ago when a combination of a pay freeze, bad financial decisions, consumerism, and valuing things over experiences and peace of mind resulted in us living in a house that was beginning to feel less and less like home and more like an albatross hanging around our necks.
Three times now, I’ve spoken in public about our family’s experience of downsizing to a smaller home. There are a couple things that always feel a little embarrassing to say out loud: that in the process of moving, we not only donated a bunch of stuff, but we additionally filled two dumpsters of stuff from our home! That is hard to admit out loud. But it’s true.
The other difficult thing to say out loud: our monthly mortgage payment used to be nearly 50% of our monthly income. We thought that was normal. We thought that was the price of the American Dream! Then, when we attended Financial Peace University and started working toward financial wellness, we learned that our mortgage payment should actually be closer to 25% of our monthly income.
(By the way, the first time I heard that 25% number, I scoffed. I thought it was impossible to achieve. But I’m here to tell you it IS possible, and WOW, does it make a difference in the way you sleep at night!)
But I want to say these things out loud now. I’m compelled to! Because not too long ago, we thought we were doing the right thing. We thought we were keeping up with the Joneses, even if we were feeling exhausted and worried all the time.
Our little house has taught us so much. Our lives are more balanced. We’ve had some rich experiences in the past few years that have happened as a direct result of our move to a much smaller home.
So this is why I air my laundry, and I encourage you to, too. Clean up the messes in your life the best you can, then talk about it! Encourage others who may be silently suffering, wondering, or searching. Be honest and vulnerable and human. We aren’t all that different from each other.
We did the hard part, right? We packed our belongings, filled two dumpsters, moved to a smaller home, lowered our expenses, and settled in. So, that’s it, right? We’re done here?
No. No. No. But it’s a great start. Since moving to our Cozy Cottage, we’ve made huge strides in identifying what is most important in our lives: experiences over things; less debt and therefore less stress; travel; following our creative dreams instead of being tied, like a ball and chain, to too many responsibilities.
But as a family of 6 (minus the one who is out and adulting on his own–and doing a great job of it), we are still going in 100 different directions.
Simplifying the schedule is going to take a while. Here’s how I’m trying to cope:
This is my circus, these are my monkeys Accept it. The family is busy and vibrant; be grateful that they are active and doing a lot of things that they enjoy.
My circus is different than your circus We all have different thresholds of what feels like “too busy.” My dear husband is perfectly happy doing twice as many things as I can handle. That’s okay. Sometimes he’s a whirling dervish, while I read a book. It happens.
Say no You don’t have to say yes to everything. You can’t. And when you spread yourself too thin, it doesn’t help anything. You’re just going to feel bad about not doing your best.
Calendar, calendar, calendar Our family has a paper calendar (ginormous squares, hanging on wall in kitchen), plus a Google Calendar that my husband and I both maintain through our computers or phones. Each Sunday night I sit down and go over the upcoming week. Which nights are the busiest? What will I be making for dinner? Do I need help with anything? Planning the week makes me feel much more in control of things. And despite the planning, monkey wrenches inevitably come up. Do the best you can. And breathe.
Ask yourself, ‘Will this matter in a year?’ Sometimes things feel really big. Like, when you accidentally forget to pick up your kid, and you’re convinced he’s going to need extensive therapy from the feelings of abandonment. When you’re doing a hundred things, a couple things are bound to get messed up. When this happens, try to remind yourself of the 98 things you did right. Give yourself some slack.
What do you do to simplify your schedule? Tell me in the comments.
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I love calendars, and crisp new calendars with empty squares gets me feeling all tingly with the thought of new possibilities and open-ended adventures. We are five days into a new year, and I’ve already pored over my calendars: all of them! I have iCal, Google Calendar, then the good ol’ paper calendar that hangs on my kitchen wall. We call that one “Command Central.” But all those open squares! I want to fill them with new experiences.
I’m taking a firm stance on New Year’s Resolutions—what are they, other than a checklist for my future failings? I won’t make any resolutions. Instead, I’m just taking my first step into 2016 feeling positive that something will happen. I just hope that whatever happens, I’m ready for it.
All I know, is our family’s decision to move to a small house has been life-changing, which is what this blog is all about. The less space for living has allowed more space for living. It’s been eight months since we’ve moved to our little house of less than 1,000 square feet, and already, I can breathe easier. I feel better about the future, and find that my smaller house is opening doors for bigger adventure. As I write more about specific changes our family has undergone to declutter and pare down our belongings, I hope to connect with others on the same journey. Even more, I hope to give encouragement to someone who is feeling overwhelmed right now and are ready to make a change. You can do it! It’s never too late to start over.
Living a smaller life in a smaller house is something I’ve idealized in my mind. We worked hard for months preparing our large house for sale, and we knew, once we moved to our current smaller house, it would be necessary to pare down our stuff.
We cut our home’s square footage in half—from a little over 2,000 square feet to just under 1,000 square feet. So it would stand to reason that we had to get rid of half our stuff.
It’s easy to say those words, isn’t it? “We’re going to get rid of half our stuff.” Doing it, however, is a dirty, ugly job. There is no easy way around it than to dig in and start pitching.
We practically wore a groove in the road between our house and some of the Goodwill and other thrift shops in our area. Stores in our area received boxes of books, dishes, clothing and shoes from our family. Furniture was carefully loaded into the back of the car and dropped off for donation.
My husband did the bulk of this job. He rolled up his sleeves and dug in. He had the sore muscles to prove it.
“I think I’m going to rent a dumpster,” my husband told me late last Fall. Our house was already on the market. By that time, we had decluttered our house significantly, and “staged” it to appeal to potential buyers. Although our house was the least cluttered it looked in years, sadly, most of the extras had landed in our garage.
I was against a dumpster from the start. We didn’t have that much junk, did we?
Um, yes. We did. The dumpster was delivered to our driveway, a few feet from our garage. Within three hours, it was filled.
A few months later, just a week before our move to our little cottage, we got a second dumpster.
I am not proud of this fact one bit. I’m not proud that I was storing so many non-essential items in our home and garage. It was hard work, not only the physical lifting and dealing with every item, but also the emotional burden of opening boxes and finding old letters, painful memories, or items that held an emotional burden.
I took a photo of the second dumpster as it was hauled away:
The feeling of weight being lifted from my shoulders was indescribable! I hope this is the only time in my life I need a dumpster. I hope from now on, I will not keep things that are no longer bringing me joy. Better yet, I hope I don’t acquire them in the first place. From here on out, I will try my best to acquire things that don’t need to be dusted or stored: things like experiences, memories and friendships.