No.

On Monday, a letter came in the mail for my 6.5 year old. The return address was his den leader’s home, so I handed him the envelope, wondering what was inside. He tore it open, and a birthday invitation with a photo of a smiling little blond boy and a graphic of a rocket ship fluttered to the floor.

“Oh!” I said. “It looks like a birthday invitation.”

I read the little boy’s name, and asked my son who he was. “Um,” my son shrugged.

“Is he in your Boy Scout troop?” He peered at the photo more closely.

“I think so!”

I looked at the date, which was for this Friday. It was at a local indoor play space that I knew my son would enjoy, so I started doing the mental gymnastics regarding this date and time.

Well, I thought. Friday IS my mother in law’s art show, as well as my personal shopper appointment, BUT, maybe the boys could go to the art show early, and then the birthday party, and then I’ll drive separately, and leave them to go shopping. OR, maybe we can switch the art show visit to Saturday morning, before my husband’s choir concert.

And next thing I knew I was checking to see if the art show opened early enough the next day to move it to Saturday, and then we could attend the birthday party. And then I stopped suddenly. What in the world was I doing? Why was I rearranging our already too busy weekend to try and fit in a birthday party for a kid my son doesn’t even really know?

My default answer is almost always “yes.” This is why last night, we went to an event at the school, cub scouts, and the PTA meeting. This is how I ended up coordinating the school’s book fair the same week of my husband’s choir concerts. Not to mention the fact that I work full-time.

It has to stop. We were overly busy in October, and November has turned out to be slightly worse! After this very, very busy weekend ahead, my calendar is quite empty. I pledge to say “no” in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas as much as possible. I want to have nothing planned, so that we can be spontaneous and go out if we want, or cocoon at home if that’s what we prefer.

I recently heard something that really resonated with me. By saying “yes” to all these things that don’t matter, that means I’m saying “no” to the things that do, namely, time with my family. I hadn’t really thought about it like that, but it’s totally true.

No is not a bad word, and I need to stop feeling guilty for saying it.

 

 

Exploring Minimalism

Whenever my life feels chaotic (which is often), I begin to turn toward minimalism. Right now, I am in a very busy season at work, and so in my limited spare time I have been bingeing on simple living and minimalism blogs and podcasts. The more complicated my work life, the more I yearn for a simple home life.

As those messages have begun to permeate my subconscious, I’ve decided it’s time to really jump in and start my journey toward a slower, simpler life. I’ve tried this before, but as I am sure you can relate, stuff has seeped back in. I declutter, but then we get new stuff, and things start to feel cluttery again. I try to scale back on my calendar, but events creep in and suddenly we’re triple booked. I quiet those voices in my head, the ones that tell me I need to consume more, to buy the right things in order to measure up to friends, colleagues, strangers on the Internet. But if I’m not careful, the voices are screaming again and I’m feeling inadequate because I don’t have the “right” house with the “right” things in it.

I am fully sold on the benefits of a simpler life. With fewer material things, I will have more time to spend on the things that matter, my friends and family. With more margin in my schedule, I will feel happier and more content, and have more time to be fully present with my family instead of just rushing around from event to event. And if I am more mindful in what I purchase and consume, I will be able to save more money.

I know these benefits, and yet, it is still hard! With two kids living in a small space, it’s really hard to keep the clutter at bay. And I find it extremely difficult to keep my schedule open. School, activities, and social events just seem to keep coming, and I honestly have a very hard time saying “no” to these things.

I really want to reap the benefits of a simpler life, and I’ve read LOTS of materials about how to achieve it, and yet, I still find myself procrastinating on taking the next steps to actually getting us there. That’s why I ultimately decided to start blogging again. I want to see what I can accomplish if I actively work toward simplifying my life. And I want to keep myself accountable and document what it takes to get there.

So, what do I plan to work on over the next few months?

Decluttering: Yeah, I know that everyone in the world and their sister is KonMari-ing their way to joy and happiness. We’re honestly not doing that badly by typical American standards, but there’s always stuff to get rid of. I’ve culled just a few things from my kids’ bookshelf and playroom, and miraculously, they started reading more books and playing with more toys when some of the excess was removed. And they still haven’t noticed what I put away. I need to do this again, as well as go through some of my own junk.

Planner

Our Schedule: You can see how packed my calendar for October was above. Looking at my calendar for November makes me want to cry a little. I really want a simpler schedule, and I think this is the part of simple living I will be able to get my family on board with the most. But I don’t know exactly how to achieve this. We have a 6.5-year-old first grader. He’s only in one activity at the moment, Scouts, but man, it’s taking up a lot of our time! And he wanted to join one additional activity that starts next month as well. Our 2.5-year-old doesn’t have any activities yet, but I can only imagine how it will be when he does. Our other issue is that we have a lot of friends (not to sound braggy or anything!), and those friends want to see us. We want to see them, too. So we make time and plan outings, but then we end up overbooked. I am going to take a critical look at November, and maybe even put “do nothing” on the schedule, just so we can protect those few empty days!

Our Finances: My husband started using You Need a Budget and it has been going well. It’s making us both more mindful and intentional about our spending. I hope to improve on this as we go along, and funnel our money toward our goals. I hope that by really making an effort to consume less, we will spend less.

Overall, I want to better live my life according to my values. I value people over things, experiences over stuff, and free time over busyness. But I’m honestly not really living my life in accordance with those values. So my job over the next few months is to really work toward living with those values in mind. I hope this blog will help me make this a reality!

Starting Now

Hello there! Welcome to my blog, The Cozy Condo. I’ve blogged about home design and DIY in the past, but I am starting over here with what I hope will be a fresh and fun space. I have a lot of complicated feelings about home, all of which I hope to explore in this blog. I’m also just beginning to journey into a simpler, more minimalist life when it comes to everything – our house, our schedules, our jobs, etc., so I plan to write about minimalism and simple living as well.

But before I get in to all of that, I thought I’d start with a little bit of background about me and my home. A lot of times people ask me where I am from, and I honestly don’t have an answer for them. I’m not really from anywhere. I don’t have a “hometown” or a place where I grew up. I lived in 11 different dwellings and eight different cities by the time I graduated high school. My transient childhood is no doubt what leads me to have, let’s say, a little obsession with all things relating to the home. In grade school, I wanted nothing more to have matching furniture and powder pink walls like my best friend, instead of the white walls and avocado green carpet in our scraggly rental. Now that I’m a parent myself, I know that my parents were just doing what they thought was best, so I try not to hold any of the moving around against them. But my experiences growing up have definitely been instrumental in guiding the decisions and choices I’ve made as an adult. One of my top priorities for my family has been stability. We have lived in the same house for nearly 10 years now, and even if we were to move somewhere else (and that’s complicated, which I’ll get to in a moment), we’d stay in the same school district. Moving and changing schools was really hard on me as a kid, both socially and intellectually. Not that I necessarily would have been a popular cheerleader or a math whiz had we stayed in one place, but switching schools so much definitely caused some gaps in my education and made making friends really hard.

When my husband and I were newly married 26 year olds living in a crappy little apartment next to the neighbors from hell, we wanted nothing more than a home of our own. And surprisingly, when we went to meet with a mortgage broker, we qualified to buy one, despite having no money to put down and marginally good credit. Of course, that was because little did we know it was the top of the housing bubble, and basically everyone qualified to buy a house. Still, we were starry eyed and excited about our future. Given that it was the top of the bubble, and we were just starting out in our adult lives, we couldn’t afford very much. It came down to either a townhome or condo in a good neighborhood, or a single family home in an iffy one. We chose the former, a decision that still weighs on me. It probably was the right choice given those two options, but had we known what would happen with the housing market, the real right decision would have been to wait a couple of years, let the market tank, and buy a single family home in our good neighborhood for less than what we paid for the condo.

But, of course, we didn’t know any of that. So we signed the mortgage papers on a 2 bedroom, 2 bath condo in a great little neighborhood right across from a beautiful nature center. And we still are living in it, 9 years and two kids later. I’d be lying if I said that I haven’t shed tears over our situation. For a really long time I felt stuck. That we were supposed to have moved on by now, and been able to buy something that fits our family better. Something with an extra bedroom, a private yard, and no neighbors downstairs.

We’re still underwater on the property, so we’re not going anywhere anytime soon. I have mostly made peace with it, especially as I delve more into minimalism. Part of the reason I want a bigger house is because I feel sort of embarrassed and ashamed about raising my kids in a condo. I get jealous of others who have bigger, more beautiful homes than mine. But when I stop and think about it, I have everything I need in my home and more – a nicely appointed kitchen, a cozy fireplace, plenty of space for our kids to grow, play, and learn, and there are so many bonuses to living in a smaller space. It’s better for the environment, cheaper to heat and cool, easier to keep clean, and keeps our family more connected (nowhere to go to hide from each other!) I’m slowly learning that spending a lot of mental energy trying to keep up with the Joneses is doing nothing for my well-being, or my family’s.

Instead of moaning and groaning about what I don’t have, I am going to make the best of what I do. I’m looking forward to documenting my process of decluttering, improving, and loving on my little condo, and I hope you enjoy it as well!