Yes, I am crazy.

At the risk of sounding like a total nutcase, I have a confession. I do not think, at least while I have 9 children living at home, that I can be joyful in a tiny home.The past month and a half has been chaotic and stressful to me.

One of the most challenging things I did, when we decided to stop using our basement, was give up my beloved classroom. I am currently homeschooling 6 of our children. Next to the classroom, in the basement, there is a very large area where we had all of the toys. The classroom also had a door I could shut. It worked out nicely to have children playing when they didn’t need to be in the classroom. The classroom was quiet and peaceful. It was my happy place. I miss it! I have been trying to have productive class time at the kitchen table while little people run around and make noise. (Have I mentioned that I am very sensitive to noise? Not a good combination in a large family.) Anyway, I am significantly less productive and generally speaking a bit miserable using home spaces to have a classroom.

For these reasons, I have decided that, despite my strong desire to live in a tiny home I am not cut out for it at this stage of my life! My vision was to live in as small of a space as possible with only necessary items that spark joy. I still want to live with only necessary things that spark joy, and encourage my children to live with minimal belongings. But now I have visions of my adorable husband and I living in a mobile tiny space someday, (when we have successfully parented our sweet children out of our home) traveling around visiting all of our children and their families. I imagine it will be quiet and peaceful.

Sometimes it’s important to recognize that what we think is the ideal life is not necessarily what brings us the most peace or joy! I could heap a bunch of guilt upon myself that I’m taking up too big of a footprint on this earth, and that I couldn’t live up to my own expectations. But why? How would that bring peace in my life? The answer is, it wouldn’t! Sometimes life looks different than we think it might. What a gift that we can change our mind! What an absolute relief that our best life can look nothing like we thought it should.

So what now for our gigantic family trying to live peacefully, with less?

  • We moved the toys back in to the basement. However! We did not turn the heat back on! Our kids play down there in coats and slippers, and are happy to do so.
  • I still have not moved back in to my classroom, but it is significantly quieter now that the littles are back to spending large amounts of time in the basement. I will, however, be looking for a small classroom space in our next home.
  • I am relishing in the freedom of imperfection. While my striving mind always struggles to get everything just right, I am being reminded daily that recognizing my own weakness is the beginning of where I find my true strength.
  • As a family, we are continually eliminating things we do not need, or that don’t spark joy. Our home stays much cleaner and it has given us the time and space to do things that are meaningful and bring joy!
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Our “Tiny House”

We were about two weeks in to what we thought was our big declutter. Things were beginning to take shape, but if I’m honest it still felt like we had a lot. Let me back up. When we moved to Alaska, a year and a half ago, we moved in to the biggest house we could find in our price range, knowing our children’s outdoor play was going to be seriously curbed. At the time, with 8 kids, the idea of living in a tiny home was not on our radar. So we moved in to 3472 sq ft. (I know! I’m cringing too!) Last winter our heating bills were hanging around $500-700 in the winter. It was sickening, but didn’t really motivate us to change our lifestyle. I think we just felt stuck, as we had signed a 2 year lease on the house.

Fast forward. Almost done decluttering. Just when I thought we’d eliminated all that we could, we watched “Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things”. Now, we had watched a few other documentary type films or TV shows about people living in tiny houses or living with less, but I just thought it couldn’t apply to our family. I always thought we’d live in a tiny home once all the kids moved out. But the switch had been flipped and I was motivated to change! In that same week we got our heating bill for December, hovering at about $900! Something had to be done!

Light bulb moment! I was up late with sweet baby when it occurred to me that we should move out of our basement. That would take our square footage down to 2376. Not bad! That would mean instead of each person having about 316 sq ft, we’d be at 216 sq ft of living space. AND we would turn the heat waaaaaay down in the empty basement, and save energy and money! Win, win, win! (Now I just had to convince the rest of my family!)

Surprisingly, every member of the family had, in just two weeks, begun to enjoy the freedom of living with less and were unanimously on board! It took us another two weeks to move out of the basement and move in to our “tiny house”. Here are some highlights of our journey:

  • We donated 14 garbage bags of clothing.
  • We donated over 50 boxes of other items from our home.
  • We sold or donated several pieces of furniture including couches, a file cabinet, book shelves, desks, and storage units.
  • We eliminated half of our books (if you knew us, this is AMAZING!)
  • The children were joyfully eliminating their own possessions, and almost immediately began to get along better.
  • The younger kids started using their imaginations, creating things out of cardboard and playing with other non-traditional toy items.
  • We started realizing that we didn’t have to clean all the time because everything has a home.
  • It created a closeness in our family that we have been lacking for several years.
  • All change takes sacrifice. Giving up my huge classroom in the basement to start schooling at the kitchen table was an adjustment. But there is delight, too, in teaching the little ones to play quietly while others study. There has been sacrifice, but also reward!

It is the hope of our family that this is only just the beginning. When our lease is up in this house, we hope to move in to an even smaller home. There is something unexplainable about living with less. It doesn’t just give you more space physically. It frees up space in the every day, as if life has been put into slow motion, so we can appreciate every moment of the now. I am thankful that we can begin to live our dream right where we are. I don’t feel stuck anymore- I feel intentional.

 

Sparking Joy

It started when I got Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”. Knowing I love decluttering and organizing, my sweet husband bought it for me as a gift. I had nearly finished it at the end of last Summer when we began caring for our sweet newborn foster baby. (No sleep, no time, blah, blah, blah… you get the point. Book forgotten.) Fast forward to November and a friend, who had been living in what I would call a Pinterest house, posted a video on Facebook of her family’s new home- an RV! She casually went through her “tiny house” on wheels, documenting all of the changes they’ve made in their life and then referenced the book! #itreallyislifechanging.

Now any of my friends would tell you that I would be happiest living in a tent, barefoot, with a few books. (Or a school bus. Let’s face it, I live in Alaska!) But somehow I have always accumulated “stuff”, and then I’d spend hours each day managing my stuff because I am a neat freak and can’t live in chaos. I actually thought I was SUPER organized, and thought we didn’t have a lot of stuff “for 10 (now 11) people.”  I was wrong!

I read the book. I was SO inspired to use her method to declutter once and for all. But this was taking things to a whole new level. Konmari insists that you should only keep that which “sparks joy”, and be generous to let the rest go. I thought her approach to decluttering going by category, as opposed to going room by room, was particularly interesting- and each category is to be done in a certain order- first clothes, then books, paper, miscellany, and lastly sentimental.

I promptly notified my sweet children that this is how we would be spending the remainder of our time off from school for Christmas vacation. There was a little bit of resistance at first, but once we started, the whole family was on board! Here are a few things we learned in the process:

  • It is not possible to handle every item 11 people own, eliminate, and tidy up in 2 weeks. It took 4 weeks!
  • The Konmari method is genius for its order. The order is important! By the time we got to the sentimental category, we were all enjoying eliminating SO MUCH that it was actually painless! (I had not gone through our pictures in 15 years!)
  • After what we thought was a huge purge, we purged again. About 1000 sq ft of stuff! More on this later!
  • Including the kids, and letting them decide what sparks joy in them, was essential. We did not include kids 6 and under. (If we had, it is likely we would still be the proud owners of my son’s broken robot and and the collection of tags cut off new clothes I found.)
  • It is no easy task to do this thoroughly, but it has certainly made us think twice about what we will bring into our home after all of this.

The Konmari method is different than any other method I’ve used to organize. When you are only surrounded by those things that “spark joy” in you, it is easy to let go of the things that don’t. This process has truly has been life-changing. For all of us!

Chickpea Pizza Dough

I did not come up with this recipe. I just tweeked a recipe I found a few years ago when I was trying to follow yet another diet. It has become a family favorite over the past few years. Here it is:

(to fit a large cookie sheet, or 2 round pizza stones)

3 3/4 C cooked chickpeas

3TBSP ground flax + 3/4C water, stirred together & set aside OR 3 eggs

1 1/4 C flour (I prefer oat)

pinch of salt

2 TBSP olive oil

1TBSP Italian herbs

Oil, butter or cooking spray (to coat baking pan)

1.Using a blender or food processor, blend eggs with chickpeas until smooth.

2. Place mixture in mixing bowl. Stir in flour, salt, herbs, and olive oil.

3. Coat baking pan with oil. Press mixture into pan (or on baking stone). I have found it helpful to use a metal spatula to make it even.

4. Bake in 400 degree preheated oven for 10 minutes. Pull out, add sauce and toppings. Bake for another 15 minutes.

I will include my 2 favorite sauce/toppings combinations;

-Red sauce, (I buy Classico spaghetti sauce because it’s tasty, inexpensive, and has no sugar! I blend it before adding it to the pizza because it’s a bit chunky.) fresh spinach, sliced black olives, fresh sliced mushrooms, broccoli, purple onion, fresh pressed garlic.

Bok Choy and Kale Soup

When I was first married, almost eleven years ago, I could not cook. At all. I remember the first time I made chicken. I was trying out an “easy chicken and pasta” recipe. I called my Mom in a panic because the chicken was turning white. She reassured me that all chicken does that when it’s being cooked.

Over the years I have learned to enjoy (I didn’t say love) cooking. It’s hard to live with someone who throws things together that taste like they are a gourmet recipe. Almost everything he has ever made is delicious. So I am quite impressed with myself when I make something that tastes decent without using a recipe. Below is my latest creation. I’d love to hear from anyone who makes it, even if you hate it! 🙂

Bok Choy and Kale Soup

8 cups vegetable broth (can use chicken broth)

4 cloves garlic

2 cups kale, washed and cut into small pieces

1 yellow onion, finely chopped

1 stalk bok choy, washed and cut into bite sized pieces, including leaves

2 cups edamame, out of the pod

2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil

Soy sauce (optional)

Using a large pot, cook onions and garlic in olive oil over medium heat, until soft. Add kale and cook about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add broth and stir in bok choy. Cook over medium heat about 30 minutes, or until bok choy is wilted. Turn heat to medium high, add edamame and cook another 10 minutes. Soup is ready to serve! Add soy sauce for extra flavor. Enjoy!