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Looking back and Looking On: 2016 reflections and 2017 dreams

The blog has been quiet these days, but we've been busy behind the scenes.  At times, it feels like I get nothing done but keeping the kids alive and us semi-fed with healthy food, but we have been steadily plodding forward.  Here's where we've been.
Baby Carrots
Washing baby carrots--I've never seen him devour a veggie so fast.

The Year of Simplify: 2016

This past year really had me getting serious about taking stock of my life-how I spent my time, what was important to me, what I actually wanted to see and bring into my house.  I was getting pretty exhausted from working my 5th (yikes!) year on night-shift, raising two small children (with a third on the way!), and having "to-do" or "should-do" lists as long as my arm.  My home felt cluttered and overwhelmed as we were in-between two places for the past few years.  The extra space between two locations hadn't reaffirmed the "stuff purge" as I felt like I always had more space.  All in all, was juggling too much; I felt overcommitted--with work, with hobbies, with to-dos, with chores... It was literally a case of stuffocation.  It's a real thing, y'all.

Enter Minimalism

Minimalism can be off-putting to many.  Stories of closets with only 33 items, people with only 150 items to their names in total, singles who live like gypsies and travel the world, adventurous souls who wander the earth like vagrants--it can seem all highly foreign to those of us who with a deep love of home and hearth.  
But minimalism is much more than that.  It's a case of editing your life.  Keep what is important and cut the rest.  As any good gardener knows, a larger pumpkin, more breath-taking roses, or a more luscious crop of peaches only comes with ruthless pruning--of leaf, fruit, and flower.  Being kind with the shears allows the plant's attention be divided and you sacrifice quality for quantity. 
And so it is with our lives...

The stuff

With that in mind, I doubled-down to my commitment to decluttering and editing my life. One of my favorite bloggers recommended 2016 in 2016 challenge--get rid of 2016 items for the year.  I had already been doing this in 2015, but I doubled-down.  Over the past two years, we've gotten rid of over 2,300 items from our home, yes, it's still a far cry from the goal 4,000+ in those two years of challenge, but I can definitely tell a difference.  This year, I'd like to hit the full 2017 items, and I've taken a critical eye towards my problems areas: paperwork and the dreaded emotional-attachment items.  
  • Projects that I started, but never finished--quit throwing good time after bad if I don't like them anymore.
  • Crafts and hobby accouterments--I am not in a stage of my life to rock-climb or snowboard anymore. When I am, my gear will be old, dry-rotted, and out-dated.  Let it go now, pass it on, and enjoy the space and freedom from maintenance.  Release the should-guilt to pick it back up "because I already have all that gear and it was expensive." Sometimes, things are only a part of our lives for a season.  Be thankful, move on.
  • My gigantic, heavy piano that I've been lugging around with me since I was eight; bless my husband for nearly putting his back out every time we moved.  I love it, but there are better ways to take lessons than back in the 90s--and none that risk life nor limb.
  • Items that belonged to my dad and I love the idea of, but I really wouldn't buy or use otherwise.  Finding my own way to remember and honor his memory has been something requiring some introspection, but letting go of the "because it belonged to him stuff" is freeing.

The schedule

Another one of my all-time favorite bloggers had a great article about her "Vital Few."  Life only affords you so many minutes in a day.   If you're anything like me, your dreams of accomplishments and goals would fill easily two or three lives.  Impractical, to say the least.   Enter: the life edit.  What in my life is truly important to me?  Do I have time to even do that?   When I took an honest look at my time usage, I was choking up my days playing catch-up on housework, recovering from the last move (we've moved 5 times in an 8-year span), or getting sucked into social media.  Time sinks needed to hit the chopping block.      

Looking-on: Goals for 2017

With the lessons of 2016 fresh in my mind, I welcome the next year with new resolve, determination, and purpose. Be an editor, a pruner, of my life, my schedule, and my stuff.  Create, don't consume.  Simplify, don't stuff.
  1. Declutter.  I'd like to hit the 2017 items in 2017.   Less to keep, maintain, clean, organize, and work around. Time freedom.
  2. Debt: Student loans are getting the heave-ho this year.  Freedom from that will give us flexibility to pursue business and investments for Dan. Money freedom.
  3. Projects: Finish some projects around our home that have been long over-due.  Stage our home for living. To-do-list freedom.
With the simplicity of living in our means--both in time and money--I can fully engage in what is important in our life.
Baby Aracuanas
We still have our chickens in suburbia!

Suburban homestead

We are committed to our little suburban life for now while I'm still working full-time.  A little back-yard farming to impose external limitations on my over-adventurous soul will be a healthy preventative to burn-out and over-extension.
  • Bees: I have had two hard learning years with my bees and ultimately haven't made it to see a harvest yet. TWO hives are coming this year, and I'm determined to success.  This past year was better than 2015, so hopefully, third time's the charm.  Dan's been sweet--at least it's a hobby that has the potential to produce something.
  • Edible front yard: Flowers help feed my soul and have been something I've loved since a child.  I am planning on converting our front slope into a floral bed with some edibles and herbals tucked in.  It is our best location for sun, but a pain to mow and doesn't encourage me to be in the front yard.  A haven for my bees, if nothing else.  I'm particularly focusing on low forage seasons for them--early spring and the summer dearth.
  • Lumberjack:  We have two large trees in our yard that have been problematic--they are either dying or leaning precariously over our garage. When they come down, my gardens will get extra sun to flourish and my bees will have a better location. Win, win, in my book.  Time to channel Paul Bunyan.
  • Fruit trees:  I'm not sure that this will happen with the lumberjack operation, but the terraces will be built and prepped for my backyard orchard come 2018.  If the trees don't go in, it'll be extra vegetable planting area in 2017.
  • Vegetables: Planting only what we actually eat.
    • Spinach/winter gardening: I'd like to also venture into some winter gardening by next fall so I can keep greens fresh in the yard.  They are EXPENSIVE to buy, and we always waste some because the giant tubs are too much to eat up.  Cut and come again plantings will up the freshness and decrease the waste and expense.  We use spinach nearly daily in frittata or smoothies (when we have fresh).
    • Tomatoes: Salsa and spaghetti sauce.
    • Peppers: Dan loves them and they are ridiculously expensive.
    • Cucumbers: for pickles!
    • Potatoes: A staple, and a dirty dozen.
    • Sweet potatoes: Easy-peasy here in KY.
    • Zucchini: for "zoodles"
    • Carrots: A staple of ours.
    • Other roots: radishes, beets, parsnips. 
    • Berries--blueberries, strawberries, blackberries.  We love them all, but they're in the dirty dozen and EXPENSIVE to buy organic.
    • Fruit--we eat LOADS of fruit, especially bananas for smoothies and apples for eating.  Peaches give a good smoothie texture and are a personal favorite, while Dan loves him some cherries.
    • Chard--hot weather sub for spinach, good cut-and-come again alternative to cabbage, and the stalks to replace celery.  A worthy experiment!
Flower presents
Flowers from the yard.

Staging your home for living:  

It's time for roots.  I don't want to get my home all spruced up just to sell and move away. I want to enjoy it for the next 7 years+ or so.  We've had a lot of plans for remodeling things for us to enjoy and increase our home value--some projects have only been half-started and all will be worth the investment come sale-time.  Time to put these ideas to reality.
  • Kitchen: We're almost done with the cabinets, then the space I actually have to make all my kitchen goods and equipment fit will be more apparent--my gut tells me that I will need to do more paring down.  I was QUITE spoiled with my giant walk-in pantry in the country (yes, even in that single-wide trailer, my storage was AMAZING).
  • Parlor and wood-stove: We LOVE a wood-stove and for an occasional insomniac, there's little the winds me down better than sitting by a fire.  Two years ago, we bought the wood-stove we really like, so installing it was a no-brainer. The parlor is pretty divided off from the rest of the house, so I convinced the hubs to widen that opening by more than double.  Better house flow. Better air-circulation. Win-win.
  • Half-story upstairs: It's been needing some real insulation (lower heating/cooling bills).  And with baby #3 coming, we're actually thinking of having a master suite for ourselves and a true second bathroom. Yes world, we have a family of soon-to-be-five with one teeny 5x7 bathroom currently, and we're doing juuuuust fine!
  • Back patio/pergola:  The roof for the porch is in BAD shape and needs to be ripped down.  We also love our outside time and making it beautiful and functional will encourage outside time.  Additionally, we've toyed with the idea of a hot tub, but that's really on the dreaming spectrum!

Create Don't Consume:

I spend FAR too much time with mindless social media that leaves me frustrated, annoyed, or dissatisfied.  Facebook has been clogged up with political posts and angst for nearly the past year--and by the looks of it, nothing is getting better any time soon. Pinterest can be helpful for inspiration and good ideas, but can also result in dissatisfaction and discontent. I need a social media diet, y'all.  
  • Bible time: Raising my kids is part of my "vital few" and setting a good example is nigh unto impossible without the daily challenge to holiness. Goal: Daily devo time.
  • Books:  It's better than the mindless screen time and will also encourage the boys to have their own quiet/nap times. Goal: a book/month.
  • Blogging: All of this information I've been assimilating--get it out there! Organize it for myself if no one else.  Contribute some DIYs. It's good motivation. Goal:  two posts/month.
We'll see how it all goes!  Thanks for  hanging with me on this long-winded post!


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