Project Renovate My Life: Cultivated Contentment

When my husband and I began a home renovation project a year ago, we both knew it would be tough. We both knew it would take longer than the contractors said, and we both knew it'd be fun. You see, we have a history of creating unnecessary challenges for "fun." We are not "home-renovation people." Our kind of fun was the short-term challenge of living differently.

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How Sustainable Practices Keep Me Focused on Living Intentionally

Lauren Hooper


I can’t remember a time when I didn’t consider myself environmentally conscious. My generation grew up watching Captain Planet and learning about global warming from Bill Nye: The Science Guy. It’s not too crazy to expect that I understood the impact of our choices on the Earth from an early age. Paper over plastic. Always put your empty Coke cans in the recycling bin - don’t forget to snap off the tab. Keep the thermostat set to 78 in the summer and 68 in the winter. Turn off the lights and fan when you leave a room. These are all lessons most of us heard, but the idea of being a protector of our environment really spoke to me. If there was a product, service, or mission that was more eco-friendly, that was always my choice. But regardless of how deep my passion was for being a tree-hugger, my understanding of my choices and how they affected the environment were under-developed.

When I started college, my career path was Architecture with a focus on Environmental Sciences. I wanted to design structures that were not just eco-friendly, but echoed the functions of plants. In the book “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things” by Michael Braungart and William McDonough, the authors begin to describe the architecture of the future by saying “imagine a building like a tree, a city like a forest….what if our homes and workplaces were enmeshed in the landscape, harvesting the energy of the sun, sequestering carbon and making oxygen. Imagine on-site wetlands and botanical gardens recovering nutrients from circulating water. Fresh air, flowering plants, and daylight in ample supply. In short, a life-support system in harmony with energy flows, human souls, and other living things.” There isn’t another quote that speaks more deeply to me than this one. Even re-reading it now leaves me feeling just as inspired as the first day I read it, over ten years ago. With the inspiration from this book, the lessons I learned from my architectural studies, and the forward-thinking students around me, I dove deeper into the idea of sustainable practices and how I could make them applicable to my life. I drastically reduced my water usage, traveled by foot and public transportation as much as possible, purchased secondhand clothing, and moved my diet towards veganism. I was beginning to feel more connected to my environment as I became more intentional with my choices.

At the same time, my academic career was taking a nose dive, and I soon ended up without a degree and in search of a better financial opportunity. My focus shifted from sustainable choices to finding a job. And after months of searching, I found a great job, and I was on my way to a new city, a new place to continue adopting my sustainable, intentional lifestyle. 

However, there is a funny thing that happens when you remove yourself from an environment that reinforces your values. It wasn’t long before I was not only forgetting to put paper into the recycling bin, but printing out unnecessary items on a whim. I was driving to work the 0.9 miles from my apartment to the office, even when the traffic was so bad it would have been quicker to walk - I even had a sidewalk and places to safely cross the roads through the entire distance. I found myself blasting the heat in my apartment on those “cold” Florida winter nights because I was so excited about having my utilities included in my compensation package. I still identified as being eco-friendly, but I wasn’t truly making eco-friendly choices. My car ran perfectly fine, but I was dead set on buying a Prius with the justification that it had better gas mileage, and therefore, was the more eco-friendly choice. Regardless of the fact that I drove a Corolla with great gas mileage and had a walkable commute.

Fast forward three years later, I’m back in my college town with my college boyfriend, now husband, and our infant twin babies. I’m driving a Jeep Grand Cherokee for my two mile commute to work.  I tried to justify my choice to buy the nice SUV and business casual clothing from Banana Republic and take 30 minute showers because I was buying recycled toilet paper and bringing my own grocery bags to the store. But I was living comfortably, focused on material goods, and not being intentional with my choices. 

I can’t say there was a specific day that I decided to focus on sustainability again. The arc into this lifestyle was very subtle and occurred over many months. One day I was removing extra decorative items from our living space because the babies were starting to crawl and get into everything. Then I started to not miss those items that had been moved to the highest shelves of our closet, so they were donated. The more the kids grew and became curious to the things around them, the more I realized I didn’t love many of the items in my apartment enough to be constantly keeping guard over them or putting them back when they were moved from their usual home. Around this time that I was culling more and more of our belongings, we were relocating from Gainesville, FL to Huntsville, AL, and I was transitioning from full-time working mom to stay-at-home mom. I had a lot more free time on my hands, and I found myself perusing books, blogs, and YouTube channels associated with zero waste living, minimalism, and green beauty. 


"With minimalism, it is often easy to just remove something unnecessary. With sustainability, we want to avoid having that unnecessary item in the first place."


During this time that I was highly focused on removing unnecessary things from my life, I also began to focus on what I was bringing into my life. The idea of eco-friendly and sustainable had vastly grown since my college years in the club “Gators for a Sustainable Campus”. With the time and effort I put into re-educating myself on sustainable practices, I developed a detailed idea of what intentional choices I needed to be making to not just cultivate an environmentally-conscious lifestyle for myself, but for my family as well. 

I started with the basics - water conservation, electricity conservation, purchasing items with little to no packaging, recycling, and composting. In my family’s case, it was easier to slowly transition away from our previous habits. My wonderful husband is supportive of my choices, but is not quite ready to embrace into an environmentally-conscious lifestyle for himself. So I lead by example and give him little nudges. And like most partnerships, he has his strengths in areas that help me do better – like remembering to not let the water run and only buying what we truly need. And he’s more than supportive of my choice to not go crazy with interior decorating. 

Because of this continued focus on sustainable practices, we spend a lot more time thinking about whether we need to bring something into our lives. With minimalism, it is often easy to just remove something unnecessary. With sustainability, we want to avoid having that unnecessary item in the first place. Therefore, a lot more thought goes into what ends up in our home. If I’m in need of green juice, I’ll place a pick up order at our local juicery because they source their products locally, return vegetable and fruit remnants to local farmers to be used for compost and feed to those same farmers – they even package it in returnable glass bottles. This requires me to be intentional about my purchase as I won’t just throw a bottle of Suja in my shopping cart during a regular grocery run. As I move towards a more zero waste lifestyle, I use a simple system before I bring something new into our home. First, I ask “can I repurpose what I already own to address this need?” If not, I will attempt to borrow this needed item. If that’s not possible, I will scour secondhand shops. If an item must be purchased new, I seek out a local merchant with sustainable practices. While we have far from eliminated our need for a trash can, actively working towards zero waste and sustainability in our everyday lives keeps things simpler, allowing for more time to focus on our family.


Bio - Lauren Hooper is a minimalist living just outside Huntsville, AL with her husband, boy/girl twin toddlers, and two rescue dogs. When she’s not hanging out in the backyard with the chaos twins, Lauren spends her time doing sales and education for Beautycounter, creating content on her lifestyle blog, cooking up vegan & gluten-free recipes, and curating her colorful capsule wardrobe.

You can follow her family’s journey on laurenetc.com and sneak a peek into their minimalist home on Instagram @lauren_etc.

 

Raising My Daughter on the Road

Jenn Norrell


My daughter has lived on the road more than half of her life. We moved into our first home on wheels when she was eight months old and now she is nearing two and a half. She learned to crawl in Colorado, said her first words in Texas and took her first steps in New Jersey.  She celebrated her first birthday in Chicago eating deep dish pizza and cupcakes, her second dipping her toes in the Atlantic Ocean and playing boardwalk games in Point Pleasant.  And while she likely won’t remember any of these things when she’s older, or the countless other things she has experienced, I know her early life traveling will shape the person she becomes. 

My husband and I chose a life of full-time travel because we were tired of living for once-a-year vacations. We wanted to see and experience the world around us. We wanted to be more thoughtful about how we chose to spend our time and how we raised our daughter. 

While taking the leap to live our life on the road was our dream it was also pretty damn scary.  I would never really describe myself as a risk taker. I’ve always liked to follow rules. I spent over ten years working with children and families as a social worker, often talking to parents about things like the importance of consistency, routines, socialization, and age appropriate structured activities. Now here I am, choosing to raise my daughter in an environment that, on the surface, is anything but those things.  Sometimes I wondered if we were being a little selfish.  And in the beginning each time someone said something like, “Well you’ll stop when it’s time for her to go to school, right?” or “Oh no, she won’t get to take dance lessons” or “It’s too bad you don’t have room for more toys,” I questioned myself a little more. 

We have now been on the road for a year and a half, and while I occasionally do still have moments of questioning, I wouldn’t change a thing. I have learned that not only is traveling full-time not a selfish choice, it is the best choice we could have made as parents for our daughter.  What I’ve experienced along the way is that travel is so much more than just seeing and exploring new places.  It’s natural for people to first think about what my daughter may be missing out on by traveling full-time, but I like to remind them of all the things she gains.  


"I have learned that not only is traveling full-time not a selfish choice, it is the best choice we could have made as parents for our daughter."


As we travel we share experiences as a family, which strengthen our bond.  We play, discover and explore together daily. We face and overcome fears or challenges alongside each other while giving and receiving encouragement, problem solving and celebrating together. These shared experiences reinforce our relationship, affirming our positive attachments and add to our family story. 

My daughter may not have as many toys as other children but she has an ever-changing backyard to encourage her curiosity. There is always something to explore and learn about. Whether it is seeing a Bison for the first time or finding a piece of fallen bark, my daughter wants to know more and she is excited about it. 

Each day I see my daughter’s imagination grow. Her time outdoors, wandering new landscapes, opens up so many possibilities for play. Travel encourages us to allow her to be a child. It opens up opportunities for unstructured play in nature and reminds us how much children thrive from the freedom to just be little. 

While traveling we are constantly meeting and talking to new people. And while this can be out of my comfort zone, as a generally shy introvert, it can also be the most rewarding part of travel. It allows so many opportunities to model openness, respect and kindness towards others. When I am walking with my daughter and I hear her say, “Mama let’s say hi to that lady” or tell someone she’s never met before, “I like your shoes” as we pass them by, I know we are doing something right.  

Our home may have wheels, but it is still our home. It is a comfort and a constant in our changing environment.  My daughter goes to bed in the same place each night even if she is somewhere new when she steps outside in the morning. She learns how to adapt to new environments and situations while always having the safety of her home.  As parents we have learned (and are still learning) to balance consistency and routine with exploration and adventure, watching and learning how these things shape our daughter’s behavior. Travel has made us more attune to her needs, and has allowed her to practice flexibility and adapting to new situations. 

It allows for authentic practice of so many skills for us as parents and for our daughter that are invaluable. We learn to go with the flow when things don’t go as planned and cooperate while each doing our part to set up camp or solving a problem together.  Travel builds independence and confidence while learning and trying new things and helps to sustain a child’s adventurous spirit. 

This life of travel has changed me both as a person and as a mother. I am more relaxed, adventurous and self-aware. I am far from perfect but I am a truer version of myself.  I am content even on the difficult days. While I am not always the mother I hope to be, travel encourages me to be that person. It pushes me out of my comfort zone and creates opportunities to model skills for my daughter that I wouldn’t have as regularly in a stationary life. It challenges me and makes me stronger. 

At this moment we have no time frame set for life on the road. We will travel full time for as long as it feels like the right decision for our family and we are able to. I look forward to seeing how travel continues to shape my daughter as she grows, and myself as her mother. Whether we choose to travel full-time for another ten years or stop in six months, I know travel will always be a priority in our lives. It has become too valuable for it not to be. 


Jenn Norrell is a stay-at-home mama and social worker on pause currently traveling North America full-time in her 17’ Casita Travel Trailer named Betty White with her husband, two year old daughter and dog in tow. When not wrangling her spirited daughter or out exploring a new area, she can be found reading, crafting and always enjoying a cup of hot tea. 

You can follow her family’s adventures of tiny living on the road at tinyasscamper.com.

Instagram: @her.tinyasscamper

Settling for Less: Our Story of Abundance

Rachel Dillow


We value being hospitable.  We value community and connection.  We value our faith in Jesus.  We are the Dillows and our simple living lifestyle has been abundant.   

In 2010 Jeff and I were newly married, living in the Midwest, making modest incomes and on the hunt for our first place together.  We looked at new buildings with spacious apartments, one with historic charm and a complex with some resort style amenities.  We weighed the options and laughed as we signed the lease for a one bedroom unit in a nursing home turned apartment building.  Yep, it was dated, it was ordinary, and it still felt like a nursing home but it allowed us a luxury we wanted above everything else we saw – the ability to save for the future even though we had no immediate goals in mind.  We quickly found the real character of the place came from the best friends we made down the hall, an adorable man who hosted movie nights in the old drab theatre and from Franklin, the maintenance man, who we still quote to this day.

We moved in and as life started to settle we began to feel less connected because of our work schedules. Jeff was working nights, I was working days and weekends which left us missing the time together we’d hoped for.   Jeff wanted to leave his career as a news photojournalist to run his own photography business. He put in the time working news while building his photography company and soon the time came where he could pull back and focus solely on his business.  Being the calculated and financially risk adverse gal I am I came up with a “fun” spending challenge to help plump up our savings as we planned for his self-employment.  For the month ahead we would not spend any money above the essentials of groceries, gas, bills and rent.  We called this “no spend” month and we loved it.  

At the end of the 30 days we found joy in becoming more resourceful and intentional in our time together.  We found we enjoyed cooking at home and watching Netflix more than going out to eat.  We loved going for walks and riding our bikes.  After a month of not feeling like we were deprived by the experience we decided to try it again the next month.  After so many months it turned into an ongoing effort.  There were plenty of times we deviated.  We would want to go out to dinner with friends, see a movie, buy a juicer after watching a food documentary, need a new pair of shoes, an irresistible decorative pillow, a clearance shirt at Target that was just too good a deal to pass up and the list went on.  It wasn’t always perfect but since we started sprinkling in “no spend” months we’ve found saving towards a big goal to be more rewarding than little splurges throughout the month, and it helps to keep us focused on what we value most. 

As Jeff’s photography business grew, I began a new job in the travel industry.  Our careers were blending and overlapping with each other.  He would shoot video for the company I worked for and I would assist him on his shoots.  We got to travel and experience the world together but when we were home we didn’t feel like it was where we were meant to be.  We wanted to move to a place that didn’t keep us trapped indoors because of extreme weather.  We prayed for direction on where to go, decided that was San Diego and brought back the “no spend” budget to help make our move happen.  We pared down to save more so we could make the move without depleting our finances knowing we would be starting Jeff’s business from scratch, and I was building up my client base as well.  It’s been 4 years since we headed west and we’ve hustled hard to grow our businesses, pay off bills, spend less, give to causes we support, save and live in a way that reflects our family values.  We’ve embraced simplicity and tried to keep a non-comparison attitude when we looked at what our friends were doing.  We weren’t buying a house, a new car or filling our place with new furniture though at times we wished we were.

Since we started out living in a small space it wasn’t too challenging to maintain a lifestyle of not acquiring a lot of possessions.  We transitioned to being a one car family, which can be limiting at times but moving to a neighborhood where we can walk to grocery stores, coffee shops and parks has been the right place for us to be able to do so.  We adopted a vegetarian diet and cook at home 95% of the time.   Simplicity in our meals and eating fewer ingredients is one of my favorite aspects of a minimalist lifestyle.  I also love being able to tidy up pretty quickly. 

Most of our furniture has been hand me downs or thrift store finds, and we aren’t bothered by it.  We recently bought a few new pieces of furniture since our hand me downs were on their last leg.  When a new need arises we sell or donate items to make space for new ones in an effort to keep our space clutter free.  I don’t feel our home lacks character because of fewer possessions; we find the character comes from who we fill it with.  

What I’ve found most helpful in being content with less has been focusing on the benefits rather than seeing it as a sacrifice.  It also helps that we’ve added a “fun money” line to our budget so we each get to have some money to spend if there is something we want or need. Jeff usually indulges in burritos and falafel.  I usually go for coffee with friends and DIY projects.  

Currently, we’re in the midst of another big transition.  Our family of 2 grew to 3 this summer, and I left my job to be home with our son, Sam.  I never imagined I’d have a baby or step away from work but I’ve loved it and it’s pushed me to face the demons I have with productivity, self worth and my identity.  Now, as I’m home taking care of Sam, Jeff is in a very busy season of starting a new business, and we’re working towards a goal that feels impossible.  

We want to purchase a house with space to plant a community garden, grow our family and deepen our connection with friends and neighbors. It’ll be awhile until we can afford a house in San Diego so we’re embracing our current space (ugly brown carpet and all) and doing our best to live in line with our values.  

A few weeks ago Jeff made the bold decision that our vision doesn’t have to be exclusively tied to home ownership.  He planted squash, tomatoes, herbs and greens in the small patches of dirt around our complex.  I made a sign and hung it on the fence encouraging our neighbors to take what they need.  We’ll ask for forgiveness later. 

We were encouraged when a neighbor one house over asked Jeff to start a garden in her yard too.  It seems a house won’t be in the plan for us for a long while but we want our family values to thrive wherever we dwell.


Rachel Dillow is a workaholic turned stay at home mom delighting in a simple lifestyle with her husband, Jeff and son, Sam in San Diego, California.  Currently she’s learning to sew, surf and let go as God moves her in new directions.

 

IG : @rachel.dillow

 

How Clearing Your Space Creates Gratitude

Abby Cameron


What you think, you become

 What you feel, you attract

What you imagine, you create. 

-Buddha


My family and I live what I call an indigo life.  A life lived deeply in gratitude.  One that is rich, wild, and abundant.  I would love to say we have always lived this way, but like most of you, this kind of life sometimes takes work and definitely requires daily practice.  

Before living a life of abundance, we were always ok, but not very mindful of being thankful.  We spent a lot of time going through the motions of life.  Sleep. Eat. Work. Sleep. Repeat.  Then, about five years ago we went through a tumultuous time with my wife’s family.  We were in the process of buying the family business and there was discord among the family members.  Every day was an emotional roller coaster for us.  Hurtful words were spoken and relationships were severed.  This went on for two years.  For two years we cried, yelled, took it out on each other, but mostly felt raw.  We were devastated. We tried to move forward and find joy, but neither of us knew what that looked like or how to go about getting it back into our life.  We got a puppy and then took a vacation, but there was something still missing.  

By Thanksgiving that second year I was desperately looking for a reason to be grateful.  I was searching for something to keep my heart from closing.  I found the inspiration to create a gratitude tree in my front yard.  There was a young oak tree with small, low branches.  I put up a cardboard sign, threw some tags and markers into a old tool box, and made my puppy pose by the tree for a photo.  Every day I would make my way out the tree and write down one to five things I was grateful for and then hang the tags on the tree.  My neighbors took notice and they started to add grateful tags to the tree as well.  Soon, there were several tags of thanksgiving blowing in the breeze. 

It wasn’t easy for me.  At a time when I didn’t have anything positive to think or say, it was difficult to come up with something meaningful.  Some days it would be as simple as I was grateful for toothpaste so my teeth wouldn’t rot.  That was enough.  I started to notice a shift in my attitude and big waive of relief came over me.  

I wasn’t really surprised in my attitude adjustment.  After all, I knew enough to know that energy flows were you put your attention.  However, what shocked me the most was that I had sparked a movement and didn't even realize it.  The next year came and I was being asked to put up the gratitude tree again by my wife, friends and neighbors.  The answer to my own pain had also helped others find their own joy.

I started to see things differently.  What I began to noticed in my relationships was that when I interacted on a negative level, the other person usually followed suit, leading us no where good.  When I approached my interactions with others with a grateful heart, I made better connections, and built better relationships.  In turn, they started to live with a grateful heart too.  You are who you hang around.  

Since that time I have gone on to become a life coach, making it my mission to help others find their indigo life.  Being a field guide for life has also helped keep me accountable because I firmly believe I have to live it in order to give it.  I want my family to keep living an indigo life especially as it grows. 

A life lived in gratitude became a value for us when we realized we didn’t want to be surrounded by negativity any longer.  We felt happier and more at peace when we stayed mindful about our words and actions, and from my gratitude tree experience, that behavior was contagious.   

This way of living became especially important about a year and half ago when our son was born.  We want to raise him with a grateful heart, and it’s important to set the example for him.  Children are sponges, soaking up language, energy, and meaning.  He is influenced by what we say and it’s important to us that we model the habit.  Even though he can’t communicate with words quite yet, we ask him what he is thankful for and we tell him what we are thankful for.  It’s become a family ritual.  We look forward to the day he can use his words to tell us. 

Today, when schedules allow, we take daily walks with our dog and son.  Naturally, the conversation starts with events of the day. Sometimes it turns negative. but then one of us will stop and say, what are you grateful for today?  Then it turns to our blessings and our time together as a family feels stronger.  

Another tool we use as a family and one that I use for my clients is called the Living Space tool.  When we start to feel we are moving away from our indigo life, it’s a good indication we need to do some clearing.  There is a philosophy that states our outer world reflects our inner world.  Meaning, the state of our homes, work places and other spaces is a direct reflection on where our mental state is.  

In order for us to keep living a grateful life, our minds need to be free of mental baggage and focused on staying mindful.  The tool is simple.  Clear your space, clear you mind. 

Here is how it works.  

  1. Think of a space in your home that you don’t like.  It may be a drawer, a closet, or an entire room.  Make a list of what you don’t like about this room.  How does it make you feel when you are in that space?  Notice any body sensations such as anxiousness, etc.  
  2. Next, think of a space in your home that you love.  Again, make a list of what you love about it and how it makes you feel to be in that space.  
  3. Now clean, declutter, reorganize, paint it, remodel, etc the space you don’t like so it reflects the space in your home you do love.    

You might notice that something you have had negative thinking around suddenly changes.  Or a problem you have suddenly has a solution.  This supports the minimalist mindset.  Keeping around unwanted things in your life blocks you from joyful living.  

Although we celebrate gratitude all year, November is especially important for us.  We still set up a gratitude tree and have encouraged others to do the same.  There are gratitude trees in several states across the nation this year.  Grateful living has really helped us and those around us focus on being present in our lives.  Showing up and living in the moment rather than sitting in fear or worry about the past or future.  It’s enough.  What we have today is enough.  I am grateful for Kate and Melissa and all the families that are a part of the Cohesive Home community.   


Abby is a life coach, gratitude warrior, and field guide for life in addition to wife and momma to one son. She believes everyone can live a rich, wild, and abundant life.  They just need a little help getting out of their own way to make that happen. Outside of guiding others, she enjoys meditating, practicing yoga, taking road trips, sipping peppermint tea, and chronicling life in her journal.  Her family lives on a small lake in North Texas.

IG: @abbycameron26

Abbycameron.me

Trading Fear For Freedom and Saying YES to Adventure

Brittany McCardle


Trading Fear For Freedom and Saying YES to Adventure

I wasn’t born an adventurous person. I am a homebody at heart. I love long quiet afternoons, naps, cups of herbal tea and getting lost in a good book. And for many years I hid in my home doing just that while building walls to protect myself from the “unknown,” which was nearly everything outside my front door. 

I married my high school sweetheart at nineteen years old, and we lived a very typical life together—working, saving money, dreaming of the 4 bedroom house we would build, the 3 car garage my husband would have, and the cars we would buy to fill it.

I would tell you I was happy, but deep down I was afraid. 

I was afraid of traveling (even if that meant 20 minutes away), being uncomfortable, of not knowing what was coming next and anything that was unfamiliar. For the majority of my late teens and early twenties, fear became my master. And I obeyed, hoping that if I just insulated myself from all that seemed so frightening, then I could live and be happy. But that was a lie. I learned I could never insulate myself enough because there was always something new to worry about, something still unknown to be afraid of. Life was passing by around me and I had my front door firmly bolted shut. I was saying no. 

It wasn’t until after our first baby was born that things began to change. I had obeyed fear for many years at this point, and I was becoming worn out from its cruelty. I knew that something needed to change. I began to seek God. I began to finally ignore many of my fears and believe that I was loved just as I was. And then one day, I felt God asking me to let go of my fear of traveling. It was still something I avoided, but in that moment I had this picture in my mind of someone gently taking my tightly clenched fist and opening it up to receive something beautiful. And so, for the first time, I said yes, and I began to believe that I could overcome that fear. 

It wasn’t long after that when my husband approached me with news that he would be sent to Scotland to work for a few months. Scotland! Here was my chance to walk out my “yes,” even though I was still afraid. But for a few weeks that magical summer we lived in a little apartment near cobblestoned streets, old granite buildings and rich green hills. I couldn’t believe that me of all people traveled across the ocean and was walking around in another country! I couldn’t stop smiling. I loved the little shops near us, the cheese shop and the flower shop. I loved the library that was over 100 years old and I loved the little farmer’s market we visited one weekend. I loved the cold North Shore. I loved walking everywhere even though that meant sometimes lugging groceries and pushing a stroller in the rain. I loved that I had done what I never thought I could possibly do. And it was there I began to bud. It was there I began to receive that beautiful gift, me—fully alive, fully tasting, touching, living this life God had given me to live. Saying yes to all it could offer. I came home a changed woman.

Fast forward four years. My husband and I were settled on a beautiful 2 acre country property living with another family, sharing close community, awaiting the birth of our third daughter. My husband had been working at the same company for 11 years. He had accelerated past his peers and had traveled and worked many long hours. He was beginning to see that there was no end to the working world. There were always more deadlines, more projects, and more problems to fix. He had started with the company when he was only twenty, and now those 11 years seemed to vanish in the blink of an eye. How could time pass by so quickly? We both realized we didn't want to waste any more time. We were ready for more of life, to really drink it all in, see what it had to offer. We were ready, to not just bud, but to bloom and thrive in the unknowns God had waiting for us. After a meaningful conversation one late night, we agreed: we were ready to leave all we had known behind to travel as a family, to grow into all we could be, to bond closer together, to store up meaningful relationships and experiences rather than things. We were wholeheartedly saying YES to a future free from fear, free from restriction and full of hope to live out what we truly cared about. 

After discussing all of our travel options, we knew we wanted to live on a sailboat with our children and travel together, hoping to one day venture into foreign lands where we could experience different people and cultures. We knew it sounded crazy. We knew people wouldn't understand. But we understood. We understood that there would be indescribable beauty woven throughout all the daily challenges we would face. And we knew there would be challenges: living in a small space, being dependent on the changing, fickle nature of the weather, learning a brand new skill, not having easy access to showers, washers or dryers, traveling with two small children and an infant, and constantly being surrounded by that which is unfamiliar. Everything would be new and different. But the challenge was part of the reason we were jumping in. We felt all too well the slow, silent atrophy of a life lived on autopilot. We knew a life lived intentionally held the space we needed to live out our values. And we knew it needed to be now. We weren't satisfied with "someday," we were ready to jump in, with hearts and hands wide open. 


We felt all too well the slow, silent atrophy of a life lived on autopilot. We knew a life lived intentionally held the space we needed to live out our values. And we knew it needed to be now.

We recently spent three weeks on our 47' sailboat before traveling back home to finish the sale of our house and to pack up the rest of our belongings. And even through several days of inclement weather, leaks in our boat, and the chaos of moving, we loved what each new day brought for us. As someone who used to be afraid to venture outside my front door, I never thought I would love life out on the open water, but being there, I was often held in wonder and amazement. 

While on the boat, I love waking up to the water, birds in the air with the sun peeking out over the horizon. I love the coziness of the boat's interior and the creativity required to bring the family together. I love living kinder and gentler toward the earth. On a boat it becomes crucial to think about the impact we'll be having toward the sea and land around us. Thinking about where our water comes from and where it goes, the products we use the trash we produce—it’s a more than worthwhile challenge. I love seeing my children embrace change and new challenges. And I love the fiery sunsets that take my breath away every single night.

I never thought this quiet, reserved homebody would grow up to be a wife and mama who embraced adventure and the unknown, but I can't think of a more exciting place to be. I know our decision to live and travel on a boat with our children will give us the space to live out our values in a truly radical way.  Adventure, freedom, togetherness—I‘m saying YES!


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Brittany is a homebody turned adventure mama of three little girls. She and her husband Mike are currently transitioning their family to a nomadic life at sea on a 47' sailboat. Brittany loves following the radical call of God into a simpler life full of passion for freedom from fear for herself and others. When she's not homeschooling her girls, she's learning how to sail, writing on her blog, and enjoying the many incredible experiences of living on a boat.

Follow her story: 

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IG: @familyatsea

 

From Hurried Days to Slow Living Artists: A Young Family's Journey to Living a Simpler Life

Alyssa Delay


From Hurried Days to Slow Living Artists

Our lives have been anything but simple from the beginning. From taking years to confess our love to a quickly culminated storm of pregnancy, engagement, a wedding and a baby all within a year, we are still finding ourselves sorting through the pages of our already heavily chaptered life. 

Sam and I are young but destined parents, so when we found out we were expecting, we wanted to hasten a marriage but jump into the natural flow. In other words, our five-year plan struck us all at once like a lightning bolt, so we were happy with the gift God had given us, instead of treating it like a burden. 

Our first apartment was the renovated attic of a very old house. The wooden floors were charming, the bathroom’s skylight (which came to be the only source of bright natural light) was refreshing, and the brick chimney gave it character. Unfortunately, the space was very small and became too cramped for us to ever want to be home. The amount of stuff we were gifted still haunts me. Bless my sweet and generous family, but even my car became too full of bags and boxes to fit any other passengers, and only got worse when Evelyn was born. I physically could not carry all the things we were given to the third floor while carrying a newborn too, so we had nowhere to escape. We were drowning in stuff and drowning in the cardboard, plastic wrap and trash that it came in from things we didn’t ask for and didn't need. In fact, we asked for people to stop giving us things. We became so torn between appreciation and being overwhelmed, and even feeling disrespected. I wish I could say we made it out of that place alive, but in a way, we didn’t. We moved after our one-year lease and got rid of (most) of the junk, never bothering to fully sweep through it until we were ready to pack up. I had never felt such a lack of control than I did when we lived as prisoners to that stuffy, unkempt nest. 

In October of 2015, Sam, Evelyn and I moved into our current apartment. Even though it has one bedroom, it’s still bigger than our last. The ceilings are nine feet tall and there are long windows in each room that illuminate each corner, no matter the position of the sun. There are four spacious closets (our last had just one) and the kitchen is large and open. Evelyn still shares a bed with us, so there’s no need to take up space with a crib or a cot, though there is plenty of room for one when that time comes. It’s located on the second floor of a very old house in the center of our little town, has a very low rent and it’s all we see ourselves needing until we’re ready to buy our own house. It also happens to be right down the street from the coffee shop that Sam and I both work at and that he now co-owns.

This past spring, Sam left a well-paying job for a sabbatical after the daily stresses of work became too big of a burden for us to function. The work day never ended even after he’d come home. He drove a long distance, sometimes facing the temper of New Hampshire’s harsh winter, and would come home exhausted, unable to connect with me or with Evelyn or himself. Our initial thought was “this is just the sacrifice we must make in order to reach our dreams,” thinking that our dream was to live in a beautiful, rustic farmhouse as homesteaders with a handful of children, denying the pressure of today’s modern mantra of “work is life.” We were wrong. Our relationship felt muted, our weekends were for patching up whatever damage the week brought, and the three of us just never seemed to be at each other’s frequency. We were en route to a life of putting money before love. So, without knowing what lay ahead, we agreed it was best for Sam to leave his job and take time to reconnect with himself and God’s intentions for him. That’s when we realized our real dream was to live purposefully, simply, and rich with love.

I understand that with many families, either one or both parents sacrifice so much of their life and their energy into providing so that they can stay living a comfortable life, without the fear of losing their home or necessities. After Sam left his job and started working part-time as a waiter, we just barely made end’s meet. Luckily with our situation, we were not paying off any debt, had low bills and don’t pay for childcare (thank you, family!). Instead of driving an hour or two to get to work, Sam drove a mile down the road to a low-stress job with hours that allowed us to spend almost every single day together. That summer was the closest to our “dream” I think we’ll ever be. We’d wake up all together in a sunny room and hang out in bed until we felt like it. Sam and Ev would be sent to the coffee shop while I made breakfast, then we’d hang out some more until she’d go down for a nap. I’d make lunch, go to the gym or read a book with my beloved free time, and after she woke, we’d collect wild berries from our yard or go to a local farm or pick wildflowers. Sometimes we’d bring a blanket outside and eat our lunch, sometimes we’d sit in the grass eating mango popsicles. We were slow-living-artists in training with the best reward: clarity to go through our junk and to get rid of it. I started consigning our clothes at the local shop or donating the rest; we let go of books we were holding on to, old birthday cards, and baby toys. We rid ourselves of ugly lamps, useless documents and even our TV. To be honest, we’re about halfway done with what we’d like to accomplish, but we’re at the point now where almost all of our belongings that aren’t used daily can be stuffed into our closet and the chaos can be hidden by blank space. It doesn’t sound liberating, but that sort of containment has helped me gain back the control that was lost in our crazy first year of marriage, and with that control came lower anxiety levels, less stress, and even better sleep.

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Before our dreamy summer came to an end, Sam was offered ownership in our friend’s coffee shop along with a new reality: a flexible job that Sam loves that also allows him to pursue his passion for woodworking on the side, and an overall, simple and cohesive life. Without him driving to work each day, we got rid of one car and started walking more. Our cheap rent and one vehicle allows us to save money, afford quality groceries and for me to stay home most days to raise our busy toddler. I work at the shop twice a week, which is a really fun way to get out of the house and to connect with other people and other moms, while also enjoying a hobby. 
We went from doing what we thought we were supposed to do to doing what we thought God wanted us to do. I remind myself of that during times I feel like we aren’t growing at the rate everyone else seems to be, because good things take time. If we’re going to gradually inch our way to that beautiful old farmhouse, I’d rather do it with conviction and intent, never forgetting to mark these days with an unhurried morning kiss.


Alyssa, her husband Sam, and their daughter Evelyn live a relaxed life in their home state of New Hampshire. They are becoming more invested in their community and try to support local businesses and farms when possible. Sam spends his free time crafting beautiful wooden tables and Alyssa is picking up new hobbies each day. They love hanging out at music festivals, coffee shops, or in the comfort of their home.

Follow Alyssa on Instagram @alyssadelay

The New Simplicity: Why I No Longer Let Minimalism Influence My Design Aesthetic


By: Melissa Risenhoover


I recently posted this on my personal Instagram account:

The reactions I received were wonderful and very helpful! However, it got me thinking about something a little bit bigger in relation to the very topic we speak so much about here on Cohesive Home...Minimalism. This is something I struggle with in defining my decorating style. What does it say about me if I DON'T want all white everything and a minimalist decor? Why do some of us struggle with minimalism in correlation with our decorating choices? Does personality dictate the space we create? Or do we override that in an effort to be "minimalist"? Oh and the big question people have, can I call myself a minimalist if I don't adhere to the all white aesthetic?  Either way I wanted to dive into this subject with you.

The above photo is me holding a wonderful glass of German wine while sitting in my German apartment with nothing in it. Except that Ikea painting of the girl swimming...I love that painting! Anyways, the choice to live in a bare apartment was intentional it had nothing to do with our personalities or how minimalist we wanted to be. What did this year do to my mind set you ask? Did it cause me to hate the color white and wish I lived next to a Hobby Lobby again? Yes and no. My personality has always been one that loves color, but that year we decided to be all white and create a simple palette didn't change that about me or my husband. Instead it created a "freebie" if you will. Almost a pass to do and be anything we wanted. We chose white. All white and modern. And we loved it for that short time. But now, as I sit in my rental space and dream of my future home I can't help but have an internal war with minimalism as a decorating theme and not just a lifestyle. Do I want white walls? What if I want a green couch? 

We have talked in our Cohesive Home podcast before about how minimalism is a tool, not the end all be all. We use it to help our home reflect our values, not dictate what color we should have on our walls. The tool helps us keep clutter at bay, bring peace to our spaces, and create calm in our agendas. In my opinion it should not dictate everyones style preferences. Don't get me wrong, some people love the minimalist style and rock it quite well, but if it's not your thing you should not feel guilty about it. 

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“The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don't know what the hell they're doing or who on earth they are can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino." - Joe Fox”

I'm pretty sure I go to You've Got Mail for almost any life choice, but come on, Joe Fox got it right. Tall! Decaf! Cappuccino! We all have a taste. Personality has a defining role in these choices. Like I stated in my Instagram post, my home is currently a rental and even though I may not love it and don't currently have my dream design aesthetic, MOST of the comments I received on this post indicated that people love to make things cozy and create a space that is theirs no matter what type of home they live in. Minimalist! Country Chic! Boho Eclectic! We all have a flavor. If we all drank tall decaf cappuccinos it would be a boring world. 

Have you taken the infamous Myers-Briggs personality test? I'm sure this says something about MY type, but I have never been one to get into the Myers-Briggs or any sort of personality testing. The thought of knowing just makes me feel trapped in a box. What if I don't LIKE my results? What if I think I'm a totally different type of personality and I'm sad. Well...today I took the test...I did it...and you know what? It was great! It confirmed what I already knew about myself. I'm outgoing and love to be creative. Nowhere in my results did it say I desire minimalist decor, white walls and no furniture. And I'm pretty sure yours won't either.

In my design future I'm sticking with a colorful, Scandinavian vibe like this amazing article from Apartment Therapy. But for now my beige walls with minimal decor will do, and believe it or not, it has no say on how "minimalist" I am. 


For another great read on minimalism and design check out this article on Design Sponge.  And for a fun listen check out our Podcast about creating cohesive spaces! 


Melissa is a creativity-driven free spirit that calls Oklahoma home, but recently returned from a year of traveling throughout Europe while living in Germany. As the mother of three home-schooled kiddos and the visual design backbone of Cohesive Home, Melissa is pretty awesome at juggling just about anything as long as a cup of coffee is involved. She and her husband Brandon dream of spending a few months a year back in France visiting with friends and exploring the local culture.

IG: @melissarisenhoover

8 Tips to Create Your Perfect Maternity Capsule Wardrobe

by: Elizabeth Santelmann


Raise a hand if you love capsule wardrobes! But what's a mama to do when she realizes she's pregnant? @sunshineinmynest has written a killer guide to creating your perfect maternity capsule wardrobe and also includes tips for the rest of us.

A note from Kate and Melissa: we both struggled with figuring out the best wardrobe for our changing bodies while pregnant. Even if you’re not pregnant, this article contains some words of wisdom on how to create a capsule wardrobe. So whether or not you’re pregnant or even planning to be, we hope you enjoy this piece on creating an intentional wardrobe that supports a simple lifestyle—something we can all get behind!


WHAT IS A CAPSULE WARDROBE?

A capsule wardrobe is a collection of a few essential items of clothing that are timeless. Ideally, these items should all mix and match well, to create the most outfits with the least amount of items. I have been doing a capsule wardrobe for 6 seasons now, and I love how easy it is to get dressed every morning. My closet usually looks like I’m shopping at a boutique! I also love that there are no wadded up shirts in the corners of my closet, and there are no forgotten shoes hiding behind my mini closet dresser. It makes me feel happier about getting ready for my day.

For some reason it was harder for me to apply the rest of these capsule wardrobe principles to maternity clothes. Maybe it was because I felt vulnerable about how I look while pregnant. Maybe it was because I hated all the maternity clothes that I had left from my last pregnancy. Maybe it was because I love to find my capsule items at thrift stores, and second hand maternity clothing choices are limited. There is also mostly silence on the topic of maternity capsules in the blogging world. I don’t know why that is, the price tag they put on maternity clothing makes it vital to buy intentionally!  Read on to hear more of my thoughts on creating a maternity capsule wardrobe. 

8 Tips to Create Your Perfect Maternity Capsule Wardrobe

THOUGHTS ON CREATING A MATERNITY CAPSULE WARDROBE

The first two things I do upon noticing my bump (or the swelling and gas that for some reason plagues me pre-bump) is to completely clear out my closet, and only put back what I know will look great over the next couple months. Those favorite pieces that do not fit just seem to stare at me and yell, “You are getting bigger!” Really, this is to make room for my new favorite items, because who doesn’t like having an excuse to wear jeans with an elastic waistband!? 

I also wanted to make a hard fast rule on how much I could keep hanging in my closet, so I bought a pack of 24 velvet hangers. This really makes my clothes stand out, while limiting the number of things I can hang. Your number may be higher or lower, but I suggest setting boundaries for how many items you’ll have out at a time. 

Each person’s wardrobe is made up of highly personalized choices. I will give very specific information in regard to what I chose, because that is what I know. Know that the individual choice you make may look different from mine, but the general capsule wardrobe principles hold.

The thing I had a hard time doing is being realistic about what I would want to wear. I didn’t like spring green before I was pregnant, but somehow I thought I would like it while pregnant. Growing a human inside of my body doesn’t change what makes me feel attractive. If you like A-line dresses, that slim sheath dress that looks cute on the rack, probably won’t make you feel beautiful. The way your body is shaped should inspire you to pick flattering styles: you are your own best stylist! I have been amazed when looking at my current maternity capsule wardrobe at how similar it looks to my pre-pregnancy wardrobe. That wasn’t intentional, but what I like hasn’t changed. 

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KEY TIPS FOR CREATING A MATERNITY CAPSULE WARDROBE

  1. Does it fit my changing body well? That pre-bump stage when you don’t really look pregnant, but tend to feel bigger than your usual self can be a hard transition. This is a great time for billowy tops, which hide the changes your body is undergoing pretty well. Anything in my regular wardrobe that isn’t form fitting can usually be used during the first 3 months; you might find the same. Some pre-pregnancy items can be used for quite some time, before I have to move away from them entirely. The longer I can stay in your regular clothes, the more I feel like myself. 
  2. Does this style look similar to my previous style? I bought a bright green shirt with strings on the side before I got pregnant, I still have no idea why I thought I would love that when I got pregnant. It simply wasn’t my style, pregnant or not. Stick with your personal style and favorite silhouette’s as you create your capsule wardrobe. Pregnancy is not the time to experiment with trends! 
  3. Can I wear this with my pre-pregnancy investment pieces? One of the things I have tried to do when not pregnant is buy just a few classic clothing items and more accent pieces. This makes switching from my regular clothes to maternity much easier. I can still use my trench coat, leather jacket, and my cardigans all throughout pregnancy. I can put maternity t-shirts under them and they will look just as classy as my regular size t-shirts. 
  4. Does this item coordinate with the season I will be pregnant? I foolishly bought 2 sleeveless maternity tops, when most of my pregnancy will be through fall and winter. I had just found out I was pregnant, and I started buying what I would need for the current season, not the season I would be showing. Be patient and buy clothes during the season that you need them.

GENERAL TIPS FOR CAPSULE WARDROBE SUCCESS

  1. Does this piece of clothing help me create multiple outfits? If you buy colored pants, make sure the color goes with most of the tops in your closet. It’s not bad to buy a statement piece while you are pregnant, just make sure it’s one you will use all the time! 
  2. Is this piece in good condition? Are there rips, or holes? Its it stretched out? Does it have any stains? It really doesn’t matter how much you paid for it; If it’s worn out, it needs to go.
  3. Does this fit my lifestyle? As a stay at home mom I can’t buy fragile fabrics. Right after my son was born I bought a half dozen gauzy shirts. They were really popular at the time and I stained them and ripped them to shreds within a few months. I also choose not to have a collection of yoga pants, because if I do I end up neglecting the rest of my clothing! Unfancy blog has an awesome wardrobe planner that helps you map out your activities, so you can correlate them to your lifestyle. Find what works for your lifestyle and build a wardrobe around it. 
  4. Do most of the colors in my closet go together? Choose colors that compliment each other and stick with just a few colors. My goal is to have all my clothes coordinate together. I also try to stick with mostly black as my basics (skirts, pants, shoes) since it’s a pretty easy color to find. Find what you look best in and buy your basics in that color. 

MY MATERNITY WARDROBE

This is the list of what is in my capsule, and why I chose it. I hope that seeing specific pieces and the logic behind why I picked them will help you to think through what you want to pick. These choices reflect the lifestyle of a stay at home mom, who likes to look nice, but doesn’t like to think about getting dressed very much. If these aren’t pieces you would have worn before you got pregnant, just substitute them for a color or shape that feels more “you.” Let us know in the comments below some of your favorite clothing choices, and what has made them fit into your closet.

White V-neck T-Shirt – perfect for layering under a blazer, black leather jacket, or a sweater

Black V-neck T-Shirt – looks great with my gold jewelry, or a trench coat

Cream and Black Stripe T-Shirt – looks good by itself for the lingering hot fall days in Oklahoma

Grey T-Shirt – excellent for layering with a scarf, or my coral jewelry, puffer vest, or sweaters! 

Teal Shirt – pop of color that goes with my color palate

Grey ¾ Sleeve Shirt – great neutral to go with multiple outfits

8 Tips to Create Your Perfect Maternity Capsule Wardrobe

Sailor Stripe Shirt – this is a “normal self” staple that needed to repeat into my maternity clothes.

Grey Stripe Shirt – not my favorite. I already had it, and I know I can put it into a lot of looks that I like. 

Red Plaid Shirt – red plaid is another of my pre-pregnancy staples, so it made sense to carry it over. 

Mustard Sweater – the color that defines me, so naturally it’s in the mix.

2 Sleeveless Shirts – Would have been great for a summer pregnancy, but they are my “what was I thinking” purchases. 

Blanqui Maternity Top – This allows me to wear all my pre-pregnancy jeans up to 6 or 7 months since I don’t bump very big at first. Supposedly as you get bigger it works as “support wear” too! 

A Simple Black Dress - One cannot understate the versatility of a black dress!

Stretchy Chambray Dress - I removed the belt loops, so that it can be belted above my bump. I can wear this with a trench coat, a sweater, or my puffer vest.

For Bottoms I usually go very simple. I have one pair of skinny jeans and one pair of boot cut jeans. One of them is usually in a dark wash and the other a light wash. I also have a pair of maternity jean shorts. 

For Skirts I have a black maxi, bright color maxi, and one floral print skirt. Maxis are great while pregnant because they stretch so much, and they can be layered to make a variety of outfits for any season! 

ONE FINAL WORD

Capsule wardrobes have caused me to be much more intentional in my choices of clothing. It allows me to spend a little more on each item, because I know I will love it, rather than spending a little money on a lot of stuff that doesn’t work for me. In the world of maternity dressing sticking with what you already know works for you is vital! Then hang those choices in your closet with pride. When you look at what you have created it should bring so much satisfaction and joy. Getting dressed should be a breeze, because you have done the work ahead of time!


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Elizabeth is a transplant from Illinois to Oklahoma. She moved to Oklahoma for a year-long internship working with inner-city youth and during that year she met Joseph her now husband of 4 years. When their son was born she came to realize that motherhood was a continued exercise in “stopping to smell the roses”. Since then she has been learning to slow her mind and heart, and enjoy as many snuggles as possible. You will often find her in the back yard, almost always with a cup of hot tea and a book in hand.

Instagram: @sunshineinmynest

Growing Up Gardening

By: Elizabeth Santelmann


I grew up in rural Illinois farm country on what my parents called an “Old McDonald Farm.” That meant we had a little of everything and farming wasn’t really what my dad did for a living.

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We had a quarter acre garden, and a parade of several cows, sheep, a horse, chickens, ducks, and pigeons that came and went. My dad also planted an orchard with cherries, apples, peaches, and many other kinds of fruit. We all worked together most days of the week to weed the garden, pick fruit, gather eggs, pick wild mushrooms, care for our animals, and bale hay. We learned about pruning fruit trees, and grape vines at a young age. We also canned and froze a majority of our food for the winter. Working and playing together gave us lots of fun memories together.

A majority of the families in our area rarely left the state. My parents raised farm animals for additional income, so we could travel. If our animals sold well for the year, we would have a two week long road trip (usually ending in Northwest Washington where my dad grew up). Mom and Dad were great, by the time I graduated from High School I had been in every state west of the Mississippi and a substantial group of them east as well.  We seldom took the same route twice. So all year we bottle fed baby lambs and pitched hay to the cows with the hope that a long vacation was in our future.

Growing Up Gardening- Cohesivehome.com

Then I moved to Oklahoma City for a job where I met and married my husband. After our son was born, I freaked out! Nothing about the environment where I was parenting was similar to what I had experienced as a child. I desperately wanted to give my kids what I had as a kid, but that seemed impossible with my current environment. (I mean have you tried gardening in Oklahoma?!?! Also for some reason they don’t smile on people bringing farm animals into backyards.). I stressed about this for about a year and gave up. I thought there was no way I could take the lifestyle I grew up with and infuse it into my kid’s life, and there was no way that we were moving onto acreage with the kind of job my husband has.

Growing Up Gardening - Cohesivehome.com

At some point I had a change of heart. I started reading about raised bed gardening and lasagna composting. I decided to do a modified version of gardening for my back yard. I started that fall collecting bags of people’s leaves from beside the road and topping it with dirt and chicken manure from a friend. (People recommended buying cow manure at Lowe’s but the farm girl in me rebelled. I seriously considered dragging some back with us from Illinois, but my husband put his foot down. Thankfully, a friend with chickens stepped in and saved me from insanity) I watered it a few times over the winter, and stirred it up with a shovel! Come to find out it works great. My baby would play on a blanket near-by, while I worked. It was a continual reminder for me to take him outside whenever the weather was nice!

Fast-forward two years, out garden isn’t perfect, but we have so much fun. We now have 4 raised beds and the dirt is incredible. Since I’m not a huge fan of just sitting outside with my son, I’ll pull a weed or two, straighten my tomato cages, or pick lettuce while he plays. I have learned how to plant Marigolds, and basil at the bottom of my tomato so the hearty Oklahoma bugs don’t gobble them up before we do. I am amazed that here I can plant a winter garden that we harvest in the spring!

Of course I still go back to Illinois and have garden envy. Their plants are always bigger and more green than mine are, but that isn’t my goal. My goal is for my little, city boy to know where our food comes from. On that level I’m already a success. He begs me to pick him organic sugar snap peas, so he can eat them while he swings. He loves for me to point out ripe tomatoes so he can pick them himself. He asks me what plants are weeds and which are vegetables.  At some point we hope Oklahoma City will sneak through a law allowing chickens again, but until then we will play with what we have!

 


Elizabeth is a transplant from Illinois to Oklahoma. She moved to Oklahoma for a year-long internship working with inner-city youth and during that year she met Joseph her now husband of 4 years. When their son was born she came to realize that motherhood was a continued exercise in “stopping to smell the roses”. Since then she has been learning to slow her mind and heart, and enjoy as many snuggles as possible. You will often find her in the back yard, almost always with a cup of hot tea and a book in hand. She and her son enjoy looking for bugs, picking vegetables, and blowing bubbles in the summer wind! 

IG: @sunshineinmynest

Being Thankful with Less


By: Lorraine Contreras


I once heard someone say, "The problem with rebirth is that you have to die first to get there." I couldn't get what he said out of my mind for the rest of the evening. 

Being Thankful with Less- Cohesivehome.com

Nobody wants to die. But everybody wants new. I laughed. But the more I thought about that concept the more intrigued I was.

I was at a point in my life about 5 years ago when I wanted change. It wasn't desperate, it was subtle. I would pin ideas onto Pinterest boards about lifestyles that I thought were beautiful. I would follow blogs of people that seemed they had found true joy and happiness and Instagram profiles that boasted of clean and clutter free homes. It wasn't long before I wanted that to be me. 

I looked around and realized I was so unlike those images that I liked on social media. I was so far from those minimal homes or seemingly happy people that I idealized. At what point do you just stop pinning and start doing? But how do I get there? How do I get the clean home, how do I get the joy and happiness, how do I get the minimal wardrobe? I had to die first. I'm not talking about my body physically. I'm talking about mentally, spiritually, my habits, my material treasures.

Rebirth, noun. The action of reappearing or starting to flourish or increase after a decline; revival, resurrection.

I wanted change and to me, change was new. I wanted it so badly, the more I looked into it, the more I made way for change. To me, "IT" was having less. I knew what I had to do. But it was so so hard. Getting rid of my belongings and changing spiritually was going to be hard and I knew it. I avoided it up until that point.

Being Thankful with Less

Whenever I am in my garden and I see a tiny sprout emerging from the ground, I am so tempted to rescue and help uncover it from the heavy soil on top of it. But it requires no rescue from me. It needs to build its own strength to push through the ground and unfurl it's beautiful new leaves. It needs to go through change to become something completely different. 

"For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, it's insides come out, and everything changes. To someone who doesn't understand growth, it would look like complete destruction." - Cynthia Occelli

I kept asking myself, is it possible to live with less and still find things that bring me joy? Could it be that with less, the simple things bring me joy like spending time with people I love, being outside, observing nature or in helping others. I am now discovering that the less stuff I own makes me a completely grateful and appreciative person for the few things that I do have left.

Possessions don't make me rich, they make me possessive.

Maybe I have too many things that consume my time, things that entertain my mind and keep me from entering a state of gratefulness, keep me from helping others because I have too much and I am constantly being told I need more. 

When I empty hands, I open heart. I had to lay to rest my old ways and most of my possessions to get there. 

Thoughts of a reformed consumer.


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Lorraine and her family are on a journey to live debt free, and live simply with less. They left their California lifestyle and moved across the country to the mountains of North Carolina.

You can find more about Lorraine's journey, her faith, homesteading and homeschooling on her family blog and follow along on her Instagram account.

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IG: @lorrainexoxo

Rekindling a Love for the Outdoors in a French Garden

by: Melissa Risenhoover


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I haven't always been a nature lover.

If you had asked me if I like nature before we left for our summer in France I would have said yes, but in reality I had slowly, over the last twenty years of my life, become somewhat of a snob when it came to the outdoors. If I was too hot or too cold I wanted inside. If I was wet, get me inside. Windy? Inside. Too far to walk? Inside...a car. 

You get the picture. 

FRENCH GARDEN

Needless to say, France is sort of a nice place to be outside. And our friends, no matter where we went, loved the outdoors. I began to walk EVERYWHERE and learned to love it. I will never forget the first long walk we went on and about half way through I started to get mad. Why were we STILL walking? My feet hurt and I was annoyed. 

That was the turning point. I came back from that walk more mad at myself than anything. Why on earth would I be upset about walking? Using my two legs that work perfectly well and enjoying the beautiful beach town in FRANCE! I KNOW RIGHT??? I was blind. I almost don't want to write this because its so embarrassing. But it's the truth. 

FRENCH GARDEN

During those summer months my attitude shifted. I had a rekindling of love for the outdoors and even took a very cold sea bath in the English Channel. (I'll have to share that story)

The following are my words I posted over a year ago. 

This summer our friends that lived by the sea in the Brittany region of France had a magical landscape that surrounded their home. We spent a lot of time in the garden that was tucked away behind layers of green shrubs and a lovely stone wall. As a child I loved being outside and enjoyed it probably more than being inside. As I got older my love for nature slowly dwindled and for the first few weeks of being in France this was very evident. Having friends who loved being outside and who also took regular "baths" in the very cold ocean near their home, was a blessing far beyond what I knew.


"My feet on the grass absorbing the wonderful energy of our earth and watching my kids fall in love with nature and the French landscape." 


I still cozied up quite a bit reading my books and taking much needed naps, but the call to go outside and be in nature was far stronger than I expected. Long walks, garden swings, ocean dips...we were outside a lot and for the first time in a long time I was enjoying it. My feet on the grass absorbing the wonderful energy of our earth and watching my kids fall in love with nature and the French landscape. 

FRENCH GARDEN

How Owning a Small Family House and Traveling Reflects Our Family’s Values


By: Kate Saffle


When we sold our Oklahoma City house last May, we were nearly 100% positive we would be traveling full-time in the next 6 months. We had spent the previous year planning for that new life: researching, shopping for trailers, talking to other full-time traveling families, and massively downsizing our belongings.

HOW OWNING A SMALL FAMILY HOUSE AND TRAVELING REFLECTS OUR FAMILY'S VALUES

Northern Indiana was to be a pitstop, a place to get our plan on the road (literally), to have the support of family, and also to have a place to come back to between travels. We were infatuated with the freedom of no roots and no mortgage and spent last summer exploring the area, practically living at the beach.  And so we unexpectedly fell in love with this part of the country that is nestled in the sand dunes of Lake Michigan and not far from Chicago.

So now 10 months later, why didn't we leave? And more importantly how could we possibly make the leap to buying a house again after swearing off of home ownership indefinitely when we sold our last house?

There are several reasons, some of which are personal and some of which I'm happy to share. We had two family members battling cancer, one of which was also about to be a new father. We couldn't find a long-term way to fund travel, and my remote university teaching job simply wouldn't cover our expenses.  And despite my continuous attempts to secure a better paying remote job, it wasn't in the cards.

But then we came to the startling realization that we actually love where we live now. We began making friends and forming community. We met other homeschooling families and formed a nature hiking group. We bought a smaller camper, a Casita, to make road travel possible.  And then we found our house.

Cohesive Home - Small Living

We weren't looking (seriously) and yet, one Friday night I was avoiding grading another round of essays about da Vinci (who becomes boring quite quickly after 80 or so papers on him) and began looking at local real estate instead. We knew we weren't ready or able to travel full-time, rentals in our area are priced through the roof, but we craved our own space again after living with family for nearly a year.
And then I found the house. You surely know the details if you follow me on Instagram. But in a nutshell? Small, borderline tiny 2 bedroom 1 bathroom house walking distance to everything. Adorably cute, ridiculously cheap, and the perfect simple living family home.  I laughed when I first saw the listing, but I should have seen the writing on the wall. Our values had changed over the past 10 months from when we started our journey to reflect a desire for travel AND roots, and the perfect house had found us. 


"Our values had changed over the past 10 months from when we started our journey to reflect a desire for travel AND roots, and the perfect house had found us." 


We close Thursday. This house is part of our adventure, part of our family's story of changing our lives to wholeheartedly reflect our values. We still plan to travel, often as possible, and hope to use this home as an AirBNB rental in the future when we can take longer trips.  We are longing for deeper community, for days spent over lingering walks in our neighborhood, chats with local farmers over leafy produce, and spontaneous trips to the ice cream parlor after a hot afternoon playing hard at the playground. While we deeply desire traveling to new places to experience other cultures, we also want to innately know the fabric of our own hood as well.

Cohesive Home - Home and Travel

And you know what? Travel, of any kind, feels more satisfying when you know you have a home to come back to. For the past few years I've convinced myself roots are bad, and that our happiness is explicitly and only tied to experiences over possessions. I still believe that, but I also know that creating a path that honors wanderlust and secure roots is the best way to meet the needs of everyone in my family. And so we're ready to finally be “home” again, 675 square feet and all.