Letting Go Journey- part 2

The other day I went through the house and photographed it in its usual state.  Opened drawers, cupboards, and ventured down to the eerie basement.  I began to mentally prepare for letting go.  

There are certain areas of the house that overwhelm me right from the start, like my book collection, the huge portfolios of children's artwork or the basement full of things I'd rather keep out of sight, out of mind.  I know that I can't start with big, difficult decisions.  I need this process of letting go to feel good and rewarding, and then I'll work my way up to the tough stuff.


There are plenty of other areas to jump right in!  My initial scan of the kitchen and shared living spaces identified many duplicate items and things we rarely use (cookbooks, kitchen tools, games).  I will start there.  

I plan to use a 4-bin system for Donations, Recycling, Stuff to Keep and Trash.

I started compiling a list of possible recipients and places to donate the perfectly wonderful things that do not serve me and my family anymore.  I think that letting go will be easier for me when I know that my things can be of use to someone else, and that they will not be taking up precious space in a landfill.  This concept eases some of the guilt I feel about having acquired so much in the first place, or the equally paralyzing realization that hard-earned money was exchanged for each of these items.  
But, it is in this uncomfortable place that change can begin to happen. Throughout this process of letting go I believe I will be facing some difficult truths about privilege and desire and excess.  I don't want to ignore these truths any longer. Letting go of denial, letting go of that need for more, letting go of old habits is an opportunity to better align my family's lifestyle with our core values.  I am ready to jump in...


If YOU are ready to jump in too, share your plans in the comments below!  Post your own before-and-after pics on Instagram (#lettinggojourney).  We can do this!!

Letting Go Journey- part 1

I was looking through a few old photographs on my computer the other day, when I came across a picture of a bookcase in my dining room taken about two years ago.  We had just moved into this house and I had been documenting our new digs to show family and friends. Prior to moving, we had gotten rid of a lot of stuff- books, toys, clothes, kitchen tools, appliances. Setting up the new house was a joy.  I loved starting with a clean slate and finding the right spot for our essentials.  This bookcase became the kids' "Art Area," where I stored paints, brushes, baskets of crayons, drawing paper, play dough and a few toys.




Fast forward nearly two years, and this is what the space looks like today:




In a short amount of time, we have expanded!  We are now a family of five, taking up every inch of space in our 1300 sq. ft. home.  Each day of our lives here, we spend a great deal of time cleaning up and organizing and putting things back.  We talk (and argue) about sharing space and caring for our home and respecting everyone under the roof.  This summer I really began to notice just how much of our precious time and attention is devoted to all manner of cleaning and organizing.  I saw just how long it takes to get out the door (for a fun activity) when we need to put the toys or laundry away first.  

For quite some time, I've prided myself in my ability to find spaces for all of our stuff, I've loved my creative storage solutions and my systems for keeping it at bay.  But seeing these photos side by side, I realized something...all the organizing in the world does not address the real problem:  We simply own too much stuff.

And there is only one solution to this problem: LETTING GO.

For the next month (or more) I am committed to letting go of the majority of our possessions.  I'm going to document the process here and on Instagram (#lettinggojourney).  I would be honored to have you follow along, cheer me on, and start letting go of the excess in your own life!  
There are really no rules.  I intend to be gentle with myself and my children (my husband is already much more of a minimalist and thrilled this day has finally come!).  I'm going to start out in the easiest places and tackle toys and sentimental items later in the process.  I'll be gathering lots of inspiration from the best minimalist bloggers out there, especially Joshua Becker, Leo Babauta, Courtney Carver and the minmalists.

My goals are:  reduce clutter, examine attachments, simplify my living spaces, expose consumerism, spend less + save more, waste less time cleaning (or talking and arguing about cleaning), enjoy more time in the moment, loving my family and this life we share.

I'll be back tomorrow with some thoughts on jumping right in.  Until then, you may enjoy this post from Joshua Becker, "Minimalism: 7 Reasons that Keep People From Getting Started."



I need autonomy!

We've been talking a lot in our house about human needs lately.  With a daughter who recently started kindergarten, it's been interesting to see how she transitioned to being away from home, immersed in a new environment with new people, new rules, new routines and new information coming at her all day long. 

Like most kids, there have been some bumps along the way, but she settled into her new rhythm with much enthusiasm.  Where we continued to be challenged was at the end of the long day, back at home together.  Bickering with neighbors, sibling arguments, and general crankiness were becoming a daily occurrence. 

As parents, we have a couple of choices when we're living with Crabby Appleton.  We can go on insisting on "good girl" behavior, continue intervening in these daily disagreements trying to find peaceful solutions OR we can step back and look at the big picture.  What is the underlying unmet need driving this behavior? 


In the 1940's Psychologist Abraham Maslow published his theory on the Hierarchy of Needs to describe what motivates humans as they grow and mature.  When the needs are not met, humans display an array of behaviors to compensate. We can look at any problem through this lens and we can always be curious about how to help our loved ones meet their needs.   

In our own house recently, my husband and I had to first stop resisting the fighting that was happening; then we were able to meet it with compassion and get down to the unmet needs.  For our Kindergartener there's definitely some need for food and rest at the end of the school day, but we also observed that our daughter wanted autonomy.  She wants to be able to decide for herself what to do, how the game will go, and what will come next.  Self-directed play in the truest sense of the term! 

The truth is that there isn't much time for this kind of play in the public schools today.  From morning bell until dismissal, children's choices are directed or limited by others.  Providing freedom after school can be so nourishing for children.  In my family, we created space and freedom when we decided to forgo most after school activities, only play with the neighborhood kids once in a while, and keep toys and art supplies easily accessible for unstructured play. 

We've been happy to see the return of smiles, laughter and light-heartedness after school.  It's an excellent reminder that we DO know our children, and that if their behavior is changing dramatically, we never have to accept that it's the way things have to be.  Our children- like each of us- are just trying to have their needs met.

Read more about Emerging Autonomy and family dynamics.

Grounded::Real Food



"Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants."
            ~ Michael Pollan



I am feeling an incredible transformation happening whenever I step outside and feel the warm sunshine on my face!  Are you feeling it, too?

I want to be out in that fresh spring air as much as possible and I want to be able to bring more green, nourishing goodness back inside with me, too.  On the warmest afternoons I get to throw open a window, hang some laundry outside so that it smells oh so good.  And I get to choose to bring more fresh, real food into my kitchen whenever I need it...

After a winter of hearty meals and plenty of muffins and cookies straight from the oven, I am ready to lighten up.  My body is telling me to grab more veggies (and fruits) and a lot less of everything else.  So, I'm planning to have some fun in the kitchen in April, playing around with more vegan and raw dishes, and I think I'll blog a bit about that here.

I also want to revisit a few of my favorite simplicity parenting tips for getting organized around mealtime and making that time together as a family really special.  (In full disclosure, I have one very picky eater and often feel my blood pressure rising at the dinner table...so I'm really looking forward to a month of relaxing, simplifying and having fun in the kitchen!)

I hope you'll check back often and share your mealtime challenges and triumphs in the comments.  We'll keep it light, fresh and fun all month long. 

xo,
Allison

Welcome, spring!



Moving through this year, I am making a more conscious effort to connect with earth and nature on a daily basis.  Even a short walk around the yard or to the mailbox on a cold day has given me enough time to breathe deeply and notice the world around me.  This is a grounding practice.  It gets me out of my head for a bit and back in tune with something larger than myself.  It replenishes my patience and my sense of gratitude.  And, as I notice little changes on the landscape each day, I am coming to know this place that I now call home.
So, perhaps this transition from winter to spring has been my favorite so far.  I love all the signs of life emerging from beneath winter’s snowy cloak.  Everything is so very ripe with possibility at this time of year!

For that reason, it’s a great time to check in with ourselves about the direction we’re headed for the year ahead.  The holiday rush and new year’s frenzy is well behind us, and a quiet time to reflect on our wishes and desires for the year now presents itself. 
·         How are you doing? 

·         Does family life feel vibrant and fun? 

·         Were you able to enjoy moments of relaxation and self-care during the quiet of winter, or are you left longing for more? 

·         Is there a creative project or other adventure you’d like to pursue this season (either solo or as a family)? 

·         What will you need to make sure it happens?
On this first day of spring, we express gratitude for the many blessings in our lives, while acknowledging what is needed to bring more balance into our days.  What seeds can we plant today to replenish pure happiness, health and well-being?

Today, I wish all of these things for you. 

xo, Allison





To the dad in the coffee shop

I had been working peacefully for a couple of hours when you and your young daughter came through the door.  She was so bubbly and happy, she immediately reminded me of my own little girl.  And, she was wearing the same pair of pink cowgirl boots with silver sparkly hearts that my littlest bops around in.  Her energy just filled the quiet coffee shop that afternoon and it really was a welcome distraction.  I was so pleased to see that she was getting to have a special afternoon with her dad.

Why do moments like this have to fall apart, sometimes?  Despite our best intentions, we hit a snag and everything begins to unravel and unravel and unravel…

Your needs.  Your priorities.  Her needs.  Her priorities.  Harsh words.  Hurt feelings.  Tears.  Unraveled.

As you left the coffee shop, a wave of sadness washed over me.  At first it felt like my heart was breaking for that little girl- how could you not see that she simply wanted you to herself, without the phone and the distractions?  But, judgment doesn’t settle easily under my skin.  The truth is that I’ve been there.  Standing knee deep in nasty, looking for a way out, plans for a lovely day unraveled around my feet.

But, I also know how good it feels to stop in the middle of the chaos and see everything with clarity.  To recognize that something needs to give and to understand that it’s going to start with you.  I know how good it feels to be the overwhelming force of positive change that turns the whole thing around.  I know how good it feels to pick up the pieces and salvage the day.

I hope that is what you were able to experience with your little girl yesterday afternoon.

I’ll never know what happened after you left.  But I do believe that wherever you are right now, you are going to pick up the pieces and try again.  Because that is what we do.  As imperfect as we are, we love with all our hearts.

______________________________________________________



In my humble opinion, Simplicity Parenting Groups are an amazing way to gain clarity, see with fresh perspective and brush up on “picking up the pieces” in all areas of your life.  In a small group of 10-12 perfectly imperfect parents, you discuss what’s been unraveling lately and design some small changes that will bring you back to where you’d like to be. 

We weave our stories together, find those silver-lined threads of hope and stitch together a community of support for ourselves.  Over the course of 7 weeks, we explore family values, practice compassion and positive discipline, craft predictable rhythms, tame hectic schedules and ease the pressures of our adult world. 

I am offering a 7-week Simplicity Parenting Course at Meadowbrook Waldorf School in Richmond, RI, beginning on March 20.  Hop over here for all of the details.  Early Bird Special ends tomorrow!!



This is (my) kindergarten readiness

Last night, I attended a discussion about alternative education, and heard some amazing stories about child-directed learning models.  I shared an overview of Waldorf education, something I've had a personal interest in for a couple of years.  I felt such a connection to the mothers in attendance- who are all following different educational paths, and at the core all want the best, most inspiring, most holistic educational experience for their children.  For me, the night's discussion shed new light on a recent experience of one-on-one time with my daughter...
_________________________________

My husband and I embarked on a little experiment-adventure last weekend. We each invited one child to come along with us to spend a night away and visit family and friends. We spend most weekends together as a family. Or, the kids spend a few hours with Mike, while I enjoy some time by myself. But very rarely are our girls apart for any length of time.

I must admit that I had mixed feelings when it actually came time to drive away with only one daughter. But our youngest happily bounded into my husband’s office, ready for her own weekend adventure. It only got better from there…

During our car ride, I immediately noticed how different the conversation was. Just the two of us. I got to hear all of Emma’s thoughts on what we should do this weekend and where we should stop for dinner. I also got to hear about the best- and hardest- parts of being 5. I could really see how deep Emma’s love for her family goes, and how her family is never far from her thoughts. Each time we chatted, I saw Emma and heard Emma, as an individual.


In September, Emma will start Kindergarten. I have already spent countless hours weighing all of the educational options and even imagining what our days would be like if we were to homeschool. So much of my motivation has come from fear. At the heart, my fear is that Emma will be absorbed into a system that doesn’t honor the individual. My fear is that no one will be able to see her and hear her as I do.

Truth. No one will ever be able to see her and hear her as I do.

A few months ago, I let go of the fear around this next phase of our life. Instead, I have embraced complete trust in my family. It is here that we honor (no, celebrate!) each individual. It is here that plenty of room exists to make mistakes and experience deep and unconditional love. It will always be here that we learn together and explore the world around us. It will always be here that every person is seen and heard.

Truth. Systems that do not honor individuals are not sustainable.

I let go of fear and embrace this opportunity to be in community, forming connections around the growth of our children. What gifts can we share? What dialogue can we have? How do we show up for all of the children in our community?

I do not know what this path will look like. I have distant memories of my own road, and I have heard others’ stories. Some of them fill me with fear and others with joy. But this will be Emma’s own journey. At the end of the day, I trust in my family. I know we will walk alongside her, we will listen to her and we will continue to follow our hearts and our intuition as we venture further into the world together. This is what (my) kindergarten readiness looks like. This is my commitment.


As you navigate your own educational path with your children, there may be times that you feel pressure or feel lost and conflicted (even in the preschool years!)  Whenever you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, stressed, worried or disenchanted by our culture’s focus on quantitative measurements of young children’s skills, readiness and knowledge, then please read this article by Alicia of A Magical Childhood, What should a four year old know?  It's one of my favorites.