Month: December 2015

Clearing Space

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Now that we have decided to sell our home, we are working hard to clean the place up.  We have so many things!  Being a homeschooling family with a permaculture (make no waste) outlook means that we have a hard time letting ‘useful things’ go sometimes.  Like the pile of bricks lovingly brought home in our Honda Civic that have sat stacked against the fence ever since.  Or how about the pile of tree intended to become hugelkultur beds?  The piles of baskets?  Where did they come from?  The…list goes on and on.

The items we’re purging are from the life we are slowly leaving behind.  As I pick up each item and consider whether or not it brings me joy, I am realizing just how much we are moving away from our days and home being filled with consumer culture.  I have been trying hard to pare down our possessions for a very long time.  But the idea of leaving this home has given me the gumption to look at these decisions in a new way.  I’m tired of living my life from a place of fear and scarcity.  Saving things for one day when we ‘might’ need them doesn’t make sense for the majority of the things we have been stockpiling.  Could we get by without the excessive stock of egg cartons, should there one day be a shortage in the world?  Did people not do without them once upon a time?  Although we don’t want to make waste, having all of this stuff is actually wasting the most precious of all things to us…our time.   I will not be wanting for vinyl tablecloths in the future, nor will I care about that book I never read.   If life comes to a place where we exist in a place of scarcity…and by this I mean real hard times, I have a hard time believing that the luxuries of a consumer driven culture will be of much benefit for survival.

A major time vacuum in our home is laundry.  We have been trying to think of ways to reduce this task to it’s minimum.  I read a great blog post about converting one room in the home into a shared closet/laundry room, which sounds wonderful!  But given our current trajectory, and wanting the problem fixed now, I opted for something different.  I have reduced the children’s wardrobes significantly instead.  Their drawers now hold  10 pairs of pants, 10 seasonal shirts (long sleeved right now for winter, but we kept 10 short sleeved shirts and 10 shorts for summer), 10 pairs of socks, 10 underpants, and 3 sweaters – since these are easily reused and also very bulky.  I have struggled with how many articles of clothing a child really needs, and how few things we can ‘get away with.’  I decided to settle on 10 as a trial run.  Although admitting to 10 items per category seems high, it reduced what was in their drawers by about half!  This alone was a big step…recognizing just how much excess there was!  Why did I choose 10 items per category?  I thought it would allow laundry to be done once a week, with a few extra items for good measure…because mess happens a lot around here and sometimes a wardrobe change midday is required!  The first week I thought about reducing down to less, but I’m going to give it a while first before pushing ourselves too hard.  Our laundry tasks have been drastically simplified, but that hasn’t made up for the fact that I still need to get it washed, folded and put away!  Amongst the other (never ending) tasks of the home, laundry still gets left by the wayside sometimes…as we deem it to be less important than other things in our life.

Numerous bags and boxes of stuff have already been moved out.  How did we have this much stuff?  And how is there still so much left!?  There is no shortage of things left to purge!  We’re trying to reduce the contents of our home by at least half.  Which is no small feat given how much our cupboards contain!  I have to keep reminding myself that this upheaval is just a storm, and when it passes the water will look even more beautiful.  I have to remind myself of this often, because the mess that is created as our carefully packed possessions explode into the living spaces.  What I have learned is that clearing out, while decorating for the holidays, while also experiencing real life with three littles can be very hectic at times!  The laundry isn’t getting folded for a reason!

I love my home to look tidy, and I also have some ace packing skills…which together have created a problem.  Cupboards are stocked neatly but excessively.  Being good at packing means I can always find space in the dishwasher for one more bowl…but it also means I can make room for that ‘thing’ in the cupboard too.  Finding that I have stockpiled 10 shower gels at the back of the bathroom closet was a bit of a surprise.  I knew I had extras, but could only see one since the rest had been carefully hidden lined up behind it.  In cleaning out the bathroom, I also found upwards of 15 toothbrushes!  These ‘useful things’ end up not being all that important for a family who uses one bottle of body wash a year and use an electric toothbrush!  We’ve decided to donate our excess to a local charity that helps homeless women get back on their feet.

I don’t want to spend my time tidying and cleaning.  It’s not that I dislike these tasks.  I actually find immense reward in completing a cleaning project!  But these tasks do not define my life.  The more things I have, the more they distract from the things I actually want to spend my time doing.  Each stolen moment I spend trying to cram too many bibs into the tiny drawer in our kitchen.  Each second I spend staring into the overcrowded closet looking for the thing I need.  Each minute spent re-configuring and reorganizing spaces to fit all the stuff.  This is all wasted time.  If I were to add up those moments, seconds and minutes, and I’m sure I’ve spent at least a year of my life shuffling stuff around.  It’s time for it to stop…because the less stuff we have the better our life gets.

 

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Pushed out of the Nest

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Before…

There are times in life where it becomes clear that you need to move on.  I have been imagining lately how difficult and frightening it must be for baby birds to be pushed out of the nest by their mothers.  But if it weren’t for the mother’s gentle nudge, would the baby bird ever have fledged?

So it is with us.  I have been elusively writing about ‘dark times’ and feeling stretched.  It is now time to come clean about what’s been going on around here.  I finally feel ready to share this difficult journey, as I know we’re not the only ones.  It has been an emotional roller coaster for us, but one that needs to be talked about and examined for what it is…

In August, a letter arrived from our municipality announcing we needed to ‘clear our land of weeds longer than 6 inches by Friday.’  We had a week to mow down our forest gardens.  Our lawnmower grunted in anguish as it attempted to mulch the scythed remnants of our former orchard meadow.  The trees still remain, but many of the shrubs are out.  Apart from the plants Rob saved in pots, all of the herbaceous and ground cover layers are also gone.  Years of work to regenerate and re-wild the plot…mowed down in a few days.  Once a bylaw infraction has been made on your property, you are required to come into compliance for the full property, regardless of the nature of the complaint.

It is a week I will remember forever.  My heart was broken.  Our gardens were gone.  I had been betrayed.  Better still, I didn’t know who reported us (and still don’t) other than it was a neighbour.  During the process of removing the vegetation, I overheard comments from two separate neighbours, celebrating the destruction.  It felt like the world was against us.  I have never felt so powerless.  I have never been so angry.  I wanted to post nasty signs on my lawn.  I wanted to return the wagon my children inherited from the couple next door.  I also wanted to shrivel up and die.  I wanted to be invisible as I mowed.  Unseen as I cried while murdering our plants.  Unnoticed as I hurled unripe squash across my yard after they were snapped too early from their vines in an effort to clear the neighbouring plants that qualified as infractions to the bylaw.  My mind was concerned with who was watching us and when.  I felt scrutinized.  I worried and still think about what other aspects of our lives are the concern of others.  For the most part, I have been able to move through the darkness, finding my way to the other side.  We are blessed to have a very strong community of like minded permaculture types to call our friends.  It has been so helpful to be held and so deeply understood through this process.  We also had the unwavering support of my mother-in-law, who watched the children, offered tender words and hugs, and was out in the garden with a sickle, while I cried.

The reality is that we live in a neighbourhood.  Over the 7 years we’ve lived here we’ve engaged in numerous conversations about what it is that we’re doing, and why.  Usually we were answering a question inquiring about our property, but sometimes conversations were started in defence of our yard’s appearance. But you can only go so far with a conversation that is one sided without sounding like you’re trying to convert people, or like you’re nuts!  We have neighbours and a municipality which values mowed lawns and manicured gardens.  We have since learned that the bylaw in our area even applies to rural agricultural properties!  So if you are reported, you must come into compliance, pay a fine or hire a lawyer.  We could have fought it.  We could have spent our income on a lawyer to make our case for forest gardening and provide bountiful uses for the plants we were growing which reside on the ‘noxious weeds’ list.  But it was immediately clear to me that I was not prepared to take on a fight for a property we no longer wanted.  Feeling unwanted in your own home is not something I am willing to fight for.  We don’t belong here.  We have chosen instead to find joy!

We have been pondering for a while how to make the jump to a farm.  There were many pull factors, things that made us want something different, but nothing that was pushing us from our current home.  Well, now we have had our own nudge out of the nest.  We’re not fully clear about what we’re jumping to just yet, but we’ve got some interesting ideas and are more motivated than ever!  It is now time for us to spread our wings and fly!