A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Simplicity....

Almost as soon as M and I bought our house we had buyer's remorse. It isn't that we hate the house itself - it's a lovely place, classic and full of character. I love the built-in cabinets and weathered wood floors. The shiny glass door knobs and skeleton keys. I love how if you shut all the windows and pull the curtains it feels like there's air conditioning when you walk in from a hot summer day. I love that I have the kind of neighbors who pot extra herbs every summer and put them on our porch when we aren't looking. I love the terrific amount of space in the driveway to hang wet clothes and having a garage door with an automatic opener. And who doesn't appreciate the cozy heat our ancient boiler kicks out on cold January afternoons?

We have great access to public transportation. Frick Park right down the street. Walkable restaurants and groceries. Diversity that is not common in most Pittsburgh neighborhoods.

(We won't talk about the plumbing. The burglaries. The traffic. No place is paradise, after all.)

So, the buyer's remorse was not really about the house, or its location.

M has his own reasons, and maybe he'll comment on them here. For me it was about the space. There was too much of it, and we started to fill it up, consciously and unconsciously, with stuff and obligations and things to take care of and things that were supposed to make something easier, but were in fact harder. Like the vacuum.

So, we started to pare down. Summer break hit and with a sudden influx of time, I started to think about how we could simplify our cleaning and cooking, to prepare for the next school year. I decluttered using Flylady techniques and got brave enough to break out the tools and try my handiwork on a few nagging home improvement issues. Slowly, but surely, the house started to look better. Gradually, there was dinner on the table most days at 6 o'clock and the dishes were done and the sink wiped shiny by bedtime. I started to relax a little more at home. It felt less like the dorm-room we happened to crash in each night while we recovered from our busy lives, and more like a place to Be. A Home. I sold things on Craigslist and repurposed furniture and made some thoughtful additions, like houseplants, which help to clean indoor air.

With the decluttering of the house, I began a sort of decluttering of my soul. I started to examine the things that took up my time each day and considered what was beneficial to me and my family. A clearer picture of my hopes and vision emerged.

I got excited about what I was discovering on the internet. I clicked here and here and here and here. I read inspirational stories and poured over how-to's. I heard a whole lot of people saying things that I rang true to me. Consumerism will wear you down! Live more slowly! Be thoughtful about your contributions to the planet - whether it's your work or your garbage - and keep in mind that your neighbors are both down the street and in some hard-to-get-to slum in East Africa.

A funny thing happened.

I looked up one day and realized I was spending way too much time reading minimalist blogs, looking at systems to simplify and trying to streamline my life so that I could enjoy it. Trying to figure stuff out so I could get more done. More. Better. Faster.

This blog started off as a travelogue, because M and I were wanderers.

Our wanderlust was fueled by a life that had gotten away from us a bit in Phoenix. Money, cars, commuting, neckties, Teach for America. We desired simplicity. (You really can't get much simpler than backpacking. It's you and 30 pounds of stuff. And Nature, of course.)

That road, of course, led us on a 32 state camping trip and up and down the backbone of the Appalachian mountains. It brought us back to Pittsburgh and introduced new careers and along the way we acquired a daughter and a mortgage and volunteer work on various boards of directors. It started out as a pursuit of simplicity and it's led us back to the same place.

Now I could classify ourselves more as wonderers, as we watch Laurel explore and learn and grow, but it's all taking place right here in our house and our local park and the grocery store. And it's awesome.

I like telling these kind of stories, and I know you like reading them. But I've had the nagging feeling that I've allowed this blog to become too limiting. I've been censoring myself too much about what life is really like around here. It's not a true reflection of who we are or who we hope to become. I'm an honest writer, but I tell a very incomplete story.

I'm going to take a little blogging break. As my uncle described me during our recent family reunion, I can be a prolific writer, so I don't want you to think something awful happened when no new blog posts go up. I'm just at the park with Laurel, or maybe cleaning the basement. Life goes on, whether I document it or not.

This blog has been a marvelous outlet for my writer's spirit, and I think it captures a lot about me and our lives over the past five years. I especially like this post and this one about hiking in Vermont and maybe this one here, which sort of captures the lesson I keep learning over and over again...that I always feel like I'm searching for an answer about who I'm supposed to be, and it turns out I knew it all along.

So, I don't know what my plans are for this blog, only that I'm taking a bit of a break from it. Maybe we'll carry on in September, maybe something new and better will come out of it.

In any case, if you have any opinions on whether or not you'd like to see this blog continue, or questions about us, or other ideas you'd like to see me write about, feel free to leave them in the comments.

And until then, have a very nice summer.