It was the loss of my mom that woke me up.
We were poor managers of our money. In 2007, my husband and I had a very busy and stressful life. We lived in a large house we couldn’t afford in a cookie-cutter midwestern suburban neighborhood. We were so upside down on our payments that we would have had to come to the table with money–that we didn’t have–to sell our house. Since we couldn’t afford to sell and couldn’t afford our house payment, we thought we would lose our house. We spent way more than we made each month and used credit cards to make up the difference. I was a mom of three boys, ages 9, 8, and 6 and had a part-time decorative painting business, all while I was working toward a master’s degree in education. I was afraid I would have to quit school and get a real full-time job to keep the house which we never really wanted in the first place. Our lives were defined by fear of losing everything we had, which meant we were owned by our stuff.
I was failing at editing our time. We were very busy with kids’ activities every night of the week. Every time one of my boys expressed even a little interest in a sport or activity, I would sign them up for a team or a class. We were rarely at home. Our time was not our own.
Our life didn’t reflect our core values as a family. I am an artist at heart, an introvert, and I love quiet, calm spaces and a life that has room to breathe. My children are active, brilliant, creative types. My husband is also brilliant, a little less of an introvert than I am, a great provider, and loves being with his family more than anything else. As a family, we love creating, being outdoors, and laughing together. We read a LOT. We create music, web sites, movies, beauty, and memories. We are also vagabond wanderers at heart who love to travel and explore new cultures and meet new people. Yet we lived in a suburb with a small yard that we couldn’t all fit in, and a house that was too big. The stress was wearing on the kids, who just wanted to hang out and be kids. It wore at our marriage as we didn’t always agree on how to manage our financial issues. It wore away at my health causing insomnia and migraines.
My mom was dying. My sweet mom had an extremely aggressive and rare form of cancer that she was fighting. She had been my best friend and was an anchor for our extended family. .
In March, 2007, everything came crashing to a halt. My mother had been in and out of the hospital over the winter for some health issues during a time when her cancer was under control. During a surgery for a non-cancer issue, the surgeon had discovered that her entire abdomen was riddled with cancerous tumors. We were told that she had a few months left to live. The same week, I received a letter from the university where I was completing prerequisites for the M.Ed. program. My application had been rejected.
I woke up. I was crushed by not getting into the master’s program, but took that as a sign that it was time to step back and take care of what truly mattered. My husband’s mother moved in with us so that she could run my household for me and I could focus on caring for my mother. I spent several days each week at my mom’s home, caring for her, speaking our last words to each other, and making last arrangements. In June, she went to heaven. My mother-in-law lived with us until after the funeral, cooking, cleaning and getting the kids to and from school each day. She was indispensable during this time.
With the kids out of school for the summer, their activities over, and my mom gone, it was time to think about what came next. I didn’t feel like trying to apply to another school and the painting business had been drying up for nearly a year anyway.
Over the next year, we made some big changes. I inherited some money from my mother that allowed us to sell our house and pay off all our debt. We moved out of the city to a smaller city about an hour away. Our new home is, as I like to describe it, on the seam where the midwestern plains meet the Appalachian foothills. We are near the Hocking Hills region of Ohio, a beautiful scenic area known for its hiking trails and outdoor activities.
Our current home is much smaller and we cut our mortgage in half. In retrospect, I wish we would have waited to buy, or even rented instead, but for now our house meets our needs nicely. Our home will be paid for within two years and we will be completely debt-free.
I homeschooled the boys from 2008 until 2011. This allowed us to spend more time together as a family and take back our lives. Today, the boys are back in public school, but we are very careful to edit their activities. We travel several times a year and regularly hike together, go on missions trips, and explore the beautiful area we call home.
It doesn’t end here. Shortly after my mother’s death, my sister and I inherited my mother’s stuff. She had kept not only her own stuff, but stuff that belonged to my grandparents and great-grandparents. Our little house was now stuffed full.
I vowed never to do that to my children. I never wanted my own boys to be slaves to my stuff or to have to spend a solid week going through it all after my death. I never wanted my boys to be married to a house, as we had been, or to be slaves to debt.
We are currently in the process of being selective about our lives. I am a minimalist at heart, so much of this blog will expound on minimalist philosophy. Yet, minimalism has been written about at length already, so this will not be a minimalist blog. Besides, minimalism is a simple concept and doesn’t need many more ideas added. This blog will be about how we select what we allow into our lives. It will reflect my heart, which focuses on family, creativity, and living life on our own terms.