Blended families, minimalism and compromise…

I’m a busy mum with two kids of my own – a son (12) and daughter (10).

And kind of like The Brady Bunch, I’ve inherited another two kids with my partner, who has primary custody of his son (16) and daughter (11).

Four kids. Yikes! I often wonder how on earth this happened to me. But it did!

Mixing families is never easy. Over the last few years, as we’ve introduced our kids to one another, we’ve all had our share of ups and downs, and we’re doing pretty well, I think.

But with mixing families, we also have to make some concessions. One of the concessions my partner and I decided we wouldn’t make was on giving the kids space of their own.

Our options, when we first moved in together, were as follows:

a) Put the boys in together (16 and 12) and the girls in together (11 and 10, but from different families in each case, and my daughter has special needs and doesn’t sleep well)

b) Put his kids in together (a 16 year old boy with an 11 year old girl) and my kids in together (a 12 year old boy and a 10 year old girl with special needs)

c) Give the oldest (his 16 year old boy) a room of his own and make the others share in some way

d) Give the youngest (a girl with special needs a room of her own) and make the others share in some way.

None of the sharing options worked well. So we settled on a different option altogether, and decided that all of the kids needed their own room. Their own space.

It was hard finding a home that was big enough on our particular budget, and in the end, the home we’ve found is beautiful and in an ideal position, but it does need some work. We’re going to have to roll up our sleeves and get busy! That was the compromise we were willing to make.

The compromise we made also meant that my dream of owning a smaller home went out the window. I’m now the minimalist with a five bedroom home!

I’m the minimalist with the five bedroom home!

What I’ve learned from this is that people are more important than ideals. The house is bigger than I wanted, and I feel like an old fraud, preaching minimalism while living in a big house. But it is what we need, for our particular circumstances, with four kids from two families and one of those kids with special needs.

The truth is, minimalism means own what you need, and nothing more. If you need a big home, then buy the big home and don’t feel guilty. I need a big home, every square foot of it will be used.

My version of minimalism might be different from yours, and yours might be different from the next person’s. Have what you need, and be content. We’re looking forward to moving into our new home, and everyone having space of their own.

Sometimes space is a good thing. Especially when you’re blending families 🙂

Two weeks to go!

It’s two weeks until we move into our new home!

We’re starting to clear out at the temporary rental we’ve been in, and today my partner and I visited the house, together with our real estate agent and a guy from the heating company, looking at the different options for heating the home. It’s an old house and there is no heating, except for three old fireplaces.

The main living room. You can see one of the fireplaces in the far wall.

It felt odd visiting what will be our new home, and good to have a look around. It’s a beautiful old home, but it needs a lot of work. It’ll keep us busy for quite a while, I suspect!

The house and garden from the rear. It’s in a lovely sunny spot, central to everything. The house needs work, and one of the first tasks will be a full external repaint in summer (around Christmas for New Zealand)!

We were there for well over an hour – I could tell the poor real estate agent was getting restless – but in the end we made some decisions, and we should have heating organised by the time we move in.

Currently the library, this room will probably be our master bedroom. I’m looking forward to painting and decorating it, and will be sharing the “before and after” pics here at the blog!

We’re all really looking forward to moving in now, especially my two kids, who are sharing a room, and my partner’s son, who is living downstairs in the storage room under the house in the rental. Not exactly ideal! We’ll be redecorating the kids rooms one by one, and I’m looking forward to sharing what we do as we get it all done.

As for the garden, I’m keen to create a meditation garden in the front, and to have my chooks again out the back, and my partner wants to build a fire pit. I’m not sure how I feel about the fire pit, but sometimes living with someone you love means compromise.

Not long now!

5 great decluttering tips for moving house

We’re moving into our new house in May. And moving is such a great time to declutter!

Here are 5 great, simple tips for decluttering while moving house.

1. Give each of your kids a cardboard box for their stuff.

As long as you’re not moving long distances, you can usually move small personal items yourself, and save a lot of money doing so. So get your kids to put all their personal items they intend to keep in a big box, and everything else out by the front door for charity or sale.

I let my kids keep any money from sold personal items. It really encourages them to clear their items they no longer use! Kids love making money!

I’ve found that inspiring the kids with what their new rooms will look like, and even letting them choose the decor, is really getting them keep to clear out and move. My partner’s daughter is almost as keen on Pinterest now as I am! 🙂

2. Keep a charity box and a “sell” box by the front door.

Sort into one of two boxes as you go. So easy! We like to donate to our local Hospice shop 🙂

Now, create two challenges between the kids of a) who can donate the most items from their room and b) who can throw away the most items from their room. My kids are mercenaries and food or cash prizes are a sure-fire winner! Creating a little friendly competition between the kids can work wonders with motivation.

3. Garage sales and flea markets are great places to declutter.

Some people have enough items to run their own garage sale. I find I can’t be bothered and don’t have enough stuff for a garage sale anyway, so selling through a local flea market works better for me. Check your local council website for markets that might suit you.

One rule: Anything you take to the flea market that doesn’t sell goes to charity at the end of the day. Don’t bring it home with you!

And don’t buy anything!

Photo of New York flea market by IsaFire.

4. Clothing can be checked over while clearing out.

We’re getting our kids to check all their clothing for size and wear while we’re clearing out. It makes sense. Don’t bring items that don’t fit or are in poor shape with you when you move!

If you haven’t tried it yet, you might want to consider giving The Project 333 a go, and try living with a minimalist wardrobe in your new home. Check it out: The Project 333.

I’ve been living with a minimalist wardrobe for three years now, and could never go back to a wardrobe bursting at the seams!

5. Play the “Packing Party” when you move!

Only take out what you need, as you need it, when you arrive. You might be surprised how little of your personal items you actually use! So why not have a “packing party” now you actually have to pack? Here’s a link: The packing party.

We bought a new house!

I haven’t posted for a while, as things have been so busy. I guess that’s what happens when you BUY A NEW HOUSE!!!

Yay!!!

It’s been a hard slog to find what we needed. My partner and I, bringing two families together – and four kids of different ages – felt that it was very important that our kids didn’t have to share rooms. So we needed a FIVE bedroom house, on a fairly tight budget.

Five months of searching later, in a market which is going crazy with prices rising so fast we were wondering if we’d be priced out before we could find something suitable, we managed to find and secure a home. Everything was finalised on Friday, after weeks of worry, and settlement is in about a month from now.

So we’ll be extra busy over the coming weeks. We have to organise new heating for the home, and get that sorted, and we also need to do a lot of painting over the coming few months, as the house needs a lot of updating. It’s a fair amount of work. Luckily I’ve done most of that sort of thing before, and am not new to pretty much any of it.

We’re really pleased, and can’t wait to move in. At present we’re all stuck in a tiny little rental, much too small for six people, so it’ll be nice to have room to move at last.

New pathways, and a new home ahead…life will be busy!

Minimalism: the space between the lines

You’ve cleared the clutter, dumped the junk, ditched the rubbish in your home.

Now what?

Minimalism isn’t just about stuff. When we take our first steps on the minimalist path, it seems all about consumerism, saying no to all the stuff we thought we needed but really don’t, and finding the space between the lines.

Minimalism

Minimalism: The space between the lines.

It’s a good place to start, but once the junk is gone, and the habit of unnecessarily buying replacements is dead, it becomes glaringly clear that often our actual lives need simplifying too.

Sometimes we’re doing too many activities. We’re spreading our talents too thin, trying to be experts in a number of fields, struggling to be interested in everything.

Other times we find we’re stretched too thin by others.

Our partners need us, our kids need us, our ageing parents need us, and we’re meant to fit it all in on top of a full time job and a part time job on the weekend. Oh, and there’s that volunteering we do as well!

Minimalism asks us to breathe. To ask ourselves: what serves us best? What makes us happiest? What gives us the most value in return for our most precious asset, Time?

Once you start to see that space between the lines, what is important becomes obvious.

What is essential is invisible to the eye. Only with the heart can we see clearly. Clearing the clutter away opens our eyes, minds and hearts to the truth of who we truly are.

If we don’t have such a big house we won’t need that second job.
If we don’t take those extra classes in a hobby we really don’t enjoy all that much, we’ll have more time to spend with our partner and kids.
And our ageing parents? They won’t be around much longer. Perhaps we should consider spending quality time with them, over volunteering our time with strangers.

Everyone has choices.
So choose wisely. Choose well.
And be happy.

happy beach

Children will listen: How to raise a terrific kid

We all want our kids to grow up to be good people.

When I think of the sort of people I want my kids (son 11 and daughter 9) to be, I think of words like these:

Good… happy… kind… honest… trustworthy… fair… generous… hard-working… dedicated… genuine… thoughtful… responsible…

Everyone has their own vision of what they want their child to be as an adult. To get their child there isn’t hard: we just need to be consistent, solid people ourselves who model the behaviour we want our children to possess.

They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and it’s true. Parents who are responsible tend to raise responsible kids, and parents who steal raise up thieves.

We can say all the clever words in the world, but in the end our kids will practice what we practice. Our children will develop according to the behaviour we ourselves exhibit, not what we spout with empty words.

“Children may not obey, but children will listen, and see, and learn…”

Children may not obey, but children will watch and listen, paying attention to all you do. The following song is from the wonderful Stephen Sondheim musical, “Into The Woods”. Please listen.

When your child misbehaves, deal with it at immediately with appropriate consequences. Talk about how their behaviour affects others.

When a child has a tantrum, don’t let them get what they want because it’s easier than dealing with the ranting and yelling. And yes, teenagers have tantrums too! 😦

Be honest with your children, and create family rules that are fair for everyone.

Expect everyone to get decent sleep, to eat 3 meals a day of healthy food, to do work before play, to share the burden of household chores, to participate in family life instead of spending all time on devices or in front of screens.

Make sure the same rules apply to yourself too.

And apply society’s rules in your own home. This teaches kids that the rules apply to everyone, and that the law matters. Follow DVD and game age guidelines and recommendations, and don’t let your child watch or play dangerous, violent or adult-related content, no matter how “mature” you think they are.

Teach discipline with keeping rooms and common areas tidy, reducing clutter, cleaning regularly. Children need a clean, safe home, and want to be proud to invite friends over when a home feels like a home, not a dump. They feel shame when their home is a mess. Your child should never have to refuse friends a visit because the house is untidy.

Teach kids the value of money. Explain when items cost too much, and question the sense of receiving everything they want. Talk about respect for belongings, the value of work, and the importance of the environment.

Discuss the abuse of natural resources that is taking place due to consumerism. Teach your child to think through what all the stuff in our lives means for wild animals, river systems, wetlands and oceans.

So teach your child consequences. The law of cause and effect.
Talk about how it feels to be stolen from, and why stealing is wrong.
Talk about how it feels to be bullied, and why bullying is wrong.
Talk about safe homes and unsafe people, and how it feels to be safe, to keep others safe, and respect consent.
Talk about sex, and why sex is always, always between people who want to be there and choose to do whatever is happening.

None of this stuff is hard. Not one bit of it. But it’s all the work of parenthood that goes into raising a terrific kid, bit by bit, one drop at a time. Show them who you are, and by doing so you’ll show them who to be.

beachkids

Simple fix: Treat day!

Every Friday is Treat Day for my kids.

I buy them a bar of their favourite chocolate each, and they look forward to it, counting down the days.

Prior to creating “Treat Day”, treats were out of control. Every time I went shopping, the kids wanted something, and treats were becoming more and more common. It wasn’t good for the budget, and it certainly wasn’t good for my kids’ health or their teeth!

If the kids are with me at the supermarket, they know there’s no point asking for goodies if it isn’t Friday, because only Friday is “Treat Day”. It saves a lot of nagging, and makes shopping so much nicer 🙂

I’ve recently added myself into the “Treat Day” routine too, as my own chocolate addiction was getting out of control again – just ask my partner!

Now I have to look forward to Fridays, right along with the kids! 😦

Sometimes, simple guidelines and a regular routine can make a huge difference – save a lot of money and make families healthier too.

Do you have any routines such as “Treat Day” for your family, or do you think having a “Treat Day” might help create routine for your kids and you?

chocolate

My favourite chocolate!