It’s been nearly six months since my last post, which feels weird. I miss it here and miss having a tidy archive of thoughts and adventures. I’m going to try to come back on a semi-regular basis, but no promises on how often or what topics. Only hope that I can find time in my crazy life to sit down and put the proverbial pen to paper, or in my case, fingers to keys.
Oddly, in typing that last sentence, I realized that my spacebar is on its way out. Clearly, I have been away too long.
So much has happened in six months that I’m not sure where to begin.
We sold our apartment in NYC, packed up Sabine and the cats and moved to Durham, North Carolina in August. We unpacked our things into what Sabine now refers to as “the crappy apartment.” It was dark, dirty, in disrepair and, much to Yum Yum’s delight, it was full of spiders.
We started house hunting immediately, assuming it would take a while to find a home with character, in a decent school district, that allowed us to continue living small and that was in our budget. Two weeks later I walked into our dream home. We made an offer that day, had a bit of a bidding war over the weekend and on Tuesday we won.
Then we celebrated. And then we groaned. We had just unpacked! We closed in October, spent a week repainting and then moved all of our stuff and all of our cats yet again. It was intense, and there are boxes we still have not unpacked because, you know, we are totally out of packing/unpacking steam! But that is ok because I am NEVER MOVING AGAIN so why not draw out the joys of unpacking a little longer?!
The house is my little castle – 2 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms (all humans can take a shit at the same time!) with a tiny converted attic space that makes a perfect office/craft nook/guest space. Built in 1936 and remodeled 20 years ago by a famous local designer, the home is a mix of modern and classic and is filled with unique hand-made details. We love it. And are never moving again.
House aside, we are slowly settling into life in the south once again. Durham is pleasantly progressive, which is a Godsend given the current shit storm of politics. Durham is also full of great food, art, culture and even has some impressive museums. Thirty minutes one way is Raleigh, twenty minutes the other is Chapel Hill and 30 minutes the other is Cary, which appears to be where all New Yorkers fed up with snow move. Our car, which still has New York tags, is right at home with all the other newly relocated New Yorkers who are also unable to organize themselves enough to get to the DMV.
In September, Sabine started her new preschool – an adorable little co-op school 10 minutes down the road. Parents are highly involved at this school, and we have already been able to make some friends. I volunteered to do the portraits for all the kids this year and had an absolute blast getting to know everyone and stretching my creative legs. Sabine is thriving at the school, too. She is still the tiniest in her class, but she has come a long way in ruling the playground and standing up for herself. I feel like Sabine deserves a post soon, so I’ll hold further kid updates until later.
There is so much more. I have found a new hobby in refinishing furniture. It seems sanding off old finish the perfect exercise for the OCD. I am working out again regularly. The thrift stores here are fabulous and have allowed me to furnish the new home entirely second hand. The cats have adjusted well to the new house and the white one, Euclid, is still alive despite being in renal failure. We have taken some recent trips and have some more booked. We have not done any hiking in our new area due to weather and busy schedules.
And there is a lot that is still the same. I am still eating toast daily, and my favorite lunch remains scrambled eggs. I continue on my quest for a minimal and simple life. I am still chronically late, none of our socks ever match, and my kid’s hair is almost never brushed.
And after a bit of typing my spacebar is warming back up and working better. I guess that means I’ll have to come back soon. Until then, peace and love to whoever is still out there!
“I just want to be a stay-at-home mom and spend all my time with my kids. I don’t know how you guys are doing it, but whatever you are doing keep it up.”
This was from a tearful conversation I had with a friend a few weeks back. I didn’t know how to respond because I had never thought of my situation that way. What is being done so I can stay home? Is this a luxury? Oh my gosh, it is. I don’t want to loose this.
I am able to stay home because we sacrifice a lot. We don’t go out shopping just for fun and we eat very few meals out. We rarely give each other gifts. I stopped buying new clothing for myself a year ago, forgo fancy beauty products, keep a grocery budget, never enter a store without a list and more. All of this and we are barely breaking even, BUT I get to stay home with Sabine.
Which is amazing.
Our barely making ends meet lifestyle is getting harder, though, and we need to seriously consider saving for retirement and college. Bottom line is we need more income.
Or do we need more?
Enter a minimalism class by Joshua Becker and his new book The More of Less. In this book, he talks about getting rid of the clutter in our lives to make room for what really matters, and then changing our consumption habits to continue living that way.
The course walks through your space one room at a time discussing new ways to view your possessions. Do you own this, or does it own you? Do these things distract from what you would rather be doing? Does this clutter take time that should be spent with your family?
Through this new lens, I have been able to step back and detach from my possessions. In the last seven weeks, we have seen our closets thin out, an entire dresser sits empty and many shelves are bare. It is an exhilarating experience and at the core of it sits my desire to live more and work less.
As I work through our home I see thousands of dollars of stuff that we did not need. Piles of fabric, books, clothing, kitchen gadgets and toys sit unused, stealing our time, energy and ultimately our hard earned dollars.
I want us to live with less stuff so we can live more. We can do this by editing out the unnecessary and changing how we consume. I can continue to stay home with Sabine until she starts kindergarten if we make changes today. When I do return to work, I can choose the work based on passion and not a salary figure.
So to my friend, that is how we are doing it.
My name is Belle and I am becoming a minimalist.
Sabine finished her first year of nursery school last week. I felt unexpectedly emotional about this. I can’t believe how much she has grown in one year. She started school not being able to run, jump or climb the monkey bars. She can do all three like a boss now. She started school painfully shy and rarely used words with peers or teachers. By the end of the year you couldn’t stop her chattering. She made adorable little girlfriends who would flock to her every morning cheering that Sabine is here. Saying Sabine “blossomed” seems so cliche, but it really is the truth.
Looking at the daily photos makes me burst with pride and then choke back tears. Sabine is not a baby anymore. She is a big kid with big kid requests, emotions and thoughts. She fills a room with her personality and rarely meets a stranger, except for the crazy old lady in the building with the stinky dog. But she scares the bejesus out of me, too, so that is totally ok!
The end of the year symbolizes the end of something bigger. It is the end of our time in NYC. The next month will be a flurry of packing, planning and seeing as much of the city as we can.
It took a while to feel like NYC is home. There is a steep learning curve to this city, along with the challenging situations of being a new mom and dealing with PPD and anxiety. It was not until this year that NYC felt like home. Our apartment is cozy and comfortable. We have friends that we hang out with as a family and not just the occasional playground playdate. I know my way around pretty well and am not afraid to venture to new areas just Sabine and I.
And now we are leaving. Again.
It seems like I do this a lot. Wait, I do do this a lot! I’m ready to settle down and make a forever home. I am ready to use our extra cash to travel, not to pay for boxes and U-Haul trucks. I am ready to make friends that I know I can grow old with and not have to hop a plane to see once a year. I’m ready to be an activist in my community, something that is really hard to do when you move every three to four years.
I believe Durham will be that place. But I’m still sad to say goodbye to NYC.
I guess that is the way to leave though – as a goodbye rather than just bye.