Laying low for Lent

Supposedly one of the cardinal rules of blogging is not to explain or even apologise for an absence – as though people won’t notice if you don’t point it out – but I’m not a real blogger so I don’t mind. Yeah, I haven’t been here in a while.

Believe me, my head has been buzzing with things I want to write about, and one of those things is how there just never seems to be enough time to do all the things I want and need to do. Sadly, for that reason I haven’t made blogging a priority recently, and for that reason I’m unlikely to do so for the next two months.

You see, it’s Lent tomorrow, and I am freaking out because I have to give up SOCIAL MEDIA.

Facebook post about LentYeah, that pretty much sums it up.

Over the past 24 hours I’ve kept pondering what combination of sacrifices would best suit what my soul craves this particular Lent. Is it about social media? Is it using my phone? Using the internet at all? Using any kind of screen (except for work)? Is it about consuming instead of creating? Should I be reading books rather than articles and status updates? Could I add in journalling or reflection time rather than take anything away?

I’m still coming to a conclusion. But the likelihood is that blogging will not be a part of Lent for me, even with my head buzzing with ideas. Because, really, I want my head to be able to focus on the life I am living and who I want to be, not on how to elegantly summarise my experiences for the world around me. I’m better off channelling my reflections into journalling, prayer or conversation for a while.

So, fare thee well. I’ll see you after Easter. And in the meantime, check out the piano’s new home:

The piano's new home


Goodbye, tiny home

I feel like I’ve been swept up in a whirlwind for the past few weeks – a whirlwind of house stuff. Mortgage documents, legal advice, budgets, planning the move, connecting utilities, settlement delays, pre-inspection, packing, packing, packing. I like to be prepared, so I got nervous when it was less than a month to settlement and I hadn’t started packing. But now, thanks to a friend with a zillion boxes from her recent move, the fact that I’d already SUPERdecluttered, and a steady pace minus the heatwave drama, the packing is nearly done. And besides that, we’re ready to settle this week and move this weekend. Excitement!

Now that it is all so close and nearly every box has been ticked, I am immersing myself in floorplans and furniture layouts, Pinterest style ideas, DIY painting tips, and Gumtree ads. No, I can’t ensure that the house (and all our furniture in it) will be just to my taste when we first move in, but I’m keen to explore what the possibilities are to change and improve it so that it feels like home.

But allow me to first farewell this place, which is still our home, and has been for nearly four years.

Front of tiny home

The first time I saw our tiny home

This is the eighth home I’ve lived in, and it’s my favourite of them all. I loved the four-bedroom house in the suburbs from 10 years of my childhood, but I’ve never been so happy in a home as I have in this ‘house’.

Joel and I had been living in a spacious two-bedroom apartment for our first year of marriage. It got really hot and was noisy from nearby traffic. We were keen to move. When a family of five from our church community informed us they had rented a home with a granny flat out the back, we knew we wanted to look.

It was small, but to me it was perfect. Plus, we liked the idea of living in community with neighbours we knew. (And saving heaps on rent.)

We moved in, packing our extra wedding gifts and furniture into the garage so that only the essentials would be inside. The small enclosed room was too small for our bedroom furniture, so the larger studio space had to become many things: bedroom, dining room, storage space, and a place for the piano, which we could finally have in our ground-floor flat.

Studio space

Clockwise from top left: the view on entering; the piano was given prime real estate; storage in the corner; entry area.

We were newlyweds, so it was important to display wedding photos in frames we were gifted, poppies from the wedding ceremony, and our marriage certificate from the church. Because of course.

The small room became our lounge room. Back then I thought that our couches should live together to make a nice sitting area for guests, and that we needed a coffee table, even if it was a strange glass-topped circle with teal removable footstools. The glass later lost a battle to a Pyrex dish, but we kept the footstools, which match the couch. And yes, those mirrors behind the teal couch are our wardrobe doors. Who says your clothes need to be with your bed? We keep undies, socks and jewellery in our dressing table, the rest is in these wardrobes.

Lounge room, first attempt

I truly thought this was the only way this room could be arranged.

I am a big fan of rearranging furniture to change the feel of a room at no cost, but it was tricky in this home. It felt like the positions of the furniture were the only possible places. But, over time I improved on the arrangement gradually.

We share our backyard with our neighbours. They have been such a blessing to us. We share many things (i.e. we borrow lots of their things, like their printer, compost bin, and herbal remedies) and have spent many hours together in conversation, over meals, watching movies and live sport, and playing board games. We’ll miss them a lot – they’re moving on, too. Although there have been some inconveniences in our front yard being their backyard, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.

In December, we threw a summer barbecue and games day which also became a decluttering party – the perfect opportunity to farewell our house, and take the photos below.

Outside the home

Clockwise from top left: enter by the gate from the driveway; outdoor entertaining area; our front door (plus the junk we gave away); the neighbours’ back room.

It eventually occurred to me that I wanted a sitting area near a window. Unfortunately, there are only windows on one side of this building – the back half of the house utilises skylights which are pesky during sleep-ins – so there was really only one window-candidate. One couch moved next to the full-length window, while the camphor wood chest holding our linen moved to the smaller room. Now the couch by the window is my favourite place in the whole house. I eat breakfast here, read and relax here, and am writing this blog here too. In our next home, I’ll definitely put a comfortable chair near a good window.

Another big change was Joel and I switching sides of the bed. I always thought I wanted to be closest to a window, but being next to the wall has created a sense of containment which helps it feel more like a bedroom. Decorating my little corner of the house is nice, too. You know – as though I haven’t been responsible for decorating every other part of the house as well.

My minimalist tendencies have increased over the years, so now there are far fewer items in our home now than there were in 2010. The piano was happy to play host to Christmas presents for a while, though.

Main area

The largest room in our house. Clockwise from top left: the view from the front door; my favourite place to sit; entryway; bedroom.

A small space requires creativity, so the cabinet storing our glassware, kitchen appliances and liquor lives next to our dressing table. Of course.

From bedroom to kitchen

Clockwise from top left: display cabinet for kitchen supplies; unadorned dressing table; from kitchen to bathroom; view of the kitchen.

And the lounge room isn’t just for watching TV now. It’s also got an expanded library, Joel’s hobby desk, and space to stretch a yoga mat on the floor. We don’t host guests often enough to need another couch in this room, and when they come over we just sit around the dinner table with them. We make do without a coffee table.

Multi-purpose lounge room

Top: more furniture but less clutter.
Bottom: access to my books and Joel’s 40K models keeps us both happy, even if it looks a bit cluttered.

It’s not just my creative furniture arrangements that I love, though. I also love the cool colours of the house – white and pale blue-green. I love the modern kitchen and bathroom. I love that it’s big enough to live in, but small enough to keep us organised and force us to simplify our possessions. I love the climbing vine on the trellis outside my favourite window. I love that the backyard has a large covered area. I love the space to store things in the garage that we don’t need all the time, like luggage and the extra freezer.

I love the area, too. I’ve lived in this suburb for 7 ½ of my 9 years here. I love the quiet street with its cute name, only one block back from public transport to the city. I love the distance to the city. I love my commute to work through residential streets, against the flow of traffic. I love the nearby walking trail, the little playground next to the school, the collection of shops and supermarkets down the road. I love the easy distance to my two favourite organic stores, and that if we need to go to the airport we don’t have to cross the entire city like our family do.

It’s a grieving process, I guess. While I’m super excited about the new place, I also don’t want to say goodbye. We always knew we’d need to leave one day, though, and it’s great to do that on our terms by buying a great place in an ‘up-and-coming’ area. Still, it’s hard to leave.

Goodbye, tiny home

Clockwise from top left: an outside sanctuary; the dining room; entertaining in a small home sometimes requires the bed for seating.

Goodbye, tiny home. Thank you for serving me well. I’ll miss you.

Sad? Yes. Strong? Absolutely.

In the year of Strong, I am prepared for trials. I am prepared to be strong. It’s easier, somehow, when I can see them coming. I know what is likely to challenge me. I can arm myself with strength and kindness and I know, I know I’ll get through.

Then I’m caught off guard when the couple sitting next to me tells me they’re expecting.

And their good news and my irrational sense of injustice compound with the doubts I was already having and the stress of the day, and I am hit with a sudden wave of sadness, leading me to retreat barely a moment after I’ve given them my genuine congratulations. (Really. Congratulations, guys. It’s wonderful!)

But I knew I’d be okay. Today is another day, hope lifts like a balloon again, and I am strong.

Strong 2014

Because, after all, Strong and Weak are not opposites. Strong and Fake are opposites.

And the Lord is my strength.

And tears may flow in the night, but joy comes in the morning.

And haven’t I been strong so far? Caring for others, caring for myself, committing to my health, making good choices, getting strength from God.

Still, I think it would be best if no one new tells me they’re pregnant today.