Sunday, December 20, 2015


2015 Dec 19

My friend Grace asked: "You are really into this minimalist thing, aren’t you?" 

I’m not sure either Raymond or I would describe ourselves as minimalist. But, we are definitely no longer collectors, or hoarders. We rarely make unnecessary purchases. I no longer troll yard sales and Ebay for things I didn’t know I "needed" until I saw them! We have what we need. We don’t want much. We don’t accumulate. We have mostly items for which we see a clear, present use, or function.

We do have, according to my brother, "too many books". In our defense, we gave away multiple boxes of books when we left our previous house. I attempted to stop buying books and only use the library, for a couple of years before we moved into our RV. I tried using electronic books, exclusively. In the end, we realized that we both like books, and enjoy holding actual, physical books, in our hands. We are more selective than we used to be, but have decided that it is OK to have what my nonreader brother considers "too many books". To that end, we opted to forgo a dining room in our new house. Instead, we have a den, which is where our books and laptops will reside. 

The two extra rooms of our new house currently have nothing in them. We envisioned at least one of them as a guest room, but we are in no hurray to furnish them. Does that make us minimalist? No, that just means we’re taking our time before deciding what those rooms will evolve into. 

As to all the stuff (and there were boxes and boxes!) that we got rid of when we left for our adventure, I don’t think we miss any of it. We sold a couple of things, but most of it we gave away, or donated. With the exception of those incredibly heavy IKEA Billy bookcases, the crystal cross that my Daddy gave me, and the doggie angel Christmas collectibles, I can’t say I miss any of it! In fact, as I sorted through a couple of bins that Vinny and Davey brought over, I asked myself, "Why did you feel such an attachment to this that you HAD to keep it?"  Only one thing is still MIA that I was truly looking forward to having and displaying, and that is my collection of Hallmark Lighthouse Christmas ornaments. I thought I had "loaned" them to Vinny, or stored them in with some of the Christmas ornaments we kept. They have not yet turned up. But, they may be in a bin in our basement, since not all of those have been emptied yet.

Getting back to what Grace asked … I don’t think Raymond and I could’ve stayed in our old house and gradually downsized to get to where we are now. For us, the process was too overwhelming. It was better for us to simply get rid of our accumulated stuff in one fell swoop. It was better for us to walk away. It was better to move absolute essentials (or what we thought were absolute and essential) into our RV, and learn to live in a tiny space. That experience required us to become more organized, to own less, and to be content with what fit in less than 200 square feet. 

And, truthfully, while we were traveling, we were fine. Discontent set in when we spent 20 months in one place. It was during our stationary time in North Carolina, that we felt claustrophobic. Our choice, to either continue traveling, or to settle somewhere. We choose to settle down. But, that time in the RV taught us to live with less, to be more organized, and it was a needed lesson. It was also a lesson we took in and made part of us. We no longer have the need nor the urge to buy and accumulate stuff. That is NOT to say that we don’t buy anything. Just ask the UPS, Fed Ex, or USPS delivery person. But, we are more attentive about what we acquire. That circumspection is a direct result of dumping most of what we owned, living in less than 200 square feet, and realizing what is really important.

In some ways we seem to have come full circle, by returning to western PA. In some ways, maybe we have. But, our return is as better human beings, people with a greater sense of self and others, and a deeper appreciation of what really matters in this life. For us the journey home required drastic action before we could click our heels and say, "There’s no place like home".


2015 Dec 18

It has been one month, and a couple of days, since our return to the western Pennsylvania area. It has been a month of adjustments, changes, and adaptations, along with new beginnings in old situations.

We have settled in at our new-to-us home, in Ambridge.  We have met a few of our neighbors, and discovered that, in addition to us, there are several other newcomers to our immediate neighborhood. We felt extremely blessed that the weather in western PA was unseasonably warm during our first month back. That made for easier adaptation, after experiencing little true winter weather these past four years. 

We have gotten much of what we needed to furnish and make our house functional. Because of the kindness of Martha, we have seating in our den, and side tables in our family room/man cave. In the living room, we have a brand new sofa, thanks to the benevolence of Carolyn. The future family space, or man cave, in our finished basement, has plenty of seating thanks to Barbara, who also, through her generous gift to us, made possible several Craig’s List purchases, and the ability to hire people with trucks to haul Martha’s wonderful donations, as well as the family room furniture. And, dear Pat and Van, supplied us, through their bountiful Home Depot gift card, a new microwave, and large wheeled trash receptacles! The previous owners left us a couple of lamps, as well. All in all, the only things still on our list of needed items are a bed frame and headboard, and more kitchen chairs, and possibly an expandable table, for when more than four people are eating together.

We have a wonderful bunch of friends and family, who made the adjustments that much easier. Dear Laura, who in the midst of her own life altering events, came to North Carolina, as promised, to drive our Jeep back for us. I cannot  thank her enough! My brothers, Vinny and Davey, who loaded all the stuff that had been stored in Vinny’s attic and basement, and brought it to our house AND unloaded it! All before we ever arrived! Again, thank you pales as a response to their hard work. And again, Vinny, on the day we arrived from North Carolina, spent five long hours, helping us unload the RV, and bring all that stuff into our new home. THEN he drove the Jeep, following me to the storage facility where the RV is now living. I am lucky to have such a brother. And Bill & Ann, my brother and sister-in-law, who are Ambridge residents, who have been helping us each step of the journey, though their guidance, their local knowledge, and their kindness. My sweet niece Jennifer, who brought us a beautiful Himalayan Salt candle holder, and offers unending positivity and love. 

On December 1, I began a new beginning, in an old situation. I returned to the family for whom I previously babysat. Another blessing, to be sure! When I was their babysitter in the past, there were two children, now there are three. My previous young charges have grown and changed. The boy, who is approaching nine years old, informed me the other day, while crossing a busy street in a commercial area, that he really didn’t hold anyone’s hand anymore. I explained that while I certainly understood, I was a bit nostalgic for the little boy whose hand I used to hold and who willingly held mine. His response: "That’s what my Mom says, too". The girl child, too, has changed from the tomboy, who happily wore her brother’s hand-me-downs and played in the dirt, to a junior Diva, with a flair for the dramatic, who loves wearing party dresses. The youngest, who came along after my tenure, seems to be a sweet, soft-spoken child. He and I are just beginning to establish a relationship. The only drawback to the job, is my commute. It is a 35-40 minute drive in the morning, which is long, but manageable, since the hour is early and traffic is usually light. However, my return commute is long and for three quarters, usually heavily trafficked. It sometimes stretches to 60-75 minutes, deals with crossing bridges at the downtown area, which any Pittsburgher will tell you, is stressful. I am attempting to learn calmness and developing the ability to go with the flow, even if the flow is only moving at 5 mph.

All in all, I am glad to be back. Nearer to family. In a familiar situation. In a house which is much more manageable than the one we left. And, the lessons we learned along the way, have made us different people than the ones who headed out on the road. Better? Maybe. Wiser? Definitely.