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Choosing Happiness Over Cleanliness?

If I followed my kids around with a camera you might be surprised at how quickly and severely they can mess up a perfectly clean house.

Or maybe you have kids of your own and you wouldn’t be surprised at all.

I bought this coffee table book for James: “A Perfectly Kept House Is the Sign of a Misspent Life.” He was not interested. He likes a clean house, as do I.

But it’s driving me nuts. With a newborn in the mix, I have very little time to clean. We live in a big house and our two older children are like twin tornados.

Spring break is coming up and it’s our year to have Emile and we’re not traveling anywhere which means it’s me and three kids at home all week and God knows that I’m going to be quite frustrated quite often if I don’t learn how to LET IT GO (cue Frozen soundtrack). The house is going to be a disaster zone and I can either enjoy the extra time with my daughters and my stepson or I can have a clean house.

I know this and yet I can pretty much guarantee that I will fight with them about cleaning up behind themselves at some point. Or more likely at multiple points. And I’m not sure if this is a good and necessary thing or a waste of breath and time. Inevitably I will either do most of the clean up myself, or exhaust myself by harping on and on, offering bribes and taking away privileges and such.

This is a significant source of stress for me or else I wouldn’t be blogging about it. (Talk about first world problems.) I want them to be mindful and aware of their surroundings and I want my living space to be zen but at what cost?

After all, I want to live life, not clean up after it.

Dear readers, what would you do? Fight the messes or succumb to their power? Ideally, I could find a balance though it has eluded me thus far. Any tips or tricks or mind games to play with them/myself?

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A Home Birth in Pictures

“Imagine what might happen if women emerged from their labor beds with a renewed sense of the strength and power of their bodies, and of their capacity for ecstasy through giving birth” — Dr. Christiane Northrup

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I’m not sure I fully explained in my birth story how good it felt to be at home, cared for by my midwife and my husband and my doula.

Natural, safe, private.

All of my wishes considered, all of my needs met.

Birthing at home is not for everyone, but it was a beautiful choice for me.

I won’t try to explain why because these photographs, taken by Jessica May Photography in the first moments after Skyla’s birth, provide a window into this tender morning, better than I can describe in words.

Aside from the few posed photos, I had no awareness that Jessica was there with her camera. I was operating in another dimension, completely wrapped up in my new baby.

I suppose I am still here. Life will never be the same. It just keeps getting better.

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The Perfect Painting

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Since we moved into our beloved old house, we’ve yearned for a painting to fill the big white space above our couch. We tried on a few options, such as the painting my husband received from a client who couldn’t pay, and another that I bought off the side of the road in Cambodia, beautiful but small for the space.

Instead of continuing to look, we decided to be still and wait. We loved our living room anyways, a balance of mid-century modern and colorful bohemian chic. We let go of our need to “complete” the room.

Last weekend, James and I attended the annual auction for Giovanna’s preschool, an event that provides $25,000 in scholarships. We’re in love with this school and its gentle teachers, play-based classes, diversity and community. It was like a miracle when we found it.

This painting is an extension of that miracle. Every class contributed something to the auction, benches covered in handprints and the like. Giovanna’s class  of two and three year olds created this painting. I loved it from first sight. I tried not to look at it for too long in fear of becoming attached. You could not buy this painting, you could only win it. We bought five raffle tickets for $40.

When the director drew our names, I watched her mouth form “Lu” before it came across the microphone. I couldn’t believe it. I could believe it. We took the painting home and hung it in the space that waited patiently. Sometimes, when we manage to let go of expectations, we find something better than we could have conjured with our minds. Nowhere in the world is there a painting more special, more suited to our family’s nest than a piece painted by our little girl and the classmates she loves.

And the colors just happen to be perfect.

Be still and wait. ~ T.S. Eliot

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.
~ Albert Einstein

Every child is an artist. ~Pablo Picasso

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christmas came early

Christmas came early with a new coffee table from CB2. And, 11 months after we moved, my living room is complete. (For now.)

What I love most about this table, besides it’s height and size, is that it doesn’t obstruct our Anthropologie rug. And my husband and I love the table equally, which is perfection in and of itself.

Is your home *complete* or is it always evolving (like mine)? Do you and your partner agree or do you argue on home decor? If the latter, who usually wins?

i love you, blogs & tea

A new piece of art can brighten up your home, mood and life.

In the name of self-love, I have been in the process of creating a beautiful home office. A place where I want to work and create for hours on end. When I found this print on MadeByGirl (pictured above next to my desk), I knew I had to have it. I am a blogger and a tea maker (buy my organic remedy teas here). Right now, I am drinking tea and blogging. I love you, blogs & tea.

Thank you to Jen at MadeByGirl for an amazing store and blog. This was not my first purchase and will surely not be the last. Look out for future posts featuring her work. (And NO, I am not being paid to promote MadeByGirl.)

What are you doing in the name of self-love?

i find it helps to organize

I’ve turned over a new leaf.

The exact source of inspiration is difficult to pinpoint as the message came to me from multiple channels: You need to declutter. Organize your home, your life. Clear your space of everything but the essentials. Once this is complete, you will be more focused, centered.

It all started with the kitchen.

My kitchen, like my bedroom and my office and I suppose my entire house, is a sacred space. Eating and cooking are serious matters of business. Fresh, organic, nutrient-rich meals are what I like to see come out of my kitchen. I want the room to feel conducive to creativity and delicious food.

The clutter on the countertops and in the cupboards and drawers started to drive me crazy. Not sure how long they’d been bothering me, it could have been many months.

I felt trapped. And not only in the kitchen.

Trapped by my own stuff, and by my husband’s stuff, and by the stuff we share, and by the stuff that neither of us would claim as our own. When I moved in to this home two years ago, I moved my stuff in on top of his stuff. Too many dishes, too many clothes, too many pillows, too many suitcases, too much junk.

Like I said, it all started with the kitchen. I turned the junk drawer (yes, I will admit that I had one of these) into my tea drawer, displaying the plethora of teas from which my guests can choose. Herbal Philosophy to Zhena’s Gypsy Tea to Celestial Seasonings to Bigelow to Trader Joe’s to The Republic of Tea to World Market. I’m an equal opportunity tea lover. Each tea brand has something special and unique to offer, including Herbal Philosophy. (But I digress.)

Next, it was the toys. The junky plastic toys that are never used. And ugly. Two of my dearest friends were visiting when I enlisted their help to determine the fate of each toy. One by one. I couldn’t have done it as effectively by myself. (Remember the scene in Sex and the City, the movie, when the girls helped Carrie clean out her closet by rating each item of clothing? It was like that. Kinda.) Some toys were donated to the Goodwill, some toys were sent to children in Kenya (thanks to another dear friend), and some stayed. Quality over quantity.

The process of purging felt so good, I couldn’t stop. I moved on to the office (which required much assistance from my husband, who has been quite supportive of my new kick). The bathrooms. The stacks of magazines. The bedrooms. The linen closet.

My closet is next. For me, getting rid of clothes is harder than losing the baby weight. I wish I was kidding.

I’ve made two trips to donate items to the Goodwill and one trip to tent city, sent one box of stuff to Kenya, and deposited many items into the garbage and recycling.

I’m hooked. I went so far as to organize the desktop on my Mac and the blogs in my Google reader (folders!) and the subscriptions coming to my inbox (unsubscribe!). We are redoing the home office. Every single room is going to be better that it was before.

My home is becoming exactly what it should be: a sanctuary.

If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by your material possessions, decluttering and redecorating is highly therapeutic and highly recommended.

What are your best organization tips, tricks, products? I could use all the help I can get.