No Longer Needed

Today I am working in my hallway.  Its almost a room, square footage size, with a short hallway coming off of the living room and opening up into a “space” as it moves towards the second living area which we use as a classroom and studio space.  Well, a storage area right now, but keep an eye on the dream.

This space has three bedroom doors, a bathroom door, the laundry room door and living area door opening off of it.  It also holds a built in desk and countertop with cabinets above and below.  The desk had cabinets above it also.

The whole space is dark, cramped and pretty much useless.  The cabinets have always held a disorganized, random amount of junk and the countertop – always piled high with stuff.

I’ve tried stronger light bulbs, lamps, under counting lighting – you name it.  Still dark and depressing.  A couple of months ago I was sitting at the desk and looked up at the cabinets looming above me.  They were semi-full of books nobody ever looked at and miscellaneous papers and “office” supplies.  I pitched or donated 90% of it.  Haven’t missed any of it.  I’d planned on putting up shelves, but realized that I didn’t have anything to put on them.

So now, it’s bright and white with a few family photographs and a picture I love.

As the declutter has progressed, I realized that the other upper cabinet had never really been used on a regular basis as storage for anything.  We just stuck stuff there when we didn’t know what else to do with it.  Tore it our yesterday.  The bottom cabinet is staying to store all the computer related stuff that has to go somewhere:  cords, games, gadgets and gizmos.

Shelves are going above the cabinet to house my daughter’s collection of books that she is reading or is going to read or can’t bear to part with yet.  They are currently stashed all over the place and can’t always be found when needed.   I think there will also be room for the few movies that we are keeping.  We have Netflix so a lot of them are going to the thrift store since we never watch them.

Of course, I forgot to take a “before” picture, but I’ll remember an “after” picture (I hope).

It’s definitely a sign of progress and a changing attitude that the cabinets are ripped out.  One of the reasons that I was attracted to this house in the first place was all the storage space.  Now, I’m seeing it as a definite negative!  The storage space is just no longer needed.

Back to painting!



Have you ever noticed that when you are away from home, it’s easy to dream big dreams and make big plans, but…

…once you are back home and in the thick of things, it’s easier to just go with the flow and accept things the way they are – even if it’s not the way you want things to be?

So much to do and being overwhelmed are causing some serious anxiety for me and I feel like I’m losing momentum.

But I’m going to persevere.  Pile by pile, box by box and item by item, I’m going to keep working.

Today, all of the rest of the paperwork from our business that used to operate out of the house went to recycling (except for the absolutely necessary financial and tax documents that we have to keep).  Six boxes of paper gone.  Four neatly labeled and stored away.

Winter clothes are all washed, sorted and packed away or donated.

We’ve discovered that the water leak in the hall bathroom is much worse than we thought.  It’s spreading to the bedroom we were using for storage while renovations were taking place.  That room has been bumped up on the list for redoing.  Unfortunately, we’re going to need to do some rather serious demolition and rebuilding.  All that stuff has to be moved somewhere.  I’m not sure where since the kitchen and dining room floor is waiting to be coated in polyurethane so we can start using it again.  All of that stuff is in the living room and hallway.

Honestly, my life feels totally out of control right now.  I could just sit and cry.  But, I’m not going to.  Or at least I’m not going to for long.  Maybe for just a bit.  Then I’m going to fill another box for donation…

…and keep dreaming about my big, cleared out rooms with clean white walls and a shiny wood floor holding only those that I love and a few things that I need and enjoy.

So, I’m holding the anxiety at bay and holding on tightly to the dream…





Declaration:  a formal or explicit statement or announcement

For the last eight weekends I have been packed up and hitting the road this time every Friday to head to Sherwood Forest Faire.  I’ve been working in an Italian Restaurant preparing sauces, washing dishes, working on the food service line and anything else that needed to be done that nobody else was doing.
It was hard work and the hours were sometimes long.  I initially took the job as a chance to earn some extra money to help out around here.
It wasn’t long before I started looking forward to going.  In addition to some extra cash, I discovered community – community populated by some awesome people who accepted me for who I was and not who I normally pretended to be.  There were few preconceived notions about how I should behave, what I believed or what I should spend my time doing.  Pretty much a judgement-free zone.  In some ways, a brutally honest place.
I’ve been learning to deal with questions like:
  • What difference does your age make?
  • Why do it if it doesn’t make you happy?
  • Why aren’t you doing it if it makes you happy?
  • Who told you that you needed to live that way?
  • Why not change the way you are living your life?
  • Who (or what) is stopping you?
  • How long are you going to wait to start doing…


I can’t imagine hitting the road and becoming a full-time “Rennie” anytime soon.  I am a homebody at heart.  But, as I’ve been repeatedly reminded, houseless and homeless are not the same thing.  I have a good life here.  I don’t want to ditch it all and start over.

But, there are some things that I am going to change though.  Since coming back home last Monday, I have been dealing with the chaos of being away from home for all that time.  Normal housekeeping compounded with the mess of home renovations.  I’ve been sorting out and decluttering and organizing.  And all the questions from Faire have been echoing in my tired and stressed brain.


Hence, the declaration!

I want to make art.  I want to sell art.  I want to give away art.  I want to stop dealing with material possessions at the cost of spending time with the people I love doing the stuff I enjoy.  I have one life.  I am 54 years old.  I’m not too old to change my life, but realistically I don’t have forever.  I need to make changes now.  Permanent changes.  Less stuff, more experiences.  More community.  More fun.  More being me and less living for the opinions of other people.  The unnecessary layers are going.

Excuse my language, but this shit has got to stop.  I’ve been working towards this point for a long time.  My whole life, I suppose.

Now, I feel like I’ve been challenged to change.  I stepped out of my comfort zone and didn’t like everything that I saw when I came back to where I started.

Stuff doesn’t make me happy.  It makes me unhappy.  I’m tired of decluttering and organizing.  Half a pick-up truck load went to the thrift store yesterday.  A full can of trash and 5 additional items left on trash day.

A queen mattress set also went away.  It was worn out.  I had held onto it in case we needed it.  You know what, if that many people need to sleep here, we’ll figure it out.  Holding onto that mattress is a symptom of trying to be prepared for every situation in the future instead of living right now.

Next up, my closet.  I’m ridding myself of all the “costumes” that I’ve purchased and held onto to.  I’m talking about the clothes that I own that fit the roles I’ve been trying to play.  The teacher clothes, the Mom clothes, the artist clothes, the mature woman clothes and the woman with a weight issue clothes.  I’m just going to keep the “me” clothes. Yes, all those roles are a part of who I am, but I am so much more than that.

I’m packing up a great deal of our belongings to make the new floor installation easier.  Only the essentials are staying out.  If we don’t love it or need it, it’s going away.  When each box is unpacked in the “new” room, we’ll re-valuate whether it stays or goes.

Change is good.





The New Room

wow.  I’m so tired that I can’t even “exclaim” in capital letters, but I’m excited nevertheless.  Lots has been happening around here including a renovated room last weekend while I was away working at Faire.  My family worked soooo hard on this to surprise me when I returned home!




Some family members worked harder than others.


Furniture and accessories were edited and deleted.  I love it!  Simple, colorful, easy to clean and so livable for our family.

Next up – the kitchen and dining area.   But this week has been a rest and restore break.  The extra hours of work, piles of stuff to sort and construction paraphernalia and debris is taking it’s toll on all of us.  We’re tired and worn out.

But we are also encouraged and inspired. Our plan is taking shape and becoming reality.

Now I’m off to clear out, box-up, and make room in the kitchen for phase two – coming soon!




We’re hustling and bustling around getting ready for a busy weekend.  Always so much to do on the weekends.

Hubby and son are working at their jobs and planning on some home improvement projects.  They are hoping to splash some paint on the walls of our main living area – a clean and bright white shade to lighten things up.   Plywood “flooring” has also been purchased.  It’s going to be installed in full sheets over the existing floor and coated with some shiny polyurethane. I’m hoping for a clean and simple “Scandinavian” look.   We’ve researched and pondered many different flooring types and decided that this is an affordable (and therefore, possible) option.  If we get rich later on in life (HA) we can just floor over the plywood.

This has been a good learning and growth experience for me.  I’ve had to think about what I need and what I want.  I’ve had to discern what I can be happy with and let go of what others might think of my choices and decisions.  It all comes down to what will make us happy when we walk in our front door. In my struggle to be “normal” and balance that desire with who I really am, I’m constantly comparing myself to others.  But, that’s changing.  Yea!

I’m happy with our new floor plan.  But, more importantly, I’m comfortable with it.  It’s a good decision for us.  I think it’s going to look great and suit our lifestyle.  Even better, it’s not going to cost a fortune.  We’ve saved up the cash to pay for it outright.  As we save more money, we can continue it throughout the rest of the house and not have to worry about matching the flooring. No debt.  No overextending ourselves.

While the family is slaving away here at the homestead, I will be off once again to Sherwood Forest Faire for another weekend of fun and merriment.  Well, mainly I’ll be slaving away in the kitchen while others are making merry.  Never fear, though.  I’ve managed to have a bit of fun myself. 

I don’t watch a lot of television. (I thought about not sharing this and fostering an image of an intellectual who reads the classics and eschews television in favor of more life-enriching experiences.)

But, the fact is, I freakin’ love Supernatural.  It’s just about the only show that I watch, other than British mysteries.  And I have an embarrassing infatuation with Dean Winchester.   And this happened last Sunday!  I always hoped that I’d be the mature individual who saw a celebrity and calmly walked past without becoming a flaming idiot.  Nope.  Didn’t happen.  I turned into a crazy, stalker-fan.  Sigh.  At least I haven’t printed it out and framed it…yet.  It would look great next to my life-sized cardboard cut-out of Jensen Ackles that currently lives in my studio.  For the record, I didn’t purchase said item.  It was a Christmas gift from my son.

Well, off to another adventure filled weekend in the Forest.  Wonder what will happen this weekend?



Sometimes I think that I should stop going to thrift stores because it can be too easy to buy stuff.

Other days I know that thrift store shopping is a great idea for someone who is trying to live a more intentional deliberate life.

For example, I like to shop for a lot of my family’s clothes at thrift stores.  I can get better brands and quality than I can normally afford so I’m saving money.  I’m not buying cheap crap that carries the weight of a myriad of social, environmental, and economic issues.  Because the stuff has been worn and washed, I know ahead of time how its going to wear and I don’t buy something that is going to have to be ironed.  That’s just never going to happen around here.

I don’t buy all of our clothing second-hand.  Some stuff is just supposed to be new if you know what I mean and sometimes you just can’t find what you need when you need it.

Because of thrift stores my husband can wear Hawaiian shirts that are actually from Hawaii.  My kid can wear the Justice, Gap and Old Navy clothes that she wants.  If it hangs in the closet for a bit and doesn’t really get worn all that much, it’s no great loss – we just donate it back.  Win…win!

The same goes for other stuff around the house:  dishes, decorative items, art supplies, sometimes furniture, etc…

I’ve just learned (and am learning) to be careful and thoughtful about purchases.

Then there is the magical day – the day that I was just meant to end up at the thrift store even if I was in a bad mood and was looking for some retail therapy even though I knew that buying something wouldn’t necessarily make everything all better.

Because what I found did make things better when I was dealing with a preteen child who shall remain nameless who was perhaps being a bit moody and difficult to deal with.  The kind of day when I needed to remind myself that love conquers all and I do love her more than I could ever have imagined because her life was indeed a miracle in more ways than one.  The day when I kept telling myself that I have survived three other adolescents and none of them are in jail and neither am I even though they might have inspired murderous thoughts at one time or another.

I found this at the thrift store yesterday:

IMAG1197 (1)IMAG1199A genuine 1969 Spirograph Plus missing only one piece.  It still has it’s original cardboard mat and most of the original paper.  How groovy is that!  It’s hard to be in a bad mood when you are playing with a Spirograph.

When you are playing with a Spirograph it’s easy to remember that you love that smart, beautiful, creative little girl who is trying to grow up in a big family in an even bigger world.  The little girl who is figuring out who she is and what her talents are.  The little girl with strength, determination and grit that sometimes comes across as stubbornness and defiance.

When you stop and just spend some time together, you remember that sometimes life is hard and taking the time to play and just “be” for a bit is a splendid idea.

The Squirrel

The other day I went to have some “centering” time with my chickens.  When my world seems to be spinning out of control, my hens’ lives just seem to make so much sense.  The sleep when it’s dark and wake when it’s light.  If they get tired during the day, they rest.  They move around scratching among the leaves in search of tasty snacks and eat only until they are full.  They don’t get fat.  They hang out with each other with a clear leader who is the leader because she’s good at it.  It’s no popularity contest.  They follow me around and I pretend that they like me.  I know that it’s because I feed them, but I’m okay with the illusion that they care.  They aren’t particularly smart, but they are really good at being chickens and they are content with what they are.  We don’t have all that much in common, but I do try to learn from them.  I may be smarter, but I’m not very good at achieving the level of peace and contentment that they live with.

Anyway, back to the point of this story.  I went out to the chicken yard and popped open the plastic bin that I store the chicken food in.  I wasn’t paying much attention and failed to notice that there was a hole chewed in the lid of the bin.  I’d been away for the weekend and it must have happened then.  I popped open the lid and reached in to unroll the bag of scratch grain when…

…out popped the chicken yard squirrel (his name is Chicken, but that’s a whole ‘nother story)…  He flew straight into my chest and then sprung up into a tree. Those little furry mammals are fast!  I don’t think that I have ever screamed so loudly in my life.  The family came running to the window that overlooks the chicken yard to see what had happened.  The automatic assumption was that I had seen a snake.  It is turning into springtime around here after all.

Can you believe that I received no sympathy whatsoever for this traumatic attack.  They were all too busy laughing until they were out of breath.

Afterwards the damn squirrel named Chicken had the nerve to perch on a limb above me and chatter angrily because I had disturbed his meal.  Just wait until he sees the metal trash can that I’m buying to replace the plastic tote.  Chew through that you little varmit!



I never intended to let so much time go by between blog posts.  I had every intention of writing about our graduation road trip, our Christmas activities, humorous family anecdotes, exciting New Year’s plans and how the decluttering effort impacted all of it.

Nevertheless, almost a month has passed by and not a word has been typed here (until now).  That’s the thing about intentions.  They may be good intentions and there may even be a plan (of sorts) about how you are going to carry out said intentions, but…

Life has a way of slipping away – a day or two, a week, a month, and then, before you know it, things just didn’t get done, plans are neglected, and life is passing by – sometimes at a seemingly alarming rate.

And this is my segue into my topic for today:  2016’s theme, plan, dream and hope for the Barrow family.

Last year I chose “be the change” as my focus phrase for the year.  I had grown tired of my complacent and sometimes whiny attitude with regards to my life.  “Be the change” helped to remind me that it is my life and my choices made the difference in whether things got better, stayed the same or worsened.  It worked well.  We implemented a budget, became more intentional about our spending, and paid off some of our debt.  In general, we just became more aware of how we lived out life.  Simply phrased, we picked up a paddle and started steering the boat instead of drifting along in the current of life.

This year, we are taking it a step further.  The family has chosen a phrase together.  “Turn your can’t into can and your dreams into plans.”

We’ve identified some goals and hopes for the upcoming year and are continuing to add to the list.  But, it’s more than a list.  Every idea or goal has an action plan with it. Concrete, definite plans that can make it happen.

We are creating a “life” wall where we can post each action plan.  There the lists will stay as we add to and cross off each item.  In our face and unavoidable.

One of the foremost things on our list is home improvement.  Some major repairs need to be done including floor repair and exterior paint. Lots of cosmetic repairs are included as well.  We’ve talked about these projects off and on for a while, but that’s where it ended – talk.  There was always a reason we didn’t do it – time and money mostly.  Next payday, next weekend, when the bonus comes in, during the holiday break….  We’ve realized that the condition of our home directly impacts our life, our happiness, and contentment level.

We are working on a major plan where each room is assigned a month for the projects to be completed.  Every task, every supply, every detail is listed so that there is no question about what is needed to complete the job.

How are we going to pay for it (and continue to pay down our debt)?  That’s a very good question.  Honestly, there is a certain amount of faith and optimism attached to our plan.  Hopefully, the action plan will help keep us focused on the goal and we can live more intentionally and direct our money towards the projects.  Some hard choices will need to be made, I’m sure.  With the plans in place, the hope is that we can pre-purchase or source needed materials when a great deal comes along.  We’ll know what we need ahead of time.  There will definitely need to be some creativity and ingenuity involved.

The decluttering effort will also continue.  Right now, the house looks very lived in.  Very, very, very lived in. Details would just lower your opinion of my housekeeping abilities.  I definitely have a low opinion of my housekeeping skills right now.  I think that, overall, the decluttering I did before the holidays helped, but there is more to do.  Lots of life gets lived here.  I just need to figure out how to make the living easier!

Less and More

A second post today to list the declutter because it just didn’t seem to fit in my first topic.

Decluttering has been hard lately.

I haven’t been feeling well.

So much has gone already.

The next layer is requiring some thought.

Is it helping?

What next?

A lot of fear is involved.

Has this just become a crazy obsession?

Should I stop?

Is the fear motivated by change and what the next step might be?

Am I the frog staying in the metaphorical pot of boiling water or am I jumping out of the pan and into the fire?

Gone yesterday:

  1. a stoneware crock for holding a 5 gallon water bottle. Been under the house for years
  2. an outgrown jacket
  3. dried up acrylic paint
  4. a book
  5. 2 small plates


  1. 2 dead plants decorating the front entrance to our home
  2. a small Little Tikes gym “thing” sitting in the back of the yard from when my youngest was a toddler.  She’s 12.
  3. an extra shower curtain rod.  ??????? Don’t think I’m planning on adding another shower anytime soon.
  4. a computer box.  Just the box, no computer.  Left in the living room by my son two days ago when he was working on his computer.  I’m gonna assume he doesn’t need/want it.  It’s in the trash can if he wants it (and reads this post)
  5. 2 flower pots (not the ones the dead plants were in)