Year of the Move: Outsourcing & Compromises

After telling you my words for the month of January (and perhaps this whole winter as we prepare for our move) are organize and evaluate I'm ready to share two more, outsourcing and compromise

Making compromises and outsourcing parts of our life were the inevitable consequences of seriously evaluating our goals and organizing our time.

It seems a bit embarrassing to talk about this part, especially when you have to make small steps backward to make big steps forward. 

What do I mean by that? I mean that we have made many little changes in the past few years to live more intentionally, simply and in keeping with our values. In every case, making these small changes involved a task that took time. Real time each and every day. Time, that right now, we don't have to give. 

I've blogged about these choices and changes over the years and in the spirit of full disclosure (I have nothing to hide) I need to share the things we aren't doing in this season that in the past we were. Things you may have read on my blog and might mistakenly assume we are still doing right now, in this very intense life season.

Before I spill the beans though I need to share those most dearest of values, those things we will not compromise or outsource. Listed in no particular order (it's hard to put these in a hierarchy since they are so interconnected).

  • We will not outsource raising our children or home education.
  • We will not compromise on our family's physical health and well being. It is very tempting but ultimately futile to make short term sacrifices in your health to reach long term goals. Ie: We are not burning the candle at both ends, losing sleep to "make things happen", nor are we skimping on the time or money we invest in healthy food. Exercise, eating healthy and being well rested are necessary, not optional.
  • We will not compromise on our spiritual well being and our relationship with God, in short our faith. Reading the bible, prayer and meeting with other Christians are non-negotiables. And by this I don't mean church. We prefer unChurch.
  • We are committed to remaining consumer debt-free (we still have a mortgage).
  • We will not compromise on our relationships with each other and spending time together as a family. This is difficult when Damien works full time and then works on building future sources of income at night when he's home from work. But we are committed to hiking one day a week, sharing meals, connecting in the evenings and of course the ongoing give and take of family life.

So with all those basics in place - faith, home, family, and health, where are we making compromises?

Unfortunately we are making compromises and outsourcing in the areas of self-sufficiency, DIY and more sustainable living. Which is really ironic since one intended goal of this move is to further our family in these exact areas. Go figure.

The reality though is that there is only so much time and some of the little changes (that have grown into big changes) we've made to get us to this point are just not doable right now. So here they are listed in no particular order:

  • For the first time ever in a couple years I am... are you ready for this... buying soap. That was a hard decision to make but it was kind of fun in a way. I've heard good things about Dr. Bronners' soap bars and at $2.89/bar through my buying club they are the most affordable natural bar I can find. I'm especially enjoying the orange scented variety. I've spent my showers thinking about how I might be able to produce a bar as hard as this when I start making soap again. 
  • Speaking of buying clubs I've whittled my personal club down to one other member and I've bowed out of contributing in anyway to the Maine buying club I belong to. Belonging, but not actively contributing, is an unusual position for me. In general, giving and participating in our community have taken a definite backseat this season. 
  • The sewing machine sits mostly silent. The fall of 2009 had Damien going great guns sewing clothes for our family (it was amazing) and that is our intention for the future. But right now his energies are required elsewhere. Like securing work for post-move. 
  • The education budget has taken yet another hit as we tighten our financial belt even more. This is difficult because it limits our access to educational opportunities, supplies, and curriculum. I remind myself, this too shall pass and be sure to note all the things our children are learning during this time. 
  • Remember how I said, "come hell or high water" we're walking to the library? We never made it that far into the season to encounter either. The reality of a very packed weekly schedule necessitates using the car once again for regular transport to the library. 
  • In my ideal life the days are full but not so busy there isn't time to hand wash our dishes. In my ideal life we live in a smaller home (mortgage free) with no space for a dishwasher. In my real life I own a nice energy efficient dishwasher, that after almost a year of not using (because I wanted to life my ideal life now) I am gratefully using again. 
  • It goes without saying I haven't taken one look at a seed catalog. Growing some of our own food is not a reality for us this year.

I keep thinking there are some other things I'm missing in this list. If I think of them later I'll add them. 

In short, we're trusting "the system" right now to take care of the basics of food, clothing, shelter and transportation. Having to trust the system when you don't really trust the system feels vulnerable, but unavoidable.

Making this move is an incredible amount of work for our family. We are going after our dreams but that means giving everything we have in terms time, heart and resources, while not compromising on the non-negotiables. I wish we didn't have to make compromises but we do. 

Where do you make compromises when the going gets tough?

PS. Feel free to ask any specific questions you have about our move. I'll do my best to answer them in comments or dedicated post. 

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  • Granola Girl

    Granola Girl on Feb. 7, 2011, 6:01 a.m.

    Don't feel too badly. My boys mutinied and now I'm not culturing our dairy products. We have giant (5 lbs) plastic tubs of both sour cream and cottage cheese in the fridge. It's kinda a bummer, but it takes zero time.

    Have you all looked for Kirk's Castile soap? I wouldn't say it is Dr. Bronner awesome and it isn't scented, but it is really great and only 1 dollar a bar.

    Gutting your life for a move can be rather brutal in places, but it means the ability to start over however you want! I figure if I give a little now, when the time comes I can take a whole bunch later :)


    • renee

      renee on Feb. 7, 2011, 11:38 a.m.

      Thanks for the Kirks tip. I haven't heard of it.

      Thanks for this reminder: "Gutting your life for a move can be rather brutal in places, but it means the ability to start over however you want!" I hear you!!


  • Nataliaia

    Nataliaia on Feb. 7, 2011, 9:46 a.m.

    Thank you so much for this post - I feel I can really relate! We are moving in the second half of this year: I thought it was going to be Germany, now we are not sure, only that we are moving. I don't even have a date! And before that move we have a large trip to the other side of the world to get through. So I am compromising like mad - trying to save money, trying to get organised (and doing it all while my husband is working far away and is never home). I had such grand plans of what I was going to achieve this past 12 months, but by trying to achieve so much I achieved very little - I was paralysed by my expectation that I should do it all, do it on my own, do it right.

    It took a near 'collapse' to realise that trying to do it that way meant I was getting very little done, and was making myself unhappy to boot. So, like you, I realised compromise is not always a dirty word, and realised that living a 'realistic' life was the way to live a 'real' life.


  • Penny

    Penny on Feb. 7, 2011, 2:40 p.m.

    Even though I'm not moving anytime soon, I can certainly appreciate the wisdom of balance... assessing needs and prioritizing. Oftentimes people get real and ideal out of whack - it's obvious that you will arrive at your destination refreshed and ready to live life there to it's fullest. I wish you the best!

    (and thanks for being such an inspiring example, when next I do move, I will have your words to remember!:))


  • Sara S

    Sara S on Feb. 7, 2011, 4:47 p.m.

    We are a military family so moving comes around every few years for us. I appreciate your post and sharing your feelings about the process. I've come to realize it's the time leading up to moving day that is most stressful. During the months and weeks before we move I tend to compromise on eating the right food. It's so much easier to just whip up a box of mac n cheese (even if it's Annie's) or pick up a pizza for dinner. Pretty soon I'm feeling yucky and so are my kids. Add the packing/sorting and that's a recipe for a grumpy family. :) Your post really made me think about other options I can pursue during pre-move day. Thanks Rennee.


    • renee

      renee on Feb. 7, 2011, 5:34 p.m.

      You are welcome. But you are really amazing. I cannot imagine moving every few years! kudos to you.


  • Koalaborg

    Koalaborg on Feb. 7, 2011, 5:56 p.m.

    thanks for a great post. our family is also in the midst of an upheaval - a new baby on the way, relocating halfway across the country, and the decision to give up my income (and career ultimately) to focus on our family - all in the next few months. I appreciate your honesty in stating that you just can't do everything during times like these,and you have to figure out what is most important and focus on those things. Our list of (ideally) non-negotiable items is similar to yours but as a two income, two career family, these items somehow always come up short. This is what we are currently trying to fix. I just have to keep reminding myself that change doesn't happen overnight, and to set realistic goals.


  • Grace

    Grace on Feb. 7, 2011, 8:35 p.m.

    I don’t think any of your compromises are “a bit embarrassing” at all. They seem well thought out and realistic. I admire your dedication to the outdoors and family with your weekly hikes—wonderful!


  • Hillary

    Hillary on Feb. 8, 2011, 2:02 a.m.

    Okay, so are you gunning to always be on my inspirational link love list ;-)

    I love this post: both the first part on what you won't compromise and the second part of what you will compromise!

    It's sort of funny because we did what you guys are doing (in our own way of course) three years ago. I didn't have a blog then (the move did inspire me to start blogging), but I can relate to the step backward to move forward. We moved here to live more of a simple, diy life with access to better food, but it's sort of funny b/c I used to garden and now we don't grow anything b/c of our downtown urban living situation. There were many things we were moving towards, but in the moment you must deal with what you can.

    I think you're pretty smart (and I love that it's a guilty pleasure for you to buy a bar of soap!)


  • Kyce

    Kyce on Feb. 8, 2011, 3:16 a.m.

    Renee, you inspire me to talk about this over at Old Recipe--it's long overdue for me to confess that, well, we do use plastic now. Our fast was never meant to go beyond four months, but still, it's hard for me to justify this after spending so much time philosophizing about why it was so important. Pregnancy and a super picky toddler forced us to open our lives back up, and honestly, I've found that change happened on much deeper levels, in ways far more important than is my ketchup in a glass or plastic bottle. I'll need to reflect more on this, but thank you as ever for your honesty.


  • Laura

    Laura on Feb. 8, 2011, 3:23 a.m.

    Renee, your honesty is so refreshing. We can't do it all, all of the time -- and it is so important to regroup and reprioritize as needed. We absolutely love Dr. Bronner's bar soaps -- the peppermint is my favorite. :)

    Oh, and I've been meaning to tell you, I made your lip balm recipe as stocking stuffers before Christmas, and everyone has been raving about it! It is just wonderful and, as a bonus, I've been using it on my psoriasis and find it makes an amazing balm for dry, damaged skin! Thanks so much for sharing.


    • renee

      renee on Feb. 8, 2011, 1:45 p.m.

      So happy you're enjoying the lip balm. My friend has turned her lip balm making into a little fundraiser for adopting their Haitian sons. It's amazing the "places" this little recipe has gone. 


  • Kika

    Kika on Feb. 8, 2011, 4:02 a.m.

    I think my life is full of compromise...most of it temporary like when I'm particularly stressed out and allow myself to not walk on my treadmill for a few days. The worst compromise I've made, though, is allowing my spiritual life to really suffer until I'm at a place where I'm not really ok. It is soooo hard to stay perfectly on top of everything all the time.


    • renee

      renee on Feb. 8, 2011, 1:48 p.m.

      I hear you on spiritual compromise and I am trying hard to stay disciplined in that regard. The stakes are just too high. 

      I am not perfectly on top of everything all the time, ever. Something is always giving to allow for something else. But as long as the exchange is still within my overall values I'm ok with it. That's just life. 


  • erin @ exhale. return to center.

    erin @ exhale. return to center. on Feb. 8, 2011, 4:15 a.m.

    i LOVE this renee!!

    last year was my first time working (almost) full time since having kids and there was SO much i had to let go.

    sometimes it felt comical. the irony of what we were eating on our way to work at an organic farm. but it really was part of the process. letting go of some things allowed us to take a BIG step forward in our long-term goals (and to provide a tremendous service to others who are attempting to source local, ethically raised food).

    this year i'm gearing up for the summer season with a lot more information that is allowing me to plan much better. i know it's still going to get crazy and there will be places i will have to compromise again but i can also see so many places where i will be able to make better choices this year thanks to what i learned (and let go of) last year.

    thank you (once again) for your honesty. you are an inspiration on so many levels!!!!



  • Francesca

    Francesca on Feb. 8, 2011, 12:56 p.m.

    What I always find inspiring about how you and Damien are living your life, is how much thought you always give to each detail. I loved the first part of this post. Your compromises make total sense, and I feel that compromising is that special fine art without which life would be miserable. It starts in the family, and among parents: don't we all have different ideas about things, and yet make a life together work? PS I wasn't particularly fond of Dr Bronners in 1992 when I first (and last) used they toothpaste smelling liquid soap, and just judging by the label there I wonder how come Dr Bronners (now) enterprise is putting their name on fair trade soap, which is not the point and ethics of fair trade, as far as I know - just a thought provoked by a bunch of soap labels!


  • kyndale

    kyndale on Feb. 9, 2011, 7:07 a.m.

    I'm feeling the crunch of tightening our's hard because I think twice about outings. But, we do lots of things. My kids aren't lacking. When I feel like they are, we go for a hike or hit the library again!


  • Anonymous

    Anonymous on Feb. 10, 2011, 11:24 p.m.

    I came across your blog again today and saw this post...I've printed it out...I love it! You've put into words something I've been feeling but not able to put into words. I have to make compromises in my own life due to my health (chronic) and it may be that I will never have the "ideal" that I want. I think that part of the Christian life is also finding contentment even if we never reach (or haven't yet reached) our ideals.

    After reading this earlier I got kind of down that I still am not able to do the hiking that I would like to do, and that I used to do. But you know what, we have a trail in our neighbourhood and I don't use it as often as I even though its really cold we dressed for it (only eyes showing!) and I took the kids out.

    I can modify my ideals to fit my life if nothing else. We were gone an hour, about half of which was resting (laying on the snow and watching the sky). I would love to do an all day hike, or even hike for longer than an hour, but I can't. I'm learning to be content with the season of compromise in my life (and perhaps always).

    Thank you for being so real. Its very refreshing and encouraging!! Oh and what herb book is that you are using? I am curious. The one you are making cough stuff from.


  • Nicola @ Which Name?

    Nicola @ Which Name? on Feb. 11, 2011, 4:45 p.m.

    I would like to say sleep and exercise never get compromised for us, nor does time together, but that isn't true. They do. DIY and sustainability as well. Re-accomplishing these things in a current state of "right" was what my steps toward balance were all about. I think you are doing fabulously and I hope you aren't feeling guilty or badly! Nicola


    • renee

      renee on Feb. 11, 2011, 5:29 p.m.

      My own exercise goals are fairly minimal during this season of year (winter) and life (getting ready to move). My main exercise is our weekend hikes, which are hours long and involve several miles. I might also go for a walk with the kids during the week. Damien is much more diligent with daily exercise than I am but it's just not a priority for me right now. I do make sure the kids get outdoor exercise though, even if I don't : ) I've never been a hard-core "exerciser", I prefer doing activities with my family.

      I just can't compromise sleep or I don't function well (I become an un-happy, cranky mother). This is what amazes me about mothers with young children who blog, run businesses, manage homes etc... At that stage in my life I used my "spare time" to physically rest. I napped almost every day for years. I think I'm just not as high energy as some people are.

      I don't feel too guilty but I want so much more for our family in terms of diy. To let go of those ideals, even for a season, is difficult.  


  • Isabel

    Isabel on Feb. 13, 2011, 3:06 p.m.

    I really enjoyed this post, as usual. My word for the year came to me without planning to choose one: discipline. It is a helpful mantra to remind myself to go to be early and not knit into the night (not being very successful) and in washing the dishes every evening (more successful). Our raised bungalow built in the 50's does not have room for a dishwasher, so I get to live the ideal life of washing all dishes by hand :-). I'm used to it and I don't want a dishwasher anyway.


  • Suzy

    Suzy on Jan. 29, 2014, 3:44 p.m.

    I've recently run across info on yur AT adventure and have been reading your posts.  Love the idea of simplifying.  I do have one question.  What do you mean by unChurch?  I've never heard that term so I googled it.  But it didn't seem to coincide with what you said was important.  I'm not critizing, but am just curious.


    • renee

      renee on Jan. 29, 2014, 4:42 p.m.

      Suzy, unchurch isn't really a term, that I'm aware of, per se. I just use it like the way I would use the term unschool (we're not technically unschoolers, by the way, either).

      What I basically mean by the term is that although we are Christians we don't hold much truck with "organized religion". It's just not who we are. We believe and practice that we ARE the Church, not that church is a place you go. That is the very, very, very short version of what I'm mean by unchurch.

      We believe in gathering with and encouraging other believers, we believe in the ministry of the Church (meaning the body of Christ). We are bible believing Christians and accept all scriptural teaching regarding the Church, including Ephesians 4 and many others. We just don't think the modern church structure is the only or best way to live the body of Christ. In fact, we think church - as a way of gathering - is highly influenced by 1st to 5th (or so) greco-roman culture and, althougth there is no problem in that, it's not the only way to do things. 

      We were hoping to find a more fitting church (as a regular gathering) alternative for our integrated way of living but it has been hard, mostly because we currently live in a very secular culture currently. Before moving to Quebec we practiced home church as way of regularly meeting with other believers. Now, we do a hodge-podge. 

      I don't feel you are criticizing and I love to talk about the body of Christ, the Church. I love more to gather with likeminded believers and share our faith, read the Bible, talk about our struggles, and our joys, while breaking bread together - that to me is church (the gathering). But because it's not in a building, or organized, or "programmed", I call it unchurch : )

      At one point in my blogging career I thought I would write more about our church/Church philosophy but I haven't because we currently live in a Christian-desert and we don't gather with believers nearly as much as our hearts long to and so that part of my life, and my writing, lies fairly dormant right now.  

      Hope that clarifies things a bit for you.


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