As I’d mentioned in my first post, our gite here is only about one quarter of the size of our house back in the USA.
Now, I love our spacious home in Washington state, but I’ve certainly seen some upsides to downsizing. Not to the extent that we’re suddenly going to sell up and move to a ‘tiny house’, but those people embracing minimalism have some good points.
Here are a few observations from the last weeks:
- Mess. This little house gets untidy more quickly. But not much more, since the children leave chaos in their wake wherever we are. The benefit of a small house is that it’s way faster to clean up again!
- Losing stuff. For example, at home we’re always losing kids’ shoes. We generally have a couple of pairs for each of them (luckily we get hand-me-downs from friends). Here, we have lost no shoes at all! None! (I accept that our usual mislaying of shoes may largely be down to disorganization).
- Coziness. Yep, small is cozy! The children play a bit more closely, because they are forced together. This is mostly positive, but not always. Particularly in the first couple of weeks there was a lot of scuffling. (One night after especially harrowing bedtime wars, I binge-watched ‘Super Nanny’ on TV until midnight…it was surprisingly helpful, and had the added bonus of being good for everyday French practice! Plus I now know that French children can be as naughty as ours ;> )
- Getting dressed. It’s very easy to pick out clothes, because we don’t have many with us to choose from. Some might consider this a negative, but it has benefits. Michael is definitely a big fan of his limited wardrobe. (No surprise there!) We have so many clothes at home, and most are just taking up space…this is pretty typical, as far as I can tell. (On the other hand, I’m washing clothes all the time, and I really, really miss having a tumble dryer. Why have these inventions not taken off in Europe? Energy considerations? The wear? Something else? We have clothes hung up to dry every single day…)
- A feeling of lightness. This is harder to articulate or explain, but just being surrounded by less “stuff” is a good feeling. (Perhaps this is one reason why going camping is so enjoyable). Not enough that I’ll be throwing out my hoards of special treasures once we get home….the childhood books/diaries, letters, cards, photos etc…or even emptying out the kids’ drawers full of “important things” like scribbles, pebbles, bits of geodes, all the random plastic junk….but nonetheless….
As for having fewer toys, it has definitely been refreshing.
It’s not as though we have nothing with us. Each of the kids brought a small bag with a few toys (Conrad has a few Hot Wheels cars, Victoria has her little dog collection, Roman brought Batman, Gaston has his teeny DollarTree Paw Patrol dogs, and we have a bag of plastic army men, also from DollarTree). We have paper, pens and crayons. Plus my parents visited from England and brought a box of my childhood Lego. Not the modern, fancier Lego, but it’s great. We all love Lego.
Still, that’s way less than our usual glut of toys. Certainly it’s fun to have lots of toys, but it really doesn’t add much to playtime. Here, we’ve been more creative. We’ve played outside a LOT. Victoria has colored obsessively. We’ve made houses from rocks and boxes.
Here are a few photos from the past weeks…
It rains a lot here, so we’ve had some great puddle jumping sessions!
And puddle sitting.
Roman: “I found a really big worm and I washed it clean in a puddle!”
Another day…this one got out of hand.
Northern France has some serious mud!
We have a patch of woods just a short walk from the house, out of the back gate and down a narrow lane past the field with two horses.
We built a stick fort, with help from my visiting parents, which makes a great superhero/ninja base.
In the woods there’s also a short loop trail up and down earth mounds – built for mountain bikes, but great for running around.
We’ve found some interesting fungi, and lots of woodlice/roly poly bugs.
The soil is very sandy, and all the kids like to sit and make dirt castles which they decorate with twigs and acorns.
One evening the kids made ninja headbands…from baby wipes. This was about the time of day that Michael got home from teaching in Paris, so they ambushed him outside the back gate. (Note: ninjas do not smile).
Another popular game is “good dog, bad dog, and dog catcher”, which involves a lot of crawling and barking (unfortunately this has resulted in holes in the knees of two sets of Romans’ trousers, and one of Victoria’s….so we have even fewer clothes now!)
Victoria’s doggie house. So easily customized! She spends a lot of time rearranging the animals in different configurations. We’re supposed to be making Conrad a police station, but haven’t quite got there yet.
Army battle. Actually not much of a battle. Most of the time is spent just getting the soldiers into their places. In theory it’s World War I (many battlefields in this area), but Victoria likes to involve her dragon.
This is Gaston’s all-time favorite activity: watching trains coming and going at the station. We have an excellent view from the upstairs back window. When they pull away he shouts: “Bye Train! I wubble! (i.e. I love you!) See you tomorrow!” He particularly likes some snack or treat while he’s watching, but best of all is when Daddy comes home on the train and comes across the parking lot.
Making cakes…we recently discovered that France has an equivalent of the simple chocolate brownie mix, but for fondant gateau. Great discovery.
Definitely some special memories. I’m really hopeful that when we get back home to the USA, we can have a toy overhaul (but I’m not guaranteeing anything!)