With time alone … and maybe a Wood-Mizer

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 Photos by  Chris Uhler

Photos by Chris Uhler

This season of life challenges our family to economize. We’ve gone from two incomes to one in order to be able to have our young son at home for a bit before his formal education begins. When we made this decision I was worried about disciplining my spending habits to fit our new budget. I needn’t have been. What I thought would be the hardest part for me has actually been the easiest.

In going from cash-rich to time-rich I’ve learned some things. Such as, what can be accomplished with time and little else? Answer: every single thing I want to do most. Accompany my son at the outset of his learning journey. Discover thereby who he is as a learner, and as a person. Accompany my husband for a length of his professional journey. Learn things about him that I never knew or properly appreciated in over 20 years together. Write. Read. Think. Feel. Be. And maybe tackle a bit of home-improvement.

Oh, right. Home-improvement. It might as well be spelled “$$$” and assumes one or more visits to one or more big-box stores. But can we think differently about this, as necessity often challenges us to do?

If you are craving an update but new throw pillows aren’t in the budget, try this ... rearrange your furniture. Yes, it can be done, even in the smallest of spaces. When first married, Dan and I lived in an 800-square foot house in which I rearranged the furniture no fewer than a dozen times in the two years we lived there. Think the only place a dining table can go is in the dining room? Think again, my friends. Or try this … just rearrange your pictures. Give each room something novel to look at, and be amazed at the fresh ways of thinking that are sparked as a result. It’s a psychological rather than actual change, but the brain craves novelty above all else. We just have to get out of the habit of assuming that novelty must always cost something.

These ideas cost time alone and can dramatically impact how your space looks and works for you. But now let’s say you have time … and access to a small sawmill alongside some otherwise unwanted firewood logs. This scenario opens up other cost-effective options, since it's a short step between dreaming and executing new aesthetics and function for the space you have. In just a half hour on a Saturday afternoon Dan loaded a Black Locust log onto the sawmill and cut all of the pieces we needed for two substantial raised garden beds. On a Sunday, scrap boards peeled from beams cut for a timber frame project are nailed to the wall as super-trendy rough-cut mixed-species paneling. Granted, these projects did require one quick trip each to the home improvement store, but only for a few packets of hardware.

I’m learning not to fear a tight budget, because it requires me to be creative and resourceful. A time-rich life is, in fact, deeply creative, engaging, and provides more opportunities for connection with the people and spaces closest to us. Friends, this is my wish for all of you.