Name: Rachel Meeks
Location: Florence, Italy, by way of Dallas, Texas
Online Home: Small Notebook
Kids: Lane (4) and Tom (1)
Rachel Meeks' blog, Small Notebook, might be a little different from what you're used to in a parenting, home and design blog. While she shares insights from her daily life and thoughts about parenting, her main focus is simplifying life at home, and in the process, making a more meaningful experience for the whole family.Rachel started blogging as a way to document things she wanted to remember, and the title of her blog still bears the marks of its origins. As she describes, the blog was more of a digital "notebook," and she didn't expect anyone to read it, except maybe her mother. But soon she realized she enjoyed writing entries that could help others achieve simplicity at home. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Rachel and her family have lived in an apartment for many years, so much of her experience in organizing her time and home comes from managing life in a smaller space. Yet Small Notebook goes way beyond simple tips for apartment living. With advice and insight into topics ranging from grocery budgeting and organizing digital photos to setting "compelling goals" and avoiding the lure of "more stuff," Rachel gets into the material details of homekeeping as well as the philosophy of living a simpler life.
And, as Rachel asserts herself, one of the most compelling parts of her blog is her reader comments. With lots of devoted and interested readers, she gets fantastic ideas and suggestions to her frequent end-of-post questions. The discussion ends up being just as vital and inspiring as Rachel's initial, thought-provoking post.
With a recent move from Dallas to Florence, Italy, we caught up with Rachel to ask her all about her life, ideas, and blog.
Your blog focuses heavily on scaling down and simplifying life at home. Where does this instinct originate for you? Does it start with economics, something philosophical, an organizing principle?
Most of that comes from our daily life and living in apartments for so many years. The longer I live in apartments, the more I like it, and I don't want the big house.
I always liked organizing, but I used to think it was about perfection: having everything lined up and labeled, all the papers filed, that sort of thing. That was when it was just me living in my apartment by myself, and I was at work all day. Then after I got married and had a baby, it was three of us living in a one-bedroom apartment. Now we have two kids, and we live in a two-bedroom apartment. It doesn't take much at all to make it look messy.
Paring down our stuff and keeping things simple is the only way I can do things well at home. I can't even think if my home is cluttered, you know? Every unfinished project would be calling out to me, distracting me, and keeping me from feeling focused and relaxed.
If I was trying to be perfectly organized all the time, I would spend all of my time following my kids, trying to put things back in the right spots, and that's ridiculous. I've let go of the idea that being organized is about finding perfect containers for all of your stuff. Now I think it's about finding simple routines and ways to make the tasks in your life easier.
When did you move to Italy, & how has this change affected your homekeeping philosophy?
A few months ago I was looking at Craigslist for apartment listings, and a thought occurred to me, "I could look for an apartment in Italy." So we did.
We came here in early February. It's a short-term move, only a few months. We're still working on our plans about where we'll be going next.
I think being here has helped me see what makes me feel comfortable at home, and it reassures me that I don't need a lot of things. I love being here with my family and the apartment we're living in. It's a two-bedroom, and it's just the right size.
Taking care of our home in Italy requires me to do a few things differently. We do grocery shopping every day. I check the weather before I start the laundry, since I hang our clothes out to dry from our balcony.
Where do you see Small Notebook heading? Will you focus more on gardening & cooking, organizing, design, parenting?
The emphasis will continue to stay with simplifying and organizing. Those are my favorite topics, but I cover other topics such as money management, food, and family life as well since they affect what it's like to be at home.
Have you ever gotten great advice from readers on your blog? Has someone's comment ever been inspirational or a cause to reconsider any of your ideas?
There are always good comments on my blog. I love the discussion. Readers have a lot of insightful thoughts and ideas to share, and they're very honest.
One comment that I often think about was from someone who said:
"Two years ago we had a possibility of going overseas to study, and one of my first responses was “I can’t pack up all of our stuff and be ready 6 months from now!” That was really a wake-up call to me, and I’ve been trying since then to pare down our stuff so that we will be ready for any future opportunity."
It reminds me how much I love our freedom in flexibility and knowing that we can go after the opportunities that show up.
Where do you go on the web for inspiration?
Well, Simple Mom has built such a great community.
Do you know whose writing I just love? Jules from Pancakes and French Fries.
I also like following Inspired to Action because the posts are so helpful and short, and they get me motivated.
How do you see natural living fitting in with the simplicity movement?
It makes sense to me that as you simplify and remove the extra stuff, you're going to pay more attention to what you keep. So you start looking more closely at the ingredients that are in your favorite soap or in your laundry detergent. Maybe you decide to drink more water and less soda. And as long as you're consuming less, you might as well look for ways that you can reduce your trash a little. It's all about baby steps.
I think people who are looking to simplify are committed to personal growth, just like with natural living, and there is always the next baby step you can take.
Do you have any favorite posts you'd like to share?
My favorite post is this one: Holding on to Sentimental Things.
But I also like: the Paper Pile Makeover, What to Expect When You're Expecting and You Still Live in an Apartment, How to Decorate Your Apartment to Feel Less Temporary and More Like Home and Loosen the Grip of More Stuff.
Read more about Rachel, her family, simplicity and life's adventures over at Small Notebook. You'll get great ideas and be inspired in the process.
(Images: Rachel Meeks; Food Tray photo by sashafatcat)
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