Monday, March 27, 2017

Simple Pursuit

Earlier this winter, I posted a question on social media asking my friends if they would be interested in learning more about minimalism if I organized some communications with resources and kicked it off in the new year. I wrote about it on the blog too here. I was thinking if there were at least a handful (6-8?) of my friends interested, it would be something that I could do and enjoy. Well 30+ friends commented about their enthusiastic interest and that was certainly enough to grow my excitement.

In January, 27 friends joined me for a 6 week conversation learning about minimalism and taking on challenges to declutter their homes and reflect on their values. I was so excited to see the breadth of friends and former colleagues and peers that participated from Oregon, Texas, Arkansas, Virginia and Indiana (time for my CA peeps to join next!). What began as an idea to share resources that have helped me to savor what I have in life, really shaped into a rhythm, similar to my writing curriculum. Based on feedback that participants were sharing with me about their learning and questions, I directed our emails into a 6 week course.

After the overwhelmingly positive feedback from my initial post, I thought I better get myself organized in case this grows quicker than I am envisioning. So I reflected on a name to label the emails with, and drafted a logo. I didn't think much of it, until a local friend participating talked to me in person and started referencing "the simple pursuit emails" and "the simple pursuit challenge last week." So then I created a gmail account.

For me, the pursuit of simple is to embrace that which is most important and basic. When we remove the busyness and life clutter, then we have room to savor those most important and basic values. Savor is a favorite word in our house!

My January cohort was made up of folks who had heard of minimalism but had not tried it, as well as those who were practicing minimalism habits already. I solicited their evaluation after our 6 weeks and was able to build on their insights for the direction of what future communications could look like, expanding beyond the twice weekly emails to also include webchat offerings. We had been using a secret Facebook group to post updates and dialogue through the 6 week process, and one adjustment I am making there is to let that serve as the graduation gift to those who learn the basics in Simple Pursuit, and want to keep trekking! So here is the rundown I have shared with those who are inquiring, feel free to pass along!

What is Simple Pursuit?
A 6 week online journey for those who are interested in the pursuit of simple. The principles of minimalism will be shared for you to reflect upon and determine what pieces you want to integrate. It is an investment in yourself to evaluate what you are prioritizing and how you can remove that which is not important from being a distraction.

In return for your investment you will receive:
6 weeks of resources to introduce or enhance your knowledge of minimalism
Twice-weekly emails with reflection homework and action items
A one hour group webchat half way through to ask questions and hear ideas from others
An optional 1:1 webchat time scheduled with me any time during the 6 weeks, up to 1 hour, to discuss and troubleshoot any decluttering barriers
After the 6 weeks, you will be invited into a secret Facebook group of class participants should you want to continue the conversation and resource sharing

(Friends and Family take an additional 25% Discount at registration...that is $33.75)

How to register:
Email with your preferred email address to receive weekly communications beginning the first week of April. Once your spot is confirmed, you will receive an email regarding payment steps.

In order to preserve the personal attention afforded, there will be a cap at 20 participants. (At this time of posting I have spots for 10 more)

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

#thisoldhouse #bathroomremodel

It was a 6 week undertaking of labor, mostly performed by our contractor and his plumber. I posted on social media to tag the daily changing look of our upstairs main bathroom as work was accomplished. What I realized more than half way through is that I should have been tagging it #bathroomrenovation not remodel, because we went down to the studs replacing the subfloor and leveling out floor joists. This was not just a wallpaper removal and painting job! I wanted to chart the start to finish here to document the process:

Pre-December 19th BEFORE

December 19th - Day 1
December 20th- Day 2

December 21st- Day 3

December 22nd- Day 4

December 23rd- Day 5

January 3rd- Day 11 (holiday break and work while we were out)

January 4th- Day 12

January 5th- Day 13

January 6th- Day 14

January 9th- Day 15

January 10th- Day 16

January 11th- Day 17
January 12th- Day 18

January 16th- Day 19

January 17th pre-painting- Day 20

January 17th post-painting- Day 20

January 18th- Day 21
January 19th- Day 22

January 20th- Day 23

January 23rd- Day 24

January 24th- Day 25

January 27th- Day 28
February 1st- Day 29
One more look at that before...
Pre-December 19th BEFORE
When the weather warms up outdoors again, our contractor will be back to remove the storm window from the enclosed shower wall and work on the outside siding so it is weather resistant. When that happens we will no longer have the mid-line in the shower window and that will be the final contractor-related work for this bathroom! We are still deciding on bathroom rugs/floor mats and where we should place the toilet paper holder and towel bar, but we have time to live into those decisions. The space we have recaptured by redesigning the placement of our bath pieces has been amazing. The shift from a 360 degree shower curtain to a traditional curtain with tiled wall has been fantastic! I am so grateful we cheated the shower head up higher and the curtain rod out wider- I no longer feel like a giant taking a shower in here. Having all four of us in this space at once happens daily- it was worth making the investment to a more user friendly space that doesn't require us to use a wrench whilst turning on the shower faucet, nor have a leaking toilet into our kitchen below!

And for anyone local to the Greater Lafayette Indiana area, I highly recommend Miller Construction. Loren was fantastic to communicate with and share space alongside for 6 weeks. Thank you!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Life in Revision

Yesterday my fantastic wife gave me (Jonathan) a framed copy of the Theodore Roosevelt quote that inspired Daring Greatly.  This past semester my staff and I have been reading the book and discussing how it can impact us.  A little over a week ago I participated in Virginia Tech’s commencement ceremony and was formally “hooded” and received my degree.  I figured it is time to write one more piece on my doctoral journey.  To get caught up to this point, check out this postthis post, and this post.  In summary, I took some really important exams, failed them, worked through that failure and ultimately passed them, but it was messy. 

I love the Advent/Christmas season and its accompanying soundtrack.  I love some of the classic hymns such as “O Holy Night.”  And while contemporary songs seem to struggle to catch some of the depth and meaning of the season, I’m drawn to a rather recent Christmas song called “Snow” by Sleeping at Last.  It is not your usual celebratory, uplifting Christmas song.  While I can’t say what the songwriter’s impetus was for writing the song, personally I hear it as a song of struggle and growth.  Of pain and taking steps for moving forward.  One of my favorite lines is “life without revision will silence our souls.” 

Who are we if we don’t take time to examine our lives and make edit?.  We can’t go back and change choices we made, but we can let those choices inform our future.  I had no intentions of failing my prelims, but a few years later I can see how that experience provided me with a need sense of resiliency.  It demonstrated the importance of my system of support led by my wife and enhanced by my kids, parents, in-laws, colleagues at VT, my Blacksburg community and church, and eventually my Lafayette community and church. 

Just over a year ago, I struggled mightily in my dissertation proposal exam.  Thankfully I did pass it, but it wasn’t pretty.  It was another humbling experience; I had to seek outside help on my writing and even more expanded time on my dissertation.  That led to a fantastic final dissertation defense in June.  My committee was very impressed with my work and that was capped off last week as I got to walk the stage and be hooded by one of the most important people in my story, Frank Shushok.  As we were sitting, waiting for our turn to go on stage, we reflected on my journey.  And he reminded me that despite the hurdles along the way, I’m still the first to graduate from my cohort of five.  His comment was not made in a competitive nature, but rather a reminder of the perils and challenges of a PhD journey.

So I have the title of “Dr.” and three beautiful velvet stripes on my academic regalia.  However, they are both symbols (important symbols nonetheless), of a transformative journey.  Not necessarily the path I would have drawn up in August 2011 when I started the journey, but the journey I needed to take.  A journey of revision after revision.  Because as the refrain of “Snow” states:

Like the petals in our pockets
May we remember who we are
Unconditionally cared for
By those who share our broken hearts

Note:  Sleeping At Last's Christmas Collection, which includes "Snow," can be downloaded for free at  

Merry Christmas!

This year's Christmas card highlights the kids on the chorus, with Reese finally piping in at the final round more loudly. May you and yours find warm snuggles this season and blessings in the new year! Merry Christmas! Love, the Manz fam

Friday, December 9, 2016

Embracing Minimalism, a community journey

Over the past 4 years I've had an increasing interest in minimalism. My excitement to learn more and read about others' experiences has left a digital crumb trail behind me as I've reposted articles, shared quotes, and reflected in online forums as my own personal journal. I did not set out to start a revolution, just document for my own sake of reference. Well in that documentation process, I gained some interest from friends and what moved from "likes" on my FB posts, grew to interactive comments and questions, then direct emails to ask me for direction on simplifying and in person conversations with folks I didn't even know were paying attention! 

My friend Mel planted an idea with me this fall that perhaps I have a minimalism prowess to share and that others would be interested in hearing my experiences and thoughts. So I've been chewing on that idea for a bit on what kind of platform I could share about living simply. There is a huge part of me that has been reluctant because of self-doubt. I look at my home and think not all of my spaces are photo worthy of a minimalist-how-to. And I wonder, do I actually have anything of greater value to share than what is already out there? But what I do have are friends that trust and know me, and so maybe serving as a curator of all the minimalism tips and resources out there can be valuable. And what I also strive to be great at is authenticity. So maybe sharing some real life pics helps to emphasize what I truly believe, that minimalism is a unique journey and looks different for everyone. 

So if you want to join me on a new year adventure, I will be gathering a cohort of friends to communicate with for the month of January 2017. I will email you every 2-3 days and share stories, encouragement, tips and resources on creating your own minimalism- which could be decluttering your stuff, your schedule, or your mind. What I know to be true about minimalism is that it is counter-cultural and therefore best lived in the support of community. If you want to be part of that community in January, send me a note, email, comment, post, direct message, etc! 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Becoming Uncluttered

You may have seen my shout outs over the last two years for the blog I read, Becoming Minimalist by Joshua Becker. He wrote a new book this year, The More of Less, and as an incentive to pre-order I got to participate in his new online course called Uncluttered. We are at the half way marker now, 8 weeks in, 8 more to go. We've tackled assignments by specific rooms each week and are now moving into the mindfulness habits of how to keep things that way. This isn't an organization course, it is a minimizing, purging course. The social support has been pretty great, 7k new friends across the world in a private Facebook group to post our questions, challenges and successes together. But this blog post isn't an advertisement for that.

The thought shared this week is about the power of sharing our story and having both support and accountability for holding ourselves to this new way of life. Whether you are changing a habit like eating healthier or curbing your purchases, naming that for yourself and letting others hear it can create a powerful ring of support. So I thought I'd share one of the latest pictures that I posted with the Uncluttered group:

Here is a look at the garage getting attacked today! Since we are having beautiful weather (70s) with low humidity it felt like a great day to approach this task since I wouldn't be rushing to beat the heat. So the top photo is a before look at what the side of our garage has been (minus a few bikes the kids had already wheeled out). The middle photo is what the space looked like after I cleared it all out and swept the bench and floor! I'd love to leave it just like that it looks so pretty! But the task ahead of me is sorting through the 3rd photo- all the items on the lawn to decide what is trash, what can be shared with others, and what still serves its purpose and is a need for our family. 

I am surprised so far how much trash I've just thrown away like broken bubble wands, old receipts, broken plastic toys. When we lived in our 1k square foot home in Virginia it was really easy to avoid indoor toys because of limited space, but it opened the floodgates to collecting a gang of outdoor things for the kids to play with since we had the under house storage. We sure do appreciate having a garage now and the ability to park both of our cars in it. So the goal for today is to keep that the priority and be able to find the things we want to play with and move along the things we do not!

I sent the pics to Jonathan so he knows what we are undertaking today, but I'm looking forward to the look on his face when he drives home tonight and pulls in to this uncluttered space!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Reflections, The 30s Life, transition, Indiana, PhD Journey

I got to introduce myself to a new Purdue employee tonight and navigate what has been sort of challenging since the move last July. How do I introduce myself to someone who has no knowledge of the 'prior-me' before this moment? I don't have easy boxes to check anymore when I fill out forms to list my employer and field of work. I find myself stumbling over a combination of what I used to do and where I used to live combined with too much information about this old house and the project management I've undertaken in the last year, and that Heath finished up his kindergarten year and he had homework daily that I helped him focus on, and... I think this person was super polite and smiled and found a common ground to ask a follow up question focused on one of my life identities I spewed out. 

When we moved here 11 months ago I really struggled with this introducing myself thing. I don't ever recall including my profession in my first sentence of intro, but without the profession I felt like I stumbled over every word and was judging myself more than others probably even gave a second thought. So I guess I tried to have grace with myself and say it will get easier. But I'm not sure that it has. Perhaps there has been an improvement in my own personal comfort level with how I view my new role at home. Though I still struggle with that identity too, like I am ignoring this other big piece of me. 

I've always been more comfortable with plans vs. ambiguity. I think since becoming a parent and entering my 30s that pendulum has shifted to accept a reality that plans and structure are such an illusion. You can hang on to that organized plan, but I've found letting go and embracing what is makes me a lot happier. This relocation and pause from paid employment I've tried to embrace as an opportunity to reflect and be present, to consider what my values are and prioritize based on that as we establish life in a new place. It is freeing to start with a clean slate and no commitments in your schedule. Most days I really do cherish that gift of time. After 4 years of being the sugar mama, it feels nice to pass that responsibility on to J for a bit. But there are still a lot of days where I feel a bit lost in understanding what I am doing in this season of life. 

A week ago Tuesday Jonathan defended his dissertation, completing all the requirements necessary to earn his PhD. ((CELEBRATE!!!)) While this was of course a huge weight immediately lifted, it has been a slow realization of entering a new season for him, for me, for our family. We said the PhD was going to be the next baby in our family (then we decided to add Reese to our clan after the coursework was done 3 years in). But 5 years of daily work and sacrifice has been made to achieve the accomplishment and it feels weird to let go of the daily work and sacrifice. The last two weekends have felt incredibly long. We have so much family time to fill it is kind of unreal. And so maybe that shift in capacity combined with approaching our first year in Indiana has me doing all kinds of thinking. How DO I want to introduce myself?