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Behold the iPad in All Its Glory

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These are the stories of three mothers who successfully switched careers after having children to be able to do something they really love.

Tammy Botkin spent twelve years in mortgage finance and housing. Six months ago she decided to make a big leap as a single mother of three dealing with a difficult divorce. Now she is a Certified Professional Life Coach and writer.

Tammy packed up her home and put it in storage. She and her children lived in a very tight place for three months, surviving off of meager savings and with the support of family and friends.

In Tammy’s words:

“I battled daily for a long time with the thoughts that I was selfish, if not flat-out crazy, for what I was doing, but I had already lived the first half of my life according to other people’s rules.

Here’s what I have found on the other side: my kids and I still love each other dearly and we are well. The people who disapprove of me, always have. The people who loved me before, love me still.

I thought I had risked it all to find the value in really being me again. What I really found was that I gained it all by being me.”

Check out Tammy’s blog at www.tsbotkin.wordpress.com.

Josephine Geraci is the Founder and Owner of My Mom Knows Best, Inc. She left a career on Wall Street to become an inventor of a toddler product after having her first son. She never imagined she would become an inventor, have her product manufactured and see her product on the local huge baby retailer shelf.

In Josephine’s words:

“Were there any hurdles? It was like trying to climb a mountain on my knees. I knew nothing about manufacturing a product or bringing a baby product to the marketplace. Retail was totally new to me.

Running a business is really tough, but I love the rush I get when I have a really good day.”

You can see Josephine’s product at www.glovies.com.

Martyne Gagnon is a forty-five year old mother of four who became a writer after her position as an Executive Coordinator was cut. Since then she has taken on some part-time jobs, but has mostly been writing.

In Martyne’s words:

“I would put in long hours and bring work home. I worked, on average, fifty hours per week. Now I work part-time so I have time to write fantasy novels. I am not sure how many hours a week I write, because it is not work to me, it is fun.

The hardest thing was the money factor. My kids were used to getting big-ticket items, like computers and iPhones, as gifts for birthdays and Christmas which I can not afford any more. My oldest says she would rather see me happy than running to meet the next deadline. She says, “People are more important than things, Mom. If you are happy, then I will work to buy myself an iPad.”

After you had kids, did you switch jobs to do something you are passionate about? If so, please tell us about it in a comment.

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Are demands at home affecting your ability to do your job well? Demands such as a new baby, sick child, caring for an older parent, or money difficulties. Are you not paying your bills on time at home and missing deadlines at work?

We often make too many demands of ourselves and our time. If you are feeling overwhelmed, cut back. If you take on a new activity, take a break from an old one. Reduce the demands you are making on yourself and you will feel better.

Last week I had a medical emergency, Jay’s car broke down, and our older son got sick.

Weeks like that can be very overwhelming to me. This week I am buckling down and taking care of only what needs to be done (the essentials) and I am not letting myself feel bad about it. Sometimes we really need to make taking caring of ourselves our top priority. I have not been great about that in the past, but I am working on it.

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What would you give up to follow your passion?

Leigh Slingluff and her husband, Jonathan, live in a 250 square foot apartment in Philadelphia, Pennslyvania. They live there because they have a gallery (Slingluff Gallery, www.slingluffgallery.com) and they are living behind the gallery to make it affordable.

They started their gallery with no start up money and are doing what they need to do to make their dreams come true. Before now they had always lived in large homes big enough for four people. This is their first experience with living smaller. 

Leigh let me ask her a few questions. Here are her answers:

Karla: What features does your home have – a closet, windows, kitchen, bathroom?  
Leigh: We basically have two rooms. One is our living room, pretty “spacious” with two windows and a door to the shared backyard. The other room houses our kitchen, bathroom, and loft. We have a small table in the kitchen for eating. We are still redesigning for storage. Our loft will eventually have a short closet, maybe three feet tall, so that we can hang up clothes.

Karla: What are some tips about designing a small space? Did you keep it simple with clean lines? Use one color palatte?
Leigh: Jonathan, my husband, had a lot to do with the layout, but so did the existing water pipes. Trying to make the layout efficient is the most important part of a small living space, if you have that option like we did. As far as a color palette, use the colors you love and do not be afraid of going for something bold. We play up the small of our space by giving it a cabin feel. Behind our sink, fridge, and stove we have wallpaper that looks like a fall scene in the woods. Jonathan also painted his signature diamond pattern on two walls in our small bathroom, I think the ceiling is only slightly over six feet. Most would not go for that in a large space let alone a tiny bathroom, but it works great.

Karla: As gallery owners, you must really appreciate great artwork. Are you able to fit artwork in your small space and if so, how?
Leigh: We both collected artwork before we were married and have our own paintings too. After we opened the gallery, we have even more. Luckily we have tall ceilings in the kitchen and cluster our collected artwork all the way up. It does make it feel a bit closed in, but the ceilings seem taller and we can actually enjoy the artwork too. 

Karla: What items do you love that are not necessarily practical, but you made room for them in your new space anyway?
Leigh: We have a basement so all of the non-practical items are down there. We are still sorting through and getting rid of duplicate pots and pans. Our main guilty pleasure is artwork and art books. Wall space is king in our house. We also have an old cigarette machine. We initially wanted to use it in the gallery for the pottery we sell, but now it is in our living room. Somehow it fits.
 
Karla: What is the hardest stuff to keep control of? Is there some clutter you have to work harder to contain on an on-going basis?
Leigh: Everything is clutter. Even food we can not fit in the one cabinet seems like clutter. Making sure everything has its place is the most challenging part.  

Karla: What pieces of furniture are you able to fit in your space? A bed, a couch, a small tv, a small fridge?
Leigh: We actually have a pretty big couch, ottoman, and love seat in our living room. One of our friends could not fit it into their spot, so we tried it and it fit. Philadelphia has a lot of old houses, with tiny doors and hallways. We are lucky we are on the first floor. We have a dorm sized fridge, but also have another one in the basement for our openings since we supply beer. We do not have a TV, but we could definitely fit one somewhere on the walls. We have a mattress that is in the loft. I do not know if it qualifies as a bed for most people, but it works for us.

Karla: With owning less, do you find yourself focusing more on good-quality things?
Leigh: Yes, definitely. I think everyone should live smaller…we do not need as much space as we think we do and we do not need as many material things either (other than art of course.) 

Karla: How have others like your friends and family reacted to your new living space?
Leigh: We have had a few of our featured artists say “Wow, you two must really love each other to live in this small space.” We also get a lot of “Where do you keep your clothes?” From others, I have definitely picked up on shock of the size but everyone agrees that it is a cool space. I am kind of shocked too.

Karla: How were you and your husband able to compromise on what was important to move into your small space?
Leigh: We did some purging before the move. We did not really talk about what we were moving to our living space, I think we both just knew to bring only what was necessary. The basement helps a lot with the gallery’s storage.

Karla: Do you have any tips to offer on space saving storage?
Leigh: Storage can be found in the most amazing places. Keep an open mind, and look around for ideas for that corner that is being wasted. We found a boxed out window when we exposed a brick wall in the gallery. So, Jonathan made a “floating” wall with enough room to fit behind it. We keep our bags for purchases, and other small items like tape and register paper in the discovered nook. Also, we love the website www.apartmenttherapy.com, they always have ideas on storage. Our favorite is making a drawer in the stairs, and storage in the hardwood floor. We will be trying one of those ideas soon. 

Karla: What is your best tip for moving into and living in a small space comfortably?
Leigh: Be prepared that most of your things will not fit. Cutting down and simplifying life before moving helps a lot. Realizing that you can survive with four mugs and four plates is a must. Do not buy in bulk, we can not even do that with food. Learn to can soups and pickles. It cuts down on cost, leaves fridge space for the necessities and it is fun too.

Are you ready to move into 250 square feet like Leigh and Jonathan? If not, I do not blame you. While inspirational, our family will not be moving into a home that small any time soon either. So if the size of the home you are living in starts feeling small, before you buy that larger house, what can you do to make your home feel larger? Try some do-it-yourself storage projects, finish the basement, or buy smaller furniture from stores like Habitat or Ikea.

Was Jonathan and Leigh’s sacrifice worth it? Most definitely. Their place, Slingluff Gallery, was just voted “Best Art Gallery in Philadelphia”. If you are ever in the area, you should check it out at 11 West Girard Avenue.

 

Any other tips on how to make a small home more comfortable? If so, please post in the comments.

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One of the hardest changes for me so far has been making coffee and lunch at home and bringing it to work.

Stopping at Dunkin’ Donuts for an iced coffee in the morning had become a real habit and I am having a hard time breaking it. I have to consciously tell myself to keep on driving when I am passing by in the morning.

At work we have a cafeteria and while the food is not really great, it is super convenient. Getting two boys and yourself ready and out of the house in the morning can be hard. It is easy to say I will not take the time to make a lunch today and will buy it instead. I have also made my lunch the night before, but with fixing dinner, dishes, bath time, story time, picking up toys, etc. our nights are busy too. Plus I am really tired from a long day and all I want to do is play with my boys.

I have realized I can not make this change cold turkey. Today I made a pot of coffee when I woke up and brought a cup with me. I grabbed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, an apple, a yogurt and a granola bar. Next week if I bring my coffee and lunch Monday through Thursday I am going to reward myself with an iced coffee or a lunch out on Friday. Then maybe the next week I will be able to bring my coffee and lunch everyday and be able to enjoy it. Baby steps, right?

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Living Close to Work

Jay and I are very thankful that we both live close to work. We each have a 10-15 minute commute. It used to take me a half hour to get to my old job. It was surprising how much of a difference that little extra time makes in my day.

C and S go to the daycare where I work three days a week. It is a large expense, but it is so nice to be able to walk down and visit them during my lunch hour. It has also helped me to get to know their teachers and their friends really well.

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