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A few years ago, my husband, TIm, returned from a golf weekend and announced that he had bought a cottage. "Are you crazy!?" (I couldn't believe he would do that.) "It will be nothing but a money pit and we will never want to go there. It's too far away!" (It's about two hours.)
He took me to see it in the middle of November on a blustery day. There was no heat. My teeth chattered the whole time. The floor was so uneven the right-side television legs sat on a two by four in order to be level with the left-side legs. And, perhaps the most unique feature, a tree grew up through the floor and ceiling of the screened-in porch. (Well, sort of. They had actually built the porch around it. When you opened the blind, there it was—an 80 foot pine.)
Despite my shivering, my doubts, and many objections, the deal was signed and it was ours.
We had to wait months to do anything. I had plenty of time to lament, and Tim had plenty of time to plan. His first priority? Tearing down the only wall in the place that had any character. They had paneled the back of the kitchen wall with knotty pine. It was beautiful. And he wanted to tear it down? Trust me, he said. (Like when I trusted you to not buy the place?) "It will open up the floor plan. You'll like it, you'll see."
He tore down the wall. He fixed the floor. He repainted. He rewired, recarpeted, and fixed a lot of other things. Nearly everything needed fixed. By Labor Day, we were able to invite guests.
Over the ensuing years, the cottage has brought lots of hard work, many expensive repairs, and many, many good times. It's the perfect place to invite friends for a get-together; a wonderful place for quiet contemplation; a private retreat where I finished my healing book; a place to share laughs with neighbors who have become like family.
But the most important lesson I learned had to do with today's continuing series about the Success Keys: Prioritize, Simplify, Downsize.
Yes, Tim had to Prioritize in order to make the changes he made to cottage. (He claims we are done now... though I have my doubts...) That wasn't the big lesson for me when it came to the cottage. It was the other two.
If you're a woman, then it's probably not hard to imagine your closet, which may be stuffed to the gills with clothes, shoes, purses, scarves, belts, hats, and other accessories. Now imagine my cottage closet, which has a three foot bar and holds, at the most, three pairs of pants, a couple of shirts, one jacket, one coat. (I have no dresser.) Yea, that's all I ever have there at any given time. (Are you getting this?)
And why is that amazing and not horrifying? I never fret, I never worry, I never give it a second thought. In fact, If I had half that, I'd probably be fine with it.
Simplify. I'm going out to dinner. I have one pair of slacks. I don't have to decide if I am wearing the green ones with a belt or the blue ones with white stitching. There's only one choice.
Simplify. It's cold. I need a jacket. At home I have six coats. (I used to have ten.) I don't have to think about which one to wear. And is it my best one? Heck no, it's an outdated NASCAR jacket with a driver's name who no longer even drives. Do I care? I never give it a second thought.
So this has led me to Downsize at home. When I realized I could get by with one old rag of a coat at the cottage, I began to ask myself why I needed ten coats at home. Why do I have twenty pairs of pants? (Maybe a hundred shirts?) If I can get by with so little at the cottage, why do I have so much at home?
I haven't been able to get rid of everything yet. But I'm working on it. Downsize feels good. Simplify feels even better.
When creating your dream business, it's easy to start adding all sorts of extras that you may never need. Keep it simple. Keep it small to start. Nurture your budding flame like the embers of a camp fire just beginning to ignite. Protect it, don't over load it with big logs until the smaller stuff is burning bright.
Prioritize, Simplify, Downsize.
Oh, and there's one more thing. Remember when I said I told my husband he was crazy, that we would never want to go there. I hate it when I have to eat my words.
Remember This Key to Success: Prioritize, Simplify, Downsize
*Images: Top left, the tree growing up through the porch. Top right, tearing down the wall. Left, fixing the floor. Right, taking down the 80 foot pine (#1 taking off the top, #2, cutting it at the roof line). Left bottom, adding a new room. (Photos from authors collection.)