An Unintentional Manifesto on Simplicity.

product-brandingI’ve been thinking about branding a lot lately.  The advice I got early on was to keep my “brand” very narrow, to just talk about our tiny house experiences and not to talk about our work as Pipe Organ Conservationists, and not to talk about how much I love to write, paint, and weave… etc… because all of that is “Off Brand”.  Here’s the thing… that’s just plain not working for me.  So I’m throwing that advice out the window as well as the idea that I’m here to build a brand.  Ok? I’m replacing that with the reality that I’m just here to talk about our lives.  It’s not a brand – it’s just us.  Period.

I am passionate about helping people navigate the transition to a simple life in a smaller space!  Embracing minimalism for a season is a great way to shake ourselves loose from materialism and consumerism.  It’s also a great way to begin to shake ourselves loose from the idea that we can gain meaning and significance by owning a thing – which is a message that dominant culture sells us that is damaging on every level.  Shaking ourselves free of these things is important self-work because we deserve to be free.

Here’s the thing.  If there is a mountain between here and where you want to be, and you find the tunnel through that mountain… you spend your time and focus on that tunnel for a season.  But if you don’t move on through the tunnel, instead of camping out there, then you’re not going to experience the wide open spaces of the valley beyond.  And that would suck.

tunnelsMinimalism is the tunnel.  Minimizing the mundane things in your life is a really important thing to focus on – for a season – moving through the tunnel.  But at some point we gain traction and something really great begins to happen.  This is the very best part.  All that time and energy we spent on working the job that was required because of the big mortgage… not to mention all the work it took to maintain that big life… when that’s all out of the picture and things are simpler… space opens up.  It’s like coming out of the tunnel into the valley beyond.  Now, I’m not talking about heaven, lol!  I don’t want to misrepresent minimalism as a once-and-done king of thing – because it’s not.  For many of us it’s a path to freedom that we will need to stay on.  What Simplicity offers is the opportunity to spend much less time on mundane things – and that opens up more time for purpose and meaning.  In short – Simplicity is a key to the good life!

IMG_6054So here is one thing that gives us a sense of meaning:  Xaver (the name is pronounced Xavier, but his name is the German spelling without the “i”) is a Certified Pipe Organ Builder and that means he is able to diagnose a malfunctioning instrument and create solutions – even if they have to be made from scratch.  He’s also trained in piano, guitar, and violin/viola/cello/bass instrument building and restoration. However, we only take on pipe organs and pianos since that is what most interests us.  In the United States we are losing authentic pipe organs to the fake electronic instruments.  Every day we can tune, voice, and restore an authentic instrument to keep it at peek performance is another day the skilled salesmen don’t get to rip another pipe organ out and replace it with a glorified stereo system.  Some days this feels like a rescue operation, some days it’s just simple respect for a remarkable art form.  Pipe organs are amazing, complex machines, and being in the sanctuary where one is being played well can be an incredibly moving experience.  It is for me, as I grew up Mennonite and it is rare to find a pipe organ in a Mennonite church building.  Pipe organs were created to inspire worship and that is our focus and the mission in our work.  This work matters to us, it’s very intentional and important work to us.  It’s not especially lucrative because we keep our prices affordable for the sake of the congregations we serve.  Therefore, Simplicity becomes a key part of the way we live in order to live this dream and do this work that matters so much to us.

Fuchsia Ad 2I have had a dream for many years of being a published author, and living in a tiny home and embracing Simplicity is what made it possible for me to see that dream come true.  And in time, I became a published author.  YAY!  That means the world to me.  I made a list a year or so ago, and there were 25 books on that list of books I want to write.  Twenty five.  That’s crazy, but I’m on it.  Some of them are partially written.  And Simplicity is a key part of the way we live that makes it possible for me to keep writing books and creating resources to help other folks find Simplicity.  This feels missional, since materialism and consumerism have become so dominant in our culture.  I believe we all deserve to be free.  That’s what keeps me writing.

2 UsXaver and I are creatives.  He’s got an amazing inventive engineering mind.  I’m an artist and I love color, yarn, and painting.  These are the things I do to keep a balance in my life.  When I get a little overwhelmed with working with words and crafting messages, then I have to go back to the colors and textures of painting and weaving to recharge.  Being an artist is both self care and self expression for me.  And every time that Xaver gets to create and invent and do something purely for the sake of developing an idea… that’s also energizing for him.

As you follow along with this blog, you’ll see some pipe organ stuff, some creative stuff, and no matter what photos you see on Instagram or whether or not you pick up my book to read it… I want you to know that Simplicity is the tunnel we walked through to find this amazing life that we’re living.  Simplicity is what keeps us working, innovating, and doing restoration work in the world of pianos and pipe organs.  Simplicity is what makes it possible for me to weave, paint, and write books.  We aren’t getting rich doing any of this, but we do enjoy a meaningful life and that’s where it’s at for us.  True wealth is doing the work that matters most to us, when it’s lucrative, and also when it isn’t.

Purposeful Simplicity is the tunnel through the life-constricting mountain of materialism into the valley beyond where we get to live a more meaningful existence.   We have not arrived, I don’t want to even make it sounds like it’s a once and done thing – not at all.  We’re on this journey and we will keep at it.  You are welcome to walk with us on this journey and I have written some resources that will help and you can find them in the “sales” section of this page if you’d like – and if not – you’re still welcome here!!  Simplicity is powerful stuff, Y’all!

Love,

Carmen Shenk Logo Mini