The Night the Lights Went Out

My head has been swimming lately with so many possibilities that my productivity took a nosedive and it’s been hard to concentrate. Normally when that happens I do the one productive thing I can do without thinking: I start a load of laundry.

But this sort of unproductivity was beyond laundry.

It wasn’t about Christmas, even though every one of my friends has talked about the anxiety that comes with Christmas and extended family. I haven’t felt Christmas stress in the last couple of years since I decided to have “Come As You Are” Christmas. If something feels stressful, we don’t do it. I also don’t get organized with lots of lists and charts. What we do is we each think of three Christmas activities that sound most fun to us, and then we do those. We get a lot of satisfaction that way, and anything else is optional.

Two years ago when I didn’t even realize I was pregnant, our Christmas was low-key. Last year was extremely celebratory with our first tree, and Doug and I spent late nights together making handmade gifts for the kids. This year will be somewhere in between. Because we do the things we like, I can’t wait to put the tree up and get Christmas started again.

But something else has been on my mind lately…thoughts about where we might go after the holidays.

I’ve spent many late nights looking on Craigslist for apartments in different cities. Where might our family live? Where could we feel enriched while still caring for the practical and personal needs of our two small children?

Last night our power went off, and that never happens. I could focus and think clearly for the first time in a week. Not having so many activities beckoning, I felt a renewed sense of energy. I got more done in an hour without electricity than I did during the entire rest of the day. I think I’ll remember that during the next few weeks, and turn the lights off early on the nights when everything starts to feel full and busy.

Oh, and did you want to know where we’ll be going?

We’ve decided to move to Florence, and we found a furnished apartment to rent. It will only be for a season, and I’m not sure where we’ll go after that. We’ve been before, and I’ve dreamed about living there ever since.

About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. NO. WAY. I am so excited for you…thanks for taking us with you. God bless.
    the cottage child´s last post…Mean Mommy

  2. Florence, Italy?!!! or Florence, Texas? I am thinking the first one but I can’t believe it. How exciting! Love it. Love it. Never been but I just LOVE IT.

  3. How magical, to have the opportunity to live in Florence!

  4. I just loved this post. I had a similar experience last week. Just going on vacation and being without so many distractions just refreshed my mind!

    Re: Florence — YES! This is incredibly exciting! I am so excited to read about your adventures.
    Rachel´s last post…The Art of Slowing- Not Just on Vacation

  5. Florence?! Wow…I am so excited for you and can’t wait to read all about it (you will keep blogging while you are there? say yes, please…)

    Also, I love your simple holiday ideas. My family is low-key about the holidays, which I love but my husband is the youngest of 4 and everyone lives close by and is married with 2 or 3 kids and the whole family get-together is a circus and it always drains me so much (never mind the gifts!)
    It is good to sit back and remember what is truly important…thanks for the reminder.

  6. Oh boy! This is going to be good.
    juliet´s last post…Boondoggle

  7. You are living the dream, Rachel! Can’t wait to follow your journey!

    I am planning in my mind the simplest of holidays. Doesn’t make for great blogging to say “look at all the stuff we AREN’T putting up/making/decorating/giving” but I am purposefully feeling lately like the best things are those that you can’t show off in pictures.

  8. Hi, I’m Val. Found your blog a few days ago and it has put some wind in my sails! Love your hopeful, intentional take on life and motherhood. Our family, too, has spent several months discerning where we’ll move next (DH is an Army dude). Just found out it’s Singapore. Looking forward to following your story. Wish you well, Val

    PS Just read “5 tipe to make your apt feel like a home,” and I shouted AMEN!!

    • Oh.. you’ll love Singapore. I lived there for almost 2 years and I loved it. If you are not used to it get ready to do some serious walking. The MRT can take you everywhere. I wish I could go back “la”.

  9. I live in Grenoble, France which is just a hop, skip & a jump away- would also be a great place to come!
    Kelly´s last post…Thinking Outside the Wallet

  10. Oh Wow! I hope you still blog and share your adventures with us when you move!
    Frances´s last post…Curried Pumpkin Soup- How To Make A Curry

  11. Northern Italy is incredible! Looking forward to hearing about your adventures there! We lived in Sicily for three years and I miss Europe so much.
    Emily@Creative Disaster´s last post…Thirty Days of Thanksgiving Day 18

  12. Florence…what a wonderful choice! I spent my honeymoon there.

    There is a place I often think about and long to go back to in Florence. It’s the Boboli Gardens and whilst we were there (11 years ago now) they were in the process of restoring them. It was truly a magical place full of possibility and history and space to dream. Orangeries and ponds, ornate ironwork fallen into disrepair, stone steps and terraces.

    So if you get the chance (which I’m sure you will!) visit the gardens – they were so still and silent and inspiring. Almost asleep. I would love to go back and see if they are awake now. I think you would like them.
    Anna´s last post…Purse Strings – they need tightening

  13. One of my old elementary school teachers would turn out the lights when things were getting crazy. It had a huge impact on the behavior and overall feeling of the class.

    • I remember a teacher doing this, too. Glad to be reminded of it! I’ve found with my two little boys, 18 months and three, that the vacuum is the thing–We call it “the Noisy.” When they are fighting or non-stop climbing, I’ll start up the Noisy and they follow me around like puppies waiting their turn to vacuum or get their hair “sucked.” Fun!

  14. Nothing like a power failure to sort priorities!!! Florence!!! My hubs and I always say: “I’ll meet you in Florence” when we say Good-bye!!! It is our favorite city in the world!!! And before kids we saw a few!!! It is beautiful, artsy, history, and the best food in the world… really the best food… best gelato, best pasta, best yummy healthy pavement food, best coffee shops… best food spot in the world!!! And I should confess “A Room with a View” is one of my all time favorite movies!!! Suddenly my life seems a bit dulsville – I am off to look at old photo’s!!!
    se7en´s last post…Se7en Million Teeny Tiny Bird Houses…

  15. Florence, wow what an experience. We also honeymooned there and it was wonderful. Enjoy your adventure. You guys must be so excited.

  16. Italy, what a wonderful place to live for a season. Can’t wait to see and hear more.
    Tracey´s last post…Relevant Day 1

  17. My favorite European city, the birthplace of the Renaissance. I was there once when I was 22 years old and stationed in Europe with the Army. How I would love to spend a season there…enjoy!
    Mary @ A Simple Twist of Faith´s last post…WW- Mommy- I Got A Great Idea!

  18. I live in Sardinia, Italy’s other island, in a little town called Capoterra. We’ve been here almost 5 months and its been interesting (Ups, downs, homesickness and all sorts of fun). We havent had a chance to travel anywhere else in Italy yet though. I bet Florence is beautiful. I hope you will share your travels!
    Adrianne´s last post…Remembering 31 Days

  19. Holey Moley! That is so exciting! I went to Italy a few years ago and Florence was by far my favorite place! To LIVE there…ah!

    My big sister’s husband is in the Army and she lives in a small town outside of Venice, has an almost three year old boy and just gave birth to a baby girl. They are really enjoying their time there, and I’m sure you will too!
    Kait Palmer´s last post…Thankful on Paper Week Three

  20. Yipee-yipee–wonderful news!

    steadymom´s last post…Strategies for a More Peaceful Holiday Season

  21. That is AWESOME! We are excited for you guys!

  22. Oh, and you decided to move to Florence?! Was the goal of this post to make us drool with jealousy? ;) I am so excited for your family! It takes a special kind of faith to take this leap, and it’s thrilling when you do! I can only imagine what incredible memories you are going to build this year, and I know you will treasure them throughout your lives. Congratulations! (can we come too?)
    Jennifer´s last post…Junk science or food for thought

  23. Rachel,
    Our six month stint in Florence, Italy was why I started blogging. We went in Feb 2009 and returned in late Aug 2009. I miss it. Let me know if you have questions. This is my blog from that time

    We’ll be over in late Spring probably for a couple of weeks.
    Tepary´s last post…Help A Mother Out

  24. Yep, that thinking thing will get ya from time to time :) Terrific outcome though, moving to Florence and getting to live some of your dream :) I am looking forward to following your adventure in cyberspace… live it and love it!
    angelvalerie´s last post…house guests…

  25. FLORENCE! Eeeek! I love how you just casually dropped that bomb of fabulousness. Can’t wait to watch. Hugs to you.
    jill´s last post…Seriously- though How handsome are my babies

  26. It’ll be fun and challenging. Sometimes you’ll wish you could pick and choose which challenges to have, but of course, it’s worth it. It’s a whole new kind of enriching for the family!!! Looking forward to hearing all the ways you learn and grow and do and discover!
    Light´s last post…Reverse Bathroom Breaks for Mums and Dads!

  27. No one else asked, and I don’t recall reading (haven’t followed that long) what you or your husband do for a living that you get to pack up and go…I remember the post asking if we could live anywhere, but didn’t go back to see if the question is answered there.

    My husband could do his work from anywhere. Sometimes the thought of just picking a spot and going sounds very tempting!
    Kelly Cook´s last post…My Experience with Pumpkin Cake Bars

  28. Rachel,

    wow, going lights outside, helped your inside light and vision kick in! Florance! wow, sounds like an adventure, have family there?

    Looking forward to your journey.
    Zengirl @ Heart and Mind´s last post…Giving Thanks- How Gratitude Can Improve Your Life

  29. Oh, Florence. That sounds absolutely wonderful. And I love that we live in a world where you can find a seasonal apartment in Italy on Craigslist. I mean, that’s pretty cool! I do hope you’ll keep blogging as you are able so we can travel vicariously, though I understand if your internet access is limited and you’re busy living and not being online!
    liz´s last post…a classroom with a little less waste

  30. Wow!!! That is so awesome!!! I was wondering, can you live there just off your passports, or do you have to apply for a citizenship of some sort? Make sure & post pictures!!! :)

    • I’m curious, too – how will you be able to stay longer than 90 days (Tourist visa limit) – of course, I’m new to your blog. Perhaps this has already been figured out in advance. Or you have dual citizenship? Florence is lovely and you will of course have a wonderful experience there. God bless.

  31. You can’t say “We’re moving to Florence” without a flood of, “Oh my goooooodness!”es, right? Hehe. What an amazing experience for your kiddos; so important in forming their little personalities and world views. I’m excited for your family!

  32. This is exciting news! Congrats and I hope your family enjoys every minute of it. I found your website the other day by total chance and I have to say I love it!! Thanks for writing, your an inspiration!
    TJ´s last post…The Art of Balancing It All

  33. How amazing!! And Tom’s probably just learning to talk right? Maybe you can have a bilingual baby! Somehow I always think that babies babytalking in other languages is pretty much the cutest thing ever.
    Jessicah´s last post…I’m sure that Eleanor is going to be tall someday I just

  34. You know, it really isn’t fair. For the past year, I’ve been telling my husband, “Pretty much I want our life to be just like Rachel’s life… except I don’t want to live in Texas.” Now what am I supposed to say!? Haha. But really, I wish you all the best!

    We’ve recently decided too that next summer, after we’ve both graduated and our lease is up, we’ll be free to move wherever we want. It’s so exciting, but it really does get you living in the future: “How can I think about dishes while I’m planning all the day trips we could go on?” Good luck with everything!
    Jennie´s last post…The Outcomes of Simplicity

  35. OMG! Florence sounds amazing. can’t wait to hear all about it! :)
    Karen´s last post…Holiday Give Away

  36. I’ve never thought of power failure as a particularly productive time. We lose power all the time in the winter, so I will keep this in mind.

    Florence sounds like a wonderful change of scenery and experience. Enjoy it!
    Rachel´s last post…Experiments in Benign Neglect

  37. vermontmommy says:

    I am so very excited for your travels. I thought you would be in the US at first so I am even more excited for you to be needing passports. :) Oh, Rachel, I am giddy for you.

  38. How exciting! We have lived in several countries (we’re currently raising our little family in Taiwan), but I’ve always wanted to live in Europe for a season. Can’t wait to read about your journey!
    Morgan´s last post…Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas

  39. Ah Firenze, magnifico!

    What a wonderful plan. I second visiting the Boboli gardens. I sat in them every day I was in Florence.

  40. RACHEL!!!!!!!!!!! NO WAY! This is HUGE! I am beyond words excited for you guys. Cannot WAIT to follow along on this journey with you.

    (You WILL still be blogging, right? *wink*)

  41. So jealous!!!

    I’m happy to be avoiding the Holiday stresses… the BF and I are instead traveling to Micronesia to visit his sister that’s been there for the last year (and will be for another year yet) as a volunteer teacher.

    I’m honestly not too sad to leave all the “festivities” behind.

    So very excited for you… it seems things are coming together… and I tend to find myself the most productive when the internet is not right at my fingertips… so I’m unsurprised that the power cutting out did you such wonders!

    Tara´s last post…Adaptive Reuse- Churches

  42. I am in awe! What made you choose Florence?
    Nicole´s last post…pretty pink

    • It is one of the places we never ever wanted to leave when it was time to go. Also, we needed a place with enough size and diversity to meet our diet needs. We are gluten free, which is not an easy thing if you have to be as serious as we do about it.

      • Really? I am really curious, because I have lots of food issues too. What is it about Florence that would make it a good food city for you? Does it have a healthy side that doesn’t involve pizza, pasta, and gelato? I hope you and Rachel will blog about how you meet those needs there, because my family wants to go back!
        Catherine´s last post…Healing body- new symptoms

  43. WOW!!! So jealous. Italy, and especially Tuscany is my absolute favorite place in the world. I always say I would weigh 300 pound if I lived there though because the food is so amazing. Glad you had some time to figure out where to go.
    Holly F´s last post…TRAINS!

  44. I just visited Italy for the first time this summer and spent almost a week in Florence. Probably my favorite thing about Florence was how much like Fifth Avenue, NYC it is with all the pricey high end shopping, though I only went in one store.

    Be sure to sample the gelato. We went to one place (recommended in a guide book) that even had gorgonzola flavoured gelato. It’s a taste I will certainly remember for a long time!

    We also had dinner one night in a little restaurant that may or may not have also had a hotel upstairs. They gave us lots of freebies with the added benefit of getting to watch the antics of the precocious little toddler, Lorenzo who kept trying to steal candy from the basket on the counter near where we were sitting.

    Definitely make sure you take some time to watch the Charlie Chaplin busker. We ‘caught his show’ on our last night in the city. It was one of those rare times I didn’t have my camera with me, but will still treasure the memory nonetheless. Be warned that he pulls people from the audience at random, but we weren’t chosen. The little 4 year-old girl (one of a pair of twins) he chose was the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen and he (the busker) definitely earned his profits that evening.

    Hopefully your beds will be comfortable than ours. We were told the Europeans like a more firm mattress, and they’re not kidding! Using extra bedding and bathroom towels as a cushion helped a bit.

    Yes, Florence is an amazing city and we had a great time on our visit.
    Cindy May´s last post…me at the Coliseum

  45. Oh, I love how you wrote this post about the lights being out and then just throw in at the end, Oh, we’re going to FLORENCE. ITALY! Kinda like, oh, we’re going out for coffee or something blase’ like that! Wow! Italy would be my dream place to go. Loved Under the Tuscan Sun, loved Eat Pray Love. You will so have to keep us posted on your adventures!

  46. Florence is so amazing! We spent three days there on our honeymoon and it really is a magical city. I am so jealous of your exciting adventure!

  47. Ciao Fiorentina!

    I lived there only a season and miss it as fiercely as my hometown. Your children do not know how much luck they are in for few people love babes as much as the people in tuscany…where are you staying, within the city proper or Oltrarno? How exciting!

    Oof, I always knew this blog was one of my very favorites, now I am for certain!
    Zom G.´s last post…Souvenir Foto School- Food and Foto A Savory Beet Gravy

  48. Mika (Poland) says:

    What a wonderful choice! This is really awesome! I love your idea of spending the season in Florence. I think it will be very fruitful for you and your family, especially kids. They will collect memories for the rest of their lives and I am sure they will grow as open, enthusiastic people. As all the people writing comments, I also believe that you will take us to Florence with you… I’m so happy that I found your blog, you can really inspire people to change their lives and make them happier. All the best for you and your family!

  49. I just about screamed when I read this. You MUST continue to write about this journey – I am dying to hear about your season in Italy.

  50. Hi Rachel and Doug,

    congratulations to your decision. Good choice! I’m Italian (but my mother language is german) and live in South Tyrol, absolutly in the North of Italy (Alps – Austrian Border). I love Florence.

    About your gluten free diet: there is a really good corporation in South Tyrol, who provides entire Europe with his gluten free products. If you need name and website let me know (i don’t know if it’s allowed here to publish these thinks).


  51. How did you do it?
    How did you save for it?

    Happy adventures to you in Florence!

  52. Ah,Firenze you lucky duck. I could live there for a while. I have just come back from a month in Italy and it was fabulous. Fresh figs, pastries and cappuccino for breakfast mmm mmm.

    I also do simple Christmas these days. We pretty much make it up as we go alone and don’t do much in the way of gifts. We have a 21 and a 19 year old and they prefer cash at Christmas which makes gift shopping easy. Extended family can make it complicated if you let them but they have finally been convinced to do a secret Santa whenever we re together. We try not to feel pressured to travel to spend Christmas with them if it doesn’t suit us.

    Good luck in Firenze! I am looking forward to hearing the tales.
    Colleen´s last post…Day 324 Movement is exercise

  53. Awesome!! Please take us with you (virtually, via your blog!) :-)
    Handy Man, Crafty Woman´s last post…Easy Stationery Organization

  54. I woke up this morning with my head swimming for no apparent reason. I have so looked forward to this holiday week. A whole week with the kids off school, no real plans, low-key, organize some kitchen junk drawers, help the kids get rid of some old clothes and toys. As I’m reading this, no wonder I’m stressed out! But, like you said, the possibilities are sometimes so immense that it’s hard to focus. I really like the idea of only doing 3 things that each person wants to do. It focuses on the positive without a feeling of “I can’t fit everything in.”

    It’s supposed to be enjoyable, right? It, being, the holidays, life, whatever we spend our time on. I keep getting overwhelmed by the very things I choose to do, and now I’m trying to remember why I chose them in the first place. How did they become stressful and not fun? So I’m going to try to focus on how to keep things light and not get too bogged down in the details. Maybe we should have a lights out time at the house!

    Thanks for this post. I needed it this morning! (I always do laundry too when I get overwhelmed!) And great news about Florence. Such a beautiful city–it has been my husband’s favorite place in the world since he set eyes on it way before he met me. I wish you the best, and only blog if that’s part of the fun!
    Catherine´s last post…Healing body- new symptoms

  55. We live in Zimbabwe and until the last month have had very regular electricity cuts (every day for at least 5 hours). It’s amazing how much more productive I was and how much more quality time we spent together as a family when we didn’t have constant electricity…and internet access.

  56. Florence is awesome. What a great place. We spent five wonderful days there. Food is great. Art and architecture is unbelievable.