Kelly and Joe moved to Portland from Baton Rouge, Louisiana in May of 2014. They pulled up deep roots to head West—Kelly is 3rd generation and Joe is 4th generation resident of their home town. Their home, their way of being, carries with it the signature grace and warmth of the South, but they have quickly woven their lives into the rhythm of Portland, establishing a resourceful, intentional household, working within the Sullivan’s Gulch and the broader community.
"As we were trying to choose a new direction, my husband Joe took a year-long sabbatical from work and we took our 3 kids out of school. We gained tremendous benefits from the experience. We started off the year working together as a family creating a tight budget. We lived more deliberately, focusing on cooking healthy, inexpensive meals, spending hours at parks, playing games, writing journals, and slowing life down to simply enjoy being. When life was busy, busy, busy, I realized I was living a reactive life. Taking a year off from the rat race helped us reset our internal drive to be more intentional.
I struggled to find housing in Portland from so far away. I found a Portland Craigslist ad from a person subletting her apartment. Come to find out, she was from my home state! Through that connection, and with the help of a Portland cargo bike friend I met online, we made the deal, which involved lots of trust. I could breathe easier knowing we actually had somewhere to live when we showed up in town with a U-Haul full of bikes and a mini-van full of kids and pets!
My kids started homeschooling in 2013. My middle daughter decided she wanted to try school again this year, and has enjoyed her experience. My 2 sons are both still homeschooled.
I started crocheting when my kids started homeschooling. I had to figure out a way to enjoy just being at home. I was so use to go, go, go all the time, that crocheting was a good way for me to learn how to sit still and relax.
Sullivan's Gulch is a charming postage stamp size neighborhood, hemmed in by busy thoroughfares – a true survivor of parking lot mania. When you walk around the neighborhood you can see architectural examples of every decade of Portland buildings, from 1900s bungalows to 1950s multi-family brickers, and a 1970s highrise, among many other examples. Added to that, we have both renters and owners, mixed in with just about every economic category. We have artists and service workers mixed in with professionals, young families, retirees, and everything in between. It's a neighborhood that meets all the criteria of a truly dynamic community.
We now own a small 1,125 sf condo after previously owning a 3,000 sf home. I realized that in today's fast-paced culture, staying connected as a family is very hard. Smaller spaces, thoughtfully organized, give everyone the private space they need, as well as giving us all lots of opportunities for connection. Also, small spaces have less storage, therefore we acquire less stuff.
We have to be way more intentional about what we buy, what we save, what we have room for. My focus in living in a small space is to focus more on experiences, less on 'stuff'.
We have not only chosen to “live small” as a family, but we are conscious of how we use the earth’s resources as well.
One of my favorite online resources for reducing my consumption has been Buy Nothing NE. It's a location-based Facebook page that allows neighbors to give away things they don't need anymore, ask for gifts, or borrow things they need.
For example, I camped out in front of City Hall to protest the recent fast- tracked police contract that the outgoing mayor was unethically pushing through. I asked on Buy Nothing to borrow camping equipment, and was loaned the perfect camping package with a tent, sleeping bag, thermos full of hot tea, sleeping pad - everything I needed to camp out!
We also love The Rebuilding Center on Mississippi Street - a wonderful place for getting used building supplies. Joe built a gorgeous cat tree with a connecting 'cat walk' out of reclaimed wood beams. He also added solid wood louvered doors to 2 of our closets from reclaimed doors.
Our floors in our bedrooms, kitchen and dining room are recycled pallets from the Port of Portland. Viridian Wood is a local Portland company that upcycles Asian hardwood pallets used to ship steel to make gorgeous flooring. Our floors have a story!
I took over the Regency Court Condominium chair position in February of 2016. I wanted to be an active part of the leadership of this building to help bring in an era of transparency in decisions, kindness in interactions, and encouraging engagement in the building direction.
One of the first things I did as a board member was start a patio committee. Our small committee (just two of us) redesigned our outdoor furniture. We used what we already had to create a more inviting space, to encourage community. I put the word out to neighbors, and received donations of pots to add more plants on our patio. Throughout the spring and summer this year, we transformed our communal courtyard to make it more inviting. It was a true community effort, at very minimal cost.
One big project our community is working on is to replace our siding and windows on the building. One of the exciting parts of being on the board of a condo building is that it's 10 totally different unit owners coming together to work on what's best for the building. I love this work!
The Lloyd District transformation means great things for our neighborhood – because of the focus of the growth. The focus is on housing for people, people who want different transportation options, such as bike riding, walking, car share, and public transit. There is also going to be inclusionary housing, with a focus on a number of lower income units. We now have a grocery store between our building and downtown, along the gorgeous Multnomah Blvd protected bike lane. Change is inevitable; to have that change focused on progressive ideas is inspiring!
Our life right now in Portland is just what we intentionally set out to achieve. If you would have told me 5 years ago that I would be living in a fabulous neighborhood, car-free, Joe having a great job where he can bike to work, my kids being able to get all over town on public transit and a perfectly sized condo, I wouldn't have believed it.
One thing about getting exactly what you set out to get is that it's extremely empowering. I know now that I can set up my life to be what I want it to be. That said, my goals are transforming. The happier and more comfortable my life is, the more I'm becoming aware of the serious tragedies that are happening everyday all over the country – especially to poor people, and minorities.
As I'm slowly transitioning from being needed all the time by my kids (as they are getting more independent), I'm starting to use my time to fight some of these injustices right here in Portland. I see my future as a continuation of learning – constant learning. Learning what my power is, what my contribution will be. How can I best serve my community and my city as a whole? How can I best use my voice, my privilege and my energy to help our most vulnerable?
For now, I will keep meeting and connecting with people. I will keep saying “yes” when the universe offers me exactly what I need. I will keep trying new experiences, I will keep putting myself in uncomfortable positions (testifying at City Hall, for example), and first and foremost I'll keep learning. Always learning. I don't know where my journey will take me, and I'm open to all avenues. Right now, I'm in exactly the right place.
D. Larson, editor