Friday, December 9, 2016

new year
 
I can easily say that this year has been by far the biggest roller coaster for our little family. We still have so many things up in the air, not everything has landed softly yet for us, but I am trying not to be impatient.
 
I am painting like crazy this week and next, I want to get through all my back stock. I am moving out of my storage unit and only now buying week to week. I made my 2017 business plan and the number one thing is to buy less for the business! Only buy what I know I can get finished and in a shop within a week or two. Back stock is nice to have, to feel secure that I know I have pieces to paint, but I also think of it as wasted money when it is sitting in storage and not in a shop for sale. This is how I used to operate years ago and I want to revisit it. It was healthier financially for my business to run that way.
 
In January I am starting a part time job working at a shop that my friends are opening (details soon!). I went to see their space on Saturday and they surprised me with my own MCC area in the front of the shop, right when you walk in! I am excited to approach the space differently than one I have curated before. I will have my usual painted pieces but I want to make it different too from what I am selling at my own shop, Clementine Home. Only furniture, no home décor. I might have some more found pieces, and I might dabble in selling some mid century pieces. It is a high end consignment shop, and they have some amazing dealers and furniture lines coming in. Tacoma has needed a high end consignment shop for years. It will be so fun for me to have my space, come to work and not be the owner! The owners are my dear friends. They have such a positive approach to life and business, I just love being around them. I am looking forward to putting my dealer and employee hat on, it will be a good change for me. I will fill you in with more in the next few weeks.
 
Clementine Home is doing great! Amanda and I have some amazing plans for the shop for next year , including expanding our hours a bit. The shop is growing we are enjoying the process. I am looking for another picker so if  you know what one is, and if you are one, contact me! I am very picky with age, quality, and price but if you think it is something you are interested in, let me know. I can email you more specifications on the service.
 
I have some back stock already done for Clementine and the new shop I will be working at, so I am going to take two weeks at the end of the month to work on own house. Saint is off a lot then too, so I am going to have him help me paint walls, and declutter the basement. I need to ask for help, I look at the tasks and I know they are too big for me to do myself but I am not good at not doing things on my own. Maybe that is something to look forward to in 2017, delegating more!
 
We are still up in the air with Cooper's school situation. We are now on the waiting list for a brand new school in the district that just opened. It is only six blocks from my new part time job, funny how life works out like that. So, I hope he gets in. It would be nice to have him so close to me. Camden just applied to a charter school for high school next year. AH! I can't believe she will be in high school.
 
So things are changing, not changing fast enough for me, but I need to enjoy the process more. Enjoy the holiday season. Be with my family, get my home in order, and look forward to the new year.
 


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

whiskey or tea, a new job for me

My son's autism is getting worse. l should clarify it might not be worse but as a family we are moving in circles around it constantly. It is in the air with an exclamation point. When you live with a family member or two with autism, it is a roller coaster. You never know moment by moment, if it is going to be an ok day or a really hard day. Are we are going uphill or down. It is hard to prepare yourself for what the day is going to be like. There are so many factors in play from hormones, to the stress of a over crowded middle school, to diet, to it might just be a bad month for him.

Yesterday was Monday. Every time we even talked about school to my son this weekend, he was inconsolable in tears. Curled up into a ball. It is heartbreaking. On Monday I put my most positive pants on, I climbed into bed with him and told him he needed to get up in 5 minutes. If you have a spectrum child you are always counting down daily transitions so there are no surprises. Surprises cause meltdowns. This morning I drew him a bath thinking this would relax him. It didn't - it was one of those bad days. When it was time to get dressed he melted into noodle legs and tears. I had to carry my son to the car while he was inconsolable. I waiting in the car with him at school for 10 minutes before he could walk in.

Tuesday morning I had a tough shop experience. It was a lesson in what is most important to me and my family. My heart was at the school with my 11 year old, not in my business that morning. Really my heart is so much more at home right now than painting furniture. A negative experience puts my opinion of the importance of my business into perspective vs. my son.

We have gone round and round about what to do about  Cooper's schooling. Currently, we on the waiting list for a charter school to start in January. We have been such squeaky wheels, I would be surprised if he doesn't get it. We exhausted every option. We really wanted to send him to a private school but every school in the area has a $9000 a year tuition and we are barely making it now, so that was just not an option. This breaks my heart. It makes me feel bad for him and guilty as a mom I can't provide that for him. I just have to keep the faith we are on the right path and it will work out.

I am starting a wonderful part time job in January, for really good friends starting their own shop, along with my own shop and my design business. This is necessary for our family right now but it is also going to be a big transition. I am excited and taking it day by day.

If this year has taught me anything it is to look at what is important in life and shut out the noise. It is a lesson in faith and to try to find joyfulness in the day to day. Even when that day to day is a roller coaster. 




Monday, October 3, 2016

b a l a n c e
 
 
I remember in May, my word of the month was simplicity. I think that was a good word for me at that time to really dig down and figure out what the really key things in my life were. What was best for myself and my family to figure out the balance. I won't repeat how my life was out of balance but you can read about it in my previous posts. It has taken me a few months of stepping back to really dial down and figure out where I was out of balance.
 
The first thing I needed to do was get all my ties to the MCC store buttoned up and checked off. This took a while. Moving out, moving merchandise to various locations and financially going down the list to cancel accounts associated with the store. There was actually a lot to this.
 
The next thing I needed to do was to spend more time with my kids this summer. I tried to push everything else that was out of balance in my life and focus on my kids. I didn't paint much this summer. I didn't really even need to, I had so much inventory left from my store closing.
 
Once the kids went back to school I wanted to spend a good month going through my furniture back stock, assess where I was in my business, paint through some things, get my studio organized and fixed up, get my bookkeeping sorted out with my bookkeeper. I am almost there.
 
I got several big road blocks out of the way towards balance but I still was unsettled and uneasy and I now that some big things are buttoned up I can start to dig deep and try to figure out this balance thing.
 
Honestly the first thing I started to do last month was pray hard and diligently really for peace in my heart. I am not exactly sure how to manage this balance thing so I need to pray for major guidance on it. The interesting thing about being quiet and diligent in prayer is I started to see small puzzle pieces come together that I know weren't coming from me. I would literally tear up when I noticed these small things.I also started to notice negativity coming from other people. Some people don't like it when you start figuring things out and getting your happy back. It is weird how this happens. Let me give you an example. Last Tuesday I woke up to really hateful DM on my MCC account, from a fake Instagram account. I won't go into it much further than the last sentence was "You are pathetic". That was actually not the worse thing in the email. The thing is I know who wrote it. That might even be worse that some random internet troll. At first it hurt and then I thought about how this person was trying to throw me off balance. The email was a mirror of how they saw themselves, it didn't really have anything to do with me. And this person doesn't even know me, never met me. And it didn't work. I spent the entire day in my studio painting a beautiful buffet, I knocked it out of the park. And then later that afternoon I got a call from someone in the business I admire so much and never met. Out of the blue. It was an interesting day and a spotlight on focusing in prayer for guidance.
 
The next thing I did, starting yesterday was to sit down and write a list about the things that bring me joy. The things that balance out the things that happen to me in life that I can't control and distract me from my happy. This is my list and it is really incomplete but it is a starting point. Some things might be superficial and I try to be deeper than this, but sometimes a clean house makes you happy.
 
*my list for my balance*
-Happy kids. When I really go back and figure out when I started to feel out of balance it is around the time we found out my son has autism 3 years ago. Ask anyone that has gone through this. There is a period of mourning for both parents and child. And a lot questions. Life the way you knew it changes. I could write a book about this. All I wanted to do was work so hard I could help provide financially for my children but be around as much as I can. I actually started to worked so hard that this backfired on me (hence closing my store).
 
Time with Saint- We very rarely get much time alone. In the beginning of the summer we would take nightly walks alone in the neighborhood and I love this! But starting mid summer we didn't feel like we could leave the kids alone for 45 minutes because they bicker so much. Yes, this is normal. Yes, it is different when you have a child on the autism spectrum with sensory issues. So we spend a lot of time with our kids and not alone. We are hoping for a trip to New York later this fall and we should probably find a better babysitter so we can do things like going to the movies together more.
 
Clean house- Ugh. My house is a mess. Ever wonder why I don't show my upstairs? I do not currently have my home organized the way that would help me feel good about it. My basement is a dumping ground of stuff and has been for years, same as our attic. I worked 7 days a week for years. Even when I was not at a store. I was buying, picking stuff up, going to the hardware store, painting and bringing things into a shop. There was no way working 7 days a week gave me balance for an organized house! I would love to spend more time cleaning out clutter and finishing painting half painted walls all over my home.
 
Finances- When you start a business and you want to grow it, you reinvest your profit right back into your business (after you pay expenses). If you really want to grow, you don't really pay yourself for a long time. Well, I pay myself here and there but not nearly enough for how much time I was spending away from my family and not nearly enough for my effort. And not enough to really help my family financially as needed. Again, another reason I closed my store. I am not in "building" mode anymore, just maintenance and I can slow down and pay myself more. But still, retail is up and down during different seasons and I need to have a job. This is where I struggled a lot with last year. Figuring out how to keep my business (not necessarily selling at a store but my business) and doing other things to make money. I really diversified my business services this year and this helped a lot (custom, staging, design). I also knew I should get a job to go along with my business. This is something I have prayed and prayed about. And I have decided to get my real estate license this fall. I am SO excited about it. It marries well with my business, I was a loan consultant in my early 20s and I love real estate. And I think I will be good at it. I know going into it I will be working 7 days a week again but there will still be flexibility.
 
Exercise- Oh, I lost myself  the last two years. Mostly I was working so much, and trying to balance it all, that exercise completely fell off my schedule. I was an athlete and dancer my whole life so taking this off the schedule has led to weight gain, mild depression, and not feeling good about myself. I have to get this back. I would love a running buddy in the morning. I need someone to get me up at 6am and run stairs. Or I need to go right after I drop the kids off at school. If I wait until later in the day I start working and it doesn't happen.
 
Spirituality- I grew up going to church every week. It was a huge part of my life. After I had my kids we stopped going to church. When my daughter was little she was a biter, wouldn't sit still, and Cooper (now knowing is autism, it makes sense) could not behave in church. I got very frustrated every week and we just stopped going. Then I worked on the weekends and we couldn't go. I miss it. I need grounding in it. It helps me. I am working on it.
 
Looking at my list no wonder I felt so off balance the last few years. I put my business first without realizing it and even with good intentions. I did it so I could help provide for my family but really I think it ultimately hurt us. So I printed out my list and I need to look at it everyday. It feels good to have things on the right path to balance. For the first time in a long time I am excited about things to come.
 
XO - Alison
 
 
 
 


Thursday, August 25, 2016

t h e   s t u d i o

I am actually sitting in my studio blogging! I got my desk all set up in here yesterday. The wifi isn't great since my studio is pretty far from my home, so I might actually have my provider put in a second line out here just for me since it is strictly for business. I have to slow myself down with the studio revamp and look back to see how much I accomplished this month with it. I also have to ask myself what do I want from it?
We moved into this house 8 years ago. It took us 18 months to sell our suburban home. I knew I wanted to move to North Tacoma. I loved the old homes and charm of the northend. It was, and still is somewhat, a secret to a lot of north westerners. When our house sold and we moved here, we rented. The market then was in a spiral so we decided to rent until the market stabilized. We rented a house two doors down from us now. I was at work, sitting at my desk one day, browsing CL ads for rentals. Because I am crazy and we just moved, who does that? But I love old homes and real estate. I found that the house on the corner with all the windows was for rent. I just about died. It was my favorite home in the area but it wasn't taken care of. I asked Saint what he thought if we moved again and he said yes, let's go for it. If we are moving again let's move two doors down.
I was so excited to move into my house. I got up before everyone else that day, in the dark and took loads of stuff on a big platform mover I borrowed. Click clack down the street at dawn with my furniture, by myself. We moved in all in one day and haven't left since! About two years after we lived here, we were ready to buy again. We started looking and our landlords asked us if we wanted to buy this house. Absolutely! I didn't think they were going to sell it. We knew everything wrong and right with it. I also wanted to fix it up. We lived here 2 1/2 years before we bought it in a private sale.

The house has a very detached 1910 garage. It looks more like a carriage house though. It is long and narrow, sort of shotgun style. But oh, so cute. Once side opens to my yard. It has a charming 12 paned window and small antique door. The front opens up to a private driveway completely separate from my house. I have moved 1000s of pieces into and out of this space in the last 8 years. I painted for myself and friends here years before I created MCC. I have struggled to keep it clean. It was so uninspiring for most of those 8 years. I never really cared because I always had to focus more on churning out the furniture and bringing it to my shop(s).
About a year ago I finally got a storage unit. I have no idea why I didn't do this years earlier. It has kept my sanity this year. I go to my storage once a week and pull out what I am going to work on. You see, I am the type of person, if I have 30 pieces in front of me, I think in my mind I must get them all done immediately. I know it is neurotic but I am a bit type A that way. So now I just take home what I know I can get finished in a week.
When I decided two months ago to close my shop, I knew immediately I needed to revamp my studio. I am not sure why, but I just knew. It has actually given me something to focus on other than closing that shop. I also did not want to spend any money. Especially after closing my shop. I had a fairly good steady amount coming in a month for years and now that was gone(ish). Well, slowed down to 1/3 of what it was. I have to rebuild the income with custom, design, co-running Clementine Home, and staging. I am completely restructuring my business.

 Thank goodness my friend Michelle can build. I am surprised she offered but she did and she built my carriage doors in one day here while I puttered around. We had 80s music on and I eventually went and got beer and wine for us. Because that is what you do when you build stuff in my studio. You drink beer and listen to 80s :) and you get dirty and move big stuff around. This is my life. All the while wearing flip flops and paint clothes (some days it is PJs).
Slowly I started demoing crazy walls in the space that were installed over the pretty siding and took 2 loads of junk to the landfill that were stored on my rafters. This is while watching my kids so I would sneak out here when they were occupied. I might mention here that the guys at the landfill know me. In the big city of Tacoma, they know me. They don't even give me the rundown of questions anymore. It is weird since I keep so much furniture out of the landfill that I would be going there. But I get so many boxes a month and I deconstruct a lot of pieces and rebuild them way more that you know. I am pretty handy with rebuilding antiques now. So I go to the landfill at least 3 times a month. Weird, I know. I kind of like it though, I am an antihoarder. I like getting rid of stuff. This job is SO not glamorous.


I bought a sprayer for $150 that turned out to be crap, but I had a really funny day with my mom covered in white paint and we got the space painted while Saint was home to watch the kids. The crappy sprayer is worthless and guess what?! It is in the landfill pile :) But my studio is all white!


So what is this studio to me? I don't know yet. I really feel like I am back where I was 6 years ago with MCC. I have days I am SO excited and days I let the fear sneak in big time. I am starting over and it is up to me. What if I mess it up? This week I have been all over the place. I am so excited for how cute my studio is, then I have a lot of moments when I tear up, what am I doing? I have to help support my family. Why don't I go back to work full time, and why I am fixing up my studio? I am completely giving it up to God. I feel so excited by where I am at but not in control. So I am going to take it day by day. I am craving stability and it is up to me to create it. I can do it. And it the process I get to recreate neglected pieces and bring them back to life. I am hoping to do the same within myself. Something about last year broke me, and I need to get me back.

So that is what my studio is to me. It is hope. It is mine. It is rustic, old and rebuilt by me.




Friday, July 29, 2016

k i n d r e d
 
I don't have this blog post planned out. I am winging it, but come along for the ride!
I was thinking about this just a few minutes ago after I got off a text business meeting with Amanda. We literally planned out a mini collection and what we were going to paint for Clementine Home next week within 5 texts and we both were on the same page before we even texted back. Last night we had an on sight meeting for our next stage, we will do next week, and the same thing. We went back to the store and mapped out the stage together in 20 minutes tops.
 
This is kindred business.
 
kin·dred
ˈkindrəd/
noun
  1. 1.
    similar in kind; related.
    "books on kindred subjects"

    synonyms:related, allied, connected, comparable, similar, like, parallel, associated, analogous
    "industrial relations and kindred subjects"

Let me say, this is rare, doesn't happen often. Kind of like meeting your perfect mate but in this case we are shop mates, painter friends, staging buddies, mom therapists.
 
I wanted to write this because I often get emails asking about how I do things, who I choose to work with, how my business is structured. And I have done it all different ways trying to figure out what is best for me. I have been on my own and I have worked with 3 other co-owners of a shop.
 
I will say ( and this is a big FOR ME, not for everyone). I will only work by myself or with a kindred.
 
 
And to know if someone is a kindred you need to work with them for a long time. It is like dating. Amanda and I worked for 2 1/2 years together on projects and in stores before opening Clementine Home together. And we have both worked and owned shops before so it wasn't new to either of us. When it isn't new- a lot of the fear, posturing, and shop politics go out the window. Each person can hold their own and this kind of  kindredness is wonderful.
 
 
 
 
 
 


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

t h e    s u m m e r     n e w s
 
I thought I would write a quick blog to answer some questions and let you know what I am up to!
 
This week I am focusing on organizing the shop for the last weekend of sales. I have mixed feelings about it but I moved up my closing date to July 17th for several reasons.
 
Frist I really need two weekends to move out before the new tenant moves in. I have my kids full time during the week so it will have to be done on the weekends when my husband is home to watch them. Summer is always a juggle balancing working at home/shop and the kids. Even with this being my 5th summer doing it, I always wing it. I don't have childcare so I am often "making" one or both of my kids come with me to pick up and drop of furniture. They don't love it, maybe the first year or two they did but not so much anymore. I am still buying and I usually spend a day or two a week just picking pieces up. At least I am not having to paint several pieces a week then bring them to the shop this summer. I am storing stuff and taking my time with pieces. I am enjoying taking my time.
 
This week I was at the shop every night after my husband got home, to sort and clean out the shop. This is a big job!
 
The second reason I am closing mid July is probably selfish but I don't love being at the shop when it doesn't look like my shop anymore. I haven't bought smalls for the last 6 weeks and I haven't kept up the painting pace I normally do, so 1/3 of the shop is sold and it is hard for me to be there. And some people have been really supportive about me leaving and some have taken me closing personally. Even though I have tried to announce I am closing pretty close to every other day in store or on various social media outlets. I have had several mad voicemails this month about me not being open during the week. This is hard for me, so I moved things up. I think I am ready to move on.
 
I am excited to pull back on being a shop owner. Co-owning Clementine Home with Amanda is perfect for me. I get to still paint and buy for a shop but the duties of a shop owner are split between us. And we have had a wonderful working relationship the last 3 years.
 
During this process I have talked to so many of my shop owner friends. I came to the conclusion a few months ago that being THE only owner of a shop doesn't fit my personality. I can do the work. I know how to hustle to buy, paint, merchandise and run the store. I might have a hard time pulling back on this part. But I am not meant to sit in a store day after day. I am not good at being "the boss", I always want to be "the friend". I have a hard time separating the two and this gets me into trouble when I have to make business decisions. And truth be told I couldn't afford to hire someone to fully run the shop for me. I am way to sensitive of a person and by the end of the week I was wiped out emotionally. People in the service industry would understand that feeling. It is even harder when you are the owner and make 80% of your inventory. It would sting when daily criticism would come at me. I am much more inclined to be behind the scenes, head down and doing my thing.
 
I have met SOO many wonderful customers though the last 5 years, and SOO many of you have emailed me or come into the shop the last few weeks to show support for my decision. I am excited to work more one on one with these customers doing custom and design work. My August is almost already booked up with design and staging jobs. I love it!
 
I wanted to give you guys a few other details about this last weekend at the shop. All sales are final, no returns or exchanges. If you have a gift certificate at MCC, you can use it at Clementine Home on my merchandise. There are only a few of you out there. I have only sold one in the last 4 months. I slowly stopped selling them after the holidays because I only had a few on hand. If you come this weekend, it might be busy so I might not get to say hi to everyone. But I want to say thank you for the last 5 years. And here's to many more at Clementine Home!
 
I can't wait to have more balance. I can't wait to blog more!
And next month my big thing is to get my studio space ready for appointments and special events. I will definitely post before and after pictures.
 
Love you guys-  Alison
 
 
 


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

n e w    r o a d s   
 
Sometimes new roads lead you back to old roads. I have had this in the back of mind and in my heart for the past 9 months. Something about my path wasn't right. I knew it in my gut, I pushed it down and tried every different angle to figure out what wasn't sitting right with me. I have figured it out. It wasn't the answer I wanted but I have so much relief about the new road, even joy.
 
About two months ago I sat on the couch with Saint (husband) and had a long cry. When I do this it kind of freaks him out and I don't do it often, so I knew it was a release of things I had bottled up. I told him I thought I needed to close The Modern Cottage Company Shop.  I was mad and sad about it but I also couldn't keep up the pace of the demanding store and my family life.
 
Here is where I should back up and talk about why I started The Modern Cottage Company in the first place. It is so simple. I wanted to paint furniture, and I wanted to make money at it so I could drop my kids off at school and pick them up. I left a comfortable advertising agency job in Seattle to do this. I had a water view out my window of my office and an assistant. But I missed the first day of my daughter's kindergarten and that killed me. I have always painted antiques, almost my whole life. I thought I could give it a shot and life circumstances took a hard left and it allowed me to pursue my dream. I painted and blogged and it lead me to a storefront after a few years. That turned into working with other artists and eventually my own store again The Modern Cottage Company store in Old Town, Tacoma. I have been able to paint, pick up my kids and I was very optimistic about it when I moved it. Then something wonderful happened. The store did really well. Beyond my expectations well. So well I am not able to balance my family-work life at all. I tried not working at the store but letting it run itself. But let's be honest. If you own a store, even if you are not there, you work 7 days a week.
 
I have worked weekends off and on (mostly on) for the past 5 years for my business. Saint has been wonderful with our kids but I have missed out on lazy afternoons with them while I was running a store. Those of you who know me well, know my son has high functioning autism. My kids need extra love and attention. I want to be there on a Saturday with Cooper and my husband when they go  watch trains every weekend. Or take Camden out for a girl's day. A business that started with my priority being my kids has actually in the last year taken up way more time than my good paying desk job.
 
I started praying about it. I cried a lot. I even went through some pretty bad anxiety about it because I knew my answer deep down. I was really meant for a different road. When you are really meant for a different road then life will smack you in the head with it over and over until you actually acknowledge it. I even started getting defensive about it. My hours are always a big complaint, really every single day I get several emails about it. I wake up, check my emails and write back why I am not open that day. More often than not while I am in the store it is the first thing people say to me. Some nice about it, often not. I understand where they are coming from but the store couldn't function any other way. I even thought of completely changing what the store is about to please everyone else. But the store is my painted furniture. It has my name on the door and I didn't want to change it.
 
Let's go way back now. When I was a kid, my family took road trips almost every weekend. I would sit in the back of the car, with a pillow tower between my sister and me, and draw. What I would draw is random. I would draw housing developments. I would design houses and then I would design the furniture in them. It was a weird thing for a 10 year old to do. Now let's fast forward to today. I have been given the opportunity to help design remodels, stage them, and even help clients love their own spaces again. I am getting a lot work right now with design. This is where I need to be with my business. It is already happening and fast. And I love it.
It is my new road for The Modern Cottage Company.
 
I get to work from home and have the weekends off for the first time in years. I get to paint still and run another shop with one of my dearest friends at Clementine Home. CH by the way is going to be really amazing this next year, we have wonderful plans for this shop. I get to be creative but I get balance, I can be picker about what I am painting. I get to be bolder with what I paint. I get to be choosier about what products I want to carry.
 
So today I notified my landlord of my intent to close The Modern Cottage Company shop. Sometime late summer, things are still being worked out. I won't have a sale. I have a staging business and another storefront to fill. I am not selling my business just reinventing it a bit. Taking it back to it's roots and where it is really supposed to be. I know the customers I have told have been really sad. You can still shop at Clementine Home (those of you with gift certificates, they can be used there!). My family and friends have been supportive and really over the moon for me with this decision. I have been lighter in my step. I learned so much from running a shop the last 5 years. I am proud of myself. I have made some mistakes but I grew a lot. I go into this next chapter very prepared and very happy.
And I get to still take my kids to school and pick them up.
 
Thank you all for your support!
-Alison