This month, we had the opportunity to get away from city life and visit our dear friends on the island of Kauai. We had been talking with them for months about making time to hop over. Finally, I made a break in our calendar, and planned the escape. We landed in Lihue, and when Austin picked us up, he asked, “Are you ready for the jungle?!”
“Yep! Take us to the jungle.” I wanted to take in all the smells of nature, the real Hawaii experience.
We drove up the country roads of Kapa’a. Horses and cows stood grazing on the rolling hills, each home had at least an acre of property, unheard of in the busy congestion of Oahu.
Pulling up the driveway was like opening up a private world of natural beauty and rustic simplicity. The Beans are caretakers for a 26 acre, family-owned property. They take care of landscaping, repairs, animals including chickens, ducks, sheep, and turkeys, all in exchange for free rent. (Whaaaaa?!?!)
Practical Living Quarters
What impressed me the most was the simple and practical lifestyle they have made in a home. What used to be a horse stable turned yoga studio, is now the living quarters of a family of five. In fact, there are only three walls enclosing the living room area, and they would have it no other way. You can see why.
Looking out to the back yard reveals the most beautiful Hawaiian plant life that encloses the property. We could hear and smell the rain coming down at different times of the day, what the locals call “liquid sunshine,” the most refreshing reminder of God’s creation.
Also in the back yard, and what the kids couldn’t get enough of, was of course, a trampoline. But this one also served as a chicken coop. Incredible! What began as a small garden below and began to grow over the trampoline, made the experience even cooler because the kids had to climb through the foliage to get in.
Practical Skills & Building a Life Together
A former airplane mechanic in the U.S. Coast Guard, Austin now enjoys woodworking (see his incredible projects on Instagram! @woodworkskauai). When they first accepted this care-taking opportunity, he had to throw together the kitchen and sink arrangement in a matter of days. Their counters are actually made of solid wood flooring, including an island cut out for a range stove. He also converted one of the former horse stalls in their home to a 10 x 10 workshop where he builds and repairs furniture, and has also fashioned some toys for the kids.
Everything in the common living space is designed to be open, sparing extra material that could have made closed cabinets, but none of that was necessary. Sheena would laughingly say, “Here’s all our stuff, you can see it all!” But the style reminded me so much of that minimalist bare essential trend that is so popular now. “Yep, we’re trendy like that!” Sheena says sarcastically.
One of my favorite parts of this trip was experiencing this incredible shower that Austin make-shifted from an old claw-foot tub, some pipes and lumber. The overgrowth of vines, some string lights, and succulents made this the most picturesque nature bathing encounter I’ve ever seen!
It’s simple, and like a lot of young families in Hawaii, we find furniture wherever we can, or we make it ourselves. I saw that the Beans have made the best use of their talents and abilities, and their kids want for nothing. They are confident and daring little people who are so in touch with nature and the freedoms that would normally limit experiences that are kept inside four walls. They have a parrot in their room that is free to come and go as it pleases. They run with the chickens and ducks, they fish in the pond in the back yard, run in the open fields that lead to a waterfall and hiking trails.
Mama’s Clothing Business
Sheena put her practical sewing skills to public use a few years ago when she posted a picture of an outfit she made for her little girl on Instagram. (Follow her here! @naisishhandmade) It turned into a business when a friend asked her to make an outfit for their child. The idea sparked and the word spread through Instagram, like many organic startups these days. Sheena has her own workspace in their living area, on the opposite end of their converted living area where she works two sewing machines and collects materials for girls clothing and bathing suits.
Her focus on children’s clothing also reflects their value for simple living: keep it basic, have more freedom for playing with patterns and styles without accommodating a wide array of women’s body types. You will often find her sweet girl posing for pictures in mama’s handmade outfits, and she absolutely loves to accommodate.
On Tuesdays and Fridays, she works at the popup market called Warehouse 3540 that has evolved into an artist gallery and handmade shopping district in Lawai, about a 40 minute commute from their home in the hills of Kapa’a. This space has become a collective arrangement for work-from-home mamas to showcase their clothing, jewelry, and art creations to help support their family and contribute to their community. (See our Facebook interview below!)
Impacts of Moms in Business
“The best thing that’s come out of this business…” Sheena paused, “… it’s just so easy as a wife and mother to get super caught up in that as our identity. I feel like there’s this weird guilt connected to spending a substantial amount of time with our kids and pressure to do what other moms are “supposed” to be doing. It makes us feel like we’re not succeeding as a mother.”
“This project gives me the freedom to express a part of myself that has nothing to do with being a mom, plus being able to do things and contribute to our family’s finances. Running a business affords me this level of social interaction you need to have. Forced to connect on that level, understand what other brands are doing, etc. Like being a believer, being in the world an not of it. Sometimes I find myself being critical of what I’m doing by comparing myself to what others are doing and not being true to my own unique direction.”
What it Means to Live as a Practical Family
Minimalism has been impacting our culture lately as more look to the raw and real elements of humanity. Simplicity brings back that sense of calm and collectedness that we had before this industry and technology boom. At it’s core, minimalism champions spending time doing the things you value the most. I have found, personally, that effectiveness and creativity flows from this space instead of constantly distracting ourselves. Sheena’s theory:
“Every thing you own takes up mental space in your life. My brain processes more when I have more to look at, and it’s exhausting. Living simply means that the items we own, things we commit ourselves to allows us to have less mental space for the things we value.”
There’s a spiritual element to this, too. Living simply also opens up the time we have to spend with the Lord and time to meditate on His purposes for our lives. Sheena says, “If I’m surrounded by unnecessary stuff all the time, I feel overwhelmed and it doesn’t allow me to be as creative as I’d like to be.”
Have you felt like the things in your life are taking up too much space in your life? What are three things you could let go of this week to make your life simpler? What talents or skills do you have to contribute to and bless the community around you? For me, it was making time to disconnect from “normal” life and have new, quieter experiences. By reconnecting with friends, I was able to step stop, observe, and reevaluate my own life.
Living with the Beans these short 3 days proved that you can do a lot with a little, and when creativity marries practicality, we find a more valuable experience than money can buy.