CeCe Camacho on Thriving with Fewer Things, More Space
“I love a prune smoothie for breakfast after a run. Yes, I honestly love prunes. I know they have a reputation,” says CeCe Camacho, founder of “prune,” with a laugh. CeCe’s business isn’t about eating prunes, though. And it isn’t about pruning your garden. “I am not the one with the green thumb in the family,” says CeCe. “Thank goodness Jeff [her partner] takes care of our garden.” Instead, CeCe’s business is about helping people to “prune” their belongings to make their spaces more functional and beautiful. It is about taking a juicy plum and reducing it to the sweet essence of the fruit. At its essence, CeCe defines prune as, “a lifestyle company supporting people to make space for what matters most in their lives.”
Prune is a verb. It is about paring down the overgrowth so that the other parts of the tree can grow and thrive—to let go in order to grow. CeCe’s philosophy isn’t focused on getting rid of things, though. Instead, she focuses on the positive, on the result of a well-pruned and resilient rosebush, rather than the clippings, so to speak. “Helping people find the things that are meaningful to them and letting others go changes their lives,” she says. “The idea is that we can get weighed down by belongings that don’t help us to fully thrive. They take up our living spaces as well as our mental and emotional spaces. With open spaces come open possibilities.”
Prune germinated in 2014 after much consideration about how to direct her passions and talents. A snapshot of CeCe’s life experiences to date point to her amazing, varied skill set. She has been successful in the academic realm, with a background in social welfare and a Master’s in Education from Harvard. She has abilities in the area of travel and global aid and development, having served in the Peace Corps in Yemen and Gabon and collaborated with colleagues in Rwanda on a social enterprise. She has significant artistic talents and is looking to return to work on her degree in painting from the Maine College of Art (MECA). Oh, and she also currently works at the Curtis Memorial Library, studies and admires poetry, and is a running coach at Fleet Feet.
In recent years, she had been longing to find her way back to art, and she discovered a connection to something functional she could do with it. She grew up with a father who is a landscape architect and she is now married to one, so the intersection between living space and art is natural. “Pruning is like art for me,” she says. “I love helping people make their space more beautiful and inspiring. A home is a canvas in a sense. We have this opportunity to layer it with meaning and memories which create texture.”
She appreciates that too much layering can weigh people down, and she draws upon her affinity with poetry to explain the importance of simplicity. “Because of my daughter,” CeCe says of 13-year-old Freida, “I have fallen in love with poetry. Her poetry is beautiful. She also introduced me to e. e. cummings this summer because she thought I would like the visual layout of some of his poems. She was right! Some clients need nudges to get back to that “a-ha” feeling of having a home like a poem with just the right words, spaces, and intention.”
Helping someone to prune is not always easy, though. “Pruning can be an uncomfortable process, like when you start running for the first time. It feels hard when it’s not an everyday activity,” she says. “There has to be a real sense of trust. It is so humbling to be invited into someone’s home—into someone’s bedroom even,” she adds. But, it’s necessary to have that kind of intimacy with her clients in order to help them figure out what might be “impeding things for them in their house.”
That’s where her coaching skills come into play. She has to get to know a person in order to help them to decide what is most important to them. Part of that is learning a person’s story. “I often start by asking, ‘Tell me about a favorite object.’ It could be a painting, a rock, a key, an old t-shirt, or even a pair of shoes.” These are the objects that have meaning for someone. “My mother gave me a rock, for example, when I visited her last summer. It reminds me of her strength and resilience. She embodies these qualities. And, it sits right on top of my dresser with my other sacred objects.”
But, “art is life,” she says. And life right now during the pandemic has resulted in people spending a lot more time in their own spaces. What they are asking of these spaces is different. They have kids running around, while they are working from a home office that may be crammed into the corner of the kitchen, in a bedroom, or in a closet. “Because of COVID, people have had to create new spaces, and some have been really creative. “I have even worked from my car, or from my backyard, for example—anywhere you can create a space that helps you to focus on the tasks at hand. I’ve been inspired by the human spirit and its ability to almost instantaneously adapt and create the space to do what they need to do.”
She remarks on the notable amount of pruning that people have done during this period. “People have taken this opportunity to focus on their home and to prune and reinvent their spaces to serve them in new ways—something they may have been putting off for a long time,” she adds.
CeCe has been pruning things herself. “People may think that my house is perfectly pruned, that my house is like a bonsai tree, but it’s a work in progress.” CeCe, Jeff, Freida, and their dog Mona share an 1,100 square foot house (named Louise) that is over 200 years old in Brunswick, Maine. They bought it in 2005 and have transformed the building and its lot over time, creating a yard as big as the house thanks to Jeff’s skills, tearing off an old porch to create a dining room, and redoing all the floors.
The pandemic has sparked another round of changes. “One day Jeff was working in the kitchen and trying to be on a Zoom call while Freida and CeCe were trying to make lunch, and he realized it just didn’t work anymore. He’s a designer, so they got together and came up with a design to make an office out of our closet,” she says. “We did it in phases, including moving a dresser, so I had to prune my clothes to make space,” she laughs. They also have a small art studio space in at the back of their house that once was a garage. That’s being reconfigured now into a combined creative and exercise space for CeCe’s art, Jeff’s pottery, and Freida’s barre classes.
CeCe is using her creativity to rethink how she works safely with her clients, in this challenging time of the pandemic. She has been participating in “Propeller,” an 8-week course at the Coastal Enterprises, Inc.’s (CEI) Women’s Business Center to shape her “Telepruning” offerings. To meet the needs of those working at home, she is teaching a prune webinar on how to prune your home space to create a new work environment. She has recently received a business mini grant from the New Ventures Maine to develop social medial outlets in order to connect with people virtually.
CeCe’s emphasis on helping people is already reflected throughout prune’s website. It is a beautiful and amazing resource for inspiration about how to appreciate and improve your home space. It is filled with photos of flowers, leaves, and other objects, all with pleasing space around them. For more information on prune, visit <fallinlovewithless.com>.
And, if you’re in need of some more literal pruning, you can always try her smoothie recipe:
A well-pruned smoothie
2-3 prunes (adjusting for sweetness though with caution)
1 1/2 cups oat milk
1 scoop Vanilla protein powder
1 T Organic chia seeds
1/2-3/4 frozen banana
2-3 ice cubes
Blend for 2-3 minutes or until all is blended.