Identity labels, like ‘vegetarian’ or ‘atheist,’ can be tough to occupy, because once applied we open ourselves to criticism. If we do not adhere perfectly and seamlessly at all times to the label, then we have failed in our eyes or in the eyes of others. And so, we tend to avoid labels, because then we cannot fail.
Two ideas emerge from the acknowledgement that many of us fear failure. First, failure is necessary to grow and improve; failure is universal; failure is productive. Second, no one has ever been a perfect vegetarian or perfect atheist or a perfect anything; perfection is impossible. In this context, I prefer to view labels as guide posts, rather than badges earned for perfect behaviour. We try our best to live our lives in sync with our guide posts, knowing that we may stray, but always trying our best to stay true to them.
Where is all this coming from? Well, in talking with people about minimalism and with people I would call ‘minimalists,’ most seem to feel uncomfortable with the term, for a variety of reasons, but certainly because they often feel they are not ‘minimalist enough.’ Part of what I want to explore through these interviews is the variety of authentic ways that people live minimally, that there is no one way to be a minimalist. Saying that doesn’t water down the concept or strip it of meaning. But it does liberate people to be experimental and to live minimalism in their own way by focusing minimalism on their lives in a way that resonates with them.
Today, I am sharing an interview with Kylah, an Organic Farmer and Health Coach, who, in my eyes, lives as a minimalist. The focus of her minimalism is on the kitchen, meal times, food and nourishment. While she focuses there, minimalism radiates into other aspects of her life and areas of her home. Everyone’s interest in minimalism starts from a different motivation, whether it is making meal prep simple, so that the meal is more of a catalyst for conversation and connection, than about the food itself or whether it is a desire to minimize the environmental impact of our lives or something else completely. But what each person I’ve spoken with has shared is that minimalism starts to influence other areas of their life in positive ways and over time translates into an orientation to living. Kylah’s story is no exception to this. I hope you enjoy the read.
Let’s start with a little bit about you. Who are you? What are you passionate about? How do you like to spend your time?
I am a country girl at heart. I was born and raised on an organic farm north of Ottawa, Ontario and after traveling the world, and going to university in Montreal, where I met the love of my life, we came back to the family farm to start our own business and raise a family.
My passion is to help others bring a greater sense of wellness, connection and fun towards their time in the kitchen and what they eat. It’s a journey I’m on too and I enjoy sharing it with others on-line and in-person.
Outside of work, I spend a lot of time outdoors with my children, cooking simple family meals with seasonal ingredients, taking photos of everything and anything that inspires me (which, coincidentally is usually nature or my daughters), reading cookbooks, doing yoga and going on the odd date with my husband.
How many children do you have and what are they like?
I have two daughters: Dayvah 5 and Rainah 2. They are wild and free for sure! Our property expands over 50 acres and really they have free range of our gardens, orchards, forest, woodlands and all the outdoor spaces on our farm.
Dayvah asks (what seems like) a million questions a day. She wants to know the ins and outs of everything. How it works. Why? When? And everything in between. She’s super sensitive and a true animal whisperer. The other day she caught a snake and very calming let it wrap around her arm. I was in awe (being extremely squeamish around them myself).
Rainah is a real mama’s girl, always in my arms, always wanting and asking for smooches, and always ready to snuggle. She’s also as stubborn as her mama and isn’t afraid to ask for what she wants.
They are both deeply creative. They literally spend hours each week collecting treasures with their baskets outside to create mini worlds for fairies or listening to audio stories inside and drawing, painting or glueing bits and pieces of paper, ‘trash’ and nature on paper into beautiful collages.
Do you have a favourite quote or words that inspire you?
“… the way we eat represents our most profound engagement with the natural world. Daily, our eating turns nature into culture, transforming the body of the world into our bodies and minds.” – Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
I believe there are many ways to be a minimalist and many forms of minimalism. What does minimalism mean to you?
For me, minimalism really comes down to making decisions thoughtfully and with intention, whether it comes to food, clothing, toys or anything else. I feel very fortunate that I even live in a place and time where I have to consider an over accumulation of stuff!
As I’ve slowly purged a good deal of our material objects I have noticed how everything that I have kept gets used more, is better cared for and I feel more gratitude for our possessions. With less, everything becomes a little more special.
Why do you identify as a minimalist? In what ways are you a minimalist?
I have a tendency to shy away from labels as such but at the same time identifying as a minimalist serves as a necessary personal reminder of how important it is to me to continue on this journey of less stuff, more love, more creativity and more living.
Other than paring down our closets and our toy bins, minimalism has made it’s way into our kitchen and to the dinner table. We eat really healthy, super tasty meals but they are in no way extravagant. I am a full time working mom so bringing minimalism to my cooking techniques has actually opened up a huge opportunity for me to discover more and more simple ways of eating. On a nightly basis this usually means one pot or one dish meals and I am constantly searching out and discovering little ways to minimize my efforts in the kitchen by using all kinds of shortcuts.
What is your story? What drew you to minimalism or what motivated you to become a minimalist?
Kids. Seriously! I got really overwhelmed by the amount of clothing and toys and special gear and gadgets I was given in the first years of their lives.. I felt like I was always tripping over something. When my oldest daughter lost a toy she would cry like crazy but I couldn’t find it in the fray of everything else. My solution? Get rid of 90% of it. She just got a lot more imaginative with the 10% I kept. Win win.
Are there people you look to as minimalist role models?
Both my parents.
My mother has a very minimalist aesthetic. I didn’t appreciate it as a child but I’m really drawn to it now. She’s an amazing designer and manages to create warm, inviting, and bright beautiful spaces with very little clutter. It’s truly her gift and I am trying to pick it up from her and carry it into my own life.
My father (unknowingly) practices minimalism in his own way too. He never gets rid of anything. EVER. But he also rarely buys anything and has never bought into consumer culture. He wears his jeans until they’re tattered at the knee. I haven’t taken it quite this far but I am inspired by his ability to only accumulate things he needs that get used to their fullest extent.
Are there any books, websites or other resources that have inspired your minimalism?
In what ways do you struggle with maintaining your minimalist goals? What is your weakness?
I love beautiful, well made things – art, nature, pottery, clothing, jewelry – especially anything handmade! And I love supporting artists. But I am learning that I can enjoy beauty in the moment without feeling that I have to take it home with me every time.
Also my children’s art. I want to keep it all too! Every piece is special and unique and I have bins and bins full of it! We make art with it and give it away as I can’t bare to just trash it.
Does your household abide by minimalism or is this more a focus for yourself?
Yes, they do, mostly by default. My husband is a natural minimalist and it’s me that has to work at it.
Have there been any struggles with the other people you live with about living in a minimal way?
Luckily no. My husband appreciates it and because my children are young they don’t really question it.
Have you had any negative or constructive experiences with friends or family related to minimalism that you could share?
I’ve gotten rid of things that are both sentimental to me and others…LESSON LEARNED. That was a little extreme and I’ve pulled back the reigns on minimalism to that degree.
In what ways has minimalism improved your life?
For me, minimalism has boiled down to one very simple and extremely gratifying equation. LESS STUFF = MORE LIVING. With fewer possessions I spend less time cleaning and organizing and getting overwhelmed and more time reading to my children, having conversations with my husband, cooking good food and pursuing my own personal creative projects.
What have been some unexpected experiences you’ve had with minimalism?
How damn hard it can be! I love thrifting and yard sales and it can be easy to accumulate a lot of $2 items that you really don’t need. My children haven’t caught the joy of thrifting quite yet so it means I rarely have the opportunity to do it anymore – probably a good thing! I still enjoy these activities from time to time but I make sure I always give away or donate as much as I bring into our home.
What advice can you offer to people interested in living a minimalist lifestyle?
Try getting rid of 10% of your stuff. Notice the effect. Then try 10% more. Keep going as long as it feels good. If you’re having difficulty then start with just one area of your life – your closet, your kitchen or your pantry before trying to take on the whole house at once.
Do you have any goals for this year or the next few that you want to share?
My hope is that my journey of bringing minimalism to the kitchen and family mealtime will inspire others to try it out and get curious about the ways they can apply it to their own unique lives.
All photos by photographer Brittany Gillman visit her site here.
This interview is part of my series “Interview with a Minimalist” you can find the others here.
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