As I said in my first post in this series, I think there are many ways to be a minimalist and many ways to focus and apply minimalism in our lives. At the same time, one area of focus tends to radiate out over time and influence other aspects of our life.
For me, minimalism started with a strong urge to have much less stuff in our home. I am a mother working outside the home at least 50 hours a week. I am also an obsessive tidier, I like my spaces neat and sparse, because it is calming to me. After a day of hustling around at work, I want a serene, low stimulation home environment to welcome me, not a trail of toys, socks, odds and ends. However, being away from my children for so many hours a week, thousands of hours each year, I cherish my time with the children, and so I have a rule that I won’t tidy and clean while the children are awake. (Confession: I’ve broken this rule a few times). When I was off on maternity leave it was easy to sneak in some tidying while the children napped, but once I was back to work, my only opportunity to tidy was late in the evening after the kids were asleep. This wasn’t a healthy situation since I was robbing myself of downtime, time with my husband, and time to myself.
One evening when I was rushing around tidying up before I went to bed it hit me like a tonne of apples: the only solution was to have way, way, way less stuff. Because less stuff equals less tidying. It’s pure math. I also knew it wasn’t fair for me to push my own clean freak ways on my husband and children, it’s not their comfort zone, it’s mine. I shouldn’t nag them to tidy constantly and I shouldn’t waste my downtime on cleaning. So I decided to immediately start giving away things that we didn’t need. Things the kids hadn’t played with in a while. The extra muffin tin. The back-up rain boots. The spare cutlery. The college books gathering dust. As time went on, I felt lighter and more at ease, the children focused their play on a few toys rather than aimlessly going from one toy to another, and overall there was a greater sense of calm and focus in the home.
A few years later I started hearing about minimalism, not the minimalism I had studied in art history in university, but minimalism as a lifestyle. I was curious, so of course I went to trusty Google for answers. There I found that there was a small “movement” growing around living minimally. I also read about people who had taken a more broad approach to minimalism. For them, minimalism wasn’t just about less stuff. Minimalism could be applied to our lives as a mode of operation. For example, friendships and relationships, cultivating close, connected friendships with fewer people, rather than having dozens of friends that we see a few times a year, it’s just quantity, not quality. I also heard about how minimalism started in different ways for people, some it was financial loss and the requirement to part with most of their possessions, and the realization that they were fine, and even better, without the burden of things. For others, it was a reaction against the fast pace of life and constant communications, the now, the instant, the quickness, and wanting to return to slower, more meaningful ways of relating and communicating with people.
Since then I’ve been intrigued to hear from people about how they got started living minimally, what their initial focus was, and how it has evolved. When I came across the Devine Family, who live off-the-grid in Australia, and are focused, by matter of circumstance, on minimizing their waste and not producing any garbage, I was immediately fascinated. Their minimalism started from a very practical life circumstance: no garbage collection in their part of the world. With their zest for life and excitement about living simply, close to the earth, and renewing older ways of living, they took the challenge head on and haven’t looked back since. I hope you’ll be inspired by this amazing family and their commitment to live sustainably, simply, close to the earth, and in a very minimal way.
*Please make sure to follow the Devine Family on Instagram @bee_eco_wraps and visit their webshop www.beeecowraps.com where they sell beautiful, handmade food wraps from organic fabrics and bees wax. This is not a sponsored post! I just love what they do and want to support their great efforts.
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?
Farm, markets, Steiner school, organic cafe, beach. Press repeat!
Nature, community, music & gatherings of like minded people. Craft, cooking, sewing, gardening, homesteading. We embrace Permaculture, Biodynamics, and Sustainability with a goal to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The Ocean is the medicine of our souls. Sun, Salt & Surf heals all for the Devine Family! Becoming parents brought us from being environmentally aware observers to active participators in making a difference. We are conscious of the current issues society faces and are serious about creating a sustainable future.
How many children do you have and what are they like?
Archi, 10, is the family comedian, acrobat, entertainer and the best big brother the girls could wish for. Arjuna, 8, is the sweetest soul, gentle, artistic and caring. Mirrah, 4, is an ethereal treasure, a pixie with the wildest of imaginations. Soma, 1, is our little Lion Cub. She is raised by the Clan, participates in every aspect of our lives and never misses a beat. She is pure love, humour and has emanated peace and tranquillity since birth.
What part of the world do you live in?
Our Farm is on the subtropical Sunshine Coast of Queensland, Australia.
You live off the grid in a completely self-sufficient home. Can you tell me about your dwelling and your way of life?
Simple, natural, soulful. A treehouse with enormous character. It was a 1920’s Tea House with a rich local history. Put back together by craftspeople that came at just the right times! Every piece of timber is recycled. It rattles, shakes and evolves with us. We took out the walls other than one big gorgeous family sleeping space, a big other worldly bathroom & a big cellar/ pantry space. Our kitchen is the epicentre. Massive decks amongst the bamboo were constructed out of the old railway timbers. We have treehouses, forts and fairy gardens galore!
A Spiral Vegetable Garden fills our kitchen & Mama’s whimsical fantasies. Fruit trees provide an abundance of subtropical fare. Mangoes, lychees, avocados, guava, over 100 Tahitian Limes. A 3 acre spring fed dam full of silver perch and yabbies. We are very secluded and completely surrounded by State Forest, yet fortunate to be close to the amazing Noosa beaches and thriving Markets.
Your lifestyle is, in part, focused on waste, that is, not creating any. Can you tell me more about your journey to a zero waste lifestyle? How did you get started minimizing waste? And how far have you come?
Slow life, Zero Waste, terms often used for this lifestyle, yet we are so very busy and love waste and the fabulous compost it provides! Our goal is to minimise the impact of our choices. Plastic is very heavily woven into this society’s supply chain. Every day we open a new door to achieving a deeper level of disposable waste free living.
Our waste consciousness was accelerated due to our remote location. We do not receive a garbage disposal service and are subsequently responsible for all rubbish that we generate. With the consequences of waste to personally deal with an awareness of the absurdity of single use disposable items came to the forefront of our attention.
We get busy with baking bread, cucumbers to pickle, kefir to brew, pumpkin seeds to dry out, compost to turn. The very action of these humbling tasks brings about a consciousness & presence. Somewhere along the way, the concept of single use plastic becomes outdated. An appreciation for the beauty of a sturdy fermenting jar, a pair of shoes that feel like they will last a lifetime, a hand knit woollen jumper….. a beautifully smelling, aesthetically pleasing wrap for your food…. just became essential…. a daily reminder of a state of mind that values and respects what matters.
Garbage is a somewhat recent phenomenon, historically speaking. Have you had to find creative solutions to minimize your waste or do you find yourself turning to older methods that most of us have abandoned?
Yes! We get creative, plan ahead and study the masters of reusable. What we’re talking about doing here is not just part of a Green Revolution… It’s a Renaissance. People have been working with nature this way for eons. It seems that we’re just learning to do what society has unlearnt and forgotten. Historically, many cultures sealed jars with wax and our Outback Drovers traditionally used oiled cloths to protect their food. Homesteaders have been wrapping up food in waxed cloths for centuries. Bee Eco Wraps became our passion as we delved into the wisdom of yesteryear.
Any food we don’t grow is bought at market. Trade and commerce is a pinnacle of culture. Geraldine particularly loved this & studied Anthropology at University, exploring the daily lives & rituals of cultures worldwide. In our travels we have lived amongst market cultures and fell in love with this as a source of social interaction. We all thrive and feel nourished with our interaction with the stall holders. With baskets and jars in hand, market life has provided our waste free immersion into this bustling and enriching cultural family experience.
I believe there are many ways to be a minimalist and many forms of minimalism. What does minimalism mean to you?
We don’t want to fear our future, nor put our head in the sand. We want to gain momentum, excitement, faith & confidence in paving a future that will work. And give ourselves the tools to live in beauty in the face of the adversity that will come our way in this current society. To minimalise it. What matters. For us, love, family, nature, health. To be bold, humble, conscious.
Minimalism for us has become our state of being. A daily choice to minimalise the chatter in our minds, our possessions, our interactions with anything that depletes us.
What is your story? How did you get started on a minimalist path? What motivated you to live a minimalist and sustainable life?
As we learnt to slow and pay attention to the details of daily life we expanded and moved into a deeper connection with ourselves others and our place in the world. To find a real sense of meaning and purpose.
Family is the pinnacle of it all. We have both lived quite exuberant, excessive, wild & opulent lives! Diverse existences. For Geraldine the highlight of childhood was my time spent on a farm. Pure, slow, beautiful. Defining my very being & influencing every part of my journey. A determination was etched to make this a reality for this family. For Matt the time spent in Japan infiltrated his soul & defined his minimalist existence. He focuses on the natural world. He accepts the impermanence of life and seeks to remain humble. He is actively involved deepening his knowledge. He retains simple practices that allow him to remain focused amongst the turmoil!
In what ways do you struggle with maintaining your lifestyle? Have there been any struggles with the other people you live, friends or family with about living in the way you do?
When the children get lured into the trappings of consumerism, we have learnt to see it as an opportunity for growth & learning. To extend ourselves to offer a better natural option. To grow our imaginations as well as theirs.
The children are technology free. People often ask how how we have the time. Take away television, shopping centres, time opens up. Children are helpers, participatory in daily life. The children’s imagination is their greatest gift. We push through boredom barriers. Steer them away from quick fixes, immerse them in nature, saturate their souls with the raw & natural opulence & beauty of nature. Simplicity. Attainable goals. Gently allow them to witness the perils of plastic, sugar and the harsh realities in an age appropriate way. Make it an exciting mission to be on board the coolest train in town. The kids feel they have the magic golden ticket. The good cause.
As we said no to plastic, sugar and technology we took it as our responsibility to offer a better option. To be creative in enthralling and enticing them with delicious organic food that they took part in sourcing, growing, preparing, serving. Or by surrounding them with fodder for their imaginations. Tree houses, wooden toys, craft, animals, books. I have put boundless energy into creating self motivating tools for the kids. To nurture their minds to think for themselves and weave in and out of magical wonderlands in their imagination. To offer tasks that teach them the practical skills of cooking, weaving, building, cleaning. To minimise their lives, so it doesn’t feel overwhelming and so they don’t shut down through fear. Nature offers the best tools for learning.
It has been a journey! A minimalist point of view has been hard for well meaning friends and family! I give our family and friends enormous credit in supporting us in upholding our values and complex criteria for each purchase. To embrace our choice in stepping away from consumerism. We all have quite a laugh at our different choices and paths in life! Love and a great sense of humour conquers all!
What have been the benefits of your lifestyle?
As we tune in to and get excited about the rhythms of Nature’s bounty we feel grounded and a part of a whole. We delight in the company of local farmers and growers, market stall holders and local artisans. We feel inextricably connected to the cycles of the Seasons, the rhythms of Nature and from this comes a deep sense of purpose, simplifying our understanding and acceptance of life. The children also emanate peace and stability. It is a world that they can see, feel and understand.
We have slowed and channeled our energy toward specific tasks with intent and positivity. To impose order on our wandering minds through the acts of gardening, cooking, creating, singing.
What advice can you offer to people interested in living a more minimal, sustainable lifestyle?
Get excited. For us it has been the best journey of our lives. We found as we were strengthened by the inherent benefits of the lifestyle we were able to face the challenges with greater confidence. The research and preparation is fun! The information out there is limitless! Learn from your elders. Visit the dairy with your own pail to make our own cheeses, butter, yoghurt. Many Farmers offer butchering to your specific requirements. We have found local butchers love the idea of wrapping meat plastic free and lament the loss of butchers paper. Buy in bulk with your own jars or baskets. A little preparation yes, but when you see the beauty of your produce in a wicker basket and jars, you will know and feel that this is the way it should be!
Allow yourself a gentle awakening to the perils of plastic! Create a list. Step by step challenge the disposable parts of your life. Sustainable toothbrushes, shampoo bars, henna, beauty products. As you get healthier through this lifestyle you need less! Equip yourself with the tools to reduce waste. A mason jar each, a favourite op shop spoon. Lots of wicker baskets. A great dishwashing cloth, scrubber, soap nuts for laundry, solar power, tank water.
Look at ways to trade goods, or delve into the magical world of vintage!
It doesn’t necessarily have to be land driven. We have lived on a standard block & embraced an enriching & sustainable life. So much to learn about fermenting, felting & sewing tapped into a local like minded community.
Are there people you look to as role models in terms of your lifestyle?
The market families, each other, our family, the other cultures we have come to know on our travels, the cultures that have retained a minimalist sustainable life with a reverence for nature.
Do you have any goals for this year or the next few that you want to share?
To remain simple, minimal and inspired as we traverse a sustainable life with four children a farm and growing business. To strengthen our goals and daily rhythms to encompass a broader gathering and flourish in the inspiration and energy of makers, growers, bakers, artisans, families and community. To maintain the serenity that comes from slowing down and paying attention to all we find meaningful. To connect with moving slowly and treating things, people and ourselves gently. To have gratitude and reverence for the beauty of life. To feel empowered to make a difference. To harness a consistent, grounded and authentic Eco business that is a subtle tool in a burgeoning change toward a minimal, conscious and sustainable way of life. Bee Eco is a simple product, a daily change of habits that might spill over to other areas of life as it becomes apparent just how easy and beautiful reusable items are! In turn a broader attitude change may envelope our collective habits!
An immense thank you to the Devine Family for sharing their life, words and images with my readers. Readers: you can find the Devine Family on Instagram @bee_eco_wraps and read more about their life as well as purchase their Eco Wraps on their website www.beeecowraps.com.
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