A recent study showed that household consumption could be the most significant driver of climate change and is likely making the largest impact on the planet’s declining health. A life of shopping and continuous acquisition is not only vapid, but is seriously harming the planet that sustains us. Many of us have grown up in a culture obsessed with consumption, a culture that insinuates that our identity is tied to fashions, our worth is displayed through things. It’s no wonder 93% of teenage girls rank shopping as their favourite past time.
But imagine changing the culture, imagine raising children differently. Imagine raising children who enjoy giving things away, rather than acquiring more. Imagine raising children who value experiences over things. Imagine what these children, what this generation, can do for the health of our planet.
When I interviewed Evelyn Rennich, a mother of four who intentionally lives in a small space (four kids in one bedroom!), I was excited to hear that her children had developed an ease in parting with things. In my opinion, it’s all the better for children to learn at a young age that things do not complete them, better for their self-development and better for the planet. Better yet if they grow up in an environment in which acquisition is not a major focus of their time or energy. Intentionally living with less Evelyn is raising her children differently. Thank you, Evelyn.
Evelyn shares her family’s story of intentionally living small over on her popular blog Smallish Blog. Although she’s a busy stay at home mother, Evelyn was generous enough to answer some questions for me, so we could all learn from her experience. I hope you enjoy hearing Evelyn’s story of finding minimalism and how it has enriched her family’s life.
Let’s start with a little bit about you. Who are you? What’s your background?
Hi! I’m Evelyn. I’m a mountain girl, happily married to a great man and mommy to four young kiddos. I love hiking, coffee and earth tone colors. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from the University of Colorado, but I love my current gig as stay-at-home-mom (as difficult as it is!).
What part of the world do you live in?
We live in Colorado, close to the Rocky Mountains.
How many children do you have and what are they like?
We have four children ages 5, 3, 2, 8 months. (Yes, my days are busy busy busy!) Our oldest is intellectual and caring and is often designing elaborate projects. Our second son is bright, sweet and relational. Our daughter is a great mix of wild and mild and easily keeps up with her brothers. Our baby is very chill and happy.
So, what is your story, how did you start on a path toward a minimalist lifestyle?
We sort of stumbled across minimalism as we explored living in a small home. Before our first child was born we downsized from a 1,300 sq. ft. “normal” house to a 450 sq. ft. apartment in order to allow for me to work part-time. Although the move felt forced financially at the time, it turned out to be a major blessing. We found that we liked “living small.” And naturally, a smaller space meant living with less stuff. We discovered that we enjoyed living with fewer belongings. We felt freer, lighter, less stressed. That teeny apartment was home for nearly five years; it was where we started our family. We recently moved into a modest 1,000 sq. ft. home, and we continue to evaluate what we truly need and enjoy as we seek to move toward a more minimalist life.
I believe there are many ways to be a minimalist and many forms of minimalism. What does minimalism mean to you? And, in what ways are you a minimalist?
It’s funny– I’ve only just become comfortable with embracing the term “minimalist” in the past couple months as I’ve accepted that there’s no “right” way to do this lifestyle. Although we’ve intentionally lived with less for years, I always feel like we don’t qualify because maybe we still have too much stuff to make the cut. I’m at the point now where I can say, “Yeah, we are minimalists because we are always searching for the minimum level of what we can live with.”
Minimalism to us is limiting possessions, certainly, for we see giant blessing in fewer belongings, but it is so much more. Living intentionally with less is a holistic endeavor. It positively affects nearly every area of our lives.
We are a family of 6, so minimalism in the strict, least-amount-of-belongings doesn’t quite fit us. However, I am constantly purging physical things that we don’t use or need. In nearly every area of home or heart, I seek to “find the minimum level” of what I can live with. Most days, the things we own still seem like too much, but this whole thing is a journey. Minimalism also means we are committed to living slowly–not filling our schedules up with too many activities. It means we’d like to live with minimal impact on the earth, which is also an area in which we’d like to improve.
At the very core, minimalism is a way that we can practically live out following Jesus’ simple, people-focused lifestyle without the distraction of stuff weighing us down.
Are there any websites or other resources that have inspired your minimalism? Favourite books?
I’m a big fan of Joshua Becker’s Becoming Minimalist.com, Rachel Jonat at The Minimalist Mom.com, No Sidebar.com, Melissa Camara Wilkins, Break the Twitch.com, and Shannan Martin at FlowerPatchFarmgirl.com.
In what ways do you struggle with keeping things minimal? What is your weakness?
I have a major textile problem. We have an overabundance of blankets, towels, bedsheets, washcloths, etc… But we actually use most of them each week in playing or cleaning (I put down full length towels on the hardwood floor whenever it’s snowy or muddy outside). It’s what we need in this stage of life. We also have a lot of children’s books, but we use those often too.
Have there been any struggles with the other people you live with about living in a minimal way?
Not really. My husband is on the same page with me for the most part, however there have been times when we disagree about whether or not to keep a certain item. Purging is so much a part of our lifestyle, our kids know that every so often we go through our things and create piles to give away. They’re not really resistant to it. In fact, sometimes they’ll want to go giving away their nice toys that they play with all the time and I’ve had to say, “No, you really love that. Let’s keep it for now.”
What have been some unexpected experiences, positive or negative, you’ve had with minimalism?
Years ago we had one repairman who was simply unable to grasp that we could be content in such a small apartment with so little. It made for a very interesting conversation. Positively, minimalism has opened up a pool of amazing friends and acquaintances. We really love meeting new people with similar mindsets of living happily with less–this camaraderie truly enriches our endeavors!
What advice can you offer to people interested in living a minimalist lifestyle?
I’d say that adjusting your mindset is key. Once your heart and head are in agreement that less really is better, the actual purging and letting go isn’t a struggle. Also, I’d probably hug them and jump up and down and squeal that they’re gonna love it. 🙂
Do you have any goals for this year or the next few that you want to share?
I’d like to explore zero waste living this year. Honestly the concept seems so daunting and impossible, but that makes me want to try–even as a family of six–all the more.
Thanks so much for hosting this series, Danielle, and for your thoughtful and sincere questions! You’re a definite blessing to the minimalist community.
Thank you Evelyn! Readers, you can find Evelyn and follow her story over at Smallish Blog, on Facebook and on Twitter. You can read all the interviews in this series here “Interview with a Minimalist”. You can read about families making zero garbage and zero waste here (Julie’s family) and here (the Devines).
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