Digital Minimalism Declutter Hippie in Disguise Salt Water Sandals Nico Nico Clothing

Digital Minimalism: Essential Tips for Decluttering your Camera Roll

In the news! My friends over at Impressed App asked me to share some tips for managing our digital camera rolls.

Here’s a little sampler from my article:

“Minimalism and de-cluttering are definitely on trend, and while some of us have gotten pretty good at keeping our homes and work spaces free of clutter, digital clutter is a whole domain most of us ignore. It’s easy, right? Digital files don’t take any physical space, aside from the hard drive in our phones or computers. And with near infinite storage capacities between our many devices and clouds, it’s easy to just keep snapping photos endlessly and not worry about how many we have accumulated. Until…we want to make a photo book or print a few for our walls, then we have the daunting task of sifting through hundreds (if you are lucky) and usually thousands of photos. It’s enough to make you quit before you start.”

To find out what my super easy tips are visit the Impressed App blog here.

What tips do you have for managing digital clutter? Leave a comment below!

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Julie Fathy the beauty in simple Hippie in Disguise Interview with a Minimalist Cloth Diapers

Interview with a Minimalist: Julie

Simply do without.

When I was setting up my first apartment my parents kindly sent me off with all the duplicates from their house: some extra utensils, cups, bath towels, bedroom linens, things that had accumulated but that they didn’t really need. It was very kind of them. Despite their generosity the majority of the things I needed like a frying pan, a bed and a table to eat at were still among the items missing from my apartment. My instinct was to buy an inexpensive frying pan at a discount store, something that would last a few months, hopefully a year, until I could afford a good one. I felt some guilt even at the thought of buying something I knew would soon become garbage, but what choice did I have? Matt, thank goodness for him, said there was clearly a choice: Choose to do without. Do without until you can buy something you’ll own forever. Aha! He was right. Soooo right. So, I lived those first few months without any appliances and just a few kitchen tools, until I could buy a premium frying pan with a lifetime warranty. It was expensive, but we still own it and use it today. We’ve never had to replace it, likely never will.

Since this time, we have always taken the approach that we will not buy a “for now” or “temporary” item. We only buy forever things — quality things that we expect to last our lifetime, that we never expect to replace. This has meant we’ve gone a long time without some things (13 years without a bed, yep!), but it has also meant we’ve lightened our impact on the planet and overall have saved ourselves money. We’ve also learned a lot about the difference between need and want. Most things we think we need, we really, truly, simply want.

To this day we still do not have a kitchen or dining table. We eat at a desk, a writing desk. There have been countless times I’ve wanted to make a trip to Ikea and buy some cheap dining table that could comfortably seat us and a few guests. But I’ve resisted. We’ve had holiday meals with 14 people squeezed like sardines around that desk. We’ve had many cozy dinners with friends around it – elbows knocking each other and no space for serving dishes, but enjoying food and conversation just the same. We’ve done just fine for nearly 20 years eating as a couple, eating as a family of 4, entertaining guests around a desk. We haven’t really done without.

Today, I’ve got a fantastic interview to share with you, with someone who really inspires others to think about what they can do without. Julie Fathy is a mother of three, living a simple life, inspired by minimalism and living in an ecologically thoughtful way. Her blog is a great resource for learning how to live with less, much less, how to do things yourself, how to live garbage free, and how to fill your life with fun and adventure. I hope you enjoy hearing from Julie and are inspired by what she shares.

Let’s start with a little bit about you. Who are you? What’s your background?

I’m a mother to teenagers and a toddler and married to the father of my youngest child. We live in Denver, Colorado. I work outside of the home at a company I started with another woman 12 years ago. When I’m not at the office, you’ll typically find me either at home or in the outdoors exploring. I get great enjoyment from time spent cooking, sewing, knitting, reading and making stuff. I also have a deep nature connection with a strong desire to protect the planet and explore the beauty it offers. My husband and I share a love for skiing, mountain biking, camping and mountaineering. We’re currently working on climbing all of our state’s 58 14,000+ foot mountains, of which I’ve summited 30.

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How many children do you have and what are they like?

I have three children ages 18, 16, and 2. My 18 year old daughter is a very driven and fiercely independent young woman. She shows a tremendous amount of generosity to others and works hard to keep a positive attitude in life. She’ll be a freshman at the University of Mississippi next year. My 16 year old son is a creative soul and a talented photographer. He has a great deal of compassion and a wonderful sense of humor. My two year old is a love bug. He has a very social and happy temperament and gives hugs and kisses freely. He loves to follow his big brother and sister around.

Do you have a favourite quote or words that inspire you?

I’m not even sure where it came from, but a favorite quote is “You can have what you want, or the excuses for not.” The quote serves as a reminder that the only thing stopping me from my goals and dreams are excuses. When I catch myself making an excuse I look hard at why. Sometimes an excuse serves as a means of filtering out things that aren’t important, but sometimes they are the stopping block for reaching a goal or dream.

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?

I’m drawn to simplicity in all aspects of my life and have found minimalism to be one of the best tools to achieve simplicity. By ridding my life of clutter, both mental and physical, I’m leaving space for what I value. There’s not an area in my life that I don’t give consideration on how it could be simplified.

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What is your story, how did you start on a path toward a minimalist lifestyle?

I would say I started on a minimalist path when I became a single mom. I envisioned a different life for myself and children that was edited of extra stuff so that time, money and energy could be freed up for a more intentional and meaningful life.

For 2016 you took a pledge to buy nothing new for the whole year. What inspired this? And how is it going?

I took the pledge for a couple reasons, and I can’t really say which is more important to me. On one hand, I’m on a journey to live lighter on the planet and use fewer of the earth’s resources. With a little creativity and resourcefulness, it’s easy to use what we have on hand, buy secondhand, repurpose materials, or simply do without.

I also took the pledge to curtail my spending so that I can pay off a home debt more rapidly and ultimately achieve financial freedom. When I do pay off what remains of the debt, I don’t expect my spending habits to change much. My hopes and dreams aren’t to own more, but to do more. The hardest part of the challenge is that my teenagers have expectations of me to provide some of their material goods. Sometimes it’s tough to say “no” but I did build in a quarterly clothing allowance that allows me to stay within my parameters, but gives them the freedom to make their own choices.

I’m a month into buying nothing new (with the exception of food and household consumables) and it’s going well. I’ve noticed when I decrease my spending, there’s a decrease in my desire for stuff as well. I suppose that’s because I notice my happiness level doesn’t change, and if anything, it goes up when I stop buying stuff.

You are working towards a zero waste lifestyle, can you talk more about this?

Moving towards a zero waste lifestyle is a way for me to reduce my ecological footprint. What may be surprising to some is that the lifestyle is also beneficial to those living it. It forces you to buy package-free products, which tend to be unprocessed, whole foods, goods made from natural and renewable materials, and products and ingredients that are void of chemicals, synthetic colors and fragrances. I’ve also found a zero waste lifestyle to be one of the best ways to achieve a minimalist aesthetic. Just look into the homes of some of the zero waste bloggers (here, here, and here). For those interested in learning about a zero waste life, I am sharing ideas on how to get started on my blog this month (February).

Are there any books, websites or other resources that have inspired your minimalism?

One of my favorite resources is the Center for a New American Dream. Their message is “one that emphasizes community, ecological sustainability, and a celebration of non-material values.” A couple blogs that come to mind is Becoming Minimalist and Assortment. For parents, especially with young children, I can recommend the book Simplicity Parenting. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is a wonderful book to help with the decluttering process.

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In what ways/areas do you struggle with keeping things minimal? What is your weakness?  

When we think of minimalism, we generally think of our physical space being clutter-free, but for me a far greater struggle is clearing clutter from my digital space, both in terms of time spent there and the amassed information stored there. It takes a tremendous amount of diligence and discipline to limit our online exposure, even for the most conscientious. For the most part I don’t want my entertainment coming from digital media. I’d much rather spend that time pursuing my hobbies and interests and building relationships with my family and friends. The filter I apply to help me find balance in my digital life is the exposure must be informational (as it applies to my life), inspirational, or provide a meaningful connection. Anything that doesn’t fall into those categories I make a point to clear from my space.

Have there been any struggles with the other people you live with about living in a minimal way?

One of my biggest struggles I have isn’t per say with family, but it’s being gracious and accepting of all gifts received from family and friends. While most gifts are loved and appreciated, sometimes a gift can feel like a burden. For someone who’s not a minimalist, this may be hard to understand. Obviously honoring a person’s generosity, thoughtfulness, and well intentions are far more important than giving attention to my own apprehensions. The best way I’ve learned to deal with this struggle is to suggest to family and friends to exchange experiential or consumable gifts, or skip the gift giving altogether.

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In what ways has minimalism improved your life?

The biggest thing minimalism affords me is freedom. It can mean freedom from debt and freedom from the burden that comes with owning too much stuff. Minimalism leaves space to pursue my dreams.

What have been some unexpected experiences (positive or negative) you’ve had with minimalism?

Although it doesn’t happen very often, there have been situations where I’ve given away or sold something that I later regret. In my ambition to reach financial freedom, I once sold a set of beautiful silver dessert forks that were family heirlooms to help pay down my debt. They would likely still be in a box unused, but I’m sorry I sold them.

I have so many positive experiences related to minimalism, but one I love to share is the mobility my minimalist camping set-up has afforded me. Although it doesn’t happen as often anymore, my husband used to call me on a Friday afternoon at 4pm and suggest we depart that evening for a weekend of camping. I never hesitated because I’ve streamlined our camping gear to fit inside of a toolbox (tent, sleeping gear and food excluded). It was so easy to grab those few things and go.

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What advice can you offer to people interested in living a minimalist lifestyle?

I think the best approach to minimalism is to look at ways to simplify your life. Simplifying forces the things you don’t value to start falling away. Once you get started, you probably won’t look back.

Do you have any goals for this year or the next few that you want to share?

My husband and I are making plans to take a sabbatical after my teenagers leave for college (my daughter starts this fall and my son next). We’d like to travel with our toddler to British Columbia, Alaska and parts of the west coast. My husband has been slowly equipping our truck for overland travel, which will eventually include a rooftop tent for our sleeping quarters. After our travels, we plan to settle in Bozeman, Montana.

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Thank you Julie! Readers you can read more from Julie on her blog the beauty in simple, where she documents her family’s path to a simpler life from an ecologically thoughtful perspective. You can also find her on Instagram @thebeautyinsimple. You can find all the interviews in this series “interview with a minimalist” here.

If you liked this post please consider sharing it or subscribing to my blog (see side bar links or below) or both (!), your support helps me continue to write and share.

You might also like my post:

The Slow Living Project

Inhaling the Season, Inhaling the Moment

13 Ways to Simplify your Wardrobe

How to Make Delicious Cashew Milk: Garbage Free

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Interview with a Minimalist: Amanda

When a baby is on the way, there’s often an intense need to nest and prepare for their arrival. Cleaning, arranging, and accumulating. Making sure the stuff baby needs to survive and thrive are at the ready. When I learned that my friend, Amanda, was expecting her third, I was curious to know how she was approaching nesting this time around, after all nesting is most often an instinct and not an intellectual decision. Other people I know have no less prepared and accumulated stuff for their third than for their first. But, Amanda is a minimalist. I wondered curiously whether her minimalism was affecting how she felt about preparing for baby this time around. We chatted, and I learned a lot more than just about her baby prep, I learned that Amanda’s story of coming to minimalism was a lot like my own. For me, there is no lofty intellectual or artistic story to tell. I didn’t aspire to a particular home decor aesthetic. It was a completely practical decision. Faced with never ending tidying, exhaustion from work and mothering, I made the decision that our home needed to have way, way less stuff if I was going to save my sanity. Some people are comfortable in clutter and disarray, I’m not one of them.

Amanda is a stay-at-home mother and a photographer. I asked her to share her story of finding minimalism and how it is now part of her everyday life. I think you will find her answers refreshing and engaging. She speaks in a very honest and practical way, with beautiful snippets of revelation here and there. I absolutely love how Amanda so clearly sees that minimalism doesn’t stop with your living space, it permeates how you live and how you make decisions. Minimalism changes how you think about your schedule, your grocery shopping, your texting, everything.

I hope you are inspired by Amanda’s story.

Let’s start with a little bit about you. Who are you? What’s your background?

I’m 28 years old. I’m the oldest of four preacher’s kids. Born, bred and breeding in the desert of Southern California. I was 20 when I married my best friend, who turned me from a preacher’s kid to a preacher’s wife. Together we have two daughters and one on the way!

What are you passionate about? How do you like to spend your time?

Although I would not describe my transition to motherhood as smooth, I am passionate about my little ones and relishing in the beautiful and short years that they will be with me. My photography business has the ability to keep me busy, but I love being able to set my own schedule and create more space if that’s what I need. It’s also been a wonderful creative outlet for me during the chaos that accompanies these years with young ones all around.

How many children do you have and what are they like?

My firstborn, Jaryn Rose, is 5 going on 15. She’s articulate and sassy, with a sensitive side that craves down time and quiet. Raynen, my soon-to-be middle child, is a little ball of fire and attitude. She is stubborn and hilarious and fearlessly daring. She has speech apraxia and sensory processing disorder which plunged us into the world of therapy and special needs, but everyday she makes me more the mama I want to be.

Do you have a favourite quote or words that inspire you?

“If you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it, you wouldn’t cry at the end when he drove off the lot, testing the windshield wipers. You wouldn’t tell your friends you saw a beautiful movie or go home and put a record on to think about the story you’d seen. The truth is, you wouldn’t remember that movie a week later, except you’d feel robbed and want your money back. Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo. But we spend years actually living those stories, and expect our lives to be meaningful. The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won’t make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either” – Donald Miller: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

“We never fully realize how strong the grip of consumerism is on our lives until we try to remove it.” – Joshua Becker

This could not have been more true for me. I thought I was naturally minimalistic. I don’t hold onto every scrap of paper my kids scribble on and I regularly clean out my closet and donate old clothing. But saying no to new and unnecessary things required another kind of determination. Saying no to the patterns of first world consumerism meant taking a hard look at what I owned, what brought me joy, and what story I wanted to write.

What is your story? What drew you to minimalism or what motivated you to become a minimalist?

I used to joke that laziness is what made me become a minimalist but in reality it was exhaustion. Pure exhaustion. All day: cleaning up and putting away and organizing and stepping on toys. Constantly telling my kids to pick up after themselves. And still, it seemed, at the end of every day my husband would get home from work and the house would be a disaster. A trail of tutus and blocks and coloring pages and books, down the hallway and invading every room. All day: trying to keep the kids entertained. Coming up with new activities and reminding them of all the stuff they had to play with, just to be told how “bored” they were. It was maddening. How could they have so much and be so discontent? How could they have bins and closets and drawers of toys that “encourage imaginative play” and never use their imagination? At first, I thought maybe they weren’t old enough or maybe imagination was something that had to be taught. But as I slowly removed the excess, I realized imagination isn’t learned and has no age requirement, but it is easily smothered. Their imaginations were buried beneath a layer of unnecessary excess.

Interview with a Minimalist My tiny tribe Amanda Gregory

I believe there are many ways to be a minimalist and many forms of minimalism. What does minimalism mean to you?

When I started this journey, I believed minimalism was purely about the usefulness of what I kept in my home. If I used it on a regular basis, it could stay but I needed to stop storing things that I didn’t use all the time. I also wanted to be intentional and thoughtful about the quantity of each thing I was keeping. Now, I’ve learned to part with things that, yes, I could use, but not often enough to keep in my house. I’ve also found items that have more than one purpose so I can eliminate the need for multiples. I found this useful with kitchen items. Yes. I purged my kitchen. Who needs 15 mixing bowls anyways?

Interview with a minimalist Amanda Gregory My tiny tribe

One of the things I didn’t expect was how it would change my view of “bargain shopping”. I used to love to find a deal. Get something cheap. Find it for a low price and buy 4. Now I have less qualms about buying something quality that will last longer, accomplish more, and allow me to have just 1. I’ve applied this to my clothes shopping as well. I’m not my kids, I don’t need new sizes every 6 months. And I know what I like. I found that I wore the same outfits often and kept lots of clothing that never made it out the door with me because I would go back to my favorite pieces. One rule I put in place for a while to help me purge my closet was that if I put it on while getting ready and took it off to change into something else, I would purge that piece of clothing. If I wasn’t going to wear it in the moment it actually made it off the hanger and onto my body, I was never going to wear it. Bye, bye.

Minimalism also means living out from under the weight of obligation. There was so much I kept because I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. This mainly applied to gifts. If it isn’t useful or beautiful to me, I had to let it go. And just because I loved something once, doesn’t mean I have to keep it forever.

Interview with a minimalist Amanda Gregory My tiny tribe

Lastly, minimalism has affected my time and how I fill my schedule. The same way I’ve learned to say no to overfilling my home, I’ve learned to say no to overfilling my schedule. The same way I’ve created empty spaces in every room and drawer and closet, I’ve created empty spaces in my days and weeks and months. And the same way owning less has given me the freedom to enjoy more, doing less has given me the freedom to say yes to the ones that matter most to me.

Minimalism is not just a one time event. A yearly purge. Or the same as spring cleaning. Minimalism is intentionally choosing to live with less. To live with room. To live for experiences instead of things. To have time and space for events and items that bring me joy.

“Minimalism isn’t deprivation, it’s liberation.” – Joshua Becker

Interview with a minimalist Amanda Gregory My tiny tribe

Are there any books, websites or other resources that have inspired your minimalism?

www.becomingminimalist.com is an amazing website that got me started. The founder, Joshua Becker, also wrote a book called Clutterfree with Kids and it really helped me take things to the next level. It doesn’t just explain the “how” behind decluttering and the minimalist lifestyle, but includes the “why”, which I think is so important for maintenance and any long term change.

In what ways/areas do you struggle with maintaining your minimalist goals/values? What is your weakness?

My greatest struggle is clothing. As someone who has struggled with weight issues for years, I battle the desire to keep old sizes and buy new sizes and then save the sizes I’m no longer wearing. I also think I purchased clothes because I believed if I had something new it would make me feel better about my body but that never turned out to be true. In fact, I always ended up wearing my tried and true favorites from brands I really loved and in that way, minimalism has been a perfect fit for my wardrobe. But it’s still been hard to say no when I see something I like or think would be flattering. The part that’s made it easier is thinking about the amount of clothes I’ve donated since starting this journey. I remember specifically a few items that still had the tags on them! If that doesn’t make you pause long and hard before a purchase I don’t know what will!

Interview with a minimalist Amanda Gregory My tiny tribe

You have a third child on the way. Has minimalism influenced how you are preparing for your newest addition?

Almost two years of intentionally pursuing this lifestyle, preparing for another wee one has shown me what a huge change has really been made. Obviously with the first baby, it’s hard to know what you’ll actually need. You have to just go with what everyone is telling you. And giving you. So of course, I have experience on my side this time around. But even so, there’s plenty of “things” that I could use or buy or hope for. I could buy lots of clothes and register for multiples of everything. Instead, I narrowed down my wish list to actual needs (a place to sleep, something to wear, and blanket to keep warm) and then I choose to only bring a certain number of these items into my home. I don’t need 30 newborn outfits. Or 12 swaddling blankets. I bring in smaller amounts of the necessities and say no to the rest. It’s so freeing not to feel a pull toward all the things. I don’t feel weighed down and burdened while waiting to bring a new life into the world. Instead I can focus on the beauty of what my body is doing- the rest that I need to stay healthy- and remind myself I already have everything I need to welcome another little one earthside.

Interview with a minimalist Amanda Gregory My tiny tribe

Have there been any struggles with the other people you live with about living in a minimal way?

For the most part my husband has been totally on board. I know this isn’t the case for lots of couples, so I’m grateful. I think his biggest concern early on, watching trunk loads of home goods being donated, was that I was giving it all away to eventually replace it. It took time, but eventually I was able to prove that was not the case. He learned my motives and my determination and has been fully supportive ever since.

My older daughter also showed some resistance when we first began. Suddenly, toys she hadn’t played with in months were her greatest treasures. But when I showed her the pile of clothes I was giving away and decorations and jewelry, she warmed up to the idea knowing I wasn’t only purging her things. Since then, it’s just constant conversation about why we live this way. Making sure they understand the “why” behind the lifestyle and inviting them to be a part of it.

Have you had any positive or negative experiences with friends or family related to minimalism?

Both sets of grandparents currently live within a 15 mile radius of us, and there are so many reasons this makes us lucky. But it was also part of the reason our girls had an overabundance of… well… everything. And in the beginning their responses varied from disappointed confusion, to totally ignoring what we asked and buying lots of gifts anyways.

One of the things that helped was making suggestions of what to give the girls as gifts instead. I appreciate their generosity and their desire to spoil their grandbabies, so I didn’t want to rob them of that entirely. Encouraging ice cream dates, and train rides, and Disneyland tickets and taking them to ride the carousel — making them realize there’s still ways to give them something special without it being wrapped in a bag and bow, helped them get on board. I think it also got easier for them when they saw the reactions to the “experience” type gifts versus the toy aisle type gifts. Not only were the girls more excited and engaged, they remembered it and talked about it at every family get together for months afterwards. It wasn’t just another doll collecting dust under the bed.

Interview with a minimalist Amanda Gregory My tiny tribe

In what ways has minimalism improved your life?

I don’t spend as much money. I don’t spend as much time cleaning. And cleaning. And cleaning. I have more free time. More: yes time. More: play time. I don’t see bigger houses and feel envy and desire. In fact, sometimes I feel downright grateful that I found minimalism before I slaved my way into a home that would really serve as a giant storage unit. A place to put all the things that I’ve accumulated and have no use for. It’s improved my life because I’m lighter, freer, more content, and more available. That’s the kind of wife and mother and friend I want to be.

What advice can you offer to people interested in living a minimalist lifestyle?

Start somewhere. Anywhere. Start small.

Don’t tackle the sentimental stuff first. Don’t let your first project be the entire garage. Start with the countertops. Start with a drawer. Start with the easy stuff. Clothes with holes and stains. Toys that are broken. Then go another layer deeper.

Interview with a minimalist Amanda Gregory My tiny tribe

Go through your entire closet. Donate the shoes you don’t wear. How many winter jackets do you need? What’s shoved on those shelves that you can’t even reach? Is it time to let it go?

Watch yourself feel lighter. The decisions will get easier. Repeat the process as many times as necessary.

Lastly, find a resource. Bloggers that inspire you. Books that give direction. There are so many resources available. And there are so many ways to pursue minimalism.

Interview with a minimalist Amanda Gregory My tiny tribe

You can find Amanda on Instagram @mytinytribe or her photography website www.amandarose.photography. Thank you, Amanda, for sharing your story and tips.

Readers: if you are a minimalist or know someone who is that may be great for an interview on my blog, please be in touch with me by email at hippieindisguise1@gmail.com or via direct message on Instagram.

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Danielle Chassin Hippie in Disguise in flower garden

In the news: Talking Minimalism on Hey Mama

A few months ago I wrote about Hey Mama and interviewed the founders Katya Libin and Amri Kibbler just before they launched an online community for creative and entrepreneurial mothers. In the intervening months, they’ve launched a successful site HeyMama.co and garnered quite a following on social media. Each week they post new content covering interviews with successful entrepreneurial moms, styling and brand spotlights, tips for aspiring bloggers and social media influencers, and all sorts of fun lifestyle posts from a range of contributors. Their site is pretty slick and doesn’t have that earthy vibe (that I give off!!), so I was a little surprised when they asked me to contribute a post about minimalism.

Danielle Chassin Hippie in Disguise in flower garden

After sharing my first draft, Katya and Amri wrote back saying they liked it, but pushed me to speak more about my own experience with minimalism and raising children. Again, I was surprised. I didn’t think that was the box they wanted me to fit into. After another draft or two, the piece sounded a lot more like me (and what I thought was a lot less like Hey Mama). And yet, they loved it. It took me a day or two to realize that Katya and Amri really, honestly do celebrate difference, and want to represent a range of mothers and paths to success through Hey Mama. So, I guess my post does sound like me and like Hey Mama, because Hey Mama isn’t just one voice, it’s many. I encourage you to visit their site and to say hi over on their Instagram account. They have open minds and lots of ideas to share.

For my piece, which you can find here, I share 11 Ways to Get the Most out of Life with Minimal Living. I had a longer list than 11… because you know I can go on and on about minimalism (I’m not very minimal when it comes to that!), so I thought I’d share what didn’t make the cut and you can visit Hey Mama to read the rest.

So, here are some of my tips for getting started with minimalism, by first focusing on minimizing the stuff in your living space (in my Hey Mama post you’ll hear more about how to bring your kids on board with minimalism):

  • Accumulation happens because we keep things around, but also because we keep adding to our stash of stuff. To get closer to that relaxing minimal space, you need to minimize the amount of new things you bring into your home, and purge any unused, unnecessary, duplicate items from your home. Do you have 5 wooden mixing spoons? You can safely get rid of 3 of them, probably 4. Do you have high school notes? You definitely don’t need them!
  • Don’t window shop or browse. Limit your chances of impulse buying things by only shopping when you know what you need ahead of time and stick to that list. Better yet, wait a few days or a week to buy something, you might discover you don’t need it that badly or at all.
  • When purging your home of excess stuff, break up the work. Divide your living space into zones, so you can focus on one at a time, and feel a sense of accomplishment when it’s done. It will motivate you to keep going. A zone might be your pantry, an entire room or just a drawer, depending on how much time you have to put into it. It’s great to start with your bedroom or the room you spend the most time in, because the positive feedback of having this room done will encourage you to keep going.
  • Build on the positive feelings of purging stuff from your home to motivate you to keep eliminating stuff. Once you start purging things, it becomes somewhat addictive, the positive feedback of having less to tidy and more space to enjoy will provide ample motivation to keep going. You will also likely notice a change in your housemates sense of calm; my children have thrived on having less stuff in the house and playing outdoors without toys.
  • Talk to others who have minimized their living space. You will hear from everyone that you talk to that they have only had positive experiences with eliminating stuff from their life. They have never regretted donating or giving something away. The fear of regret is what often holds people back, but the reality is, we don’t miss our stuff.

After visiting Hey Mama, please come back and let me know what your favourite tip was. And why not leave a comment on Hey Mama too!? xo

If you are interested you can view my Hey Mama profile here.

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Interview with a Minimalist: Carina

There is so much goodness in this interview that I just don’t know where to start. Carina, who I’ve interviewed before for my Inspiring Mothers series, is a minimalist and mother of two. She is an artist who paints and illustrates, and also works in arts outreach. Her story is particularly inspiring because it was a significant life event that brought about an “aha” moment. In that moment all that was truly important to her became crystal clear. I love that while years have passed since her epiphany it’s effect hasn’t grown dim. She has managed to continue to draw from this experience in order to cultivate a life of purpose, enjoyment, adventure, and fun. A life filled to the brim with moments and memories. There are so many nuggets of wisdom packed into her answers, read slowly and enjoy!

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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?

My name is Carina. I am passionate about the arts and the outdoors, and making memories around these two things with my family. I am a big advocate for accessible art experiences, supporting local creatives and businesses, and connecting communities. I adore painting and illustration, and encouraging my kids’ love of art, stories, and adventure. We are lucky to live so close to the ocean, the mountains, and everything in between. We all love camping, my husband fly fishes, and my kids and I are crazy about surfing. I’m also passionate about the community of rad women that my bestie Bree and I have connected with through our west coast lifestyle site www.peaksandharbours.com.

How many children do you have and what are they like?

I have two children, and they are so wonderfully different from each other.

My daughter Finn is 9 years old, with a blanket of long dark hair, usually under a wide-brimmed hat and framed by long feather earrings. She is a fast-friend-maker, an incredibly observant girl, and can often be found blissfully reading and writing stories. Appropriately, she wants to be both a published author and an actor (“they don’t call them actresses anymore mom”).

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My son Augustus (Gus) is a cheerful, golden-haired sweetheart. He loves to choreograph dance videos, and is happily curious about everything from how the body works, to the life-cycle of plants and animals. He is a cuddler, and feels things deeply, especially when he thinks that a friend has been wronged – he will always come to your rescue! He adores his sister Finn. And when she gives him the time of day, he is on cloud nine.

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What part of the world do you live in?

I live in Vancouver,  in an area of the city called Mount Pleasant – very aptly named. It’s an idyllic little urban community, where I also work, where my children go to school, and where we spend time with friends. I love that we are able to be so local and connected in a big city. I grew up in a very tiny town, and it reminds me of that way of life – minus the horses tethered to the school fence and the tractors parked in driveways.

Do you have a favourite quote or words that inspire you?

There is no certainty; there is only adventure.” – Roberto Assagioli

Change is constant, and once you realize that it’s exciting, not scary, you can embrace it once it happens, and enjoy the ride – or least see the importance of some of those journeys of learning.

Good for her, not for me.” – Amy Poehler, Yes Please

Everyone has their own way of doing things that work for them, and that’s wonderful. It doesn’t mean that we have to feel bad if it doesn’t work for us.

You are an artist, what inspires your work? Do you have issues with keeping the amount of art supplies you have in check?

That is a tough one! My art has changed so much over the years. When I was doing my first degree years ago, I was working in photography, and soundscapes with video and audio installations. Yes, super avant garde stuff – ha! I really felt like I needed to be loud and cinematic so people could hear what I was trying to say, which had a lot to do with being a new mother, and trying to define who this new person was that I had become. I realize now that I can be a mother, and also be an individual at the same time, and that being ambitious doesn’t mean that I am a bad parent.

Currently, I am back to the drawing and painting I fell in love with as a child, but with more experience (both in years and technique). I love the ‘low-fi” – ness of it. I don’t need a large desk of technical equipment to create a painting or illustration.

In terms of my own art supplies, my style is quite minimal (how appropriate!), and I do keep my art supplies minimal as well. I will not buy another palette of watercolours until something has actually run out, and I won’t stock up on ten versions of a similar paintbrush; because I just don’t need it. I do find it hard when I’m actually in an art supply store – I always get that surge of excitement of all the possibilities. However, I have enough experience to now know that if I surround myself with too much, I get overwhelmed with choices, and will not allow myself to fully commit to one project. This rings true for me in finishing a painting, and also in other areas of my life.

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I believe there are many ways to be a minimalist and many forms of minimalism. What does minimalism mean to you?

I would say that minimalism is a way of life for me. It’s not just about living materially small in our 750 square foot apartment, but also how our little family approaches life. Maybe a few examples might be the best way to answer:

  • When I find myself feeling anxious about the week’s tasks, errands, etc. I start to look for the path of least resistance.  I am working on saying “no” more often and accepting that when I am stressed out at all the things I need to do, it’s because I chose to do them. So if I can cancel some unnecessary meetings downtown, or find gymnastics classes for Gus closer to home so we’re not driving across town three times a week after work, that keeps things simpler and less stressful.
  • I rarely bring in something new into our home unless it is really going to make us smile – like a local artist’s work, or a carefully curated collection of shells the kids have found at the beach. I try to buy local and sustainable as much as possible, and I pare down anything that has too many multiples. I take things to consign or to the thrift store at least once each season. There’s no need to have more than four towels in our tiny linen closet, and the kids don’t need 16 pairs of socks each.
  • When thinking about how to spend our money, after all the bills are paid, we always look to what experiences we want to have, not what things we want to buy. Cyrus ties his own flies for fishing, and will update a rod or reel. I recently was able to get my own wetsuit for surfing, and one day hope to have my own board. The kids really want to go to Playland this summer, and have a goal to do that at the end of August. More traditional activities can be expensive in Vancouver, so when we’re all on board with saving money to achieve these goals, it makes it exciting to have something to look forward to and more meaningful when you get there.

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What is your story? How did you get started on a minimalist path? What drew you to minimalism or what motivated you to become a minimalist?

I have always been a fan of simple living, but my two big leaps into minimalism were when my husband and I separated, and when I took a trip to India.

When I finished my Master’s Degree in 2011, my husband and I separated for 2 ½ years. It was hard and painful, but also a really powerful experience. When we split our things, I realized that the only thing I wanted were the pictures of the kids, and the only thing I needed was a home to raise my kids in.  Nothing else mattered. What I also quickly discovered though was how much I needed my friends and my family. I have always been a fast-friend-maker (like Finn), but I was floored by how the good people around me rallied without judgement, helped dry my tears, fill my cupboards, and made me feel whole again. That was an important time in my life for sure. I learned how resilient I was, how everyone has a story, and how love truly is all you need. Happily, we are all together again, and we both had similar epiphanies about how we wanted to live as a family – and we haven’t looked back!

In 2012, I took a trip to India to do research on art and architecture there for my PhD. When I got there, all the naivety I had about being a worldly traveller went right out the window and I went into full culture shock. It is a country that continuously saturates every sense to a dizzying level. I saw very small children, barely clothed and dirty, that were so hungry they were peeling paint off buildings to eat. You quickly realize just how fortunate you are by accident of where you are born. I also saw a lot of happiness in India, from children who had almost nothing. Their delight in finding a bridge to jump off into cooling waters filled the air with laughter and joy. It is easy to see in such a place of contrast how unnecessary all our extra things are, and how fortunate we are to have access to simple amenities and health care.

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Are there people you look to as minimalist role models?

I think that I inherited some of that Scandinavian minimalism from my Swedish father. He was always big on saving for our trips to Sweden to visit family, and we went on many camping and road trips as a family. My childhood was filled with amazing adventures, and I am so thankful for that. I’ve also been influenced by my thoughtful Italian mother, who always emphasizes keeping things that bring you joy, and discarding things that do not – especially when those things are attached to a past you need to get rid of.

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Are there any books, websites or other resources that have inspired your minimalism?

I have read The Minimalists, and The Japanese Art of Tidying, both interesting books but I am still waiting for someone to come out with a book that addresses how to be minimalist with children, and without a huge cash reserve that allows you to immediately drop your daytime job without worrying about putting food on the table.

I love Alison Mazurek, who lives right here in Vancouver with her adorable little boy in a 600 square foot apartment about 4 blocks away from me!  She has her own blog www.600sqft.com and is also a contributor to Peaks & Harbours. She has a similar mindset in that she takes to the outdoors when things feel small, and focuses on quality local goods over a quantity of “things.”

In what ways/areas do you struggle with maintaining your minimalist goals/values? What is your weakness?

Books! Both for myself and for the kids. I’m trying to be better at going to the library for my reading fix, and encouraging the kids to do the same. It’s a work-in-progress!

Does your household abide by minimalism or is this more a focus for yourself? Why?

I think we all abide by minimalism. We do not purchase toys or extra gadgets for our kids unless it’s a birthday, or Christmas, etc. Pokemon was a big craze for them a few months ago, and they saved their money and bought all their Pokemon card packs and binders themselves. Of course, we will help them here and there with allowance money. When Gus decided he was not interested anymore in his Thomas the Tank Engine set a couple of years ago, he took pictures of them all lined up, put them on Craigslist, boxed them up, and handed them over to the guy that bought them (He was four!). He beamed with pride, and took that money to get his first Star Wars Lego kit. I do find that they are less and less interested in amassing the newest trendy toy. I think Gus has more money saved in his piggy bank than I do! Because he’s not sure what he wants to spend it on, and so he doesn’t. Finn will always buy more books, but we will also go to the library, because her piggy bank just can’t keep up with her insatiable appetite for more stories.

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Have there been any struggles with the other people you live with about living in a minimal way?

Honestly, it’s been such a positive experience that I can’t think of any time that we’ve come into conflict about it. Once and a while, the kids briefly lament that other parents have bought their kids an entire American Doll set complete with a giant wardrobe, and I say how nice that is, and how if it’s that important we can work towards it. More often than not, the novelty quickly wears off and they forget they ever asked for it.

Have you had any positive or constructive (or negative) experiences with friends or family related to minimalism?

I have had nothing but positive experiences! When people come over, if they are parents I usually find them peeking into a doorway wondering if I’ve hid the kids’ toys there – ha! They are amazed, and then excited, that our small apartment is so light and welcoming, without it wanting anything.

In what ways has minimalism improved your life?

I think that when you pare down the extraneous things, you live your life more honestly and genuinely. An example I would give is when I finally gave away all my textbooks from university that I knew I was only keeping to be impressive. I had so many books that I had on display because I felt like they represented all my years of hard work, and would show visitors how educated I was. I think it was really me feeling unsure of myself. When I finally admitted that I was probably never again going to pick up that 1000 page book on psychoanalytical theories, or the multi-volume text on Ancient Greek political systems, what was left was a real representation of who I was and what I actually found interesting. Books on art, funny stories, and beautiful illustrations. It feels amazing, and I don’t mind whether visitors notice that or not.

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What have been some unexpected experiences you’ve had with minimalism?

I am a less anxious person after really embracing minimalism. I used to struggle with anxiety in my early to late twenties. When things become pared down at home, and I focused on positive relationships, I became more confident in myself and the anxiety just melted away. It’s an ongoing process for sure, but I can definitely say that myself and my children, we are all much more chill and content living this way.

What advice can you offer to people interested in living a minimalist lifestyle?

If you haven’t used something in a year, chances are you’re never going to use it. When I’ve felt overwhelmed with picking through the kids’ things (especially the bits of impossibly tiny accessories for toys), I will dump an entire drawer that they haven’t opened in a while, into a tupperware bin with a lid, and stow it away for a few months. They never ask where those things have gone. And when I feel like it’s been long enough, I organize things out into thrift store and consignment store, and they will get the money from their toys.

Do you have any goals for this year or the next few that you want to share?

My big goal that I’ve been wanting to do for a few years now – but am finally in a place to attack it, is creating albums out of pictures of the kids’ artwork. When you live in a small space, it’s tough to store pieces of different sizes without crushing and damaging them, and it’s hard to pull out an enormous box and go through it in a way that doesn’t create a giant mess. My goal is to take pictures of their favourites, and make them into a book. This way they can look at them easily, show them to friends, and be proud of their work for years to come.

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Thank you Carina! Readers: you can find Carina on Instagram @carinamarienilsson; on her outstanding lifestyle site www.peaksandharbours.com; or her personal site www.carinamarienilsson.com.

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Swan by Kellie Diguanco Interview with a Minimalist

Interview with a Minimalist: Kellie

Kellie Diguanco artist Interview with a Minimalist Vancouver

The visual artists I know personally tend to be obsessive collectors, with studios and homes filled with supplies, found objects and inspiration. I don’t consider myself an artist, but I do like to make pretty things, arrange dried flowers, and sketch. Keeping in check the amount of supplies I have around the house is an ongoing battle for me. Whether we are minimalists or not, we all have objects, stuff, things, paraphernalia, gadgets and gizmos that accumulate. They may be very practical items, they may be sentimental items, or somewhere in between.

What I have found interesting in much of the writing about de-cluttering and minimalism is that people struggle most when it comes to parting with sentimental items such as souvenirs, diaries, and family gifts. While I do understand this perspective, what I have found I struggle with most is parting with practical items, like the four extra bath towels, the second muffin tin and the wall clock, that I definitely don’t need, but know are very useful items. I suppose this is when my environmental consciousness really kicks in, because each time I am ready to part with an item, I need to know that it is going to someone who will use it well. I can’t simply de-clutter my house by putting things in the waste bin. Finding the time to donate items to the best places, like bicycle parts to Bicycles for Humanity, running shoes to the Soles4Souls or the Running Room, kitchen tools through the Freecycle network can be a challenge, when all I want to do is say goodbye to my stuff and hello to clear space. It takes patience and time to do it right. And so, I am constantly reminding myself of this, when it would be really easy for me to put things in the trash or donate them to a generic charity bin that may not be able to make good use of the items. All this to say, I think that the environmental impacts of de-cluttering need a bit more air time and consideration, and so I was very pleased when Kellie (interviewed below) mentioned this to me in her interview.

Kellie is a minimalist, mother of four, artist and book lover. I was excited to talk with Kellie and hear how she lives minimally because, well, four kids, art and books usually make for a very cluttered existence! Kellie shares how having less stuff allowed her to have a more open mind, free of mental clutter. She also talks about how her boys are thriving having less stuff and more experiences. I hope you enjoy the read.

Interview with a Minimalist

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 Texas transplant to Vancouver, British Columbia [Canada]. I’m passionate about children, the creative mind, and inspiring others. I spend my time reading LOTS of books to my children and students and getting outside to explore nature with my four boys because Vancouver is a beautiful place to explore.

You are an artist, what inspires your work?

Children are the biggest inspiration for almost anything I create. They have a raw, uninhibited imagination. I like to create things that will inspire imaginative play or thoughts. I also keep in mind the lasting effects, how it impacts the environment. The state of the world has everything to do with what we teach our children now. Having less, but something with good quality.  Everything I make has a person in mind, and I put so much passion into it, that it must be something so beautiful and worthwhile that I would keep if for myself.

Interview with a Minimalist Nature Collection

How many children do you have and what are they like?

I have 4 little boys and they are so different. My oldest is the introvert, passionate, with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. He gave a TEDTalk in November. My second son is very gentle and cheerful, you can always find him skipping or singing. My 5 year old is a cuddle bug and 3 year old has quite a Batman obsession. My house is full of noise and energy but also a large amount of curiosity and we are all relentless about reading.

Interview with a Minimalist Children Playing Outdoors

Do you have a favourite quote or words that inspire you?

I have many, I love a good quote but this one always fits me:

“You have more to do than be weighed down by ‘pretty’ or ‘beautiful.’ You are a fiery heart and a wicked brain. Do not let your soul be defined by its shell.” ~Michelle K.

I believe there are many ways to be a minimalist and many forms of minimalism. What does minimalism mean to you?

Living in Vancouver as a family of 6, minimalism is a way of life. If you want a tidy house with a big family, you need fewer items.  Minimalism, to me, means owning fewer things.

Why do you identify as a minimalist? In what ways are you a minimalist?

We have always purged and kept our house full of fewer things for space reasons, but it started to make a big difference in the way we felt. We felt better, happier with fewer items. I have always been passionate about caring for the environment and fewer, better things makes less of an impact on the world. I am always hoping the world will be a better place for my children.

Interview with a Minimalist Children Playing Outdoors by Kellie Diguanco

What is your story? How did you get started on a minimalist path? What drew you to minimalism or what motivated you to become a minimalist?

We have always purged and donated our things, but our biggest change came when we had to stage our home for putting it on the market. We became minimal very quickly, and we all actually enjoyed it better. The kids even talked about how clean their room felt and how they liked the feeling of it.  We found ourselves outdoors more, it’s hard to explain it,  but that’s how it impacted us. We always loved camping and going outdoors but we began exploring more spaces and our lives were focused much more on experiences.

Interview with a Minimalist Children Playing Outdoors by Kellie Diguanco

Are there people you look to as minimalist role models?

I really enjoy Alison from 600sqftandababy. I love her hashtag #fewerthings. I have learned so much, like recycling your running shoes at Running Room. I love reading your journey and all the interviews you have. I think everyone has a different journey and we can all learn from each others experiences.

Are there any books, websites or other resources that have inspired your minimalism?

I read The Life Changing Art Of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, I enjoyed it but it didn’t talk a lot about recycling, which is also an important issue to me.

In what ways/areas do you struggle with maintaining your minimalist goals/values? What is your weakness?

My weakness is children’s picture books. I am very choosy about the books I actually buy for my home, they must have exquisite illustrations and I prefer they have teachable moments. That being said, they can add up because there are lots of wonderful books. It’s my struggle.

Frida Kahlo by Kellie Diguanco

Does your household abide by minimalism or is this more a focus for yourself?

We all abide by minimalism. We store our kids toys away and they alternate them in and out every now and then. It’s like getting a new toy but it’s actually ones they have already had and forgotten about. We have only kept the ones that have a lasting life either by quality or by fad. If they won’t love it in a week, it can’t stay.

Have there been any struggles with the other people you live with about living in a minimal way?

My husband likes clothes, but I can see the impact in his choices now.

Have you had any positive or constructive experiences with friends or family related to minimalism?

It has had a positive influence. When I started to minimize my art supplies, I realized I had more than I needed. I was able to find great homes for what I didn’t need. I decided to only make something for someone specific or for the shops that sell my items by their request. I want to make special things, that someone can treasure and that will have a lasting impact. I started making wood dolls for people that inspired me. At first people thought that it was strange. I think because most people that give you something want something in return. For me, it was a way of creating something unique and beautiful for someone that sends beauty out into the world. It’s been a fun and interesting art process.

Interview with a Minimalist Kellie Diguanco 4 boys

In what ways has minimalism improved your life?

Having fewer things leaves your mind open to less clutter in life. You focus more on the essentials, which for us is health, family and experiences.

What have been some unexpected experiences you’ve had with minimalism?

I didn’t not expect my children to flow with it so well, they enjoy less clutter, that was surprising to me.

What advice can you offer to people interested in living a minimalist lifestyle?

Start now, for some it’s one big purge and others it takes longer to let go.

Interview with a Minimalist Kellie Diguanco

Do you have any goals for this year or the next few that you want to share?

I have some big dreams, focused around children and literacy. The current project I have just finished, is a line of cards for kids that promote creativity and handwriting , called Lisky and Lulu, and I will continue to share my love of books over @thekaleidoscopeca.

Readers: You can also find Kellie on Instagram @kelliedigs and on her website The Kaleidoscope. She’s a busy woman!

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Let’s be friends! Please come find me in other places: