Rebecca Lane Global Guardian Project

Interview with a Minimalist: Rebecca

How we live minimalism is very personal. Sure, when you search Pinterest you might think minimalism is all about white walls and owning less than 100 things, but this is only one version of minimalism. When I say that minimalism gives a sense of freedom, it can be hard to reconcile the word ‘freedom’ with the version of minimalism that gets the most visibility on Pinterest and in the news (because it’s the most photogenic). Minimalism, having and doing less, releasing and unburdening ourselves from unnecessary habits, thought patterns and emotions, is freeing. And with this freedom we can choose how we use our time, our energy and our money. That is, we have the opportunity to craft a life more closely aligned with our dreams, our beliefs and our values. For me, this is the real appeal of minimalism – the freedom it affords me to live in a way that is more aligned with what is most important to me: family, community, adventure and sustainable living. So, what is important to you?

Think about what you can stop doing, stop spending money and time on, and what habits do not serve you, so that you can do more of what you love and do more good for yourself, others and the world.

Rebecca Lane is a friend of mine. We first met about a year and half ago on a project to raise funds for Free2Luv, an anti-bullying organization dedicated to empowering youth, celebrating individuality and spreading kindness. I feel so fortunate that we happened to connect through this project because Rebecca is a truly amazing human, mother, artist and activist. Over the past year I have witnessed Rebecca push herself to align her way of life with her values. This meant she had to make big, scary changes – but her commitment to live true to what was, at the root, most important to her: family and global stewardship, did not shake. What was important to her were her boys and giving back to the world by raising environmentally-aware change makers.

In what follows, Rebecca explains how re-embracing minimalism helped her find a path to aligning her life with what mattered most to her. Not only this, but she was finally able to bring to life a project she’d been dreaming of for years, the Global Guardian Project, by letting go of the parts of her life that were weighing on her focus and productivity.

  • By the way, for those who want to know more, I will be making a separate post about the Global Guardian Project later this week, so come back for more details about that! In short, GGP will develop learning capsules for families about different countries and ecosystems around the world with a mind to cultivating a sense of global environmental stewardship and cross-cultural appreciation. If you’ve already heard of it and want to sign up you can use my code: HIPPIEINDISGUISE for 10% off a single capsule or full subscription.

I hope that Rebecca’s story inspires you, as it did me, and that you are able to find your own path to a contented life aligned with what matters most to you.

Rebecca Lane Global Guardian Project

All photos in this post were taken by Coleen Hodges

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

My name is Rebecca Lane.  I am a (very new) single mom of two lovely boys, Giovanni and Matteo. I’m an artist and the creator of a couple social businesses, including Children Inspire Design, Fresh Words Market and Kindred Sol Collective.  I’m most recently the founder of my most favorite creation (besides my children), the Global Guardian Project. I also consider myself a reborn minimalist.

What part of the world do you live in?

We currently live in Southern California, but we travel every chance we get. We split our time between the north woods of Wisconsin, where I grew up and Isla Mujeres, Mexico where I lived for 3 years during which time my first son was born.  

Rebecca Lane Global Guardian Project

What are your children like?

I have two lovely, creative boys. Giovanni is 13 and Matteo is 9.  They are my inspiration for the Global Guardian Project.  I built my businesses around teaching them about the world and how they can be a positive force in global change. They are my muses.

Rebecca Lane Global Guardian Project

You have an unconventional approach to educating your children. Can you tell me more about this?

I’ve been fascinated with homeschooling and world schooling since my children were born.  I knew from my own past experiences, that traditional public schools weren’t going to be enough to help me cultivate a globally educated, well rounded child. And I knew travel restrictions would prevent us from extensive exploration.  After much thought and a few trials I realized that with my work demands straight homeschooling wouldn’t work for us.  So I found a lovely charter school in Southern California that supported and embraced education through travel and we moved from Arizona to California to enroll them in the program.  They’ve been there for four years and it’s been such a blessing.  I’m able to pull them from the on-campus program when we travel, homeschool them while abroad, then reintegrate them when we return.  It’s worked very well for us so far.  

Rebecca Lane Global Guardian Project

The education my boys have received from travel has been incredible, and ended up being the seed from which the Global Guardian Project was born. Each time we travel, my boys research an environmental organization.  We tour the organization, learning as much as we can about the good work they do.  Then the boys create a video about their work and teach ways kids can help their cause in everyday life.  It’s a brilliant way for them to both learn and teach.

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

I kind of started as a minimalist, fell off track, and then recently re-centered myself. I’ve been a gypsy at heart all my life, so when I was younger minimalism was easy.  It’s not convenient to acquire a lot of things when you’re on the move.  But it became more of a challenge when we rooted ourselves back in the United States. We started to consume more, in part because we bought a home and thought we needed to fill it. We fell into the ease and convenience of US consumerism.  I have to admit, at first I didn’t see it for what it was. But there was always this ambiguous knot in my gut that reminded me that something wasn’t right.

Rebecca Lane Global Guardian Project

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 think my transition back to minimalism came by force when my life was flipped upside down. This past year I went through a divorce.  And, as painful and challenging as it’s been, it was also a gift.  It provided me with the opportunity to release: physical items, emotional baggage and my negative patterns. At the same time as my divorce, I also sold my business, Children Inspire Design — which was a huge part of my identity.  Within the period of a week, I filed for divorce and sold my business. I had, in a very big way, pulled the rug right out from me and stripped away my identity.  And when the dust settled, it ended up being a beautiful mess because I was able to look at everything in my life, the physical, emotional, spiritual parts of who I’d become, all the accumulation of the good and the bad, and I got to choose to pick up only the pieces that served me and my boys from that moment and into the future.  I was given the opportunity to create a new blueprint. It’s been the scariest time of my life, but also the most transformative and empowering.

Rebecca Lane Global Guardian Project

What has been the greatest benefit of minimalism?

For me, the sense of freedom is the biggest benefit.  With every thing I release, whether it physical or emotional, I feel less suffocated.  I can breathe. Pressure lifts from my chest.

Is your parenting influenced by minimalism?

Yes, in a very big way. My boys have had the experience of living on the road and in a physically rooted home. At this point, they’ve spent more time rooted than wandering, and I’ve started to see their attachment to things grow and become a problem.  This is part of the reason why I’ve decided to sell our home and homeschool for most of next year while on the road.  They are at such a critical time right now, being 13 and 9.  I have a window of opportunity to take them back to a truly minimalist lifestyle, so I’m going to take advantage of it.  

I’ve received mixed responses when I tell those close to me about my plans. And every negative response boils down to this question: “aren’t you afraid of raising your kids without a home?”  The answer is no, not at all.  It’s so important for me that my children really understand that home is a feeling. A house is walls and a roof.  I need them to know that wherever they are in the world and in life, they are home.  I am their home. Our family is their home.

Rebecca Lane Global Guardian Project

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

I cry just about every time I have to let go of one of the boy’s art projects.  If it were up to me, I’d have a storage unit filled with finger paintings, noodle necklaces and monster doodles. { Me too, Rebecca, me too! }

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

The minimalist philosophy was a challenge in our marriage.  We had very different views about acquiring physical things.  Which is, in part, why I feel now that I’m a minimalist reborn. It’s a new opportunity for me to become more true to myself.

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

There have been moments where I’d get this overwhelming feeling of panic when I toss out an art project.  But, other than that, for me the less the better.  We recently went on a camping trip in Idyllwild, CA and I was so smitten with the very few things we had and needed to function.  I’d wake up extra early in the morning to make a pot of coffee on my tiny burner. One cup, one spoon, a thousand trees. That’s it. That’s all I needed. { Long-time readers of this blog will remember Tiffany shared a similar experience }

Rebecca Lane Global Guardian Project

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

Baby steps are great.  There’s no need to change the world in a day. That’s actually a philosophy we’re teaching with Global Guardian Project. In each monthly learning capsule, we include a family challenge for the month. A simple, sustainable change that the entire family can get on board with. In this way, each month you can build on your efforts to live more sustainably. Small acts transform the world.

You recently launched the Global Guardian Project, can you tell me more about this? Why did you start it and what does it mean to you?

Global Guardian Project (GGP) is a subscription based learning platform designed for global families who understand the importance of teaching children how to care for the Earth and all who inhabit it.

Each month, we launch a digital Learning Capsule, filled with educational stories, videos, interviews, art projects, and challenges designed to teach families how to become global stewards and changemakers in their own home and in everyday life.

GGP content focuses on  three topics:  Explore, Inspire + Challenge.

  • Explore focuses on a specific country, it’s culture, natural environment and endangered species.  
  • Inspire focuses on introducing families to important causes and individuals who are already making positive changes both in that area and globally, specifically little changemakers.
  • Challenge offers activities, or challenges, to help become a more sustainable, environmentally aware family.

Global Guardian Project has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. From the very first business I launched, I knew that my role in this world was to empower individuals to make positive changes for the Earth and all who inhabit it.

I designed GGP so that I could allow my children to be a part of the solution. They watch me dream, design and launch something with promise for positive change. That experience alone is so valuable.  They are not learning in theory.  They are watching their mama in action.  They are learning that they can do something like this too.  I intentionally incorporated travel and interviews as a way for my boys to continually learn about our world.  They get to see new places, interview changemakers, come up with videos to teach other kids how to help in everyday life.  They are an integral part of the Global Guardian Project. I feel like these opportunities are rare and important and will help form their sense of global responsibility as adults.

Rebecca Lane Global Guardian Project

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

This year is a huge transition for us.  We’ll be renting out our home and traveling for a year beginning in January (2017).  We’ll be researching, planning, digging deeper into creating more for Global Guardian Project’s offerings.  We have plans to launch our first volunteer family retreat by the end of 2017 and also have long term plans to create the Global Guardian Foundation, where we can offer resources and programs to global youth changemakers.  We see community programs, workshops, retreats and international challenges, all for Global Guardian kids and families.  There’s never a lack of ideas when it comes to educating on how to care for the Earth!

***

Thank you Rebecca for sharing your story and way of life. Readers you can follow Rebecca on Instagram @globalguardianproject on Facebook or on her site Global Guardian Project.

There is currently a free Oceans learning capsule available for download while we await the release of the first full-size capsule in mid-August. If you are interested in subscribing to the Global Guardian monthly capsules you can use my discount code: HIPPIEINDISGUISE for 10% off.

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

Interview with a Minimalist: Ksenia

Somedays, some posts, I worry that I’m a broken record. I just keep saying “minimalism isn’t about stuff, it’s so much more” (with emphasis on the emotional, psychological and interpersonal benefits of minimalism).

I’m passionate about minimalism, but not because it means I have a sparse, stylish, tidy home that is as white as possible. No, I don’t have any of these things. Minimalism – living with less – is really about voluntary simplicity and slow living, mindful acquisition and unburdening. In my view, through minimalism, the paring down of our possessions and commitments (and everything else), we come to know ourselves very well. We don’t have the distractions that keep us from sitting idle and reflecting on our lives and the people and things that surround us. When it comes to stuff, and often minimalism starts at the basic level of stuff (yes, decluttering is the gateway), parting with things we thought we needed, but find we don’t miss, is instructive. We learn about ourselves, our habits, our dependencies.

Paring down material possessions opens the gate to a bigger minimalism (irony intended). This is the minimalism that unburdens us of the things, ideas and ways of thought that do not serve us and allow us to spend our time, energy and money in better ways. (Personally, I try to take this a step further by dispensing with ideas, practices and things that do not serve the community and planet well. Emphasis on ‘try’, because, well, I’m far from perfect.)

In crafting this series of interviews with minimalists I sought to debunk the perception that minimalism is a visual aesthetic, or that it is a narrow, prescriptive lifestyle. I’ve purposely chosen to share as many photos of minimalists outside their homes (outside the context of things they own or don’t own), to show the joys and freedoms that come with a minimalist lifestyle, to show that minimalists live in a wide variety of ways. What is common to the minimalists I speak with (and choose to feature here) is that they have experienced massive improvements in the quality of their life, their enjoyment in living, by voluntarily reducing the number of things, people and commitments they are responsible for.

Today, I have an interview with Ksenia who views minimalism as part of her spiritual journey. She recently went on a decision detox, where she undertook a personal experiment to minimize, that is, to apply minimalism, to decision making. I found this absolutely fascinating and asked her to share. Below you’ll hear about Ksenia’s minimalism journey, the benefits it has brought her and her family and perhaps some inspiration for your own unburdening.

Dear Ksenia, let’s start with a little bit about you. Who are you? What’s your background?

My name is Ksenia. I was born and raised in Latvia by the beautiful Baltic Sea. When I was four years old the Soviet Union collapsed and Latvia became independent. The fall of communism brought radical changes to all the spheres of the society and opened doors to many influences from the West and from the East. My parents where among the first to embrace changes. They raised us in a beautiful home surrounded by nature in a yogic environment that was unusual for that time. Our family traveled to places that most Soviet people couldn’t even dream of visiting. My childhood had profound influence on my perception of the world.

I moved to the United States 10 years ago where I live with my husband Daniel and my son Anton. These days I am a stay at home mom and I love it. My passion lies in the realms of creativity. I love embroiding, crocheting and drawing thangka (Tibetan spiritual artwork).


What part of the world do you live in?

I live in New York. I met my husband during a trip to England. While we were deciding on a place to start our life together, the Universe sent us a lucky green card lottery win. And so we moved halfway across the world to NYC.

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

I have a son, Anton. He is a curious little toddler with endless energy. He always moves and spends his days dancing and singing.


I was intrigued and inspired by your recent Instagram post about minimizing decision making. Can you tell me more about this?

I always felt mentally exhausted from all the irrelevant decisions I had to make every day. What should I eat for breakfast? What should I wear? These thoughts would come to my mind in the mornings when I was still in bed. I never liked to feel rushed and I always dreamed of days that will start with meditation and a long cup of tea. When I came across the theory about decision fatigue I was blown away. Research shows that our brains are capable of making only a finite amount of choices a day. Every additional decision, no matter how small, exhausts our “brain muscle” and consequently weakens our ability or desire to make a right choice.


And so I decided to go on decision “detox”. My patient husband approved of this experiment. We started making weekly food plans, started making budget, we decided to eat the same thing for breakfast, quit shopping except for necessities and chose to restrain from entertainment. The list goes on.

This practice turned out to be very liberating for me on many levels and I am excited to see where it will take me in the future.


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?

Minimalism above all is a part of my spiritual journey. I believe that I am a visitor in this world searching for love and light, I am here to grow and to learn. I don’t want to spend my days around artificial things that are not really important. Minimalism is not a style for me, it is a tool I use to free my mind from the distractions of the world.


What has been the greatest benefit of minimalism?

Minimalism helped me discover a new state of mind, that shines light on all areas of my life.


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

It all started from my trips to India. When I first traveled there four years ago I was in awe from the simple life people lead there and felt that we are missing the point in the West. I attempted to mimic this simplicity in my life, but I didn’t reach my minimalist Nirvana at that time. Last year I was lucky to spend another six weeks in India. While I lived in the ashram I was following a strict ashram schedule. I was amazed that I was able to do all the things I am desperately attempting to do in my everyday life with very little effort. I had time for meditation, for work around the ashram, for socializing with friends, for Anton and even for reading. There were several things that stood out to me immediately, one, was a limited amount of possessions I carried with me and another had to do with a steady ashram routine.

Upon my return I was determined to project ashram lifestyle in Himalaya’s onto my own life in NYC. And so I dove into simplifying once again.

Is your parenting influenced by minimalism?

Yes, it definitely is. When we were preparing to welcome Anton into this world we were dreaming to do this as gently for the environment as we could. We asked friends and family not to shower us with abundance of baby gadgets and we restrained from buying toys. However it didn’t turn out exactly as we hoped. Anton was becoming more overwhelmed with each gift he was receiving. I knew I had to do something about it. I decided to trim the amount of toys he had to one box of quality toys that went along with our parenting philosophy. We removed all media entertainment from him, stopped excessive socialization with other toddlers and cut down on his scheduled activities. He was left with unlimited time in the park to explore nature and with a lot of my undistracted attention. My goal was to conquer overstimulation. It took about a week for all of us to get used to it but it turned out to be a great experience. Boredom turned into imaginary play almost instantly, single-toy-at-a-time created unbelievably long attention span for his age and his vocabulary expanded tremendously. Now looking back, I am so glad that I found strength to go full force on simplifying his busy little life.


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

  • Buddhist and Hindu thought on non-attachment.
  • The Minimalists, I had pleasure of seeing their new movie. These guys are simply incredible.
  • Instagram, it has been my source of inspiration from environmental minimalism, people like you { thank you Ksenia! } and reginenordz make me try harder every day.
  • My guru Haidakhan Baba, he placed Simplicity in the center of his teaching. Without him I would not have started on this path.

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

Minimalism didn’t come naturally to me, I went through many struggles while I was letting things and ideas go. The biggest challenge was in the area of my creativity. I was parting with my old art projects, with yarn I didn’t use for crocheting, with oil painting supplies I didn’t see myself returning to since becoming a mother. It was very intensive time. The experience was similar to deep self analysis. I discovered that I attached many emotions to things that brought me joy in the past, like a dress I wore when I was pregnant or gifts I received from loved ones and no longer used. Separating emotions from objects was a break through for me. I feel that I have reached a happy place right now, but I probably still have too many books on my shelves and too many jars of delicious herbs in my tea cabinet.


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

My husband was very supportive of my search for meaning through voluntary simplicity, but when I was loading our car with donation boxes for the third time he asked me to slow down a bit. It has been a while since that time and recently he told me that he is finally feeling positive effects of minimalism and is willing to dive deeper into this process.


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

I was able to embrace my inner introvert more. I used to feel all sorts of feelings when I needed to take a break from an outside world. Minimalism taught me to say “No” and not to feel guilty about it.

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

It is hard to give advice because everyone’s life and circumstances are so different. I would suggest to stop things from entering your home first. Stop shopping and take some time to reflect on what you own and what no longer serves you.

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

No particular goals this year, but our vision for the future is to live in our own small home surrounded by nature, homeschool Anton and travel a lot.


***

Thank you, Ksenia, for sharing and inspiring! Readers you can follow Ksenia’s world over on Instagram @ksenjaisa

POPULAR POST: Best Books to Get Inspired and Informed about Minimalism

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

Interview with a Minimalist: Marlies Hanse

“The most responsible thing we can do, if we care about the health of the planet, is to live in as small a home as possible.”

I recently heard this from an authority in the environmental movement. I’m not sure it’s true – that it is “the most” — after all, we hear all sorts of statements about the single most influential thing we can do to live more lightly upon the Earth: stop eating cows, stop eating animals, stop driving a car, stop living large, stop using plastic, curb our dependence on fossil fuels. But, no one can argue that any or all of these will not have a significant impact if adopted by the masses. Whether it is number 1 or number 4 on the list doesn’t really matter in the scheme of things. We know intellectually, and in our hearts, that these are important things we need to do, whether all at once or move toward over time.

 

Today, I am honoured and very excited to share with you the story of a family of four living in Berlin, Germany in a home measuring only 450 square feet. The family first moved into this tiny space by force of circumstance, but rather than dream of living bigger, they decided to see how they could enjoy and even thrive in a small space. In short time, they learned that living small was not only doable but enjoyable, it brought them closer together as a family and made financial decisions much easier.

Please read on to learn all about this family, shared through my interview with Marlies, and how living small is living large for them.

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

I’m a 28 year old mom and journalist. I grew up in The Netherlands, in a town not too far away from Amsterdam. Together with my younger sister and two brothers I had a happy and safe childhood. We loved creating our own world and every free moment we went to the nearby playground/park with our own cart full of snacks, costumes and blankets. This is such a lovely memory of my childhood. Our parents trusted us enough to just cross the road and play for hours together with our siblings and friends. After high school I went to college to study office management and worked for a few years as a personal assistant. In the mean time I married my high school sweetheart Jesse, who was a modern dance student at that time. Only nine months after we got married, he was offered a contract with a theatre in Germany. We were still in our early twenties and up for some adventure so we jumped at this opportunity. In six weeks we prepared our move to Onsabrück, a small town in rural north Germany. Jesse started his dancing career and I decided to start my own freelance writing business. After two years we moved to Heidelberg as the dance company Jesse was dancing with in the theatre in Osnabruck was moving there. For 3 years, we lived just outside Heidelberg in a small village where we could afford to rent a two-bed apartment with a small garden.

What part of the world do you live in?

Last summer we moved to Berlin. After 5 years of full-time dancing (including crazy work hours) we wanted something else for our family. We once visited Berlin for three days and we thought that would be a nice city for us to live. It’s very family friendly with lots of playgrounds, parks and child cafes. We live in the middle of the city and have easy access to all the wonderful things Berlin has to offer. At the same time we are not too far away from our families in Holland, which is about a 6-hour drive by car.

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

I have two kids: Jaïr (almost 4) and Evy (1,5). Jaïr is a very active and social boy with lots of blond curls. He is very creative and loves making things – whether with legos or paint – and at the moment he is fascinated with Africa. He goes to a small Waldorf-style Kindergarten and I love hearing him speak German. It’s unbelievable how easily kids are able to learn other languages.

Evy goes to the same Kindergarten as her brother. She is a very independent little girl and has taken on the same love for legos as her brother. We bought her a small doll for her first birthday, but she isn’t interested in it at all. She loves to do whatever Jaïr does.

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?

Minimalism for me is about living a simple life. We have a very small, simple apartment and therefore we also minimize clothing, toys and general stuff. We have no place for a large garbage bin in our kitchen, so we committed to a lifestyle with a minimal amount of waste. In an average week we empty our small trash bin twice. Minimalism has also a lot to do with freedom. We do not have a mortgage, the clothing of all four of us fits in one suitcase. We love the things we own, but we could quite easily give them up if needed. We focus on us as a family, connecting with friends and family and experiences instead of buying new stuff. Ultimate freedom and happiness.  

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

Our journey towards minimalism started 1.5 years ago when I stumbled on the tiny house movement. One of the first blogs I read was Assortment Blog. I loved how this mom of three teen boys designed her own little cottage and made it work for her family. In the same period I read the book Stuffocation. At that time we lived in an 800 square foot apartment and although I never considered myself as someone particularly attached to material goods, it shocked me how much stuff we had accumulated over the last years. Luckily my husband was on board as well, so we started to slowly get rid of stuff we never used. A few months later we decided to move to Berlin. We had a hard time finding an apartment of the same size we had in Heidelberg for an affordable price. A friend of ours moved out of her apartment and asked if we would like to take over as renters. Small detail: it was a one bedroom apartment with only 450 square feet without a storage basement, garden or even a balcony. We first declined, but after a few weeks decided to accept her offer. After the initial doubts, we got really excited. Now it was time to put all we read into practice. Could we live in a tiny apartment with a minimum of stuff? We started selling and giving away most of our furniture, clothes, toys, books, tableware, etc. In a small bus we drove to Berlin and we moved into our new, tiny home. The first weeks were hard. Jesse designed and made a foldout bed which we installed in our living room, but we had lots of troubles with it functioning well. The kids were not used to sleep in the same room, so they were constantly waking each other up. We missed our small garden. So yes, it took us a while to get used to our small place. To be honest, I sometimes dream of a house with three bedrooms, a kitchen where we can eat and a garden. But, still I’m really happy with our move to this tiny place.

Are there any websites or books that inspire your minimalism?

As mentioned above, there is Assortment Blog and the book Stuffocation. I also love Simplicity Parenting.

Some other websites I read:

What has been the greatest benefit of minimalism?

The greatest benefit of living small and practicing minimalism is the connection between us as a family. Our focus is on being together and strengthening our bond. In a very practical way for instance, we chose not to buy a new chair but rather, to get plane tickets to visit our family in Holland. Our budget is limited and we agreed on spending money on experiences rather than stuff. Living small also means going outside much more. We take the kids on long walks and since we don’t have a garden or balcony we go on picnics far more often. On a personal level, minimalism gave me more peace of mind. It helped me to get a clearer picture of what I want in life and what I certainly don’t want or need.

img_2630

Is your parenting influenced by minimalism?

An interesting read about this topic is Simplicity Parenting. Kim John Payne explains in this book how important it is to strip the life of our kids of all things unnecessary and allow them to be kids without too much distractions from our adult world. We do not own a TV and we are mindful about the toys we bring into our home. The kids both love to read and do arts and crafts, which I try to stimulate with offering lovely books and nice art materials. In these two areas I do not really feel the need to minimize, as I want to encourage them to read and be crafty. I love to see that their play is always full of fantasy and stories, despite the fact that they do not own many toys.

Minimalism also made us more critical about the things society considers good for our kids. Do they really need an enormous amount of toys? Is having your birthday about getting gifts? Lately we also have started to think about education and we are exploring the option to keep the kids out of school and let them follow their own interests by unschooling them.

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

Books for sure. The kids love to read and we have a lot of books for them. This is one of the few things we didn’t minimize over the last year. I think it’s important and fun for them to have access to a lot of books and I’m happy they are both fond of them. For me and Jesse it’s a bit different. We did give away lots of books, but still kept some that are dear to us. When we read a book, we generally give it away unless we really, really love it. Still our own bookshelves are growing since we arrived here.

img_2629

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

I’m very happy Jesse and I are both in the same boat. We never have any struggles together about this topic. The funny thing is, Jaïr is always mentioning to everyone he has thousand cars and lots and lots of other toys. I always have to smile when he says it, because he doesn’t own very many toys. Isn’t it wonderful he thinks he does?

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

Start small. Just get rid of some stuff you are not going to miss for sure. Most likely it will give you a great feeling and you want to get rid of some more stuff. It took us almost two years to get to the point where we are now. There is no need to do everything at once.

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

We would love to travel the world with our kids and be able to work remotely. This makes us even more aware of the things we do or do not buy. For example, I’m a bit done with the pillows on our sofa, but if we are going to travel in two years, we’d better save this money instead of buying new ones we would have to give up anyway.  

img_2631

Thank you Marlies! Readers you can find Marlies on Instagram @marlieshanse.

 

Check out these other great interviews in this series:

You might also like my post:

How to Get Started with Minimalism

13 Ways to Simplify you Wardrobe

Social Media Minimalism: How to Balance Life and Instagram

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

Interview with a Minimalist: Celia of Litterless Blog

I always say that minimalism isn’t just about our possessions. It can be about minimizing all sorts of things like our social calendar, our electronic communications, the number of decisions we make in a day or the garbage we produce.

Today, I have an interview with Celia that I’m excited to share with you. Celia is a recent graduate who, upon finishing school and setting up her first home, seized the opportunity to craft a home space and home ethic founded in simplicity and anchored in her environmental values. This led her to set up a minimalist space and zero waste life. Zero waste can seem, at best, intimidating and, at worst, impossible, but Celia has a way of sharing her lifestyle that is humble and practical – which you can read about on her awesome zero waste blog known as Litterless. I encourage you to bookmark her blog when you visit it, she is always posting very simple, useful, implementable tips for living garbage free. We can take a big leap or small steps but we should all be working towards making less garbage each and every day. Less is best. Aside from writing about and inspiring others to live more lightly upon the earth, Celia loves walking, yoga, reading, cooking, traveling and exploring cities. I hope you enjoy the read and are inspired to share!

Litterless zero waste celia

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

I’m in my twenties, loving my first few years out of college and the freedom that comes with them – to travel, to have time in the day to spend as I wish, to build my life exactly as I want. These are really good years.

What part of the world do you live in?

I live in the United States, in Chicago, which I love. It’s big enough to have really great public transportation but still be very walkable – both things that help streamline my daily routine.

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 want my home to be filled with simple, useful, beautiful things that I love and that are well cared for, so that I can spend my time and money on pursuits that matter more to me than possessions, like hanging out with family and friends, heading outdoors, reading, relaxing. I want to make sure the objects I own support rather than hinder these activities. Additionally, it’s important to me that my home is a calming, relaxing place that isn’t crammed with stuff; I want it to be a place where I live life, not where I store an overabundance of things.

Litterless Zero waste minimalist bedroom

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?

When I graduated from college and moved to my first apartment, I was faced with so many choices about how to live my life, how to set up my daily routines, how to do these adult tasks I’d rarely done before. I knew that I wanted my life to reflect my environmental values, and part of that meant reducing the amount of trash and recycling I made. To start, I set up a composting system so that I didn’t have to throw away organic waste, and began trying to reduce the amount of trash I made while grocery shopping. Now I don’t even own a trash can! An unexpected benefit of zero waste is that it’s made my life so much more efficient – I purchase what I need without packaging, and I no longer have to deal with a constant influx of disposable products into my home that I must then sort/donate/throw away. Not surprisingly, I don’t miss taking out the trash one bit.

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

I came to minimalism hoping to free up resources from an environmental perspective, and also to save time in my own life by simplifying my home and daily routines. As I moved towards becoming zero waste and thinking more about how to reduce my environmental footprint, I wanted to make sure that things I wasn’t using could be used by someone else while they still had life in them – so I began donating them. At the same time, I was feeling the pressures of my first job and wanting to find more hours in the day, and I thought that simplifying my home would help with that. And it has! I spend much less time cleaning and organizing now, which is such a boon.

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

I have a love/hate relationship with the Internet in general, but one thing I do wholeheartedly love about it is the fact that it introduced me to minimalism and zero waste in the first place. The beautiful blog No Trash Project provided my initial impetus for going zero waste – I love how thoughtfully and carefully its writer, Colleen, thinks about the objects she owns. A few (of many) more favorite inspirations – Zero Waste Home, Reading My Tea Leaves, and JaneJoJulia.

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

I have what some would consider an absurd number of books – but it works for me. I read constantly, am a fast reader, and often re-read beloved books many times, so having a well-filled bookshelf is a must. However, I no longer purchase books (even secondhand books!). Instead, I lean heavily on the library and swap books often with friends.

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

Parting with objects at first was hard and absolutely did not come naturally to me; I unconsciously associated my possessions (even unused, unneeded ones) with a feeling of security. But, unexpectedly, the more I downsized the more I came to really love minimalism and to be able to really see its benefits – how it helped me have more time, a more lovely and calming home, a feeling of lightness. The deeper I got into minimalism, the easier it became to identify and let go of excess, and now I know I’ll never go back to living with clutter and things I don’t love or need.

Litterless zero waste wool dryer balls

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

Some people (like Marie Kondo) advocate getting rid of everything you don’t need all at once, in one giant marathon session. That approach works for some people, but I kind of think it’s crazy! Going slowly and getting rid of things over a longer period of time has allowed me to to be more thoughtful about what I keep and what I pass along. Slowly decluttering (truly, over a period of several years) has also been a big help in making sure I’m donating each item to where it will best be reused or recycled (instead of dumping a huge load of random things on overcrowded local thrift stores or, worse, in the trash). I’m a big believer that the downsizing process should be approached with an eye to sustainability (here I’ve shared a few tips on how to do that!), and going slowly has allowed me to stay focused on that.

Litterless zero waste wrapping furoshiki

Thank you Celia! Readers make sure to check our Celia’s blog Litterless it is a great resource for living simply and garbage free. You can also find Celia on Instagram @golitterless and on Twitter @go_litterless.

***

You might also like my post:

Garbage Free: How to Make Your Own Delicious Cashew Milk

Interview with a Minimalist: The Devine Family on Living Garbage Free

How to Get Started with Minimalism: Assess your Personality

Talking about Minimalism and Sustainability with Robin Kay

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

Have you subscribed to the Global Guardian Project yet? These are monthly learning capsules for children and families to learn about global stewardship. Each month features a different country’s wild life, landscape and challenges, and includes art projects, activities, meditation, recipes and more! Use my discount code: HIPPIEINDISGUISE for 10% off, you can read more about it here

Interview with a Minimalist: Claudia

Minimalism recently crept up on me, it was lurking in the shadows, subtly suggesting itself. Or, maybe it’s always been there, but without a name or firm identity I couldn’t recognize it. Perhaps, now that the term ‘minimalism’ is popular and applies to a lifestyle – a way of life – rather than just an art historical movement, aesthetic sensibility or home décor trend, I can more easily recognize it as part of my life. I think about my childhood, my personality, and my intense need for mental calm, my need for order and simplicity in my surroundings because clutter in the outside world has always meant clutter in my inside world. It’s never been simplicity / less / minimal for the sake of simplicity / less / minimal, but for what these enable: a sense of peace and calm, and, ultimately, a sense of freedom. Freedom from things, unnecessary decisions, emotions and thoughts, maintenance work, stress and strain.

In talking recently with Claudia (interviewed below), I was reminded of another early start on my minimalist path: yoga and my related study of non-attachment, drawing from Tibetan and Buddhist thinking. I initially thought I’d talk about that in my introduction to her interview, but I’ll leave that for another time, because she dropped this one on me: “The process of becoming minimalist itself is minimalism.” Thank you Claudia! I won’t dissect this from every angle but want to suggest a few things to think about.

Minimalism is a perspective, it’s not an end state. It’s a process, a path, but we don’t arrive. In this light, minimalism is a lens through which we make decisions (“one pair of rain boots is all I need”), it doesn’t decide for us (“I can’t get rain boots because I already own 50 things, and 50 is the limit”). Principles ground our decisions, ground our practice of minimalism, but they do not dictate. In fact, a minimalist dictatorship could be quite dangerous. That is, care has to be taken to not go too far with minimalism.

So…don’t give away your last mixing bowl if you make pancakes every Sunday, unless you want to mix the batter in your rain boots.

When we begin applying minimalism to our lives it can be a challenge because we are used to holding onto things, ideas, emotions, obligations; but once we get started it’s easy to keep going. Our minds shift from “less is good,” to “less feels great”. But we need to be careful to not take things too far or to be too rigid with our rules; we need to re-evaluate along the way. Less for less’s sake should never be the goal. Minimalism is a process, it has ebbs and flows, rhythms and phases; it is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

For those of us on the path, we are always on our way, we are always arriving, but never there.

In what follows Claudia shares her experience and insights related to minimalism – there are many delicious nuggets to savour, please take your time. In recent months, Claudia has been a huge inspiration to me, as I walk along my path, with her open mindedness, encouragement, and worldly wisdom. I know you’ll enjoy reading this interview and I encourage you to pause, ponder and share with others.

Dear Claudia, let’s start with a little bit about you. Who are you? What’s your background?

I was born in Cuba, the daughter of an ex-political prisoner. We were granted asylum in Peru and later in the United States, where I was raised amid the Cuban diaspora in Miami, Florida. Unsurprisingly, I became an early advocate for human rights, joining Amnesty International at 15 years old. I earned a BA in Psychology and International Affairs and an MA in International Studies with focus on human rights, refugees, and migration policy. After graduate school, I worked as a program coordinator assisting individuals who suffered from torture and other forms of persecution in their home countries secure asylum in the US, followed by a brief stint in a consulting firm before welcoming our daughter. These days, I’m a stay at home mom and while I look forward to one day returning to a career in advocacy, I’m enjoying this new stage in life and the immense rewards and challenges that come along with it.

What part of the world do you live in? 

NYC [ New York City ]

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

I have a 12 month old daughter named Eleanor. She is joyful, curious, daring, and strong. A real charmer and people person. While intensely observant she also loves to explore and is always busy, but never fails to find her way back to my lap or arms. She gives the sweetest bear hugs and I love that she is independent but still so connected to us. It’s been amazing, though bittersweet, to see her hurtle through milestones – she is such a force. We are utterly in love with her and feel she’s given us an immense sense of fulfillment.


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’ve made a commitment to living with less (even when my means allow for more), living sustainably, embracing mindfulness, choosing with care, and prioritizing experiences over the tangible. This translates to a smaller home and fewer possessions; less wants and more reflection; and being as conscious of the mental clutter as the physical. In practice, this has led to perpetual evaluation. I’m always, by habit now, taking stock of what I have and trimming the excess by identifying what I can do without – whether it be possessions, time commitments, or even expectations and goals.

I believe minimalism is much more than an uncluttered home, capsule wardrobes, and Scandinavian design. To me, minimalism is freedom – from attachment, from obligation, from possessions, from draining relationships, from frivolousness. It’s about eliminating excess and living with intention.

The process of becoming a minimalist itself is minimalism.  

What has been the greatest benefit of minimalism?

How liberating it is.

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

My husband and I went to a museum on our first date. There was a traveling exhibit of Tibetan monks working on a sand mandala. The work was beautiful but painstaking and I was taken aback to learn that once finished, it would be swept away rather than preserved. Years later, during my graduate studies, I spent a month in India working with Tibetan refugees and was once again exposed to this non-attachment philosophy. Tibetans believe attachment to be one of the three root causes of suffering. The combination of Tibetan monks, the humbling foothills of the Himalayas, and having successfully lived off only what I could carry in my hiking pack left an undeniable impression. While I had always been prone to de-cluttering, when I returned home I truly embraced minimalism on more than a purely aesthetic level and began the journey of reassessing and refining my needs and wants – physical, emotional, and otherwise – accordingly. That was over six years ago, and each year since I’ve felt lighter and more empowered as a consequence.

I know many people come to minimalism through circumstance – already overburdened by excess they can’t control and desperate for change or otherwise forced to downsize due to finances or other environmental pressures (like moving from the suburbs to the city) – for me, however, there was no breaking point, no line in the sand, no forced hand. There was just introspection and a desire to evolve past unhealthy attachment, whether it be to a thing or an idea, in order to focus on what and who matters most to me.

Is your parenting influenced by minimalism?

Absolutely! I would say that minimalism along with the Montessori method, the two of which I find often overlap, have been most influential in my parenting style. From the beginning, it meant rejecting ‘more’ and ‘bigger’ as cornerstones of parenting. We opted for less of everything – ultrasounds, interventions, baby gear, expectations. We never owned the majority of what our consumerist society has declared “must haves” for infants and new parents, and have thrived regardless. People are often taken aback when they come to our home and see no exersaucer, no chests brimful of toys, even no crib (for the curious, we’ve embraced cosleeping and a Montessori floor bed instead). As with everything else in our lives, our approach is quality over quantity. Her toys, which are limited in quantity and selected with great care and thought, are put out on her shelves a few at a time, spaced out, and rotated often. We avoid screens, prize open-ended play, and so forth. More importantly, I reject the idea that childhood has to be busy or encroached with academics. I believe there is more to be gained from exploring a fallen leaf than flashcards.


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

One of the Tibetan monks I volunteered with in India told me how in the south of India, people would cut holes in coconuts, fill them with sweets, and tie them to a tree to lure monkeys. The monkeys would come, fit there hand through the hole and grab at the sweet, but now, having made a fist around the sweet, were unable to pull the hand back out through the hole. The monkey wouldn’t think of letting go of the sweet, and so it held itself prisoner and would ultimately be captured — all because it didn’t think to let go. That parable has stuck with me since.

I’ve also found a great deal of inspiration from the works of Henry David Thoreau:

Our life is frittered away by detail… Simplify, simplify, simplify! … Simplicity of life and elevation of purpose.

…and Leo Babauta’s blogs.

With regard to parenting, I recommend Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne [ my favourite too! ] and The Anthropology of Childhood by David F. Lancy – which is a dense, academic title but offers invaluable perspective.

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

Digital clutter – articles bookmarked for later reading, news subscriptions, and an ever-growing photo library. Digital clutter is easy to overlook because it’s not tangible and doesn’t take up visible space, but, as with all else, the more you have, the more upkeep it requires. My digital clutter stresses me out and I work, seemingly tirelessly, at reducing it, but it always feels like an uphill battle.

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

While my husband is not as intentional about minimalism as I am, we’re largely on the same page. Although he occasionally hangs on to a few smaller things, like old t-shirts, longer than I’d like, he embraces living small and is incredibly supportive of my passion for minimalism.

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

As with the sand mandalas, it’s in the process not the product.

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

I want to document less, which can be quite a challenge as a new parent in the digital age. Also, while we recycle, repurpose, compost, and shop locally and “green”, I believe there is still more we can do as a family to live sustainably. Inspired by the zero waste movement – which I see as an extension of minimalism – I’m hoping to continue to reduce the amount of packaged goods we bring into our home.

Thank you, Claudia! So much to think about. Readers you can find Claudia on Instagram @thearroyos. [ update October 2016: Claudia closed her Instagram account ]

***

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

Have you subscribed to the Global Guardian Project yet? These are monthly learning capsules for children and families to learn about global stewardship. Each month features a different country’s wild life, landscape and challenges, and includes art projects, activities, meditation, recipes and more! Use my discount code: HIPPIEINDISGUISE for 10% off, you can read more about it here

Interview with a Minimalist: Evelyn of Smallish Blog

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.

Smallish blog evelyn minimalism

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.

Smallish blog evelyn minimalism

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.

Smallish blog evelyn minimalism

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.

Books: the Bible, Almost Amish by Nancy Sleeth, The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn.

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.

Smallish blog evelyn minimalism

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!

Smallish blog evelyn minimalism

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).

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

Have you subscribed to the Global Guardian Project yet? These are monthly learning capsules for children and families to learn about global stewardship. Each month features a different country’s wild life, landscape and challenges, and includes art projects, activities, meditation, recipes and more! Use my discount code: HIPPIEINDISGUISE for 10% off, you can read more about it here

Interview with a Minimalist: Nora of Inconnu Lab

Zipper_Daypack_201

Minimalism needs a discussion of class. So that we can talk about it and then divorce the two.

The reality is that for many people living in an affluent circumstance minimalism is an easy, comfortable and (cringe) trendy lifestyle choice. “I could choose to have a lot or a little. But it’s my choice!” I cringe at the thought that people think I’m a minimalist because I can afford to selectively live with little or to give things away willy nilly because if I need something I can just buy it without much thought. At the same time, I cringe at the thought that people assume my minimalism is simply a rationalization, a way to enjoy living with very little because I have no choice in the matter, because I have very little and can afford very little. Whether I have little by choice or by force of circumstance minimalism becomes a class issue when talked about this way. Minimalism becomes a discussion of stuff and money, when minimalism could be about sustainability, mindfulness, mental health, and so on.

I recently met a woman named Nora who is the owner and designer at  Inconnu Lab. After interviewing many people over the last year it was fun to have someone tell me that their work, their passion and their hobby are the same thing. I think that when our work, passion and hobby are aligned we are most fortunate because we are using our time in a way that we love. Nora isn’t sure if she’s a minimalist, but she definitely has lots of ideas (and designs) inspired by minimalism. I won’t give it all away but take note of the class, sustainability and other dimensions of minimalism that Nora alludes to. I do have to say that I absolutely love that Nora’s designs aim to minimize waste by using geometric shapes. Brilliant!

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

My background is not as creative as you would imagine as I graduated in Economics in Hungary. After some years of working in international work environment, I dropped everything at once to move to Trieste (Italy). It was not easy, as I love Budapest, but it has been a good decision. I like the unknown and I like  getting out of my comfort zone. I believe that you can grow only if you are willing to try something new. That’s why I chose the name Inconnu (which in French means ‘unknown’) for my brand. Inconnu is not only a brand name, but my key inspiration as well.

DSC_1767

You are a designer at InconnuLAB, an Italian slow fashion brand, can you tell me a little about it?

In my Trieste based home-studio, I create versatile and customizable bags with a focus on environmentally-friendly practices.  Minimizing the impact on the environment is at the heart of the ethically made InconnuLAB products. I create geometrical forms which allow to throw away the least possible materials. I have total control of the manufacturing process which makes it possible to use even the smallest production leftovers. The bags are characterized by functional minimalism as I avoid the use of unnecessary things like clasps and buckles but still make them easy to use. I use only high-quality Italian materials like waterproof heavy canvas and durable, yet soft, leather.

Interview with a Minimalist: Nora of Inconnu Lab

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

I had to start it really early, I learned everything from my mom. We never had anything at home which was not useful. Un-useful things were thrown away immediately! Anyway I don’t know exactly what kind of lifestyle I have and I don’t like when my style is classified by genre. I don’t think that I am a minimalist, I just simply don’t like un-useful things/words/gestures.

DSC_0468

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?

My bags represent my thoughts about minimalism: at the first glance they are designed simply but if you take a closer look you realise that they are made with supreme attention to details; the edges are aligned and finished carefully.

Sometimes people confuse minimalism with frugality and that’s a big mistake. Minimalism means for me: avoiding the superfluousness preserving and enhancing the quality.

DSC_1794

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

Some of my favorite inspiring magazines: Volume Project, Elephant Mag, and Frame Web

Some of very inspiring websites: Design Boom, Its Nice That, Design-Milk, and Dezeen.

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

My biggest challenge is definitely to prioritize tasks.

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

Luckily, no! We can always reach a compromise.

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

It’s simply amazing how much stuff you can have, in a relatively small space, keeping them in order. You would be astonished if I told you on how many square meters I live and work!

How small is your work and living space?

It is the same space. It’s 36 metres squared, which is around 385 square feet.

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

Well, as you’ve previously said there are many ways to be a minimalist. People have different interpretations for minimalism therefore it’s pretty difficult to offer advice. However in my opinion it’s always important to distinguish frugality and minimalism. Never compromise the quality when it comes to minimalism!

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

I am 100% focused on my business; in the next months I am going to design new models and there is another surprise which I will share with you in the near future on my blog. So keep up-to-date! 😉

DSC_1417

***

Thank you, Nora. Readers you can find Nora on Instagram @inconnulab or over at her webshop and blog Inconnu Lab (great stuff on her blog!). Nora is also on Facebook and Twitter.

You can find all the other interviews in the minimalist series here.

***

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

You might also like my post:

How to Get Started with Minimalism

13 Ways to Simplify Your Wardrobe

Ecominimalism: Talking about Sustainability with Robin Kay

Want to find me in other places?

Magnolias by Robin Kay Twentyventi

Ecominimalism & an Interview with a Minimalist: Robin

Minimalism is about many things, much more than just aesthetics and trendiness. Often, to my dismay, minimalism is distilled into one or both of these things. And while, yes, minimalism is a style of interior design and is currently a trendy lifestyle, it really is so much more. The benefits of minimalism are not having a beautifully styled home or being on target with trendy fashions and interiors. No, the benefits are what having less affords us, the space it creates in our days, in our homes, in our activities, in our lives. Among other things, having less gives us more time. Time is the most precious resource. I am always chasing time. But I digress.

Magnolias by Robin Kay Twentyventi

Another aspect of minimalism that I’ve wanted to write about for a while now is sustainability. Acquiring few things (by shopping less), having less to clean, repair and replace is just simply better for the earth, kinder and gentler on our planet. In the comments from my post about how to get started with minimalism (here) the sustainability aspect came up. I mentioned that I’ve wanted to start my own term ‘ecominimalism’ to talk about my brand of minimalism. I know, the word brand is a bit icky, especially in this context, but what I mean is my version of minimalism is ecominimalism. My minimalism is about having less, but most importantly acquiring less (It’s not about having little but constantly acquiring new things and pitching old things out the door, so that you keep few things). Too often I read on minimalism message boards requests for advice on how to replace 5 things with 1, or how to start a personal wardrobe from scratch in order to have a capsule collection. Yes, this is minimalism, but not sustainably-minded minimalism. And I know that minimalism isn’t necessarily about lessening one’s impact on the earth, but I really wish it was.

So, I was really happy when I read Robin Kay’s interview answers (see below) because she talks about the sustainability aspect of minimalism. Not only do we (hopefully) lessen our acquisition through minimalism, but we are also inclined and more able to choose products that have minimal impact on the earth. With a little more money in our wallets (from not mindlessly consuming and impulse buying) we can hopefully afford to purchase products that are ethically and sustainably made, like organic and fair trade clothing and food. And if we can’t afford these then at least we are not further indebting ourselves for the sake of fashion.

When we sit back and reflect on living with less, living simply, living minimally (all variations on the same thing) I think we can see that the true benefits have nothing to do with trendiness and everything to do with having more time for the people and activities we love, and feeling better about the things that we do acquire, whether they are organic or not, because our acquisition is much more mindful, considered and intentional. Of course, it’s easy to live minimally when we have very little money in the bank, when living minimally isn’t a choice. When we are fortunate to have money to spend on frills and fashions, on vacations and commuting, that is when our true test of minimalism and environmental consciousness comes up. Buying eco products when we *actually* need something is the best choice, but if we don’t really need it, maybe the best choice is to go for a hike…?

Below, you’ll hear from Robin Kay, a fellow Canadian and minimalist. I hope you’re inspired not only by Robin’s beautiful images and home, but more importantly by the substance of what she shares in her answers. Thank you Robin for sharing your story!

Robin Kay Twentyventi Interview with a Minimalist with Daughter Ramona Jean

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

I am a twenty-seven year old wife, mother and teacher, currently on a year of maternity leave. I grew up in the suburbs of Toronto, where I was homeschooled from age nine (except for one semester of high school). As an introvert, being able to learn on my own terms was very important, and I definitely thrived outside of the traditional classroom. Having a non-traditional education also sparked my interest in how others learn.

I was drawn to Early Childhood Education, and after I graduated my program I worked as an assistant teacher at a co-op, a nanny, and finally a teacher at a non-profit preschool/early years centre. I love the career path that I chose because I believe that it better prepared me, personally, for motherhood.

Robin Kay Twentyventi Interview with a Minimalist with Daughter Ramona Jean

It’s sometimes hard to remember what I did with my free time before I became a mother, because my days are now fully devoted to my daughter. We play, read, and sometimes nap together. I try to make time to brush up on my photography skills, and occasionally write while she naps. As a family we love to go on walks, visit new places and vegan bakeries, and just stay in together.

Robin Kay Twentyventi Interview with a Minimalist with Daughter Ramona Jean

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

I have one daughter, Ramona Jean, who is 9 months old. From the beginning, I feel like she was brimming with so much personality – she was so alert and vocal even as a newborn (and I thought it would be such a boring phase!). We jokingly call her “nosy” because she’s so hyper aware and curious about everything, constantly straining her neck to see what’s around the corner.

Robin Kay Twentyventi Interview with a Minimalist with Daughter Ramona Jean

I find that she’s such a mixture of quiet and loud, calm and wild, spirited and sweet. It’s such a balance of strengths on either end of the spectrum. She’s quick to smile and laugh, but on the other hand deeply sensitive. She’s full of sass and determination, but has such a calm, thoughtful nature. She’s opinionated, yet easygoing. We’ve just been over the moon in love these past nine months, and cherish every second we spend with her.

img_3862

Robin Kay Twentyventi Interview with a Minimalist with Daughter Ramona Jean

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

“No man has the right to dictate what other men should perceive, create or produce, but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions, and to build confidence in the creative spirit.” – Ansel Adams

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?

Minimalism means, in the most basic terms, living simply. And I really think that applies to all things.

To me, there is a huge sustainability aspect to minimalism – buying less, consuming less, and choosing products that have a minimal harmful impact on the earth. I came across a quote by Vivienne Westwood the other day: “Buy less, choose well, and make it last” which just felt so appropriate for this time in our lives. My husband and I choose to buy mostly used goods from an environmental standpoint (they don’t use up new resources, often don’t have packaging, etc), and when we buy new we try our best to support brands that use sustainable materials or practices, and that are high quality that will last over time.

Robin Kay Twentyventi Interview with a Minimalist with Daughter Ramona Jean

With this mindset we strive to live with less, and to be more mindful about what enters our home, separating want from need. We try to apply this simple, more thoughtful way of life to all aspects of our lives, even the food we eat. We buy as much organic and locally grown produce as our budget will allow, and prepare all of our meals with whole ingredients. Ultimately this simplified way of life allows us to focus on what’s really important, which is spending time together as a family, and tending to our passions.

Robin Kay Twentyventi Interview with a Minimalist with Daughter Ramona Jean

I’ve heard from others in this series that they wouldn’t call themselves a ‘minimalist’ and yet the notions of ‘less is more’ and ‘live simply’ permeates their life perspective. So, what is your story, how did you arrive at a point where simple, less, minimal feel right to you?

When my husband and I were married five a half years ago, for the first little while I carried on living the way I was raised, filling our home with things we didn’t really need, often that we thought we needed. Growing up, it had been very normal for me to be surrounded by “stuff.” Good deals, roadside finds, intentions for projects, things we might need later, multiples of almost everything. There were more things than there was space or time for. And there was also this attachment, this innate need to hold on to everything.

As newlyweds, it felt like we were always organizing or trying to find places for things. There seemed to be an ongoing conversation about buying MORE furniture or moving into a bigger place just to hold our stuff, which is just ridiculous to me now, thinking back on it. There was just so much waste – waste of time, resources, money – and this general dissatisfaction with what we had, even though we had so much.

So two things happened all at once, and that was realizing how wasteful we were being, and deciding that we didn’t need more to be content.

And from there it was a process of undoing everything that I was taught, both in my upbringing and by our consumer society. Each year our resolve grows stronger – we declutter more and are more realistic about what we really need (or don’t need, which is more often the case). When we moved last April I realized how much stuff we had accumulated that was out of sight and unused – we de-owned almost half of our furniture and possessions in the move, and have since shed even more.

img_3859

Early on in the simplifying process a friend told me that everything he owned could fit in his car and that he could uproot and move anywhere at a moment’s notice – it was such a beautiful, inspiring thought, but also gave me a little anxiety thinking about the size of car I would need to fit all the things I currently owned. Ideally, everything that we own needs to have a “home.” I often strive towards the popular William Morris quote:

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

(And even better if it’s both!)

The more that we commit to this way of life, the easier it gets, and the more at peace we become with ourselves and our lifestyle. It’s almost addictive how freeing it is – I find myself wondering how little I can possibly live with. Is there even more I can get rid of? I don’t think I could strip down to standard-car-size level (at least yet), but I’m working my way down bit by bit.

Since Ramona was born I find I am a lot less attached to things, maybe because it’s readjusted my focus on what’s really important. I know that I want her to grow up in a calm, uncluttered space, with more time to spend together instead of our possessions.

img_3861

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

I have heard great things about the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo, which I have yet to read myself. This website (Hippie In Disguise) has been a great resource, and always gets me thinking and revisiting my ideas on sustainable minimalism. [ editorial note: Thank you Robin! ]

Other than that my method is fairly unstudied. I’ve always felt inspired by the clean, minimal look of Scandinavian homes, which is very apparent from my Pinterest boards (minimalism, of course, doesn’t mean all white and lots of negative space, but that’s what inspires me personally). I’m also quite inspired by Waldorf education, which to me has always felt very minimal in its simplicity and focus on nature.

img_3853

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

Books, without a doubt. When we moved 10 months ago, most of or boxes were filled with books. I generally only ever buy secondhand, and it’s the one thing I never feel guilty about having too much of. But I do feel guilty for not having read all the books we own.

My other weakness is holding on to certain things for too long, wondering if I ever might need it again.

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

My husband is right on board with me, and also sees the benefit in having less. Sometimes we differ in our opinions of what is essential, but we respect what is important to other. As an artist, he needs to have a lot of supplies and mediums, as well as paintings or set pieces he is working on – and while I sometimes am frustrated at having to find places to store giant canvases (there’s a stack beside our dresser at the moment, and two 5×5 foot canvases in our dining room), it also beautifies our space, and encourages creativity.

In what ways has minimalism improved your life?

There’s this Swedish proverb that says “He who buys what he does not need, steals from himself.” It frustrates me to think of all the time I’ve spent rearranging, reorganizing and moving clutter from one place to another, when I could have been writing or taking photographs or any number of more useful things.

img_3867

Less really IS more. It’s more time, more energy, more focus on what’s important to us. And that has improved my life by making more present, more appreciative and content with what I do have, rather than always seeking more of something.

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

I think the term “minimalist” always frightened me because I thought I would be judged or misusing it if I didn’t have tons of bare space, or if I didn’t live off the grid, surviving off the land, growing my own vegetables and knitting my own clothes.

There are no rules – minimalism looks different to everyone. You have to start somewhere, and it begins with just trying to get rid of the excess in your life (the old blender you never parted with even though you bought a new one, three of the five frying pans you own, etc.), and then in a few months, revisiting what your idea of excess is. At first it might seem difficult and a slow process, but after actively working towards your own vision of minimalism, it eventually becomes second nature.

img_3870

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

I want to read more – not online articles, not emails, and especially not Instagram captions, but actual physical books. I was an avid reader growing up, and it pains me that so much of my time these days is spend “plugged in.” My goal is one book a month, at least. I also want to learn a new skill, whether that’s knitting or bookbinding or woodworking or doing a cartwheel.

img_3874

Minimalism Twentyventi

As a family, one of our goals is to try to exclusively purchase from ethical brands. It often means saving up and buying less, but it is in harmony with our lifestyle.

***

Thank you Robin! Readers you can find Robin on Instagram @twentyventi or over at her blog Twenty Venti.

Find all the other interviews in this series here. Please share this post if you liked it!

***

You might also like my post:

How to Get Started with Minimalism

13 Ways to Simplify Your Wardrobe

The Slow Living Project

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

Interview with a Minimalist: Alison Little

Alison LIttle Interview with a Minimalist Our LIttle House

About 15 years ago on New Year’s eve, I went over to my friend’s apartment for drinks. It’s a night I’ll never forget, but probably not for any reason you’d guess. It was my first encounter with minimalism. Although that word certainly wasn’t used at the time, at least to mean a chosen lifestyle.

When I arrived my friend bounded over to greet me with a hug, as she was endearingly known to do. Post-hug she excitedly showed me a gorgeous yak-hair blanket that her neighbour had brought over just a few minutes earlier. “Look what I got! Well, at least for now…” she said. “It’s beautiful! What do you mean ‘for now’?” I asked. “Well, my neighbour gives away everything she owns at the end of each year. Everything but what she’s wearing. Everything. Her bed frame, her mattress, her blankets, her dishes, her clothing, her furniture. Everything!” my friend explained. “Wow! Why?” I asked. “I guess it’s a few things. Spending a night or two with nothing but herself and her thoughts; going into the new year living with the absolute bare minimum. She finds peace in it.” My friend went on to explain that her neighbour would give everything away, very thoughtfully, starting in December. First, the things she was fairly certain she wouldn’t want back, like clothing, donated to women’s shelters, extra kitchen items donated to soup kitchens. Next, moving on to those things she thought she might need back again. These things she would give to friends and family in need, but with the caveat that she might ask for them back.

Well, the silly, sarcastic part of me blurted out “That’s a nice friend who’s willing to store her bed frame for three days before she realizes she wants it back! Or the friend she comes knocking on early new year’s morning for a bowl and spoon to eat her breakfast with.” Fortunately my friend’s neighbour had some very kind and accommodating friends who would take on her things each December so she could enter the new year with nothing but the clothes on her back (and the shelter of her apartment). I’m told that each year she took back less and less, and subsequently had less and less to part with come the end of the year. Eventually, my friend moved across the country and so we don’t know how the story ends.

We each have our own story of stuff. The story of what we collect and how we furnish our lives, how we relate to our things, how tied up with stuff our identity and our sense of self- worth is. I think it’s important that we think about our relationship to things. Is our relationship healthy, happy, productive, sustainable? The best demonstration of our values is what we choose to spend our time, energy, and (often) money, on. We don’t all share the same values, that’s why our lives look different, that’s why minimalism comes in different forms. But, minimalism always involves a deep evaluation of ourselves in relation to stuff. The conclusion is unique, but the starting point is similar.

Today, I’m sharing Alison Little’s story of finding minimalism. Alison is a mother of four, who shares simple tips and humble advice for pursuing minimalism with kids in the mix. I hope you enjoy and find inspiration in her story.

Alison LIttle Interview with a Minimalist Our LIttle House

Alison, let’s start with you, who are you and what is your background?

I am a stay at home Mom of four young children, including a two year old set of twins. I graduated from Nursing school in the summer of 2007, and our oldest was born the following September. His birth shifted all of my priorities, and I no longer had a desire to work long hours outside the home. I took a part time job with flexible hours working for a friend who was a contractor. When our second son was born, I left that job to stay home with my boys.

I have always had a love for home design, but over the last few years it has become a passion. I find great joy in making my home a warm and inviting space for my family. We are also lovers of the outdoors. Before we had children, my husband and I spent a large part of our free time hiking, camping and backpacking. We hope to instill that love of nature in our children.

What part of the world do you live in? 

We live in a (very) small town in the foothills of North Carolina.

Alison LIttle Interview with a Minimalist Our LIttle House

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

We have two boys, 8 and 6, and a 2.5 year old set of twin girls. Jackson, our oldest, is smart and incredibly tender hearted. He has a quirky little personality and has always kept us on our toes. He is loving and affectionate, and I keep waiting for him to think he’s too old to love on his Mama, but thankfully that hasn’t happened yet.

Alison LIttle Interview with a Minimalist Our LIttle House

Grayson, our 6 year old, has always been his own little person. He is independent, and has a unique sense of style that I love so much. He gives absolutely no thought or worry to what others might think of him. It is my very favorite trait of his, and one I hope he carries with him always. 

Juliet is dainty and girly, and independent like her brother. She loves dresses and shoes and twirling around while pretending to be a princess. I remember one day, not long after she had started putting sentences together, she walked up to my husband and said, “ooooooo, I like your shoes Daddy”. I love to watch her little personality develop. I’m not a girly girl, so that wasn’t something that was taught. It’s just her, and I adore it.

Alison LIttle Interview with a Minimalist Our LIttle House

Charlotte is our baby, born 26 minutes after her sister. She is a Mama’s girl through and through. If it were up to her, she and I would sit on the sofa cuddled up under a quilt all day long. She is tender and sweet, and has great manners, which makes us laugh. Having twins has been the most amazing experience. I can’t imagine life without them.

What does minimalism mean to you? 

For me, minimalism is about living more with what you need than with what you want. It’s quite simply, a life with less stuff.

What is your story and how did you start on this path? 

Since getting married 11 years ago, my husband and I have lived in 5 homes. With each move, and each child, we accumulated more stuff, and just moved it with us from house to house. At our last home the garage was so full of boxes that we couldn’t park our cars in it. In the two years we lived there, we never unpacked those boxes. After the birth of our twins, and the addition of more clothes, toys, and baby gear, it all became too much. Even though our home was tidy and organized, there was just too much of everything everywhere and it made me feel anxious. I knew we needed to make a change in the amount of stuff we owned. Over the last two years we have cleaned and purged and gotten rid of so much. It was difficult for me at first. I used to hold onto everything. Every card, picture, movie ticket…anything that felt remotely sentimental. I had to come to a point where I realized that our memories didn’t lie in our things, and once I was able to truly believe that, it was so much easier to let go. In fact, it became almost like an obsession. What can we get rid of today?! It is an ongoing process for me, and with four children, I think it always will be.

What are some books and resources you could recommend?

Last year I read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I like her approach and utilized her method in my own home. The only thing I felt was lacking is that she doesn’t address life with children.

Tsh Oxenreider’s blog, The Art of Simple (http://theartofsimple.net/manifesto/) is a great resource. Through that link you can also find her podcast, The Simple Show, and her book, Organized Simplicity.

A couple of my favorite minimalist Instagrammers are @our_simplestory (formerly @minimalist_mindset) and @600sqftandababy, and @mytinytribe has created a hashtag called #my_minimal_mondays that has some helpful ideas.

[ editorial note: each of the Instagrammers named above has been interviewed for this series, click their usernames to find their interviews ]

In what ways / areas to struggle with keeping things minimal? 

Our kitchen is the area that I find the most difficult to keep minimal. I enjoy cooking and love to bake, so I have accumulated a lot of kitchen items. Just last week, in fact, I went through all the cabinets and drawers in my kitchen (for about the 7th time) and got rid of old hand towels, dishes and pots that I never use, and all those pesky Tupperware pieces that no longer have a match.
Our Little House

Have there been struggles with the people you live with?

My husband is an organized person by nature, and he has always been on board with a more minimalistic lifestyle. Every now and then, I will find my boys peeking into a box they know is going to Goodwill and they will say, “are you getting rid of this?!!!!” I’m learning to be a bit more sneaky about getting things out without them noticing.

What have been some unexpected experiences (positive or negative)?

I find that the less stuff we have, the happier I am in our home. I feel more relaxed and less anxious, which in turn makes me a better wife and mother. Not perfect, mind you, but better 😉

What advice can you offer to people interested in minimalism?

Minimalism will look different for everyone. What works for a family of 4 won’t work for a family of 8. My idea of less might be totally different than your idea of less, so don’t get too caught up in the number of items, or what it looks like for another family. I know it can feel overwhelming in the beginning, but grab some boxes and trash bags and just get started! And let me say, there is not one thing I have gotten rid of that I wish I hadn’t. Not one.

Do you have any goals you want to share? 

We rent the home we currently live in, but have long dreamed of an old white farmhouse in the country. A few months ago, my husband and I sat down and worked out a plan that should allow us to purchase our dream home this year. We hope to find one that needs just enough work that we can make it our own.

Readers: you can find Alison on Instagram @our.littlehouse. All captioned photos in this post were taken by  Revival Photos, find them on Instagram @revivalphotos, the rest of the photos were taken by Alison. Thank you, Alison, for sharing your story and minimalism tips.

Find all the other interviews in this series here.

***

You might also like my post:

How to Get Started with Minimalism

13 Ways to Simplify Your Wardrobe

The Slow Living Project

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

Have you subscribed to the Global Guardian Project yet? These are monthly learning capsules for children and families to learn about global stewardship. Each month features a different country’s wild life, landscape and challenges, and includes art projects, activities, meditation, recipes and more! Use my discount code: HIPPIEINDISGUISE for 10% off, you can read more about it here

Interview with a Minimalist: Andrea

Minimalism draws us in different ways. The reasons range from environmental concerns, to stress and anxiety reduction, financial freedom, aesthetics, and simplicity. And surely there are others. But it seems that over time these start to converge, at least they did for me. Week after week people generously share their stories on this blog, today I’ll tell you a little about mine before we get to Andrea’s.

I’ve always loved a tidy, sparse space, and been concerned about my impact on the environment. As as child I would secretly take things out of the garbage and recycling bin, if I thought my family could still make use of them, and stash them away in my room. Later in life, as a busy parent of two I started to feel excessive stress and anxiety related to our home space, the constant mess, even though I was always tidying and really we don’t own that much it was still: Constant. Mess. I craved simplicity and aesthetic comfort in our home space. Tidying daily wasn’t working, so I changed gears. I started by drastically reducing the amount of stuff we had, goodbye duplicates, goodbye infrequently used items, and so on. And just like that things started to lighten. I felt calmer. I gave things away to people who would actually use them instead of keeping them “in case” (in case we didn’t have the money to buy it later on, that was usually my fear), our home life gradually became simpler and our space was aesthetically more pleasing. We spent less money and had more time — the greatest resource of all — to do the things we loved doing. With all the ways minimalism has benefitted us, it’s no wonder I think of it as a way of life.

Today, Andrea is sharing her story of finding minimalism and how it works for her family of four and what opportunities it has given them. Andrea is a mother of two, secular homeschooler, and creatively self-employed. I hope you feel inspired by her story. And if you would like to share yours please email me.

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

I am a 30 year old homeschooling stay-at-home mom of two bright children. Before meeting my husband and having children, I was a very career oriented hard working woman in the healthcare industry trying to buy my first home on my own. After moving to the Maritimes, I met my relaxed husband and adapted to the slower, laid-back lifestyle. I started to really explore New Brunswick and the neighbouring provinces, focused on having joyful and meaningful experiences, I learned a lot from him. It is the experiences we have that create our story and not the things we accumulate.

img_3094

What part of the world do you live in?

We live in the beautiful Maritime province of New Brunswick, Canada.

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

We have two children ages 5 and 3. Our eldest son is an extremely chatty, no non-sense, inventive child with a passion to create anything out of a piece of string, some painters tape and binder clips. Our younger child is fun-loving, empathetic, loves to be silly and is determined he is a Fire Rescue Man. They are complete opposites of each other in appearances, attitudes, and preferences, but are inseparable

img_3092

What are you passionate about?

I am very passionate about the family I have created and what we want to accomplish together. We are currently homeschooling our children and are working to build an off grid, self sufficient small minimalist home and homestead. We want to go ‘back to basics’ in a sense, to show our children how to appreciate what we have, to have the ability to be happy and fulfilled with little possessions, and to show them to have gratitude for what we do have.

img_3097

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?

To me, minimalism means living with only what you need, in all areas of our life, not just the amount of possessions a person has. Our family takes a minimal approach to everything, the amount of toys our children have, how we shop for our groceries to reduce waste, the size of our small rental apartment, the lack of a television, even the amount of debt we are willing to create for ourselves when purchasing a vehicle.

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

It’s funny actually, because a few years ago, I would never have considered myself a minimalist, certainly not a hoarder but definitely lost in the middle of all that meaningless stuff! Once we became pregnant with our first child the maternal instinct to collect and nest kicked in and next thing I knew, I had a three story 1500 square foot home full of ‘stuff’. It was three years later when we moved across the province that I realized how ludicrous it was to fill a 26′ long truck full of things we rarely used. It was all laid out in front of me and I knew I needed to change our lifestyle not only for myself, but to be the kind person I hoped my children would turn out to be.

img_3098

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

I have always flown by the seat of my pants when making minimal choices for our family, but I strongly relate and agree with a quote from William Morris, “If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” The simplicity of our home and everything in it really reflects the guidance the quote has offered to us.

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

Homeschooling my children while living a minimalist lifestyle is an oxymoron! It’s really hard, I won’t sugar coat it! Homeschooling requires a variety of tools, books and other resources to home educate the children in all subjects just like children who attend a physical school. However, children that are sent to school have an entire building dedicated to their learning environment, with endless resources, books and sometimes separate rooms for various subjects. My biggest challenge is to find multi-use resources, games, or toys to effectively homeschool without accumulating a lot of possessions and making it all fit in our small apartment.

img_3093

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

In our home we have no issues with people and our minimal choices because we are all on board with this lifestyle. However, there are a few extended family members or colleagues of my husband, who wonder why we haven’t ‘settled down’ and purchased a large expensive home, that our apartment is too small for our family, or that we need to sell our car and purchase a newer pricey vehicle. These remarks are all well meaning because society rewards us for purchasing these big exciting and expensive things, but it doesn’t affect our choice to live our minimal lifestyle with less debt.

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

The most exciting and unexpected side effect of living in this minimal lifestyle is how well our 5 year old understands it. It is amazing when a birthday rolls around and he is showered with gifts, he will consult with us on which toys he would like to part with and give to another boy who may not been as fortunate. I cannot think of another child who would be so willing to part with toys. Occasionally he will ask for a new toy and to bargain with us, he will name off all the toys he would gladly live without to get a beloved new toy.

img_3100

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

Start small. Take a look around one room in your home and remove everything that you think is not useful to you enough to keep it or beautiful. There are so many people in this world that may need many of those items. We found once we began to remove more items the easier and easier it got! I remember when the microwave left the house, my husband didn’t notice for 2 weeks!

You are planning to move off the grid, can you tell me more about your plans and how far you’ve come?

We are going to purchase a piece of raw land in New Brunswick within one year and build a small 16’x20′ home that is power and water self-sufficient. We plan to continue homeschooling our children while growing most of our own food and eventually be able to supplement our income enough that we won’t have to work outside the home. So far, we have downsized our possessions to approximately a fourth of what we originally had, and downsized from our previous 1300 square foot home to a 700 square foot apartment. We still have a long way to go before we are able to live on our land in our small home but it will be worth the wait and hard work.

img_3096

You are also focused on waste reduction, can you share what you are doing to eliminate garbage from your life?

We’ve been trying to reduce the garbage we create when we shop because really that is the only waste we create, everything else is recycled or donated to families in need. When we grocery shop we use reusable shopping bags and try to buy everything in a reusable or recyclable container. Many things needed for our pantry can be purchased at The Bulk Barn which uses recyclable bags and containers and after shopping we put everything in large glass storage containers. Often the only thing that needs to be thrown away is our receipt. We try to shop for used items like clothing before we purchase new and very rarely do we bring anything into the home that isn’t groceries or crafting supplies from the dollar store.

img_3102

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

My goal this year is to continue living this lifestyle because it brings much more meaning to our life and family.

img_3095

***

Thank you, Andrea! Readers you can find Andrea (her pseudonym) and follow her family’s adventures on her blog or her Facebook page.

If you liked this post please consider sharing it or subscribing to my blog (visit the sidebar or link to Bloglovin below), your support helps me continue to write and share.

 You might also like:

Garbage Free: How to Make your own Delicious Raw Cashew Milk

Interview with a Minimalist: The Devine Family

Top post: Any Occasion, Sustainable Gift Guide for Children

Want to find me in other places?