Shaadee Mae Hippie in disguise Making Mindful Children Plant dye organic

Eco Label: Plant-Dyed Organics by Shaadee Mae

Shaadee Mae Hippie in Disguise Plant dyed organic clothing

In June I started a new blog series over on the Enfants Terribles Magazine blog today called ‘Eco Label Love’. For this series I share interviews with small companies who produce clothing and other products in a sustainable and ethical way. The fashion industry can be pretty terrible in terms of labour practices (for example, this). And, fast fashion is sorely contributing to landfill.

We need another way to clothe ourselves. With care. Slowly. Ethically. Mindfully. Sustainably.

While the most sustainable choice is always to buy second hand or thrift, thrift is not an option for everyone. This is why I want to celebrate companies who are leading the way toward a more sustainable and fair (or more than fair) industry. When it comes to sustainability, this means the fabrics are organic and renewable, locally sourced and sewn, or eco-dyed. In terms of ethical production, this means the garments are sewn and produced under fair conditions, as locally as possible.

Shaadee Mae Hippie in disguise Making Mindful Children Plant dye organic

For my second interview, I spoke with American Designer Shaadee about her new line SHAADEE MAE. Shaadee designs adorable one-piece jumpsuits for babies and toddlers, that are gender-netural, made from organic fabrics and sewn locally. Shaadee has been experimenting with using plants to dye her textiles, to take make her production that much more eco-conscious. The sleeveless suit Sen is wearing in the photos included in this post was dyed with pomegranate.

Please visit the Enfants Teribles blog to read my post here.

You can find SHAADEE MAE‘s online shop here, follow them on Instagram here and on Facebook here.

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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: 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.


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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

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Point in Time: Talking with Ro

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About two weeks ago I posted my first “Point in Time” interview with Sen in a very simple effort to document conversations, favourites and opinions held by my children over time. This time it’s Ro’s turn.

Ro – Sunday June 5th, 2016

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What is your favourite food? That’s not fair, you know I can’t pick just one! Lasagna, pot pie, and ramen.

What is your favourite dessert? Pie…with ice cream

Favourite movie? The Giver, I saw it at Maya’s birthday party.

Favourite book? Rain Shadow by Valerie Sherrard

Favourite flower? Dalia

What is something you can do that you are proud of? Speak French

What’s your favourite place in Ottawa? The holes on the path to the river (the ones that have trees growing in them where you can have a hidden picnic)

Favourite colour? Sparkly

Favourite song? Cheap Thrills

Favourite animal? Axalotyl

What makes you happy? Happy people, haha!

What is your favourite art form? You can’t ask me that!!! All of them, obviously.

What are you afraid of? Medical needles

What are you looking forward to? SUMMER

What is your favourite thing to do with Sen? Tell jokes

What is your favourite thing to do with me? Chill

What is your favourite thing to cook? Food. Haha! Seriously, though, pie.

What is something you want to do when you are an adult? Be a visual artist. Then a Singer-Actor-Model-Dancer- Magician. Kidding! (A reference to You Tube Comedian Miranda Sings)

Who is a role model for you? Jane Goodall

Do you have any advice for people? When you are sad realize that you are being sad (and boring) and then be awesome instead.

{ Ro’s blouse is from Coco & Ginger }

I would love to know if you have ways of documenting ages and stages with your children. Please share in the comments below or leave ideas for questions I can ask.

You might also like my post:

A Drawing A Day : A Summer Drawing Project

How to Make Bath Bombs with Real Dried Flowers

Urban Adventures with Kids

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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.

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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.

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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.  

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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: 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 ]

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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

Fleur Lyon Peaceful Posy The folk Maker

Creative Mother Fleur Lyon: Peaceful Posies and Squares of Strength

“Never suppress a generous thought” – Camilla Kimball

Fleur Lyon Peaceful Posy The folk Maker

I’ve been following Fleur Lyon on Instagram, formerly known as @thepeacefulposy, now @thefolkmaker, for about a year or so now. As I became familiar with her creativity and mothering I became more and more inspired to reach outside of the Instagram platform and have chat with her. You see, Fleur creates beauty, but beauty with deep purpose, and I knew there was more to discover about her. So I asked Fleur to share a bit about herself with me and what I learned filled my heart. Fleur is a mother of three and a natural creative. In the year that I’ve been following her she turned her creativity toward helping others through two different projects: Peaceful Posies and Little Squares of Strength. (Read on to the interview to find out what these are about and how you can get involved!). Hearing about Fleur’s background and her passion for helping others it all made sense to me. Fleur is quite humble in how she shares on Instagram, so her open conversation was a treat and quite illuminating. Thank you, Fleur, for sharing and for reminding us how kindness, generosity and creativity matter, and when done with great purpose can make an important difference in the lives of others.

Dear Fleur, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?  

I’m a Mumma to 3 little girls, I make bespoke woollen posies in my little online shop. My posies are handcrafted with yarn and natural twigs that I collect from underneath the big gumtrees on our property.  I am always creating, singing, playing with flowers, and daydreaming. I love working with natural and repurposed materials where possible. I used to make little hand-painted comfort dolls that I dressed in vintage florals and donated to children in orphanages. I am heading in the direction of my wool and materials being even more natural and homespun. I have dabbled a little in natural eco dyeing of wool and silk which I hope to do a lot more of, and I received a beautiful vintage spinning wheel for my birthday recently, so I am truly looking forward to starting to spin some of my own wool.  I dream of some gorgeous woolly alpacas roaming on our property in the future.  I also started a kindness project last year called the Little Squares of Strength Project which I will talk a little more about later.

Fleur Lyon Little Squares of Strength

What part of the world do you live in? 

I live in an enchanting little village town in Western Australia called Balingup, full of beautiful rolling hills. Our family moved to the country about 2 years ago to escape the faster pace of city life, and to have a bigger space for the kids to roam free, where we could live a slower, more simple lifestyle. Here we embrace the wonders of nature, a more homemade life, a creative life, and a greater sense of community.  While we build a little farmhouse on the top of a hill, we have been living in caravans for quite some time, and now a little shed (while we still sleep in a caravan). Although as a family of five, this has been rather challenging at times, this way of living in some ways has forced us to experience the simpler life, more time outdoors, and to be more grateful for small things.

How many children do you have and how would you describe them?

We have three little girls aged 2, 4 and 7. They are all quite different. Lilliana, our eldest is very creative and crafty, and she loves to sing, but she is also quite studious and factual, and loves her schoolwork and reading.  Willow, our middle child is a little quieter and really loves cooking, imaginary play, and sensory play. Ivy, our littlest is bursting with energy, loves to perform, and loves nothing better than lying in the mud or playing in the dirt and sticks on our property. I love that they are all so different, but they all share a love of creativity and the outdoors.

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Do you have a favourite quote or words you live by? Favourite books?

My favourite quote is “Do small things with great love.

My favourite magazines to read are Frankie, Peppermint, Country Style, Taproot, Slow Living, and Womankind.  

My favourite book is A Table in the Orchard by Michelle Crawford.  I can relate incredibly to Michelle’s thoughts and dreams of their move away from the city to a simpler life. Her stories of homegrown, cooking, and countryside life fill my soul with warmth and inspiration and I could read Michelle’s beautiful words over and over again.

What are your core family values?

Gratitude and kindness.

How do you spend most of your days?

A typical weekday for me would go like this:

Before school – hectic times while I help our 2 older girls get ready for school while Ivy is craving attention too. I would say this would be the most challenging time of the day when the sibling rivalry and all of the chaos happens, and I need to remind myself to be patient, breath through it all, and try to make it fun.

After dropping Lilli and Willow off at school, Ivy and I sometimes stop off at the post office, and then we go for a walk around the streets close to home.  This is when I take in the magnificent scenery that surrounds us – the rolling hills, the vineyards, the orchards, and at this time of year the beautiful leaves that are just starting to change into vibrant Autumn colours and fall from the trees. Ivy and I usually collect a few leaves and flowers on our morning walk, which I play around with later for a moment of calm, and use in my photographs of my posies that I make. Often when the girls see me playing and creating with leaves and flowers they like to do it too. They have also tried some natural solar dyeing. I love it when they see me creating and take an interest in it too.

After our walk  Ivy has a play outside while I make myself a coffee I do some creating at the outside table.  Between crocheting posies and cups of tea I push Ivy on the swings and chat to her while she plays.

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Then it’s some quiet play inside, lunch, and watching playschool on the TV while I get a few household chores done if I can, and photographing my posies,  and then it’s nap time for Ivy. During Ivy’s nap I try to catch up on anything else that needs doing. Housework is not really my forte! I’d much rather be creating, but I do try! Then it’s time to pick up the girls from school, followed by playing outside until Daddy gets home, or sometimes a little screen time, then dinner/bath/homework and the bedtime routine.

There are of course other days when Ivy and I go to playgroup or to the fruit and vege shop together, or the park.

What is your favourite thing to do as a family?

My most favourite thing is when we are outside our little shed, the girls are playing under the trees making cubbies, playing in the sand, or swinging on the tyre swing, I am crafting, and my husband Nigel is pottering away in the garden.  We also love going out for picnics and exploring together.  And the girls love to help their Daddy in the vege garden.

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What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about love, peace, flowers & leaves, being creative, trying new things creatively, music, singing, homegrown, homemade, and nature. I am passionate about styling, and making our living space a warm, cosy, inviting home, wherever we are. I am also passionate about empowering and supporting minority groups of women. I am passionate about raising our three girls as healthy, independent, strong, gentle, free-spirited, loving, kind, creative human beings. And I am passionate about keeping a loving, supportive, equal relationship with my husband Nigel, continuing to honour each other’s strengths and weaknesses, continuing to work as a team to raise our children and complete everyday tasks, and continuing to build our dreams together, doing everything with love.

What inspires you?

So many things! Nature, the moon, flowers, live music, our children, rolling hills, the ocean, the forest, simple things, homegrown fresh produce, colours, other creative souls (especially through Instagram), vintage, and the 60’s/70’s “barefoot and flowers in your hair hippie” era.

I loved your hashtag #slowfloralstyle, why did you start it? What is it about?

I love playing with flowers and leaves. Often when I am having a tough day or just caught up in the busyness of life, I find myself using flowers (and tea) to slow myself down, even if just for a moment or two, and my mind feels instantly calmer.  Sometimes it’s by creating flower mandalas, or sometimes simply picking some garden flowers and making a little bouquet.  I have noticed through Instagram that a few people find playing around with flowers peaceful, and I think it’s especially important as a mother to create little moments of self-care throughout your days.  So #slowfloralstyle is about finding little pockets of floral calm in your day. And I just love scrolling through this gallery every week, so many beautiful images!

Last year you undertook an amazing project Little Squares of Strength, can you tell me about it?

I started the #littlesquaresofstrength project last year as a way to bring women crafters from all walks of life, all over the world, together as a community, to send love and kindness to other women who needed a bit of encouragement and support sent their way. It was about each person crafting one small square, that would come together with many other squares to form an incredible blanket of strength and love.  

LIttle Squares of Strength

My background is in women’s studies, women’s health, and working with very marginalised groups of women, and for many years I have taken a strong interest in supporting and empowering women.  Now that I have had children I love coordinating the #littlesquaresofstrength project alongside my online posy business, as something that gives back, and makes a difference to the lives of those women who are unwell or having a tough time.  In addition to the #littlesquaresofstrength project, I also have a hashtag #posiesforpeace which I use for my handcrafted posies.  For every posy I sell, I donate $2 to various organisations that help to make the world a more peaceful place.  Last month this money went to safesteps.org.au – helping to keep women and children safe from domestic violence in Australia.  This month the money is being donated to destinyrescue.org ~ rescuing children out of sexual slavery and exploitation. My plan is to continue donating to a different charity each month.

Last year, the #littlesquaresofstrength project was about sending blankets of love to women who were having a tough journey. This year, the project is about mother + child blankets.  People can nominate a little one who is having a tough time, and collaborative blankets will be sent to children and their mamas.  This year I have a team of volunteer stitchers who are helping me out with the joining of squares into blankets.  The guidelines for making and sending squares are all on my website. You can knit, crochet, weave, sew, stitch, or embroider a 16cm x 16cm square, and send it in to be part of a #littlesquaresofstrength blanket. You can be as unique as you like with how you make your squares, and even the most simple and basic squares are wonderful in the blankets! Just imagine wrapping yourself in a blanket that is made up of squares handmade by women all over the world, infused with so much love.  This is what the #littlesquaresofstrength project is all about.

What are your dreams for motherhood?

My dreams for motherhood are to create an environment where our girls feel that they can express themselves freely, creatively or otherwise. To have a relationship with them in which they feel that they can be open and communicate easily. To raise them in an environment that encourages them to dream, to be imaginative, to feel that they are supported in whichever direction they choose to take in life, to show kindness and empathy towards others, and to have a healthy self-esteem and self-confidence. To teach our girls that partnerships should feel equal and supportive.  To fill their lives with music. Music from all genres and cultures, all over the world. And to make life fun!

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Thank you, Fleur!

You might also like my post:

How to Make All Natural Temporary Tattoos from Real Flowers

Garbage Free: How to Make Your Own Delicious Cashew Milk

How to Make a Mother Nature Leaf Dress from Real Leaves

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

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.

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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

Tropic of Candycorn Interview Erynn Montgomery Travel with Kids

On New Years Resolutions, Yoga, Self-Care and Travel

Since my early twenties I haven’t been much into New Year’s resolutions. Resolutions, yes. But once a year, on a specific date, no. When I was practicing yoga intensely in my early twenties I found an excellent studio, at the time it was one of only two in town that offered a holistic approach to teaching yoga. What this meant was there was a good sprinkling of other lessons within the classes aside from physical practice.

In one practice, when we were approaching December, my instructor brought up the topic of New Years resolutions. Seemed a bit early to me to be talking about them, but inhale, exhale, I listened to his words. Until this time, I had always made a few New Years resolutions each year. However, on this day, what he said was “If you decide you should do something, don’t wait to do it.” He continued “If you know something is right, that it’s good for you, that you want to set an intention for a full year toward it, then it’s pretty important. Right? So why are you waiting another month, week, or day to start?” He was so right! If I know in my mind and heart that I need to do something, change a habit, dedicate myself to a new project that’s so important that I intend to resolve to do it, well, then I shouldn’t neglect it for another day. I need to start now! Since that day, when I’ve come upon a moment of resolution, I’ve not let myself delay.

Because of this perspective, I haven’t been one to write a long list, or even a modest list, of resolutions each new year. I just start on them as they present themselves. Of course, I’m not perfect, I don’t implement my resolutions perfectly, but I think you get the point of what I’m saying: Don’t delay. Nevertheless, being present on social media for the last two years, I’ve read and heard a lot about other people’s resolutions and reaffirmations, and I can’t help but reflect on myself and what I can improve, what I need to change, how I can do more good with my energy, when I read these.

And so, in the context of social media and conversations with a new friend, Erynn, this year I made a few New Years resolutions; one’s I hadn’t made before. First, travel more. I don’t have a budget for travel, but this doesn’t mean I shouldn’t dream. And it doesn’t mean I have to travel far. It could be travelling to new places within my city. But putting the intention out there is important. Second, take better care of myself. No one will question how much I care for my children and family. I’m wholehearted and unconditional, I give them as much as I can every day. I love to. But in this mix I don’t take exceptional (or even good) care of myself. My friend Erynn who is organizing a Yoga Retreat in May, helped me re-evaluate how much attention and care I give myself. I need to be happy, healthy and balanced to be a good mother. But, truthfully, I am a good mother (I’m riddled with self doubt in most aspects of my life, but mothering is not one of them). However, I’m not the best role model when it comes to taking care of myself. In falling in love with mothering, I let my yoga practice slip, reduced to a very light practice, sometimes going weeks, months, without stepping onto the mat. I realize now that I wasn’t modelling the type of self-care I hoped my children would one day exhibit when they left our nest. The environment in which children grow up, the patterns and habits they observe over time become their baseline. I decided that I needed to shift my baseline of self-care if I wanted it to have an impact on them before they left home. So this year, in 2016, I am returning to my regular yoga practice and running more often, and generally taking better care of myself. I’m also going to travel more, even if it’s only within my own city.

I wanted to share an interview with my friend Erynn. Erynn is a creative entrepreneurial mother who maintained her passions in the midst of raising four children. I’m always inspired by women like her. How did she do it? Erynn has a passion for travel and humanitarian work and fortunately found a creative way to combine these interests with work and family time. Erynn runs a high end travel company, but also runs Tropic of Candycorn a great information resource for people interested in travelling with families, especially the more adventurous types of travel. I hope you enjoy hearing from Erynn – I especially love that she knew early on that she wanted to prioritize experiences over stuff! Go Erynn! And I hope that travel and self-care are part of your ambitions for 2016.

Erynn, please tell me a little bit about yourself. What is your background?

I love raising my four daughters. Before children, I served as the President and CEO of a humanitarian organization helping impoverished South American communities. I traveled a lot and loved meeting different people in many cultures. As my husband and I awaited the arrival of our first child, we swore we would continue to make travel a priority. We started a boutique travel company that designs custom trips for top-tier clients. I find the most joy traveling with my daughters and inspiring other families to go places together.

Tropic of Candycorn Interview Erynn Montgomery Travel with Kids

What part of the world do you live in?

I live in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of the United States.

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

Rather than list their unique qualities – because they are each so different and special, but changing constantly – I’ll share their names and how you would know who is who if you met them for the first time. Cora is 11. She would be the first to engage you in conversation, which would typically have a lot of smiles and giggles involved. Hero (age 10) would give you a steely gaze at first, disappear into the pages of a book, and then engage your son or daughter for hours of physical play. Philippa (age 6) is a sprite for whom you will willingly offer anything sweet you may have brought with you. Finally, Minerva (age 3) will listen carefully to everything you say so long as you don’t look directly at her. She will occasionally interrupt our conversation with hugs and kisses on my cheek in order to secure my attention.

Tropic of Candycorn Interview Erynn Montgomery Travel with Kids on www.hippieindisguise.com

What are your core family values?

We value time together – near or far. We value an exploration of the world with open hearts. We value learning and experiences. Above all else, we value kindness.

Kindness is the trait I hope to instil most in my daughters. I do not want them to be naïve, or docile, or even sweet. No. Sweet people, especially women, can be taken advantage of. What I want is true compassion—for them to be mindful of others and to understand a wide range of life circumstances. I want them to barter fiercely for something, but leave a little more behind than what was agreed upon. I want them to see the beauty in different ways of life, compare it to the life they have, and then create something new based on their own ideals. I want them to reach out to others and make a difference, and then allow people to reciprocate.

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What do you love to do as a family?

We love to spend time together. We love to experience things in nature. We love to read and bake and have tickle fights. We also love to travel. Travel has a way of condensing life lessons. We decided early on that we would rather buy experiences than stuff.

Tropic of Candycorn Interview Erynn Montgomery Travel with Kids on www.hippieindisguise.com

What are you passionate about? And what inspires you?

I love the world and I love people. As an introvert, it’s sometimes challenging to reach out to others, to allow myself to be vulnerable. When traveling, you’re in a constant state of vulnerability – new places, new people, new languages. It can be very overwhelming. Before we make lasting friendships, I typically spend a few days observing people in their own environment. Witnessing what makes them happy inspires me. It’s always the simple things.

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Can you tell me about your work as a travel planner?

I think so. It’s kind of a weird gig. Ha. Ten years ago, I co-founded a boutique travel company called Mosaico Travel. We provide custom travel to top-tier clients. Most people, especially in the US, have short vacations. Time is their most precious resource. They want vacations to be special, but they don’t have a lot of time to research the best places and activities for their family. Getting to know people and designing something that will become part of their family heritage is very rewarding for me.

However, I miss my humanitarian roots. I love it most when I can introduce some of my travel clients to the communities that I have served and loved. These experiences always end up being what they remember and cherish most.

Tropic of Candycorn Interview Erynn Montgomery Travel with Kids on www.hippieindisguise.com

Tropic of Candycorn Interview Erynn Montgomery Travel with Kids on www.hippieindisguise.comWhat is Tropic of Candycorn?

As Mosaico Travel grew, I noticed something that concerned me. People wanted to travel, but they weren’t sure how to make it work well with children. Unfortunately, as a culture we tend to focus on the difficult parts of raising children: painful childbirth, sleepless nights, crying babies on the plane, etc. Although I admit parenting requires resilience, I have found it to be incredibly rewarding.

I began answering questions, even from very seasoned travellers, about what they should bring or do on a vacation with kids. They didn’t understand how I would travel with my daughters (often without another adult) for weeks at a time and love it!

Although I consider myself a private person, I began to share. I wrote stories that I hoped would inspire. I wrote tips on how to make things easier or less intimidating. I wanted to create an online resource, Tropic of Candycorn, where people could come and learn from our community and discover what works for them.

Most of all, I wanted travel to be accessible to a wide range of families, not just the top-tier. I know that most children’s happiest memories will be away from home and I want those memories to be spent together.

Tropic of Candycorn Interview Erynn Montgomery Travel with Kids on www.hippieindisguise.com

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Top three places to travel with kids and why?

Oh wow. I’m not sure I could narrow it down. We love places where we can explore in nature, relax, and have fun. And eat ice cream! I often get asked the question, “Where’s the best place to take children?” My response is usually a variant of “wherever there are children.” Some places are easier than others and some destinations are better geared for individual families, but if the local children are happy, healthy, and safe, I think it’s a destination worth considering.

Don’t be afraid to stretch yourself. Most places on your bucket list are safe enough that you’re considering them. If a destination doesn’t make you a little nervous and a lot excited, you might not be trying hard enough. Go for it!

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You’ve organized a retreat catering to moms. Can you tell me more about it?

I would love to. This motherhood thing is awesome. But it can be exhausting too. I realized I was giving everything I had to my children, my husband, my work, and had little (if anything) left for me. As I began to talk to other mothers about my struggle, I discovered I was far from alone. We jokingly said, “Someone needs to plan a vacation for moms.” I got some lovely, genuine women involved who I knew needed a break – a way to recharge themselves so they are better prepared to care for the people they love.

The retreat is a way to replenish body, mind, and soul. There will be daily yoga and surf lessons. There will also be daily workshops geared to inspiring mothers: letting go of fears and insecurities; making magic every day and inspiring wonder in  ourselves and children; owning your expertise and sharing it with others; living simple, beautiful lives full of meaning and mindfulness.

It will be from Monday, May 2 – Saturday, May 7 at the JW Marriott Guanacaste in Costa Rica and we would love for any mothers who need this to join us. It will be the most epic Mother’s Day.

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Did your priorities and life goals change once you had children?

Not drastically. I always enjoyed helping and serving people, which made my transition to motherhood easier since that’s the bulk of the work.

What’s next for you, do you have any fun projects or vacation planned?

My oldest daughter turns 12 on April 2. Long ago, before we realized how quickly our children would grow, we told them they could choose a parent-guide and a destination for their 12th birthday. They would be required to work within a budget, and plan their adventure with some parental input. When Cora realized that I needed to attend a work conference in Switzerland in mid-March, she asked, “Well, if you’re already in Europe, then your airfare doesn’t count toward my budget, right?” She figured out that she could take a direct flight to Paris to meet me. She shopped for the best price and then nervously stood by as I finished the payment. We’re both excited. For Cora, it’s a right of passage – learning to navigate the world with more independence. For me, it’s a chance to spend one-on-one time and create memories that I hope will buoy us during the teenage years.

We’ll be sharing a travelogue on Tropic of Candycorn about our experiences including a daily breakdown of how she’s working within the budget.

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What are your dreams for yourself as a mother?

I dream of raising four women who become strong, independent forces for good in the world. I hope to embrace my imperfections so that they can too. Ultimately, I want to leave this world a bit better than I found it.

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Thank you Erynn! Readers you can find Erynn on Instagram @tropicofcandycorn or on Facebook here.

THERE ARE STILL A FEW SPOTS LEFT IN The Tropic of Candycorn YOGA & SURF RETREAT IN COSTA RICA, MAY 2-7, 2016

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You might also like my post:

How to Get Started with Minimalism

13 Ways to Simplify Your Wardrobe

The Slow Living Project

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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:

Alison LIttle Interview with a Minimalist Our LIttle House

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 these Instagrammers have 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.

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You might also like my post:

How to Get Started with Minimalism

13 Ways to Simplify Your Wardrobe

The Slow Living Projecthttp://www.hippieindisguise.com/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