Minimalism: 7 Best Books to Inspire and Inform

Minimalism Books Kinfolk Hippie in Disguise

One of the most common questions I’m asked is what books I recommend to help people jump start their minimalist journey. I usually reply that there is a lot of great free web content and discussion groups on Facebook, but inevitably people want a book (or two or three) to get them going. In addition, sometimes it’s nice to read things the good old-fashioned way, that is, on paper instead of off a screen. On account of the nature of my work, I spend a lot of time in front of screens, so I really enjoy my time with a book in my hands. If you aren’t interested in buying books, the ones listed below should be available in local libraries (although they are popular, so there may be a waiting list).

So, if you want a few books to give you a dose inspiration, but also tried and true strategies to move you toward your minimalist goals then here are the ones I always recommend:

Simple Matters: Living with Less and Ending Up with More by Erin Boyle

simple matters by erin boyle review by hippie in disguiseThis book is a great mix of motivation and techniques. Boyle shares her personal story and strategies in a way that is humble, practical and inspiring. What I really like about Boyle is that, for her, minimalism is centred in sustainable living, so her strategies are mindful of how to discard things in a responsible way, where to source good quality ethical items (with lots of resources and references). It doesn’t hurt that the book is also beautiful and has gorgeous photography. This book will help anyone, but for sure it is great for parents and small space dwellers, especially. Buy the book here.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

life changing magic by marie kondo review You’ve probably heard of this book and seen it in every book store and magazine shop around. It’s an international best seller and has been translated into dozens of languages. Overall, I like the book. For a book about organization it is written in a very compelling way, Kondo tells about her own organization struggles, shares life stories and examples from clients, which makes the book quite enjoyable to read. The book is motivating in the sense that Kondo really relays the benefits of having less and keeping our lives simplified in terms of material things. My main criticism of the book is that Kondo does not address how to discard things you no longer wish to keep in an environmentally-friendly way. She refers to the use of garbage bags quite often. Let’s hope she meant to imply that these garbage bags (filled with household and personal items) should be donated to charity organizations and shelters, or responsibly delivered to recycling facilities, because it would really be a shame if de-cluttering homes led to a massive growth in landfill. Buy the book here.

Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing by Marie Kondo

marie kondo spark joy reviewThis follow up book to Life-Changing Magic (above) helps people understand what Kondo meant by her concept ‘sparks joy’, that is, how to figure out what gives us joy and how to apply this to de-cluttering. While I didn’t personally struggle with Kondo’s concept of ‘spark joy’ in her first book, it is a common complaint that people didn’t really know how to figure out what their own ‘spark joy’ felt like or was. The book also elaborates on techniques for discarding and organizing, focusing on different areas of the house and categories of things. The illustrations are both useful and beautiful. Buy the book here.

 

Everything That Remains: A Memoir by The Minimalists

There are parts of this book that really made me roll my eyes, but at the end of the day the book is quite inspiring and is a worthwhile read. The book charts the journey from the high-powered corporate lives of two friends, marked by conspicuous consumption and crippling debt, to lives where the two chose to start over and pursue simplicity. The book effectively makes the case for why minimalism and simple living is a smart, healthy lifestyle choice. If you need motivation or want to motivate someone else this is a good book for that purpose (as a side note, if you are looking for a book that might motivate the male folk in your life, this is a good one). Buy the book here.

 

Clutterfree with Kids: Change Your Thinking, Discover New Habits by Joshua Becker

clutterfree with kids by joshua becker review

This is the book for people asking: How minimalism is possible with kids in the mix? Becker is a minimalism guru (with children) and has a gift for relaying the why and the how of minimalism in inspiring and understandable terms. The book offers strategies for de-cluttering with kids, by helping motivate kids and make them excited about minimalism. At its core, though, the book is about reframing our lives so that stuff is not at the centre; so that consumerism is not our tied to our identity. In doing so, family life is re-centred on experience and connection making it easy for everyone to buy into a life with less stuff. Buy the book here.

 

Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne

simplicity parenting by kim john payne reviewAnother book for parents or parents-to-be, this book is not about de-cluttering things, so much as simplifying life by minimizing schedules, stuff, exposure to media and “adult” ideas, to help children and families thrive. This is really a book about simple, minimal lifestyle, from a holistic perspective, and will certainly inspire and motivate you to keep less stuff around, but the book takes a broader view than simply de-cluttering the home of material things; it is about the overall power of less. The book has been very popular, has a cult status in some parenting circles and has led to communities of interest worldwide. In my interviews with inspiring parents and minimalists, again and again they cite this book as influential in their life. Buy the book here.

Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste by Bea Johnson

zero waste home by bea johnson reviewIf you are looking to minimize the amount of garbage you produce this book is for you. It is my go-to resource (I still refer to on a weekly basis), to solve zero waste challenges. The book makes a compelling case for us to consider seriously reducing the amount of garbage we make, but also provides practical tips on how to do so, covering all aspects of life and work in a way that is not intimidating. Buy the book here.

 

Any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment below!

***

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

Rebecca Lane Global Guardian Project

Interview with a Minimalist: Rebecca

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rebecca Lane Global Guardian Project

All photos in this post were taken by Coleen Hodges

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

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

What part of the world do you live in?

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

Rebecca Lane Global Guardian Project

What are your children like?

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

Rebecca Lane Global Guardian Project

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

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

Rebecca Lane Global Guardian Project

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

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

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

Rebecca Lane Global Guardian Project

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

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

Rebecca Lane Global Guardian Project

What has been the greatest benefit of minimalism?

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

Is your parenting influenced by minimalism?

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

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

 

Rebecca Lane Global Guardian Project

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rebecca Lane Global Guardian Project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Rebecca Lane Global Guardian Project

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

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

***

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

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

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

Interview with a Minimalist: Ksenia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


What part of the world do you live in?

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


What has been the greatest benefit of minimalism?

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


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

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

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

Is your parenting influenced by minimalism?

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


***

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

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

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

Interview with a Minimalist: Claudia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What part of the world do you live in? 

NYC [ New York City ]

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

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


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

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

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

The process of becoming a minimalist itself is minimalism.  

What has been the greatest benefit of minimalism?

How liberating it is.

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

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

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

Is your parenting influenced by minimalism?

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


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

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

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

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

…and Leo Babauta’s blogs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

Interview with a Minimalist: Evelyn of Smallish Blog

A recent study showed that household consumption could be the most significant driver of climate change and is likely making the largest impact on the planet’s declining health. A life of shopping and continuous acquisition is not only vapid, but is seriously harming the planet that sustains us. Many of us have grown up in a culture obsessed with consumption, a culture that insinuates that our identity is tied to fashions, our worth is displayed through things. It’s no wonder 93% of teenage girls rank shopping as their favourite past time.

But imagine changing the culture, imagine raising children differently. Imagine raising children who enjoy giving things away, rather than acquiring more. Imagine raising children who value experiences over things. Imagine what these children, what this generation, can do for the health of our planet.

When I interviewed Evelyn Rennich, a mother of four who intentionally lives in a small space (four kids in one bedroom!), I was excited to hear that her children had developed an ease in parting with things. In my opinion, it’s all the better for children to learn at a young age that things do not complete them, better for their self-development and better for the planet. Better yet if they grow up in an environment in which acquisition is not a major focus of their time or energy. Intentionally living with less Evelyn is raising her children differently. Thank you, Evelyn.

Evelyn shares her family’s story of intentionally living small over on her popular blog Smallish Blog. Although she’s a busy stay at home mother, Evelyn was generous enough to answer some questions for me, so we could all learn from her experience. I hope you enjoy hearing Evelyn’s story of finding minimalism and how it has enriched her family’s life.

Smallish blog evelyn minimalism

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

Hi! I’m Evelyn. I’m a mountain girl, happily married to a great man and mommy to four young kiddos. I love hiking, coffee and earth tone colors. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from the University of Colorado, but I love my current gig as stay-at-home-mom (as difficult as it is!).

What part of the world do you live in?

We live in Colorado, close to the Rocky Mountains.

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

We have four children ages 5, 3, 2, 8 months. (Yes, my days are busy busy busy!) Our oldest is intellectual and caring and is often designing elaborate projects. Our second son is bright, sweet and relational. Our daughter is a great mix of wild and mild and easily keeps up with her brothers. Our baby is very chill and happy.

Smallish blog evelyn minimalism

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

We sort of stumbled across minimalism as we explored living in a small home. Before our first child was born we downsized from a 1,300 sq. ft. “normal” house to a 450 sq. ft. apartment in order to allow for me to work part-time. Although the move felt forced financially at the time, it turned out to be a major blessing. We found that we liked “living small.” And naturally, a smaller space meant living with less stuff. We discovered that we enjoyed living with fewer belongings. We felt freer, lighter, less stressed. That teeny apartment was home for nearly five years; it was where we started our family. We recently moved into a modest 1,000 sq. ft. home, and we continue to evaluate what we truly need and enjoy as we seek to move toward a more minimalist life.

Smallish blog evelyn minimalism

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

It’s funny– I’ve only just become comfortable with embracing the term “minimalist” in the past couple months as I’ve accepted that there’s no “right” way to do this lifestyle. Although we’ve intentionally lived with less for years, I always feel like we don’t qualify because maybe we still have too much stuff to make the cut. I’m at the point now where I can say, “Yeah, we are minimalists because we are always searching for the minimum level of what we can live with.”

Minimalism to us is limiting possessions, certainly, for we see giant blessing in fewer belongings, but it is so much more.  Living intentionally with less is a holistic endeavor.  It positively affects nearly every area of our lives.

We are a family of 6, so minimalism in the strict, least-amount-of-belongings doesn’t quite fit us. However, I am constantly purging physical things that we don’t use or need. In nearly every area of home or heart, I seek to “find the minimum level” of what I can live with.  Most days, the things we own still seem like too much, but this whole thing is a journey.  Minimalism also means we are committed to living slowly–not filling our schedules up with too many activities.  It means we’d like to live with minimal impact on the earth, which is also an area in which we’d like to improve.

At the very core, minimalism is a way that we can practically live out following Jesus’ simple, people-focused lifestyle without the distraction of stuff weighing us down.

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

I’m a big fan of Joshua Becker’s Becoming Minimalist.com, Rachel Jonat at The Minimalist Mom.com, No Sidebar.com, Melissa Camara Wilkins, Break the Twitch.com, and Shannan Martin at FlowerPatchFarmgirl.com.

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

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

I have a major textile problem. We have an overabundance of blankets, towels, bedsheets, washcloths, etc… But we actually use most of them each week in playing or cleaning (I put down full length towels on the hardwood floor whenever it’s snowy or muddy outside). It’s what we need in this stage of life. We also have a lot of children’s books, but we use those often too.

Smallish blog evelyn minimalism

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

Not really. My husband is on the same page with me for the most part, however there have been times when we disagree about whether or not to keep a certain item. Purging is so much a part of our lifestyle, our kids know that every so often we go through our things and create piles to give away. They’re not really resistant to it. In fact, sometimes they’ll want to go giving away their nice toys that they play with all the time and I’ve had to say, “No, you really love that. Let’s keep it for now.”

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

Years ago we had one repairman who was simply unable to grasp that we could be content in such a small apartment with so little. It made for a very interesting conversation. Positively, minimalism has opened up a pool of amazing friends and acquaintances. We really love meeting new people with similar mindsets of living happily with less–this camaraderie truly enriches our endeavors!

Smallish blog evelyn minimalism

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

I’d say that adjusting your mindset is key. Once your heart and head are in agreement that less really is better, the actual purging and letting go isn’t a struggle. Also, I’d probably hug them and jump up and down and squeal that they’re gonna love it. 🙂

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

I’d like to explore zero waste living this year. Honestly the concept seems so daunting and impossible, but that makes me want to try–even as a family of six–all the more.

Thanks so much for hosting this series, Danielle, and for your thoughtful and sincere questions! You’re a definite blessing to the minimalist community.

***

Thank you Evelyn! Readers, you can find Evelyn and follow her story over at Smallish Blog, on Facebook and on Twitter. You can read all the interviews in this series here “Interview with a Minimalist”. You can read about families making zero garbage and zero waste here (Julie’s family) and here (the Devines).

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

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

How to Get Started with Minimalism: Assess Your Personality

I am no expert, nor am I a perfect or pure minimalist. Truthfully, there is no pure or perfect; there is process. Process is about experience, learning, trial and error. In this post I’ll share with you some of the things that worked for getting me and our family going with minimalism, especially with regard to decluttering and living with less. Minimalism is more than just stuff, but that is a big part of it, at least when you begin.

We are not a family living in luxury; there are many basic things we go without, not entirely by choice, but by matter of circumstance (mainly lack of money). However, we live in Canada and not in poverty so I know we’re living very well. That said, we don’t have a lot of things that families consider necessary and basic. We don’t have a car, we don’t have a dining table (read here), we don’t have a desktop computer, TV, air conditioning and so on. But, still, we do have lots of things. Many of these things are the things that easily accumulate like toys, books, and clothing.

If you’ve read books about de-cluttering, like Marie Kondo’s opus, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, you’ll know that she recommends doing your tidying and discarding all in one go. Wait, what?! That’s just slightly impossible to imagine if you work full time, have young children and/or are single parenting. It’s just not realistic. That said, I do recommend people read her book, not necessarily for the process she recommends, but for her excellent discussion of all the positive benefits of de-cluttering and setting your home in order, along with the many social and health benefits you wouldn’t imagine result from decluttering. I also really love her discussion of the deep respect we should show to things and inanimate objects. This is quite an uncommon perspective, but one I share, and I’m so happy she has brought it to a mass audience. My one reservation, which I’ve mentioned before, is that her book does not offer strategies for discarding things in an ecological way. She uses the word garbage bag way too many times for my liking. ‘Garbage bag’ is a dirty word, am I right?

Then there are others who advocate a longer de-cluttering process, taken in steps over a period of time that works for you. Maybe doing one room each day or each week, until you are done, is the best approach for you? What I think is important is for you to first assess your own personality, your own sources of motivation, and figure out what approach will keep you going to the end. Aristotle’s words on education are as relevant to that process as that of minimalism:

The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.

Some people need to see instant progress or have to finish a job quickly once they’ve started or else they know they’ll never finish it. These people are probably going to find success with the all-on-one go method. Are you someone who doesn’t a finish project unless you do it in a short period? If so, you should dedicate a full weekend to purging and de-cluttering and then the job is done. All you have to do is be a good gate keeper and not allow much new stuff to come into your home and you’ll maintain it easily. If you do a proper and thorough job you will love your new space and it will be easy to maintain because you’ll be careful about not disturbing the calm you achieved. Problems arise when you only half de-clutter…more on that later.

The reality is most of us don’t have the time, energy or resources to do it all in one go. That was the case for me. So here are the strategies and techniques I applied, choose one or both:

1)      The Smoking Jacket Approach

Start by making one room, your favourite room or the room you spend the most time in, fully decluttered. Make an oasis of calm, decluttered space in your home. Be thorough, don’t leave any corner of the room messy or cluttered, even if it’s out of sight. (Cluttered closets and drawers should not be left as is, in your mind you know they are there and the busy clutter will affect you subconsciously). Once you have one room that is just how you like it, you will likely be motivated to do the same in other rooms. If you don’t have the time right away, you at least have a space to retreat to that feels just right. Additionally, other people will likely be drawn to this space and enjoy the calm it offers and they may, in turn, be motivated to arrange their own spaces in the house similarly, and at the very least will be less resistant to you decluttering other rooms once they feel the benefits, physically and emotionally, of being in a peaceful, calm space. This was certainly true in the case of my family. Once I decluttered my bedroom thoroughly Ro was much more open to me doing the same to her room, while before this she had been very hesitant. She thought she felt a comfort in things, but learned through experience that she actually preferred a decluttered space.

Once you have one room just right what is likely to happen is what I call the smoking jacket phenomenon (it is also known as the Diderot effect). I didn’t invent this phrase. The smoking jacket phenomenon is a reference to a story of a man who lived in what he thought was a decently furnished apartment. He was then given a beautiful, luxury smoking jacket. It was so lovely that it made everything around seem shabby in comparison. He became sad and was then motivated, even driven, to one thing at a time replace everything he owned with something that measured up to that smoking jacket. By the time he replaced everything he owned the smoking jacket then didn’t seem beautiful enough to be among all his new things. The story is (as originally told) intended to convey the traps of consumerism, stuff, and class status – that you’ll never reach that point when your stuff is enough.

When it comes to decluttering you can apply a smoking jacket analogy, and interestingly it does the reverse of the original story. So, once you make one space in your home just exactly as you like it, calm, clear of clutter, the other rooms will look and feel poor in comparison, you’ll be motivated to declutter each one, until you have done it to all the rooms and the whole home matches the beauty and peace of the first room you started with. Turning the original problem of the smoking jacket on its head, you can use this approach to make less your more, to make less enough.

2)      The Baby Steps Approach

The other approach I recommend for those who think a whole room is just too much to accomplish right away, is identifying small contained units that you can declutter one at a time. A unit could be your bathroom cabinet, your utensil drawer, the bottom drawer in your dresser, your linen closet, etc. Make it whatever size, small or tiny, that you think is manageable. The important thing to ensure is that whatever you choose to declutter you finish the decluttering in one go. If you only half declutter you may not go back and finish or you might say “it’s good enough”. But let me tell you: when you haven’t fully decluttered it is very easy for it slip back into clutter. Furthermore other people may not notice the change and may re-clutter it. Whereas, if it is done fully and well, you will be motivated to maintain it and others will likely help keep it that way. Think of a counter with no dirty dishes, people are more likely to wash up their dish than start a pile, or will put the dish in the dishwasher. But once there is one dirty dish there on the counter everyone just piles things on. It’s like permission to make a mess! So, what I recommend is to make a small area clutter free and then build on that success.

The baby steps approach, by the way, is also my maintenance technique. I know that if I lived alone the clutter would not return. But I live with people that have other interests than tidying and less sensitivity to space. So things accumulate, not too much, but they do. So I usually spend a few minutes a day just going through a small zone and making sure to discard any clutter. When Sen is in the bath, I’m checking the bathroom vanity. When water is waiting to boil, I’m looking in the utensil drawer for stray elastics or twist ties, etc. Everytime laundry is returned from the dryer I take out anything that the kids don’t love to wear or don’t really need, and I ask Ro not to hang anything from her laundry that she doesn’t love, but instead to put it in our donation bag. Every week she’s assessing what she wants to keep. Doing this on an ongoing basis has made it very easy for her to part with things. Whereas just a few years ago Matt and I had a very serious conversation about how me might work with Ro on non-attachment since she seemed so obsessively attached to her things (like crying when we recycled a paper napkin she had used at a restaurant to doodle on). She has since outgrown this phase, mostly likely natural maturing, but she’s also gotten quite good at parting with her less loved things on a regular basis through practice.

So there you have it, two ways to get started with minimalism based on your personality assessment: all in one go or step by step process. Within the step by step process you can use the smoking jacket approach or the baby steps approach.

I’ll write another post on how to decide what to keep, but for now try to think about your own personality, what motivates you to finish a project. Understanding yourself better will help you decide if you are an all-in-one go person or not, and then how to proceed.

As an aside, I find that Erin Boyle’s book Simple Matters is great for the step by step, over time approach to decluttering. She also has a child so understands the challenges of having gifts and new things constantly coming into your home. You can find her book here. Another great book for families is Joshua Becker’s Clutter Free with Kids, which you can find here.

Feel free to ask any questions in the comments; I’m happy to answer. If you think you’d like to start with decluttering closets and clothing, this post here will really help with that. Another post, here, has tips for involving children in minimalism and decluttering (called “In the News”).

***

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

Interview with a Minimalist: Amanda

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

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

I hope you are inspired by Amanda’s story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interview with a Minimalist My tiny tribe Amanda Gregory

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

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

Interview with a minimalist Amanda Gregory My tiny tribe

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

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

Interview with a minimalist Amanda Gregory My tiny tribe

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

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

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

Interview with a minimalist Amanda Gregory My tiny tribe

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

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

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

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

Interview with a minimalist Amanda Gregory My tiny tribe

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

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

Interview with a minimalist Amanda Gregory My tiny tribe

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interview with a minimalist Amanda Gregory My tiny tribe

In what ways has minimalism improved your life?

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

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

Start somewhere. Anywhere. Start small.

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

Interview with a minimalist Amanda Gregory My tiny tribe

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

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

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

Interview with a minimalist Amanda Gregory My tiny tribe

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

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

***

If you liked this post please consider sharing it or subscribing to my blog, your support helps me continue to write and share.

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

Swan by Kellie Diguanco Interview with a Minimalist

Interview with a Minimalist: Kellie

Kellie Diguanco artist Interview with a Minimalist Vancouver

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

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

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

Interview with a Minimalist

Let’s start with a little bit about you. Who are you? What are you passionate about? How do you like to spend your time?

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

You are an artist, what inspires your work?

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

Interview with a Minimalist Nature Collection

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

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

Interview with a Minimalist Children Playing Outdoors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interview with a Minimalist Children Playing Outdoors by Kellie Diguanco

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

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

Interview with a Minimalist Children Playing Outdoors by Kellie Diguanco

Are there people you look to as minimalist role models?

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

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

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

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

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

Frida Kahlo by Kellie Diguanco

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interview with a Minimalist Kellie Diguanco 4 boys

In what ways has minimalism improved your life?

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

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

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

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

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

Interview with a Minimalist Kellie Diguanco

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

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

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

***

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