Minimalism and Slow Living: Slow, Minimal Family in a Fast, Big City

Global Guardian Project Hippie in Disguise Homeschool Slow Living Gardner and the Gang

Tomorrow the Global Guardian Project‘s Rwanda learning capsule will be released. As a little sneak preview, my interview that is included in the capsule (along with articles and information about Rwanda’s wildlife, local recipes, meditation, art projects, inspirational people and lots more) has been posted to the GGP blog.

In the interview, I talk about how our family brings our values related to minimalism and slow living into our everyday way of life and how these are motivated by our commitment to live in a sustainable manner. I talk about the importance of time in nature, unstructured days, our car-free lifestyle and lots more.

I hope you’ll find it interesting!

I would love to know what you think, so please come back and share your views in the comments below.

  • You can link to the interview here.

If you aren’t already a monthly subscriber to the Global Guardian Project, please consider signing up. For $14.99 a month you get a monthly digital capsule full of learning, art and adventure activities suitable for children of all ages, but especially ages 4-13. The capsules include facts, information and vocabulary related to wildlife and sustainability. They also include recipes (including video tutorials), meditations (including audio recordings to guide you), inspiring videos made by children around the world doing great things to support the health of the planet, digital downloads, art projects and more. Each capsule focuses on a different country. Upcoming countries include Rwanda, India, Canada, Sri Lanka, Thailand and many more!

You can read my post about the Global Guardian Project here. Visit their online shop to subscribe here.

  • BONUS: All subscribers are mailed a beautiful world map to use interactively with the capsules or just to decorate your wall with.

Discount code: Please use ‘HIPPIEINDISGUISE‘ at checkout to get 10% off your subscription.

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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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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

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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

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.

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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

Interview with a Minimalist: Alison Little

Alison LIttle Interview with a Minimalist Our LIttle House

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

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

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

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

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

Alison LIttle Interview with a Minimalist Our LIttle House

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

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

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

What part of the world do you live in? 

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

Alison LIttle Interview with a Minimalist Our LIttle House

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

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

Alison LIttle Interview with a Minimalist Our LIttle House

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

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

Alison LIttle Interview with a Minimalist Our LIttle House

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

What does minimalism mean to you? 

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

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

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

What are some books and resources you could recommend?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have there been struggles with the people you live with?

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

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

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

What advice can you offer to people interested in minimalism?

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

Do you have any goals you want to share? 

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

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

Find all the other interviews in this series here.

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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:

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

Interview with a Minimalist: Julie

Simply do without.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In what ways has minimalism improved your life?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You might also like my post:

The Slow Living Project

Inhaling the Season, Inhaling the Moment

13 Ways to Simplify your Wardrobe

How to Make Delicious Cashew Milk: Garbage Free

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

Interview with a Minimalist: Andrea

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

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

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

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

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

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What part of the world do you live in?

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

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

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

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What are you passionate about?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Interview with a Minimalist: Anna

A few months ago I came across a lovely new Instagram account @our_simplestory sharing the life of a minimalist family (formerly @minimalist_mindset). I was especially excited because the word ‘minimalist’ was used. Most families and people I come across who take an approach of ‘less is more’ to their life resist using the word. I suppose it may be resistance to trendy words, feelings that one isn’t minimalist enough, or just a general malaise with labels. That’s all fine. But part of my goal with these interviews is to explore all the different ways one can live through a minimal lens, just like there’s more than one way to be a woman, a mother, a teacher, a writer, there are many ways to be minimalist. In so many ways less is more.

Anna is a minimalist, design enthusiast, and homeschooling mother of three, and the woman behind @our_simplestory. I’m excited to share her perspective on and story of finding her passion for minimalism. I hope you enjoy the read, let me know what inspired you.

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

I’m 32 and married to my college sweetheart. After finishing my degree in journalism and working in the field four years, our first daughter was born. That’s when my days at home raising our kids began. Today we have three young daughters. Our typical day consists of homeschooling, reading good books, going on nature walks, and creating. As a family we enjoy simple adventures. Camping at the lake and strolling the farmers market are among our favorites. 
img_3019What part of the world do you live in?

The Midwest [USA].

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

I have three amazing little girls. I can’t even begin to explain how different they are from one another, which makes it all the more fun. My oldest is an affectionate extrovert, my middle is an artsy introvert, and my youngest has a bit of everything going on. Being with them every day has been a blessing, and one I take for granted far too often.

img_3024I believe there are many ways to be a minimalist and many forms of minimalism. What does minimalism mean to you?

For me, minimalism is about having less. As a family of five in a small home with a tight budget, we have to be mindful with all of our purchases and what we bring into our home. We have discovered how much happier we are with less things. So, what is your story, how did you start on a path toward a minimalist lifestyle?

I have a very strong interest in design, particularly interior design and architecture. Clean lines and clutter free spaces have always drawn me in. We bought our first home five years ago, and have been designing and renovating since the day we moved in. Because our home is small, we chose to keep it open, airy, minimal, and bright. We have a lot of negative space to keep it from looking overly crowded. For example, our tiny eat-in kitchen (which also serves as our classroom) doesn’t have any upper cabinets or storage. We only have a small pantry, six drawers and a couple of base cabinets. People are surprised when they see our lack of storage, but it suits our needs so well. Living in a small space doesn’t mean you have to create more storage. It really forces you to think about what you bring in and what you hold on to.

img_3021 So, after integrating minimalist design into our home, I began to analyze each and every little thing we had, and if it was necessary or not. That is the when I realized my passion for a minimalist lifestyle.

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

On the design side of things, Remodelista, Kinfolk, and Dwell are my go to sources. When it comes to minimizing possessions and wardrobe, The Minimalists and Un-Fancy have great ideas. 
img_3027In what ways/areas do you struggle with keeping things minimal? What is your weakness?

Clothing and shoes have always been my weakness. However, I’ve recently downsized by creating a capsule wardrobe for each season. I currently have less than 40 items in my closet. I highly recommend this to everyone. You are faced with fewer decisions every time you get dressed, you only wear pieces that you love, and you put your money into high quality clothing that will last. Have there been any struggles with the other people you live with about living in a minimal way?

Not really. My husband is a furniture and fixtures designer, so he’s all about minimalist design. I think that helps him understand the value of minimalist living. My kids have been great with it too. We are constantly purging their things. I try to keep their selection simple and thoughtful, keeping only what draws out their imaginations, talents, and interests. For the most part, they are involved in decisions on what stays and what goes. They understand that they don’t need a lot to be happy or to keep busy. img_3023What have been some unexpected experiences (positive or negative) you’ve had with minimalism?

When you’re a minimalist, you don’t leisure shop as much. Instead of spending time and money shopping for new things, you have more time to spend with your family, and of course it’s easier on the budget. I’d say that’s a definite positive!

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

You have to start small. Don’t feel pressured to give away everything you have. Just keep what you absolutely need. Start in one area of your home. The kitchen is always a good place to begin. Stuff can accumulate like crazy in all those drawers and cabinets!

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

My husband and I have been dreaming about buying land somewhere in the country and building our forever, small space home. Lord willing, that day will come. In the meantime, we’ll keep looking for inspiration.

Thank you Anna! Readers you can find Anna on Instagram @our_simplestory

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I get asked a lot about slow living and minimalism and how I bring these to life in our family. Well, first I should probably tell you that most of my week is anything but slow. I work full time outside the home in a very hectic job. I work in politics in Canada and not only are the days hustled, they are highly unpredictable, chock full of emotional people and high stakes situations. I’m a naturally calm person, people often describe me as “zen,” which is probably why I’ve survived in my job. However, after working in this environment for a few years I started to notice that I carried that hustled, stressed energy home with me. I would furiously clean and tidy all evening, I would speedily move from one task to another, and multi-tasking was the only way I did anything. On the weekends I would hustle around doing errands, taking Ro and Sen to a list of activities and catching up on my social calendar. I couldn’t seem to find a slo-mo setting… Read the rest of the post over on Ruth & Ragnar.

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