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!

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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: Celia of Litterless Blog

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

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

Litterless zero waste celia

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

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

What part of the world do you live in?

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

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

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

Litterless Zero waste minimalist bedroom

Your lifestyle is, in part, focused on waste, that is, not creating any. Can you tell me more about your journey to a zero waste lifestyle? How did you get started minimizing waste? And how far have you come?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Litterless zero waste wool dryer balls

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

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

Litterless zero waste wrapping furoshiki

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

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You might also like my post:

Garbage Free: How to Make Your Own Delicious Cashew Milk

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

How to Get Started with Minimalism: Assess your Personality

Talking about Minimalism and Sustainability with Robin Kay

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

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

The Stop and Start of Minimalism

image

Stop spending.  Start saving.
Stop filling.  Start emptying.
Stop holding.  Start giving.
Stop consuming.  Start conserving.
Stop buying.  Start living…

[ Words by Amanda Rose Gregory -> Read the interview with her here

 

You might also like my post:

Social Media Minimalism

Interview with a Minimalist: Claudia

Ecominimalism: Talking with Robin Kay

How to Get Started with Minimalism

Want to 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

Magnolias by Robin Kay Twentyventi

Ecominimalism & an Interview with a Minimalist: Robin

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

Magnolias by Robin Kay Twentyventi

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

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

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

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

Robin Kay Twentyventi Interview with a Minimalist with Daughter Ramona Jean

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

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

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

Robin Kay Twentyventi Interview with a Minimalist with Daughter Ramona Jean

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

Robin Kay Twentyventi Interview with a Minimalist with Daughter Ramona Jean

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

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

Robin Kay Twentyventi Interview with a Minimalist with Daughter Ramona Jean

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

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Robin Kay Twentyventi Interview with a Minimalist with Daughter Ramona Jean

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

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

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

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

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

Robin Kay Twentyventi Interview with a Minimalist with Daughter Ramona Jean

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

Robin Kay Twentyventi Interview with a Minimalist with Daughter Ramona Jean

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(And even better if it’s both!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In what ways has minimalism improved your life?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Minimalism Twentyventi

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

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

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

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You might also like my post:

How to Get Started with Minimalism

13 Ways to Simplify Your Wardrobe

The Slow Living Project

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13 Ways to Simplify Your Wardrobe

One of the easiest places to start downsizing your stuff is with non-sentimental, everyday items like clothing. We are usually quite familiar with our favourite items and know which ones we haven’t worn in ages. Having less clothing has so many advantages, such as simplifying decisions when getting dressed, cutting down on laundry and saving money. But how do you choose what to keep?

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If you’re familiar with the KonMari method, Marie Kondo suggests you keep only the things that “spark joy.” While I think this is a useful lens through which to edit your home, it really doesn’t work well for me as the only lens for making decisions. If I used this method to decide what clothing to keep I’d be left with 5 items: 2 dresses from Ace & Jig, a dress from Nico Nico, and a skirt and dress from Thief & Bandit (these are organic, small scale, north american made clothing lines). I don’t really like anything else that I own, in fact I feel guilt since the rest of it comes from big box stores, because that’s where I can afford to shop. I haven’t bothered counting the number of items in my wardrobe, there aren’t many. I know that I have one pair of jeans and one pair of shoes for each season. The rest isn’t much, but it’s definitely enough.

Putting the “sparks joy” method aside I have a few other techniques that can help you minimize your wardrobe and keep it that way:

1) Empty your closet and dresser completely: When you do this you will likely be overwhelmed by the volume and will be highly motivated to reduce your stock of clothing. This is a good technique if you have a lot of clothing, making a big mess of it you’ll surely want to part with a lot of it when you see the massive pile.

2) Follow the “plus 1” rule: You only need enough of a daily item, like socks, to go one week plus an extra day. Otherwise you will keep going through your 42 pairs of underwear and 37 pairs of socks until there are none left and then do the laundry (and spend way too much time trying to match up pairs of socks). You need 8 pairs at most. Sure, you might have special underwear and seasonal socks, but for those that are for daily use, limit yourself to 8.

3) Hang as much of your clothing as possible: Having clothes stare you in the face is a good way to remember what you have, and realize what you don’t wear, because it isn’t at the bottom of a pile feeling under appreciated. I don’t own a dresser or clothing rack. All my clothing is hung in my single closet, my socks and underwear hang from a basket in the closet too. Limiting yourself to just closet space forces you to minimize your clothing and frees up floor space in your room (bonus!). I have done the same with the children’s clothing, no dressers, just closets.

4) At the start of each season reverse your hangers: (Reverse: meaning to hang the hanger with the opening of the hook facing out of the closet, as opposed to the conventional manner of hanging of the hook opening toward the back of the closet). At the end of the season all the hangers that are still hanging backwards have items on them that you do not need. If it can be worn in the current season and you didn’t wear it, then donate it to someone who will.

5) Eliminate back-ups: Just because you have 6 white t-shirts and 8 blacks ones doesn’t mean you should. ‘Basic’ is not a blanket exception for keeping a stash of clothing. Unless a t-shirt and jeans is your daily uniform, get rid of those extra shirts. At most you need two of each. Adopt a similar approach for other notorious back up items in your wardrobe, like extra cardigans and jeans. By the time you NEED to wear them, you will have a new back up. Get rid of them now! (But don’t throw them in the garbage, donate them, someone out there does need them.)

6) Keep only items that you love to wear or wear every week: You don’t need occasional items, they are just making it easier for moths to move into your cozy over-stuffed closet. You might not love all your clothing, like office wear, but if it’s in regular rotation and making it into the laundry most weeks then you should keep it. If not, donate it!

7) Keep things that suit your lifestyle: If you don’t wear a suit to work, you probably don’t need it. Think about how much time you spend doing things and what clothing you need. Do you need 12 pairs of yoga pants, when the last time you went to yoga was 3 months ago? Even if it was last week, you probably need 2 or 3 pairs. The more pairs you have the bigger your pile of laundry gets…

8) Keep clothing that is versatile: The more places you can wear something, the smaller your wardrobe can be. That means less time picking your outfit, cleaning, folding, ironing, and hanging clothing. More time to enjoy life!

9) Don’t focus on how much something cost: If you aren’t wearing it, it’s not adding any value to your life. Let someone else enjoy it. Donate it or find a consignment shop to sell it through.

10) Keep things that fit: Don’t save something because it will fit you when you lose or gain weight. When you reach your goal weight you will probably be excited and buy yourself something new.

11) Keep things that are your current style: We all have things in our closets that are cool, stylish, or insert another adjective: trendy, artsy, dressy, but that aren’t really our own personal style, they may be an aspirational style, but they aren’t our style. Admit to this, and then donate those items.

12) Let go of nostalgia: Take a photo of items you are saving for memory’s sake, you don’t need the actual item to re-live the memory. (Think high school sports jerseys, bridesmaid dresses, etc).

13) One in, one out: When you get something new, get rid of something old. This will keep things in check, and will make you hesitate with spontaneous purchases, because you know you will have to give something up when you get home.

There are many easy ways to get rid of your unwanted clothing without the need to put it in the garbage. I find the easiest way is posting to Kijiji, a free online classifieds service. I post ads offering “free bag of women’s size small clothing” “free bag of infant linens” “free miscellaneous kitchen items”. You can also drop bags off at local charity bins, shelters, churches and municipal offices (usually). If your clothing is still in good shape and you’d like to earn some money you can search online for local consignment shops.

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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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