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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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

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

You might also like:

Confessions of a Minimalist

The Mathematics of Love

Interview with a Minimalist: Katrien

Top post: Any Occasion, Sustainable Gift Guide for Children 

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The Mathematics of Love: My Love More Story

Sen and Ro Chassin by Natasha Moine

Around this time last year I was asked to contribute to a collection that would be titled “The Love More Stories.” I don’t often write about myself or share personal stories because I tend to shy from the sort of attention this could bring. However, over the last year I’ve had a nagging feeling that I should share this story more broadly. The story captures a number of key themes in my life and the tension between them. The desire to have a large family and the desire to be responsible in our family’s use of the earth’s resources. The pull between personal interest and the greater good.

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Growing up I always knew I wanted children. In fact, I knew I wanted a big family. Seeing my mother skilfully raise the three of us, knowing she always wanted a fourth, I thought to myself that four was the perfect number, at least as a minimum. And so, my heart was set on having four children. As I later learned, these were certainly the idealistic musings of a young person who hadn’t put thought into what their life partner might want and who didn’t consider the environmental impacts of raising children in the first world.

Today, I am a mother to two children. First, there’s my kind-hearted daughter, Ro. She’s the creative type, always dancing, singing or drawing, and usually doing more than one of these at once. Ro is highly intuitive, deeply loving, naturally funny and the definition of a social butterfly. Then, there’s Sen, my wild little boy. He is head strong, while also being a very sweet and calm child. He loves climbing, dancing, and pretending to be a ninja. Together these two are the best of friends and siblings. Most days I dream of having their level of connection with another human, their love for each other is so fierce and all-consuming, it has taught me so much about the powers of love.

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I am always a mother first, but I am also a wife and friend, and I work full time outside of the home. I work professionally to provide for my family, but my passions lie in the arts, in writing, in photography, in adventure, and, of course, in nurturing my children. My aim is to develop deep and genuine kindness in my children, not only toward their family and friends, but toward all humans and toward all life on earth. This is why we spend most of our free time outdoors connecting with each other and with the abundance of animal and plant life around us, cultivating a love and reverence for the earth.

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And then, there’s Matt, my husband and partner in life, a highly rational and deeply principled person. These two things I love most about him, but they also make life with him hard. There’s no being flaky about your values around Matt, principles should be lived by. Fun or not. Easy or not.

We knew soon after we met that we were a perfect match; we didn’t share any hobbies, but we agreed on the big stuff, like politics and ethics. We married a few years later. We both wanted to have children while we were young, at least by today’s standards, and so soon after we  married we had our first, Ro. It was like a cliche seeing my child for the first time and having so much intense love instantly, and over the first year seeing my love for Matt grow and mature seeing him become a parent, and seeing his love for his daughter. When Ro was nearing one year, I felt ready and excited for a second child. I talked to Matt about having our second, we were both in graduate school at the time, and so the timing of the birth was not inconsequential.

And so, I started the conversation on a very practical point: timing. Since the question of having a second child or not, was already answered in my mind, and presumably in Matt’s too. Now, Matt is someone whose heart strings are perfectly aligned with what he believes, with his principles and ethics, and so he replied with “We shouldn’t have a second, it is not responsible, it is not right to take more resources from the earth to satisfy our own cravings to have children. One child is the right number.” Now, as you can imagine, I didn’t accept this without presenting a few counter-points, strongest among these was that “surely, the world needs more children like the ones we will raise, they will be role models in caring for the earth.” But, to be honest, I knew in my heart that this was pretty presumptuous of me and motivated by self-interest. In this instance, loving meant not only loving our kin, not only loving humans, but loving all life. If I were to truly act lovingly toward all life, toward the earth, then I wouldn’t have a second child. So, I accepted, very reluctantly, that Matt was right.

Danielle Chassin Hippie in Disguise

But my heart still wanted that big family, so I began to talk about adoption, which I thought Matt would agree to since it wouldn’t bring new people into the world. And this is when I got an answer I never ever expected. “Danielle, I love Ro so much it hurts. I love her so much there is just no way that I could ever love another child this much. I would never forgive myself for having a second child in the family that I didn’t love as much. That child would know, they would feel the lack of love. And if by some crazy stroke of fate I did love that second child as much as I love Ro, then I would certainly have to rob Ro of some of my love.” I could see the calculus of love floating in thought bubbles above his head. Like any resource, there is a finite amount. In a family you only have so much time to share among its members, there’s only so much food in the fridge and bedrooms in your home. Who was I to say, naively, that there would be enough love to go around? When I thought about the woman living in the apartment below us, who had 19 children, I thought Matt’s right, there is no way she loves any one of those children as much as we love our one child. This was without any poor judgment of her, it was pure math, pure logic. And so, once again, I conceded to Matt’s view. It would be one child for us. Logically, I knew he was right, but I’d be lying if I said my heart was happy about it.

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And so, for the next four years we carried on pouring all our love and energy and resources into our one child. Then one day, as I carried Ro on my hip to go downstairs for breakfast, the same as I did every morning, she excitedly said something very peculiar. “Mama, you have a baby in your tummy!” To which I replied “Oh no, sweetie, there’s no baby.” And she replied with complete confidence, “Yes, there is. I know it. You smell like mummy milk, you smell like you did when I was a baby.” What a quirky thing to say, I thought to myself, and with that we prepared breakfast and carried on with the day.

A week later, having forgotten my conversation with Ro,  I started to experience symptoms of pregnancy. I ignored them for a few days, and then decided to take a test just to rule out my worries. Worries because I believed in Matt’s reasons not to have a second child.  I was in complete and total shock when the test came back positive. And then like a tidal wave, Ro’s intuition washed over me. She had known. The sensitivities and keen perceptions of a small child are truly astounding.

Now, for us, while we had agreed one was a responsible number of children for us to have, there was never an option to not carry a pregnancy through. We respect all life and couldn’t end a life prematurely, and so eight months later we welcomed our son, Sen, at almost 10 months gestation, into our family, born at home into his papa’s arms.

Matt Surch and Ro Chassin by Natasha Moine

Living life, living in a family, there are many lessons in love. We learn that there are all sorts of love: love for a child, love for a partner, love for a friend. We learn that love evolves and matures. One of the great lessons in love we learned from our second child is that love is not a finite resource, as we had naively thought. When we saw our son for the first time, we had that same overwhelming feeling of love, of the biggest, most intense love, the same feeling we had had with Ro, and that we still had for Ro. There was no diminishment in our love for Ro or for each other, and yet we had as much love for Sen. In fact, our love grew. Seeing Ro love her brother instantly, our love grew for her. Seeing Matt hold his son, my love grew for him. Even though everyday I think that I can’t possibly love my children more than I do, I somehow love them more than I did the day before. Of all the lessons in love, the one I think of most is that love obeys no rules of math or logic. Love does not diminish when it is shared, rather it grows. You can always love more. Love is infinite.

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You can find the full Love More Stories collection for purchase here

You can also read an interview with Amanda who started the Love More Shop, where she talks about her motivation for starting a shop focused on loving more and how she gives back to the community.

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minimalist tea hippie in disguise

Interview with a Minimalist: Katrien

Continuing on in my Buy Nothing Day programming, I have a second interview with a minimalist, Katrien.

Check out my first post of the day to read a bit more about Buy Nothing Day — a day of protest against consumerism.

Minimalism isn’t just or only about having and buying less stuff, as I’ve tried to explore through this series of interviews. It is more about applying the notion of ‘less is more’ to one’s life, or aspects of it.

Katrien Growing Wild Things Interview with a Minimalist

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Katrien is a Waldorf-inspired homeschooling mother to twin toddlers, she’s passionate for all things natural and handmade. She’s Belgian by birth, a traveler by nature, and living in Italy for the sake of love. I only recently started following Katrien on Instagram, probably at some point last summer or spring. I was drawn to her images of her gorgeous mountain top life and the beautiful simplicity of it. When she mentioned her interest in minimalism to me one day, I jumped at the chance to interview her for the blog. And I am so glad I did. Katrien shares insightful and inspiring stories and ideas that will interest parents raising young children, but also professionals looking for more meaning in their life and adults pining for a simpler existence.

Katrien, let’s start with you. Who are you? What’s your background?

Before I met my husband I was working my dream job as a freelance writer and researcher for a Belgium Museum. I was a workaholic (with secret dreams of finding a house on a quiet hill somewhere). I loved the high of being at the very end (or very beginning) of a project. That rush of work. The late hours, and sleepless nights, the apotheoses of a grand opening… And in between these exhausting projects I usually threw some stuff into my backpack and traveled the world to find a place where I could rest and heal the damage I had previously done to my health and my spirit… But then I met this boy from Italy. He was a traveler just like me, and when we met he was taking a break from being on the road, and working on his parents organic farm. They had sheep and horses, and made their own beer, and suddenly that secret dreams of a house on a hill came flooding into my daily life. One year later I started working part-time, and two years later I resigned from my job to move to Italy. It was about then that I realized that it is possible to have a meaningful life without the roller coaster of highs and lows. And so I chose to live with less. Less work, a lower income, but more time for life itself.

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

We have two three year old identical twin boys. They were born two minutes apart, and although they are very similar in some respects, they are complete opposites in others, complementing each other perfectly. E. (who is the older twin) is a real ‘Big Brother’. Strong, independent, extrovert. He loves to help and get his hands dirty… His ‘younger brother’ A. is more sensitive, more of a thinker, a dreamer. (I often feel like his feet never really touch the ground.) He takes his time to get to know people before opening up to them, but makes really deep connections when he does. But no matter how many differences there might be between them, they have the strongest, most amazing bond I’ve ever seen between two persons. Being an actual, physical, part of each other, much of what goes on between the two of them can remain unsaid. They simply understand. Sure, they also know exactly how to get to each other as well, and we do get quite a bit of fighting at times, but in the end they always seek out each other’s company.

Katrien Growing Wild Things Interview with a Minimalist Nieva knitwear

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

Our children come to us with a deep destiny that needs to be honored…A little grace is needed…for them to develop into the people they’re meant to be, especially in a world that is constantly bombarding them (and us) with the distractions of so many things, so much information, speed and urgency. These stresses distract from the focus or ‘task’ of childhood: an emerging, developing sense of self.” (Simplicity Parenting, Kim John Payne)

We live in a society that wants us to ‘need’, to desire, to crave. Marketing strategies speak to us of more, and more and more. But reading this book we realized that our children were craving the exact opposite. They needed less. And as we started making some changes in our parenting style, we discovered the same was true for us.

Katrien Growing Wild Things Interview with a Minimalist Twins

You say you’ve only just begun to pursue minimalism, what is your story?

Five years after moving to Italy, my dream of living in a house on a hill came true. A friend told us about this amazing house that was going on sale, and even before I had seen it, I just knew this was the one. A traditional stone house, perched on a hill, and surrounded by nothing but miles and miles of forest. The price was exactly what we could afford, and it looked like she didn’t need much work, and so we made the jump and started packing to move to a different region, and a whole new life.

But as I started filling box after box, I felt I wanted to go with nothing. Leave it all behind, and start afresh with only the things that could fit into the car. Me, Francesco, the boys, and some of our most precious things. But of course we didn’t. Instead we packed up as much as we could fit into a rental van and stored everything in a room we were told was ”nice and dry”.

Katrien Growing Wild Things Interview with a Minimalist

As soon as the worst of winter was over, Francesco started working on the house. We started off with the renovation of an old, partly ruined barn that was to become our kitchen and living area, and then the rest was going to need a mere ‘freshening up’. Much to our horror though, we soon discovered there was a lot more to do than we had anticipated. We ended up having to change most of the roofs of the house we had just bought. This came as a huge shock. Especially since that meant that the budget we had calculated to rebuild the house, and to live off for a year, was now insufficient. And so we needed to adapt. In the end we could only prepare a small portion of the house for us to live in, and even there, much work remains to be done. But we didn’t give up, and were happy when we were finally (sort of) ready to move in. It was then that we noticed that most of the things we had stored, had been damaged by water leakage. Books, furniture, clothes… Gone. Ruined. And no money to replace them. But to my surprise I wasn’t sad or angry about losing so many of the things I previously thought indispensable or precious. Instead I was relieved. A weight had been lifted. We owned less. And it felt great. And so the desire grew to get rid of more Things. Things that hàd survived the winter, but that somehow didn’t feel like they had a place in our lives anymore.

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?

Being fuelled by the fact that we live of a very tight budget, minimalism first of all means spending less money. We only buy the strictly necessary, and try to make, produce or grow as much as we can ourselves. We grow our own organic vegetables and potatoes in the garden, as well as most of the herbs and spices we use in the kitchen and for herbal remedies, and soap. Furthermore I spend every quiet moment I can get knitting or sewing clothes for me and the boys. That way being minimalists saves us money. But that’s not all. To us minimalism also means making ethically sound choices about the things we do need to buy. Spending less is one part, but we also feel very passionately about the environment, and about not harming others through the choices we make, and so whenever we do need to buy something, we prefer to buy organically produced, ethically made or second-hand. And lastly minimalism has brought us to be (very) selective about how we spend our time. We put family time before anything. Even if that means turning down social or professional engagements. We all need to work, and we can really use the money, but we do not want to take jobs that somehow compromise the way we have chosen to live our life as a family, or go out on social occasions for the sake of going out.

Katrien Growing Wild Things Interview with a Minimalist potatoes

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

I haven’t read any books, or visited many websites about minimalism, but the book Simplicity Parenting has had a big impact on our parenting style, and on our lives in general. Kim John Payne advocates a (Waldorf inspired) form of minimalism when it comes to the toys, activities and information we expose our children to. He suggests we strip their lives of the ‘unnecessary’ to allow them to come to themselves to realize their full potential, their destiny, their spirit.

We haven’t got a TV in the house, and live a very quiet and simple life, so cutting down on activities and information wasn’t much of an issue. (Except for that part about not talking about adult stuff in front of your children…) But where toys were concerned, we both felt there was room for improvement. Our boys never had much toys, but since we took out some of the toys we felt did not stimulate them to engage in meaningful and creative play, we’ve seen a change in ways we didn’t expect. Long stretches of uninterrupted independent play have now become quite common, and we noticed that they tend to pull out much less toys (only to dump them two minutes later) than they used to do. Toys that are being taken out are now actually played with. And so things started to shift… we started talking about what a similar change could do for us; as parents, as a couple, and as individuals. And suddenly this idea that it actually feels really nice to live with less had a name. It was called minimalism, and we firmly believed there were very good reasons for pursuing it, and to take it a step further than we had so far.

Katrien Growing Wild Things Interview with a Minimalist twin boys

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

Yarn. I know this might seem silly, but I love beautiful yarn, and if my budget would allow for it, I would probably buy insane amounts of it. Natural, hand spun, plant dyed… No chocolate or clothes, bags or shoes could measure up to that. But unfortunately there’s only so many hours in a day, and so I struggle to use up all the yarn I buy. Hence I tend to ‘stock’ it for later projects, but then of course, meanwhile, more beautiful yarn comes my way… Time to start emptying my knitting chest before buying any more I’d say.

Katrien Growing Wild Things Interview with a Minimalist

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

Not really. We expected it was going to be hard to eliminate some of the toys we had traveling around the house, but in the end it wasn’t. We started out by talking to the boys about ‘getting rid’ of all the things that were broken. After that, we took away some of the plastic toys we didn’t really like to begin with, and as a last step we reduced the amount of books they had in their room by putting together a seasonally inspired bookcase, and storing all the remaining books for later. In the end we were really surprised to find that our boys initially didn’t even notice some things had disappeared, and when they did, they were ok with the fact that we gave them away to charity, because we had enough anyway…

In what ways has minimalism improved your life?

This last year and a half things haven’t always been very easy. Going from having enough money to do whatever you want, whenever you want, to having none at all can be terribly daunting. And yet the most difficult times weren’t the ones when we struggled to buy the things we needed. The most difficult ones were the moments where I wànted something. Just for the sake of having it. A dress. A pair of girly shoes. A pizza night out. Something to give to the boys as a present… To not be able to hàve those things made me feel ‘poor’, and frustrated. But now I find those moments just don’t happen so very often anymore. I guess I’m just happy with what I do have now… even if paradoxically, that is much less than at those times when I felt I needed more. Sure, sometimes I do see a nice dress, or that Perfect Bag that would match every single thing in my closet, but then I remind myself I don’t really need it. (Especially when it comes to ‘fast fashion’ items.) And for some reason that feels great. To be able to say no. To have only what I need. To not spend ages in front of my wardrobe, trying to decide what might possibly look nice on me. (And to know that I won’t be bringing that dress or that Perfect Bag to the charity bin next time I feel like the contents of my closet are coming at me like an avalanche of resentment and guilt.)

Katrien Growing Wild Things Interview with a Minimalist twin boys

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

When I started getting rid of things I felt were just ‘too much’, it was all about making space in rooms and cupboards. I strived to create a visually pleasant and calming living environment. I wanted to have a minimal home. But as we’ve come further in this journey, I have been amazed to see that minimalism has brought us so much more than that. I guess somewhere down the line the meaning of this transformation we are currently undergoing shifted from ‘having’ to ‘being’… it wasn’t so much about things anymore. It was about us. About who we could be. And how we could live.

Katrien Growing Wild Things Interview with a Minimalist

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

Start small. And start with things that you feel you aren’t going to miss. You don’t have to start by throwing away your baby’s first pair of shoes. (In fact, maybe that is one of the few things you might want to keep.) But as you start reflecting about all the things you surround yourself with, I’m sure you’ll find that a lot of things aren’t quite that important to you. Or better even. That you might be better off without some of them. Every object you own has a life, a story, a message. And not all of them are nice messages, so why not get rid of those things first? They are an easy place to start. Think of that ugly thing you got as a gift (but can barely stand to look at), those clothes you bought because someone told you you looked fabulous in them, but that always get taken off just before you leave the house. And then think of keepsakes that somehow remind you of painful experiences. (Yes… those letters from your ex-boyfriend for example (my case), or souvenirs from a holiday that was actually the Worst. Ever.) And then take a break. Just see how it feels.You’ll know what to do next.

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

Oh yes! Next year, we’re clearing out the basement and the store room. The basement is still full of things that belonged to the previous owner. Things like old windows and half rotten furniture, so that can go. Furthermore we have decided that everything that hasn’t been taken out of the boxes in the store room since we have moved into the house can either go to charity, or will be thrown away. If we haven’t ‘needed’ it the last 18 months, I guess we won’t really need it in the future either.

Katrien Growing Wild Things Interview with a Minimalist

Thank you, Katrien, for such a lucid interview, so much to think about! Readers you can find Katrien on Instagram @growingwildthings

Check out these other great interviews in this series:

Interview with a Minimalist: Kellie (artist, children’s book lover and mother of 4 boys living in a small space)

Interview with a Minimalist: The Devine Family (off the grid family with 4 children living in a tree house down under, completely garbage free)

Interview with a Minimalist: Amanda (mother of 2 girls with a third on the way, minimalism in the home to unleash her children’s creativity)

Interview with a Minimalist: Carina (artist living in the small space capital of Canada with her 2 children and partner, maximizing life through the great outdoors)

Interview with a Minimalist: Alison (mother of one, the small space living queen of Canada)

Interview with a Minimalist: Brian of Less Means More (travelling around the US with his partner and unschooling their boy)

Interview with a Minimalist: Kylah (organic farmer and vegan chef raising 2 girls off the grid with her partner)

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

Have you subscribed to the Global Guardian Project yet? They 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

Inspiring Mother Jo

Today I’m excited to share an interview with Jo, who writes the most delicious recipes over on her blog Nurturing Kitchen. I very rarely share recipes or post food photos here or on my Instagram account, not because I don’t love to prepare meals, but because my food photos are terrible (I blame my iPhone and the dingy yellow lighting in our home and not my lack of skill…ahem).

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Our food choices and what we eat are important. They speak to our values in terms of health, tradition and the environment. I have wanted to give food a bigger place on this blog, but my photography has been holding me back. However, in the interest of sharing healthy, plant-based recipes, I decided to approach Jo about contributing a recipe, since her food is delicious, healthy and beautiful. As we got to chatting over email, Jo shared bits and pieces of her parenting and her way of life and I loved everything I heard, I knew that I wanted to share more than just a recipe from this lovely inspiring mother, so I asked her a few more questions and pulled together this interview. I hope you’ll enjoy hearing from Jo and her approach to nurturing her girls through nature and wholesome food.

As a side note: If anyone is interested in contributing a recipe to the blog, I would be happy to hear from you, please send me an email. My only stipulation is that the recipe is vegan and that you have one photo (or more) to go with it. And all the credit goes to you! Email me at hippieindisguise1@gmail.com

What part of the world do you live in?

We live in the south-east of England, on the outskirts of the lovely city of Norwich in our little patch of Eden surrounded by woods and meadows. We are just a short drive away from the city, but it feels like we are tucked away in the countryside where our home lies. I’m proud to say I have lived in this sleepy village my whole life, having travelled a lot I always enjoy coming ‘home’ to this place of ours.

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

I have two girls, Fern who is 2 and a half and Cerys who is 3 months. Fern is a nurturer through and through. She is always caring for things, from her ‘babies’ to bugs, flowers and nature treasures. She naturally holds, kisses and touches every living thing with such care and love. She likes to cook with me and loves her food! She’s always pretending to make something. ‘Pancakes mama?’ ‘Would you like tea?’. She loves being outdoors and getting her hands dirty too, always helping me in the garden and caring for her own patch of earth. Recently she has gotten more and more into drawing and painting. She is always creating and caring with her hands. She adores her little sister who is the most easy-going baby I’ve ever known. It is as if she has always been here with us, and she accepts all of the craziness of our busy household with the most charming of smiles.

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What are your core family values?

Giving gratitude is something I practice daily and it has helped me through some darker times in my life. Ending each day with an appreciation for the seemingly insignificant things which have brightened our day brings me an inner peace which I like to share with others and is a practice I personally value greatly. We value nature-time as our greatest gift and teacher as a family, so showing our appreciation to mother nature is something we do as often as possible, through our daily actions and adventures we take. I would say that our outdoor surroundings define a lot about ourselves, from the way we socialise, the way we get our food and the way we storytell. Having respect for nature is something we show daily through caring for our plants, visiting our neighbouring woods and rivers and giving gratitude to our food, the sun and the rain. Over all things, though, is to love. To do all things with great love and have enough love for yourself that you can spread it out into the world. Self love is something I wish to show my girls, in the hope that they grow up with confidence and acceptance of themselves just as they are.

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How do you spend most of your days?

We wake up naturally as a family. We are lucky in that both myself and my partner work for ourselves and don’t need to rush out of the door in the morning, so breakfast is always leisurely and eaten together. I like to get up early and practice some yoga before the others wake, if possible, then I make breakfast when Fern wakes up so she can help me make smoothies and porridge, or whip up some pancakes. After Geoff heads out to work, we usually head out into our garden to tend to the crops and take our play outside, from painting to den making or caring for our babies. We pick what crops we have ready to harvest to make up our lunch, which usually consists of a pot of cooked grains dressed with lots of fresh herbs and lemon, salad leaves, avocados and either eggs or cooked pulses. After lunch we often head out to see friends or go to our local library and park. After a hearty family supper when daddy is home I often catch up on cake commissions or simply relax with Geoff.  If Geoff is off work, then we will spend the whole day exploring new places, at the beach or the river, picnicking and camping out during the summer. We have just bought an old caravan to make traveling even more accessible to us as a family of four, so are planning lots of UK adventures before the end of this year.

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What is your favourite thing to do as a family?

Explore. And eat. So exploring new places and discovering new foods is our perfect day. Whenever we have the chance we will set off somewhere new, hike on an unbeaten path and lay out a picnic feast.We are drawn to beaches and Geoff loves to surf so we often head out in search of waves and I play with the girls in the sand while their daddy catches the waves. A day spent walking, foraging, picnicking and surfing would be perfect.

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What are you passionate about?

Being a conscious consumer and knowing where our food comes from is something I am so passionate about. We live in a society where we have so much choice yet spend less and less time in the kitchen and connecting with where our food comes from. I am all about shopping locally, eating in season and as much organic as possible, choosing small-scale producers over factory farmed goods when funds allow. To make this more feasible on a tight budget, we passionately grow as much of our food as possible, from fruit trees we’ve planted, cut-and-come-again greens, foraging and sprouting pulses on our windowsill. We also trade a lot of food with like-minded neighbours and it’s amazing how much you can receive for free by growing simple plants! I am passionate about sharing my love for plant-based foods for the planet and for our health with others, as I believe that eating less animal-based foods and more plant-based is the key for healing the planet and our bodies.

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What inspires you?

Cliche I know but nature truly inspires me everyday. It inspires me in the kitchen, in our play and in our daily rituals. As a plant-based foodie, I am always looking to what is abundant in nature around us to inspire our meals, like in the first days of spring when the wild-garlic first appears, I’m taking our morning walks down to the river, taking photos with the girls in the dewy woods and gathering leaves before making pesto and bread and soup when we get home. When we are out on family adventures I’m always on the look out for wild edibles. Cherry trees in summer, seaweeds at the beach, chestnuts in autumn and making rituals to induce warmth and nourishment in winter.

Nature inspires so much of what I do, but my biggest teacher has to be my children, They are my constant reminders to live in the moment, explore, examine everything and believe in magic. Living under the guidance of mother nature and my girls has brought me to the happiest and most content time of my life.

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Thank you, Jo, for sharing a piece of your life. Friends, readers, you can find Jo on Instagram @nurturingkitchen and on her fabulous website www.nurturingkitchen.co.uk  

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Hey Mama: A community for creative mothers

Wouldn’t it be lovely to have a Linked In for creatives (but, maybe one with better aesthetics)? A community of creative mothers who share your interests but also share your experience of balancing motherhood while pursuing a creative career? A space where you can find friends and potential collaborators, but also be discovered yourself? Well, wish no more. Hey Mama, a curated community of creative mothers, where people can discover and be discovered, launched today. Hey Mama’s goal is to help connect incredible women to collaborate, inspire and work together. Doesn’t that sound amazing?! And overdue!

Over the past few months, I’ve had the honour of working with Katya and Amri, the two lovely women behind Hey Mama, helping them in little ways with navigating the world of IG moms and brainstorming ideas for their website. These two have such energy and big ideas it is hard to contain. As much as they wanted to learn from me, I wanted to learn from them. In just a few months of chatting and exchanging ideas we really tested and proved the value of making these creative connections and what they can bring to life.

With their busy schedules and big dreams, and each raising a toddler, Katya and Amri found the time to answer a few questions for me about how they became friends, how Hey Mama got started and what their hopes are for the future. I hope you enjoy reading what they had to say.

First off, how did you two meet?

Amri: We met through our daughters when they were babies. I was working full time and Katya was working from home. A babysitter had left my daughter’s favorite blanket over at Katya’s house on a play date, so I posted a “Desperately looking for Katya” message on the local mom’s board. Luckily Katya spotted the message and invited me over for playdate.  We had a total mama crush moment and that playdate turned into a glass of wine and so many more adventures. We come from totally different social circles and career paths and probably wouldn’t have met otherwise. I’m always really grateful for that blanket.

Katya: What started over bonding over a pair of shared JBrand jeans became our realization that we both were craving a friend that we felt was truly close.  Amri and I definitely hit a period after about a year or two of being friends that we got really close, and ever since Heymama she’s like my work wife. I don’t know what I would do without her!

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Tell me a little bit about yourselves: children, hobbies, background.

Amri: We both have girls the same age 3.5. Mari is my daughter. I’m originally from Florida and nothing makes me happier than a day at the beach or the pool just any kind of water! I’m into all kinds of design. My husband and I are about to start on a gut renovation project of our new home in Brooklyn. I love making things, sewing, crafts, and cooking. We have a pretty great garden and I’m into whipping things up from the garden and having friends over for a feast. This past season I started jarring tomatoes and giving them as gifts. I also love yoga and just being outside with my family.

Katya:  My little wild is Liliana Rae. I’m a single mama and was born in St. Petersburgh, Russia. I came her as a little one with some very courageous and brave parents! They moved to Brooklyn, and the story goes that my mom would go into grocery stores asking for blowjobs (she needed a blow dryer).  Growing up in New York City I was had access to some incredible cultural and fun social experiences.  Thanks to my tiger Russian mama, I studied at School of American Ballet at Julliard, played piano, painted and much to my mom’s dismay went clubbing like a NYC kid does!  Now I love to introduce Lili to as many museums, music, dancing and travel as I can.  I’m just moving to Brooklyn Heights and looking forward to getting back to my Brooklyn roots.

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What sort of work did you do before you had children?

Amri: I spent a decade curating cool fashion and products for major magazines like Glamour and Cosmopolitan. I’m a stylist and a fashion editor.

Katya: I come from a sales, social and digital marketing background.  I’ve worked with some incredible startups helping them grow and scale.

How has having children changed your perspective on life and career?

Amri: Before I had my daughter my life was all work, then drinks and dinners after work every night. Once Mari came along my priorities totally changed. I had this tug in my heart that I needed to get home to her, to be more available, to experience things with her. I now understand it is important to slow down and appreciate what we have right now. Things are just flying by, she gets bigger everyday and I can’t go back and make up things, it’s just right now. Being a mom has taught me patience, which I still struggle with. Before I was all deadlines and rush, but no one rushes a toddler putting on their shoes. Anyone who tries to learns it take twice as long. This has been my most important lesson from Mari to sit back and wait and enjoy it.  I wanted to find work-life balance and a career that catered to my important role as a mama, this is the place where Heymama came from. Unless you have a child, it’s hard to understand the importance of connection to other women who face these same challenges and who struggle to be great parents and have something outside of that too.

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Katya: Having Liliana completely changed the course of my life.  I was in my mid-twenties when I decided to take the plunge to motherhood and was the only one of my friends to do so. It’s one of the reasons meeting Amri meant so much to me. Liliana is my true north. When I’m with her, I feel whole and complete. Like my other leg is there and I’m not sure how I walked without it.  She’s taught me to just let things be, a little messy, not so perfect, enjoy the small moments and most importantly to be silly. She’s a natural comedian and I laugh most with her.  Working full time I feel as though I miss a lot, so I’m looking forward to creating a better work-life balance that allows me to have work I’m really passionate about and be present when my daughter needs me.

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What is Hey Mama all about? And how did you come up with the idea?

Amri: Heymama is a social and professional network for cool and creative mamas. Our goal is to curate a community of inspired and imaginative moms and give them a space to share their worlds, discover new people and opportunities, and collaborate. We’ve found that unlike so many other communities, moms are really supportive and want to lift each other up. There is plenty of room for all of us to be successful we can only benefit from helping others.

Initially Katya and I started this project to connect moms purely for friendship. As we met with so many women to talk about our vision, we found a common thread that everyone we fell in love with had a creative venture, project, career, or brand that they were passionate about. We started wanting to connect all these women and that’s how Heymama started.

Katya: What we’ve found along this road is that the more mamas we meet who have started projects of their own, the more invigorated we are. If we can get these women together, we have a feeling that something magical will happen.

Who do you expect to be active users of the Hey Mama website?

Amri:  Moms who want to collaborate on creative projects with other moms, those who want a place to display their creative work and to be contacted for work/projects. Moms who want to easily communicate with other creative moms. Moms who are really into Instagram but don’t blog and want a space to publish content, those who want to discover cool brands. It’s great for women who want to get in touch with creatives on the other side of the world. So far we’ve been hearing from stylists, photographers, bloggers, Instagram influencers, creative directors, shop owners, designers, Etsy moms, interior designers, artists, the list is really endless. 

Katya: That about sums it up!

What are you hoping to achieve with this new platform for creative mamas?

Amri: We want to become an essential resource for these women to put themselves out there, be discovered and discover new talent. Our dream is to bring together a global community of women and build beautiful things for ourselves, each other, and the rest of the world. We aim to inspire and enable these awesome mamas to be successful in their endeavors and connect them with brands that match their lifestyle. We’ll be featuring inspiring success stories and opening up chats with these women to encourage women to take risks and launch their own projects.

Katya: We hope to create a passionate community in the digital world but also allow those women to connect in real life.  So we’d love the day to come when you’re anywhere in the world and you can you meet a heymama for a glass of wine or a coffee, and next thing you know you’re working on a project with someone in Paris or London or Jaipur!

What are people going to love about Hey Mama?

Amri: We think that moms are going to love our community.That they will be able to learn some things from women who have faced similar challenges to what they are facing. We want Heymama to be a place to get inspired.

Katya: We hope mamas love that you can get a bit more in depth and learn more about a person’s story behind their brand. How they started, challenges they faced and tips they’d like to share with others. Most of all, they can see who wants to connect and for what so it might feel a bit more inviting to reach out. 

What do you see as the next big step for Hey Mama?

Amri: We’ve been taking this one small step at a time. Right now we’re excited that our Beta site is up so we can get feedback from our mamas. The next step is to see what the community wants more of go with that. We’re excited to have some IRL (in real life) events and get people together as well.

Katya: The next big step for us is to continue to build awareness amongst our users and members, and also create really good partnerships.  We’d love to work with brands as well as social and digital and events.

When you dream about where Hey Mama is in a year’s time, what does that look like?

Katya: In a year’s time I imagine we’ll have a proper office, with a bigger team of incredible women and thousands of members who are making it happen daily. Get up, be awesome, repeat. Let’s see how that does in 365 days.

Amri: I hope we’ll have connected thousands of women to each other and to great brands. I’m excited to see what kind of collaborations come about. Yes, a real office would be great and a few more people on our team, but if we can help just a few people then this is all worth it.

Find Hey Mama online here or on Instagram @heymama. And find me on Hey Mama right here.

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Living Simply, Living Fully with Inspiring Mother Hannah

When I started planning this series of interviews, I knew I wanted to include Hannah. There is nothing overtly heroic about the way Hannah shares her life on Instagram, and I really like that. Hannah is a humble woman, who has much wisdom and beautify to share, but does not take herself too seriously. Similar to Josie, Hannah’s effect is cumulative.

Hannah shares pieces of her days at home with her two boys, who she homeschools. I enjoy reading Hannah’s simple reflections and reminders to appreciate the things that are right there in front of us, that are too easy to take for granted. When we can appreciate and truly enjoy what we already have, the way our life is already furnished with beauty, like the scent of lilacs or the greening of grass after a long winter, our lives are full and there is nothing left but to enjoy it. There is no pursuit, there’s just right here, right now. Living simply, Hannah is guiding her boys in the best of ways: showing them how to find pleasure in the everyday and nurturing their creativity by leaving them unencumbered by too many toys. By sharing her life through Instagram she’s inspiring me, and I imagine many others, to look closer to home and closer to the natural world to find those things that ignite our imaginations, that quench our thirst for beauty, that complete us.

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What part of the world do you live in?

We live in the US, in the great big state of Texas, in a tiny cabin by a small country town. My husband and I have done quite a bit of wandering since we married and are probably not settled in for good yet, but this is definitely one of my favorite places we’ve lived. One of the first things we noticed when we were new here was the regular sound of braying from our neighboring donkeys (somehow they always sound like they are being attacked by lions, mournful and desperate) and how much brighter the stars look in this part of the country.

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

We started out wanting to have about 12 children, but after having two we decided to take a good long break from all that children-having. Our two sons, Duncan and Phineas, are 5 and 4. Duncan is eternally curious, wanting to understand how life works and always asking me questions about everything. It can be exasperating at times but the truth is that I love and admire his thirst for knowledge. I know it will serve him well, and I’m ready to be impressed by whatever he chooses to do with that smart little brain of his. Phineas is my sweet snuggle bunny. When he’s not snuggling up to his mama he’s a man of action! He loves playing with toy cars and riding his bicycle. He’s often outside doing one of those two things, or interacting with the dogs. Dogs are his favorite. He’s got a great sense of humor and a twinkly sparkle in his eyes.

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What are your core family values?

Our faith is very central in our lives. Whatever decision we make as a family it’s always important to us that our spirits remain strong and nourished. We value honesty and kindness, simplicity and groundedness, and don’t take ourselves too seriously.

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How do you spend most of your days?

I spend almost all my time at home. We are a one car family, so when I say I’m a stay-at-home mom, I mean it in the most literal way! Usually my days consist of homeschooling, cooking, cleaning…you know, all the exciting stuff. I’m always happiest when I’m doing something that connects me to the earth. Whether it’s working in my garden or hanging laundry on the clothesline, especially if I can throw music into the mix somehow. There is almost always music playing around our house!

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What is your favourite thing to do as a family?

Our most  common family activity is going to the park. Another thing we love to do  together (although we don’t get to do it quite as often) is go yard sale-ing or  thrift shopping. A lot of our possessions are second-hand, and it’s a fun way  of beating the system when you don’t have a lot of money. Our house is extra  tiny, though, so I usually have a giant “donation” pile tucked away somewhere so we can keep the clutter at a minimum. Out with the old gently used, in with the new gently used.

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What are you passionate about?

I love beauty. I’m in a constant state of longing to surround myself with beauty. I want to create it in written form, in visual form, in my home, in my yard, and in the sound waves around me. Creating beauty gives me strength and makes me come alive. I also dream of living a life that is in harmony with nature, taking care of my spot on earth and not contributing to pollution. I’ve realized that for our family it’s not an “all in” or “all out” kind of thing, though, but a process of growth – in knowledge and commitment – towards the final goal. If I’m failing in one or more areas to live out my ideals, it doesn’t mean I don’t care or I’ll never be successful. There is always room for growth and improvement, and there is always hope that the growth and improvement will take place if we hold onto our desires.

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What inspires you?

Lots of things! Creative women. People who are dedicated to sustainable living. People who live passionate lives. Pinterest! It stretches my brain and feeds my thirst for loveliness and teaches me ways of living life that I never would have thought of on my own.

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Thank you Hannah for sharing your world. Readers, please find Hannah on Instagram @flutterbyhannah.

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You might also like my post:

Processed with VSCOcam with c3 preset   Drawing a Day

Instagram Book   Confessions of a Minimalist

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset   Talking Motherhood and Minimalist Fun

Let’s be friends! Come find me…

A Wild and Beautiful Life: Inspiring Mother Jessica

It definitely takes a lot talent to style and construct a photo well. But it takes a whole other kind of talent and vision to see and capture the beauty of what is already right there in front of you. Perhaps, the most beautiful thing to observe is real human connection, whether this connection is with another human or another species. I think most of us have felt this sort of connection at least once, for some of us we feel this daily. These connections with others are constantly happening between people around us, but it takes patience and a keen intuition to catch a glimpse.

Today, I’m sharing my interview with Jessica Lindgren-Wu, a mother, partner, former dancer, and photographer. When you see Jessica’s photos it is immediately obvious she is an artist. Her photos are among the best I have encountered not only on Instagram and VSCO, but more broadly in the world of contemporary photographers capturing childhood, real childhood. Her photos are at once beautiful and gritty, energetic and calm. In many ways she reminds me of Sally Mann, one of the world’s most famous (and, yes, controversial) photographers, known best for her work photographing her children. To me, the magic in Mann’s photographs lies in how well they display the connection Mann has with her children. It is clear she spent thousands of hours with her children, observing them as their lives, their play, their emotions naturally unfolded. This magic is what I see in Jessica’s work. There is something very pure, very authentic, very genuine about her photography. But more than that, her photos could only have been taken by a mother, a parent, a caregiver, who is deeply connected with h/er children.

I have never been someone who enjoys a photograph for the technical skill it displays or the beauty of the subject alone. There has to be another layer that tells a broader story or conveys a larger message. For me, Jessica’s photographs are technically and aesthetically beautiful, but most importantly they tell a simple but all-important story of slowing down, connecting to each other and to the moment, and being content. Now, that is a beautiful life.

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What part of the world do you live in? 

We live in a Suburb to London, England.

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

I have four boys.

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K is 15. He is an incredible focused, caring and self-motivated young man. His plans and dreams for his life are elaborate and thought thru. He is studying 3D design at college since September. He builds computers and free climbs in his spare time. K likes cooking and making yummy veggie curries. He clears tables in a local restaurant on Saturday nights to pay off a loan from me for computer parts. We are amazed at his size as he has outgrown every family member. K is like a big, kind bear. I love that he still hugs me tight every day, and hope he never stops giving his mum a squeeze.

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T is a super social, fast talking, deep thinking and kind 12 year old. He is a self-taught gymnast and does some crazy flips. At the moment he is practicing a 720 backflip. He collects fossils and gem stones and other curiosa, like animal bones.  He deeply dislikes competition, and arguments and is known to solve conflicts with the most unusual techniques. T reads a lot of manga comics and is learning Japanese, so he can catch the new episodes on-line as they become available in Japan first.

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E is a sparkling 7 year old who loves life. He plays hard and plays well. He has intense periods of creative outbursts. One month it is drawing. He can sit for hours producing drawing after drawing. The next month is lego, and he builds whole lands on his bedroom floor, the next it might be robots, minecraft, dragons and recently he discovered skylanders. I swear I can see his brain grow at these times. I adore his focus and intensity. He announced he taught himself to read just before christmas, and indeed he did. He loves music and has some great moves, including a great shoulder spin.
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S is 3, and a half. That half is very important. He can’t wait to grow up. He feels a lot, in that passionate three year old way. He is great fun and likes playing with his brothers and friends. S is full of superhero tales and eye twinkling mischief and tells me his tales with the most endearing facial expressions. He has some amazing lego building skills for his age. S likes animals a lot, especially pigs.
 
What are your core family values?
Our core family values come from my husband and my own personal experiences, our humanist values and our belief in freedom and creative problem solving. We aim to find common preference and try our best to meet every family members needs and wants without judgement at all times. This is of course hard at times and with so many individuals to consider, but for us it is worth the extra effort and very much what we strive to get better at daily. Of course with freedom comes respect for others at all times, just so you don’t think it is utter chaos or kids running disrespectful riot.
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How do you spend most of your days?
Every day is different. We are a very flowing family with somewhat unusual, very flexible timetables. We have a loose weekly plan and daily commitments that we plan our projects, wants and needs around. We spend most days together. I personally look after the home, cook and help facilitate the boys life and learning for the biggest part of the day. I do make time daily for some essential self nurturing.
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What is your favourite thing to do as a family?
We spend a lot of time outdoors. Hanging by the sea, or in a woodland, is something every family member enjoys.
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What are you passionate about?
Freedom, equality, creativity and life.
What inspires you?
Love, nature, people, art and truth.
Visit Jessica online at her website WildWuzle.com, on VSCO or Instagram.
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Hippies on Nordstrom

As Mother’s Day approaches, Nordstrom is publishing a series of interviews with moms on what motherhood means to them and what they’ve got on their Mother’s Day wish list. When Nordstrom initially emailed me I assumed they had the wrong person or had accidentally sent a bulk email. Oops. But no, after I had a few conversations with the lovely Nordstrom Blogs team, I realized that they wanted to represent a range of moms and perspectives in the interviews. The series does have one common thread and it has something to do with children’s art…I will leave you with that teaser, in the hopes that skip over to the blog and have read.

Thank you, Nordstrom, for including me in your mix! I love an opportunity to talk about my thoughts on fashion and acquisition, and, of course, my kids and their art! Link to my interview here.

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Wit and Wisdom from Inspiring Mother Nelly

Today’s inspiring mother is equal parts wit and wisdom. I’ll be honest I started following Nelly because her captions were just too good. She has a great sense of humour and real talent for conveying the hilarious situations and conversations parents and children get themselves into. I would follow her even if she posted photos of white walls with captions. She’s that good. That’s not to discount her photography, because the woman can take beautiful photos.

I’m really glad I got the chance to ask Nelly a few questions about her parenting, her kids and her passions, because (well, besides getting lots of funny words out of her –- my hidden agenda) she shared some wise words too; words that could only come from a parent who is really connected and engaged with their children and is deeply self-reflective. Nelly’s perspective really shows an appreciation for what we can learn from living with and really observing children, in particular with regard to kindness and forgiveness.

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What part of the world do you live in?

I live in a small riverside village on the east coast of England, about an hour from London, along with most of my deeply dysfunctional, big, hilarious, buffet loving family. My village has strong roots in music and art, as well as some keen ping-pongers. It’s basically full of hippies and unintentional hipsters (who could no sooner define the word than they could give up their allotment). I can safely say it’s one of the weirdest places on earth. Also, you’re not worth shit if you don’t have a boat. And I don’t have a boat.

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

I have two daughters, Cecily (5) and Lorelei (2). I see threads of similarity between them; an innocent awkwardness that they share, but by and large they are very different creatures.

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Cecily is an introvert, a little shy and anxious at times, but very quirky and completely full of love. She has the most beautiful soul; I can’t imagine a kinder person. Every morning she calmly sits up at the table (whilst I desperately try to get us all ready) and quietly makes a gift for someone she was worried about the day before. She chooses art and craft above all activities, quietly gathering things and making small but independent little choices. She can be very misunderstood (quiet people often are) but to me she is a tiger: stoic, brave, both playful and solitary, and hugely protective of people in the face of injustice or adversity.

Lorelei is a whirlwind. An all singing, dancing, laughing, idiosyncratic, strange little whirlwind. She relishes human interaction, eye contact, and is very tactile. She wears her feelings very externally; she’s as bold, open, and free as an ocean; but is weakened greatly at the hands of unkindness, and feels rejection deeply. She brought light and laughter into our lives after some very dark years. She is my little elixir.

I also have two cats, three chickens, and two tortoises. But I like them a lot less than I like my kids.

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What are your core family values?

Kindness and joy are two fundamentals. I want my children to laugh every single day of their lives. We sing and dance and talk silly all day long, even when I’m in pain or unhappy. Having fun is so important, but never at the expense of kindness. We talk always about ways to be kind and caring to family, friends, strangers, the environment, animals…. even to people who are unkind to us. I’m learning a great deal from them too (children are without judgement, and are incredibly forgiving). I applaud their kindness above all else.

Respecting and enjoying who they are, and being patient and understanding with them; are things that both also mean a lot to me, and things that I need to constantly work on; as a parent.

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How do you spend most of your days?

Acting like a bunch of dorks. Often half naked. We read, draw, make dens, dance, cook. We talk about poo a lot. Like, a LOT. Standard. In the summer we do all of the above, just outdoors (I want to say apart from the half naked bit, but that wouldn’t be strictly true). We also see friends most days; we have some real good ones.

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What is your favourite thing to do as a family?

We love snacking, and we love nature, so snacking in nature really floats our boats. Picnics in woods, by the river, at the beach, that’s how we roll. We also love camping (which sits well within the aforementioned favourites). My hope is for us to one day travel a lot as a family too.

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What are you passionate about?

I’m a very political person, so to save you all the tedium of hearing about my various opinions on education, healthcare, equality, the environment, foreign affairs etc, I’ll simply say ‘politics’. I also read like a motherflipper.

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What inspires you?

Cliché alert: my children. Unequivocally and without apology, they are the best people I have ever met.

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Thank you, Nelly, for indulging me with your witty answers and sharing your reflections on parenting.

Readers: Nelly’s blog, poetically entitled Mother, Lover, Wanker, is a must read. She doesn’t publish often, but when she does you don’t want to miss it. You can also follow Nelly on Instagram @nellyrandall.