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

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Slow Living Project: Reflect Photo Selections

About this time last year, Melanie and I were ironing out the final details of our Slow Living Project / Collaboration, and discussing how we hoped to build a community of friends and photographers that were passionate about sharing the beauty, enjoyment and challenges of slow living. A community that would welcome new people each month who wanted to share their experiences and learn from others. We’ve been overwhelmed and delighted by the community that has blossomed. And now, with coming up to almost a year of nurturing slow living, we wanted to take some to reflect on our journey, and so we chose to focus June’s theme accordingly with word ‘Reflect’ — using the hashtag #slowliving_reflect.

Thank you for sharing your moments of reflection through words and images. We were quite inspired, and, as usual I had a very hard time choosing a selection to share with you, so please visit the hashtag to enjoy all that was contributed this month.

There are always many beautiful photos in the galleries, but I’m especially drawn to ones that have explored the theme creatively or in metaphorical ways. I’m also partial to captions that dig deeper into the theme. With this in mind here are some of my favourites.

Twins: teaching us about reflection and difference

Mama 2 the little ones Slow Living Project Reflect

Photo by @mama_2thelittleones

 

Reflecting nature’s beauty onto paper

Kunstkiekje Slow Living Project Reflect

Photo by @kunstkiekje

 

Reflecting on a year together

Photo by @blowyinthewind

Photo by @blowyinthewind

 

Reflecting on hard work and the ways of nature

Photo by @frakturfolk

Photo by @frakturfolk

 

Reflecting, infusing and preserving nature into cloth

Photo by @petalplum

Photo by @petalplum

 

Reflections on a shining soul

Photo by @rachelthomasjones

Photo by @rachelthomasjones

 

Reflecting light, colour and life

The Happily Ever After Slow Living Project Reflect

Photo by @thehappilyeverafter

 

Reflecting sky, sea and soul

Photo by @ourbeautiful_adventure

Photo by @ourbeautiful_adventure

 

Beautiful photos with inspired captions on reflection

Photo by @jenni_isdancingintherain

Photo by @jenni_isdancingintherain

Photo by @justordinaryfolk

Photo by @justordinaryfolk

Photo by @findingjoyforus

Photo by @findingjoyforus

Photo by @ksenijaisa

Photo by @ksenijaisa

 

Melanie’s selections can be found over on her blog www.geoffreyandgrace.com.

Congratulations to those who were selected for the blog, and thank you very much to everyone who added their special moments to the hashtag gallery. No matter how many entries we see in the gallery each month we are overwhelmed and inspired by how you explore the theme, both through photography and through words.

As with all our monthly themes there’s no reason to stop using the hashtag on your images, you never know who or what it might inspire in someone else. I noticed last month that #slowliving_create is over 4000 photos under the hashtag. And that our generic hashtag #slowliving_ is growing steadily too. Let’s keep the slow living momentum going! Slow and steady, though.

Special Announcement: 

To close out the year, we decided to return to our first theme ‘Explore’ using the hashtag #slowliving_explore. Add the hashtag to your Instagram photos that fit the theme to be part of the gallery and inspire others on their slow living journey. We would love to see how you explore the world and slow living.

This month will be a little different from the usual. Melanie and I will curate a collection of our favourites to share in August on Instagram, our blogs, and on our Pinterest board ‘Slow Living Moments’. But to celebrate our year and to thank everyone for building this beautiful community we will be offering prizes to a few folks who have contributed outstanding photos to the #slowliving_explore collection this month. We have partnered with Magic Organic Apothecary to offer 6 prizes. Each winner will receive a gift box containing their Daily Cleaning Ritual and Aphrodite Facial Oil. MOA makes the most delightful and consciously made organic herbal facial care products. You can read all about them here.

To enter for a chance to win a prize:

  • Add the hashtag #slowliving_explore to your photos (as many photos as you wish)
  • Follow @MagicOrganicApothecary + @geoffreyandgrace + @hippieindisguise on Instagram
  • Competition closes August 19th, so photos submitted after this date will not be considered for prizes
  • Good luck and enjoy! We can’t wait to see what you share.

As a reminder our Pinterest board is a great place to get a quick glance at all the selections we’ve shared so far and to get a good dose of visual inspiration. You can check it out here.

You can find previous month’s selection by searching my blog: “explore” “nurture” “love” “renew” “raise” “bloom and harvest” “create” “gather

Thank you to everyone who shares photos and inspires us to live slowly, wholeheartedly, with gratitude. Best wishes for a beautiful and exploratory month! xo, Danielle

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Slow Living Project: Nurture Photo Selections

Well, it’s officially a cliche here, but yes, another month of the Slow Living Project has gone by, and another set of inspiring images has been collected — this time under the theme ‘Nurture’ using the hashtag #slowliving_nurture.

This past month, Melanie and I wanted to focus our slow living on nurturing, whether it’s nurturing ourselves or others, or nurturing a love, passion or interest. We asked: How do you take time to slow down and nurture health, creativity, connection and all of life’s important things? Thank you for sharing your moments of beauty, nurturing, and connection. We were very inspired, and, as usual I had a very hard time choosing a small selection to share with you, so please visit the hashtag to enjoy all that was contributed this month.

There are always many beautiful photos in the galleries, but I’m always particularly drawn to ones that have really explored the theme, and often this comes by way of the caption. Personally, I was inspired by those of you sharing images of nurturing children’s love for adventure, travel, exploration and nature, but nurtured in an open-ended way, nothing forced, nothing  rushed, allowing children to guide themselves. I also loved, and have a fondness for, nurturing family and sibling bonds. And, of course, there’s the very basic nurturing of life, that we don’t always pay enough attention to. With these thoughts in mind here are some of my favourites.

Nurturing a love for nature and adventure, collecting memories, treasures and wishes

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Photo by @slooower

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Photo by @mytinytribe

Nurturing life

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Photo by @ambertia

Nurturing souls, bonds and creativity

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Photo by @lilimuguette

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Photo by @keishua_

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Photo by @lightlovers

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Photo by @devine_tribe

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Photo by @celinabailey

Melanie’s selections can be found over on her blog www.geoffreyandgrace.com.

Congratulations to those who were selected for the blog, and thank you very much to everyone who added their special moments to the hashtag gallery. No matter how many entries we see in the gallery each month we are overwhelmed and inspired by how you explore the theme, both through photography and your words.

As with all our monthly themes —#slowliving_explore, #slowliving_create, #slowliving_raise, #slowliving_gather,#slowliving_renew, #slowliving_love and so on — there’s no reason to stop using the hashtag on your images, you never know who or what it might inspire in someone else. I noticed the other day that #slowliving_create is close to 4000 photos under the hashtag. Let’s keep the slow living momentum going! Slowly, though 😉

As a reminder, in December we started using the hashtag #slowliving_ for all our images in the project. Feel free to use it yourself, especially for any photos you love but don’t feel quite fit the theme of the month.

The theme for June is ‘reflect’ using the hashtag #slowliving_reflect. Building on our month focused on nurturing, and moreover our many months of focusing on slow living, we wanted to take some time to reflect on our journeys. We would love to learn from your reflections on slow living and how you take time to reflect on life. All reflections big and small are welcome. Use the hashtag #slowliving_reflect on your Instagram photos to be part of the gallery.

And…please feel free to join in even if you have never participated before.

As usual, Melanie and I will curate a collection of our favourites at the end of the month to share on Instagram, our blogs, and on our Pinterest board ‘Slow Living Moments’. And by the way, our Pinterest board is a great place to get a quick glance at all the selections to date and to get a good dose of visual inspiration.

You can see previous month’s themes and selections on my blog for: ‘explore’ here,‘create’ here and here, ‘bloom and harvest’ here and here, ‘raise’ here, ‘gather’ here, ‘renew’ here, ‘love’ here

Thank you to everyone who shares photos and inspires us to live slowly, wholeheartedly, with gratitude. Best wishes for a beautiful and reflective month! xo, Danielle

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Slow Living Photo Selections: Bloom and Harvest, Take 2

Another month of the Slow Living Project, and another set of inspiring images has been collected — this time under the hashtag #slowliving_bloomandharvest. This past month, Melanie and I wanted to focus our slow living on the season’s changes: the harvest in the northern hemisphere and the blooms of spring in the southern hemisphere. Thank you for sharing your moments of beauty, contemplation, stillness, and connection. We were very inspired, and had a hard time choosing a small selection to share with you, so please visit the hashtag to enjoy all that was offered this month.

In April we revisited a favourite theme ‘Bloom and Harvest’. This time around the seasons have switched, with it being spring in northern hemisphere and fall in the southern hemisphere. Like the first time around, we loved how you captured the colour and beauty of these seasons. Personally, I was quite inspired by the images that cleverly combined blooms and harvest: reflecting on the dying bloom, harvesting flowers to create blooms in a new context, capturing the bloom of the harvest, and thinking about bloom in a broader sense: the blooming child and the blooming mind. I always have a special fondness for images that include children, that is, I am inspired, comforted and given hope to see children raised from a slow approach and children learning about the wild natural world. With this in mind here are some of my favourites.

Beautiful blooms

Blooming bellies, babies, families and minds

Blooms harvested

Cultivating children’s creative, helping hands

Melanie’s selections can be found over on her blog www.geoffreyandgrace.com.

Congratulations to those who were selected for the blog, and thank you very much to everyone who has added their special moments to the hashtag gallery. With over 1600 entries to the gallery we were overwhelmed by the participation this month. As with all our monthly themes — #slowliving_explore, #slowliving_create, #slowliving_raise, #slowliving_gather, #slowliving_renew, #slowliving_love and so on — there’s no reason to stop using the hashtag on your images, you never know who or what it might inspire in someone else. Let’s keep the slow living momentum going! In December we started using the hashtag #slowliving_ for all our images in the project. Feel free to use it yourself, especially for any photos you love but don’t feel quite fit the theme of the month.

As mentioned on my Instagram account earlier this month, the theme for May is ‘nurture’ using the hashtag #slowliving_nurture. Melanie and I want to see and be inspired by how you nurture yourselves and others, how you take time to slow down and nurture health, creativity, connection and all the important things in life. Use the hashtag #slowliving_nurture on your Instagram photos to be part of the gallery. Please feel free to join in even if you have never participated before. As usual, Melanie and I will curate a collection of our favourites at the end of the month to share on Instagram, our blogs, and on our Pinterest board ‘Slow Living Moments’. And by the way, our Pinterest board is a great place to get a quick glance at all the selections to date and to get a good dose of visual inspiration.

You can see previous month’s themes and selections ‘explore’ here,‘create’ here and here, ‘bloom and harvest’ here, ‘raise’ here, ‘gather’ here, ‘renew’ here, ‘love’ here.

Thank you to everyone who shares photos and inspires us to live slowly, wholeheartedly, with gratitude. Best wishes for a beautiful and nurturing month! xo, Danielle

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Slow Living Project: Love

Each month I contemplate (very slowly, very mindfully about) introducing the hashtag #slowliving_blogpost because, well, I’m a little slow to post. Something I’ve come to accept, and even appreciate, about living slowly is that you become the final judge of your pace, not others. At first, it’s hard to feel comfortable in it because others have their expectations, others are whizzing and whirling around you, but ultimately we know the rhythm that is best for us. A slower pace has many benefits, not the least of which is being more connected to the moment.

So, on to love, let’s connect with love. With February’s focus on ‘love’ another beautiful collection of photos has formed as part of the Slow Living Project (read this post if you want to hear about how the project began, how it works and how to join in). Melanie and I wanted to focus on the word ‘love’ and to see what you love and how you capture it. We were both deeply inspired by the beautiful images and the heartfelt words you shared.

The photos and moments that struck me the most are shared below. (For my selections under ‘Wise Words About Love’ I especially encourage you to visit these galleries and read the captions.) You can view all the contributions to the gallery here. As always, thank you to everyone for sharing and inspiring others.

Love: The Basics

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Photo by @mytinytribe

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Photo by @weevintage

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Photo by @ekwetzel

Love in an embrace, a glance, a hand

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Photo by @magdalenadom

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Photo by @ambertia

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Photo by @lulu_pine

Loving the simple things: music, friends, nature, others

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Photo by @chicangelic

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Photo by @jaibess

Handmade love

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Photo by @fareisle

Wise words about love

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Photo by @lillalinaea

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Photo by @hanbullivant

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Photo by @devine_tribe

Melanie’s selections can be found over on her blog www.geoffreyandgrace.com.

Thank you to everyone who participated this month and shared their slow living moments. Everyone, old and new, is welcome, so please join us in March as we explore the theme ‘create’ (for a second time!), using the same hashtag as before #slowliving_create. We hope you will find interesting ways to capture creativity and creation in the everyday. Slow down and notice those moments, create and share them. The last time we focused on ‘create’ the images were not only beautiful, but more importantly captured the spirit of creativity and creation in a slow and intentional way. We saw people bringing creativity to breakfast or a simple moment on the beach, slowly working at a creative project over days and weeks, and bringing slow intentional creativity to their time with children. See the selections post here for inspiration. At the end of the month, Melanie and I will select our favourites to share on Instagram and on our blogs. We can’t wait to see what you create! As always, please feel free to interpret this word broadly and in a way that resonates with you.

As a reminder, in December we started using the hashtag #slowliving_ for all our images in the project. Feel free to use it yourself, especially for any photos you love but don’t feel quite fit the theme of the month.

You can see previous month’s themes and selections ‘create’ here, ‘explore’ here, ‘bloom and harvest’ here, ‘raise’ here, ‘gather’ here, ‘renew’ here.

  • Our Pinterest board ‘Slow Living Moments’ includes all photo selections from the project, you can visit it here.

Thank you to everyone who shares photos and inspires us to live slowly, wholeheartedly, with gratitude. Best wishes for a beautiful and creative month! xo, Danielle

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

Interview with a Minimalist: Julie

Simply do without.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In what ways has minimalism improved your life?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You might also like my post:

The Slow Living Project

Inhaling the Season, Inhaling the Moment

13 Ways to Simplify your Wardrobe

How to Make Delicious Cashew Milk: Garbage Free

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

Slow Living Moments: Renew

A new year, a new month, and another beautiful collection of photos for the Slow Living Project (read this post if you are new to the project). With the new year upon us, Melanie and I wanted to focus on the word ‘renew’ — thinking about the ways we renew and restore ourselves, our family, our world. Asking how, with a slow, mindful, approach, do we make new once again.

This month I found myself particularly inspired by many of the captions that accompanied the beautiful images shared. But I also noticed just as many images that didn’t need a caption at all — it seemed obvious, intuitive, how the image conveyed renewal. When we slow down and listen we know what we need, we know how to renew, ourselves and our world. As always, thank you so much for sharing and inspiring!

The photos and moments that struck me the most are shared below. It is always so hard for me to narrow down the selections, so please visit the full gallery to see what others shared.

Renewal through creative rituals

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Photo by @mommetry

Renewed life

Renewed energy, strength, bonds

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Photo by @ambertia

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Photo by @ekwetzel

Renewed by the elements

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Photo by @lewesmap

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Photo by @c_theresia

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Photo by @devine_tribe

Death, rebirth, renewal

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Photo by @petalplum

Melanie’s selections can be found over on her blog www.geoffreyandgrace.com.

Thank you to everyone who participated this month and shared their slow living moments. Everyone is welcome, so please join us in February as we explore the theme ‘love’ in the context of slow living. In many places around the world February is a month focused on love, our love for our partners, our children, our family, our friends. As always, please feel free to interpret this word broadly and in a way that resonates with you. Please share your images with the hashtag #slowliving_love so others can be inspired. Last month we started using the hashtag #slowliving_ for all our images in the project, so that we have a hashtag that covers the whole year. Feel free to use it yourself.

You can see previous month’s themes and selections ‘create’ here, ‘explore’ here, ‘bloom and harvest’ here, ‘raise’ here, ‘gather’ here.

Our Pinterest board ‘Slow Living Moments’ includes all photo selections from the project visit it here.

Thank you to everyone who shares photos and inspires us to live slowly, wholeheartedly, with gratitude. Best wishes for a beautiful love-filled month! xo, Danielle

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You might also like my post:

Thoughtful Gifts for Children for Any Occasion

Inhaling the Season, Inhaling the Moment: Cycling through a Snow Storm

The Mathematics of Love: Growing our Family

Want to find me in other places?

Creative Mother: Sophie Isobel Asher

I have a beautiful interview with writer, artisan, stylist and designer Sophie Isobel Asher to share with you today. Sophie is a woman of many talents and careful reflection. She has always lived a creative, passionate life, but pursuing her interests and living an intentional life became her centre after a life-changing event. Sophie’s story is like others and yet is uniquely her own. I’m so pleased that today she is living passionately and creatively, and has translated these into a business that supports her family and her spirit.

I know that many of my readers will know her from her beautiful blog and her creative projects she shares on Instagram, but I thought you might like to hear more about her and her story.

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

For as long as I can remember I’ve lived creatively. Since I was a child, I’ve always been making, writing or dreaming up wild ideas.  These days, I’m a writer and an artisan, some days I write, some days I make and on wonderful, inspired days I do both.  I work as a stylist and writer for a lovely regional lifestyle magazine and I run a bespoke sacred jewellery & decor label, Wilde Asher with my mum and my sister.

I studied Creative Arts at University focusing on fashion and cultural theory and later completed postgraduate study in secondary school teaching.  I’ve always been passionate about sharing knowledge and ideas, so I think I came about teaching as a natural progression.  After five years of teaching and giving that career path everything I had, I was starting to feel burnt out and at the same point, I experienced a major life change which led me to find my true passion, start our family business and work creatively everyday, on my own terms, doing whatever nourishes my soul.

What part of the world do you live in?

My husband, my daughter and I live in a little white cottage close to the Murray River in rural Victoria, Australia.

Sophie Isobel Asher

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

I’m mama to our little girl, Tallow Frankie Bluebelle (Tali for short), who is the most wonderful, kind and passionate two year old. I’m also mama to our angel baby Cohen Littlewing who was stillborn at 20 weeks in 2012.

How do you spend most of your days?

I really enjoy slow days and taking things gently wherever possible.  I mainly work from home and usually while Tali is having an afternoon nap, so I really try embrace those few hours of time alone, to nourish my soul with whatever I’m working on.  During the day if we’re not playing at home, crafting or in playing in the garden, we visit friends, play at the park and go exploring by the river.  Our little town has a beautiful slow pace, so we like to meander along with it. My creative work often comes along with me and I often add a few rows of crochet, write ideas or gather leaves for natural dyeing while we enjoy the sunshine.

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What is your favourite thing to do as a family?

My husband and I are both avid gardeners and we spend most of our free time outside, in the garden or down by the river.  We love to go on picnics and bushwalks and explore some of the ancient landscapes near where we live. Along the way we gather local fruit and veggies from the farmers markets and farm gate stalls and dream about our own someday off-grid farm.

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What inspires you?

Foremost I’m inspired by the natural world, particularly my local surroundings, wherever that may be. I am truly nourished when I’m outdoors, noticing the details, revelling in the sunshine or the moonlight. At the moment I’m particularly inspired by the plants around me, especially the vast eucalyptus trees that grow in abundance in the region. They share such beautiful stories and every time I gather their leaves or bark for natural dyeing, I feel I’m capturing a little part of this beautiful land. I’m also totally enchanted by the moon at the moment, connecting with it’s cycle and understanding it’s incredible affect on the natural world.

I’m also inspired by change and the wonderful revolution I’m seeing unfold every day through social media. People are standing up, changing their lives, their habits, realising that life is not all about buying and consuming.  This revolution makes my heart sing and makes me work a little harder everyday to make changes to my life and my families lives, to lighten our footprint, to slow down, live simply and consciously.

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You have been blogging for a long time now. How did you get started? And how has your blog evolved?

I began blogging in 2008, before blogging was really even a thing to do.  I began as a way to keep in touch with my family when my husband and I moved interstate.  I never expected my blog to be read by others, I was just really documenting my days.  Over the past eight years I’ve always documented my life and my creative world. In 2011 I was blogging once or twice each day, before Instagram really started and I look back now and wonder how on earth I kept up. I think I started to feel overstretched at the thought of ‘keeping up’ and in 2012 when we lost Cohen, I stepped away from my blog and really reassessed every aspect of my life. I came back to blogging a different person, passionate about sharing only what I loved, rather than what was on trend, passionate about the changes I’d made to live a more conscious and heartfelt life.  I’m so grateful for this evolution and today my blog is more like it was back when I first started, it’s a journal of our lives and the seasons, a documentation of my creative journey and how we live and love.

Sophie Isobel Asher journal

What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about life and living every aspect of it with my whole heart. I am truly passionate about simple, conscious living and shifting the current paradigm we live in.  In every area of my life, I am working towards treading more lightly, living more harmoniously and finding that balance each day.  When our lives were forever changed by Cohen, something ignited within me.  I realised I never wanted to take another moment for granted.  I used to have this world around me that I was filling with stuff and all of a sudden our world shifted and I just wanted to let it all go, strip back to the bare essentials and really search for who I was and what made me truly happy. I’m forever grateful to my journaling, yoga and meditation practice, which enables me daily to explore and delve into what this happiness is for me.

Can you tell me a bit about your business, Wilde Asher?

Wilde Asher is the heartbeat of our family.  It brings together myself, my mum and my sister, to create, beautiful and ethical, sacred jewellery and decor made especially to adorn your soul and sacred space.

We first began Wilde Asher back in 2012 and since then it has evolved with us to become not only a business but a very special manifestation of our collective dreams.  We all collaborate together on the jewellery in our collections, sourcing ethically from around the world. We find stones and charms that resonate on a high frequency and contain beautiful energy, especially for personal growth, manifestation and balance. My mum Annie, is our incredible jeweller and works from her studio by the beach in Queensland to create each of our pieces. My sister also creates beautiful, hand written art prints and I make a range of one off fibre artworks, including wall hangings and coiled baskets. We are really excited to be working on new pieces this year that truly reflect our philosophy for beautiful, unique, ethical creations, made from the heart… Soul nourishing pieces to enjoy for a lifetime.

Did your life goals and career aspirations change once you had a child?

In my previous career I was a high school English and Literature teacher.  I loved my job and it really inspired me to see my students go on and achieve their dreams, but I also realised in the process I was not achieving my own dreams. Becoming a mama actually allowed me to step away from teaching and reassess what I really wanted to do with my life.  It was the breathing space I needed to find myself.

Being a mama has given me the opportunity to truly connect with each day.  I love being able to work from home, to play in the garden, to wander the neighbourhood and collect treasures with my girl.  I feel truly blessed and constantly inspired by the journey of motherhood.

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What are your dreams for your life?

We would love to one day move back closer to our families who live interstate. We’d love to purchase a small property and live off the grid, raise animals, grow vegetables and truly live in tune with the seasons. I’d love to unify my ideas and dreams, write them down, turn them into books, share them with others, run workshops, collaborate and spend time with like minded people. Of course ultimately I’d love to ensure that as a family we are able to spend as much time together as we can, doing what we love to do and exploring the beautiful moments of our everyday, with love and gratitude.

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Thank you so much Sophie! Readers you can find Sophie in a few places: on Instagram @sophieisobelasher, her shop Wilde Asher, and her inspiring blog www.sophieisobelasher.com

  • This interview is part of my Creative Mother series, find the rest here

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.

 

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

Slow Living Moments: Gather

Another beautiful and inspiring month has come to a close for the Slow Living project. It’s no surprise that Melanie and I continue to draw inspiration from your images and words each month. (If you are new to this blog Melanie and I started a  year-long slow living project back in August. Each month we invite others to share their slow living moments, and each month has a different focus.) In December we focused on the theme ‘gather’ and all that it means to us and you, whether it’s gathering with people, family, friends, gathering our thoughts and intentions, gathering food, treasures, provisions, gathering inspired us and inspired you. Thank you for sharing!

As always, I was particularly inspired by those of you who shared images that gave a double meaning to the word, but also those images that captured gathering from nature to nourish ourselves and gather knowledge, gathering as a creative activity, slow gathering of heirlooms and natural treasures, gathering that truly can’t be rushed, gathering that is mindful, thoughtful, slow. I always love seeing how you include children in slow living by passing on knowledge and traditions. I was touched by the honest moments of gathering strength and resolve to get through the challenges of life. I have such a hard time narrowing down my selections, each image and caption inspires me in some way. So please go ahead and savour all the contributions under #slowliving_gather.

**Please look up these lovely, talented photographers, especially because many have very insightful captions that accompany their beautiful images.

Gathering amongst gathered treasures

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Photo by @lightlovers

Gathering nostalgia

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Photo by @vibekelentz

Food: the quintessential gatherer

Photo by @fareisle

When two is the perfect gathering

Gathering to collect and create, living the season

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Photo by @_bearhut_

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Photo by @petalplum

Slow gathering heirlooms  

Reenacting a most famous gathering

Photo by @mrsnomi

Gathering strength, literally, metaphorically

Photo by @ekwetzel

Gathering bravery

Photo by @lillywren

Gathering as nature chooses

 Patient gathering

Gathering wishes, dreams, hopes

When space gathers a mind

Photo by @loopygibbens

Photo by @loopygibbens

Gathering knowledge of the season

Photo by @megchittenden

Photo by @megchittenden

Gathering for a new season

Photo by @ottimade

Photo by @ottimade

Gathering and ungathering

Photo by @petalplum

Photo by @petalplum

Gathered treasures gathering our thoughts and intentions  

Melanie’s selections can be found over on her blog www.geoffreyandgrace.com.

Thank you to everyone who participated this month and shared their slow living moments. Please join us, old and new friends, in January as we explore the theme ‘renew’ in the context of slow living. In many places around the world January and the new year are a time to renew oneself, restore and resolve to improve ourselves, to hold true to our beliefs, and to make ourselves new once again. As always, please feel free to interpret this word broadly and in a way that resonates with you. Please share your images with the hashtag #slowliving_renew so others can be inspired. We’ve also begun using the hashtag #slowliving_ for all our images in the project, so that we have a hashtag that covers the whole year. Feel free to use it yourself.

You can see other month’s themes and selections by searching my blog: “explore” “nurture” “love” “renew” “raise” “bloom and harvest” “create” “gather

Our Pinterest board ‘Slow Living Moments’ includes all photo selections from the project visit it here.

Thank you to everyone who shares photos and inspires us to live slowly, wholeheartedly, with gratitude. Best wishes and happy new year! xo, Danielle

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

Creative Mother: Artist Erin Wetzel

It’s obvious I love doing interviews, showcasing other’s special talents, whether these are creative talents, parenting talents or otherwise. It’s hard to know where to start with Erin Wetzel. Erin is an illustrator and portrait artist living in Washington state with her young family. She is certainly a talented artist, with a unique and humble point of view. But as I’ve gotten to know her, I’ve found layer upon layer of wisdom and intelligence that I had no idea were there from the little snippets I gleaned from her Instagram gallery. Her writing is beautiful and honest, unpretentious, and always stirs you in ways that you need to be stirred. She makes the everyday exquisite in its simplicity, or rather shows us that it already is. What a gift, because our perception is everything.

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

While I have been creative my whole life, it wasn’t until about three years ago that I started exploring my current style of watercolor and ink portraiture and illustration. Most of the things I’ve learned have been through trial and error or from talking with other artists. I am most inspired by The Everyday, finding extraordinary beauty in the humdrum of ordinary moments.

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You can see a compehensive gallery of my work on my site: http://ekwetzel.com/artwork/

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What part of the world do you live in?

Tacoma, Washington.

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

Phoebe is a 4-year-old with a big heart for dancing, slugs, and being a big sister. And Baby Wetzel is our newborn (birthdate & name TBD). [Erin’s second daughter, Clementine, was born shortly after she gave this interview].

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What are your core family values?

We believe that the virtues of God permeate the world in ways that are accessible to anyone.

We believe in grace, generosity and humility.

We respect the beautiful power of the individual and believe that people are naturally creatures of connection and creativity.

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How do you spend most of your days?

There is no typical day for us, but there are rhythms we move between from week to week. We do lots of cooking and baking, but I’m a terrible gardener and our yard is more often than not a tangle of weeds. We read a lot, but we also love video games, like the Toca Boca games on the iPad, or Bioware games: Dragon Age and Mass Effect. We love to explore the outdoors, especially Tacoma’s rocky beaches or our Pacific Northwest woods.

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What is your favourite thing to do as a family?

Mostly, our favorite thing is to just be, at home, together. Sometimes we goof off, or play a game, or dance…but as long as we’re all engaged, that’s what fills us with joy.

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What are you passionate about?

Helping people. Making the world a better place. Leaving things a little more beautiful, a little more whimsical, a little more connected than I found them.

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What inspires you?

Attachment.

Can you tell me a bit about your work as an artist and illustrator?

I focus on portraiture and scenes of relationship and whimsy. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot with animal/human hybrids. I think that putting an animal face on a person’s body helps make people laugh, but, on a deeper level, it also pulls at an innate need for connection inside of us.

Let me explain what I mean.

We are all separate beings, moving through life, surrounded by “others.” When you see something beautiful in an other, that draw towards beauty is like your spirit saying: “I see something inside of you that echoes within me. We are not alone. We are the same.”

Art is all about speaking the language of Beauty. It connects us. With my art, I take people (others) and give them animal faces (which makes them really, truly others, because animals aren’t humans). Even so, people STILL identify with these visual representations and find connection and beauty in them. I think they help us realize on some intuitive level that we are all connected to something bigger, stronger, and more beautiful than any one of us alone.

This is why I believe art can bring hope: because it reminds us how beauty permeates even the most innocuous of moments; art reminds us how to look for it; and, when we carry that beauty inside of our hearts, it connects us to an underlying faith that goodness will conquer in the end.

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07 Art squirrel

Did you life goals or career aspirations change once you had a child?

Absolutely.

When I became a mom, I started asking myself all sorts of hard questions about what it looks like to be a good parent and spouse. It was a winnowing experience for me. Parenting with a wide open heart threw me into the fire and burned away a lot of fears and inhibitions.

I never used to think about what my dreams were or what my purpose was…I was content to just bob along through life. When I became a parent, I started to realize that, in order to support my child as she becomes the person she’s meant to be, first I had to have the courage to do the same. I didn’t want to be a hypocrite. I wanted to be a role model.

So, in a way, parenting opened me up to deeper love than I ever realized before, both for my daughter, but also for my husband and for myself.

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What are your dreams for your work as an artist?

Abstractly: I want my work to give people hope. I want it to make them smile and remind them of the ever-present goodness in The Everyday.

Practically: I’ve always wanted to make a children’s book, ever since I was a child. Most of my life, I thought that just meant finding the right story to tell. But, now that I’m an illustrator, I’m exhilarated to find the right pictures that speak even more poignantly than words.

Some day. When the story is ready, it will find me, and I will shepherd it as best I can.

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12 Family

Thank you Erin! Friends and readers you can find Erin at ekwetzel.com or on Instagram @ekwetzel and on her art account @ekwetzel_art on Twitter @ekwetzel, and her Etsy shop Ekwetzel (briefly closed while she welcomes baby Clementine is now open again. Use code: KISSES until January 23, 2016 for 10% off). She is a must follow!

This interview is part of my Creative Mother series, find the rest here.

You might also like my post:

Top post -> The Mathematics of Love

Mindful Picking and Making a Flower Crown

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