My Favourite Simple Living Reads of 2011


How was/is your holiday going? We had a fantastic time in Edinburgh and visiting family near Glasgow. I drove a right hand drive car for the first time (and we survived), we visited the Edinburgh Zoo on Christmas day and I met up with some awesome ladies I met through this blog (at a beautiful tea shop Now we are back home and settling in for a quiet New Years and looking forward to 2012.

There were a lot of great blog posts, news items and books about living simply and with less this year. Far too many for me to list all of them here. So, in a minimalist fashion, I’m just including a handful of my favourites.

Poor People Can’t Afford Cheap Things I linked to this a few months back and just read it again. Gold. Reminded me of a comment from a high school friend that reads this blog. She decided to just keep her books on the floor (for months!) until she found the right book shelf. When I do buy things now I am a) willing to pay more for better quality and b) willing to wait longer to buy it.

It’s better to have something that successfully satisfies your needs for ten years than something that doesn’t work very well and needs repeated fixing for two.

the absolutely positively pain-free way to go simple (and stay chic) Rayna has moved her virtual home so I am scared this link may not work. Which would be a shame because the writing is so spot on about living a pared down life and living it well.

I’ve realized that we’ve got everyone fooled. They think we live like them, but we really don’t. I think that it just goes to show how easy it is to live well with less.

Lovely tips and thoughts on living well (and staying chic) with less. Rayna’s blog has taken a new turn and I’m enjoying the thoughts on the good life with an emphasis on quality over quantity. I would say it is my new guilty pleasure but there’s nothing to feel guilty about.

What to Do About Other People’s Stuff From Rachel Meeks at Small Notebook, great suggestions for how to deal with clutter/gifts/etc that aren’t yours. A lot of people ask similar questions here and really, there is no one answer. Family dynamics and situations are unique and unfortunately you have to make the hard decisions yourself. And as Rachel beautifully wrote:

And you move on, so that you don’t spend your precious energy worrying about stuff that is simply stuff. It’s only temporary, and the goal is not to have the most streamlined, organized place ever. The way you treat other people is how you will most be remembered.

One Bite at a Time: 52 Projects for Making Life Simpler by Tsh Oxenrider The first e-book from the fantastic Tsh, the woman behind This is a collection of projects, some that have been featured on her website before, to simplify your home and life. The projects on creating evening and morning routines have been very helpful to me (even if we are not quite there yet with implementing them every day). I’m looking forward to checking a few new projects off in 2012. If you’re thinking about purchasing this e-book there is a $1 off promotion going on until January 10th – so you can buy the book for $4 instead of $5 – great deal! Use the code HAPPYNEWYEAR.

What were your favourite reads about living a simple and minimalist life in 2011? I would love it if you linked to them in the comments.

Have a wonderful New Years and see you in 2012!


gift ideas for the minimalist in your life

Are you going to lynch me for actually writing a gift list? As I said before, my kind of minimalism isn’t about no shopping or no gifts. It’s about value, thought and not just buying crap to fill a stocking or an obligation.

As I rarely talk about things here I thought it would be fun to share some of the items I like and use often, and others that I think would make a great gifts. So hear it is, gifts for minimalists:


Minimalist running shoes. I bought these (trail style) on my trip to Vancouver (they were on my 30 day list). I was able to get in five Crossfit workouts during my trip and four of them were in these shoes. I immediately noticed a difference in my ability to lift weights correctly. I felt more balanced on my feet. Not only was I lifting with better technique but I felt if I shifted my weight incorrectly to the front of my feet. I’m slowly working up to running in them. The other nice thing about these shoes: they last. Unlike traditional running shoes that, depending on mileage, can last from six months to a year, these should last a long, long time.

Flip & Tumble Reusable Bag












Flip & Tumble Reusable Bag. I know, there are a lot of reusable bags out there. Every retailer seems to have one now. But these are different. Katy gave me this one as a gift a few years back and I wish I had a second. The biggest difference with this bag is that the long handle is actually comfortable over your shoulder. This is ideal if you are a mostly on foot or a transit user. Nothing sucks more than toting home groceries with handle in hand. This handle is also long enough that I can tie it nicely to the handle on our stroller. I’ve also used this as a last minute beach bag. When not toting groceries or acting as a casual snack and diaper bag, this thing folds up into a ball and waits patiently in my handbag for its next use.

The Plantominium












For the Minimalist Green Thumb: The Plantominium. Andrew emailed to alert me to this minimalist-ish small living solution for plants. It’s dubbed the high-rise condominium for plants. Green things die at my house so I won’t be buying one myself. Would love to hear from any gardeners/plant enthusiasts that live in small spaces – what do you think?

Metamorphic Gear Messenger Bag











Upcycled Messenger bag from Metamorphic Gear. This bag was designed by a good friend of mine. It has been amazing to hear of the idea years ago and get progress updates as it was sourced, developed and launched. Not only are these bags stylish and durable – they’re also made of 75% upcycled material including sails and truck tarps. It is designed and manufactured in the US and the company gives 5% of proceeds to charity. As their website says, everything old can be new again. I couldn’t agree more.



Chocolates. The really fancy ones. Last year Rayna sent me a box of Martine’s chocolates as a prize for a contest she ran. They were rich and luxurious and I savoured every bite. Gift someone you love, or yourself, with a small sampling of very fine chocolates. Yes, they will cost a bit more than that box you buy at the drugstore for a tenth of the amount. But you don’t race through chocolates like this. You don’t eat them while reading a book or watching a movie. You eat them slowly and with your full attention. You remember these chocolates.



One Less Gift – Holiday Exemption Gift Certificate. Posted this on Facebook a while back. Genius idea from Miss Minimalist. When you want to put an end to the exchanging of gifts: the One Less Gift – Holiday Exemption Gift Certificate. Lovely list of non-wrapped up ways to show you care included in the post here.

I’m heading out soon for our little getaway and I’m not bringing my laptop (but I am bringing my Kindle!). I’ll be back before the New Year with a post. For those celebrating, have a wonderful Christmas!

Wishing you health and happiness,



One Simple Thing: Slow Down


Not sure this photo has much to do with this post but… I love it. Totally reminds me of when I was a kid and would walk and read. And there is nothing like being so involved in a book that you don’t want to put it down.

In early November I read a post by Katy about when to slow down. She had cut her finger quite badly while multitasking and having too much on her mind. Life was very busy. Too many balls in the air and one of the repercussions was a day lost waiting to get stitches at the hospital.

Multitasking and busy schedules are the norm for a lot of families. Pick-up, drop-off, errands, shopping, play dates, social commitments, a late night at work. Before moving to this sleepy island, the “we’re so busy” phrase was probably the most common answer when I asked friends how they were. In our new home a more common reply is “we’re good”, “the children are a delight” and at the moment, “we’re excited about the holidays”. *I’ve had a few requests for some comparisons between our urban Vancouver life and small town island life. I’ll write more about the quirks and differences of our new home in the new year.

What’s the danger in being busy?

Well, there’s nothing overly dangerous in keeping a fairly full routine and schedule. In fact, a lot of people thrive on having very little free or unscheduled time.

The danger comes when you are beyond your capacity. The danger comes when you are overwhelmed. You make mistakes.

The leftovers are forgotten in their containers on the kitchen counter. They spoil and you have to throw them out.

You double book yourself without knowing and have to pay a cancellation fee for an appointment.

You leave your coffee/lunch/wallet on top of the car and drive away.

Your children are regularly late for school and only get half the first morning’s lesson. They feel less confident in those subjects and their learning is affected.

Sometimes being overwhelmed results in terrible tragedies. There isn’t a parent out there that doesn’t hear of these tragedies and think, could that have been me on a busy day?

How to Slow Down:

  • If you text while driving stop. Today. Nothing is more important than your life, the lives of your passengers and other drivers.
  • Make realistic schedules and to-do lists. I like keeping my daily to-do list at three things.
  • Look up. Take a moment to look at your surroundings, really look at the road in front of you or the people beside you.
  • Say no. It can be hard. Particularly if you are a people pleaser. But stick to your guns and commit to things you enjoy and can give your undivided attention to.
  • Schedule a block of “do nothing” time. A friend of ours recently told me about his unexpected do nothing day. It happened organically but he seized the opportunity to take a vacation day, do some errands and read. I love hearing this. Especially from parents!
  • Breathe. Take a long rib expanding deep breath when you are running around trying to do seven things at once. A deep breath can bring clarity. And clarity can help you see that your sleep is important, store bought cookies are okay and maybe that oil change can wait till next week.

This time of year is exciting and busy. Vacation, good food and drink, big expectations for social events and gift giving. There is a lot going on.

Take a moment to really ponder if your schedule is too full. If you’re spending more time getting places than enjoying them.

Adjust. Send your regrets for a holiday party and make plans for more intimate gatherings in the New Year.

Slow down. Do it for your health and your loved ones. Do it so you can really engage with the people around you. Do it so you can be alert and mindful when others are not.

Wishing you a very happy, well and safe holiday season,


PS. Courtney gave me a copy of the book for her Clutterfree course and I’ll be reading it over the holidays. I had hoped to write a little review for you here before the course starts in January but I am not sure that is going to happen. I wanted to alert you to this course if you’re making plans for a clutter free 2012. You can check read more about the book and course here. PPS. Courtney is delightful! I’ve had a few interactions with her and she is just as lovely by email correspondence as she is in her essays.


4 Easy Ways To Change Your World This Christmas


It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the more, more, more and bigger and better this time of year.

I still struggle with it. I see people in town with huge bags of gifts and I think, am I taking something vital away from my son’s childhood or my family’s happiness? Are we missing out by turning our backs to the commercials and urgent call to buy more?

We’re not missing out. We’re leading a richer life. We have less stuff but more time for the things that really matter to us: health, hobbies and each other.

We’re also slowly changing our little corner of the universe. And that feels really good.

You can do it too.

Four easy ways to change your world this Christmas.

Volunteer/Donate: it doesn’t have to be a big cheque or weeks at a soup kitchen. Give what you can where you can. Think different. Instead of sending holiday cards, Jo donates to a cause. See this list from Vicki for different ways to give (if you’re reading this site you’re probably already donating goods to a local charity – well done!).

Buy Local. If you can’t find, or don’t need, something locally made, support a local retailer. Independently owned shops need your business to survive. I know, I know, you can find it cheaper on Amazon. I’m not saying buy everything local this year but aim for 10% of your holiday gifts from a local independent retailer. Enjoy shopping in person in your community and watch your dollars stay where you live. Also, think climate change while you shop.

Give less stuff. Giving more is actually seen as giving less according to this study cited in a Globe and Mail article. While that should be reason enough to curb the overspend this year I will give you one more: the environment. It’s overwhelming to think of the carbon footprint of all that we purchase: out of season produce, electronics manufactured overseas, anything that wasn’t grown and produced locally. Let go of the guilt and simply buy less. One great much wanted gift rather than a sackful of junky filler gifts from the dollar store.

Smile. An easy way to spread abundance and joy this holiday season: smile. Smile on the street, smile at your children, smile at your spouse. It is contagious. It feels good. It’s good for your health. A smile is the easiest way to go viral.

My last tip: put up some mistletoe. I found fresh mistletoe the other day and couldn’t resist. Christmas 2011 will now be known as the kissing Christmas in our family.

our first minimalist Christmas

Source: via Meg on Pinterest


Have you ever thought, in the middle of driving from family gathering to family gathering on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve, wouldn’t it be great to just go away for the holidays?

That was us the last two years. We were toting our son around from my mom’s house to an in-law gathering and feeling tired, cranky and guilty. We felt the pull of both sides of the family and it was always a stressful series of back and forth phone calls and emails to figure out where and when we would see everyone. I planned a quiet Christmas breakfast for all of us that always ended up a rushed shoveling of food as we got the baby ready and all our bags of presents, side dishes and baked goods packed sorted for transport.

While what I mostly remember is great family time, watching my nieces and nephews put on a play, eating too much and watching movies, I still recall the driving, the hasty goodbyes and feeling like we just weren’t giving each side of the family, or ourselves, enough time.

In fact, the year before last Chris actually said, let’s skip this next year and go to Hawaii. We never ended up booking that vacation but the thought lingered.

And now we’re doing it. No obligations. No real plan. Just a lot of downtime and the three of us.

This wasn’t our first choice. We had planned to go back to Vancouver for two weeks and squeeze in as much family time as possible. The universe, and Customs Canada, conspired against us and we just had a two week unplanned visit to Vancouver in November instead.

Now we’re free as birds for the holidays. It’s exciting. And scary. I’ve never spent Christmas without my in-laws or immediate family. No sausage stuffing. No cauliflower puff. No cousin time for Henry.

We’ve decided to have a little getaway to mark the occasion and celebrate. We’re heading off island for some sights, to see some extended famil and spend a lot of time just the three of us. Here’s our plan:

Destination: Scotland!

Activities: walking, reading, watching movies, speed scrabble, sleep, enjoying city ambiance and possibly a Starbucks or two.

Gift Plan: Grandmas have now both sent large packages for Henry that will be opened when we return from our trip. Santa will be delivering stockings to us on Christmas Day filled with a few goodies. We’ve arranged presents for those that we exchange gifts with in Canada. Chris and I have agreed that this trip will be our gift to each other (which is great because I had no ideas on what to get him or anything that I wanted myself!).

Meals: we’re staying in a furnished apartment and I’ve already booked a Tesco grocery delivery for the day we arrive. To keep it simple, and stress free, we’ll have a special Christmas meal out on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Maybe we will have our own A Christmas Story Chinese Restaurant memory from this trip…..

It will be our first very simple and, hopefully, stress-free Christmas. I’m hoping this different approach takes the edge off any melancholy or homesickness. If not I have ordered a bottle of Bailey’s so that should do the trick. Kidding!

I’m still relatively new at managing extended family and expectations over the holidays. For those of you with a lot of family near by, how do you decided who to see and where to go over the holidays? Do you alternate years with sides of the family? Do you have tips for keeping it simple and enjoyable?

PS. Anyone in Edinburgh? Arranging a meet-up for coffee or tea while I am there. Any simple living aficionados that want to come are welcome. Email me and we will figure it out: the minimalist mom at gmail dot com.


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