Families in Small Homes: Britt Reints

 As part of my Families in Small Home Series I asked Britt Reints, freelance writer and blogger, to tell us about simplifying and downsizing as a family of four. They have pared down, moved and reimagined their lifestyle, city and living situation several times over several years and currently call Pittsburgh home. Enjoy and be sure to check out Britt’s blog, In Pursuit of Happiness.

Just a few years ago you lived in a house and now you’ve moved from an RV to an apartment. How have your children adjusted to all of this change and downsizing?

My son, who has never been one to have an attachment to stuff, has adjusted seamlessly. My daughter, who loves stuff of all kinds, has adjusted kicking and screaming. She fills every inch of personal space she’s given, whether that’s a canvas box or a small room. She recently planted pumpkins in a pot in our kitchen. We’re told they will need about 25 feet of space and should produce fruit sometime in January. We still have no idea how we’re going to cope with this new space issue she’s created.

One thing you are currently living without: a microwave. Do you have any rules around what or how many things can be brought into your living space?

I know that some people have rules about “one in, one out”, but we haven’t really finished figuring out what we need yet. The only “rule” is that we stop and consider each item before we bring it into the house. We ask if we already have something that can fulfill the intended purpose. We also look for the most environmentally solution possible, meaning we try to find items that are both used and that can be reused in the future.

One of your goals for your year of seeing America by RV was finding a city you wanted to live in. Tell us why Pittsburgh came out on top.

I’ve always wanted to experience true urban living, and Pittsburgh offered us an affordable place to do just that. We have only one car and I walk or take the bus almost everywhere. I love having restaurants and shopping right in my own neighborhood, as well as museums, sports, theater and SO MUCH TO DO just a few minutes away. I just love this city. I love that it reinvented itself after the steel mills close. I love that it’s a mix of blue-collar, hipster, crunchy, academia – you name it, we have it – and all in an affordable package.

Your blog is titled In Pursuit of Happiness – what are three things that make you and your family happy?

Quality time together – we are four funny people and it’s just really, really fun to hang out with one another.
Being outside – we all enjoy hiking, biking, going to the beach and doing just about anything outside.
Good food – we spend an embarrassing percentage of our income on food, either in grocery stores or restaurants.

All photos courtesy of Britt Reints on Flickr.

A Different Clock

Wil arrived a week ago.

The Coles notes version is an ‘easy’ labour: we arrived at the hospital at 8am, I was in the labor pool at 9am and I pulled Wil out of the water and onto my chest at 9:54am.

I’ll save you from the longer version that starts at noon the previous day and involves a lot of lunges and watching Vampire Diaries on Netflix for three hours in the middle of the night through strong but very far apart contractions.

We are officially on baby time here. Early to bed and it takes up to an hour to get ready to leave the house with feedings and diaper changes.

Our home also has the new baby look to it. The living room is ‘decorated’ with my breastfeeding pillow, a basket of cloth diapers and a stack of very small onesies and sleepers.

I love it.

All of it.

I’m tired but the floppy newborn snuggles and 4am rounds of wakeful eye contact from a five day old boy more than make up for it.

Random thoughts on keeping it simple from this first week:

  • Little socks work well as scratch mittens and to keep a winter baby’s hands warm.
  • If your mother is there to help, let her. Even when I say, oh don’t bother with that, she does it and I have to say, it’s nice. Our dishwasher is emptied before I can get to it and the laundry has been magically hung to dry before I remember to check if a load is done.
  • Every meal cooked from scratch is a victory.

Thanks for the well wishes and the understanding with the long stretch of quiet on this blog. I’ll be posting more regularly in the coming weeks with interviews I’ve been saving and guest posts.

For now, check out this article from a mom who is vowing to spend nothing on her two year old for the next year.

This “minimalist mom” says she will buy second hand clothes, no new toys and stop buying prepackaged toddler snacks.

Is that extreme?

We already buy less and buy second hand most of the time. I rarely buy prepackaged snacks and we shop second hand for a lot of things. Santa sourced Brio train pieces off of Ebay last year and I bought new to us Clark shoes (retailed for $60, bought for $5) when Henry went through a growth spurt. Our snacks on the go are sliced cheese, raisins and pieces of fruit that I cut up or dole out into containers for portability.

Is that minimalism or just common sense ways to save a few dollars and be kinder to the earth?

Forget Resolutions: Make a Habit to Simplify in 2013

This is an excerpt from my latest post for Home Your Way. You can read the entire post here.

In my late teens and 20s I was an athlete. I worked out a lot.

Eighteen workouts a week for 48-50 weeks of the year.

Most of the workouts were out on a lake rowing in a long skinny boat, but in the afternoons I would hit up the gym for weight training sessions.

I spent many years observing the annual cycle of gym goers.

December is a great time to be at the gym. It’s quiet. People are out celebrating and any thoughts of muscle burn or finally getting in shape get farther away with every indulgence in savory appetizers and late night out.

January is a terrible time to be at a gym. They’re packed. Classes are full. There are wait lists to get on treadmills.

Luckily by mid-February the New Year’s Resolution crowd has thinned out. By late spring most of them are gone.

Why do all those gym goers fail at their resolution to get in shape?

Because they made a vague resolution instead of setting a goal and creating habits to achieve the goal. They resolved to “get in shape” or maybe even “go to the gym three times a week” and eventually the snooze button won out over their will power. There was no goal like do 100 burpies without stopping or ten full push-ups or finish the endurance spin class without having to take a break, to keep them motivated and working hard.

Resolutions rarely work. Setting a goal however, one that creates a new habit in your life, does.

Resolutions vs. Habit Forming Goal

What’s the difference between a resolution and a goal?

Read the rest of this post at Home Your Way.

Decluttering in 2013: Join Them





Are you seeing a trend in the 2013 goals and resolutions floating around out there?

People want clutter gone. For good.

If you’re one of those people ready to purge your home and calendar of excess in 2013 here are some ways to do it.

Unsure of where to start with decluttering?

You can read about the first few months of my journey, the many hours of decluttering, selling on eBay and Craigslist in September, October, November and December of 2010. It was neither easy nor pretty but you’ll get the gist of how I did it and the work involved.

When I think back to that time I know two things kept me going when it got hard: my sister was purging her storage space at the same time, and I wrote about my de-cluttering goals and progress here on this blog.

Having a friend on the same journey was motivating and helpful. If you’re trying to kick start de-cluttering ask your friends if anyone has simplifying goals for 2013. It’s good to have a shoulder to cry on when you realize you spent $85 on a dress that you never wore, never fit you and is now going to Goodwill.

I also recommend writing down all your tasks and all your accomplishments. Having a record of the work you have already done will give you momentum when the journey gets a bit harder.

It was nice to look back through the pictures and posts here when I felt like I had barely made a dent in our clutter. I could read and see that yes, we had in fact taken two car loads worth of housewares to the Salvation Army. Those notes reminded me that our ‘to sell on Craigslist or eBay’ pile in the dining area would some day, some how, be gone.

Wondering how living with less works when you have a family?

Before Christmas I quietly packed up a box of my son’s toys. I looked for things he had outgrown and that he no longer played with frequently. Santa and family also tipped me off about what he would be receiving at Christmas so I kept that in mind as I decided what would stay and what would go.

He hasn’t asked for those toys in the four weeks since I put them away. Win.

If you have others to consider when purging, a partner or children, I recommend Faith Jane’s book Family Sized Minimalism. It’s filled with moderate yet actionable ways to reduce your possessions while still keeping your relationships on healthy ground. I also like that Faith, a mom of three living in a multi-generational home, gives advice for all lifestyles: large families in small homes and small families in big homes. Her approach to minimalism and how to use it in a family setting is practical and attainable.


Want things out of the house now and forever and ready to commit weekends and evenings until it’s done?

Start. Today. Now.

Put a box in every room and every time you come across something that is broken or you never use or you’re keeping for a just-in-case scenario that has yet to happen in the seven years since you bought the item, put it in the box. If you’re too scared to donate or sell the contents pack it away in the garage for six months and then reevaluate.

If you’re motivated and want a thorough guide to decluttering your home check out Tanja Hoagland’s 30 Day Clutter Bootcamp.

Thirty days and 30 areas to declutter. Intense but if you start today you’ll be done by the time most of the New Year’s crowd has dropped their meal planning/workout out/budgeting/do more more more resolutions.

You should be able to recoup the cost of the book many times over by selling things in your home you haven’t been using and by being more mindful of what you buy.

As Maggie so eloquently wrote in her list of 2013 resolutions:

Own less crap.
College lit anthologies, a bag of noisemakers, three sub-par yoga mats, really good empty boxes should I choose to wrap something cleverly. Ugh, all this stuff. I don’t need all this stuff. Do you want it? Purge! 2013. – Maggie at Go Mighty

Anyone in home purge mode for the new year? What’s your progress so far?

Hello 2013


despite the poor quality this is my favourite photo from 2012

Reflecting on 2012 and gearing up for 2013 here. And trying to get a lot of long walks in as my due date approaches.

We grew in some areas and continued to cut back in others in 2012. Balance, right?

We moved into a bigger home. In April we moved out of our our little two bed flat, our first home on the island, and into a bigger three bed flat down the street.

Biggest reason for the move? I was struggling with the small closet like windowless kitchen in our first flat. It was challenging to safely cook while also keeping an eye on Henry.

Our new home has a modern kitchen with natural light plus an extra bedroom. We were hoping to add to our family and fortuitously the flat came furnished with a crib that converts to a toddler bed.

Adding to our family but not our stuff.

Any day now we’ll be a family of four.

Unlike my last pregnancy I have not spent this one buying random items off of daily deal sites or scouring the Internet for the perfect stroller. I’ve spent more time and energy going to prenatal yoga classes and enjoying these last months with our first born still being an only child. What little we did purchase for this baby was mostly second hand and we have been generously loaned the two most expensive items we needed: a glider/high back chair for nursing and a breast pump. I’ll need to pay it forward

Marked two years of car-free living.

November marked our second anniversary of living without a car. No car still makes sense for us and we continue to enjoy the health and financial benefits of not owning an automobile.

We’ve taken more cabs this fall because of bad weather and medical appointments that weren’t accessible by bus. Our transportation expenses have been higher but still nothing close to buying, maintaining, insuring and fueling a car. Interested to see how adding a new baby into the mix will affect our transportation wants and needs.

Continued to live debt-free and below our means.

Sometimes I wonder when or if we’ll slip up. I can’t help but think of Oprah rolling her wagon of fat on stage claiming she will never be overweight again. Will that be us ten years from now with credit cards racked up and applying for a line of credit for a vacation we obviously can’t afford?

I do know that two things help us with out finances tremendously: tracking all of our spending and trying to live with less stuff. We know where each penny or pence goes and we buy a lot less.

Simple Living Goals for 2013:

Take our budgeting to the next level. We’ve been using a reverse budget system for a year and a half. It’s worked to get us in the habit of tracking but we want to have a more in-depth budget, one that accounts for less frequent but larger expenses. We’ve laid out a plan and new system that starts this month. Wish us luck.

Avoid baby clutter. Still waiting on baby #2 but already keeping the clutter at bay. Decided against a double stroller for now. Borrowed our bigger items (thanks friends!). Bought some new to us baby clothing and nursing tops off of eBay. No nursery to decorate because the baby will room-in with us for a few months before sharing a room with Henry. So thankful we found simple living/minimalism before having a second child.

Personal Goals for 2013:

  • Run a half marathon. Last one was when Henry was 13 months.
  • Breastfeed for six months or more. This is my reminder that we will have a new small and needy person in our home and to keep my expectations and commitments realistic.
  • Read 24 books. Inspired by Natalie and her 52 books.
  • Finally learn how to crack an egg with one hand. This will be the year!
  • Self-publish a collection of non-fiction essays. Chickened out on this one in 2012.

These aren’t resolutions. I hate resolutions. They’re usually vague like “get in shape” or “spend less” and ditched by the end of January. I’ve done enough of that in my life.

Instead of resolutions I’m setting goals. Tangible goals that I can work towards and check off.

How was your 2012? What are you hoping for in this next year? If you are a blogger I’d love a link to any posts about your goals or resolutions for the coming year.

P.S. Great New Year’s ebook sale on for six more days. Five books, including titles from Tsh Oxenrider of Simple Mom and Joshua Becker from Becoming Minimalist, for $7.40 (75% off). I’ve read and can recommend Tsh and Joshua’s books and have heard good things about the other three.
BundleoftheWeek.com, 5 eBooks for $7.40!

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