Minimalist-ish Family Series: Kendal Gerard

Another post in the Minimalist-ish Family Series and this time it’s a young family deciding to love the space they’re in right now… even if it’s a lot smaller than they planned for.
IMG_6288
1.) Tell us about your family, who you are, where you live and things that you love:

We’re a new family of three — our baby girl is just seven months old — and we all share a 750 sq. ft. wartime bungalow in the East York-Beaches neighbourhood of Toronto, Canada. We bought the property about six years ago after renting nearby. I love coffee, running, red wine, reading, country music, flea markets, and our fluffy ginger cat, Archie. I’m currently on maternity leave with our daughter, but I’ll eventually go back to work in children’s book publishing and my husband is a geologist. His career will see us move to Victoria, British Columbia, in the spring, so we’ll soon call a new address home for a little while.   

IMG_5644

2.) When did you first hear about minimalism and what was your initial reaction?

 Soon after we got married, I got the house hunting itch bad. I desperately wanted out of our “too small” apartment and into a home of our own. We walked through our house three times before we made a bid — it was definitely too small (about 100 sq. ft. bigger than our one bedroom apartment and we knew we’d want a child one day), but something about it kept drawing us back. We decided we’d make a radical lifestyle change in order to own it and live in it comfortably — I decided I wanted a little house near the beach more than I wanted a bed frame (yep, our bedroom is only big enough for a mattress on the floor). I don’t know if I’d heard the term “minimalism” by that point or if that came later, but my reaction is kind of, “aah, my people.” I’m a big time convert.    
  Nursery

3.) What do you find most challenging in trying to live with less stuff?

I like to switch things up at home and the commitment to owning less stuff (one set of bedsheets, for example) makes it difficult to do a simple refresh by cycling in your spare set. When I do purchase something new for the house (like a throw pillow, mirror, vase, etc.), I have to donate/gift/sell/repurpose whatever it’s replacing — there’s no high shelf in a closet (literally, my house has no closets) where I can stick the pillow I was tired of looking at. That can feel wasteful because there’s usually nothing wrong with or damaged about the older item. Also, one of my favourite ways to spend a Saturday is at a flea market or jumble shop — I love the thrill of the find. Of course, I most often leave empty handed because we really don’t have space for that perfect vintage school desk, which is cost effective — but can be a bit of a bummer.   

  IMG_6320
4.) What do you find most rewarding in trying to live with less stuff?
I believe we draw a lot from our surroundings and that living in a simple, clutter free environment, surrounded only by things that are beautiful to look at or otherwise make you happy, is just plain good for the soul. It’s maybe too early to say for sure, but my daughter is just the happiest, calmest baby — I’d like to think that has something to do with the absence of a million toys and outfits. Living with less has also been a boon financially — we’ve been able to travel all over (we’re about to take our third vacation with our seven month old) and we’ll be able to keep our Toronto property as a rental and purchase a new (small!) home in Victoria this winter. Neither of these things would have been possible if I’d been making weekly Target runs for crap we don’t actually need.   
  IMG_5685
5.) Do you see any challenges (older, bigger kids, retirement, etc) to continuing on with this lifestyle in the future?
 My husband and I act as gatekeepers right now. The influx of stuff (grandparents, oi vey) for our daughter has been relentless since she was born, but any outfits, toys, and books that don’t meet our standards are promptly donated, returned, regifted, or sold and she’s none the wiser. Pretty soon she’s going to be aware of all her presents and probably want to keep more than she can possibly play with or wear. So that’s a challenge. The other challenge is really specific to this house and not to a minimalist lifestyle generally — her bedroom is 54 sq. ft., won’t fit a single bed, and we all share one itty bitty bathroom. This might be a problem down the line, when we move back to this house from Victoria with a pre-teen or teenager.
Instagram: @little.bungalow

Thank you Kendal! Lovely to see how you make your small home work and your no-nonsense strategy on gifts is right up my alley. And good luck with your big move.

Are you living a Minimalist-ish life? I’m sharing stories from families that have implemented minimalism to small or big degrees and what that looks like in their home and with their family. If you would like to be featured email me at the minimalist mom at gmail dot com (all together). 

The Minimalist Mom: How to Simply Parent Your Baby

 

That’s a baby getting a bath in a bucket in our kitchen sink. I wanted to try out one of those Tummy Tubs – a friend said her baby really enjoyed it – but $50 for a plastic bucket seemed a bit ridiculous. And you know, the baby may hate it. And, oh yeah, we already had a bucket at home that could basically do the same job.

I didn’t always think this way. In fact, with our first baby, the one that was quite colicky and didn’t sleep much, I looked to stuff to make life easier. This special swaddle would help or this stuffed singing lamb would soothe him to sleep. I bought a lot of stuff in search of making my life easier and my baby happier. None of it did what I hoped it would. The cure for my colicky baby and my deep exhaustion was simply time and asking for help. Nothing I could buy in a store or charge on a credit card.

newbookpost2

That’s what my new book is about. The Minimalist Mom: How to Simply Parent Your Baby is about accepting the unpredictable nature of life with a baby and tailoring what you have and how you manage your new life to suit your needs. It’s always frustrated me that those traditional baby book tombs of check lists and must-haves never spoke about different needs for different lifestyles and that not all babies are the same. Those books never delved into real strategies for making life easier as a new parent. Those books never speak to examining your own lifestyle and your own priorities as you plan for life with a new baby. The dual working parent suburban family with a long commute by car and a baby in daycare has different needs than say a family with a parent staying home that lives in an urban center. And if you’re sending your child to a daycare you will have different needs than a family that has a nanny that comes to their home. If your stroller will mostly be stored in your car you probably don’t need the same stroller as the parents that want to jog on their rural roads or the parent that will use their stroller to haul the groceries home or even the family that is hoping to have a second baby soon after the first. If one parent works overnights you’re going to need a different schedule and division of household duties than a family with two parents that work 9-5 jobs. So many differences and yet those other baby books shell out the same advice for all of us. This book is different.

In The Minimalist Mom: How to Simply Parent Your Baby I show you how to:

  • buy or borrow baby gear that you will actually use for your life and your baby
  • save money on your gear and ideas for making single items multipurpose
  • identify your schedule and household stumbling blocks and make plans before the baby arrives
  • hone in on the things that really matter to you – be they family or friend time, education, a hobby – and how to incorporate them back into your life as new parents
  • create more time in your schedule once the baby arrives
  • get more sleep!

This is a book about making life a bit simpler and easier. Using the tenets of minimalism I take you through simplifying your routines and gear to help you enjoy and savor that first year with your baby. No matter if you live on a rural homestead or in the heart of the city. If you work full-time and have a one hour commute each way or you’re becoming a stay-at-home parent. If you’ve got money to spend or if you’re working with a small or nonexistent budget (yes, there are strategies for spending $0 on baby gear and clothing in this book!). In each section of the book I give examples of implementing a minimalist lifestyle to whatever degree you’re looking for. The ideas run the range from radical to modest and there’s something in here for every parent whether your goal is simply to clean out the guest bedroom before the baby arrives or you’re looking for strategies to live in a one bedroom apartment with one (or two) children.

Why? Because happier and calmer and less sleep deprived parents are happier people. And they deal with the stress of a new baby better. And that’s what I want for new parents who read this book. Less stress, more sleep. Less clutter, more love.

I really couldn’t have written this book without all the support and advice from readers over the years. It’s been almost six years since I started writing here and I have loved sharing and learning with all of you. The conversation here continues to inspire me and I know it has helped thousands of new parents navigate the often murky waters of life with a baby. Thank you all!

Finally, I would love your support with this new book. If you can share it with your local parents group, request it be stocked to your local library, gift it at your next baby shower or even buy a copy I would so greatly appreciate your support. If you have already purchased the book – THANK YOU! – and I would love your support in the form of an honest Amazon review. Small authors like me rely on word of mouth and online reviews to get our books noticed and you dear readers are my online village!

Home Tour: One Bedroom For Three Boys

Sharing our home in this series on the blog. More here and here.

Three boys. One bedroom.

My best tip for making a small space work for three kids isn’t a design hack or even a space creator like having less stuff. My best tip for making our small space work for three kids is this: get outside. We don’t have a yard nor space to have an indoor mini tramp or rec room you could play soccer in. Our home has to meet our big needs – place to sleep, relax and dine – but it can’t meet all of our needs. We can’t own all the toys or all the books. So we let the library and our friends and the tot drop in at the Community Center own and store a lot of toys and books that we use on site or borrow for a few weeks. Grandma has the water guns and the mini soccer goals and big remote control cars at her house. If you don’t have an attic or garage or basement you are forced to just own what you use most of the time and find other ways to enjoy your occasional toys and activities.

kidsroom2

Technically this room houses three but at the moment the youngest sleeps in the office in a portable crib but plays and has his toys and clothing stored in this room. Our plan is for the three boys to share this room for the next two to three years and then do some shuffling to give them more space.

kidsroom5

The IKEA hack toddler bunk beds (originally our neighbor’s 5kids1condo.com) are fantastic space savers. Our older two – age 6 and age 3 – fit nicely in them. I won’t disclose too much about the design (because it’s not mine and I don’t want to be sued!) but this is two IKEA Gulliver beds stacked on each other with four supports keeping them together and a custom ladder. It’s very sturdy and we all love it.

On the other side of the room we have a play corner centered around the ubiquitous IKEA Expedit unit. I try to keep the toy collection contained to just these boxes plus another box in the living room but I will confess there is a Paw Patroller and Air Patroller out of view. The boxes: two are full of wooden trains and train set pieces, the rest is Duplo, Lego, dress up clothing, wooden puzzles and some Hot Wheels cars and tracks. We cull the toys a few times a year via the methods in Simplicity Parenting. Some of the books are displayed on picture rails that just fit in next to the closet and there are more books stacked around the house.

kidbooks

The small but deep closet in the kid’s room holds two IKEA units for clothing. Sometimes I KonMari all the clothing… sometimes the three year old pulls all of it out looking for his pajamas (they were on his bed). Sometimes the baby pulls all the clothing out just because it’s fun. So yes, I don’t KonMari their clothing frequently. I have a rule that if the clothing can’t fit in unfolded then we need to pare it down.

kidsroom7

The rug is very second hand Pottery Barn and was incredibly dirty when I got it. A number of runs with the Dyson later it’s nubby and worn but pretty clean. The little chairs can fit at our kid’s table to increase our hosting options.

A big comfy reading chair that the kids could sit in with me would be nice. But it would eat a lot of floor space and make the room feel crowded. Instead I sit on the carpet or the kids come into our bed or we all sit on the living room couch. When the kids are waking each other up or pestering each other and not falling asleep I think it would be nice for them to have their own rooms. I’m not immune to the “wouldn’t it be nice to have” thoughts but when I go there, and I do go there, I then try to remind myself what the nice to haves come with: eventually feeling squeezed out of our small-ish home.

kidsroom6

What about when they’re teens? It wasn’t until second year university that I first experienced having my own bedroom. Oh how I loved it. The privacy and the ability to decorate and do as I please was such a luxury. I would really like our children to have a year or two of their own bedroom in their teen years. Which is why if we stay in this home we will do a room shuffle every few years so each boy can have a year or two of high school with his own bedroom. Here’s another “it would be nice to have”: It would be nice that they spend enough time sharing a bedroom with a sibling(s) that they learn how to navigate the rough and calm waters of living with people and also, that they really appreciate having their own bedroom when it finally happens.

Did you share a bedroom growing up? When did you first have your own bedroom? I feel like most kids these days don’t have to share but I like the skills learned from negotiating with a sister over what poster goes on the wall and who gets the top drawer.

The NEW Joy of Less + Giveaway

 

TheJoyofLess-frontb

I run very few ‘stuff’ giveaways on this blog. You already know that. But occasionally I give away books I really enjoy and, this may surprise you, I often pay for those books myself. In fact my first giveaway on this blog was a copy of Francine Jay’s, aka Miss Minimalist, wonderful guide to decluttering your home, The Joy of Less. I wanted to thank all my readers for their wonderful encouragement as I tackled reducing our stuff so I decided to give away a copy of a book that had been a great help to me.

So I was beyond thrilled when Francine emailed me about the new revised and updated edition of The Joy of Less she was working on with Chronicle Books. Miss Minimalist emailed me! I’m such a fan girl that I did a double take when I saw the email.

Lucky me I received an advance copy of the updated and revised edition of the book and you’ll seem my short notes – spoiler: I loved it! – on the back of the book.

After reading this new version again I was surprised by the book. I read it back in 2010 with such fervor and determination to get our home in order that I remember it quite differently. Back then I was looking for how-tos and a solid kick in the pants to get it done. And that was my big takeaway back then. I got just what I needed from it.

Reading it again six years later I got to enjoy a whole other side to the book: it’s sweeter and funnier and cheekier than I remember. Nonthreatening. Entertaining, silly at times and so inspiring. Francine writes with such a calm and accessible hand on what can often be a stressful and emotional task. And the additional material, particularly on children, is so helpful. We are out of the big home purge stage in our living with less journey but I found myself nodding along and enjoying all the succinct and smart ways to pare down and the big benefits to living smaller.

Quotes I loved from The Joy of Less:

We reclaim our space, and restore function and potential to our homes.

We have to remember that our memories, dreams, and ambitions aren’t contained in objects; they’re contained in ourselves.

We are not what we own; we are what we do, what we think, and who we love.

In pursuing a minimalist lifestyle, we must resist the temptation to recreate the outside world within our abodes.

To celebrate the publication of The Joy of Less Chronicle Books is giving away two copies of the book to lucky Minimalist Mom readers. Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below and then leave a comment on this post. Contest closes Saturday.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Living in a Small Space with a Baby

 

Wondering if you need to move into something bigger for baby’s arrival? Is your one bedroom and den too small for a family of three? Do babies need big houses? No, no and no.

Our transition back to North America continues at a slow pace. We’re currently house-sitting until our tenants move out of our condo. It was a huge win to find a friend of a friend that would let us crash at her place while she was away for the summer. We are in a great location and have spectacular views of the North Shore mountains. But we’re winging it on the baby friendly front and space is tight. It’s reminded me again that babies really don’t need a lot of space or lots of stuff.

Cutting Down on Baby Gear smallspacebaby

High chairs are not a necessity. If you’re in a small space consider using a booster seat at your dining table or if you have a bar height eat-in space, look into high chairs that attach to the counter. These are great space savers and easy to find second hand.

Super tight on space? Have the baby sit on the floor to eat. A 6 month+ baby that can sit without assistance doesn’t have to be in a high chair or booster or at a table to eat. When we travel I’ve had my babies sit on a washable blanket for meals. It’s not perfect but it gets the job done.

Invest in multi-use and multi-purpose items. One of my better buys for child 2 that we are now using for child 3, was a portable play pen/ portable crib. Our portable crib has been used at the gym to contain a young toddler, at home as a safe spot to leave a mobile baby and as a bed (our second used ours as his crib from 18 months to 2 years of age). If you’re in a small space and don’t have room for a full size crib, consider a smaller portable option.

Avoid those one off items like white noise machines and instead, buy something that can be used after the baby years like a fan (same noise but it will also keep you cool).

Look for space saving baby gear. Strollers that collapse quickly to get stowed in a front hall closet, high chairs that can be easily folded up and put away between meals and cribs that can be rolled out of sight are all helpful to small space dwellers. Often these handy pieces are marketed as baby travel gear and carry a hefty price tag. Look for good used condition models to buy – they are great investments and you can often resell them later on with very little depreciation.

Only have what you need right now. Forget about stocking up for the next developmental milestone. If you’re living small avoid getting that exersaucer that’s on sale when you’re baby is just a few weeks old. The few dollars saved just aren’t worth it when you have to store a huge item in limited closet space. Buy the bigger car seat when you’re baby is ready for it and not before and avoid the temptation to stock up on next years sizes at end of season sales.

Get creative. Cribs can fit in closets and yes, you can even go big and move the baby into the bedroom and yourself into the living room as this Vancouver area couple described in their Apartment Therapy interview. It’s not always about ‘will this work forever’ but rather ‘will this work right now’. Yes, you may need to upsize your home at some point but if you can live comfortably in a small space for a few extra years, that’s savings in the bank. We’re now a five person family living in a two bedroom apartment. I don’t know if we will be in this home forever but I do know that for right now, it works. Being flexible, creative and owning less stuff and smaller stuff all helps!

Want more ideas for a small nursery or living in a small space with a baby? Check out the blog ‘reading my tea leaves’ about tiny apartment living with a baby and a this article about creative bedroom solutions for babies in apartments. And, of course, my book The Minimalist Mom: How to Simply Parent Your Baby (Adams 2016) is full of great ideas and strategies for keeping things smaller, simpler and sweeter. You can find it in bookstores and on Amazon.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...