Leaving Minimalism

The title Minimalist Mom isn’t that accurate for me. If you’ve read a few posts here you’ll know that I aim for less and what we can live comfortably with rather than a rigid goal of a handful of possessions.

I chose the name while in a burst of zeal for the idea of what Minimalism could give me. I was excited, hopeful and had grand dreams of sparsely furnished rooms and a wardrobe that could fit in a small carry-on suitcase. After many rounds of decluttering I’ve found that the things my family want in our home, the things we use, is often in flux. I’ve found that I’m not interested in counting our possessions or living a nomadic lifestyle. I am interested in the space, time and money having less can give me and my family.

I’m not really a minimalist. We have a television, my son has a push bike he has yet to master and I recently bought a blender and a crock pot.

While I’m not a true minimalist I’m still fascinated by the idea of fewer possessions and the many returns from living with less. That’s why I keep writing here. That’s why I deliberate a lot longer on purchases than I used to. That’s why I have just two pairs of jeans, why we don’t have a car and why I keep a pretty sparse pantry. I like what having less gives me.

Friends Saying Goodbye to Minimalism.

Recently two of my blogging friends have discussed why minimalism is no longer right for them.

Rayna, a contributing writer to Frugal Mama, wrote about shutting down her blog The Suburban Minimalist almost a year ago. Embracing the movement had been positive at first and then lead her to a place she wasn’t comfortable or happy with.

 I’d learned the hard way that although there’s much to be said for living with (much) less than the average American, there are also quite a few things to be said for creature comforts and man-made beauty. Fluffy towels and familiar mugs sweeten our daily rituals. A closet with enough flattering choices makes me feel feminine and confident on the days I’m just not. – Rayna St. Pierre

Her new blog, Bright Copper Kettles, explores simplicity, design and the small things that make her life wonderful. It’s a nice read and I recommend popping in particularly for her links round up. Rayna has a great eye for articles and design that will inspire you to find more beauty in your life without making you feel bad about your living room that is covered in children’s toys or that you have yet to replace the glass on a picture frame that broke three months ago (guilty).

Faith started writing at MinimalistMoms around the same time I started this blog. Later she moved to MinimalistatHome and has written several e-books on minimalism and families. Recently she decided to move her writing away from minimalism.

… it became harder and harder to write a “minimalist” blog after two years. I’ve grown tired of wondering if what I have to say is minimalist enough or even if I am minimalist enough.. – Faith Janes

Faith’s new home online for living with less is a digital magazine called Simplify that launches October 1st. You can sign up to receive the first edition here.

Still Sticking With The M Word

I’ll still be here writing about my own brand of minimalism, the challenges of living counter-culturally and if I really needed that crock pot or blender.

While the term minimalism sounds extreme I think there is a lot to glean from the movement for even non-radical folk like myself. I like the discussion here about how to live with less, the benefits of it and how to go about it happily in a world that doesn’t support slow and simple living.

Real Simple magazine always told me that it was ‘life made easier, every day’ but I found that when I read it, I hated my home and felt the pressure to buy a lot of baskets and label makers and organize instead of truly simplify. I used to flip through those glossy pages and tell myself that I’d have a show worthy home if I just tried harder and made bread from scratch and a jar of lemon curd for an Amalfi Coast inspired luncheon replete with Limoncello ordered direct from Sorrento, Italy.

Life wasn’t made easier. Life was harder and the expectations bigger in ways that just made me tired. I had zero of the 20 must-have classic wardrobe staples for a woman in her 30’s. My vintage mason jar collection was nonexistent.

I wasn’t inspired by the supposed ease of this everyday beautiful simplicity. I was overwhelmed.

There is room in my life for beauty and minimalism. I keep fresh flowers on our kitchen window sill, not the dining room table, because that is where I enjoy them most. When I’m washing dishes I see my vase, sometimes it’s just a water glass, filled with the cheap and cheerful white carnations I buy myself or roses, a gift from a friend, and it’s enough for me.

Because I have less I appreciate what I do have more.

I’ll still be here writing about minimalism and how we’re making it work for us. With our roses on the window sill, our blender and even my expensive ballet flats that fell apart.

Choosing Organic Over An iPhone

My husband I finished our Whole30 a few weeks ago. We both felt really good by the end and were sleeping well and had more energy.

We’ve continued to eat primarily whole unprocessed foods and did a few test runs with dairy and gluten to see how we feel. Gluten: my ankles swelled up for three days, I got a raging headache and felt really tired. Dairy: not bad but my ‘only ever have while pregnant’ heartburn returned.

It will be a challenge to continue to eat this way but I feel we have a good chance now that both of us are on board. And my husband has started to cook more (yeah!).

The other challenge: the price.

Our grocery bill went up almost 40%. We’re eating a mountain of fresh fruit and vegetables and the best quality eggs, meat and fish that I can find.

Is it worth the money? We think so. But it’s still hard to fathom that a tiny box of organic blueberries, a little treat we all split with our breakfast, costs us $4 USD. We could be eating homemade pancakes or boxed cereal for pennies instead.

Why is it so hard to spend money for the best quality food?

Kristen asked that question the other week and it sparked some great comments on The Frugal Girl. Well worth the read.

I’ve been reading about the ancestral health movement for a few years. After my husband read It Starts With Food we had a discussion about if we could afford to buy the best quality food available to us.

We’re lucky: we can.

Sure, we have to watch other areas of spending. We eat out even less now. That part is kind of easy: no Whole Foods salad bar on the Isle of Man. If we want to come close to eating what we eat at home we have to go to a restaurant and drop $25-$40 per person. Yikes.

But without changing our lifestyle in a dramatic way we can spend more on our food.

Spending according to your values.

Food and clothing have become cheaper and cheaper thanks to manufacturing processes and overseas labour.

See this article and infograph on NPR. I’ve highlighted a few of the differences above.

Some of this is a good thing. Lower income families can afford milk and clothes.

Some of this is a bad thing. More money available for non-essentials has changed our consuming habits. We buy more. More things that don’t last and end up in landfills.

The inexpensive boxed and processed foods that some people eat by choice, and others because it’s all they can afford, are hurting their health.

What’s your health worth?

We’ve put health near the top of our priority list. iPhones which would run as at least $200 a month? Not on the list. A bigger home that would run us another $400-$700 a month? Also not on the list. If we wanted those things we would have to reconsider this increase in spending on food.

The jump in spending on housing between 1949 and 2011 is also striking. It’s worth noting that people are buying (and renting) much bigger homes today. In 1950, the average new house was less than 1,000 square feet; in 2000, the average new house was over 2,000 square feet. – NPR What Americans Buy

Many of the commenters on Kristen’s post said that high quality food was a priority for their family and they did without a lot of other things to afford food that was local, humanely raised and organic.

Three years ago I would have said we couldn’t afford organic. Actually, I did say it to friends when the discussion came up.

Organic is a fortune.

I can’t justify the cost. We can’t afford it.

Of course, we had an expensive cable package and a whole list of other expensive non-essentials and things we couldn’t afford on our credit card bill. We were in a lot of consumer debt. Buying better quality food wasn’t a priority of mine at the time.

I didn’t see it that way of course. I thought a lot of things we spent money on were things we had to have.

This is a question of both luxury and value. It’s luxurious to have the means to buy organic. It’s also something that’s value for increasing health is debatable. I’m not inferring that if you have the means to buy organic but don’t you aren’t prioritizing your health. There are many ways to prioritize health and eating high quality food is just one debatable spoke in a big wheel of things you can do or spend on for your health.

What fascinates me is that I, and I am sure many others, often confuse not being able to afford something with not making it a priority.

I’m actually trying to use the phrase ‘we can’t afford that’ less and saying ‘it’s not a priority for us’ more.

The fact is we could afford a bigger home, a car, private school or a whole host of other things (not all of them though) if they were a priority for us. But they’re not.

If you have the luxury, how do you talk to your kids and friends about why you prioritize spending on the things you do? Do you tell people ‘we can’t afford that’ for things that your family has no interest in spending money on?

My Luxuries

Source: flickr.com via Rachel on Pinterest


Talking about spending this week. Yesterday it was a year of tracking our finances. Today: my luxuries.

Sometimes I think people get the impression that because I’m trying to live with less stuff I’m also living with less luxury in my life.

If you think of luxury items as being expensive jeans and designer handbags and shoes… then yes, I don’t have those luxuries in my life.

But we do have extras. Since we paid off all of our non-mortgage debt we’ve made room for some little and big things that we really enjoy.

My Eyebrows

Sara made a comment on yesterday’s post about our grooming spend and that she was happy to see we had little luxuries mixed into our budget. My husband gets a goatee trim and I get my eyebrows waxed and tinted every 4-6 weeks.

This is a luxury but I really hope we always have the funds for these little things. As you can see from these photos, an eyebrow shape and tint really helps me look awake. It gives my face more expression. I don’t wear a lot of make-up so having defined eyebrows let’s me wear even less.

I spend £15/$22 every six weeks on this luxury.

Cherries. Strawberries. Organic Milk. Organic celery.

We’ve actually been spending more on food in the last few months. I’ve been buying organic when I can and splurging on sausages made from pasture raised pork. I’m trying to eat wild salmon once a week.

Some of these groceries are noticeably better in taste. Some aren’t. We don’t have as many organic or locally produced options here on the Isle so I just do my best with what is available.

It’s a luxury to buy the best quality food I can for my family but I think it’s worth it.

We spend a lot on groceries. A lot. But we make it work in our household budget and, most importantly, we try to have almost zero food waste. Now that we have a freezer we almost never throw anything out. Vegetables or fruit that are about to go bad are chopped up and frozen for soups, stews or smoothies.

Personal Training

Two months ago we hired a personal trainer to come to our home two mornings a week and train my husband. This is a big expense. But we know it works and I can’t think of anything better to invest money in than health.

After a few weeks I decided to join in and now we’re both lunging and lifting together while Henry eats breakfast and laughs at us.

I’ve had a lot of guilt and bad feelings around my fitness in the last year. Despite many attempts – a gym membership, buying a kettle bell – I haven’t found a strength training program I can stick to. It’s always been easier for me to go for a run than to push myself to do 100 burpees. This post from One Fit mom made me feel a bit better. If she can’t do these workouts alone I shouldn’t feel too bad about having the same struggle.

As I get older I need the strength training more and more. My lower back is shredded from my years as an athlete and I need that core strength and leg strength to keep it all together. I’m already feeling less back pain after just a few weeks of training.

In the future we’d like to cut down to one training session a week and then do another 1-2 workouts one our own.

Cost: very high. But, surprisingly, for the service we are getting we would probably pay twice as much in Vancouver. Gotta look at the upside, right?


I mentioned that we are considering cutting way back on travel in 2013. We’d like to not only save a bit more but also see if we can enjoy life without an off island trip every three months. Of course we can! It’s just so tempting being so close to so many interesting places.

But this year we have taken full advantage of direct flights off the island. As a family or on solo trips we have been to Dublin a few times, London, Liverpool, Manchester, Edinburgh and have a few more trips planned for this summer. We also went to the Dominican Republic in April for a sun vacation.

This is by far our biggest luxury. While it’s easy to convince ourselves that we need to see everything now, while we’re in such close proximity to Western Europe, I think it’s too easy to justify these trips. We have financial goals and responsibilities. Do we want to see it all or knock a few years off our mortgage?

The old wants vs. needs question.

The great thing about all of our luxuries is that we know they’re just that. They’re not needs. We’ll be able to easily cut them if our circumstances change or we decide we want to buckle down for bigger savings.

What are your luxuries? Do you think you could easily cut them if you had to?

Your Clutter Coach


Sometimes you need more help than a book or a blog can give you.

Sometimes you need a friend to remind you to donate those bags of unworn clothing that are sitting in your basement.

Sometimes you need someone to make a plan for you, motivate you and keep you accountable.

Sometimes you need a Clutter Coach.

I get a lot of emails asking for help. I always respond (even it takes me a while) with advice, suggestion and encouragement.

And I always wonder, did they carve out a weekend to clean out that attic? Are they in the throes of home purging and feeling beaten by the process? Did they pull out some boxes from under their bed, lose a few hours looking through old junk, and then decide it was all too much work?

For some time I’ve wanted to help beyond the posts on this blog. Something very personal for paring down and living smaller.

A book wasn’t the answer. There are already some great books out there like Family-Sized Minimalism and Clutter Bootcamp for inspiration and how-to. A book can’t hold your hand, give you a kick in the butt or suggest another method for dealing with all that mail.

I want to do those things.

I want to see closets go from jam packed to roomy.

I want to help people get more sleep.

I want to find solutions for the mud room clutter that can be so hard to reign in.

So I’ve started something new.

Your Clutter Coach

This is for people that:

  • can’t make the time to declutter even after reading a lot of books and blogs on the subject
  • get sidetracked by old photos and trinkets every time they attempt to clean out the guest room
  • have pared down their stuff but it crept back quickly
  • need motivation and accountability to clear clutter for good

Your Clutter Coach is a personalized decluttering program. It’s tailored to your lifestyle, your needs and your schedule. It’s me kicking your butt and you kicking ass.

You can read more about the services here.

If you’re interested in the program I am currently giving away one free Four Week Clutter Coaching Program at Parenting with Crappy Pictures (if you haven’t visited this site before it is hilarious). The giveaway is open until Tuesday May 8th at 8pm PST. Head on over to read the details and enter.

PS. This will be the only time I mention Your Clutter Coach in a big post like this.

game changer

someecards.com - It's not a period. It's a fountain of red wine. That's why I get so crazy. The more wine my body loses the crazier I get.

WARNING: for male readers or women that don’t want to read about “female troubles” or “aunt flow” or the experience that billions of us have once a month, stop reading now. I am sharing a simple living find that has literally changed a week of my life every month and saved me a lot of money. Back to normal programming after this post.

My friend S has told me many times that something would “change my life.”

Sometimes the thing that was going to change my life was an olive tapenade or a face cream. I do love her exuberance for the little things.

But here is where I tell you, this could change your life.

I’m going to be frank in the next few paragraphs. You might feel that you know me too well by the end of this.

That’s okay.

If I even get a handful of you to consider making this switch, if even one person does make this switch, well then, being candid about my menstrual cycle and the complete and utter failure of traditional feminine protection products will have been worth it.

Today I feel like shouting from the rooftops, I am free. No longer will I deal with pad or tampon failure. No longer will I be stuck wearing panty liners  for that utterly annoying pre-period spotting.

I am done with you Tampax and OB. I am done shelling out a lot of money for your expensive products and I am done carting a handful of them around in my handbag. I’m done using bulky pads that leave me wanting to shower five times a day. I’m done with tampons that are uncomfortable and shift and become painful while I’m running or doing a workout.

I’m done with menstrual products that remind me every freaking minute that yes, I have my period and yes, I’m uncomfortable.

That’s no way to live for a week every month.

I’ve found the Diva Cup and I am never going back.

This is a game changer. A GAME CHANGER.

I was hesitant at first. I tried something similar, an early version of a menstrual cup, back in university. It never fit right and at one point I stood up and the thing moved and emptied. Luckily I was at home at the time. I swore off trying alternative menstrual products after that.

But since having a baby I’ve become even more unhappy with what the drug store has to offer. Tampons were painful, didn’t fit right even after testing out going up and then down a size, and let’s just be blunt here: you have to change the thing every time you go pee or you’re walking around with a urine soaked tampon string. Expensive and not a lot of fun.

I tried using pads more but they have their own down falls. Bulky and on a long walk I’d get chaffage. They’re also fantastically messy. No skipping through a field of wild flowers when all you can think about is taking a bath.

The Diva Cup changes all of this. I literally forget I have my period. Sure there has been a learning curve for inserting it and for emptying it. Especially for emptying it. Be patient. Your bathroom might look like a crime scene the first few times. But after some practice I am now on easy street.

The other amazing perk of this system: put it in when you think you’re about to get your period. No more SURPRISE, you need to ditch that lunch date to rush home and change everything below the waist and find some upholstery cleaner for your car. No more wearing a stupid panty liner for three days hoping to “catch it” and then it comes on full flood and you’re up red creek without a paddle.

And I think it’s totally minimalist. Just this little cup that you can get up to a decade of use out of. It has it’s own little bag and is very small. Easy to tuck into a handbag or a cosmetics case while you’re on vacation. Again, no more last minute dash to a corner to store for very overpriced (because they’re already overpriced) tampons.

Okay, I’ve said my bit.

If you are interested in knowing more I’ve linked to sites where you can read more about the Diva Cup. These are not affiliate links and I haven’t been compensated by Diva Cup for writing this. I just feel more women need to know about this awesome alternative so I am shamelessly using my blog to get the word out.


To Purchase Canada & Worldwide: Luna Pads

To Purchase in the UK: Moon Times

Has anyone else tried the Diva Cup?


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