I realize that 3200 sq feet is not the pinnacle of minimalism but we are looking forward to using the space in a variety of ways as our children grow and our interests change. We have dabbled with transforming the main floor into a bed and breakfast as my husband and I age. We will be hosting an exchange soccer coach in August and are hoping to bring on a Wwoofer in the fall (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms).
How many people live in your home?
There are 6 of us living in our home right now. Myself, Natalie, my husband Jamin and our four children. Our oldest son Kohen is 10 years old, and then we have 3 daughters – Ryann (8), Scarlett (5) and Sadie (3).
As mentioned earlier, my husband’s mother will be moving in with us at the end of the summer.
We have 1 very large and slobbery English Mastiff named Layla and a cat named Frankie who live in the home with us.
We also have a small hobby farm with 2 cows (1 dairy cow and 1 beef cow), 2 barn cats and a myriad of chickens, turkeys, guinea fowl, quail and water fowl.
We have a full house that’s for sure!
What was your motivation for embracing simplicity in your life?
When my husband and I began having children we quickly came to the realization that we were responsible for not only the life of a tiny human being but also the future for this tiny human being. I was a teacher at the time of the birth of my first son and had intended to go back to work once my maternity leave was finished. Destiny though had another plan. I changed my future plan and opened up a natural parenting shop in my local community.
Since opening my business I have come to truly understand the importance of choosing simplicity. We have over the years embraced a more simple and meaningful life that is filled with experiences. Every choice we make is for the future of our family and children. We want to live a meaningful life that is not filled with stuff and things. We want our children to understand the importance of people, our planet and the experiences we have on our planet. To recognize that what we do has an impact on others – both human, animal and plant.
How has minimizing your possessions made your life better?
Minimizing our possessions has given all of us the ability to connect more and enjoy life together. We spend less time cleaning, organizing and arranging. Our laundry routine is much simpler and our drawers much lighter. Our morning and evening routines are as simple as they come with little extras.
Our rooms are filled with only meaningful toys and books. We have only 4 baskets of toys – dolls, animals, wooden blocks and imaginative play (instruments/costumes, etc).
Ignore the giant TV in our living room. This was a recent addition and was a gift. Our children spend little time watching television and instead opt for spending time outdoors playing and imagining.
Each of our children has only 1-2 drawers for clothing. Each season change I do an inventory of the items that still fit and are in good condition and they make purchases based only our needs. In each of their drawers they will have approximately: 5 pairs of pants/skirts/leggings, 2 sweatshirts, 1 zip up hoodie, 4 long sleeve shirts, 2 short sleeve shirts, 1 pair of indoor shoes and 1 pair of outdoor shoes, 1 pair of rubber boots, 6-8 pairs of underwear, 4-6 pairs of socks and 3 pajama sets.
In my closet you will find about 40 pieces that are worn throughout almost all seasons. Each piece thoughtfully chosen and designed to coordinate with other pieces. My husbands closet is a little more full but he also has lots of clothes for chores. For some reason he is not too keen on overalls.
Our kitchen was transformed after we moved in by my husband. The prior kitchen was not practical and was challenging to work with. Our design was intended to give us access to everything we need easily. Our kitchen is our most inhabited room and is used throughout the day. We cook and bake all our own meals and snacks. We rarely purchase pre-made foods (granola bars, puddings, etc) so we have quite a few tools and machines in our kitchen due to our homesteading lifestyle.
Overall though we are more conscious of the purchases we make and where we put our dollars. Just because something is a good deal does not mean we purchase it. We need to have a purpose for that item and we need to love it. This has allowed our family to reduce our carbon footprint and participate more actively in our lives and with purpose.
All of these careful choices make our home environment more peaceful and purposeful. It has opened space for so much more. More conversations, more laughter, more time, more creativity, more love.
But I won’t lie, we constantly struggle with items entering our home, especially with four young children. Even as I took the images for this piece I looked around my rooms and noticed items that had no purpose and were not truly loved. How did they get there? Who brought them into our lives? Regardless of how they arrived in my home we take the time to recognize that they are taking up space in our life that we would rather have reserved for something more meaningful.
What was your biggest challenge in the middle of decluttering?
I like to do everything at once and in the moment. I like to do things hard and fast. But in the end, I feel overwhelmed because I try to do it all in one sitting and obviously it is just not possible. I go to bed frustrated because I have a big heap left in a room and I have to wait to finish my task.
Did you involve your family or were you on your own?
Luckily my husband is cooperative with most suggestions I bring forward. The first time we decluttered he was a little leery but he went along. Now he actively joins in and even takes note of items that do not belong. Just this past week he said that he would love to have only 4 outfits to wear – 4 shirts and 4 pants that were all coordinating and could be mixed together. He said it would make mornings easier for him.
My children have been on board since the beginning and with each decluttering take little notice. Decluttering has become a regular activity in our family – happening once every 6-12 months. I have found strategies that work well for my children though to alleviate any stress that may come up during the process. For example, I will usually start decluttering without the children and put items that I am not sure about into a bin. The bin will remain hidden for a few days and I will wait to see if the children notice the missing items. If the items have sat in the bin for a month, I will send them off to find a new home. This works well with my younger children. With my older children I will ask them to go through and choose favorites and let them know that we just don’t have space in our lives for all the items.
What unexpected reactions did you get from friends or family?
Most of our friends can’t believe how tidy and organized our home looks all the time. They wonder and ask questions about how we are able to keep such little belongings in our lives. Don’t your kids need more toys? What about all their clothes? How do they keep up with their friends at school? In all honesty, it doesn’t seem as though any of us are missing anything. We feel complete and full with what we have. My family has had mixed reactions. My father always makes a joke about how little toys the kids have to play with while my mother in law tends to continue to bring more items into our lives despite our reminders and hints.
It can definitely be challenging negotiating the opinions of others but at the end of the day it is our own lives. We make the choices we make for our family and our children because we believe them to be the best at the time.
Natalie George is the founder and owner of Go Green Baby, an online eco baby shop in Canada focusing on natural, organic and earth friendly products for moms, babies and kids. Go Green Baby believes in supporting families, creating community, building relationships, sharing experiences and changing lives. Natalie lives with her husband and four children outside of Kingston, Ontario on a 40 acre hobby farm. Together, they enjoy spending time outdoors, making homemade and local foods and creating a sustainable future.
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Everyone’s way of embracing minimalism is different and that is very important to remember. When you are thinking about becoming minimalist, the whole point of it is to keep true to your authentic self. What is important to you, the things you enjoy and the life you want to live. I’m excited to share some real life examples of what minimalism looks like in different homes around the world. If you would like to share a tour of your home, please contact me here with “HOME TOUR” in the subject line.