My guest this week is Rachel McFadden of HappyGreenBabies. We’re talking about Minimalism and Minimalist Parenting.
You can listen to the show by clicking on the grey audio player below the transcript (at the bottom, just before the comments). Or you can read the transcript below.
For those of you that have been following the blog for the last few weeks, Rachel is the mom behind the Green Mom’s Weekly post that we’re doing every Monday. So, she is the originator of that and we hope that you guys can all join and link up to her weekly green mom’s post on her blog.
Okay so minimalism.
Carrie: It’s definitely becoming a thing online. Like last night, I was doing a little bit of googling because I follow a few minimalist logs, but I was looking for some that were a little bit more geared towards moms and parenting. And I found several that I’ll mention later on, but how would you define minimalism?
Rachel: The simplest thing I can say is a simple life. Simplifying the way that we live, and not cluttering it up with stuff. Enjoying the simple things, and not needing actual “stuff” to make us happy.
C: Yeah, definitely. You know, it’s interesting because ten years ago the buzz word was “organization”. There were all these books, blogs and magazines centered around organization. And then there was a kind of an evolution into simple living and I think people realized, wait a sec. I don’t think we can organize this stuff, we have too much!
You basically defined minimalism as a simple approach to life, making more room for life, having less stuff, less clutter.
Many times when we find websites and blog and ebooks about minimalism we find a single person who has a very…
R: …free life?
C: Yeah! What’s the word I’m looking for? Nomadic! A nomadic lifestyle is enviable, but now that we’ve settled down with a family and children, how can we embrace minimalism?
R: Sometimes we get bogged down… like when I was pregnant with my first, with all of the stuff that consumers feel they have to have to have a baby, that’s getting pushed on them by Babies R Us and all these massive baby stores and you have thousands of items you think you need. For this tiny little baby!
I was kind of the same way. I got all this stuff and realized you don’t need it! What’s more important is spending time with the baby, like what we talk about on Green Moms Weekly – attachment parenting.
My son is beside me, looking for his underwear.
C: Even minimalists have underwear!
R: Exactly. So after having my second child I realized that those things you really don’t need. What’s important is spending time with your baby. Being able to “wear” your baby, co-sleeping for me was one of the simplest things I could have done. It made my life a lot less hectic. The bedtime routine, what i remember with my first, trying to get him to sleep in a crib was never successful. He ended up in our bed anyway. So it just seemed simpler to cut out that whole struggle in life anyway.
C: My first crib was a really, really large … laundry basket.
R: Wow.That’s really cool.
C: Another thing that we mentioned briefly is that minimalism seems to be kind of an offshoot from the organization movement of maybe the 80′s and 90;s. There were so many great books being written, blogs and websites and stuff. There was the Get Things Done (GTD) movement, and all the things that shot out from that.
And then it was about simple living, so it transitioned from organizing to simple living. because I think people just realized, wait a minute, I have too much. Too much stuff, too much running around, too many activities, too much house, too much stuff in the house. I need to simplify it. And now it’s kind of even further trickled down to minimalism. What’s the minimal amount that I can have?
R: … and be happy.
C: Yeah, exactly. I was reading the other day that people buy homes (it was on the Happiness Project, Gretchin Rubin’s website)… people often buy things that they may only need once a year, or they buy a home that will never be full except once a year. They buy for the worst case scenario thing. They don’t get the thing that they need for every day. (It’s called “maximum-use imperative.) The big McMansions for people that have one or two children.
R: And you realize you only use one room…
C: And you’re all in that one room all day long!
R: Exactly. All that extra space! For the big Christmas or Thanksgiving that you don’t really need…
C: And you’d be happy with something smaller that would please you every day, not just that one time.
R: A lot of things I’ve read about organizing and becoming a minimalist is you have less clean up. Which creates less stress in your life. Because the less you have, the less you have to put away.
C: Even things like learning curves, for me with new technology, I go through this kind of mini depression when I have a new phone or something new like that. Getting to know it and getting to work it, it feels like such a waste of time and I resent that change.
R: I know, I know.
C: Some people have to have the latest and greatest gadget all the time and I don’t know how they deal with that.
R: I know! It’s crazy too because with things like that, they go out, they become obsolete so fast! We have the latest and greatest thing this week, and two weeks later you have to get it again… is this really making your life better, to have this thing?
Now having kids, I realize you don’t really need all those things.
C: Well this is a challenge for me personally because I see that frugality and minimalism have some things in common. But at the same time, if you are embracing minimalism, you cannot buy the cheapest thing. You have to go for quality.
R: That’s true.
C: I read a great blog post yesterday on Schmutzie. It was called Poor People Cannot Afford Cheap Things. And for me that’s a challenge because I hate to spend money on myself.
R: I do too.
C: I’ll go and buy a cheap pair of shoes, and then they hurt my feet. And I can’t wear them, and I sell them on ebay which is a hassle and headache. If I had just “upsold” and bought the nicer thing that would last for years! How do we get over that?
R: I totally get that conflict. Because one of my best friends lives in Utah. She’s ultimate minimalist. It suits her life, she’s just so happy. She lives in a little house, but she is canning all winter for all of her food for the whole winter. She’s processing deer, using every single part of the deer, including the brains, which she uses for curing the hides.
She’s telling me all about this, and when I think back to the stuff that she owns, she owns things that are made by Patagonia…. all these things that I was like, “Gosh they’re expensive, why are you buying these?” But they last forever! Really, she has had them for … 15 years. These things that she buys… the gear she gets for camping and just living in general, she buys things from Lehman’s. It’s a lot of houseware type stuff but it’s expensive ceramic type pieces and glass pieces that she’s gonna have for a lifetime. As opposed to aluminum junk that people buy for their kitchen so cheaply they get tons of it, she’s going to have that forever.
C: That really is better from an environmental standpoint too. Buying the highest quality thing that you can afford means that you’re going to keep it out of the landfill for years, maybe even pass it down to your children.
R: Absolutely. For me something I want to mention is that me and my husband especially, are huge Craigslist people. I look for the quality items that people are getting rid of. Because I am cheap like you said, and I can find things like that, for cheaper, even though they are quality items.
C: that’s a good tip. I was thinking when it comes to clothing, I like to go to the used stores in the nicer neighborhoods, so I have to drive a little bit.
R: That makes a huge difference. You really can find some nice things that are going to last. My husband just came home with a pair of Keen shoes that kids have. I have a pair of boots myself. But everyone says those boots are going to last you a lifetime. And he got them for $1! These $40 shoes for kids. Yeah, it was a nicer area thrift shop that he went to and found these great items. I’m like, “keep doing that!”.
C: What about trying to get rid of some of the clutter in your home if it’s something that you enjoy, like music or books? What about digitizing it? Is that something that you try to do?
R: That’s something that I aspire to do! Actually I do have a lot of stuff digital already. but I still do aspire to do some of it , I’ve got videotapes and stuff like that that I can just put on the computer. My father has tons of stuff that is CDs and books and videos from when we were growing up. He wants to get everything on digital, get rid of all this clutter.
C: Yeah. What I did just recently and I haven’t written it on the blog yet but plan on it: I have become a fan of Evernote. I love it! I just got my recipe files and scanned everything and put it in my Evernote in a recipe notebook. So now I can actually search by ingredients, so if I have broccoli and chicken and cheese I can put those ingredients in and see what I can come up with.
R: That is great!
C: So now I don’ t have ugly cluttered recipes filling up a drawer in my kitchen.
R: What I love about that is when people are asking me for recipes, I have everything digital so I can just send it to them by email or on my blog or another website that I created. So it’s so much easier! To share that stuff.
C: Another cool thing is, when you travel it’s right there in my phone. The Evernote online syncs with my laptop and phone so when I go out of town and I’ll be cooking with the family and I need a recipe I don’t have to worry about clipping it out or carrying it with me, it’s right there in my phone.
R: That is so cool, I’ve got to get my stepmother on board with that. She has ancient recipes from her mother, ancient stuff that she’s reading off of a smudged piece of paper. It gets more smudged every time she uses it.
C: Exactly! And the thing I hate about that is sometimes you’ll lose a vintage recipe that is passed down from someone. If it’s digital, then you’ll have it forever.
Can you recommend some resources for our listeners to learn more, or blogs that you follow to learn more?
R: Did you mention MinimalistMom? She’s got a book too, and some really great interesting points. And it’s good for anybody to use, not just somebody that is already a minimalist.
C: I just found her blog last night actually. She has written an ebook, The Guide to Baby’s First Year, that would be great for a friend who’s expecting and who is caught up in the glitter of the Toys R Us baby registry.
R: Absolutely! There’s also Family Sized Minimalism, an ebook by MinimalistAtHome.com. It’s writing about somebody that has a lot of space and is working on downsizing and how to go about doing that, and figuring out what you need and all that.
C: That’s great. There’s one that I’ll throw out that I really like. It’s two young single guys, but I just like their style and really enjoy their writing. It’s TheMinimalists.com. They’ve written an ebook I have that’s about $3. They’re hosting some TweetUps throughout the country, so I’m really wanting to meet those guys. And I’m sure you’re familiar with Leo Babauta of Zenhabits? He has 6 kids. So he’s a big minimalist, and his minimalist site is not on ZenHabits, it’s on MnMList.com That’s where he puts the articles about minimalism.
R: There was something else, if you don’t mind, that I wanted to touch on. I was talking with my husband when I told him I was going to be talking with you today.
We were talking about minimalism and birthdays and holidays. Since my oldest son’s birthday is coming up, and Christmas is coming up. I would say, “Please don’t give us any gifts.” We have a party, but we don’t need anything. And sometimes it’s not enough. Because people don’t listen to me. Anyway, we were talking about things for Christmas and birthdays that we can ask for that aren’t stuff. And one of the things he mentioned was memberships or tickets. Maybe membership to the Zoo.
R: Yeah! And things that are expensive and you might not take the time to buy. But if people are going to be buying you things, to ask for stuff like that.
C: I love that idea.
R: You get to spend more time with your kids, it’s a great experience for everyone. And you don’t have the cluttered up house because people are buying you stuff.
C: I think that’s a wonderful idea. Not only because it minimizes clutter, but also in terms of what children remember. When we look back on our childhood, we don’t really remember the toys that we had. I couldn’t even tell you what the inside of the house looked like. But I remember the things we did. Going to the Zoo, going to the Circus that time, going to the mountains. That’s what you remember. So that’s a wonderful idea.
R: So that’s my list of things, my in-laws always ask us to provide a Christmas list. And every year it’s so hard for me because I’m like, I don’t need anything. I really don’t. So now that I have this idea, I’m just going to start listing out things we can do for experiences for our family. We really could use that, it gives us time to let go of all the craziness that’s going on in life, and spend some time with each other.
C: Do you have any collections, or hobbies or addictions that make it (minimalism) hard?
R: (Laughs) Let’s see, umm, well… I’ve gotten away from it, but I used to be kind of an electronic junkie. And I’ve totally kind of gone in another direction because we had moved from our old house and bought a house that was not inhabited for 20 years and we were spending time fixing up our house and stuff, and electronics has not been a part of my life for the past couple years since we’ve been here. And it’s actually great. I wish I had been like this in years past. I realize I don’t really need all that stuff.
C: And it’s hard to devote time to it when you have young children.
R: It is hard to devote time to it. But that makes my life easier. I’m addicted to being cheap, so like you said… my Dad is so cheap, I’ve just been raised with not wanting to spend. When I make a purchase, I research it thoroughly. And I do buy quality items but I spend a lot of time mulling over it before I make the purchase.
C: I think my only addiction is children’s books. I have a thing for that. And books in general, but now that I have children I’m always buying children’s books. And I cannot go into a thrift store, a yard sale, a consignment ..
R: … without buying them?
C: That’s the first place I head, is the children’s books. But a couple of months ago I pared own my book collection to the extreme, and I still have 3 large almost to the ceiling bookshelves. But I got rid of a lot them on Amazon.com because I just went through and asked myself, “We might have read this and loved it, but are we doing to read it again in the next 6 months? Have I seen a child pick this book up?”
For me personally, there are certain reference books that I’ll never get rid of. Like Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child. The binding is all crap, I’ve had to tape it up, it’s stained, but I refer to it all the time when a kid is sick. There are books like that you’ll always refer back to. But if I had not opened it up in the last couple of months, it was gone.
R: It was gone.
C: You know what else is hard? When get a new book that’s supposed to be some great classic that everybody loved, and I read it or read it with my children, or they read it. And we don’t like it! It’s kind of like I have a hard time letting go of it.
R:.. that was supposed to be so great!
C: … and it was totally boring! We have few of those, so I’ve decided those are going, because I have to be me. Haha! We didn’t love it, so we’re not gonna keep it. On the other hand I have some books that the kids read over and over and over, so I’m totally fine having those all over the house. So you can define it for yourself, you can define minimalism.
R: I’m sitting here looking at my pile of sewing stuff and realizing that it’s one of those things that…
C: Are you crafty? Or wanna be?
R: I am, but I’m a wanna be! I was more crafty when I had more time when I had less kid stuff to do, so I’m always aspiring to do all this stuff, and i have piles and piles of fabric right here that I don’t get to use.
C: That’s another thing about clutter, if you read articles about why we hold on to it, it’s because that is our “ideal self”. We wish that we had the time for that craft, we hoped when we bought that exercise equipment that we would use it and lose weight, but that’s part of it… we are buying for our ideal self instead of our actual self.
R: Yeah you’re right. Because I’m always telling people, ideally I would be sewing all my curtains in my house.. I’ve done some, but ideally I would be making my children their clothes.
C: You can’t do everything. I’m always always telling my kids, you can do anything, but you can’t do everything.
R: Yeah, I know. That’s hard for me!
C: I’ve really enjoyed talking with you Rachel, because we’ve chatted a lot on the phone. I’m sure we’ll be talking again soon, I’m sure there’s a lot of things that we could chat about in the future. Great talking with you.
R: Absolutely, great talking with you too.