the consumption

Tiny fashion - all second hand or locally made

tiny fashion – all second hand or locally made (minus the boots)

Once upon a time, shopping was my primary form of entertainment. I would wander the mall with a twenty dollar bill and see how many items I could purchase just for the thrill of a deal. When I moved to university as a freshmen I owned 30 skirts. I have been a t-shirt and jeans girl since childhood. But I accumulated 30 too good of a deal to pass up skirts and packed them all the way across New England and into Canada. I’m not sure I swore even a third of them before they were donated to a campus clothing swap. I’ve reformed since then into something of an anti-consumer fanatic and now shopping is something that must be endured. (Unless it’s a thrift store. I love a good second hand hunt.)

As we’ve following a meandering path to minimalism, a natural Hierarchy of Acquiring has developed in our house.

When “0. just don’t” doesn’t apply, we move on…

  1. borrow – If it’s a one time use item or we want to try before purchasing, we first ask friends to borrow it. A close second to this is rent. This winter Matt has both borrowed and rented a snowboard to try two different options. We’re considering how seriously we want to get into the lifestyle in the next few years as Rhys grows and this has given him great information as he looks ahead to potentially buying his own gear.
  2. shop second hand first – my greatest goal is to take our money out of the first cycle of consumerism. Avoiding new purchases means our dollars are not telling manufactures to make more for a greater demand. It also gives a second life to many cast offs that are still nearly new. As a side benefit, we save a significant amount of money shopping second hand.
  3. support small businesses – When I’m looking for tangible gifts, my first stop is local small businesses. I look for places that have sustainable, conscientious manufacturing practices and that are contributing to our local economy. This is also our general practice for eating out and purchasing food – support local farmers, drink local beer.
  4. purchase quality items that will last – Occasionally we do buy new items from big box stores. We research the item and chose a model that will meet all of our needs, even if it means saving up before purchasing.

Other considerations we make when acquiring new items:

  1. where will the item live in our home? – I have one drawer and approximately 9″ of hanging space for my clothing. If I buy a new item of clothing it is likely that something else has to leave. We don’t necessarily impose a number cap on items, but we do have space limits. Before something new enters our house we choose where it will be stored.
  2. what does the end of life look like for this item? – Can it be easily recycled? Will it have life left in it when I no longer need it and how will I find it a new home? If it’s dead, what recycling options are available?

Mindful consumerism is a habit we’ve had to work at over time. Running to a store to fill our needs is easy. Pausing, evaluating, and finding other sources is harder. It’s a journey toward a countercultural mindset to say: I have enough and I have a responsibility to live lightly on the earth.

This post was written for inclusion in the March collection of the Small Family Homes Blog Community. Read below for more writings on living small from our community of writers. Check back next month for a new topic and posts in the series and follow our community board on Pinterest for the latest small homes and family minimalism pins!

Little Bungalow– “Questionable Purchases” : I have one habit that helps me avoid buyer’s remorse (most of the time).

Fourth & West– “The Consumption” : Where to go when you have to buy.

A Life Shift– “What We Bring Back to Hong Kong From Canada” : With limited storage space in our Hong Kong flat (and luggage weight limits!) here’s a list of what we try to purchase in North America when we are back for a visit.


simple space for a big imagination

Two years ago I wrote about our toy situation and my honest belief that it reflected a minimalist perspective. To be fair “minimalist perspective” is vague as it runs the gamut from cozy minimalism to I only own 100 things. I had just finished a huge purge in our apartment and felt like I had a good handle on the toys of a two year old.

Fast forward to the bedroom of an almost four year old. It has half as many toys, nothing is rotated, everything is loved. Our current toy library consists of three main categories – LEGO, wooden train tracks, and cars. There are several puzzles and games in his closet, a shelf of much loved books, and a small basket of stuffed animals.

As we’ve transitioned from toddler to big kid room, my goal has been to maximize floor space and focus on toys with open ended play. With every phase of reduction, it has allowed more space for imagination and longer play with the toys we kept. Watching the creativity that emerges from this simple space is one of my greatest joys as a mom.

This post was written for inclusion in the February collection of the Small Family Homes Blog Community. Read below for more writings on living small from our community of writers. Check back next month for a new topic and posts in the series and follow our community board on Pinterest for the latest small homes and family minimalism pins!

Little Bungalow– “Two Adults, a Toddler and a Cat Live Here” : There are no playrooms, man caves, personal bathrooms or walk-in closets in our two-bedroom home.  Instead, every room has to work for every one.

Fourth & West– “Simple Space for a Big Imagination” : The evolution of less: a new minimalist kid space.

Tiny Ass Camper– “Kid’s Space: Casita vs. Cabin” : Sharing and comparing our kiddo’s space in our rolling vs. stationary home.

party of three

Matt and I started dating our second year of university. Twelve months later we were planning our life together. At the age of 20. As if we had realistic expectations about our future.

We thought we would live on the east coast. We thought we’d rent for a couple years then buy a house. We thought we wanted to have four kids.

Oh, but life. We moved to the west coast one month after our first anniversary. We have rented a tiny apartment for seven and a half years. We have an awesome almost four year old and are adamantly done having children.

Our small space/small family choices were never intertwined. We waffled a bit on having a second child after Rhys was born, having ultimately decided two kids was our maximum. Another person could comfortably fit in our current space, especially in their tiniest years, but nothing compelled us to have another.

Recently, we put the final stamp on our family of three status. For nearly four years, we have checked in with each other frequently. We imagined the different paths life might take by adding more children. Then one weekend this fall we both had an experience and realized we are done. Our family is complete. We have found our path, we have our tiny tribe, now we walk.

This post was written for inclusion in the January collection of the Small Family Homes Blog Community. Read below for more writings on living small from our community of writers. Check back next month for a new topic and posts in the series and follow our community board on Pinterest for the latest small homes and family minimalism pins!

A Life Shift– “Hong Kong House Sizes” :  A small space in North America is large compared to Hong Kong standards! Learn more about house sizes in Hong Kong and where our space fits in the city’s spectrum of “the norm”.

Shelley Vanderbyl– “The Shuffle -How We Let Our Family Grow While Staying in a Small House” : “Do you think you’ll move to a bigger house?”…this is the question people started asking us not one, but two kids ago.

Fourth & West– “Party of Three” : Following life’s unexpected path.

Tiny Ass Camper– “Upsizing” : How our plan to add to our family impacted our search for a half-time home.

that’s a wrap

My 30th birthday in English BayI anticipated my thirtieth birthday for years. Someone told me that thirty is when you put your feet on the ground, own who you are, and live it. The last few years of my twenties were a bit tumultuous between pregnancy, postpartum depression, and a big a career change. I needed a reset and a new decade was the best excuse. Whether a universal truth or just a self fulfilling prophecy, thirty was, without a doubt, my best year.

We kicked it off by booking a hotel in Vancouver so I could stand in the Pacific Ocean on my thirtieth birthday. That was September 2016. It ignited a flame and propelled us into 2017 ready to GO.

We said yes to any opportunity that got us outside or out of town. In February we drove over the still treacherous Coquihalla Highway to spend a wintery weekend with friends at camp. In April we spent our first night away from Rhys and explored more in Vancouver. In June we drove seven hours round trip down to the coast in a single day because the sun was shining and we wanted to get out of the house.

In July Matt took an unexpected trip home to Halifax, while Rhys and I spent three weeks in Pennsylvania with my parents. In August, we planned a last minute trip to Vancouver Island to visit a friend in Victoria. In September we went back to camp. In December we were able to spend a weekend at a local ski hill since a friend graciously allowed us to use their condo.

The weekends we were home we sought out new local adventures – hikes, beaches, farmers markets, restaurants, craft breweries. So much that we always wanted to do, but never prioritized. We are so much richer for the experiences and the people we met along the way.

Tonight we’re happy to wrap up a wonderful year. 2017 has changed us in an incredible way. We’re more confident and ambitious. We’re more grounded and sure of ourselves. We look forward to 2018 and all that it will bring. The adventures we have planned and the experiences we don’t yet know to anticipate. We welcome all of it expecting to be richer and stronger on the other side.

merry merry

We’re having a merriest Christmas morning. Music on, the perfect coffee, FaceTime with family far away, pausing to play with gifts as they are opened. Later we’ll enjoy dinner and celebrate with our west coast framily, our very best friends.

Simple. Slow. Merry Christmas!

the gift we give

As a little girl, I lived through many years of scarcity. My parents always provided my necessities, but frivolous purchases just couldn’t happen. Except on Christmas morning. They would scrimp and save and find all the deals.

Christmas was magic.

I would patter out of my room, blurry-eyed, to see that tree overflowing with gifts. Granted, a good portion were items needed – socks, underwear, maybe a new winter coat – but to four year old Kaylan it was positively extravagant.

As an adult, especially as a mom, I wanted to continue that magic. The frivolous aspect warred against my minimalist, practical side and as I overbought, I felt like I failed at Christmas. As the presents accumulated under the tree, I hated the precedent I was setting for my son, yet I couldn’t shake that tradition of an extravagant Christmas morning.

I realized this year with a three year old is probably my last chance to start over without him remembering much of the years of abundance. The evidence of over-buying has been erased throughout our house and I don’t want him to question why holidays were directly opposite of our values every other day of the year. Why did we give up simplicity and generosity to absolutely spoil ourselves? Can we not enjoy the gift giving aspect of the holidays without making it the aspect?

So this year we’re focusing on people and on simple traditions. A favourite advent tree with numbered ornaments. Baking together and sharing treats with friends. Shopping for the food bank and talking about how grateful we are for the things we have (although the 3 year old’s take away from “Stuff a Bus” was “the big bus is very, very hungry”… we still have work to do there).

And on Christmas morning there will be gifts under the tree, but they will be few and they will be thoughtful.

When my son is an adult I want him to remember that our holidays were not consumed with shopping and buying. I want him to remember that we thought of other people often. That we were always thankful for what we had. That when we did give gifts they were thoughtful and personal, not given out of obligation. The greatest gift I can give him is to model a life of kindness and generosity, to show him that gifts and things aren’t the focus of our holidays. We’ve intentionally crafted a life of simplicity and I want that to be evident every single day. Even December 25th.

This post was written for inclusion in the December collection of the Small Family Homes Blog Community. Read below for more writings on living small from our community of writers. Check back next month for a new topic and posts in the series and follow our community board on Pinterest for the latest small homes and family minimalism pins!

Little Bungalow– “A Very Minimalist Christmas to You” : It took some help from some talking squirrels, but I’ve finally made peace with receiving Christmas gifts.

Tiny Ass Camper– “The G Word” : Navigating gifts in a family of gift givers.

hosting in a small space

Our September practice for Canadian Thanksgiving.

When we first moved into our apartment we hosted frequently. A few friends for dinner in the evening, a larger gathering on a Saturday night. When the couch was full people sat on the floor or stood in the kitchen. There was food and friends and it was good. Space and formal seating didn’t matter. A month after we moved in, we hosted our first overnight guest who happily made a bed on our couch.

That has been our legacy in a small house. It’s not fancy, but we’ll always give our best to our guests first. Family and friends are always, always welcome. We’ve perfected the shuffling of beds between our room and our son’s so that our overnight guests have the best space to rest. We clear space on our bathroom shelves to make sure our overnight guests have a place to put their necessities.

This past summer we rearranged our deck space to be more accommodating for meals. We’ve tried several arrangements of furniture for casual conversations, but a big farmhouse table to seat 8+ seemed like the winning combination. And it was. We shared so many meals with friends, kids, and babies around that table. It’s now packed away for the winter (no one wants to sit outside with us in Canada in December!), but we are already anticipating it’s return when the weather is warmer.

It seems so cliche to say “those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind”, but when it comes to hosting in a small space it is true. Our friends who love us for us also love our small space and our slightly quirky choices. They embrace our space with us… because they love us. They want to spend time with us and that is more important than our small living space.

Live your small space. Fancy, casual, whatever represents you. Invite your people to join you. Find your community and don’t apologize!