essentials: the bedroom

I suppose we started setting up house like the majority of North Americans. There is a prescribed formula for furniture in each room and so we began mindlessly acquiring those pieces. The day we moved into our first home, we had a mattress and boxspring on the floor in our bedroom and that was it. Eventually we added some small tables to serve as nightstands and elevated our bed with a basic metal frame. It was simple, but sufficient for the first year of our life together. 

We moved. Our space downsized by half, but we started upgrading furniture. First an increase to a queen size bed (to be fair, the full size mattress was a bit snug for two tall adults). I discovered a version of Freecycle in my community and soon we had new to us nightstands and a gigantic twelve drawer dresser. We swapped the basic metal frame for a dark grey, bronze studded fully upholstered frame. We had coordinating sheets and a duvet, side lamps, a vintage mirror, and curated decorations. By Pinterest standards, we had arrived! I would lay in my tidy, albeit full, bedroom at night and think about how far we’d come from that mattress on the floor. 

Over time, I learned something about upholstered bed frames (at least mine in particular) – they get dusty. They have to be vacuumed. Nightstands with drawers and shelves collect things, as do large dressers. They allow excess to linger because the space exists. The things I loved were starting to cause more frustration and work. My affinity for them started to wane. Then we were in the time of chaos – I was pregnant and we were renovating our storage to be a second bedroom. Every item was questioned, nothing was permanent. 

After Rhys was born and we had the luxury of a second bedroom, we began the era of room swapping. It wasn’t immediately clear which room would work better for the adults vs. the baby so we moved back and forth a few times. Our furniture did not fit the same in both rooms so first we removed the night stands. I hated vacuuming the bed frame and it was big and heavy to move so we swapped it for a very simple wooden platform that didn’t require a boxspring. The dresser never fit in our second bedroom and as we continued to minimize our possessions we didn’t need the storage space it provided. Eventually we replaced it with a mid-century four drawer model, downsizing by two-thirds. 

Four years later and we’ve boomeranged away from the after-worthy photos. I still have the duvet and I like coordinating sheets, but we’ve returned to the very basics. A simple bed frame and a single small stool to serve as a nightstand. A small framed photo, an antique alarm clock, and a hammered copper dish to hold jewelry are the only decorative items. While I wouldn’t say that I love the look of our bedroom currently I love that it is easy to clean and that it functions exactly as we need it to – a place to sleep and to store our clothes. In my dream world – where we aren’t renters and we have unlimited funds – I’d like tall ceilings, white walls, and huge windows. 

Over the years, all of our rooms have followed similar paths – building up, acquiring, working towards those worthy after photos. But along the way it became obvious that we weren’t working for ourselves, we were only trying to fulfill that prescribed ideal. Now we’re at a crossroads. I don’t look at the style and decor in our house and see everything I love. I see things that coordinate well enough, function for our family, and don’t cost us a lot of money. I am learning to appreciate them for their other qualities, like the comfort they provide and the lifestyle they allow us to live. Our second bedroom is technically a den, but am I willing to pay another thousand dollars to have a closet and a window and walls I can paint white? No. Right now I am happiest where we are with what we have. I need clean and comfortable and aesthetics are a bonus. I’ve realized that meeting that ideal isn’t me and it isn’t worth the cost. I am happy where we are, photo worthy or not!


This post was written for inclusion in the February 2019 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 if there is a topic you’d like to see us write about, let us know! 
Small Home Family — “We Gave Our Kids the Tiny House Bedroom” : Finding creative ways to make our one-bedroom home work for our family of four.
Little Bungalow — “Doors Open: Bedrooms Edition” : An updated look at each of our bedrooms and why I think the only true bedroom essential is having one of your own.
Fourth & West– “Essentials: The Bedroom” : How we built it up, then sold it all, and went right back to the basics.
Tiny Ass Camper– “Bare Necessities: Bedrooms” : Spoiler – our only real bedroom necessity is a bed – and even that is a bit flexible.

January Reads

Unfuck your Habit by Rachel Hoffman – I loved this for the kick in the pants to get off the couch and get stuff done. Sometimes I just need someone else to tell me that I’m an adult, I’m responsible, and if I don’t take care of my shit, it won’t get done. I also really appreciate Rachel’s acknowledgment that things like mental health and chronic illness are not easy and pose difficulties to the idea of “just get off your butt.” She offers gentle encouragement with a whole lot of grace for our imperfections.

The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker – This book is great for beginners to minimalism looking for practical steps and a logical direction to the process. I skimmed some of this since it’s not where I’m at anymore. I did appreciate Joshua’s thoughts on “what next” – how to we spend our newfound time and money now that we aren’t constantly acquiring and organizing stuff, especially as we look for opportunities to live generously.

New Minimalism by Cary Fortin and Kyle Quilici – While this is again written for the beginning minimalist it’s direct ties with zero-waste elevated it to my #1 in this category. Minimalism and Zero-Waste are so intertwined in my personal story and appreciate having it reflected in text. The pictures throughout the book are beautiful as well. I returned it three weeks ago, but put it on hold again so I can do a reread in a couple months.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – I’m late to the party here, but I still loved this book. Racism and inequality is always a heavy topic, but this is written in an accessible way, even for teenagers. Though fiction, it conveys a reality for many Americans and is a story that people need to really hear and understand. I can’t wait to read Angie’s next novel coming in February!

The Opposite of Spoiled by Ron Lieber – This is one of the best parenting books I have read and feels especially timely as Rhys turns five this month. He understands the basic concept of earning, giving, saving, and spending, but now feel equipped to move forward and teach him more. I want to be intentional in how we teach finances so that he doesn’t have to learn everything haphazardly as we have.

The Zero-Waste Lifestyle by Amy Korst – Zero-waste can be an overwhelming topic to research and even more difficult to implement. I appreciated reading Amy’s experience of living garbage free for a year and the range of steps readers can take to create less waste. It also gave me some ideas as we’re pushing further into zero-waste this year, like petitioning our municipality to start curb-side compost pick-up.

Becoming by Michelle Obama – It’s probably too early to say this is the best book I read in 2019, but it will be the bench everything else is measured against. I love reading about Michelle’s childhood and the background that goes into politics, the campaigning and especially living in the White House.

The Financial Diet by Chelsea Fagan – Despite being a millennial, I am not the target audience for this book. I do think it is valuable for many women though. Its easy to read and offers practical, simple financial advice. I would have appreciated reading it in my early twenties when we were just starting out and had no clue about finances besides a healthy fear of debt.

personal space vs. time alone

Growing up as an only child I had whole rooms to myself. My bedroom, my bathroom… I decorated them, I organized them, I maintained them. Once I moved to university and met my first roommate, personal space took on a completely different meaning. Since then I haven’t had a day where I had complete ownership of a room. My personal space is my drawers in a shared dresser, my half of the closet, my shelf in the bathroom. Every other space is communal, all other house decisions require compromise.

As an introvert, I would put personal space high on my list of needs, but what I actually need is time alone. Just like in university when I knew every hour that my roommate had class and I could have our room to myself, I now look through our weekly schedule and find time that I can be alone in our house. This has become even more important as a parent, and recently again as Rhys has largely stopped napping and I’ve lost those couple hours of peace in the afternoons.

Different schedules have worked better in different phases of life, so when something is feeling too forced, we reevaluate and try something new. When Rhys was an infant and toddler, we prioritized time alone on weekend mornings. Matt and I would alternate mornings and take Rhys out of the house so the other person could sleep in or have an hour alone with a cup of hot coffee. During nap times we’d often go our separate ways within our house just to have silence.

Since Matt does shift work and his schedule changes week to week, we’ve used preschool and I’ve balanced my work schedule to give each of us some time alone. When I am home with Rhys, I still enforce an hour of rest time in afternoon where he has to be in his bed, but he can have a few books to read. It gives me space to recharge with limited noise.

Now that Rhys is older, we really enjoy slow family mornings on the weekend. In this phase of life, we try to schedule afternoons to get out alone to pursue solo activities. Matt loves going to a local brewery with a book. I like to find a trail and spend the afternoon in the woods.

Living small requires us to consider our personal needs and find creative ways to accommodate them. Small houses don’t afford us whole rooms to ourselves, but we can find tiny spaces to call our own. And we can work towards schedules that allow for time alone both in and out of our house!

This post was written for inclusion in the January 2019 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 if there is a topic you’d like to see us write about, let us know! 
Small Family Home — “Love Grows Best” : Sometimes the solution isn’t more room. Sometimes it’s just learning to share.
Tiny Ass Camper– “Making Space” : Sometimes space isn’t about physical size at all.


Hello there, 2019!

Resolutions, lists of goals, specific milestones to meet… are not my thing. Not because I dislike setting goals, but because I fail miserably within a few days and just give up. So this year I am changing my approach. There are so many things I want to work on – reading more, doubling down on zero-waste, tracking aspects of our spending, simplifying food and trying more recipes, hiking new trails… So this year I resolve to improve. No tangible goals or markers for progress.  I’ll work on all of these (and probably more!) as I can, making small steps forward so that at the end of 2019, I’m in a better place than I am today. Any progress is a victory.

So bring it 2019. This year we walk forward.

the real wealth of christmas

“…the idea that real wealth is not what we can accumulate, but what we have to share.”

This quote, from the introduction in The Book of Hygge, has been bouncing around my brain for weeks. At the beginning of this year I set an intention to live generously. To consider all I have of time, money, and possessions and how they can serve others. This isn’t a new value, but I wanted to focus on it specifically this year. And this quote took all of my feelings over the last few months and dropped it into a neat little sentence just as we were rolling into the holiday season.

As adults, we’ve only known Christmases in a small space. The simple tree, limited decorations, and only a few gifts don’t seem remarkable. For us, it’s just Christmas. It’s comfortable. But that nagging thought lingered… that real wealth isn’t in our decorations (or lack thereof) or what we unwrap on Christmas morning. Real wealth is what we have to share.

Certainly I could have looked at this as an opportunity to open up our house more, to share food and drinks and celebrate this season with friends. But because I tend toward extremes, I proposed to Matt that we cut our Christmas budget in half. I had this feeling that our generosity to others should at least match our personal indulgence. If he was reluctant, he didn’t show it. We weren’t sure where that money would go, but there it was earmarked to share.

Suddenly, with a new perspective, opportunities opened up. Stories drew us in and poked at our hearts. Where once we would have just tossed our loose change in a kettle, we looked at what we had and asked how much can we share? Seniors alone for the holidays with simple wishes – a puzzle book, dish towels, a long sleeve pink shirt. A family with little boys like mine, who dream of a simple Christmas and maybe a box of diapers. My favourite school and some of the best kids in my life who will walk home on December 21st to a pretty bleak holiday break.

We’re still a week away, but Christmas feels SO BIG this year. We’ll wake up in our cozy house, with our simple tree, and a few thoughtful presents. But we have welcomed so many new friends  – some we haven’t met and some whose names we don’t know – into our hearts. This year we have experienced that the  real wealth of Christmas isn’t in our little house or around our tree, it is what we have shared.


This post was written for inclusion in the December 2018 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 if there is a topic you’d like to see us write about, let us know! 
Small Family Home — “Tiny Home for the Holidays” : A Tiny House Christmas really isn’t that different from anyone else’s Christmas. We’re still putting holiday decorations away in March, too.
Fourth & West– “The Real Wealth of Christmas” : The greatest lesson in the book of hygge.
Tiny Ass Camper– “The Ghost of Christmas Past” : The way we celebrate the holidays has little to do with what we choose to live in and everything to do with how that choice has changed us.



our essentials: the kitchen

Perhaps more than any other space in our home, the kitchen has seen the greatest ebb and flow of stuff as we figure out exactly what we need to cook often and host friends. We want to keep our possessions as low as possible, while still functioning well and not making cooking and baking difficult for ourselves.

We bake 2-3 times a week and prepare almost every meal at home. We host friends a few times a month which does sometimes exceed 6 people. If so, we dip into our camping gear for metal plates or we utilize our landlords dishes if we’re hosting with them. For a while I wished for those magazine pictures of matching place settings and gorgeous tablescapes, but that isn’t our reality right now. We have little kids underfoot. We’re often outside or  gathering in the living room to watch a football game. Being together with good food and drinks is the priority and our kitchen supports that.

Our current  kitchen inventory looks something like this. Which is to say, not quite minimalist. Certainly, we could reduce more, we already know what we’d cut immediately to live nomadically, but right now this kitchen serves us well.

eating and knives-1appliances and serving-1
c&b 2-1

cooking and baking -1*I forgot to add the pour over to make coffee and the bottle opener for beer and wine. Where are my priorities?

Some will look at this and see too little, and some will see too much. For those who have more and want to pare back, these were some of the biggest points in our kitchen downsize.

1) appliances – they take up a lot of space and often only serve one function. What do you have that isn’t being used, or whose purpose also exists in another piece of equipment? I bake a fair bit and dropped a stand mixer and hand mixer in favour of a wooden spoon. We put our microwave in storage for several months and while we missed it once, the oven was just fine for heating things up.

2) multiple size dishes – do we really need lunch plates and dinner plates? Pasta bowls and cereal bowls? Dozen of different style drinking glasses? (We still have more glasses than I like, but we have improved a lot.) Even with the same overall number of items, the storage and function of the kitchen is improved if we eliminate multiple sizes.

3) things we hate cleaning – I joke that laziness has largely driven our minimalist journey, but truly if I dread using something because cleaning it is such a pain it isn’t worth the space in my house. This is where a few appliances lost their place as well as really delicate dishes. I need my stuff to work hard and keep my life easy!

I’d love to hear about your kitchen essentials or where you’re at in your journey to own less!

This post was written for inclusion in the November 2018 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 if there is a topic you’d like to see us write about, let us know! 
Small Family Home — “Tiny House Kitchen Pare Down” : How getting rid of a third of our flatware made our kitchen a more pleasant space.
Little Bungalow — Drawers Open: Kitchen Edition: There’s no time like your eighth month of pregnancy to show off your spice cupboard! Moving clockwise around our (weirdly sizeable) kitchen and taking a look in all our drawers and cabinets plus some tips for paring down to kitchen essentials.
Deeper Meaning Travels — “Living Small: In the Kitchen” : Ever wonder how families living in a small space, manage their homes? Living in a small space requires less “stuff.” See how our family of 4 lives ‘small’, in the kitchen.
Tiny Ass Camper– “Bare Necessities: Kitchen” : A peek into our cabin kitchen & what we did differently in our Casita kitchen when we hit the road again this last spring.

Hike September

Smoke cleared, temperatures cooled and we’re back on the trail!

Big White Summit

We fell in love with Big White last winter, spending a few nights on the hill, and getting out in the snow. We planned to go up for a day trip in the summer, but between a busy July and smokey August, we didn’t get there until the last weekend they were open. It was September 1st, forecasted temperatures in the valley were 20+, and we anticipated the hill to be 12-14C. It was 7C when we got to the village and colder when we got to the top of the lift. We did the quick 1km hike to the summit, marvelled at the view – that sun against the grey clouds! – and then headed back down for a warm lunch inside.

Mount Boucherie

This is the first mountain I climbed in the Okanagan, over 8 years ago! I met two new friends shortly after moving here and they invited me for an early morning hike. My east coast upbringing assumed it would be a meandering walk. It was not. I nearly died. I was feeling restless this year, with the start of school and me not working, so I took off up the hill on the first day to just be. It was exactly the workout I needed. I missed my students and co-workers, but the freedom to come and go from work this year is right for our family and it gives me more time for solo hikes like this.

Bear Creek Falls

The other highlight to me not working as much – random days off with Matt! His work ebbs and flows. Sometimes it’s gruelling overtime for weeks, but then he’ll have opportunities to take a few days off midweek. When I’m working full time I have absolutely no flexibility in my schedule so we often missed each other on those days home. This time we jumped at the chance to get out and explore a new place while Rhys was at daycare. Bear Creek Falls is a gorgeous loop with crazy views down into the canyon.

Fintry Falls

My only birthday request was a day outside with my boys so we checked two things off the list – hike Fintry Falls and a drive along the scenic Westside Road. The stairs. My legs. Rhys loves stairs so this did not disappoint for him. I had to pause a few times with the excuse off taking pictures. 100% worth it though. We hiked a bit beyond the end of the marked trail, but turned around at the sight of bear scat. No thanks. Not today.

Trepanier off 6th Avenue 

This trail is literally out our backdoor. We need to spend many more evenings out there. Easy trail with amazing views and it gets us outside without much planning. Rhys with those homemade binoculars has my heart. He is developing a passion for being Trail Leader (a.k.a. “The Boss”), but I love following him and hearing him repeat the things he’s learned this summer.

Isobel Lake – Kamloops

Knowing that winter chain up starts October 1st, and seeing that September 29th was sunny in a 3 hour radius, we high-tailed it out of the OKanagan for a day trip to Kamloops. I proposed an adventure toward Revelstoke, but Matt countered with this hike in the backcountry and I couldn’t say no. It was stunning. The sun on the water and the forest blanketed in the colours of fall. It is at the top of our list for camping next summer!


October is already rolling in cold and wet, but have a few more hikes on the list if we can grab some sunny days! After that, we’re switching to snow shoes!

sunlight and SAD

I love living small. I love our location. I love having friend landlords just steps away. I love the extra opportunities this apartment has afforded us.

However, the physical characteristics of our space are… not great. The bathroom is off the living room, directly next to our large glass front door and mere feet from our couch… you can lock the door, but you still have zero privacy. The previous owners who renovated it did not do a great job – sloping floors, walls not straight, studs with non-standard spacing, poor electrical wiring, terrible finishes. Who picks textured white tile for all the main spaces in a house?! The only way we can get that floor clean, especially in the kitchen, is to scrub it on hands and knees with an abrasive sponge. It is a loathsome chore.

But. I would keep all of that if I could gain more natural light. Two sides of our apartment have no windows, the third side is northeast facing  and gets morning light, and the fourth side that is southwest facing and has the biggest windows is shaded by a large covered deck. The lack of natural light, coupled with our notoriously cloudy Okanagan winters makes me a miserable person three months out of the year.

I’ve always been prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder, but when we lived on the east coast we got enough sunny days in the winter that I managed okay. The west coast isn’t all bad, but the Okanagan Valley has a special charm where clouds settle like a cap on the mountains from November to February. Sunny days are rare and when it is sunny is it usually bitterly cold and often windy (how else would the clouds move out for a bit??). Over the past eight winters, I’ve developed various strategies to cope, but window placement and natural light is the one thing I will not compromise on when we eventually move. Give me a terrible layout, give me ugly finishings, give me crooked walls, but please give me a glass house.

This post was written for inclusion in the September 2018 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 if there is a topic you’d like to see us write about, let us know! 

Tiny Shiny Home–  “If I Could Change One thing” : Of course there are things we would have done differently in our renovation. It’s rare to get something right on the first try, but that doesn’t make us love our home any less.

Little Bungalow–  “The Budget is Broken” : I’ve always felt that one of the big benefits of living small was the ability to renovate on a budget – but our max spend has been reached and we still have projects on the wish list.

Small Home Family–  “Our Biggest Small House Regret” : There is one major oversight we made when choosing our house: not planning well enough for the future.

Tiny Found Us– “Needing a little more space?” : After living small for over a year, I realize we haven’t been living grand enough.

Tiny Ass Camper–  “Bathroom, Bathroom, Bathroom” : We intentionally chose to omit the bathroom from our camper and honestly haven’t missed it much – until we did.

a trail for two

We hiked.

Just the two of us.

Normally I wait for friends to plan something or until the weekend when Matt can join us. I love being outside, I love hiking, but I’m generally a follower. Until today. I decided we could do it. We could pick a new trail and even though I didn’t know exactly what to expect, we would be just fine.

Rhys squealed in delight at every stair case (there were a lot). I groaned internally, then hustled my butt to keep up with him. He politely greeted every fellow hiker along the trail. When one gentleman said “Good morning, Big Guy!” Rhys responded with “Good morning, Mr. Big Fella!” Thankfully Mr. Big Fella had a sense of humour (and a wife who has a delightful new story to tell all their friends).

We took off our shoes and walked in the icy cold water. We sat at the bottom of a canyon, looked up high at the rock walls and talked about flooding and erosion. We had a couple mishaps – two tiny tumbles and a pair of size 4 shorts that needed to be rinsed out in the creek – but we came out perfect. And next time I’ll remember to pack a change of clothes.

conscious consumerism for kids

Matt and I are 4 years deep in continual downsizing, lasting only a few weeks or months after a big clean out before we feel uncomfortable with our possessions again. Rhys, on the other hand, seems to be about four years deep in wanting all the things. He hasn’t met a toy he didn’t love or preschool art that wasn’t a masterpiece.

Until he was 3 years old, I largely controlled what was kept or sold. I monitored the toys that weren’t played with and passed them along. I coordinated his wardrobe and was the gatekeeper of toddler things entering the house.

By 3 and 4, we started intentionally modelling a spirit of generosity and including him in our conversations about cleaning out and letting go. We talked about how some things are very useful for a time and then we pass them on. Sometimes we have interests that change and it’s okay to grow and let things go. We discuss money and how we can’t afford to buy everything we want so we choose to sell things we no longer use to fund new purchases.

So this morning when he started in about wanting new LEGO, I directed him back to his room and asked what he would like to sell. He chose cars characters from the Cars movies. He and I found every single car and dumped them in a pile. (It was a lot!) We set a space limit on how many he could keep and Konmaried our way through the pile. 2/3rds of the collection were sold immediately.

Apparently buoyed by the sale of his cars, he turned to puzzles (3/6 sold!) I pushed a bit harder on his collection of “garbage toys” (my not so subtle name for the kids meal/dentist prize box variety of junk that sneaks in) and we reduced it significantly.

So tomorrow he earns his reward. A trip to the store with with a twenty dollar bill and an agonizing half hour for mom wherein he examines every box of LEGO available for purchase. But I’ll hang in there and help him carefully choose his purchase, considering whether his choices duplicate or compliment what he already owns.

Children, even as young as 3 and 4, are 100% capable of having these conversations and being active participants in their own consumerism! They are capable of deciding they like something just a little bit less so it’s worth letting go to get the thing they like more. They are also resilient little beings who will be just fine if they suddenly miss a toy they already passed on. Start the conversations young, model the behaviour you want to instill.

Practical Points and Confessions…

1) I do sell as much as possible. We try to buy quality items and attempt to keep things in good condition so there is value when we are done with it.

2) I have lied to my (then young 3 year old) child about selling garbage toys just to get them out of the house. I gave him $5 of my own money. Totally worth it.

3) I do not give my 4 year old free reign of all monies earned. He has chosen to sell some valuable items, but he gets $20 max and I save the rest.

4) I might save the rest for him (new clothes, activities fees, etc. ) or I might spend it on things for our family. No shame. A majority of the stuff was bought by me so I’ll happily take a cut now!

5) I forced a new toy famine to make a point. We rarely buy toys outside of special occasions, but when he was begging for new things and refusing to let go of old, I dug in and didn’t allow a single new toy into our house for several months – not from a happy meal, nothing second hand, definitely nothing new. When he relented and chose some items to sell I made a huge deal out it – took him out to breakfast and then shopping. He quickly associated the in/out concept and has acquiesced every time we’ve said “not until something goes”.

6) We model to a ridiculous extent. I buy something from the thrift store and make an exaggerated scene over choosing something to donate back. This isn’t a lifestyle we are forcing on our child, it’s something we live day in and day out. It is a core value we want to pass on.

7) My next step is to teach him to say no to garbage toys before they enter our house. We’re having conversations about where those toys are made, the age and working conditions of the people who make them, and what happens to those items after he is done with them. We focus on activities when rewards are deserved – extra time at a special park, kids choice of music and an all in dance party.

8) Progress over perfection. We are always moving in the direction of owning less, but there are little peaks and valleys on that journey. Christmas and kid birthday are back to back. It’s a very full season of receiving, but we balance out again mid year and find our new low. We want this to be a value he embraces, not a mandate he fights.

Mostly, we are making this up as we go! Following our own convictions and working with the spirited personality of our four year old. I’d love to hear more ideas and connect with other parents working towards conscious consumerism!