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.

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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!

Margins

Before Rhys was born, Matt and I very much lived by the work hard, play hard motto. We both worked jobs with non traditional schedules, put in long hours, and then we crammed in time with friends or quick trips away when we could spare some time from work. We didn’t allow for much space in our days for flexibility or the option to just be. We were always coming or going or planning or working.

A bit unexpectedly, Matt transitioned to a new job with a set schedule that brought a bit of reprieve to our lives. It was still a swing shift, but it was Monday to Friday and far more predictable than his previous career. I stayed at my job while pregnant, endured a rough year long maternity leave overshadowed by postpartum depression, and returned to an even more demanding schedule. We pieced together childcare between exhausted parents and a part time nanny. I lasted exactly six weeks before I started daydreaming about a big change and putting things in motion to make it happen. I desperately needed space in my day to breath. Our family needed margins or we were going to break.

The transition didn’t happen instantly, but every step towards the end goal made things a little easier. I started recognizing other areas where we could create space – our possessions, our budget, our commitments. Our small apartment never let us get too overwhelmed with things, but we realized we could spend our time taking care of stuff or we could just get rid of it. We pared down until household chores weren’t overwhelming. Not owning as much meant not buying either which allowed us to save more and put larger margins in our finances. For a season we said no to all reoccurring commitments and we’re very selective about the individual events to which we said yes.

As my new career took shape, we finally found the balance our family craved. We could be adults with careers and hobbies. We could be a family that traveled and sought new adventures. We can be a family that sits at home on a Friday night or one that invites friends to join in. We have margins. Space in our schedules and in our house so that we can put our relationships first.

This post was written for inclusion in the October 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– “Creating Outdoor Spaces…Help!!!” : Anxiety-inducing photos of my front, back and side yards –

please help me figure out what to put where.

Justice Pirate– “I’m So Spaced Out!” : Learn about experimentation and the importance of having a little more space than the average person might imagine; in fact, use your imagination more and embrace the space!

The Streamlined Life– “Creating Space in a Small Home” : Can you add more space to a small house without increasing the square footage? Let’s just say it’s easier than you think.

Tiny Ass Camper– “Creating Space” : How less physical space has created more space for things that matter.

Fourth & West– “Margins” : Creating space in a busy life.