minimalist family guest - Robin

Today we have the lovely Robin Kay from one of my favourite Instagram accounts, Twentyventi. Robin and her husband have one lovely daughter and live beautifully and minimally near Toronto, Canada. She was kind enough to also share A Day In HER Life last year, which you can read here.

1. What does minimalism mean for your family?

For us, minimalism is a lifestyle that we've chosen, deeply rooted in the values of slow living. In the simplest terms, it means living with less in order to have more.

The meaning of "less" and "more" has changed or evolved over time to mean a lot of different things. Early on less meant less belongings, less clutter in order to have more space, more order. Around the time my daughter was born, we found that having less meant we had more time to do the things we love, and spend time with the people we love. It's no longer a constant uphill battle of trying to maintain and find space for things. We've learned to be content with fewer things, fewer distractions, and became more focused on each other. And in turn, being more focused on each other has made it easier to refine what belongings are really important to us - because really, nothing holds a candle to family.

While I think there's great value in living with less physical belongings, and simplifying our physical environment, I also think it is equally important to focus on "decluttering" our lives. It's as easy to get caught up in buying the latest trends as it is to get wrapped up in a never ending to-do list, jam-packed and over-scheduled with activities. We try to simplify both our environment and schedules to nurture connection with each other. Books like The Life Changing Magic of Tidying-Up by Marie Kondo guided us in refining our belongings and organizing our space (which was incredibly useful), but it was resources like Whole Family Rhythms and Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne - both deeply rooted in the Waldorf education philosophy - that bridged the gap between just focusing on the "stuff," and adapting the slow-living lifestyle that fit for our family with a young child.

Minimalism also strongly relates to the environment for us (ecominimalism). We are constantly learning and adapting ways to live more sustainably. We buy used whenever possible, or look to ethical, sustainable brands. One of our family goals this year is be as waste-free as possible, hoping to be completely plastic-free for at least a month, and waste-free for a month too.

2. How has minimalism influenced your family's culture (i.e. how you parent)?

The root of all this minimalism, this pursuit of a simpler life, is for us to connect with each other. But even with a pared down number of possessions, we live in an age of distractions - tv, social media, limitless information at our finger tips. We try to be aware of tuning out things that distract from being present for each other - "digital minimalism" in a way. I try to make a conscious effort about putting that phone down, deciding not to be busy or preoccupied with something - and instead being unplugged and present, which can be difficult in the most "connected" time in history. It's something that I work on daily - my mind has a hard time slowing down and just being in a moment. I know I'm not the only woman/mother out there who is a compulsive multi-tasker - which can be a skill at times, but also makes being present a challenge.

As a family, we choose to spend the majority of our free time together, whether it's simply cooking a meal, washing laundry, dancing together after dinner, going for a walk to the library. We're always trying to find ways to make those connections, to filter out those distractions. We make a point of spending time together outdoors, immersed in nature. My favourite memories, the times when I've felt the most connected to my family, has been on hikes in the forest or walks by the lake. The simplicity of nature helps calm my mind, and often reminds me to slow down.

From an environmental aspect of minimalism, we want to raise a human who appreciates nature and cares for our planet. We hope to teach her through example in our efforts to make more sustainable choices.

There's a beautiful quote by Zenobia Barlow:

"Children are born with a sense of wonder and affinity for Nature. Properly cultivated, these values can mature into ecological literacy, and eventually into sustainable patterns of living."

3. How do your kids react to your minimalist lifestyle?

I think that a lot is yet to be seen, as our daughter grows older and becomes more aware of our lifestyle. In terms of physical environment, this is what she's always known - a fairly orderly home (there's always that odd corner or closet that's a work in progress, of course), and modest selection of toys that aren't too overstimulating, and natural materials. She understands that things have a place where they belong, and she generally tidies up after herself (and us sometimes, too). We've tried to simplify our environment for her to be involved in nearly every aspect of our lives, and she responds with an eagerness to help (toddlers are so great for that enthusiasm over mundane chores like washing the dishes).

I mentioned earlier that we turned to Whole Family Rhythms, and other Waldorf resources as a model for our family. The reason for this was that there was something missing in our home even after refining our belongings and focusing on each other. I think there is only so much order that can be achieved from an organized home if the day-to-day is still chaotic and random - which it was for the first while after my daughter was born (and still can be sometimes). Most days just felt hectic because there was no consistency for her or for me, and it was often filled with stress for both of us.

It was when we adapted a rhythm to our lives, using Waldorf-inspired resources, that our days began to run more smoothly. We've found that naptime and bedtime transitions are easier, and there's been visibly less meltdowns and anxiety for everyone. Of course, it doesn't mean that every day is stress or tantrum free - we still certainly have our off days - but it has helped create an easy flow of consistency from our day to day, making room in our schedule for everything that is really essential to us, intertwining play and work into our daily lives as something that we do together. Our days have become simpler. We know what's expected of everyone, and it's given our daughter, and us, confidence.

4. What's the hardest part about living minimally for your family?

For me, it's patience. The patience to do without things we want, or sometimes need, until we can find them used, or from an ethical, responsible brand that we can afford. It can be a long process of searching and waiting - which isn't necessarily bad, because sometimes during the wait we realize we don't need what we were waiting for anyway. Most of the time it's easy, because there's very little we need, but there are still things we want - things like a better camera, a pair of rain boots, a decent blender, curtains for our living/dining room. But we know they aren't necessities, and while they'd make life a little easier (and keep the sun out of our eyes while eating dinner), we try to keep the perspective that they wouldn't really make our lives any better.

I also find that it's hard for me to maintain digital clutter - for example, sorting through and getting rid of photographs or word files. It's something that doesn't take up any physical space, so it tends to get overlooked, but it's almost always haunting me, the huge task of sorting through thousands of files.

5. What's the easiest/best part about your minimalist lifestyle?

The best part is all of it, really. The simple act of learning to let go has been so freeing, and permeated into every area of my life, my home, my marriage, and myself. It's let me focus on and feel contentment with what I already have, but also inspired me to do more, to be more.

I found this quote by Peter Walsh, that so beautifully sums up my experience with minimalism:

“What I know for sure is that when you declutter—whether it's in your home, your head, or your heart—it is astounding what will flow into that space that will enrich you, your life, and your family.”

Thank you so much Robin!
Robin Kay - @twentyventi


a FITNESS instagram?

Last week, I created a second Instagram account specifically for fitness and health called @fitmamamtl. Why the heck would I do that?

I launched a second Instagram account strictly to document my journey to strength, and in hopes of inspiring, encouraging, and explaining that fitness doesn't have to be body-obsessed, narcissistic, boastful, or competitive. I decided to start @fitmamamtl because in the last three months of using the BBG guides, I've noticed huge changes in my body, my energy levels, and my overall health, and it's a journey I'd like to document. In searching for other Instagram accounts to follow, I found that a lot of fitness accounts were heavy on platitudes and posing, but light on what I find personally encouraging: real life struggles balanced out with determination and perseverance, a higher motivation than looking hot in a bikini, conviction to care well for our bodies, emphasis on the benefits of strength training, aside from buns o' steal.

In many ways, I'm the last person who should have a fitness account on any form of social media. I've only been at this for three months, I'm definitely not super muscular or crazy fit, and I don't even know if I'm doing the exercises right half the time. You won't see me posting too many progress pics because I've never been too comfortable with selfies, especially half dressed ones, and I don't even want the focus of the account to be my body. But maybe that makes me just the right person to have a fitness account. When I look at certain hashtags (#fitmom, #bodyafterbaby, etc) I see an unattainable, overtly sexy, self-focused woman staring back at me and I just am not encouraged by that. But what if I could provide a different image? Another voice? A new motivation? A fresh perspective? That's why I've started @fitmamamtl. I'd love you to follow along! xo

Using Up The WHOLE Chicken

We love roasting whole chickens for dinner in our home. I love that one whole roast chicken usually can yield two meals, plus a big batch of bone broth and some natural fats to replace butter or oil, too. For total food consumption, I think a whole chicken provides the most, and renders the least amount of food waste, which is something I've been trying to curb recently. Plus roast chicken is just the tastiest, most comforting meal in cold weather I think! Here's what I do once we've roasted up a whole chicken:

Step 1: Remove all the excess meat from the bones, set aside for other meals. We like to mix chicken pieces with black beans and corn for tortillas, add the pieces to soup, or make chicken salad sandwiches with leftover meat.

Step 2: Pour all the drippings into a jar (1 whole chicken usually yields 1 litre of drippings) and refrigerate. This will coagulate and separate - most of your jar will be translucent dark brown gel, which, when mixed with boiling, is an amazing base for soup in it's own right. The very top will be pure fat and yellowish/white. I scrape this off and put in a smaller jar for ultra-flavourful fat to sub in where some recipes might call for butter. It lasts for over a month in the fridge and is insanely flavourful. Of course, it's a trans-fat and not a health food, but in small portions, it gives normal meals such added flavour. Plus it saves you from buying other ingredients like oil or butter, wastes less!

Step 3: Make your bone broth. Put the whole carcass and any loose bones or skin into a large heavy-bottomed pot. Then get creative, emptying your fridge of veggies that are soon to expire. I usually add green, red, white, and yellow onions - whichever I have on hand, or all of them - as well as celery, carrots, apples, Parmesan rinds, and spare herbs. I add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste, but sometimes I'll add in dried coriander, pickling spices, or paprika to mix it up. Fill with water, until everything is submerged. Bring to a boil and leave boiling for a few minutes, leave it at a simmer for at least thirty minutes. The flavours get richer the longer you leave it, so I try to leave my broth simmering for a good hour. Once the liquid is cooled, pour into ice cube trays, freeze, then pop frozen cubes into large freezer zip lock bags for future use, or just place in jars in your fridge.



Guys, I can't believe I'm writing this. Me, who adored coffee. Who drank it black and several times a day. Who didn't bat an eye at spending $5 on a comforting, smooth latte. Who frequented the local cafes in my neighbourhood several times a week. Who would bring my own beans and coffee maker with me whenever I traveled because I wanted the best cup I could get my hands on. It's true.

It's been two full months since I said good bye to coffee, and it's kind of a funny story. First of all, I didn't set out to quit coffee. I've tried cutting things out of my diet cold turkey like that, and it's always been miserable and never lead to lasting change. No-Sweets November, I'm looking at you. Even when I've done my best to stop drinking coffee, I've spent most of my time wishing I was drinking coffee, not to mention nursing a huge headache from the withdrawal. So why was this time different?

Instead of forcing myself to stop something I needed and wanted, I changed some habits which in turn altered my needs and desires, and in the end I stopped needing coffee and eventually, didn't desire the taste either. I know, I'm shocked too.

The two biggest changes that lead to this were: I started exercising, and I doubled tripled my water intake. After Christmas I started the BBG workout that everyone and their mother are doing. It's crazy popular, the girl has millions of followers on Instagram, and for good reason: it actually works. It's do-able, if not hard, it's new every time so you're not bored with the same old, and you see serious results if you commit to the program. Did I mention it's only three times a week for 28 minutes? I won't go on and on, because other bloggers like my friend Abby, have done a great job reviewing the workout and singing it's praises. But basically, ENDORPHINS ARE REAL. The very first day I started BBG I had been awake since 4am and was exhausted, and for whatever reason, I hadn't had a coffee yet before I started my workout. After the 28 minutes, I was sweaty, breathless, but oh the energy I had! I didn't need coffee and really, all I wanted to do was guzzle water. A pattern began, I used up my coffee when guests were over and didn't buy more when I ran out. After a few weeks of not having coffee, I kind of stopped thinking the taste was all that great, and haven't craved it since.

I know this is probably atypical, and I know tons of women who workout regularly and still love coffee (Morgan!) but even those women have said they rely on coffee less than they used to before they started exercising. Crazy, right? Now that I'm working out almost daily (I have started doing the BBG workout about 5x per week instead of 3x, and I am outside walking almost daily, because city living), I have so much energy and the thought of coffee honestly makes me feel a little bit gross.

One major benefit to kicking my habit? I probably spent around $40/month on coffee which is now money in the bank. Recently I wanted to buy a season of a show on iTunes, which was around $20 and I hesitated for a minute, before realizing, wait, I would spend that every two weeks on coffee just a few months ago! It's funny that at the time we don't think much of spending money once something is integrated into our habits. Same goes for alcohol, which I've also cut back on since starting to workout (again, because the desire isn't there and mostly I'd rather just drink water or mint tea).

Something I don't miss about coffee? The smell, once it's not fresh. EWWWW! Walking into a coffee shop or opening a bag of fresh ground beans is heaven, but let's be honest, coffee breath is putrid, and I usually want to burn my clothes when I leave a coffee shop. I still drink tea, and occasionally (like once every 2 weeks) stop by tea shops, but my breath and clothes are fine after. Such a win.

Anyway, I know I've been blogging about coffee forever (I wrote about my favourite cafes, which I still recommend to others, and 8 ways to save money in Montreal's cafe culture) but this girl is officially off the coff. Yeow!