What I mean by simplifying.

So last summer I read this book. The title looked as if it were written to me ( I mean who doesn’t want less clutter, kids or no kids!), and I am not usually a self help book type gal, but I really couldn’t pass it up. I had recently started following some slow living and minimalist writers, and was fascinated by there ideas and lives.

I have always been a super picky person, trying to minimize what comes into my home, especially since having children. There really is no better place to notice how much stuff you have then children. It accumulates very quickly. (because holy shit, the amount of toys and clothes, and bouncy balls!) But in all seriousness, it was a major stress in my life. The endless piles of papers and books and toys. It was really overwhelming. So I started living more ecologically and environmentally friendly. Started preaching quality over quantity, and experiences over things.  Life started to get a little easier, but I was still feeling overwhelmed. I had a particularly hard year after that,  giving birth to a child with a congenital heart defect and the aftermath of that on my mental health made the need for control and order in my house hold much more important. Not to mention that it made my priorities seem skewed, material things were not something I was particularly attached to regardless, but they seemed of even less importance. I wanted to spend less time organizing crap we didn’t need or use, and spend more time with my kids.

Then I found this book. Clutter free with Kids- By Joshua Becker, and I found a name for the lifestyle I was attracted to, and what my aim had been. To own less stuff, schedule less, minimize the things that were not priority in my life. It was the first time I had read a book like this and just nodded the whole way through.

If this is a lifestyle you like the sounds of, I highly recommend this book, kids or not! It really helped me shape my goals, and deal with parts of my over cluttered mind and home.

I started a purging process that continues to this day, moving on from items that I knew someone else could use, getting rid of trash and broken things that I really had no intention of ever repairing, minimizing our possessions. It was honestly a very eye opening experience for me,  and amazingly, the farther I got into it, the more I wanted to simplify. This effect bled into every aspect of my life, realizing I could simplify my schedule,  my routines, my foods! This all being said, I would say I am maybe half way to where I would like to be, but I like to keep the process slow and simple, so the new habits emerge and stick.

Learning to slow down, prioritize, and minimize my life has been a curve for me. The farther away I get from consumer driven culture, the happier I am. The happier my children are. I really hold out hope that they will live by my example, buy what we need, what brings us joy, and spend the rest of our time and resources inward. Work on our important relationships, spend time on becoming people who we want to be. Invest in ourselves instead of trying to find that temporary high in something we bought, just to wake up the next morning and do it all over. Same highs, same lows.

I’m most definitely not here to sell anyone on any sort of lifestyle, if what you are doing is working for you, and it doesn’t hurt anyone, I say keep on keeping on!  The important part of this for me has been recognizing that what I was doing wasn’t working for us and who we want to be. Changing our perspective and living more practically has been such a good experience so far. I just had to share it.

Written by Candace Hoskin


My Son Likes Frozen and I Will Not “Let it Go”

olafhappyMy son, Thatcher, is six. He likes to get dirty, play superheroes, make fart jokes, and karate chop anyone willing to stand in as his own personal punching bag. He is a renaissance man; all at once an artist, an athlete, and burgeoning intellect. But my son lives by a code that makes me shudder: girls and princesses are gross!

When he was younger and started the ugh, girls! phase we would sit down and watch Barbie movies, read My Little Pony comics and discuss the ways in which boys and girls really weren’t that different from each other, and he liked these “girl” things just fine. In fact, as he became aware of individual interests and passion he saw very little distinction between the sexes. His mother is a superhero fanatic, sporting X-men t-shirts and debating the prowess of Wolverine vs. Sabertooth over the dinner table. His aunt is an avid hockey player who taught him skating basics when he began his foray into sports. His grandfather is the cook in the family. The roles that should be perceived as gender specific were always muddy. Not anymore.Now that he is in grade one, I have very little influence over how he perceives the gender divide in our society. Instead, his six year old comrades know best, and they don’t give girls enough credit.

So for my birthday, I asked my sister to buy me Frozen, and as a birthday request I asked my son to watch it with me. He loved it. Sure, Olaf the snowman and Sven the reindeer certainly helped, but more than the comic relief he took away a lesson that flies in the face of princess movies of the past: the princesses kicked butt and did not need princes to be strong.

This film has the potential to shed light on the power of femininity and the value of womanhood for boys who see girls as weaker and less interesting people. Elsa’s magic is as equally captivating as Dr. Strange’s magic, Anna’s ability to defend herself and save the day is as heroic as Spiderman. Most importantly, family loyalty and love supersedes romance and this is what he takes away from this film. When Anna pleads with Elsa to build a snowman, Thatcher looks up at his father and says, “I would be so sad if Cameron (his older step-brother) didn’t play with me anymore and wouldn’t tell me why”. This moment is the catalyst whereby he is no longer watching a “princess” movie, rather he is watching a captivating story unfold, and hey, there just happens to be princesses in it.

Stories teach us empathy. Whether we read them or watch them unfold on a screen, stories move us, and if they are good they encourage us to examine our lives and create parallels between reality and fantasy. That Thatcher could transport himself into a world where he might feel as equally heartbroken as Anna says he is engaging and contemplating her heartache. We live in a world that so often encourages our boys not to feel. Rather, we command them to act, to take, to be strong and loud. In our home we strive for reflection, introspection, and encourage emotion. We try very hard to eliminate any speech that would diminish the value of girls and women, “that’s so girly”, “you’re acting like a little girl,” and we embrace being ourselves. We embrace and consider sadness as much as we celebrate delight.SVEN2

Thatcher has a little sister. I hope that she will love superheroes like her mom, but whatever her choices, she will be supported. That is why it is so vital that her brother learn to respect the value of femininity. He will not see her as weak, he already celebrates her small daily accomplishments, but he will learn that she is just as capable as anyone else to succeed. He knows that she is worthy of time and energy. That her voice is meant to be heard, and that she can be as strong as he can. He will take this inherent respect for his sister and hopefully someday translate it to the girls who will flow in and out of his life. Each with a story to tell and a lesson in life to share.

In the meantime, I will endeavour to encourage a respect of girls and women in our home with the television we watch, the stories we read, and the way we interact with one another. We will continue to watch My Little Pony before school, and contemplate the changing tides of the Marvel Universe. We will sing the theme song from Pokemon as loudly as we sing Let it Go. He will dance and draw as proudly as he skates or punts a ball. He will learn that being a boy doesn’t confine him and limit him. Just as being a girl will not limit or confine his sister. As he grows in sensitivity and learns not to shy from emotion the doors to communication will open ever wider and consideration and understanding will shine through.

As for Frozen, we will laugh at Olaf and Sven, but we will mourn Anna and Elsa’s lost childhood together, too. And if a princess movie helps my son to laugh and love, then that is something to hold on to. I will not let it go.

By Leigha Chiasson-Locke    @ldchiasson17