Farai Harreld was pregnant with her daughter when she realized it was time to downsize. She and her husband had just purchased their first home, which was significantly smaller than their rental.
“I was shocked that at 25, we had already amassed so many possessions, and I struggled to make room for them,” said Ms. Harreld, co-founder of Black Minimalists. “So I made the commitment to be more present and mindful in the choices I made when spending my hard-earned money.”
It’s easy to accumulate stuff, even without much money….
I am excited to introduce a guest interview series to my blog entitled What’s in my Bag Wednesday.
I am fascinated by people, what makes them tick, and what they choose to carry along with them when they leave their homes is a tiny sliver into their world. This interview series will feature diverse minimalist/minimalist leaning people. My hope is that we learn a little something, or find ways to improve or streamline our day to day existence.
Our first feature is my pal Asia of home.with.asiawhere she documents her life as a budding minimalist homemaker with two toddlers in tow. I’ve enjoyed watching Asia define her style, space, and home while facing the challenges that come with being a military family.
Asia, thanks so much for doing this girl! How long have you practiced minimalism or been interested in minimalism, and why?
Hi, Farai I would like to start off by saying thank you for considering me to be featured in your new series and thank you so much for the kind words!
I heard about minimalism/simple living a while ago but didn’t start actually researching and taking action until my husband left for Korea. I thought this lifestyle change would help me solo parent better and it has, cleaning is so much easier, I have so much time to just play with my kids and I’m happier because I don’t feel cluttered. I’m so grateful for giving it a chance, I’m still a newbie but I’ll say I’m doing just fine!
What are your favorite blogs, resources, books that you go to for inspiration?
Instagram has helped my journey, following like minded moms and seeing their version of minimalism. Also I feel like the book Slow simple living for a frantic world by Brooke McAlary has impacted my journey recently, her book helped me declutter my mind and rethink things like “my journey is going to look different from others and that’s okay, I’m not doing anything wrong!”
Ok, let’s get down to the good stuff! What’s in your bag?
Well first off I have a Fawn Design diaper bag, my friends surprised me with it for my birthday this year! Okay let’s see what’s in here:
Honest diapers + wipes + gathre mat = best combo ever. Especially with these woodland prints out!
A good book- I’m reading more, so instead of scrolling on social media when the kids fall asleep in the car and we’re in the driveway ,or a parking lot- I can just grab my book!
Planner + notepad- There’s always something on my mind, I always need a pen and notepad close to me!
A reusable bag – my kids and I sometimes take random car rides and never know where we’ll end up, so it’s always good to be prepared.
Stainless steel water bottles and Stasher bags for snacks .
Extra clothes (not pictured) because I had to use them today, but I always try to have a extra pair of clothing for my one year old and four year old! No matter how old your kid is, I’ve learned to always have extra clothing for them because you’ll never know what they can get into. My four year old is always in dirt and water!
It’s not much but it’s all we need! I don’t like carrying around too much because I don’t like having to dig and take everything out my diaper bag to find one thing, and I don’t like a heavy diaper bag. Just carry the essentials .
Thank you to Asia for giving us a peek into her life. Find her here.
A few years ago, Kansas weather used to affect my mood in a drastic way. Born in tropical Kariba, Zimbabwe, and raised in the hot, semi-arid climate of Gaborone, Botswana- I preferred the heat through and through.
Snowy weather left me feeling isolated, cold, and put out. Rainy weather left me feeling sluggish and dreary. Somewhere along the line, I realized I am a part of nature, and instead of feeling ostracized by the weather- I felt included. Each cycle of weather has a purpose. The dying leaves of autumn decompose in the ground, providing food for the microorganisms that live beneath us and feed the plant life above ground.
This past winter snowfall was brutal, but I was grateful I get to live in the land of my settler ancestors and watch it melt deep into the ground and nourish the thirsty roots of the trees who struggled in the extreme heat of last summer.
All that snow caused a mast fruiting this spring which has me pulling baby maple trees out of my garden beds every day. I can choose to be annoyed, or I can marvel at the cycle of life and the infinitesimal role I have in it.
Today I watched a bird try to eat a piece of plastic, human beings in general have done a number on the eco-systems we are a part of. Without pollinators like bees, birds, and other insects, we have no fruits and vegetables. Without beautiful, green, lush, biodiverse earth, the cows have no food to give us our beloved beef. Our fish have plastic in their bellies too. How are we continuing to destroy the place that we depend on for our survival? It is counterintuitive, I acknowledge that I am a part of nature. When Earth is sick, I am sick too. When bees die, I die too.
Instead of trying to separate myself from the seasons, I remember that I am a part of them too. In Autumn, I wind down, harvest, eat the squash and corn that is ripened in this season. In the Winter, I hunker down with twinkly lights, warm drinks, blankets, and hibernate. In the Spring, I perk up, I do the hard work that comes with sprouting, and learning, and growing. In the Summer, I do a little bit of everything while enjoying juicy summer fruit and remembering to rest.
I do not despair anymore because I know we have the tools at our disposal to make a difference. Conversations surrounding capitalism, climate change, our government, and the shitty corporations that brutalize people and the planet for their profit is bigger than what I want to get into in this post. I originally meant to share some prose about how I feel so close to this lovely flying rock I call home after thanks to weather, and yet here we are, I hope this helps someone.
Small things I do to make a difference
Don’t fucking litter
Growing my own food when I can
Eschew capitalism when I can
Bartering when I can
Supporting local farmers and makers
Eating less meat
Using less plastic
Only buying grass fed beef and pastured chicken when cooking with meat
Buying food that is in season
Buying organic when I can
Only getting what I need or really want
Buying second hand
Getting things repaired when they break
Trading instead of buying
I hope this helps someone feel less alone, and more connected like I do. Give a tree a hug and remember you need each other. I cannot believe I have lived so long yet failed to stop and sniff at a lilac bush, or crush some lemon balm (which smells like an actual loving hug) between my fingers and smell its heady aroma. We need each other, friends.
Happy 2019! I hope this blog post finds you, reader, in good spirits.
So let’s get right to it. Easter stuff is already everywhere you look. I purposefully tried to avoid all small holidays in the USA the first few years of Thandiwe’s life because it just seems like a giant excuse to ply kids with candy. But now, as my little one is getting older and has shown interest in things like birds, bees, bunnies, and mushrooms, I see an opportunity to use Easter to teach her about rest, renewal, and the beauty of transformation.
Christian Easter will be celebrated on April 21st, but we are tying our Easter celebration to the Spring Equinox which will be on March 20. Whatever beliefs you have, I hope you find time to find the beauty in the green blooms that will be coming out to say hello.
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The Easter Basket
Reuse a basket/box you already own or go to a local thrift store and get a wicker one for cheap.
This is the perfect time to get your child spring and summer items they may have outgrown. Each season I go through Thandiwe’s wardrobe to find out what she has outgrown or needs repaired. In her case, she had outgrown her swimsuit and water shoes.
Since she has an obsession with mushrooms (like her mama!) I reached out to my IG friends who recommended so many good books, but I liked this one the best. Our lesson this Easter will be around the life cycle of mushrooms.
Instead of Easter grass, I will be using a playsilk that I plan on dyeing with blackberries. Really any scarf will do. Scarves are great open ended toys because they can become a cape, bandana, tutu, or baby sling. I have a post about toys here. You could also use newspaper or craft paper to make your own compostable easter grass.
If I had any crocheting skills, I would make these myself, but instead I pay my lovely talented friends instead. Here is a link to the Etsy store pattern for these . You don’t have to add toys to the basket, but Easter isn’t only about bunnies and chicks, there is ample opportunity to chat about nature in general.
The Easter Egg hunt
I got a bag of the plastic eggs from the thrift store to use. I spent some time researching biodegradable and recyclable ones (there are not many options) before decided to just buy some second hand and take care of them so we can use them for many years to come. Luckily, the ones I found were slightly bigger than a standard size, so if I chose to fill them with something bigger in the future I am set.
Ditch the candy if you can. Instead use
Coins or cash (kids love money)
Yogurt bites, or yogurt covered nuts/ fruit
Gummies that aren’t full of gross stuff
Lip balm/Nail polish/Lip stick for the makeup loving kiddo in your life
Rings/ Beads and string to make jewelry
I hope this gives anyone searching, some ideas. At the end of the day all our babes want is to connect with us. I look forward to restart our walks in the neighborhood where we point out all the cool flora and fauna that is local to us. She recognizes spots from last spring/summer where the bunnies hid and where mushrooms sprouted and she searches for them whenever we do make it outside. I love this graphic from Little Oak Learning.
It is quite hard to not get caught up in the buying frenzy that is in the air during the holiday season. My spouse and I take full advantage of the fact that our two year old is none the wiser and choose not to buy into the hype. However, we want to build meaningful tradition and ritual for our family and that includes thinking about what we want this time of year to look like for our family.
If you are feeling the pressure this holiday season with all the marketing and ads coming your way, Let me remind you that what your children want most is your time. Toys come and go, clothes are outgrown, but memories last much longer. If you must make purchases, here is a graphic to keep you in check.
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With winter approaching we have been focused on getting our babe some open ended toys. What are open-ended toys you ask? Basically any toy that doesn’t have a fixed use and can be played with in a variety of ways. I thought i’d share some of the open ended toys that have been on our horizon for months now.
Play silks can become tutus, capes, headscarfs, doll slings, dresses, forts, and much more. The soft biodegradable material feels good on little hands too.
EarthTiles are made from sustainably sourced wood and these magnetic tiles are a beautiful way for babes to engage in STEM play.
A kinderboard can be a balance board, a reading nook, slide, bridge, booster seat, and much more. I am probably the most excited to see all the ways she will play with this. Much like most open ended toys, it is an investment and will probably be in our family for a long time.
Rainbow stackers are not only beautiful but are a lesson in math, science, art, and fun in general.
As for books, thrift stores and thriftbooks.com are still my favorite place to search for titles. Right now my wishlist is full of books about eating and enjoying food as I try to encourage her to eat more.
At the end of the day, my daughter is most happiest when both of us are playing hands on with her. No toy can match that. Our favorite thing to do right now is play with homemade play-dough and cookie cutters.
I hope this holiday season gifts you with time to spend with those you love.
If you have been following me along on instagram, then you know our home renovation took a lot of steam out of my eco friendly engine. I just did not have the spoons (or a kitchen or bathroom) to stay as green as I would have liked. However, because my beauty regime is pretty minimal, I had no troubles in this department. I thought I would share my basics in case someone is looking for some inspiration.
Apple Cider Vinegar – In a glass bottle, this powerhouse can act as a skin toner, hair rinse and much more. It works great to balance out my low porosity hair, and added to a bath, it is incredibly soft and moisturizing for those with dry skin issues. I never go without.
Bar soap – Whether its for my body, or specifically formulated for my face. Unpackaged bar soap is what my family enjoys using.
Lip Balm – I have a compulsion to never ever have dry lips. Lip balm or lip stick in a compostable or recyclable container make my heart and the earth sing.
Rose hip oil – Not too long ago I realized that I needed to start taking better care of my skin. I tried to be a multi-product girl with the serums and the acids (all in glass bottles of course), but its just not me. Rose hip oil rich in essential fatty acids and antioxidants which are essential in tissue and cell regeneration in the skin. After I cleanse my skin, I just throw this on at night and move on about my day. PS. It will stain your skin a bright orange, but it goes away as your skin absorbs it.
Almond oil – The least eco-friendly of basics, because I have only found it in plastic bottles (I buy the biggest size to make up for it). Almond oil can be used as a face, body, and hair moisturizer. It is my go-to make-up remover and probably the product I have used the longest.
Konjac sponge – New to me, this compostable face scrubby comes in clutch when I need to exfoliate my face.
Thats it folks! When I am scrubbed clean, and well moisturized I feel my most beautiful. Everything else is just icing on the cake.
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I’ll let the Environmental Working Group let you know why most room and fabric refreshers are terrible for you and the environment. Instead, I’ll share my non-toxic recipe for a spray that I use to sweeten the smell in a room or freshen a fabric
What you’ll need:
A small to medium sized glass or stainless steel spray bottle
Unscented witchhazel or alcohol
Essential oils of your choice. My go to right now is vanilla and grapefruit
Label for your bottle
Fill your bottle mostly all the way up with your witch-hazel or alcohol. Next add 10-15 drops of your essential oils combinations of your choice. Thats it! You can play with different smells and concentrations of essential oils each time you run out. I love citrus scents in the summer, cinnamon and orange the fall, and wintergreen scents in the cold weather. I also adore plain old vanilla as well.
If you prefer to not use essential oils all together, consider using a hydrosol of your fav smelling plants/herbs instead as a room spray or refresher instead. They are easy to make (I spy a future blogpost) or can be purchased on Etsy.
A note on essential oils – Make sure you are using oils from reputable, RESPONSIBLE companies that are harvesting the oils ethically. I’m gonna be bold and state the unpopular opinion that is avoid MLM’s like Doterra and Young Living altogether. This is coming from someone who sold Doterra and has tried all kinds of oils. Dr Aviva Romm has an excellent podcast with Mindy Green, a clinical aromatherapist on proper usage and sustainability of essential oils. The podcast is worth a listen and the show notes page has an excellent resource list I will be referencing for a long time.
In July, I got to go to the International baby-wearing conference that happened in Iowa. It was fun to meet fellow baby-wearers I have been interacting with for the past two years and meet them face to face. I was especially excited to be around fellow Black baby-wearers.
It is no secret that I love supporting POC makers, wearers and artists. A few months ago I learned about Helina Baby Inc , a Canadian based baby wearing company founded by a black woman. Upon my discovery, I slid rather quickly into their DM’s and joined their ambassador program and they so graciously sent it to me to try out.
First off, I feel like Meh Dais don’t get enough love. As an educator, I like that they are very easy to teach and that they are typically super accessible to caregivers of all body types. The Helina Baby Meh Dai is made with organic cotton and low impact dyes. Its super soft and has the most comfortable feel in hand. Unfortunately, Thandiwe has been on a strict back wearing boycott for several months now, and screams bloody murder when I try to wear her on my back so I only got to try this in the front EVERY SINGLE TIME. She is very strong willed. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed the uppies we got from it.
My favorite things :
The feel of the fabric : This was my first time using an organic cotton carrier and it felt really good to the touch. I think tactile folks would enjoy using this carrier. It was easy to nurse in as well.
The length of the straps : The long straps make this carrier accessible for babywearers of all body types.
The arm straps : In my experience, Meh Dai carriers that don’t have wrap straps or shoulder straps with lots of material typically aren’t my favorite, but the way this one is created made it comfortable on my shoulders.
Toddler wearing : Thandiwe is a solid 26 lbs at 2 years of age and was very comfortable in the carrier. It works from Newborn into Toddlerhood and doesn’t require an insert which is a win in my book.
Easy to wash : It is so simple to wash, it just requires a gentle cold rinse in the machine and then hang it to dry. It doesn’t get any simpler than that. If you are anxious about carrier friendly detergents, just use plain ol’ water.
My least favorite thing : I loved the color of this fabric, but it will get stomped on and dirtied much like any carrier. Light fabrics show dirt quicker. This is easily solved by how simple it is to wash the carrier however.
If you are in the market for a Meh Dai, check www.helinababy.ca out! They even have free shipping!
As a type A Capricorn, labels, lists and general definitions of things warm the cockles of my heart. Defining my style was fundamental in allowing me to figure out exactly what I was looking for when I began furnishing the house and adding to my closet.
I have a whole post about what how I discovered my style preferences and the little dilemma that led to my discovery in the works. In the mean time, this podcast I did with Roe of Brownkids and this quiz by Dacy of Mindful Closet were super helpful.
I used to destest thrift shopping. I felt like it was a messy, stinky, pile of garbage that I had to sift through to find something cool. Having a clear idea of what I was looking for changed the game for me. Instead of being pointless, it became a treasure hunt, where I got to find and welcome items into my home and give them a second chance at life where they could serve my family and I, or bring me joy.
I began imagining what I wanted for the different spaces in my house. For the wall space above my breakfast nook, I wanted art made by my friends, things that reminded me of my family, and lots of embroidered and wicker things. I should pause and say that I define my style as ’70s-boho-earthy-dirty hippie’. I like lots of earth tone colors and fabrics. So that is what I look for. Thankfully Anthony loves my style and is cool with it, I like to include him in the choices I make when decorating the house because I want him to enjoy the space too. I try to include art that he likes as well.
So, how did I find all the things I wanted this summer?
Make a list. I wanted mugs with mushrooms on them, I found two for under a buck. I wanted a wicker hutch, got it. A peacock chair, I got it the next day I posted on my facebook feed. Put out what you are looking for and more than likely you will find it. Maybe not instantly, but it will come to you.
Going to art walks to find art from local artists.
Thrift stores sell the best frames hands down. If you have a piece of art you need a frame for, go there first.
My artsy friends and I bartered my skills for their art.
I posted pictures of items I was looking for online. Sometimes friends, and people local to you may have what you are looking for. This is how I got my peacock chair and wool rug.
If you know someone who loves thrifting and garage sales (shoutout to my Godparents), ask them to keep an eye out for you. This is how I got rugs, and my hutch.
I have said this already, but have a clear idea/list of what you are looking for. I wanted a denim skirt all summer. I finally found one at goodwill that I know I will wear for years! Having a list stops you from buying crap you don’t need or spending money on a fast fashion item that won’t hold up as long.
Kitchen items like scales, ladles, bowls, cups, even good quality stainless steel and ceramic cookware can be found while thrifting too. A lot of kitchen stuff got broken in the renovation and I had to replace some things.
Go to garage sales and estate sales. Doing it as a family is fun surprisingly enough.
Shop vintage shops/thrift shops on etsy and ebay.
Don’t be afraid of a little work, sometimes something needs to be cleaned, washed or given a little repair. You will appreciate it more for taking the time to work with it.
I truly love the idea of finding something that I am looking for second hand and giving it a new home. I hope some of you can find joy in that too.
I was cloth diapered, and I always knew that if I had a kid I would cloth diaper too. I wanted to do it because of how much cheaper it was, but also because of how better for the environment it was. Disposable diaper waste accounts for 30% of our landfill waste and as I attempt to minimize my carbon footprint I knew that this was one way I could do my part.
Read more about just how crappy *lol* disposable diapers are here.
Now that I have been cloth diapering for 18 months, I feel like a pro who has been through it all. I have tried all the decently priced cloth diapering systems (pockets, covers, AIO’s),dealt with diaper rash, and figured out our perfect wash routine. I have a system now that works great for us and thought this might save anyone looking to get into cloth diapering the trouble.
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The cheapest and most eco friendly option for cloth that worked out for my family is using a diaper cover and inserts. Inserts can be anything from an old cotton tshirt, receiving blankets, flour sack towel, or pre-fold inserts that many cloth diaper company’s sell. These inserts can be cheaply bought new, made, or purchased second hand.
The waterproof layer of the diaper that traps the waste is known as a cover. They come in a few different styles with limitless prints. The great thing about covers is that unless they get any poop on them, they can be used for multiple diaper changes since the only thing that you change out is the diaper insert. My favorite cover style is the very affordable happy flute diaper cover (butterfly diaper pictured below). My friend Alyson (another WOC mama blogger) sent me the cover and I have loved it ever since.
We use medium and large pre-folds on Thandiwe. A little bit on the bulkier side but very absorbent. All mine we either hand me downs from friends or purchased second hand.
A note about second hand cloth diapers, always give them a simple bleach soak to clean them before using them on your kid.
Available in many blends, from cotton, to hemp, bamboo, and much more, inserts are a trim, buildable and easy way to add absorbency to diapers. My favorites are the alva bamboo inserts pictured below.
Flour sack towels and Receiving Blankets
My favorite and the cheapest way to cloth diaper by far. Receiving blankets are incredibly absorbent and we had several to spare from Thandiwe’s infancy. FST’s are also great. A 4-pack typically costs anywhere from $3-4 and they work great. They are simply folded into a long rectangle and used a prefold or insert would in the diaper.
Poop and Pee
A common question: Breastfeed poop is water soluble and can go straight into the wash with other diapers. Formula fed and food eating baby’s poop should be rinsed off into the toilet and toddler solid poop can simply be tossed into the toilet. We store her diapers in a sealable wet bag next to her changing table and wash her diapers 1-2 times a week.
Each machine is different . I suggest visiting Fluff Love University to figure out a system that works for your machine as well as picking out a good detergent to clean the diapers with.