I’m baaaaccckkkk…with another round of Ask Me (Almost) Anything! Yesterday I tackled questions related to kids and travel. Today I’m sorting through an interesting smorgasbord of queries – several of which left me puzzling over how to respond.
Without further ado:
From Katie: Always curious about underbuying and minimalism and how it helps or hinders you!
I’ve talked about minimalism/underbuying a few times on the blog, but realize that most of those “discussions” happened before people (aside from me, myself, and I) were actually coming to this space, so I’ll include some links below. To recap, here is something I wrote about minimalism in one of those posts:
Minimalism doesn’t look to get rid of everything. It looks to prioritize those possessions or activities that are most valued and then removes the rest. Keep the flowers but pull the weeds.
I love getting rid of stuff that no longer serves a purpose – items that fill space mentally and physically. At the life level, this can mean prioritizing activities and behaviours that I value. And to do the latter, it’s so much easier when I have fewer material possessions distracting me.
Per that definition, minimalism is a net-positive in my life. I wasn’t always like this and had a stereotypically cluttered room as a teenager/university student. But ditching excess stuff felt like a necessity about 8 years ago when we were living in a small space with two young kids and running two small businesses, all while bootstrapping it with side hustles. It was very intense and, at some point, the only way I could cope was to minimize the chaos of my environment. This was hard to do in a tiny space, so I think – visually at least – I became a “minimalist” to others when we moved into our current home and it was more obvious that I eschewed accumulating stuff. For me minimalism is about: wanting what I have, having a place for everything, and appreciating each item for either its function (e.g. a hammer isn’t pretty, but I need one) or its aesthetic (e.g. I don’t need lots of plants in my home, but I love how they look).
My house can, at any given moment, look messy. This is fundamentally different from clutter. Messes mean things are not put away. Clutter means there are too many things/they don’t have a designated place. For example, here are two pictures from a Wednesday night several weeks ago. I was solo parenting and we got home from one event and had 30 minutes to unpack groceries, unload school backpacks, make/eat supper, and get out the door again. This is a mess, but it is not clutter. Every single item you see is out of place or being used – but it does have a place.
- Some Thoughts On Clutter and “Minimalism” (a summary of my approach)
- Cleaning Hack: Have Less Stuff
- Clutter Hack: Everything Has a Place
- A Minimalist Hack: Use the Same Toothpaste
- Kids Clutter + Cleanup Chores: A Q&A (strategies for how we manage “kid” clutter)
- Casual Friday + More Clutter Q&A (this post has pictures of how we organize a variety of spaces around the house)
From Suzanne: What is your most irrational fear?
I really don’t like insects. This is dripping in irony because my graduate degree was in entomology and I handled honeybees daily for months. I was very open about this and won a national graduate award from the Entomological Society of Canada, in part – I think – because my application essay detailed how much I did not like insects.
Also from Suzanne: What is your favorite thing about yourself – or your biggest strength?
Hmmm. This is tough. I underestimate my abilities, so even in answering this question, I feel less than sure of my response!
Probably my favourite thing about myself is my ability to remember small details when in conversation with others (for example, I’ll remember the names of a loose acquaintance’s grandchildren or someone’s favourite colour or how someone I barely know takes their coffee) – this attention to detail helps me in practical ways in day-to-day-life.
My biggest strength could be the very fact that I habitually underestimate myself. I studied hard in university because I never thought I could coast through. Even after years of good academic performance, I still prepared for every test as if I could very easily fail.
Unless I’m disagreeing with a family member (when I get very stubborn), I’m happy to consider the fact that other people are probably right and this leaves me open to learning new things. I just finished reading Adam Grant’s book Think Again where he writes: A mark of lifelong learners is recognizing that they can learn something from everyone they meet.
If I had to use one word to describe myself it would be mediocre – there is no area of my life where I consider myself proficient or an expert; while there can be a danger to this line of thinking, harnessed properly, I think it can be a major strength. I don’t assume I have everything worked out or have discovered the “right” way of doing things (except with loading toilet paper where there is a “right” way and a “wrong” way). I really am always on the lookout to learn new things, especially if that advice comes from non-family members; sorry fam, I know I can be very pig-headed.
Also from Suzanne: What are your desert island foods?
Sushi. Oatmeal (with all my favourite fixings). Peanut butter on toast with banana. Unbaked cherry cheesecake. Twizzlers.
From Stephany: What are your favorite and least-favorite things about where you live?
- The laid-back culture of Atlantic Canada. People are friendly and unpretentious. Neighbours help neighbours. For the most part, people couldn’t care less what you do for a living or what type of car you drive. I live in a town where the local librarians automatically cue up my account – and put my holds stack on the counter – the instant we make eye contact. Just today a new librarian was working and couldn’t access my account; a regular librarian leaned over and said: Oh, that’s because you’re spelling her name wrong. It’s with an ‘s’. Yes, all the librarians know how to spell my name properly. That alone should tell you all you need to know about where I live…
- The natural beauty of Nova Scotia blows me away (it recently topped the list of 30 places to travel in 2023 in Lonely Planet’s guide). We’re within driving distance of gorgeous coastline, beautiful beaches, and impressive lighthouses.
- We enjoy the best of both worlds. Despite living in a “rural” area, we’re less than an hour from an international airport, a world-class children’s hospital, lots of great restaurants and so much more. And though I love walking my kids to a community school and do 90% of my grocery shopping at small in-town stores, I’m 10 minutes from a Home Depot and Walmart. The small-town feel, but close to big-city amenities.
Least-favourite thing: Winter. It’s cold and icy and bleak. I hate winter.
Also from Stephany: When putting on socks and shoes, do you do sock, shoe, sock, shoe or sock, sock, shoe, shoe?
Um. Sock, sock, shoe, shoe. Does anyone NOT do this? If so, I didn’t know that was even legal…
Also from Stephany: What are some of the books that everyone else raves about that you didn’t like at all?
I was not a fan of The Midnight Library. Or The Year of Magical Thinking. Or Lord of the Flies (I assume some other people will agree with me on this one?! But I know a few adults who loved reading this book in high school. How? Why?). Or The Giver (read it in Grade 9; hated it; maybe I should try again?). Or Reasons to Stay Alive. Or Girl, Wash Your Face. Or The Dinner List. Or Wintering. Or Where The Red Fern Grows (this book is one big long trauma – why is it a beloved classic?).
From Ally: This is a question I was asked years ago and it lead to some great conversations. As a personal blogger do you think of yourself as a Creator or a Coach? Are you expressing yourself or are you encouraging others? And how do you handle your comments because of it?
Wowzers. What a question. I’ve only been blogging a little over a year, so am very much a “newby”. For the first few months, I was publishing things for an audience of 1 (literally). Me. That hasn’t changed on one level; I try to post only about things that interest me or help me think of personal experiences in a new light. To that end, I think of myself as an encourager – but for myself first and foremost. That said, I do hope the things I write – in an attempt to express myself/process the world -help/motivate/encourage others toward positive growth.
I would never call myself a Coach (that seems to imply I have some level of expertise/proficiency, and you now know I categorize myself as mediocre)…so let’s go with Creator?
I aim to treat each comment/response as if a personal friend were asking me a question – in the flesh – over a cup of tea. Because that is what this community has become – an extension of my friend group, albeit via distance.
From NGS: When you think of your life in thirty years, what do you picture?
Doing life with John. He has so many incredible skills in cross-cultural settings and has a heart for helping others. And I think/hope I could also be useful? So in 30 years, I envision us retired, working in a volunteer capacity in a developing country. Hopefully with lots of visits from our kids (and grandkids?!) with some leisure travel on the side.
Also from NGS: What are some holiday traditions you’re looking forward to in the next month or two?
I’m so glad you asked. I love Christmas. I love traditions.
- Watching White Christmas with my best friend. An absolute highlight for me each year. We basically have the whole script memorized and it is pure fun to watch this movie and quote lines together. There’s singing! There’s dancing! And the evening usually involves some delicious sweet or salty treat (or both) and fluffy blankets and twinkle lights.
- Opening new ornaments on Christmas Eve. We each get a new ornament on Christmas Eve; when the kids leave home, they’ll have 18, 19, 20, (45?!) ornaments to take with them.
- All the food. I love the food at Christmas.
- The kids opening Advent calendars every morning before breakfast.
From San: If you had three wishes, what would you wish for?
- For my kids to be healthy, happy, well-adjusted, and strong in their faith.
- To be guaranteed to grow old together with John.
- Unlimited free air travel for life for the whole family (as in: we could go anywhere, at any time, for free).
Also from San: What’s one thing you’d like to accomplish this next year?
I want to plan out my summer for 2023. I went into Summer 2022 trying to be laid back, but it really backfired. It was unusual circumstances – a crazy combo of renovations, company, the kids off for extra time because of our road trip, a stressful neighbourhood dynamic – but I end up really struggling with my mental health and want to be more intentional about doing things that help me feel grounded. In short, I need to keep planning exactly like I do during the rest of the year.
From Sarah: What Bible version do you like best?
I have a NASB study Bible, but my go-to Bible (I asked for a new one last Christmas and it’s aesthetically beautiful) is now ESV.
Also, even though I stopped on day 311 last year, I have to give a plug for the One Year Bibles (they come in a variety of translations), which are organized into daily readings designed for reading through the whole Bible in a calendar year. In that Bible, I have the NLT!
From Tobia: What is your favorite fruit?
Raspberries. Then strawberries? Though a really good: apple, banana, peach, or slice of watermelon (with salt) are hard to beat. While I eat fruit most days, I’m not actually a huge fan.
Also from Tobia: What is the oldest piece of clothing you own?
What an interesting question! Definitely my black and white flowered skirt. During my first summer of university, I worked at a research facility in Montreal and lived with my brother (who worked in the same complex). We went to a local mall one day, and I bought this skirt. I’ve worn it every single year since; it’s almost 20 years old!
I could not think of how to find pictures of me wearing this skirt and then remembered the debacle that is Mother’s Day. You’ve all seen pictures of my kids smiling, right? For the record, two of these years – involving different kids – the wailing was because the sun was “too bright”. Note to self: henceforth we should only take Mother’s Day pictures in sunglasses. Or using cardboard cutouts of the kids – smiling.
And, for the record, we don’t have a single picture of the kids crying on Father’s Day. What am I supposed to make of that?
Your turn. What are your desert island foods? Favourite fruit? What’s something you hope to accomplish in 2023? (Or feel free to answer any other question above!).