Family.

Whether it’s by blood or not. Family is family.

We can all define family differently. Some of us include really close friends in our inner circle we call family. Some of us strictly stick to blood.

Either way. Family influences us, listens to us, values us, and unites. The family is a pod of people who have similarities that pull together and differences that make us each unique. I come from an amazing and unique family, I am creating a crazy little family and I have a couple of amazing friends who are considered family.

Traditionally, Italians are close AF. We take sticking together to a whole other level. So you can imagine what my family felt and thought when I decided to move out west to start a subset family of my own.

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My Little Subset B 

In the moment the idea of leaving them never really phased me. The fact was, the internet changed the idea living so far away, and Skype made coffee dates a reality despite the distance. On top of that, I was in my early twenties and realistically I wasn’t thinking about much other than myself.

Hindsight is such a weird thing. Now that I am a mother of three, hindsight often rears its ugly head. I try really hard not to be one to look back and question…as I really strongly feel like I make decisions in the moment to build a better me, even when I make mistakes. Every once in a while though, hindsight pops up.

My parents. I know they were happy for me when I moved and I know they see how happy we are in our life here now. We live far. We live like 5-hour flight far. My mom. Hindsight. I wish I would have taken some time to talk to her about leaving. I didn’t. I was just living in the moment. Then my brother followed. Double blow to my mom and dad.

Italians stick together. It’s like this weird unwritten rule. You don’t leave the nucleus.We did and in hindsight, it’s still the best decision I made but as a mom, more then ever, I know why it’s important for me to visit home and spend time with my family.

Cousins are more like ‘born to be best friends’ in our culture. Hindsight. UGH. I wish I would have been more reflective of their feelings about my leaving. I just didn’t think about it. I figured they would come visit me and I would keep in touch via text messages and myspace. Slowly but surely most of them went on to live their lives and so did I.

Cousins in my family…we were together every weekend. Through the good, the bad and the ugly…my cousins were there. They share memories of a past that are so precious and beautiful. A past that makes me, me. So I reconnected and have made the effort to ensure I do more than just send an update on my life every once and a while. Almost weekly now…. I listen. We chat. They share. I listen. I give advice when it’s asked for. I ask for their input. I make an effort. We remember and we lean on each other.

But the fact is, I am so far and in difficult times it’s so hard to be away. I have to find creative ways to be a support system, an ear, a friend, a daughter. I try and so do they.

So this season…maybe there is some family out there you have been meaning to connect with but haven’t had the chance. Why not? We can’t honestly give a good reason most of the time. But here’s a good one, you never know what tomorrow brings. So pick up the phone. Send them a text. Write them an email. It’s going to feel so good to hear and connect with someone you love. I promise.

Gift yourself time to be present this Christmas. It’s better than any THING you will get this season.

Sending my love and thoughts this holiday season to everyone back home,

till the next post,

moveplaymom.

Navigating The Holidays (as a minimalist or not…)

Recently I have been asked by quite a few friends and followers about gift giving and receiving. So with the holiday season quickly approaching, I thought I would take some time to give you some ideas and my thoughts around approaching the holidays with more intention and less stuff. This post I am sharing ideas on how to minimize the stuff!

 

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Ridiculous amounts of gifts like this. I did this? WHY?

 

The holidays were always celebrated in a grand way growing up. My parents would always go above and beyond to get us whatever we had on our list and then some. I remember every year, walking down the stairs on Christmas morning, and finding a colossal amount of perfectly wrapped gifts.

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If you were to ask what I got at Christmas, I couldn’t tell you for the life of me. Every year my mom made us write a list and took us to see Santa at the Cavendish Mall. I mean, sure, I remember the times I got a bike, a computer, and my ‘real’ Doc Martens; but all the other “stuff”…I can’t. I do know I was excited and happy every Christmas morning. However, as a kid, I don’t think it would have really mattered how much I got. I think the quality mattered more, “REAL”…Doc Martens…especially as I got a little older.

That brings me to my first tip for you. Quality versus Quantity. When considering gifts, you don’t need to fill the stocking with a ton of junky little things. You can skip the dollar store scrappy stuff, the knick-knacks from the front counter at indigo and the stickers or erasers your kids don’t really want. We all are guilty of it. Trying to fill the tree with copious amounts of THINGS! (all wrapped to perfection).

Instead, you can try this…over the last several days, I have seen this idea come up on several blogs. A cute way to manage gifts for your loved ones or children. Tip #2

  • Something they want
  • Something to read
  • Something to wear
  • Something they need

Maybe 4 gifts aren’t realistic for you yet and you want to do a few more…you can just double up on some of these above. You can ask your children to consider this when writing their lists to Santa.

When it comes to receiving gifts from friends and family, I know it can be difficult to speak up about not wanting more toys, clothes, toys, toys, clothes…TOYS! Here’s the thing….you get to decide what comes into your house and what doesn’t. Communicate to your loved ones that you don’t want more stuff, instead, you can ask for – Tip #3

  • experiences! (swimming lessons, Skis lessons, dinner gifts certificate)
  • season passes to things like the zoo, the science center, the museum
  • movie tickets
  • food (wine, cookies)
  • donation to a charity of your choice in your name

These can add huge value to our lives without bringing in more stuff to our home, STUFF that we don’t really need. 

If you can’ have this conversation with certain family members or friends, and you know you are going to get swamped with toys and clothing (grandma). Well,  you get to be in control of what to do with the gifts once they are in your hands. You can have your child decide to keep the new item and let go of something old. You can donate new toys to a local charity or hospital. You can take the clothing down to your local goodwill for a family in need.

However, I highly recommend that if you feel strongly about not bringing more stuff into your lives, I would just be honest with the people around you and consider having a conversation and suggest purchasing ideas like those listed in tip #3.

Last Christmas, when we had slowly just started on our minimalist journey, we decided to get away and provide the kids with an experience during the holidays rather than a bunch of gifts. We took the boys to Banff, on a horse-drawn carriage through the Rockie mountains and cross-country skiing. It was so magical and the boys still talk about our getaway to Canmore, Alberta. My parents and my little brother and his wife joined us a few days later. My parents used that opportunity to provide the boys with more fun in and around Canmore! It was the best!

For me, growing up, the holidays were celebrated with my enormous Italian family. We ate an elaborate amount of traditional food dishes, (we took the feast of the seven fishes to a whole other level).

There was a lot of music, singing, karaoke and a gaggle of instruments that often made their way into the hands of family members just after midnight.  (mostly intensified by the homemade wine, amaretto, and grappa)

Those were the best memories I have of Christmas. The amazing food.  The silver chalices my Nonna would take out just on Christmas Eve. The traditions. The singing of every single Beatles song ever recorded. The baccala fish (cod). Visiting with other family members at midnight. Monopoly games that went all night long. The passion. The love. The laughs and the tears when we were missing a loved one. During our triumphs and darkest moments my family still pulled together to celebrate. That was Christmas. not the gifts.

We need to make the holidays less about the consumer-driven ridiculousness and more about the moments and traditions.  Whatever you might be celebrating, if you approach it with intention and love, the memories will be unforgettable.

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In the famous lyrics by The Beatles (all I can hear right now in my head is my dad, his cousins and a barrage of friends singing….)

“Say you don’t need no diamond ring and I’ll be satisfied
Tell me that you want the kind of thing that money just can’t buy
I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love”

till the next post,

moveplaymom

 

 

Children and Minimalism – My top 10 fav super versatile toys

Alright, to all the parents out there, I know you are going to love this post. Whether you are are looking to simplify the toys in the house or you just need help figuring out what toys are REALLY worth spending money on. This post will hopefully help.

Because let’s be honest, we have all been there as parents, when you look into your child’s play bins, and all you can see is endless amounts of plastic junk toys that have become one, big, mess.

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This post comes from more than just being a minimalist mom but also from many years of experience working with young children. I am bringing you MY top 10 toys according to the experts at AKIDEMY preschool. If you live in the Calgary area you may be familiar with our preschool.

AKIDEMY is founded on the belief that children have an innate desire to explore, play and learn, and are naturally competent and capable learners. Akidemy believes that intentional play with the use of loose parts and the right equipment will help children to develop socially, emotionally and cognitively. You can learn more about this unique program by visiting here:  AKIDEMY  or visiting the AKIDEMY FACEBOOK PAGE

These toys will guarantee lots of exploration, curiosity and wonder time for your children. They are easy to store, easy to maintain and will provide lots of opportunity for rich play. These toys are great for young children (under proper supervision) and I will even go as far to say that you could use these toys for older children ages 8-10.

I swear that if you even had just these 10 things in your house you could get SO MUCH PLAYTIME out of this simple inexpensive list. Let’s look at the list first and then I will show you how you can set these items up for endless ways to play, create, imagine and learn.

So let’s get started!

  1. A basket of people and animals. You could easily pick up a small rattan basket and fill it with a handful of little wood people and/or animals. (land animals, dinosaurs, water animals etc.)
  2. A small rattan basket of cars and trucks (firetrucks, police cars, roller, digger, dump truck, garbage trucks)
  3. A storage container or Tupperware to store Kinetic Sand
  4. A storage container of Lego or Duplo (depending on the age)
  5. A quality set of wood building blocks
  6. Play-dough and cookie cutters and not the store-bought kind. You can make a no-cook play-dough at home in under 4 minutes. Make a batch and store in a container in the fridge for up to a month! The best ever recipe is here: BEST EVER NO COOK PLAY DOUGH
  7. A container full of colorful Gems or rocks (you can find these at Micheals)
  8. Craft supplies basics– pad of construction paper, glue stick, Elmer’s glue, pair blunt tip scissors and a pack of fine tip markers.
  9. A set of play food with cutlery and dishes
  10. A palette of watercolor paints and some different size brushes (I love the Ikea ones!)

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Whether your child is 3 or 8 the set up would be similar when prepping a play activity for your child. My 9-year-old will still jump in on the play with his younger brother. Of course, he has different interests so this is something he will outgrow but the above toys and equipment are so open-ended that it allows children of all ages to engage with the materials in meaningful and creative ways.

I would highly recommend buying your child a tray to work on. This will help you set up, create boundaries for materials. (so it doesn’t end up all over the floor)

You could combine equipment to set up an invitation to play; as we like to refer to it at AKIDEMY. Here is a list of some play ideas that will take five minutes to set up and 5 minutes to clean up but will provide lots of quality play time.

  • Set up a tray with kinetic sand and trucks. Extend this play next time by adding gems and rocks.
  • Set up a tray with play-dough and cookie cutters. Extend this by adding a small container and a spoon.
  • Set up a tray and place a few sheets of white paper, your watercolor palette, a cup with just a little water and a paintbrush.
  • Set up the kinetic sand with the animals and add gems or rocks for some fun dramatic play!
  • On the floor set up, the pretend food with dishes and cutlery. Extend this by adding a recipe book, a pad, and pen (so they can take your order!)
  • Set up your tray with your craft supplies. Allowing your child to explore with glue and scissors (effective supervision would be needed for younger children handling these materials)
  • set up the lego bin on the table and place your child’s tray there, put some pieces on the tray to invite them to come build and explore.
  • Set up the wood blocks on the floor. To extend block play you can add the people, cars, or animals!
  • Set up the play-doh with a pair of blunt or plastic scissors (Crayola make a great starter pair of plastic scissors) Allow your child to explore cutting play-dough. This is a great way to practice scissor skills at home. To extend this add gems and rocks.
  • Set the plates and cutlery with the playdoh to create their own food ideas! you could extend this play by adding household items like a cupcake tray, ladle, a pot, etc.

you can also change the sensory products (sand and play-dough) and use things like

  • lentils
  • water beads
  • water
  • water and soap
  • rice
  • dry beans
  • shaving cream

just add your cars, your people, utensils…whatever! I can guarantee your little ones will have lots of fun!

till the next post,

moveplaymom.

Someplace​ in between?

I don’t know exactly when, but at some point in the last year, I made a decision in my heart and mind that this minimalist lifestyle was something I wanted to follow and I knew there was going to be some major moments that would challenge me.

So many people have recently shared with me their desire to move towards a more simple life. They feel inspired by our family and our progress. I have followers and friends who have messaged me thanking me for sharing and being so candid because they now feel like they can start, in a small way, to declutter their life. One recent message I received on Instagram was from an old acquaintance…

– Dina, thank you, I have so wanted to prioritize people over things. I have struggled and feel like I can slowly work through this. Thanks for the inspiration.

All the blog posts, Instagram stories or pictures that I have shared recently are just tiny glimpses into my world. I try to share ideas that might get you going or help you work through your stuff.

BUT!

When I got that message it hit me. I needed and wanted to share one of the more difficult and delicate things we need to declutter in our lives.

Prioritize people over things…It felt like that was easy enough. Until I thought about the people piece. What people? I mean I knew my family was on the top of that list. I always want to spend more time with my tiny humans and my husband.

But PEOPLE…so many people.

A few months ago I wanted to take a realistic look at the relationships in my life. I have always been such a social person and people always tend to gravitate towards my circle. When I actually thought about all these relationships it dawned on me; some were a plus and some a minus but most lived someplace in the in-between. There they were, in some weird, ambivalent space, that was more about being fake or convenient and less about being present and true. I was an equal partner in the more part. When I reflected, I realized, I was either holding onto these strange relationships, relationships that were adding very little value to my life, or I was not giving enough to the relationships that deserved it. Yet I always complained to my husband about not having too many close friends….and argued that it was just who I was….

I had to stop and work on this one.

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When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, joy. -RUMI

I found myself investing 30% of my true self across the spectrum of friendships I had. I had too many people to please. I had too many people to meet. I had too many people to call. I found myself trying to navigate through a bunch of friendships. Never knowing which were really solid and true.

It made me kind of sad when I really thought about it but I had to make a change. I had to declutter this part too. This was one of my most difficult challenges still to date. This was the one place I felt rocked my heart a little more than I expected. This is the challenge thus far that had also brought me the most joy on this journey. Clarity.

Letting go of people that I cared about but I knew I had outgrown. People who were toxic, people who were just too different, people whose values didn’t align with mine anymore, or ever. I needed to let go of the people I tirelessly invested my own time in, thinking something more was there when really there wasn’t. I needed to take more time for the people that wanted to be there. The people who right now…were making the effort to know ME.

So just like that, I did what I do best, I made a list.

Not a list of people to let go of, that would have been too overwhelming. Instead, I made a list of people I wanted to invest time in. To make the cut, these people needed to do the following for our friendship (I searched high and low for qualities of real friendships and found these) and I had to be able to reciprocate the same for them.

  • be present, listen, challenge my thinking, have a positive influence on my self-esteem, make an effort, I could laugh with, cry with, dance with, made me want to be a better person, had my back, down to earth, supportive, understanding, trustworthy and forgiving.

I looked back on old friendships and new friendships. I took some time to meet with some friends I thought should make the list…and realized they shouldn’t. My goal. To invest 100% of my true self in these fewer but true relationships. 

How? well, I decided that I would be more present, listen, have their back, support them….you get it.

In my busy life as a mom, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a business owner, a home builder and the list goes on; I also wanted to be a really good friend. I know that it’s hard to find time but if it matters and adds value to my life then I knew I needed to make the effort. So I did. I do. Weekly I reach out. I even set it up as a reminder in my calendar (I know, lame, but it works!) to reflect for 1 hour a week on my friendships. This might sound crazy but I swear by it. I take the time to think about each one of these relationships and I either send them a message, plan an outing, write them a card, give them a call or set up a time to skype. Every week. I am present. I listen. I laugh or cry with them. I have their back and they have mine. I give 100% of my true self and it feels incredible how much more these friendships, our trust, and our love has grown.

So what about those who didn’t make the list. They are still there. Surprisingly, or maybe not, not much has changed in our roles. Some have disappeared. Some don’t bother to connect (now realizing I was holding onto them by a tethered string). Some people are still around and casually/socially we might cross paths and connect and catch up, which I love! I love to hear about how they are doing and what they are up to in that moment. I just needed to find a way to prioritize the people that were willing to give a lot more and take more because it added value to us both.  Through this process, I found my close friends. Most of which were always there.

Will new people come into my life? Of course. However, I am more thoughtful about who I let into my inner circle and engage with. Maybe over time some of the amazing relationships I have right now will change too and new people will weave themselves into my life, but maybe not.

I can guarantee, when you think about the people you really want to invest more time in, your list may not be that long, but I can assure you it will be filled with love, truth, and a handful of close friends that care.

till the next post,

moveplaymom.

 

Children and Minimalism?

Is it easy explaining minimalism to your children?

Nope. It’s not.

BUT…I think because of my character, passion to help others learn, my educational background and my philosophy in teaching, it doesn’t seem impossible to try. I never tell them that this is going to be something they have to adopt. I just want them to learn the principles and let them decide for themselves if they feel like this is a path they want to join me and my hubby on.

How did we start? Well…they participated in the big conversations we had, they watched documentaries, we listened to podcasts (the practical minimalists and the minimalists), we had discussions and reflected through art and writing and when we started to pare down our things, they were included in that process.

I have three boys.

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My fifteen-year-old has a better understanding and grasps the concepts of why it would be beneficial to live a more minimalist lifestyle. We have always encouraged him to think outside the box. When we started the move towards this lifestyle, he took interest right away.

He came around to it on his own when he was ready. A few months ago he came down with a bag full of clothing for donation. Completely on his own, he decided he didn’t need all the clothing he had, most of which he had outgrown anyway, and that he wanted to work on a simple capsule wardrobe. Interesting….

As for his room, when we went through the moving process, he donated or got rid of a ton of things he was holding onto like, books, DVD’s, pictures, art, school stuff, and toys.

Next year, at this time, our fifteen-year-old will be filling out applications to University or College. We have had many conversations about doing something that he will love as opposed to something that will give him a lot of income. Through his business courses in high school and our conversations following books and podcasts we listened to; he has decided (completely on his own) that saving money and not spending it on useless items was a good way to live. For example, did he really need a car at 16? the cost of the car, the insurance, the gas….why? For what purpose when we lived in a city with great transportation.

He also has been thinking about starting to save now for a house or condo. I know what you are thinking…that’s crazy! being only 15, well 16 in a month, and saving for a house?Personally, I admire his thinking and I think it is smart. I wish my parents would have encouraged me to do the same.

Lucky for him, we have been putting money away for his education. Had we not, student loans wouldn’t be an option. We discussed how he could easily save $10,000 a year during his 3 years of high school and that that would cover his tuition for his post-secondary. (this is something he also picked up after listening to the minimalist podcast – episode 98) However, we got the school tuition covered through monthly RESP contributions, so instead of saving for school, he’s saving for a home – smart kid.

Then there are the principles of investing in real friendships that add value. We encourage him often to reevaluate his relationships and we encourage him to hold onto friendships that add value to his life. Investing in real relationships have helped him choose good friends. Friends that we can trust, which is important to us as parents, that he has good people in his inner circle. He isn’t interested in the social limelight or the need for attention that most teens find themselves wrapped up in at his age. I credit all this to the hard work the hubby and I have put in as his parents, but more so to the young man he is growing into and the decisions he’s been making.

My two tiny humans…

My middle son is nine. He sorta gets it…My youngest is five and he didn’t get it until I actually wrote a story and made some drawings to go along with it. I know what you are thinking, that was such a teacher thing to do, but hey, it worked!

honestly, I think what helped my two younger boys really understand the concept of minimalism was to show them. Whenever I tackled a new project I included them in the process. We talked about the steps and letting go of things we didn’t need. Where our stuff would go and how it would help another family if we donated it or sold it.

It became much more real for them when we applied these rules to their toys. Together we tackled the years and years of toys we had accumulated. Sure enough, by seeing me and how I paired down my closet, our kitchen, our kick knacks and hand me downs; by the time we got to their stuff, they were experts.

Now we have a rule, If they get something new – something old has to go from their current collection of gadgets and toys.

Here is where we are. My boys don’t have a ton of toys or the latest gadgets but I have to admit they spend a lot of time playing with what they do have. They also spend a lot of time together out in the green space playing and using their imagination. I can hear them playing make belief; pirates, monsters, and captains of their own adventures.The kind of play that allows them to engage in self-expression, act out their knowledge and share their emotions. The kind of play we did as kids. I encourage them to feel their boredom and to figure it out. They do.

So back to our main question…Children and minimalism? I think children are brilliant. I think that they are much more able to adapt to new things. I think that if you show them and include them, they will learn. Have them participate! Have conversations and listen to podcasts or watch documentaries with them. I can’t promise that they will be into it or grow up to be minimalists, they might not, but I don’t see any harm in including them and introducing them to the ideas of minimalism.

till the next post,

moveplaymom.