The New Simplicity: Why I No Longer Let Minimalism Influence My Design Aesthetic


By: Melissa Risenhoover


I recently posted this on my personal Instagram account:

The reactions I received were wonderful and very helpful! However, it got me thinking about something a little bit bigger in relation to the very topic we speak so much about here on Cohesive Home...Minimalism. This is something I struggle with in defining my decorating style. What does it say about me if I DON'T want all white everything and a minimalist decor? Why do some of us struggle with minimalism in correlation with our decorating choices? Does personality dictate the space we create? Or do we override that in an effort to be "minimalist"? Oh and the big question people have, can I call myself a minimalist if I don't adhere to the all white aesthetic?  Either way I wanted to dive into this subject with you.

The above photo is me holding a wonderful glass of German wine while sitting in my German apartment with nothing in it. Except that Ikea painting of the girl swimming...I love that painting! Anyways, the choice to live in a bare apartment was intentional it had nothing to do with our personalities or how minimalist we wanted to be. What did this year do to my mind set you ask? Did it cause me to hate the color white and wish I lived next to a Hobby Lobby again? Yes and no. My personality has always been one that loves color, but that year we decided to be all white and create a simple palette didn't change that about me or my husband. Instead it created a "freebie" if you will. Almost a pass to do and be anything we wanted. We chose white. All white and modern. And we loved it for that short time. But now, as I sit in my rental space and dream of my future home I can't help but have an internal war with minimalism as a decorating theme and not just a lifestyle. Do I want white walls? What if I want a green couch? 

We have talked in our Cohesive Home podcast before about how minimalism is a tool, not the end all be all. We use it to help our home reflect our values, not dictate what color we should have on our walls. The tool helps us keep clutter at bay, bring peace to our spaces, and create calm in our agendas. In my opinion it should not dictate everyones style preferences. Don't get me wrong, some people love the minimalist style and rock it quite well, but if it's not your thing you should not feel guilty about it. 

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“The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don't know what the hell they're doing or who on earth they are can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino." - Joe Fox”

I'm pretty sure I go to You've Got Mail for almost any life choice, but come on, Joe Fox got it right. Tall! Decaf! Cappuccino! We all have a taste. Personality has a defining role in these choices. Like I stated in my Instagram post, my home is currently a rental and even though I may not love it and don't currently have my dream design aesthetic, MOST of the comments I received on this post indicated that people love to make things cozy and create a space that is theirs no matter what type of home they live in. Minimalist! Country Chic! Boho Eclectic! We all have a flavor. If we all drank tall decaf cappuccinos it would be a boring world. 

Have you taken the infamous Myers-Briggs personality test? I'm sure this says something about MY type, but I have never been one to get into the Myers-Briggs or any sort of personality testing. The thought of knowing just makes me feel trapped in a box. What if I don't LIKE my results? What if I think I'm a totally different type of personality and I'm sad. Well...today I took the test...I did it...and you know what? It was great! It confirmed what I already knew about myself. I'm outgoing and love to be creative. Nowhere in my results did it say I desire minimalist decor, white walls and no furniture. And I'm pretty sure yours won't either.

In my design future I'm sticking with a colorful, Scandinavian vibe like this amazing article from Apartment Therapy. But for now my beige walls with minimal decor will do, and believe it or not, it has no say on how "minimalist" I am. 


For another great read on minimalism and design check out this article on Design Sponge.  And for a fun listen check out our Podcast about creating cohesive spaces! 


Melissa is a creativity-driven free spirit that calls Oklahoma home, but recently returned from a year of traveling throughout Europe while living in Germany. As the mother of three home-schooled kiddos and the visual design backbone of Cohesive Home, Melissa is pretty awesome at juggling just about anything as long as a cup of coffee is involved. She and her husband Brandon dream of spending a few months a year back in France visiting with friends and exploring the local culture.

IG: @melissarisenhoover

8 Tips to Create Your Perfect Maternity Capsule Wardrobe

by: Elizabeth Santelmann


Raise a hand if you love capsule wardrobes! But what's a mama to do when she realizes she's pregnant? @sunshineinmynest has written a killer guide to creating your perfect maternity capsule wardrobe and also includes tips for the rest of us.

A note from Kate and Melissa: we both struggled with figuring out the best wardrobe for our changing bodies while pregnant. Even if you’re not pregnant, this article contains some words of wisdom on how to create a capsule wardrobe. So whether or not you’re pregnant or even planning to be, we hope you enjoy this piece on creating an intentional wardrobe that supports a simple lifestyle—something we can all get behind!


WHAT IS A CAPSULE WARDROBE?

A capsule wardrobe is a collection of a few essential items of clothing that are timeless. Ideally, these items should all mix and match well, to create the most outfits with the least amount of items. I have been doing a capsule wardrobe for 6 seasons now, and I love how easy it is to get dressed every morning. My closet usually looks like I’m shopping at a boutique! I also love that there are no wadded up shirts in the corners of my closet, and there are no forgotten shoes hiding behind my mini closet dresser. It makes me feel happier about getting ready for my day.

For some reason it was harder for me to apply the rest of these capsule wardrobe principles to maternity clothes. Maybe it was because I felt vulnerable about how I look while pregnant. Maybe it was because I hated all the maternity clothes that I had left from my last pregnancy. Maybe it was because I love to find my capsule items at thrift stores, and second hand maternity clothing choices are limited. There is also mostly silence on the topic of maternity capsules in the blogging world. I don’t know why that is, the price tag they put on maternity clothing makes it vital to buy intentionally!  Read on to hear more of my thoughts on creating a maternity capsule wardrobe. 

8 Tips to Create Your Perfect Maternity Capsule Wardrobe

THOUGHTS ON CREATING A MATERNITY CAPSULE WARDROBE

The first two things I do upon noticing my bump (or the swelling and gas that for some reason plagues me pre-bump) is to completely clear out my closet, and only put back what I know will look great over the next couple months. Those favorite pieces that do not fit just seem to stare at me and yell, “You are getting bigger!” Really, this is to make room for my new favorite items, because who doesn’t like having an excuse to wear jeans with an elastic waistband!? 

I also wanted to make a hard fast rule on how much I could keep hanging in my closet, so I bought a pack of 24 velvet hangers. This really makes my clothes stand out, while limiting the number of things I can hang. Your number may be higher or lower, but I suggest setting boundaries for how many items you’ll have out at a time. 

Each person’s wardrobe is made up of highly personalized choices. I will give very specific information in regard to what I chose, because that is what I know. Know that the individual choice you make may look different from mine, but the general capsule wardrobe principles hold.

The thing I had a hard time doing is being realistic about what I would want to wear. I didn’t like spring green before I was pregnant, but somehow I thought I would like it while pregnant. Growing a human inside of my body doesn’t change what makes me feel attractive. If you like A-line dresses, that slim sheath dress that looks cute on the rack, probably won’t make you feel beautiful. The way your body is shaped should inspire you to pick flattering styles: you are your own best stylist! I have been amazed when looking at my current maternity capsule wardrobe at how similar it looks to my pre-pregnancy wardrobe. That wasn’t intentional, but what I like hasn’t changed. 

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KEY TIPS FOR CREATING A MATERNITY CAPSULE WARDROBE

  1. Does it fit my changing body well? That pre-bump stage when you don’t really look pregnant, but tend to feel bigger than your usual self can be a hard transition. This is a great time for billowy tops, which hide the changes your body is undergoing pretty well. Anything in my regular wardrobe that isn’t form fitting can usually be used during the first 3 months; you might find the same. Some pre-pregnancy items can be used for quite some time, before I have to move away from them entirely. The longer I can stay in your regular clothes, the more I feel like myself. 
  2. Does this style look similar to my previous style? I bought a bright green shirt with strings on the side before I got pregnant, I still have no idea why I thought I would love that when I got pregnant. It simply wasn’t my style, pregnant or not. Stick with your personal style and favorite silhouette’s as you create your capsule wardrobe. Pregnancy is not the time to experiment with trends! 
  3. Can I wear this with my pre-pregnancy investment pieces? One of the things I have tried to do when not pregnant is buy just a few classic clothing items and more accent pieces. This makes switching from my regular clothes to maternity much easier. I can still use my trench coat, leather jacket, and my cardigans all throughout pregnancy. I can put maternity t-shirts under them and they will look just as classy as my regular size t-shirts. 
  4. Does this item coordinate with the season I will be pregnant? I foolishly bought 2 sleeveless maternity tops, when most of my pregnancy will be through fall and winter. I had just found out I was pregnant, and I started buying what I would need for the current season, not the season I would be showing. Be patient and buy clothes during the season that you need them.

GENERAL TIPS FOR CAPSULE WARDROBE SUCCESS

  1. Does this piece of clothing help me create multiple outfits? If you buy colored pants, make sure the color goes with most of the tops in your closet. It’s not bad to buy a statement piece while you are pregnant, just make sure it’s one you will use all the time! 
  2. Is this piece in good condition? Are there rips, or holes? Its it stretched out? Does it have any stains? It really doesn’t matter how much you paid for it; If it’s worn out, it needs to go.
  3. Does this fit my lifestyle? As a stay at home mom I can’t buy fragile fabrics. Right after my son was born I bought a half dozen gauzy shirts. They were really popular at the time and I stained them and ripped them to shreds within a few months. I also choose not to have a collection of yoga pants, because if I do I end up neglecting the rest of my clothing! Unfancy blog has an awesome wardrobe planner that helps you map out your activities, so you can correlate them to your lifestyle. Find what works for your lifestyle and build a wardrobe around it. 
  4. Do most of the colors in my closet go together? Choose colors that compliment each other and stick with just a few colors. My goal is to have all my clothes coordinate together. I also try to stick with mostly black as my basics (skirts, pants, shoes) since it’s a pretty easy color to find. Find what you look best in and buy your basics in that color. 

MY MATERNITY WARDROBE

This is the list of what is in my capsule, and why I chose it. I hope that seeing specific pieces and the logic behind why I picked them will help you to think through what you want to pick. These choices reflect the lifestyle of a stay at home mom, who likes to look nice, but doesn’t like to think about getting dressed very much. If these aren’t pieces you would have worn before you got pregnant, just substitute them for a color or shape that feels more “you.” Let us know in the comments below some of your favorite clothing choices, and what has made them fit into your closet.

White V-neck T-Shirt – perfect for layering under a blazer, black leather jacket, or a sweater

Black V-neck T-Shirt – looks great with my gold jewelry, or a trench coat

Cream and Black Stripe T-Shirt – looks good by itself for the lingering hot fall days in Oklahoma

Grey T-Shirt – excellent for layering with a scarf, or my coral jewelry, puffer vest, or sweaters! 

Teal Shirt – pop of color that goes with my color palate

Grey ¾ Sleeve Shirt – great neutral to go with multiple outfits

8 Tips to Create Your Perfect Maternity Capsule Wardrobe

Sailor Stripe Shirt – this is a “normal self” staple that needed to repeat into my maternity clothes.

Grey Stripe Shirt – not my favorite. I already had it, and I know I can put it into a lot of looks that I like. 

Red Plaid Shirt – red plaid is another of my pre-pregnancy staples, so it made sense to carry it over. 

Mustard Sweater – the color that defines me, so naturally it’s in the mix.

2 Sleeveless Shirts – Would have been great for a summer pregnancy, but they are my “what was I thinking” purchases. 

Blanqui Maternity Top – This allows me to wear all my pre-pregnancy jeans up to 6 or 7 months since I don’t bump very big at first. Supposedly as you get bigger it works as “support wear” too! 

A Simple Black Dress - One cannot understate the versatility of a black dress!

Stretchy Chambray Dress - I removed the belt loops, so that it can be belted above my bump. I can wear this with a trench coat, a sweater, or my puffer vest.

For Bottoms I usually go very simple. I have one pair of skinny jeans and one pair of boot cut jeans. One of them is usually in a dark wash and the other a light wash. I also have a pair of maternity jean shorts. 

For Skirts I have a black maxi, bright color maxi, and one floral print skirt. Maxis are great while pregnant because they stretch so much, and they can be layered to make a variety of outfits for any season! 

ONE FINAL WORD

Capsule wardrobes have caused me to be much more intentional in my choices of clothing. It allows me to spend a little more on each item, because I know I will love it, rather than spending a little money on a lot of stuff that doesn’t work for me. In the world of maternity dressing sticking with what you already know works for you is vital! Then hang those choices in your closet with pride. When you look at what you have created it should bring so much satisfaction and joy. Getting dressed should be a breeze, because you have done the work ahead of time!


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Elizabeth is a transplant from Illinois to Oklahoma. She moved to Oklahoma for a year-long internship working with inner-city youth and during that year she met Joseph her now husband of 4 years. When their son was born she came to realize that motherhood was a continued exercise in “stopping to smell the roses”. Since then she has been learning to slow her mind and heart, and enjoy as many snuggles as possible. You will often find her in the back yard, almost always with a cup of hot tea and a book in hand.

Instagram: @sunshineinmynest

Growing Up Gardening

By: Elizabeth Santelmann


I grew up in rural Illinois farm country on what my parents called an “Old McDonald Farm.” That meant we had a little of everything and farming wasn’t really what my dad did for a living.

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We had a quarter acre garden, and a parade of several cows, sheep, a horse, chickens, ducks, and pigeons that came and went. My dad also planted an orchard with cherries, apples, peaches, and many other kinds of fruit. We all worked together most days of the week to weed the garden, pick fruit, gather eggs, pick wild mushrooms, care for our animals, and bale hay. We learned about pruning fruit trees, and grape vines at a young age. We also canned and froze a majority of our food for the winter. Working and playing together gave us lots of fun memories together.

A majority of the families in our area rarely left the state. My parents raised farm animals for additional income, so we could travel. If our animals sold well for the year, we would have a two week long road trip (usually ending in Northwest Washington where my dad grew up). Mom and Dad were great, by the time I graduated from High School I had been in every state west of the Mississippi and a substantial group of them east as well.  We seldom took the same route twice. So all year we bottle fed baby lambs and pitched hay to the cows with the hope that a long vacation was in our future.

Growing Up Gardening- Cohesivehome.com

Then I moved to Oklahoma City for a job where I met and married my husband. After our son was born, I freaked out! Nothing about the environment where I was parenting was similar to what I had experienced as a child. I desperately wanted to give my kids what I had as a kid, but that seemed impossible with my current environment. (I mean have you tried gardening in Oklahoma?!?! Also for some reason they don’t smile on people bringing farm animals into backyards.). I stressed about this for about a year and gave up. I thought there was no way I could take the lifestyle I grew up with and infuse it into my kid’s life, and there was no way that we were moving onto acreage with the kind of job my husband has.

Growing Up Gardening - Cohesivehome.com

At some point I had a change of heart. I started reading about raised bed gardening and lasagna composting. I decided to do a modified version of gardening for my back yard. I started that fall collecting bags of people’s leaves from beside the road and topping it with dirt and chicken manure from a friend. (People recommended buying cow manure at Lowe’s but the farm girl in me rebelled. I seriously considered dragging some back with us from Illinois, but my husband put his foot down. Thankfully, a friend with chickens stepped in and saved me from insanity) I watered it a few times over the winter, and stirred it up with a shovel! Come to find out it works great. My baby would play on a blanket near-by, while I worked. It was a continual reminder for me to take him outside whenever the weather was nice!

Fast-forward two years, out garden isn’t perfect, but we have so much fun. We now have 4 raised beds and the dirt is incredible. Since I’m not a huge fan of just sitting outside with my son, I’ll pull a weed or two, straighten my tomato cages, or pick lettuce while he plays. I have learned how to plant Marigolds, and basil at the bottom of my tomato so the hearty Oklahoma bugs don’t gobble them up before we do. I am amazed that here I can plant a winter garden that we harvest in the spring!

Of course I still go back to Illinois and have garden envy. Their plants are always bigger and more green than mine are, but that isn’t my goal. My goal is for my little, city boy to know where our food comes from. On that level I’m already a success. He begs me to pick him organic sugar snap peas, so he can eat them while he swings. He loves for me to point out ripe tomatoes so he can pick them himself. He asks me what plants are weeds and which are vegetables.  At some point we hope Oklahoma City will sneak through a law allowing chickens again, but until then we will play with what we have!

 


Elizabeth is a transplant from Illinois to Oklahoma. She moved to Oklahoma for a year-long internship working with inner-city youth and during that year she met Joseph her now husband of 4 years. When their son was born she came to realize that motherhood was a continued exercise in “stopping to smell the roses”. Since then she has been learning to slow her mind and heart, and enjoy as many snuggles as possible. You will often find her in the back yard, almost always with a cup of hot tea and a book in hand. She and her son enjoy looking for bugs, picking vegetables, and blowing bubbles in the summer wind! 

IG: @sunshineinmynest

Being Thankful with Less


By: Lorraine Contreras


I once heard someone say, "The problem with rebirth is that you have to die first to get there." I couldn't get what he said out of my mind for the rest of the evening. 

Being Thankful with Less- Cohesivehome.com

Nobody wants to die. But everybody wants new. I laughed. But the more I thought about that concept the more intrigued I was.

I was at a point in my life about 5 years ago when I wanted change. It wasn't desperate, it was subtle. I would pin ideas onto Pinterest boards about lifestyles that I thought were beautiful. I would follow blogs of people that seemed they had found true joy and happiness and Instagram profiles that boasted of clean and clutter free homes. It wasn't long before I wanted that to be me. 

I looked around and realized I was so unlike those images that I liked on social media. I was so far from those minimal homes or seemingly happy people that I idealized. At what point do you just stop pinning and start doing? But how do I get there? How do I get the clean home, how do I get the joy and happiness, how do I get the minimal wardrobe? I had to die first. I'm not talking about my body physically. I'm talking about mentally, spiritually, my habits, my material treasures.

Rebirth, noun. The action of reappearing or starting to flourish or increase after a decline; revival, resurrection.

I wanted change and to me, change was new. I wanted it so badly, the more I looked into it, the more I made way for change. To me, "IT" was having less. I knew what I had to do. But it was so so hard. Getting rid of my belongings and changing spiritually was going to be hard and I knew it. I avoided it up until that point.

Being Thankful with Less

Whenever I am in my garden and I see a tiny sprout emerging from the ground, I am so tempted to rescue and help uncover it from the heavy soil on top of it. But it requires no rescue from me. It needs to build its own strength to push through the ground and unfurl it's beautiful new leaves. It needs to go through change to become something completely different. 

"For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, it's insides come out, and everything changes. To someone who doesn't understand growth, it would look like complete destruction." - Cynthia Occelli

I kept asking myself, is it possible to live with less and still find things that bring me joy? Could it be that with less, the simple things bring me joy like spending time with people I love, being outside, observing nature or in helping others. I am now discovering that the less stuff I own makes me a completely grateful and appreciative person for the few things that I do have left.

Possessions don't make me rich, they make me possessive.

Maybe I have too many things that consume my time, things that entertain my mind and keep me from entering a state of gratefulness, keep me from helping others because I have too much and I am constantly being told I need more. 

When I empty hands, I open heart. I had to lay to rest my old ways and most of my possessions to get there. 

Thoughts of a reformed consumer.


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Lorraine and her family are on a journey to live debt free, and live simply with less. They left their California lifestyle and moved across the country to the mountains of North Carolina.

You can find more about Lorraine's journey, her faith, homesteading and homeschooling on her family blog and follow along on her Instagram account.

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IG: @lorrainexoxo

Rekindling a Love for the Outdoors in a French Garden

by: Melissa Risenhoover


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I haven't always been a nature lover.

If you had asked me if I like nature before we left for our summer in France I would have said yes, but in reality I had slowly, over the last twenty years of my life, become somewhat of a snob when it came to the outdoors. If I was too hot or too cold I wanted inside. If I was wet, get me inside. Windy? Inside. Too far to walk? Inside...a car. 

You get the picture. 

FRENCH GARDEN

Needless to say, France is sort of a nice place to be outside. And our friends, no matter where we went, loved the outdoors. I began to walk EVERYWHERE and learned to love it. I will never forget the first long walk we went on and about half way through I started to get mad. Why were we STILL walking? My feet hurt and I was annoyed. 

That was the turning point. I came back from that walk more mad at myself than anything. Why on earth would I be upset about walking? Using my two legs that work perfectly well and enjoying the beautiful beach town in FRANCE! I KNOW RIGHT??? I was blind. I almost don't want to write this because its so embarrassing. But it's the truth. 

FRENCH GARDEN

During those summer months my attitude shifted. I had a rekindling of love for the outdoors and even took a very cold sea bath in the English Channel. (I'll have to share that story)

The following are my words I posted over a year ago. 

This summer our friends that lived by the sea in the Brittany region of France had a magical landscape that surrounded their home. We spent a lot of time in the garden that was tucked away behind layers of green shrubs and a lovely stone wall. As a child I loved being outside and enjoyed it probably more than being inside. As I got older my love for nature slowly dwindled and for the first few weeks of being in France this was very evident. Having friends who loved being outside and who also took regular "baths" in the very cold ocean near their home, was a blessing far beyond what I knew.


"My feet on the grass absorbing the wonderful energy of our earth and watching my kids fall in love with nature and the French landscape." 


I still cozied up quite a bit reading my books and taking much needed naps, but the call to go outside and be in nature was far stronger than I expected. Long walks, garden swings, ocean dips...we were outside a lot and for the first time in a long time I was enjoying it. My feet on the grass absorbing the wonderful energy of our earth and watching my kids fall in love with nature and the French landscape. 

FRENCH GARDEN

How Owning a Small Family House and Traveling Reflects Our Family’s Values


By: Kate Saffle


When we sold our Oklahoma City house last May, we were nearly 100% positive we would be traveling full-time in the next 6 months. We had spent the previous year planning for that new life: researching, shopping for trailers, talking to other full-time traveling families, and massively downsizing our belongings.

HOW OWNING A SMALL FAMILY HOUSE AND TRAVELING REFLECTS OUR FAMILY'S VALUES

Northern Indiana was to be a pitstop, a place to get our plan on the road (literally), to have the support of family, and also to have a place to come back to between travels. We were infatuated with the freedom of no roots and no mortgage and spent last summer exploring the area, practically living at the beach.  And so we unexpectedly fell in love with this part of the country that is nestled in the sand dunes of Lake Michigan and not far from Chicago.

So now 10 months later, why didn't we leave? And more importantly how could we possibly make the leap to buying a house again after swearing off of home ownership indefinitely when we sold our last house?

There are several reasons, some of which are personal and some of which I'm happy to share. We had two family members battling cancer, one of which was also about to be a new father. We couldn't find a long-term way to fund travel, and my remote university teaching job simply wouldn't cover our expenses.  And despite my continuous attempts to secure a better paying remote job, it wasn't in the cards.

But then we came to the startling realization that we actually love where we live now. We began making friends and forming community. We met other homeschooling families and formed a nature hiking group. We bought a smaller camper, a Casita, to make road travel possible.  And then we found our house.

Cohesive Home - Small Living

We weren't looking (seriously) and yet, one Friday night I was avoiding grading another round of essays about da Vinci (who becomes boring quite quickly after 80 or so papers on him) and began looking at local real estate instead. We knew we weren't ready or able to travel full-time, rentals in our area are priced through the roof, but we craved our own space again after living with family for nearly a year.
And then I found the house. You surely know the details if you follow me on Instagram. But in a nutshell? Small, borderline tiny 2 bedroom 1 bathroom house walking distance to everything. Adorably cute, ridiculously cheap, and the perfect simple living family home.  I laughed when I first saw the listing, but I should have seen the writing on the wall. Our values had changed over the past 10 months from when we started our journey to reflect a desire for travel AND roots, and the perfect house had found us. 


"Our values had changed over the past 10 months from when we started our journey to reflect a desire for travel AND roots, and the perfect house had found us." 


We close Thursday. This house is part of our adventure, part of our family's story of changing our lives to wholeheartedly reflect our values. We still plan to travel, often as possible, and hope to use this home as an AirBNB rental in the future when we can take longer trips.  We are longing for deeper community, for days spent over lingering walks in our neighborhood, chats with local farmers over leafy produce, and spontaneous trips to the ice cream parlor after a hot afternoon playing hard at the playground. While we deeply desire traveling to new places to experience other cultures, we also want to innately know the fabric of our own hood as well.

Cohesive Home - Home and Travel

And you know what? Travel, of any kind, feels more satisfying when you know you have a home to come back to. For the past few years I've convinced myself roots are bad, and that our happiness is explicitly and only tied to experiences over possessions. I still believe that, but I also know that creating a path that honors wanderlust and secure roots is the best way to meet the needs of everyone in my family. And so we're ready to finally be “home” again, 675 square feet and all.

 

 

 

 

Cleanse Your Life: a Nomad's Take on How to Be a Calmer, Happier Person


by Hannah Galpin


If 15-year-old Hannah, met 25-year-old Hannah, via some Back to the Future type escapades, she'd call her a hippy. She would be completely confused by her aversion to spending a Saturday shopping, her vegetarian dietary choices, and her make-up free face. That last thing would have likely frightened her too. Luckily, that shy, fearful, sometimes judgmental teenager she once was, eventually outgrew her insecurity, opened her eyes and arms to the world, and discovered her life philosophy. Before I got to where I am today, I had to go learn some valuable life lessons the hard way, and experience difficulty with the concepts of money, consumerism, and relationships.

Cleanse Your Life: a Nomad's Take on How to Be a Calmer, Happier Person

Today I live my life by 3 minimalist principles, all based around the idea of living a smaller, more intentional life, and by small, I mean one less encumbered by things, responsibilities, conflicts, distractions, and the resultant stress. I approach everyday life with these ideas: I acquire only what I need and thus spend wisely, I don't chase wealth and place more importance on relationships and experiences, and I cultivate a calmer more quiet mind with creativity and honesty. 

That's my convoluted way of saying that I simplified my life. I find it easy to live by these ideas especially now that I am traveling. I exist on a tight budget and my wardrobe fits into one-third of a backpack. But somewhere down the line, I envision living in a tiny house, or at least a small home, a place to raise a small family, and focus on enjoying the simpler pleasures. Until then its going to be a few years of nomadic life, which I feel so fulfilled by right now, mainly because of what it took to get me here.

Minimalism came into my mindset when I needed it most. I had been on a path where I was the perfect consumer, partaking in impulse spending, using credit, buying a brand new car on finance, all the while feeling utterly miserable. I had a job in a bank that made me feel incredibly cynical about many things, and left me yearning for escape. It's sad that I believed following that path was the right thing to do, with me failing to connect my mood and self-esteem with my quest for the markers of what I believed signified an successful and appealing individual. I truly believed that I had no power within myself to become more content and at peace, so I tried to buy happiness, as I had always been taught that I could, and should. Although a part of me knew that I wasn't going to find happiness on that route, something I learned in my childhood.


"I had been on a path where I was the perfect consumer, partaking in impulse spending, using credit, buying a brand new car on finance, all the while feeling utterly miserable."


Growing up I had lived in nice houses, always had plenty of nice things, and always had a trip abroad each year. There was an abundance of everything, from food in the cupboards, to stuff in every square foot in my fairly large homes. Funnily enough, there was also an abundance of conflict. My family, blessed with financial security thanks to a hard-working father who built his way up from absolutely nothing, was also rife with anger, bitterness and disillusionment. Its a harsh truth that I remember the fights and the lonely tears of confusion sometimes better than what the gifts were piled up under the giant Christmas tree. Thankfully, my family and I have come out the other side of our turmoil, and are now, closer than ever. 

I have made peace with the distant past, and I can see clearly how my inner discord, that I was still embroiled in just 3 years ago, came from trying to re-create all the positive parts of my childhood, via acquiring wealth, all whilst suppressing my true self. I didn't want to develop my inner truth and live by it, because it scared me. I was scared of not fitting in, and so I consumed as soon as I was able to, as soon as I was able to have a Saturday job to pay for my weekly trips to town, to buy clothes that would impress my friends. 

Its a rite of passage in many ways, expressing yourself through different fashion choices, and giving yourself a fighting chance of fitting in with other equally afraid teenagers by doing the things they do. But my frivolous spending addiction didn't stay in my teens, I took this consumer mindset into my 20's, where it could really do me some damage. By the age of 22 I was a graduate, with a heap of overdraft debt. I then experienced a fairly traumatic break-up, the ending of my first big relationship, which lead to credit card spending. It started with ordering a few takeaway meals, because I felt too sad to go out and buy food. Then it escalated to online shopping to make myself feel better, to try and re-create myself, as if that was the only way to overcome my break-up. And then I got the bank job I hated, and the shopping problem worsened because I now worked 5 minutes from my favourite cheap clothes-store. It was a perfect storm of negative life circumstances, job stress and loneliness, and I was at the epicentre, with no idea how to change things.

Cleanse Your Life: a Nomad's Take on How to Be a Calmer, Happier Person

Things did change. They did get better, and I did head down a healthier and self-empowered path. This was partly due to someone new and refreshing entering my life in 2013. Taran, my partner in love and in travel, helped me consider an alternative way of living, one where it's okay to not have 25 outfit choices, to not wear a full face of make-up each day, and to give time and attention to my creative pursuits, not the pursuit of a full bank account. He was unlike anyone else I had ever met, and he seemed so light, content and laid-back. He was also completely disinterested in buying things and proudly wore clothing he had owned for years. 

Taran didn't have the kind of financial security growing up that I did. His foundations were built on there being lots of love, support, acceptance and fun. That's not to say my family weren't loving, they were their own mixture of personalities fighting to find their own happiness, and its possible money and stress were just getting in their way. 

So it was just 3 years ago that I first came to consider myself a minimalist, which began when I started embracing de-cluttering. I had always loved cleaning, it was my de-stressing technique back then and still is today. I began to want less and less stuff, even a smaller bedroom, and just less things demanding my attention. I was also trying to clear my debts at the same time, with the intention of never using credit again, so my financial habits had to change to prevent this.

I began paying close attention to what I spent my money on, every little amount, and I started to save instead of spend. I built my dream upon having a savings account bulging at the seams, not a wardrobe exploding with material goods. I realized that money could buy something worth experiencing, and that was travel. 


"I built my dream upon having a savings account bulging at the seams, not a wardrobe exploding with material goods."


I see now that being somewhat frugal and mindful with my spending helps me feel less anxious also, because I believe in my ability to live within my means, and thus feel less drive to work all the hours of the week to have more. I feel as if my family life may have suffered because I had parents who were compelled by this drive, and it swallowed them up. 

I now believe that I, and those around me, can still be happy despite spending less, earning less and owning less. I draw contentment from my relationships these days, and I try to keep conflict and arguments at a minimum by letting go of the pride and defensiveness that defined by younger years. I have learned the value of simplicity, and that investing time in our families is what feeds our souls and helps us navigate this challenging and complex world. For so long I let my emotions guide me toward things which provided only momentary relief and distraction, whereas now my emotions pull me toward my family, friends, and my creative path as a blogger. 

Minimalism is infinitely more than just having less, its turning our focus inwards to ourselves, and to our tribe. We can still want and have stuff, but we prioritize valuing our life's artifacts instead of contributing to waste with cheap, low-quality items. We still need money, but we can also cultivate a fulfilling yet simple life that can withstand times of financial stress. I am so glad I discovered this truth, because that's what it is, its the inner truth of a large section of society, many just don't realize it yet. But the long-term benefits of minimalist thinking are endless, and available to everyone, in small increments, or life-affirming amounts.


I built my dream upon having a savings account bulging at the seams, not a wardrobe exploding with material goods.
Hannah Galpin is 25, is traveling the world, and blogging about it on nomaderhowfar.com. She embraced minimalism 2 years ago, to rid herself of a myriad of stress, from debt, to clutter, to dealing with some deeper issues on the inside. She has recently wrote a book, “Minimalism: Cleanse Your Life, Become a Calmer Person”, where she uses her own experiences to advocate minimalist principles and habits.  (You can find the UK version of her book here.)
You can find her on instagramtwitterpinterest, and facebook.

Fresh Beginnings: Creating a Family Philosophy

FRESH BEGINNINGS: CREATING A FAMILY PHILOSOPHY

What ideas guide your family’s decisions and household? Can we share a little simple living secret?

Something magical happens when you choose to live intentionally and by your values.

Decisions become easier, there is less anxiety and stress, and thoughtful and compassionate teamwork among your family members will become the norm. Creating a family philosophy is the key to making those changes stick, so read on for our favorite tips.

Call a Family MeetingArrange a time for the whole family to sit down together and discuss your family’s direction and goals. Assign someone to take notes. Everyone in the family should have the opportunity to voice their opinion, even the littlest ones. If all family members feel like they are important, then you are more likely to have a cooperative, positive experience.

Make a List of Goals: Discuss what you would like to accomplish as a family this year. Perhaps you want to travel more, save money for something the whole family wants, or serve together in your community. Write down ALL ideas and then narrow the list down to three. Depending on time and financial limitations for the year, you might need to narrow that list down to one major goal. A family vote is the best way to ensure fairness and that everyone is on board.

Family Mission Statement: From that list of goals, write a family mission statement for the year. This statement should be specific and measurable. For example, if your family decided to serve at a local homeless shelter, you might write a statement such as: “We will joyfully serve at the homeless shelter one day per week, unless we are traveling or sick. We will also give 5% of our net income to the shelter monthly.”

Or perhaps your family really wants to foster community and build connections around the dinner table. So your statement might read, “We will welcome another family into our home for dinner two times a month. We will cook the entire meal, engage in thoughtful conversation, and be sensitive to others’ needs. We will set aside $100/month to pay for the dinners.”

The family statement is not a straitjacket for the year, but a guiding light for when times are tough and you want to give up on your goal. Place the statement and your goals in a prominent place in your home where everyone can see it.

Finally…

You will want to review your family mission statement and goals from time to time. Are they still motivating? Are they reasonable for the amount of time and financial resources at your disposal? Remember, the goal is not to burden or guilt your family with an impossible goal, but to inspire and encourage. The more often you goal-set as a family, the easier it will become and the stronger your family unit will grow.  

We've included a printable goal planning worksheet to use during your family meeting. Good luck and let us know your big goals on Instagram with the tag #mycohesivehome!