Disconnecting to Discover ‘The Joy of Missing Out’


As a business owner, a blogger, and a mom that socializes far too much on Facebook, I spend a lot of time online. No matter where I am, the call of email, articles, silly tweets, and iMessage is available to me via phone, laptop, or computer. I am always connected.

In 2012, a mom-of-three and freelance writer, Christina Crook disconnected from the online world for 31 days. She turned off her phone, her laptop, and wrote letters on a  typewriter that she sent to a friend (via snail mail!), who then uploaded onto a blog. The project might seem extreme to many, but it became the inspiration for Christina’s new book called “The Joy of Missing Out: Finding Balance in a Wired World“.

The beautifully written book focuses on how technology impacts our lives and the lives of our children, the relationships we have, our communities, our health, and our world. The author examines how we use technology, and in turn, how it uses us. The lack of balance and harmony in our lives is directly connected to our dependance on our online world.

Christina Crook  reminds us to maintain healthy screen habits, and limit our personal time online. Although it might seem difficult to do so, disconnecting can be a breath of fresh air in our digital world. It might remind us of simpler times, when we didn’t keep the internet in our purses, and instead appreciated the time spent outside, personal time for reading books and playing with our children.

How often do you disconnect from the online world? Could you do an internet fast?


Would You Get Rid of Your Kids’ Toys?

Minimalist "Playroom" c/o Houses Interior Design

Minimalist “Playroom” c/o Houses Interior Design

With de-cluttering on my brain, I’ve come across a lot of blog posts and articles about our kids’ toys and minimalism – or rather that toys ≠ minimalism. Shocking, isn’t it? I’m always limiting toys, purging toys, donating and selling toys – but it’s like a plague over here, they keep coming back! It’s like they’re all hiding under the bed, waiting for me to get rid of the ‘sucky’ toys, and come out with a vengeance. Yes, the toys.

You might know that I’m taking a well-deserved break this weekend in Whistler, but come Monday I’ll be de-cluttering and getting rid of even more toys, to at least a minimum level, an acceptable, easy-to-clean level. But what is that level exactly? How many toys is enough?

When it comes to my “stuff”, I usually give myself rules like: if it doesn’t fit, get rid of it. For instance, you have a bookshelf – if it’s overloaded and you have more books than can fit, donate the ones you no longer read or can part with. Only keep what can fit in its’ assumed place.

But when it comes to toys, that theory flies by the wayside… a bit. There’s places for everything, and most things fit, but things quickly become disorganized (dinosaurs in the train box!) – and it happens so often I started thinking that we need to purge more, own less, and just be done with it.

Jen's Lovely Organized Playroom c/o iHeart Organizing

Jen’s Lovely Organized Playroom c/o iHeart Organizing

The only other “rule” I have is “one toy in, one toy out”, but it rarely gets followed…

I came across quite a few articles regarding getting rid of kids toys, here were the ones that sparked my interest:

Do you have rules about how many toys your children have? How do you do it? Would you get rid of your kids toys?


Packing Light on Vacation

How to Pack Light on Vacation

Packing light is an art of practicality and a test in minimalism. As the years pass and we’ve taken more trips as a family of four, I’ve received a first hand education on how to pack light on vacation.

It wasn’t always like this! I’m an ex-overpacker, it’s true. I used to pack almost our entire wardrobes to go on vacation, just to make sure we’d have everything we could possibly need. Each family member would have their own suitcase (that’s four huge suitcases taking up trunk space), plus there would be an additional mini-suitcase for toiletries, a beach bag full of towels, and sometimes I’d need another bag just for extra shoes.

The reason for all this over-packing was worry and fear. It was perfectionism in the worst form: to make sure everything was just right I would have to bring everything we could possibly need and use, so my family wouldn’t go without anything. There were different outfits for each day of our trip and for dinners at night, and sometimes there would be alternate outfits in case something got dirty or ruined, justincase! If anyone got cold, or it was rainy, or too hot, we were prepared.

But it was exhausting to pack like this. It made vacations less fun to have to carry so much around. And it would usually find me searching through piles of clothes because I know I brought this one item that I now can’t find in the sea of suitcases.

Therefore, I learned to pack light for vacations.

How to Pack Light on Vacation

Since I’m the one who packs for our whole family, I’m also the one that presumably knows where everything is. The less you bring, the more likely you’ll find what you’re looking for when you need it.

When we go on trips, we try to put everything we need into two suitcases, one large and one medium-sized. The large one holds my stuff, my husband’s stuff, and our toiletries, while the kids share the smaller suitcase. Taking a minimalist mentality with packing has made it a lot easier to really bring what you need: if it doesn’t fit in the suitcase, then we’ll go without it.

Give yourself plenty of time to pack. If you’re rushing around trying to pack last minute, you’re going to forget things and add too many things – you might end up with one pair of pants and seven shirts, which I have done before. Instead, give yourself a few hours of packing time. Plan out how many days you’ll be on vacation and then pack accordingly.

Having a limited amount of space gives you more of a perspective on what to bring. I usually lay out a few outfits, making sure the pieces mix and match with each other, and pack them up. For instance, on our recent 10-day excursion to Whistler, our toddler had 3 pants, 3 shorts, 3 socks, 5 t-shirts, 1 long-sleeve shirt, 1 zip-up hoodie, 1 pair of swim shorts, and his sandals. It fit easily in his half of the suitcase, even leaving room for diapers and wipes. For our daughter, who’s eight, I did something similar, but also brought a dress and her biking gear. I should also mention that I do laundry on vacation, which also allows me to bring less.

It’s easier to get dressed on vacation when you have limited choices. It’s silly, isn’t it? The less options you have, the easier it is to choose.

When it comes to toys and activities for the kids, you need a lot less than you think. One stuffed animal, a couple of small toys (little cars or animals), a couple of books, and notebooks with crayons for drawing. That’s it. I would rather have my kids enjoy and experience the vacation than spend the whole time playing with electronics or toys inside, but they are definitely a necessary distraction sometimes.

How to Pack Light on Vacation

Bringing a stroller is a necessity for us right now as well, so we need to make sure there’s room for it in our SUV. Playing the game of Tetris with luggage, bags, and strollers is NOT fun, and once you get it in perfectly, you will never have it fit in like that again. Bringing less allows for more room when you truly need it.

With less luggage you have more room to stretch your legs and really enjoy the experiences that vacations can bring. Don’t make a vacation about shopping! There’s nothing worse than taking a minimalist view on packing for your vacation, and then not being able to close your suitcases because you over-shopped while you were there!

Being on holiday can mean embracing cultures, trying new foods, embarking on adventures, and really, it’s all about relaxing and enjoying your family.

Time to pack up? It’s so much easier to do so when you don’t bring too much in the first place!

Packing too much stuff literally weighs you down and turns vacationing into more of a hassle than it has to be. It adds an unnecessary stress to what’s supposed to be a fun and enjoyable trip. Putting thought into every item you bring really makes you think twice about it, and makes you realize what’s truly important.

What tips do you have for packing light on vacation?


Going Green: 7 DIY Natural Cleaning Recipes


Years ago, I became obsessed with the idea of saving money on things I used on a day-to-day basis. Influenced by shows like Extreme Couponers, I quickly joined up couponing websites and forums to try and catch the best deal possible on everything imaginable. At one time, I spent a couple of months purchasing cleaning products at great prices (basic couponing tip: use coupons when the item is on sale at the store! A window cleaner’s regular price might be $4.99, on sale right now for $2.50, and I have a $1.50 off coupon, making that $5 item only a $1.00!) – only to discover after that I had hoarded almost one hundred bottles of various home cleaners.

None of which were eco-friendly. Not only had I gone against basic minimalist principles, against basic zero waste principles, I now had enough toxic chemicals to kill a baby bear (I wish I were joking…). And I had a new baby in the house and was suddenly stressing out about all the toxic chemicals that I was putting on surfaces and into the air. So I sold these store-bought cleaning products to a local cleaning lady (making a tiny profit!) and went back to square one. I started making my own DIY natural home cleaning products.

Where to Start?

I did a lot of research and spent hours poring over details. If you google or pinterest ‘diy home cleaners’ you will find thousands of recipes, all claiming to be eco-friendly, easy on the environment, simple to make, and they all work! Well, after testing and testing different recipes, I found out that they don’t ALL work, that some are harder to make than others, and that some of it comes down to personal preference (scents, items available in your area, etc).

What do I need?

A note about essential oils: if you don’t want to invest in a kit I would recommend purchasing citronella, citrus (lemon, lime, sweet orange), and tea tree oil. Essential oils are sometimes used for a pleasant scent, while some oils also offering anti-bacterial properties.

A note about stainless steel spray bottles: this is my personal preference as I am concerned with reusing plastic bottles too many times and chemicals leaching out from the bottles into the cleaners. You could also use glass if this is a concern. At first I simply re-used old plastic cleaning bottles (old glass-cleaner spraying bottles and dish soap bottles). (ps. Turn a mason jar into a spray bottle!)


Homemade Dishwashing Liquid

  • 1/2 cup castile soap
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 5-25 drops of essential oils (mix them up for a custom scent!)

Combine in a plastic bottle (I use an old liquid dishwashing bottle), give a quick shake before use. You should use about 1-2 tablespoons per load of dishes.


Kitchen Sink Cleaner

One of my biggest pet peeves is a dirty sink. This works equally well on stainless steel sinks and porcelain sinks.

  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 3-5 drops of preferred essential oil (I like lavender!)

Combine all ingredients. Rinse sink with hot water. Pour the cleanser in the sink and scrub well, rinse with hot water. Ta-da! A beautiful, sparkling sink!


DIY Floor Cleaner

I put this solution in a spray bottle and wipe dry with a dry microfibre mop, or I use my Veleda spray mop.

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 1 cup 70% isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol
  • 5-10 drops of castile soap

Combine all ingredients in spray bottle. Spray lightly onto are, allow to sit for no more than 5 minutes, than wipe dry with dry mop.


DIY Toilet Bowl Cleaner

This simple toilet bowl cleaner is a great recipe to have on hand and it works!

  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 10 drops tea tree oil

Combine all ingredients. Add to bowl, swipe with a toilet brush and you’re done!


DIY Window Wash

There are so many different window cleaning recipes, here I share my favourite. I use this one most often because it’s so easy – vinegar and water, and whatever essential oil I have on hand.

  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 4 cups water
  • 10 drops of preferred essential oil (I like lemon!)

Combine ingredients. Shake bottle before use, spray liberally on windows, and wipe away using cloth, newspaper or reusable Bambooee paper towels.


DIY All-Purpose Cleaner

I found this recipe on Zero Waste Home years ago and I keep going back to it. It’s simple and smells great.

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon castile soap (I use lavender)
  • 3 teaspoons vinegar
  • 4 cups of water

Add ingredients to spray bottle and spray on surfaces. Wipe dry.

Why I Use Natural Homemade Cleaners

Store-bought household cleaning products contain toxins that may be carcinogenic, can be the cause of respiratory and heart problems, and can lead to asthma or allergies. Check out the Environmental Working Group to read more about it. If I can make our home safe and clean without using toxic chemicals or hazardous ingredients, then I will. I feel good about the cleaning product recipes I use, my house is clean, my children are safe, and my home smells good too!

Do you use natural cleaners at home?


Minimalism & I: We’re on a break.


I never hate minimalism more than when I’m moving.

When face to face with all the stuff you’ve procured over the years – your stuff! – it’s unnerving to think that this ALL belongs to you and you have to find a space for ALL of it.

When moving into a new place and having very little furniture to begin with, the idea of now purchasing shelving and desks and dressers to store all your stuff becomes a priority. I start spending hours and hours on various websites, on pinterest, even craigslist or ebay trying to find just the right items. And then the price tag blows me away and I’m still stuck with boxes of stuff until I can afford to buy things to store all my stuff in.

This is when the idea of just throwing it all away kicks in. Minimalism at its’ finest.

Just throw everything away – donate it, put it to good use, let someone else recycle it for you – but wait, you can’t do that because you will most likely need it in the future.

Going through the boxes of stuff, I’ve discovered enough gift wrap, bows, bags, greeting cards and note cards to fill two large Rubbermaid containers. I have no where to put these treasures of mine right now, so in their respective boxes they will stay. Is it wasteful to keep these items stored away until I need them? No, of course not.

But perhaps my cookbook collection could be thinned out a bit. And the boxes full of baking items and cake decorating tools which I rarely use… I’ve also discovered quite a collection of Christmas lights, still in their packaging, waiting to be used at our new home – 14 boxes of them. Being the savvy shopper that I am, I began purchasing them on clearance sales after the holidays.

Minimalism only works for me when there’s a spot for everything, and everything is in its’ place. It works when you have just enough of everything, and not too much. The excess, the fat, must be trimmed so you’re left with everything you need and nothing more.

(Of course, I don’t apply this methodology to my shoes, because that would be blasphemous.)

Only then is the perfect balance achieved – a clean, minimal look which appeals to me, and useful items that are easily found when needed.

But for now I’m buried beneath boxes upon boxes of stuff. Books, toys, clothes, holiday decorations, linens, kitchen stuff, stationary, magazines, more coffee mugs than I can count, and my iphone, lost somewhere in these treasures.

Wish me luck.