Baby-Led Weaning & Raw Juice

In the health food world, we all recognize the benefits of a fresh, raw green juice. It is a far (far, far, far) cry from the children’s juices laden with unnatural coloring, high fructose corn syrup, and oodles of ingredients we are hardly able to recognize let alone pronounce. Check out some of these ingredient labels for a Kool-Aid packet (before adding the…how many cups of sugar?) and a Hi-C juice box.

 

I am of a mind that believes that whole foods as produced by nature are the absolute most ideal for our health, and that altering them, even by juicing or blending, alters them just a step down slightly from the perfection that they originally were. That being said, certainly juices have a proper place in the health food world as the fastest, easiest way to receive calories and nutrients when needed for certain ailments (Are you familiar with Gerson Therapy, for example?). Sometimes we even just crave a delicious fruit or vegetable juice and, within moderation, they’re fantastic!

Before I get into what my daughter’s first juice was, let me start with offering some information on why to be careful about infants consuming juices. I’m going to go ahead and assume your BLW baby that is eating solids is a minimum of 6 months old (right?). If you haven’t had a chance to read the basic guidelines for beginning BLW, hop on over to my previous post on this real quickly first. Juice (or solids for that matter) should not be given prior to this age. In fact, you can hold off on any juice at all until after the age of 1 year old if you find that fitting (some experts claim you should wait until after the first year to introduce it).

Be careful to not give your young one much more than an ounce or two (certainly you can give more if you have an older child). Breastmilk (or formula if that’s what you’re using instead), in the first year, should still be the primary source of nutrients for your baby and so you would not want to give juice in place of milk. Just as you should with solids, feed your baby first before offering anything else. Getting their fill off a fruit and vegetable liquid would leave them too full for milk, but not in receipt of the full amount of calories, vitamins, and minerals that they need at this age. Another reason to not give too much juice is because too much water can interfere with their tummy’s ability to absorb nutrients. Their little kidneys aren’t quite developed enough just yet to be able to handle high amounts of water.

That being said, fresh juice (when given properly) is nothing to fear when you consider that many of the solids we offer them have a high water content to begin with. It would be best to blend the produce so as to keep it as similar to the fruit’s whole food form as possible, keeping the fiber relatively intact. Don’t worry, you don’t have to make a teeny 2 oz juice or throw the rest away – I’m sure baby will be happy to share with you or drink the same thing as Mommy and Daddy (they do love to copy after all!). You can read more about juice and infants over at KellyMom. Keep in mind that much of this article is likely referring to processed juices rather than fresh raw juices and so won’t fully apply (though it’s still worth reading for the parts that do).

I felt like giving my daughter her first juice this week. There is really so little nutritional value in processed juices and so I have no intention of offering those to her. I really think she wouldn’t even know what to do with something so sickly sweet, and it’s certainly not ideal for a child’s dental health to drink that sort of processed sugar. I wanted the juice to cover a few specific bases:

  • Include all raw ingredients for the most nutrients
  • Include some greens
  • Include a flavor she has never tried before
  • Include some added protein and omega 3s

Did you know that chia seed contain more Omega 3s than even salmon when compared by grams?

For this reason I used some of our leftover kale, some organic frozen cherries from the dessert section at our local market (she’s never had cherries), and lastly some chia.

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I used about 1/2c whole cherries, 1/2 kale leaf torn up, and 1/4tsp of chia. Blend this with about a 1/2c of water in your high-speed blender until smooth. This much water will allow for it to be thick but not so thick it will be difficult for them to suck through a straw or drink from a cup. Let sit just a few minutes so that it gives the chia time to absorb some of the water and soften.

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This makes a lovely, pleasant and mild flavor combination. It’s not overly sweet which, even with fruit is a taste I try to avoid at this young of an age. It really is simply mild and fruity. My daughter at first was thrown by the cold temperature as of course her milk is typically at least body temperature but, being as she is teething, I think she really enjoyed the coldness in her mouth. She drank about 1-1.5oz and seemed overall to enjoy trying something completely different! It is not all that easy however, let me tell you, to get a photo of such things. 🙂

In health,

K.

 

 

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Zingy Asian Pasta Salad

One of the beautiful things about starting baby led weaning right off the bat is how it often develops a child that is willing to eat (literally) anything. To my dismay, sometimes this may be something old found on the kitchen floor, a rogue cat hair, or something else of the frightening sort that is the perfect size for a baby’s curious little hands. However, to it’s benefit, BLW for many reasons gives a child the independence and comfort necessary to keep them from being overly picky eaters (generally speaking). As parents, we must be careful to consistently introduce (or reintroduce) new flavors and textures to keep them willing and expecting of new culinary adventures.

Today I embarked on a type of “chinese chicken salad” inspired meal for my daughter. If you’re familiar with my blog however, you will already know that this recipe would not include chicken (or any other animal product), oil, or grain.

Let me tell you… it. was. stellar.

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Ingredients:

-1/2 zucchini, spiralized

-2/3 small carrot or so, shaved

-1 green onion, minced well

-1/2 kale leaf

-1 handful fresh parsley

-1 thumb of fresh ginger

-1/5 lime (1 wedge)

-1/2 avocado

-1 med. orange

-3 (give or take) snow peas (not pictured)

Instructions:

  1. Having rinsed/cleaned all your produce, first make up your dressing. Halve your avocado and place one half in a high speed blender (preferably like a Nutribullet or Vitamix) or a food processor. Shave some of the peel from your thumb of ginger, and slice off a piece about the size of one of your smaller fingernails. Add to blender. Halve your orange and toss half in the blender, setting the other half aside for later. Toss in a few leaves of your fresh parsley, and then squirt your lime wedge inside the blender. Blend until smooth – it will be quite thick and should taste rich and citrusy.
  2. Using your spiralizer, create your “pasta” noodles by using your half of zucchini. If you do not own a spiralizer, you can also make “fettuccine” type noodles simply by shaving the zucchini with a potato peeler. Cut these pieces up a bit if you have long strings so that they are easier for baby to handle. Add to this some carrot shavings done also with your peeler in a medium sized bowl.
  3. Dice your kale very finely so that it will blend well with the mixture and add it to the bowl. To this, add some more fresh parsley for added greens (did you know fresh, green herbs are detoxifying and good for the circulatory system?).
  4. Lastly, nip off both ends of your snow peas just at the edge with your knife and set that aside for composting as they are a bit hard. Add the snow peas to the bowl (you may cut these up a bit if you wish to do so). Dice the other half of your orange and toss in alongside it.
  5. Stir well with your dressing. This amount of dressing matched the salad perfectly, so as always adjust this recipe depending on the age/appetite of your child. My 9.5mo old was able to eat about half of this recipe.
  6. Mmmmm…

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Let me leave you with some other thoughts on how to tweak this:

-I really had hoped to make this recipe with fresh bean sprouts, but my local market only had the canned-but-barely-still-food kind from the international aisle so I skipped it. If you happen to be making a trip to your local health food store, fresh bean sprouts would be a fantastic and healthful addition.

-If your little one is quite good at gnawing harder things, water chestnuts might be a fun extra texture for them to try.

-Do let the dressing sit atop the zucchini just for a few minutes; It helps to soften the noodles a bit and allows them to absorb the various flavors.

-If you would rather make this a true salad rather than a “pasta salad”, a lettuce like Boston Lettuce or even BokChoy would suit quite well. Something like this could even be done with different colored cabbages, if you really want to go all out (though it would need to set up in the fridge awhile to soften a touch, I imagine).

-If you have a baby or toddler ready for nuts, something like slivered almonds is a traditional nut in oriental salads that would be a great way to add more healthy fats and protein.

I am really falling in love with making ethnic dishes. One of the beautiful aspects of them is that you can make all manner of similar dishes but only use the produce you really love by easily subtracting a flavor you don’t care for in substitution for another that works just as well.

To your good health,

K.

Creamy Veg Pad Thai

Let’s be honest, anything in the vegan world with the title “creamy” gets our motor runnin’. Yes, it may he shrouded by questions of “…but WHAT makes it creamy?”…yet we’re intrigued all the same.

While this recipe is only mildly more labor intensive than the others before it, it’s worth it when it’s something the whole family can eat (though you may wish to season it a bit more intensely for the adult portions).

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Ingredients:

-Cooked spaghetti squash (we used about 3/4 c for our baby’s portion). [Fork holes in it, bake at 350 f for about an hour in a small roasting pan with an inch of water in the bottom. Turn once, halfway through.]

-Small handful of fresh, flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

-1 leaf kale, separated from stem and greens diced

-1/2 sm. tomato, diced

-1/4c tahini

-1/4tsp. dried oregano

-Dash of dried turmeric (optional)

-1/4 of a large, fresh lemon

-1 lg. clove garlic, minced finely

-1/3 c onion, chopped small

-1c broccoli crowns

-1 small carrot, small chopped

Instructions:

  1. Chop your onion into smallish bits and mince the garlic very finely. Clean your broccoli and carrot, then add just the crowns and chopped bits of carrot to steamer basket, covered until softened.
  2. While that’s steaming, add a touch of water to a small saucepan and turn to a medium heat. Add in your onion and sweat until soft, stirring continuously so it does not brown. Once mostly softened, add in half of your garlic that you set aside earlier until softened, also not allowing it to brown.
  3. In a small pot, add in your 1/4c of tahini (more or less depending on how much sauce you’d like on the pad thai) and the other half of your garlic. Stir this frequently so that the garlic does not burn. Once you feel it is cooked well enough, toss in a dash of turmeric and oregano (or whatever spices you prefer). Remove from heat, squeeze in lemon, and stir again. It will look alot like a roux.
  4. Now that your veggies are done steaming, turn to low heat and add in your kale, chopped tomato and parsley just long enough to wilt slightly and warm throughout.
  5. Fork out your spaghetti squash into strands your little one can handle, and mix all ingredients together, including the sauce.
  6. Nom.

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These flavors were delicious together and left about half the serving for leftovers for another night. It’s lemony, garlicky, and fantastically healthy. What’s not to love?

Guacamole Cabbage Rolls

As Lemony Snicket might say, if you like tidy, easy to clean meals, turn back now. If you’re a brave soul and not afraid of a little mess, please continue on.

It’s St. Patrick’s Day today and so a little something green seemed extra appropriate for dinner! As always, we use what we have available to us. Tonight we made simple and easy “Guacamole Cabbage Rolls.”100% vegan and organic, this recipe took about ten minutes and just a handful of ingredients.

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Ingredients:

-2 large cabbage leaves

-1 whole avocado

-1/2 tomato

-1/5 onion

-Sm. pinch of fresh cilantro, about 1/2 tsp. minced

-1/2tsp. cumin

Instructions:

  1. Rinse your cabbage leaves and remove from the head. Steam gently, covered until very soft.
  2. While leaves are steaming, mince your cilantro and onion and toss into a bowl. Dice your tomato into a size appropriate your your little one’s age and add to the bowl.
  3. Halve the avocado, removing the pit, and add the full avocado into the bowl. Sprinkle with cumin. Mash with a fork until avocado is smooth throughout and other ingredients are well blended.
  4. Spoon your mixture into the cabbage leaves and roll closed, using a bit of the mixture to help seal the edge closed (this won’t matter too much, baby will likely tear apart any semblance of what it once was).
  5. Ole!

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The unwritten step 6? Bathe. Immediately. The baby, I mean. And maybe the curtains and the cat.

My little darling devoured this, but certainly couldn’t eat the full amount I made. 1-1.5 rolls was more like what she was able to eat. Make more or less depending on baby’s age and appetite! One whole avocado fit two leaves perfectly, so feel free to adjust recipe accordingly.

As a final note, I want to add some additional ideas for this recipe. Typically, guacamole is made with garlic and chili powder also. I couldn’t find my garlic today (probably buried beneath the bananas somewhere) and I didn’t feel at 9 months the baby needed the added spice of chili powder to her little tummy. If you have a toddler or are comfortable with it, give a little dash of that a try! A small amount of turmeric might be a nice addition too. Use organic spices where you’re able (more on why another time)!

I’ll leave you here for now, but only after spamming you with adorable messy baby pictures. It is my blog after all, so I can do that. 😀

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vegan Kale Tater Recipe

Our little Peanut is nearly 9.5 months old now (well THAT escalated quickly!). I prefer to give simple meals that don’t require a recipe, but to properly follow baby-led weaning baby should be eating anything you do. I also prefer to eat without a recipe (a sweet potato, some broccoli and beans, call it a day!). It’s simpler, easier on digestion, and takes far less planning. But let’s be honest… Sometimes you want a meal that needs a recipe! In the real world (and I do mean “standard family eating practices”), people go out to eat and order a meal, or new recipes get made at home. For these reasons, I’ve been beginning to incorporate actual meals into her day, rather than just individual fruit and veg.

Now, call me crazy or call me crunchy (don’t call me late for dinner)… BUT I prefer to not include grains, oil, sugar, animal product, flours, or any processed foods into our diets. I avoid canned foods where I can, but at the least try to buy organic in a BPA-free can with no salt added. Perhaps I’ll touch on the particular why’s of each in a future post, but for now just know those will be the standards for all the recipes to come here. When researching different recipes for myself, I noticed what a lack of information there is out there to be vegan but also grain and oil free, as those are often staples of a plant-based diet. Because of this void of recipes that suited us, I decided to fill the void where I can and create some recipes for those that may live by similar principles. And so another facebook page was born! Plant-Based Baby: Grain, Oil, & Animal Product Free Recipes. Follow me there! Pretty please? ❤

My first recipe is so ridiculously basic that even, well… that even I could do it!

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Kale Taters

Ingredients:
-1 small organic Yukon Gold potato
-1 leaf organic kale
-1/2 tsp. tahini

Instructions:
1. Wash your potato well and, leaving the skin on, cut into about 6-8 small pieces for quick steaming.
2. Put a small amount of water in the bottom of a saucepan under a steamer basket. Add in your potatoes, turn temperature to med-high heat on stovetop, and cover.
3. While the potatoes are steaming, rinse your kale leaf and separate the greens from the stem and thicker veins. Chop into fine pieces as you would parsley.
4. Once the potatoes are fork-tender, add in your kale just for about 45-60 seconds to warm and slightly wilt them.
5. Remove from heat and place your mixture in a bowl. Mash the potato with a fork until no longer very lumpy and kale is well mixed. Drizzle with tahini and fluff with your fork to blend slightly.
6. Enjoy!

Peanut ate every. single. bite. No bite left behind. I’m thrilled she enjoyed it and it reminds me… Simplicity is best. I try not to go crazy on spices, I don’t add any salts to her food, and I don’t try to “sneak” greens. What I give her is what’s normal to her, and thankfully she enjoyes her kale and her clementines alike.

I am so excited to share more recipes with you very soon!

 

 

 

 

Our Experience With Baby-Led Weaning

It’s been so long since I’ve had (what felt like) the time to type out a blog post! The last edition was during my pregnancy, and our beautiful daughter is now an 8 month old. Go ahead, slap my wrists, I deserve it… Good, now that that’s out of the way… Allow me to share our experience with baby-led weaning so far.

First of all, let me briefly explain what this practice is in case you’re not familiar. With the insurgence of formula, came the suggestion that babies be fed pureed “solids” between the ages of 3-4 months. This is no longer the current recommendation by pediatricians. In fact, even the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends delaying solids until six months of age and offering breast-milk (when this is possible) for a minimum of a year. Starting solid food early is an outdated concept (and even shown now to be potentially harmful), but sadly the idea that infants require “easier” foods has not dissolved along with it (this is where pureed foods came into play, originally). At around six months of age, babies are far more capable than a 3-4 month old to put their hands to their mouth, explore with their tongues,and sit in a safe position for eating. There is so much more I could continue on about as it relates to this subject, but I hope to make this post somewhat more brief than its predecessors. <or, not>.

Per the BLW guidelines, an infant is ready to begin solid, whole (not pureed or blended) foods when they meet these criteria:

  • Baby is a minimum of 6 months of age (adjust for gestational age, if you feel that may be appropriate for your child). Age is just as important as developmental “readiness,” when the virgin gut of young infants is taken into account.
  • Baby shows a strong interest in your mealtimes, such as by grabbing for food from your plate.
  • Baby has an absence of the tongue-thrust reflex. You will see signs of the tongue-thrust reflex in young babies as a safety mechanism when anything that comes in contact with the tongue causes baby to gag and/or push food out of the mouth automatically (this is part of what makes spoon-feeding dangerous). This area on the tongue gets further and further back as baby ages, and is essentially lost around 5-7 months.
  • Baby is able to sit-up unassisted for a period of time. This is important as the airway can become closed off if the child’s head were to fall forward. Sitting upright is also the safest position for proper swallowing in order to prevent choking.
  • Baby has the motor skills to be able to make chewing motions (even in the absence of teeth) and grasp food, putting it to their mouth.

We began introducing solids at her adjusted age of six months. For over a month prior, she was showing signs that, to anyone not familiar with BLW (baby-led weaning), would appear to be readiness and desire for solid foods. Whenever she would see us eating, she’d stare and fuss. Whenever I had a plate on my lap, she would reach for the food on it. She put everything to her mouth, she held her core quite well, and didn’t appear to have much of a tongue-thrust reflex remaining (that I could tell). I was so very tempted to let her have a bite of something, but instead rented the book Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods-and Helping Your Baby to Grow Up a Happy and Confident Eater from my local library. I had known before she was born that we would be skipping processed and jar-foods. At this stage, I simply wasn’t aware of all the ins and outs of what BLW encompassed.

I am SO grateful that this book was available to me. It far exceeded my expectations of how much detail it would offer, and it felt to be a trove of knowledge that gave me the confidence in my choices going forward. When it was finally time for her to be able to start solids, we decided to go with organic avocado. I did this for two reasons. Firstly, because it had a soft texture and was full of healthy fats needed for brain growth at this age. Secondly, because I intentionally did not wish to start her with something sweet, like banana. In my personal theory, children who are not aware of cake (for example) do not crave cake. Certainly, they will come to an age where they see cake at a birthday party,  at which point that will be a bridge to cross when we come to it. For now, she is only aware of the foods we purchase and offer, and so I feel it is my duty to offer what is best for her in a way that will nurture a lifelong desire and appreciation for fruits and vegetables. For this reason, it was important for me to offer her a first food that would not be so very sweet that she would expect all of the foods thereafter to be just as sweet. In fact, we still offer her more vegetables than we do fruit, or at least a 50/50 balance.

The result of this has been an infant that has loved broccoli from the first time she took a bite. She’s now eaten everything from artichoke to zucchini, including clementines (a real favorite), mushroom, zucchini, apricot, strawberries, black beans (mashed), cabbage and more.broccoli

She loves it all! It’s such fun to see the look on her face when she willingly tries a brand new flavor, inspects it with her fingers and her tongue, and tests out the textures. I’ve also felt it enhances the bond between a mother and her child, in that a) it fosters her own independence with the knowledge that she is allowed to feed herself and know her body to stop when she is full. With spoon-feeding, a certain weight is carried for baby to eat a “certain amount” of the jar, or to trust implicitly whatever unknown flavor is being put into her mouth today. Additionally b), it fosters her trust in me when I consistently offer her things she finds to be edible and pleasing. She is developing a healthy relationship with trying unknown whole foods, and developing a healthy relationship of trust with me and her own instincts. What’s not to love?

As of now, she is still primarily breastfed as I have not noticed any milk feedings being replaced. For the first many months to even the first year, babies are more playing with their food, rather than eating it.They don’t yet realize that solids can “fill” their tummy. This is okay, as an oz of  breastmilk is still far more nutritionally dense than an oz of green beans. The purpose of BLW is not essentially to wean the child, but rather to offer them a platform to safely learn to eat and explore foods. An important facet of BLW is to always nurse/bottle-feed the child prior to any solids. This keeps baby from becoming frustrated if they are hungry, and also first gives them the most important nutrients from milk. Remember, food before one is (mostly) just for fun!

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Could I go on and on? Suuuure. Instead of doing that, though, I will offer my number two (okay, three) tips, my number two pros, and my number two cons for BLW.

Tips:

  1. Slippery and wet foods are very difficult for young babies to grasp. A well-intentioned slice of mango popping out of his/her tiny had can become very frustrating for a little one. For things like avocado, cucumber, pears, or apple, this crinkle cutter is perfect for making little grip-friendly finger sized grooves! We found ours on Amazon. It is sharp, but safe, and also excellent if you intend to practice Montessori parenting wherein older children are encouraged to use crinkle cutters like this one as a “first knife.” Other options are to cut a hole into the center of things like apples so they can hold it like a ring, and even leaving the peel on helps the baby grip foods a bit easier.
  2. Read. The. Book. Read it all. Don’t just join a Facebook group (trust me, they are riddled with misinformation), don’t just assume “feeding real food” is the basic knowledge needed and you’re done. You truly won’t regret reading it. It’s a fast read, and an informative one on so many levels. There are many small details needed for the  most complete information, and you will truly benefit from the confidence you receive after reading all of the important nitty-gritty. You will trust in your reasons, you will trust in the safety of it, and you will trust in your child. Please, please read it.
  3. Be prepared to start eating the way you always told yourself you would. You know, all those plans to cut out sugar, junk food, and sodas? You will have far more success if baby can eat exactly what you eat. The food off your plate will be far more desirable to baby than the “special” food on his/her plate. For the first month or so you may be able to get away with giving baby food that’s just for him, but that will not be a lasting way to keep baby interested in healthy foods. It’s best for the whole family to clean up their diet, and to practice what we as parents like to preach. It’s truly a benefit to BLW that everyone starts to eat a little healthier for the sake of baby. Win/Win!

Cons:

  1. Let’s be honest. BLW is Messy with a capital M. It will require far less patience than spoon-feeding, but far more clean-up. Babies find a way to get food scraps into crevices you didn’t even know existed! We purchased a sleeved bib like this one. More often than not, we’ve found that our little one focuses better when not in her chair but rather when we eat sitting on the floor together, so I’ll lay out a receiving blanket to eat on in just a diaper. We’ll then either initiate a good wipe-down with a cloth or a bath if it’s near bedtime anyway. Just toss the blanket in the wash and done. 🙂
  2. Backlash. What would we do without having our confidence undermined as parents? While BLW is considered non-traditional, it’s actually purees, rice cereal, and jar foods that are the newcomers.Commercial baby food was not around until the late 1920s, which means that mothers have been giving their little ones real food for many many a year prior to only the 20th century. The main thing I hear is concern about choking, as would be expected. “Aren’t you afraid she’ll choke on that??” Let me tell you why I am especially assured: a) Spoon-feeding goes against the tongue-thrust reflex and so it actually can induce choking and coughing. Rather, a child that feels a food in it’s mouth that is too large to swallow properly, will typically cough and clears his/her throat by their own instinct. These are important tools to have as now baby will have learned to reject a food from his mouth far earlier than a spoon-fed baby that did not have the chance to learn until perhaps many months older. My only advice is to know why you believe what you do (this applies to so, so many other things as well), and don’t feel ashamed to respectfully educate anyone concerned. Remember, your unique way of doing things may be the first they’ve ever seen or heard of such a thing, and respectful discussion on the topic can open eyes. You may not bring everyone over to the fold, but you will plant seeds for some (maybe for their next baby). By proxy, you will be reminding them that it is acceptable to trust their momma/daddy instincts, and that no pediatric recommendation can replace our natural drives.11988856676_7463fa1924_k_0

Pros:

  1. Can you imagine being a baby, understanding very little of the world, and having an indeterminable glob of goo shoved in your mouth when you’re not familiar yet with tastes and textures? I don’t know about your child, but mine loves to pick things up, look them over, inspect them, pop them in her mouth, and I can see all her wheels turning as she does it. By allowing her this freedom, I also allow her to develop a confidence in her decision making and personal preferences. As of yet, she has yet to dislike even ONE food I’ve offered her (if at first you don’t succeed or baby seems unsure, continue to present it!). She has a confidence in me as well, in that whatever I’m bringing over on the plate is not something she wishes to reject. Some babies develop an anxiety around eating when they’ve been disliking what they’ve been forcefully given, as they’re not sure what’s coming this time. They’ll turn their heads, clamp their jaws, and other antics I’m sure most have seen at some point or another. Your little one develops a healthy relationship with food as well by being allowed to choose when they’ve had enough (I don’t always have the exact same appetite on any given day, do you?), and when they’re not all that interested. By not forcing a certain amount or choosing what to put in their mouth for them, you are allowing them to learn when their tummy says “enough,” or even “no, thank you, maybe later.”I was also raised with “finish what’s on your plate,” and struggle with that standard. Perhaps a better mantra would be “take just what you think you’ll eat…you can always take more if you’re still hungry.” Many adults in standard America could stand to have a better idea of when they’re full and when they’re hungry. Unfortunately, we’re in a “more is better” society, and our empty/full tank light is a bit on the fritz.
  2. We have no struggle in this house when it comes to food. Eating time is a fun time, as it should be. With purees and cereals you may find that tantrums, fussing and food strikes are commonplace. My daughter is excited to see what we have in store for that meal, and happily explores everything on the plate. BLW is not meant to replace  nursing/formula, and so I do not have to worry about “is she getting enough food?” or “is she spitting out too much?” She eats what we eat, and so the additional cost is negligible (compare to the cost of G*rber). I don’t have to worry about her nutrition, as her solids are not meant to replace calories, but rather to complement them. By starting solids around six months, she will be well aware of how to properly eat nutritious, whole foods when the time comes that breastmilk is not enough for her. It has been such a pleasure to watch her develop her fine motor skills, and to also watch her learn to trust and enjoy these beautiful foods.

I could continue on, and I’ll admit that I failed in my attempt to make this a short post. <wink> It is easy to be passionate on a topic when you see your child thriving and developing because of it. I’m thankful for my husband, who helps me to prepare our meals many times (he is the master of gently steaming cabbage). It is important to have a support system if you can find it. Talk with your spouse/partner/significant other/friend/parent/whomever about your thoughts if you’re thinking to transition. Gather some facts. Check out this article on KellyMom for a good start on information. And don’t forget: read the book! I promise you’ll love it and it will give you the confidence you and your baby deserve for the most healthful start in life.

Waste Not

There is a slight gap between my last entry and the one I now type. Despite having pages worth of topics to write on, I knew I had to be patient until I was certain of which one sparked enough within me to be written of next. I have decided that instead of writing about things I 100% already comprehend and have accomplished, it was time for another one of the descents into new challenges that bring me so much joy.

While my Bucketlist never had a “Become Zero-Waste” written on it, the idea was enmeshed with other goals (I’d simply never heard of the concept at that point). When I grew into a minimalist lifestyle, other things began to bloom simultaneously. For me, personally it led directly into discovering healthier living, holistic remedies and Ayurveda,and environmental awareness (recycling, chemical free living, and reduced consumption). This may seem like alot of changes, but for me and my “extreme” ways, it was an exciting pool of information I couldn’t sponge up quickly enough.

After minimizing, I became a vegan, and then a raw vegan (or plant-based life style – more on this another entry). From there I undertook ridding my home of all chemicals (including plastics). Like most things I do, I didn’t swap out one thing at a time or replace this chemical cleanser for that pricey, more “natural” brand. Just in learning more about the labels on the things we already commonly used, I instantly began to mistrust just about anything that was for profit on a shelf. On top of this, as I tend to be a frugal person anyway, I would never have justified a $7 bundle of sustainable toilet paper in our budget. I was also delving a bit into homesteading at the time (making my own bread for my husband, learning about canning, scratch cooking,sewing, candle-making, etc) and so it was a natural leap for me to think to replace everything we were currently using with a “DIY” and plant-based alternative.

I began by riding my bike to the library (yes, I was cutting down on my car emissions as well – one day I even walked, and no it wasn’t close). I borrowed books such as “Clean House, Clean Planet” by Karen Logan and by watching documentaries such as Chemerical (this used to be free on Netflix, but I’ve linked you the .99 rental here), Addicted to Plastic (free) and more. I began to learn how to recycle (more complicated than what I was ever expecting!), and naturally began to include zero-waste living – without realizing that’s what I was doing or that it had a name. By making my own cleaning solutions, I was no longer purchasing plastic containers every time we needed more. By recycling, we had significantly reduced our trash. We were researching strongly how to work composting into an apartment lifestyle, though hadn’t quite made that work for us to date, sadly (will revisit this). In looking into reducing and reusing, I replaced my cling/plastic wrap with a homemade beeswax muslin cover as an affordable diy swap for a product called Abeego. I stopped answering the question “Paper or plastic?” while in the check-out line, because I was now bringing my own reusable cloth bags instead. I had learned enough sewing at this point to whip up some simple muslin drawstring bags so that I could discontinue use of the produce baggies I didn’t use to think twice about. I had replaced all chemical products, including all cleaners, handsoap, dishwasher detergent, and laundry soap. Dryer sheets became wool balls we felted ourselves from an old sweater of my husbands I had accidentally shrunk anyway (whoops), and some wool yarn.  Paper towels became cloth wipes when I used pinking shears to cut squares from some old bed sheets. Paper napkins became lovely cloth napkins that made every meal feel more like a treat. Ziploc bags were now cute reusable bags I’d ordered from Etsy. Shaving cream from the store was gone. Chemical laden shampoo and conditioner began the first of many efforts into “no-poo” (or no shampoo). I even replaced purchasing kitty litter by buying large bags of wheat berries from the bulk feed store, grinding in a blender and mixing with some baking soda for odor control. Below I’ve included some photos I found from when we were first pursuing this process about three years ago, and may go more into each recipe/swap at a later entry. Some of these photos show the products we originally used and what we replaced them with. The thousands of chemicals and amount of plastic we banished from our home was staggering to realize, when I consider what we mindlessly had been consuming.

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Yes, I even put my husband to work on the wool balls. He has always very supportive of something that became important to me. One thing that he simply put his foot down on was the idea of family cloth (a cloth swap for toilet paper). Others I’ve discussed the idea with are often repulsed by the idea or say it’s “far too extreme.” Because my husband was so gracious and helpful  on all of these other changes, I felt it was more important to respect his emotional line in the sand on the one swap that made him uncomfortable – and in the scope of things, we had already changed so much and reduced our footprint greatly as it was (occasionally, very occasionally, my personality can be okay with baby steps). 🙂 That being said, IF you lived alone or were on a zero-waste journey as a family, family cloth is something I’d strongly recommend you read into! One-use paper is doing so much harm to our environment. At the very least, just give it a Google,  as everyone deserves to be informed.

NOW – backstory being completed, I have some confessions to make. Some of these swaps did not work for us in the long term.Revisiting old recipes and trying new ones, as well as delving in even further to the zero waste idea, is what brings me to this blog post. Some things simply didn’t work for my husband, as this was not a passion for him. Some things got lost due to life changes – for awhile I traveled for work and was never even at our home except about two nights on the weekend. I had to live in model apartments where no trash cans even existed, let alone recycling bins (fortunately this was only for about six months). Lately I’ve been realizing how off track we’d become, and decided it’s time to refocus.

Personal Products: For example, no sooner did I use the shaving cream that I realized the ingredients in the given recipe were too thick for my razor. My husband was even open enough to order a straight razor, but let’s just say that tool is not for anyone less than a lumberjack. At the end of the day, not shaving was simply not an option, so I put aside that recipe and started just using whatever natural soap I had on hand for myself, and Justin continued to buy his Barbasol. We did not go back to disposable razors, though we use the kind with replaceable cartridges. This is something I need to revisit and simply find a different recipe for. The original, as I recall it, included coconut oil and shea butter. Both of those are just too thick for the blades of a razor head. I’ve tried just coconut oil, but even that is too thick and not water-soluble enough to not clog a razor head. Also, I had created some natural (aluminum-free) deodorant for my husband, Justin. I have not ever used deodorant as, genetically, I don’t sweat in that way, so I don’t have much to compare it to. However, he seemed to like it when I made it and I recall that it came out with an excellent consistency like the store bought products. At this time he was still using up the remainder of his old chemical ones, and the natural one got pushed to the side and never really used. The truth is, he isn’t as much of a believer in the natural and environmental need for things, and so while he tries to participate to indulge me (which I so appreciate), I can’t really expect it to stick for him if it’s not a mission he also holds in his heart. I may revisit the deodorant subject with him at a later point, maybe when he’s beginning to run low to see if he’s open to trying it again. Until then, I have other things I can focus on. A final example is the toothpaste. Oi, but that was bitter. This was my own fault, as I tried to do a more affordable swap for the Xylitol, a natural sweetner. Toothpaste is something that I 100% plan to revisit and soon, as it should be a very simple swap in comparison to some. Instead I continued to use the natural brand called “Earthpaste,” which I loved for a few years, but felt in the long term it stopped working as well for me. Currently, the simplicity of Eco-Dent works well for me.It is a natural toothpowder, vegan, and cruelty-free. Justin gets a separate name brand, as he doesn’t have any interest in trying the natural kind for now. The tube lasts a lot longer with just one person using it, at least.

Kitty Litter: This is another we discontinued, sadly. I recently asked my husband what he didn’t like about it and, while it clumped well, it tended to need the whole pan changed after a matter of a few days, rather than a few weeks like with store bought litters. For me, the grinding of wheat berries became very time consuming and frustrating. At the start, I used to spend time making full batches so we never ran out. This method was incredibly cost effective and far healthier, but it just became overwhelming when we’d get too busy and be out of litter when we needed it, not to mention that the dust it created in our little apartment was irritating. We’ve long since been using store-bought kitty litter again. Because caring for the kitty box is Justin’s particular chore, I don’t feel it’s fair to revisit a swap he feels made his day especially inconvenient. What I liked best about this swap was how sustainable it was, as well as that I did not have to rely on a Walmart for something I needed. The failure of this swap was mostly on my part, and how inconvenient it became for me in the every day. Because the above  reasons are all still important to me, I may revisit other options I recall reading about at the time. But again, if you live alone and have buckets of time on your hands… this was an incredible change-over. I really loved using the natural kitty litter – just didn’t love the big bags and having to make it all the time.

Reusable Items: Honesty hurts sometimes, but here we go. The muslin bags I made got use for about a year or so, but I just couldn’t get over the icky feeling of putting nuts or vegetables in a bag that I could see specks of things from the dryer or cat hair on. Simple, and to the point. The Abeego swap seemed okay, but often they weren’t used at all, and I couldn’t help but doubt the sealing ability of something I made myself (beeswax seal or not). Instead, we mainly just use the glass storage containers with the BPA free lid (though we do have some cling wrap on hand that receives occasional use – we’ve had the same roll for about a year). For these items, I really think I need to just bite the bullet to save up a bit of money to buy something professionally done. In my opinion, these individual things failed in the long run because they were the seldom few I should have shelled out to purchase, rather than attempt to make myself.

Recycling: And here’s the big one. When we first began our sorting and recycling, we lived in a larger city that was five minutes from a community recycling center. It was an excellent setup! You simply drove up and tossed items into a huge  public recycling bin. For items that couldn’t be disposed of like cardboards and cartons, there was another sorting center equally nearby where you could dispose of chemical cleaners, batteries, electronics, etc. We had a pretty small footprint at that point, and the only inconvenience was storing the bags or boxes until we got them to the recycling centers. Since we’ve moved however, I’ve done alot of research and there is simply nothing of the sort out in this area. The closest thing to a sorting center is many cities over, and our apartment is even smaller now and less able to hold bags of recycling for that long. I’m pretty disappointed to find that our new city has so little set up for public recycling if you aren’t lucky enough to live in a house. The amount of waste we’re now creating is causing me alot of distress. If you’re not aware of how bad the problem is, check out the episode currently on Netflix of Morgan Spurlock’s show “Inside Man” regarding garbage. There’s an excellent book that got me started back then, which I will link if I can remember what it’s called at some point. 🙂

So what’s the next challenge?

You already know me well enough to know…this irritates me. We still use the natural cleaners that have worked best for us (sometimes it takes trying several recipes before one works well in your opinion). I still make the laundry soap, and I even make the dog’s food. When we moved, the cloth towels and napkins sadly got put in the trash, but I now have lots of material from old baby blankets and towels that were given to me ready for pinking. With that being said, it will be my intention to rectify the few things we’ve slid away from, whether it be trying a different option or simply trying again. We are real people, and real life things have happened that caused changes to what used to be our almost perfect system. Moves, job changes, city changes… but what’s important is that we continue to be conscious of our lifestyles and our impact. That was the book – now I remember (this is how pregnancy brain works, you know). “No Impact Man” is the name of the book I referenced above. It was a one year experiment (and you know how I love extreme experiments) on living simply, reducing waste, minimizing our footprint, non-consumption, and living sustainably. There is also a documentary – check it out! So…onto the changes! My main objective currently will be to rectify the areas we use to be better about (even if I have to bake someone a casserole once a week to let me share their recycling bin), and also to delve more deeply into the idea of  zero waste living.

With zero-waste living comes more bulk bin shopping, more scratch cooking, less eating out, etc. These things I have touched on with my other changes, certainly, but never have I focused on the effort itself as an idea of its own. I’ve been spending time learning about what this sort of conscious effort will mean, and look forward to detailing for you the changes it will make for our every day lives (and perhaps what money it will end up saving). So the following is a mini-bucketlist for my environmental efforts, to which I will consider an accountability list of sorts to my readers of what I’ll be working on (posting about here and there):

-Attempt another toothpaste/toothpowder recipe once Eco-Dent is used up.

-Find a way to compost and recycle in the new city

-Remake the cloth wipes and find more cloth napkins from the thrift store

-Purchase mason jars and artisan-made produce bags for bulk bin shopping and  food storage.

-Continue working on no-poo (halfway there!) hair care.

-Begin to replace typical recipes with scratch cooking/zero waste recipes.

I have a feeling the only thing that will remain the same is… you guessed it… the toilet paper.

With an open heart,

K.

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Lighter Thoughts

Because my last two entries were introductory, they were especially long and emotionally heavy (at least for myself). This time, I hope to briefly share with you a fun idea that I found personally motivates me and helps me to see fresh perspectives.

In my last post I mentioned how, through minimalism, I began to spend more time with experiences, rather than things. Focusing on my life as an exploratory journey rather than as an accumulative mission caused me to examine my goals, desires, and passions. Where I otherwise lacked motivation, I came across the idea of “bucketlisting.” I did not look at this list so much as “things I hope to do before I kick the bucket” (that was far too morbid for my taste), but rather a way to document a personal to-do list of things that excited me. I began to log easy and challenging goals alike here

With surprising ease, I found that things I had yet to accomplish flowed from my brain faster than my excited fingers could type them into the list. Some of them were silly and even had been done before, but all the same I had a true desire to accomplish it again, though this time with intention and a renewed significance. One of these possibly silly things was to make a gingerbread house, for example. Sure, I suppose I’ve made one at some point in the past, but where was that memory?  I knew it was time to make new memories, and to begin to find pleasure in simple undertakings. In 2013 I brought one to our family Thanksgiving to do with my nephews and niece. I’m happy to say that this became a yearly tradition of Aunt Katie’s to do with the kids, and for the first time began to focus on quality time spent, crafts, and fond memories I could truly treasure.

I learned to change a tire all by myself (simple to some yes, but it was something I was especially proud of). It took a few online instructional videos, a car manual, and a “Vehicle Maintenance for Dummies” book, but when I was finally able to properly replace that last lug nut myself, I tasted accomplishment.

I walked in a 5K for a cause, specifically for the Lymphoma Foundation in honor of my mother with Non-Hodgkins. We did this for two years with myself as the organizing captain, and it brought together all kinds of different people for one beautiful purpose. This was something that, due to my social anxieties, I never imagined I’d be doing. These now are such special memories of something I was able to share with my mother and loved ones, and I’m sure ones I will cherish even after she’s gone.

I wanted to bake Christmas cookies. Of course this wasn’t the first time, but had I ever really been intentional about it? Had I done it with someone I loved? Why didn’t I do that every year? I loved the holidays! So I called my aunt and spent time with her over dinner and frosting cookies. I have a feeling that it was just as meaningful for her as it was for myself.

I found myself spending genuine time doing only the things that brought me joy. Discovering what these things were, re-evaluating what routines no longer served me, and realizing new interests became new hobbies of mine. This list has altered and changed over the last nearly four years, but I find that this is an expected ebb and flow if we are continually growing as individuals. There were certain things that originally were on the list that, after a few years and much growth, no longer felt important to me. There were new interests I’ve added I hadn’t even heard of when I originally made the list.  There are many new things I’ve tried or undertaken that aren’t on the list at all, yet I feel as though it’s the inspiration the list brings that has driven me to seek out more fulfilling past times.

For the sake of expressing the importance of finding passions, I will share with you that I was not always in the best of emotional health from my early teen years to early twenties. While there were many factors to the rest of that part of my life, I do feel that (see last blog post) through my divorce and discovery of minimalism, the fog was somehow lifted from then on. I began to crave the inspiration these new (and repeat) experiences brought to me. I began to feel excited about life. I began to look to the future… maybe for the first time.

You can find my personal Bucketlist here, as well ideas on the main website of other goals for your own list – should you choose to make one. Of the items on my completed list, I can truly share that none of them were a waste. Some are in progress or only half done, some had to be added back in because I needed more time to stick with it, and some feel like it will be years before I can even attempt them. All that matters, all that truly counts, …is the journey. Life is made up of experiences and accomplishments, not of just careers and bank accounts. Fulfillment may appear different for everyone, but the search for what fulfills us is what will bring individual joy. May your fog be lifted, your path be winding, and your contentment unparalleled.

With an open heart,

K.

Minimalism:Where I Began

After I began this blog, I had dozens of thoughts and topic ideas racing through my mind. There are SO many things I wish to write about, to document, and to learn. I came up with a list (so far) that was seven pages long! I truly wasn’t sure where to start so I looked over the list and decided to start with the topic I felt the most comfortable with – minimalism. I hope to write this information from the standpoint of a reader that perhaps may have just searched the word on the internet for the first time, with no knowledge base or experience yet with the lifestyle simple living brings. Allow me to begin by telling you how I found the concept and where I began.

Of my three siblings, I have always been the sentimental child. I don’t care for any adjustments to our family traditions during the holidays to which I’ve grown accustomed, I saved everything that could be construed even dimly as meaningful, and couldn’t bear to throw away anything someone I knew had owned or given to me. I’m not sure why my two sisters and brother aren’t this way in the same way that I am. I can’t help but wonder if I experienced loss in such a way that caused me to feel like I needed to hang on to every item as though it were the memory itself, for fear of losing both the item and the associated memory. This occurred to me when watching hoarders; women who lost parents early in life or found their father passed away were now, as adults, saving each and every animal they came across, even deceased ones by the side of the road. They named them, wrapped them in plastic or tin foil, and stored them in the freezer so that they might cryogenically cherish a life with too soon and too sad an ending.

Whether I experienced loss, simply was never pushed to purge my toys, or just was a remarkably sentimental sort of person, I found myself saving nearly every. single. thing. I amassed books, and was especially proud of this particular growing collection. These books were proudly displayed, though I began to run out of anywhere to put them. Some of these books remained unread and now, in retrospect, I’m able to admit that the truth of this matter was that I felt the collection spoke something about me to others. I assumed it made me appear well-read, deep, smart… choose your descriptive. Next to sentimental items, my literature collection was the most difficult change I had to make.

I found myself buried in old pet collars, boxes full of journals and notes, more clothing than 5 people could wear regularly, knick knacks, boxes of costume jewelry, small childhood items, duplicates and triplicates…and that was all before moving out of  my parents house. I won’t even share some of the items I found once I started going through things – I’m ashamed to say out loud how bad it truly was (you must take my word for it). After college I moved back home, and then at the age of 21 became married to my first husband. Because my mother’s home was always filled with warm decor and inherited treasures, I truly felt that decor and treasures made for a happy marriage and home. At this point in life I had already discovered the magic of thrift stores, and took my hoard even further by picking up kitchenware, as much primitive decor as I could find, more books on marriage and cooking, recipe guides, and (this was some of the worst) holiday decor.

Sure, the apartment was always clean (hygienically, speaking) but the clutter had more than begun to make itself apparent. Below are a few photos, which show an extreme mess as I was beginning a redecoration that day (see after photos). In the ‘after’ photos, everything looks tidy and neat, though I only bought more items and found more clever ways to store the old. I now find it fascinating what lengths I would go to in order to keep absolutely everything. Note in the photo with the white entertainment center that you can see my white gloves and ceremonial candle from our wedding. Even our vows were up there on 3×5 cards, getting dusty and stained, though I couldn’t bear to part with these items. It seems to me now, that if we truly cherished these items, they wouldn’t be “one among many.”

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Sure, the afters look more attractive than the mess, but without throwing any of this away, donating, or gifting… it was all truly just bathing swine. As this marriage unraveled, I became desperate to make an unhappy home stable by coating it with all of the trappings I deemed warm and inviting, hoping this would bring some salvation to a sinking ship. Truth be told, at some points shopping itself and seeking those treasured finds at thrift stores became a distraction that I was starving to find – an escape from realities I was not yet able to face.

After only about six months, the relationship turned more violent than I was willing or able to work with. I had begun to lose a part of myself, grappling with values (and family input) that whispered derision in my ears and openly acknowledged my failure. Those closest to me neither truly knew nor understood the situation I was living with at this point, and divorce was considered immoral. My feelings of rejection from the husband I expected to be with forever, mingled with the pointed failure to make this relationship work (despite having a living room that could have been mistaken for a Christmas store during the holidays), reminded me I had nothing left to focus on. I had no one to bake for, bring home gifts for, do laundry for…

When I then decided to leave the apartment we shared and separate, I spent my days (you guessed it) shopping. Quite alot of life happened between the separation and my realization of minimalism, so to make a longer story short, I began a career which entailed alot of moving about. For awhile, I was content to deal with the struggle packing, driving, and unpacking all of these things brought (it’s not like I can get rid of my THINGS, right??).  Because I was now spending time alone, various truths about my life began to slowly reveal new things to me.

All my life I’ve been told that I’m too ‘extreme’ of a person, that moderation in all things is key, and that it isn’t healthy to be so all or nothing. I’ll concede that there certainly efforts and times in life where moderation should be practiced. I made an effort to change this “all or nothing” side of me as I grew older, but the truth is that it’s part of who I am. I find passion in delving into something that brings me joy and interest as thoroughly as the parameters allow. It can certainly be a negative trait when directed at the wrong windmills, however I have found that – when directed at a healthy passion – this quality allows one to attain new knowledge of the subject like a sponge and to practice new ideas with an open, eager mind.

That being said, it is no wonder to me that when I began to feel I was lacking any spirit or goals, I went in search of the exact opposite. I began to feel overwhelmed by all of the boxes gathering dust. I felt swallowed by the laundry I could no longer fit in a wall-length closet, let alone find that sweater I was hoping to wear. I felt stuck by the sad household reminders of a failed marriage lurking just in the storage room. I began to lose sight of the reasons I had for keeping all of these things that not only didn’t bring me joy, but also no longer served any purpose in my new life.

As with most things, I’d have to suppose it started with an article I came across at work on Facebook. I’m not sure how the dominoes began to quietly fall, but I remember that I was fascinated by this idea of living simply. I read that it allowed you to begin to enjoy experiences, rather than things – if you didn’t own so many things you had to spend time cleaning and organizing, you’d have time doing more of what you love. While I didn’t yet know or remember what those things were, the article suggested things like reading, horseback riding, learning a new skill… Well, I’d love to do more of that! The thought came easily to me, and I felt a flicker begin to ignite within my spirit that I had not felt…in a long while? …ever?

At the same time I had been reading Eat, Pray, Love by the marvelous Elizabeth Gilbert. It had been a long time since I picked up a book, but something renewed the vigor in me to do so. This book brought me a peace I had not ever experienced, and fueled thoughts in my hurting soul that maybe, just maybe, I was meant for more in this world than what I had allowed myself to be thus far. In the novel, she also rid herself of all but her most treasured possessions, and began to truly LIVE life, experiencing all the things she’d always wished to through travel, spirituality, and friendships. It was quite a symphony of the right things at the right time. I began to delve deeper into this idea I came across from people who began to fascinate me, called minimalists.

At that time I worked a job that had occasional down time in the office, and spent as much time as I was able devouring articles and blogs. At this point, I did not realize how far this would go for me, and I had no idea that it could touch so many areas of life other than your closet and storage. I found myself drawn to the more extreme minimalists, fascinated by their photos and the ways they found to do without things the average American consumer couldn’t imagine not having. Some had just a few favorite books, some had none at all. Some had a lavish California king sized bed with a simple white comforter and no throw pillows, while some slept on a yoga mat in a van or yurt. I couldn’t get enough, and so my journey began.

For whatever reason, this movement resonated with me personally. Perhaps it was because I was so opposite this lifestyle where my possessions were concerned that it caused me to realize, for the first time, how unhappy the clutter made me. Perhaps it was because it was a new journey my spirit desperately needed in order to remove myself from the belongings and reminders of a previously lived life. For what ever reason, I began to realize that – it was nearly four years ago now when I began my journey – this would be life changing for me. A life change I desperately needed.

I began with my clothing. It seemed the easiest as it was something touched daily and it brought the most stress. I never saw my floor, most rarely fit, many I purchased because it was white tag day at a thrift store, some I didn’t even like but they were hand me downs, some were gifts (and you can’t get rid of gifts!), and others I had quadruplicates of. I do believe when I first began that I did a count of all of my hooded sweatshirts, and found more than fifteen of just those. I began with fervor and before I knew it, had a wardrobe of just my favorite things. I kept one pair of jeans, my favorite yoga pants, a few favorite t shirts, a skirt, a dress… I’ll share more on each subject or room in other future posts. I look forward to detailing hints and ideas for minimalist wardrobes. Because I found the clothing purge enjoyable and easier than I expected (as well as more diverting but cheaper than shopping…), it created a fun frenzy of decluttering, returning items to their owners, and donating. Behold, my first true hobby.

No sooner than the moment I moved on from my clothing hoard did I look around and realize… this wasn’t going to be easy.

This is just SOME of the photos I came across from when I documented the beginning of this process. I’m ashamed to admit that this was after I started. Even my trunk was full of storage. This doesn’t show even an eighth of my books, an ounce of the number of mementos, or any of my clothing. A few of the boxes pictured are SOME of my holiday decor. There are tubs of discs I had so many of I couldn’t even take care of properly. But even with all of this, the most shocking part of all of it to me can be summed up in a short phrase: as my divorce was being finalized, the rest of my life began to fall into place.

I began to find a passion and a purpose. What at first was a distracting experiment, soon became meaningful and fulfilling. Given my history, I expected that my failed relationship would destroy what was left of me. I was certain I’d fall apart. Instead, for the first time I began to genuinely meet myself – learn what drove me. The effort and the challenge awakened something that had been long since sleeping inside of me.

At this point, I’ll shorten my story and save some specifics for other postings. Minimalism comes in stages – not all at once, sometimes more than others, and occasionally in ways that surprise you. Eventually, of all those items pictured above beside such things as dishes and just a few remaining decor items, I was left with just what was truly meaningful or necessary to my life.

The things that remained began to hold far more meaning than they used to. I created a ‘bucketlist’ for the first time of all the things I wanted to learn and experience in life. I began to explore those things immediately. A couple years ago, I was even able to meet the authors of the blog that changed my life (and I made sure to tell them so). I highly encourage everyone to explore the blog written by The Minimalists, Joshua and Ryan, among others.

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My life was no longer about having the right things to make a perfect home and marriage. I had instead learned that a home is made happy only by content and nourished souls living within its walls, and by loving relationships nurtured by mutual respect (and as we all know, you must first nurture and respect yourself before having the ability to truly respect another).

Minimalism is not for everyone, though I believe contentment is. American society does not encourage contentment. It begs you to have the newest iPhone, it reminds you to consistently update your wardrobe to fit in with others, and it beckons you to never relinquish any of the things you’ve attained so that you can keep up with the Jones’ or “just in case.” I no longer worry about ‘just in case,’ and I certainly don’t put value in who made my clothing (which I can now easily find, launder, and keep off the floor). Though not easy (and often downright challenging), it is so far one of the best and truest endeavors I’ve ever undertaken. It has been one of my dearest blessings in life to be able to break free from the chains materialism fetters us all with.

And that has made all the difference…

I’m glad that, for what ever reason it was, you have stumbled upon this online blog. Perhaps the introduction is not the topic that originally drew you, but I hope you will take the time to read it all the same.

I do not presume to be an entertaining author, nor to have answers enough to inform anyone’s conscience on important matters. Instead, this blog is created for myself – anyone I may touch or influence through its musings is merely a happy accident.

There is a chance you’ve found this page because you’re like I am – a bit lost and misunderstood in a world that does not encourage much but mechanical progression. Certainly, this is a planet that has forgotten the natural roots from whence it was born, as though progression could only mean forward motion. Our current progression is, sadly, a de-evolution of core values and instincts that once led us to a place of survival and growth. I challenge us to look forward, for a healthier self and planet, simply by looking backward.

Because mainstream life, standard American diet, scheduled labors, chemical medicines, and undiluted consumerism are now thoroughly normalized, I’m often called ‘weird,’ ‘unique,’ or ‘abnormal.’ These terms are laughingly given and meant no true harm to my spirit, but I’ll admit that the truth of this matter is anything but laughable to me. In my personal life, I feel ostracized from others. I’m beginning to admit to myself that I need an outlet the same as everyone else – a platform to nurture and allow myself the journey my spirit urges me to be on. This journey deserves to be free from restraint, judgment, and emotional parameters.

Parts of this blog may be sharing knowledge I’ve already attained, and parts may be acknowledging the information I’m yet seeking. My mind is saturated with my efforts of minimalism, bodily health, emotional wellness, and more. I’m grateful for an arena that brings me the ability to foster my unique path, and know that one of the best potential blessings from its use would be the opportunity to affect change in even one small area of the life of a reader.

With an open heart,

K.