minimalism + a better possession

for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions (Luke 12:15)

When we moved to our current home, a less-than-1,000 square foot condo, four years ago, we were a family of three. Shortly after the move we became a family of four, and now we're a family of five. We've grown significantly since moving here, and it's worth mentioning that this move was a downsize from our previously larger apartment.

This adding of children in a smaller space again and again has taught me the necessity of being minimal. In everything, we have no choice but to be intentional about having less. We went from two couches and several accent chairs to one (sectional) couch and one chair. We axed the coffee table recently and for the life of me I can't figure out what took me so long. Furniture that doesn't serve a purpose just can't stay.

Every couple months I get the kids involved in choosing several toys and books to give away to neighbours or donate. If they don't play with it regularly, we don't keep it. If it's not a toy they can grow with, we don't keep it. If it's not something we love, we don't keep it. It sounds harsh, but it's survival when you're five people in a city condo.

But what about sentimentality? Beauty? Hospitality? These things are hard to honour and accomplish when minimalist living isn't just valued, but necessary.

I think there are ways to be sentimental while not keeping everything. We store a lot of our memories digitally. Conveniently the most precious memories to date are also the smallest to store - an old worn out wallet of my grandfather's, my grandmother's school-issued Bible from the 20s, the kid's hospital bracelets from when they were born.

Beauty and decor have been the hardest to ration and achieve in a small space. When we moved we had the opportunity to change our home's style significantly since most of our old furniture couldn't fit in our new space. We chose the same colours for the entire home and only kept the decor that worked throughout. Everything was paired down and it made our small space feel bigger.

Hospitality can be hard in a small space if you have it in your mind that being hospitable means offering a guest their own private room, bathroom, or wing of the house. While that would be nice for our out-of-town family, it's not realistic for minimalist, nor city living. If our ability to practice hospitality depends on what we have materially, we may have confused hospitality with entertaining. Hospitality is an attitude of welcoming, a heart that says "be at home with us". I believe we can practice hospitality well with little, and a pull out couch doesn't hurt!

But minimalism is more than dictated by what space allows. It's a heart issue, if you think about it. It's choosing to have less, own less, want less, use less, need less. Not because you don't have room or money for more, but because you don't place value on the material, temporal world as much as you do on the eternal. By that definition, all Christians should be minimalists.

You joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. (Hebrews 10:34)

Aesthetically, minimalism suits me. I like clean lines and modern style. But my heart doesn't crave minimalism on all fronts.

Take clothes. I love clothes and I love (online) shopping. I've also had three pregnancies in the last five years so my sizes have gone up and down a fair bit. Having one pair of jeans and a few classic, high quality shirts is French fashion 101 (and totally minimalist!), but wasn't attainable when my body was changing so constantly. But what about now? I could pair down my wardrobe significantly, I could stop shopping altogether. But in this way, I'm not a minimalist, and it's a problem.

Recently I was packing for the five of us to be away for three weeks. Even with enough clothing to last us that long, our drawers were still half full. Now, in Canada we have all four seasons, often in quite extremes, so sure, we need a wide variety of clothes. But I'm talking just summer/spring clothes. Our drawers should have been empty! I consider our kid's possessions to be quite paired down, mainly out of necessity as the three all share a bedroom and closet. But packing was eyeopening.

Consider food. A true minimalist wouldn't have the spice cabinet I have. A true minimalist wouldn't have ten cookbooks and hope to add more. Regarding food, I'm not a minimalist. I might love food too much, such that a failed recipe really gets me down, or a dinner out that isn't amazing ruins my night. Buying whatever cuts of meat I fancy, whatever fruits or vegetables I want, regardless of season or growing practices. See?  Gluttonous, not minimalist.

What does the Bible say to my two minimalistic shortfalls? But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content (1 Timothy 6:8). If we merely have these things. Not in the abundance that we do, but just to have them, we should be content. Yes, there is room to grow in minimalism.

It begs the question, why do I have so much? Throughout history, and in most parts of the world today, people in my position would be living in poverty. Unemployed pastor's wives with three children don't have the problem of striving toward minimalism in most places, in most eras. But we live in an abundant time being North American in 2015. We can get university degrees and choose not to use them professionally. We can buy things on a whim. Just last week I was talking about online shopping and megasales. Now more than ever, it's easy to have much.

But we know stuff will disappoint us. It will fade and wear and go out of style. It will break and age and interest us no more. Christians are promised that we have a better possession than our property. Our clothes and toys and books and decor do not abide and will not last. But our hope is not in this world and it's meager things. Our hope and our joy is in a God who left his home to come to a broken world to save it.

Maybe minimalism is so difficult because we do not understand the gospel. We still believe that these things will bring true joy. We still believe consuming more will fill the void in our hearts that only God can fill. As we have less and value material things less, may the eternal shine all the more brightly.

We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.  - C.S. Lewis


here we go again!

Last year our newly minted family of five went to Copenhagen and Amsterdam during my husband's paternity leave. We paid for the four flights completely with air miles points and stayed in AirBNB apartments and cooked our own meals. It wasn't a completely free vacation, but it was comparable to a trip to Florida, not a trip to Europe. My husband has blogged about how to amass air miles points quick enough to fly with our family for free, and I strongly encourage you to check it out! Use his links provided because there are bonus points if you're referred!

We loved last year's trip so much but didn't think we'd be able to do it again this year. Even with his craftiness, it does take time to collect enough air miles for FOUR flights to Europe (thank goodness, Chloe is still under two so she's free again!). But as the adage goes, where there's a will, there's a way.

We had just enough points for another round of free flights for our family, so we are off again! This time we're going to Sweden and Italy. Copenhagen really won our hearts to Scandinavian cities, so Stockholm was our top choice this year. There's going to be a Royal Wedding while we're there! Dream come true!! For our second stop, we needed something really family friendly and cheap so we settled on Florence, Italy. The town we're staying in doesn't even allow cars! It's known for kids running in the streets and people dining outside, and is incredibly affordable. Basically heaven on earth.

I'll be blogging sporadically but mostly sharing on Instagram, so follow along if you like!


summer style

grey muscle tank / white scalloped blouse/ espadrilles/ boyfriend shorts/ scalloped chambray shorts/ black muscle tank
Summer is here! I love love love summer. I often find it's hard to dress in a way that's comfortable, stylish, allows me to play with the kids freely, and errs on the modest side, but I think this year will be one of the easiest yet. High neck lines and everywhere!

I've started doing almost all of my shopping at Gap or Old Navy, because I can't find an easier method with their free shipping, free returns, and fast service. Never ever buy anything from either store unless it's at least 30% off, because their sales are crazytown. Normally If I buy something from Gap it's because they're offering 35-50% off (which is often), and that includes already on-sale items, so I end up getting closer to 50-70% off the regular price.

I love the boyfriend shorts, muscle tanks, and anything with scalloped edges. I just got the striped espadrilles for our upcoming trip and they're super comfy and go with everything! I also love long maxi skirts but it's hard to find them long enough #tallgirlproblems.


my favourite Plateau cafés

I'm always asked for recommendations for our 'hood, so I figured I should get them in writing so they're easier to pass along. As always, coffee comes first.

Montreal has an incredible café culture, and le Plateau Mont-Royal has serious bragging rights. It's not just about great coffee (but it is about great coffee!). Cafés are a home away from home. They're a place to study, gather with friends, take a breather, date in public (yeeeea!), be inspired, get connected, meet your neighbours, colleagues, whomever!

Urban people really rely on the third spaces away from home and work, in part because their dwellings are so tiny, but also because going out is a huge part of the culture, and cafés are the solution!

Le Couteau
Every single one offers quality coffee, delicious treats, and beautiful décor. The Indie Coffee Passport is how I discovered many of them, and it's a great way to test out local cafés without breaking the bank. Does anyone know if they're doing ICP this year?

Le Couteau - 4627 St-Denis
Le Couteau is one of the most spacious Plateau cafés and one of the closest to my house! We took our family photos here in 2013!

Myriade - 251 Saint-Viateur Ouest

When I used to work at Concordia University and lived in St-Henri, Myriade was a new café blowing up the coffee scene in Montreal. I was delighted when they opened one in the Mile-End corner of the Plateau!

Café Névé - 151 Rachel Est

Of all the cafés, Café Névé probably has the best food. Their coffee is terrific too, but definitely stay for lunch!

Le Moineau Masqué - 912 Marie Anne Est

I love love love the vibe in Le Moineau Masqué. It's very Scandinavian and reminded me of Copenhagen. It's the only café on the list that has children's books and toys (though they're all fairly kid friendly).

Café Replika - 252 Rachel Est

This year Café Replika was renovated and is more beautiful than ever. Loads of space and seating, beautiful design.

Le Falco - 5606 de Gaspé

Le Falco is on the main floor of an office building in the Mile-End, so it's filled with young professionals and casual business meetings. At lunch time it's really busy, but really serene at every other time of day. I love going here in the winter months because the massive floor to ceiling windows let the sun pour in while you're escaping the freezing temperatures. 

Le Couteau


modest when it's hottest

I first published this blog post last Spring and many enjoyed it as a resource or jumping off point for further discussion. So I thought I'd bring it back this year!

Summer is here. If you hadn't noticed the warmer weather, don't worry - just look at what the ladies are wearing around town. 'Tis the season to be skimpy, and I think Montreal might just be the capital for the scantily clad. And there is a lot to say about this, but today I just want to write about one element of modesty in the summer time. Bathing suits. Because even the shortest shorts don't often resemble underwear - that's the bikini's job! Check out this interesting video. Seriously worth the 9 minutes. Men, feel free to watch too!

Insightful, right? The idea that dressing a certain way gives us women power, but in the end we lose power and respect. I think there are many contributing factors to modesty, and I do agree that each culture defines modesty a different way, but I don't think we can ignore that bathing suits are getting smaller and smaller and the reaction men have to this isn't changing towards respecting and valuing women more.

But I get it. Finding cute bathing suits that are also modest is almost impossible. And I'm a girl who likes to swim! Until recently, the only one piece options out there were super sporty, and not made for girls with long torsos like me (in some cases one piece bathing suits were less modest for me than a well-fitting bikini!) But thankfully there are so many more options this summer, and I really wanted to share them with you all. Just in case you're in the same boat as I've found myself in summers past - desiring to wear something more than lingerie to the beach, but still wanting to be fashionable and flattering to my body type. It's actually more fun swimming in a modest suit too, because you're not forever readjusting your top or bottoms or afraid something came off after you jumped in!

Hope you find all this choice helpful! Many of these bathing suits are under $50, too!

1. Mod Cloth - $90    2. Albion Fit - $112    3. Mod Cloth - $90    4. Old Navy -  $45
5. J Crew - $136    6. Albion Fit - $128    7. Lime Ricki - $45    8. Lime Ricki - $43
9. Target - $40    10. Lime Ricki - $55    11. Target - $35    12. J Crew - $138
13. Lime Ricki - $55    14. J Crew $88    15. Mod Cloth - $90    16. Old Navy - $31