Ethical Eco-Fashion & Wardrobe Minimalism 101 | Interview with Erin from My Green Closet

Ethical Eco-Fashion & Wardrobe Minimalism 101 | Interview with Erin from My Green Closet

I had the pleasure of interviewing one of my all-time favorite YouTubers, Erin from My Green Closet. I think I speak for all of Erin’s fans when I say, she is a wealth of information when it comes to ethical fashion, capsule wardrobes, minimalism, and all things fabric and style. But beyond that, she is simply a lovely person with a big heart. I am honored to know her. I hope you enjoy reading this interview.

  1. Erin, thank you for taking the time to conduct this interview. You have been so helpful to me as well as to thousands of others as we work to navigate through the issues surrounding our clothing and fashion choices. Thank you for that. For those who are not familiar with your work and your YouTube channel My Green Closet, can you please tell us a little bit about yourself? Who are you? Where are you from and where do you reside now? And anything else important or interesting about you? What is your career? Are you a full-time YouTuber, or do you also work outside of the home?

I am a freelance fashion designer, originally from Canada but currently living in Germany. When studying and working in fashion I became aware of the ethical and environmental issues in the industry; it was disturbing and heartbreaking, and completely changed the way I saw clothing and fashion. I started to learn as much as I could and became really interested in ‘slow fashion’ – focus on quality over quantity, ethical production, and trying to reduce the environmental impact of garments as much as possible. I began creating videos on YouTube just over a year ago and it has been so encouraging and rewarding to share something I’m passionate about and connect with and learn from like-minded people around the world.

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  1. Can you please tell us more about your personal evolution within the realm of ethical fashion, minimalism, and living an intentional life?

It started for me when I learned that a lot of issues in fashion come from mass-consumption. I realized one of the best things anyone can do is simply buy less. So I started buying less but better clothing and less stuff in general and through that I discovered capsule wardrobes and minimalism. It really resonated with me because I’ve always felt that experiences should be valued more than stuff, but it’s so easy to get caught up in shopping and wanting new things. Hearing about other people living a more mindful, minimalist life was inspiring and motivated me to declutter and remove a lot of excess in my life and then I started to feel the more psychological benefits. Around this time my husband and I also decided to move overseas to Germany so that was further incentive to reduce our possessions and focus on the things that are most important and valuable to us. 

  1. You have informed people about “fast fashion” and referenced the film The True Cost. For those who are unfamiliar with the fast fashion phenomenon, what is fast fashion and what is wrong with it?

Fast fashion is a relatively new concept and has completely changed the industry. Fashion used to have 2 or 4 seasons but now fast fashion brands like H&M and Zara and have new product in their stores each week and the clothing is sold very cheaply. The business model is designed to keep customers continuously shopping since there’s always something new and the price point is accessible to a lot of people. There are not only inherent ethical issue with producing clothing very cheaply but it’s also created a mindset that clothing is ‘disposable’. This obviously results in massive amounts of physical textile waste as well as wasting the energy and resources it took to make the item of clothing. A lot of people don’t know how incredibly polluting and labour intensive making clothing is because we are generally completely removed from the process. Unfortunately there is also the problem of a lack of transparency and information regarding fast fashion production because it’s in a lot of companies’ best interest for their customers to know as little as possible about how their clothes were made. 

  1. When it comes to making ethical decisions regarding fashion, food, and consumer/lifestyle choices, there are many layers and variables to consider. It can become all-consuming and extremely overwhelming for individuals. You recently did a video on the obstacles and possible solutions to ethical fashion excuses, which was very informative. What do you recommend to people who are struggling with making informed decisions on what to buy or how much they really need for themselves and/or their partners and families? Often times people give up because they feel as though their small choices won’t add up to make a big difference.

It can definitely be very overwhelming and frustrating trying to make conscious choices and find ethical products. I think the best thing anyone can do is ask yourself if you actually need the item, if it adds value to your life, and how long you can realistically see yourself using it; being a more thoughtful consumer and only buying things you’re actually going to use and have for a long time is a huge first step.

When shopping for ethical products I think it’s important to realize that no one is perfect, no product is going to be 100% ethical/sustainable, and it’s about trying your best. I generally tell people who are starting to think more about their purchases to do some research and figure out what their top priority is and start there, it could be vegan, fair trade, eco-friendly materials, locally made, or more. Having something more specific than ‘sustainable’ or ‘ethical’ really helps when searching for brands and products.

Finally it may not seem like it but the small choices you make really do add up. For example something simple like washing your clothing in cold instead of hot water while it doesn’t make a big difference to one load of laundry, it can make a very significant difference over time- not only saving a lot of energy but also helping extend the life of your clothes.

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  1. My blog promotes plant-based, compassionate living, holistic health, fitness, veganism, and more, but I have a wide variety of readers who are on all different types of paths of lifelong health and happiness. Two of the issues that I am most passionate about right now are the impact of our choices on the environment and on others (both human and non-human animals). With that, I have been naturally attracted to the low-waste or zero waste lifestyle as well as veganism in general. In the film Earthlings, for instance, information is shared on what really goes into leather and fur. And in the film The True Cost, the issues regarding leather, the chemicals used, how it affects the health of communities and eco systems, and poisons waterways is also discussed. So with all of that, plus the animal suffering – because after all, leather is animal skin, let’s call it what it is, people often feel stuck choosing between plastic shoes, which are also not eco-friendly in most cases, or leather shoes. For those readers who do not want to wear an animal but also do not want to contribute to plastic waste, are there options? And any shopping tips for shoes, since this seems to be a big struggle?

This is a big problem and a dilemma for a lot of people. Unfortunately there aren’t yet any really good, eco-friendly, biodegradable vegan leathers widely available, but I do hope those will come in time. There are some natural fibre shoes made from cotton or hemp and rubber or cork which can be a good option for people who want to avoid leather as well as synthetics but they are less common and generally in very limited styles. There seems to be more plant fibre options in bags than shoes. 

There definitely are better synthetic materials than others though (for example avoid products made out of PVC) and it’s important to research anything you’re planning to purchase. Buying secondhand I think is one of the best solutions, since you’re at least not supporting the initial creation of the item. Personally if I’m buying new shoes I try to buy vegan shoes made from recycled synthetic leather but this is definitely not a perfect solution as there is still a harmful chemical process involved. I think it’s good to do as much research as you can and try and find a solution that works best for you, but at the very least choose styles and quality products that will last and that you’ll use for a long time.  

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  1. The next concern I have heard discussed often at conferences is with wool, especially commercial wool, which is where most of our wool for clothing is coming from. There are many videos on the subject and they are extremely upsetting and graphic. Because of this, I usually opt for fabrics like cotton (recently looking for organic cotton only), bamboo, and hemp, as much as possible. What are your thoughts on wool and the unethical and inhumane issues surrounding wool? What options do people have for cruelty-free materials or avoiding wool? Do you recommend if people want sheep or alpaca wool to find a very small, local farm and meet the farmer and learn about how their animals are treated? One argument I have heard with this, is that there simply wouldn’t be enough small farmers for everyone to do this realistically either and that in lots of cases, they animals are still being used for profit, so once they get old or have “served their purpose,” they are usually sent off for slaughter. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

This again is another big dilemma and quite complex. Wool can be farmed in a terrible way and the practice of mulesing is particularly horrific. However there definitely also are farmers that wonderfully care for, respect, and love their animals. As a fibre there also isn’t anything like wool; it’s incredibly durable, insulating (even when wet), wicking, breathable, water and fire resistant, flexible, antimicrobial so it doesn’t tend to smell, and very easy to dye which limits the need for harsh chemicals. Cotton can be a substitute for some garments but often wool is replaced with synthetic fibres like acrylic or nylon which not only are unsustainable to produce but were found to shed a lot of small fibres when you wash them which go into the water system, polluting the oceans. 

Like with the dilemma of synthetic vegan leather, I really encourage people to research the issues and options available and figure out what you are more comfortable with. 

I personally think that especially with outerwear and technical active-wear wool is a better option than the current synthetic alternatives. There are some plant fibre garments in these categories which can be good for someone who wants to avoid both wool and synthetics but in general they don’t tend to perform as well or last as long, particularly with active-wear. There are wool brands like Icebreaker which have a pretty transparent supply chain (you can trace your garment to the farm the sheep is from and get more info about it) and standards for the welfare and care of the sheep (and sheep dogs) as well as guaranteeing mulesing-free wool.   

Buying wool products (or yarn) secondhand can be a very good option and is what I try to do, it gives you the benefits of wool without directly supporting the wool farming industry. It always amazes me how well wool holds up over time, often the best quality vintage pieces are made from wool. 

Finally for knitters or anyone looking to source any kind of wool, if you can I really recommend finding and visiting local farms. I have met some wonderful small-scale sheep and alpaca farmers who truly love and take amazing care of their animals. In my experience they are very willing to answer questions, show you around, and give you any information you need, plus it’s lovely to hang out with the animals. 🙂  If you are looking to buy wool I think it’s great to be able to support small local business like that. While this might not be the most practical solution or realistic on a large scale, it can be great option if it’s available to you. 

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  1. Just as with the locavore movement with food, there are people who attempt to source more of their clothing and clothing materials locally. Do you have any experience with this, and any insight you can share? Is it better to source clothing locally? Or is that almost impossible to do exclusively? Can you also discuss what fair trade is and why it’s important to consider fair trade options?

When I was getting my fashion design degree I actually tried to create my final collection from materials sourced as locally as possible, it was a really interesting experience and incredibly difficult. If you are looking for clothing that is entirely locally made and sourced (fibres, material weaving/knitting, dyes, sewing, trims, etc.) it’s next to impossible (especially if you live in a place where for example you can’t grow cotton or there is no textile industry) and very impractical for most people. However if this is something you’re really interested in I highly recommend checking if there is a Fibershed program near you, it’s a wonderful project where people source and create clothing entirely in their local region. 

Now buying clothing that is made locally from non-local materials is a lot more accessible and can be a really great way to shop more ethically and support local businesses. In general small designers will sew the garments themselves or have a small team so you don’t have to worry about unethical factory conditions, they tend to be a lot less wasteful with their materials, you can ask them questions – they are often very open about their business and supply chain. Some will even do custom work or alterations for you which means you can get a great fitting piece that you’ll have a long time, plus the garment will be more special and unique than anything from a large retailer. 

Fair trade is important when purchasing products from places or industries that are more known to have ethical issues. Fair trade certified products mean that a certain set of standards for the treatment and pay of workers has been met and is verified by the fair trade organization (there are a few different ones but 2 of the most common are Fairtrade International and the World Fair Trade Organization). 

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  1. Can you please share your points on minimalism and living simply, and how this can also make a difference? How much clothing do people really need, in your opinion. And at that end of the day, does fashion really matter? In other words, is it best for us to escape the idea of partially building our identities into wardrobes? Would it be more freeing and simple to just wear clothing that is ethical and not worry so much about how it looks or constantly looking to buy more?

Minimalism actually helped me enjoy fashion and style more, being conscious of my purchases allows me to have a wardrobe that I love and enjoy wearing which is such a great feeling. Buying less stuff also saves a lot of money which means I can invest in sustainable and ethical clothing that I previously couldn’t afford.   

I think the amount of clothing people ‘really’ need is individual to each person, it depends on your lifestyle, career, aesthetic, hobbies, where you live etc. It’s different for everyone. 

To me fashion does matter and is actually quite important. I get that some people think fashion is superficial and unnecessary but you can’t ignore that throughout human history clothing has been a part of communication. Whether we like it or not our brains are wired to make snap judgements of people based on their appearance and clothing is a key part of that which we have control over. I think clothing can be an incredibly powerful tool, as Orsola de Castro says in the beginning of The True Cost clothes are “our chosen skin … fundamentally a part of what we wish to communicate about ourselves”. Fashion and style is a way we can express ourselves, it can affect the way we feel, and it can also say something about what we believe in.

It probably would be simpler to just wear clothing and not worry or think about it how it looks and I’m sure for a lot of people that is a huge benefit of minimalism. But for me I enjoy the freedom to look or present myself in a certain way because not only can it be fun and creative to play with fashion but I know it directly affects my confidence and can influence how others perceive me. Being someone very passionate about sustainable fashion, I also use my clothing as a conversation starter. If I have an interesting outfit on people are more likely to comment on it or ask about it which will often result in a conversation about secondhand shopping or eco-friendly fabrics. 

I think clothing is beautiful, we wear it everyday and it’s a part of our lives. Whether intentional or not it’s a piece of personal expression, it can hold memories and become uniquely yours through patterns of wear, mending, and alterations. I honestly believe that a lot of problems around mass clothing consumption would be solved if people simply loved their clothes more- if you love your clothes you want to keep them, care for them, mend them, and pass them on to a good home. I think having an emotional connection to clothing is ultimately much more powerful in moving the fashion industry in a better direction than consumers feeling indifferent about it.

  1. You also have a YouTube channel on living a slower, more peaceful and intentional lifestyle. Can you share some information on this and your message to people on the benefits of slowing down?

I think slowing down is about finding and focusing on the things you truly enjoy and find fulfilling and being present to actually enjoy them instead of thinking about what’s next and what else is happening. Everything seems to be getting faster and it’s difficult to reduce distractions, slow down, and enjoy the process. It’s something I’m trying to explore more and on the channel I want to just share some of my thoughts and general experience with trying to find a balance of slowing down in a pretty fast-paced world. 

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  1. Anything else you would like to share about yourself or any relating topics?

Thank you so much for your wonderful questions Mary and for including me in your blog! 

Thank you so much, Erin! You continue to be an inspiration to me, and I thank you for the beautiful content you share on YouTube.

You Can Follow Erin:
My Green Closet YouTube
A Slower Life (Erin’s other YT channel)
On Instagram: @verenaerin

Thank you for reading. Please subscribe and explore my blog for healthy living resources, recipes, and other inspiring interviews.

Learn How to Live a Simple, Satisfying Life: Interview with Carrie LeighAnna

Learn How to Live a Simple, Satisfying Life: Interview with Carrie LeighAnna

When I began my journey to simplify my life, I had no idea that there was a small movement of people out there who were doing the same. In fact, later on, I discovered one of my now favorite YouTubers (and new friends) – Carrie LeighAnna. I found Carrie to be a genuine, honest, and kind woman; I can understand why so many people love her YouTube videos. What I like most about Carrie is that she is willing to be truthful with herself and with her viewers; in fact, she is open with the public about her goals, her challenges, and her victories. This is what makes Carrie so relatable; she doesn’t preach perfection or create a facade of perfection; she is just herself, and that’s part of what makes her so beautiful. The ideas and tips she shares are both encouraging and doable, yet they are super inspiring. If you are not familiar with her work and her message, you are in for a real treat with this interview.

1. Carrie, thank you for taking the time to participate in this interview. You live a simple life, and it seems that you work to prioritize your faith, your health, and your family above other areas of your life. This is very inspiring. For those who are not familiar with you and your YouTube channel, can you please tell us a little bit about yourself, where you are from, who you are, your interests, etc.?

I’m a 25-year-old wife, mother, YouTuber and recovering addict. I was born and raised in Kentucky, but moved 1,000 miles away to attend school in Florida where I met my husband of five years. However, just this month we’ve moved back to Kentucky to be closer to family.

I’m an old soul, I tend to go against the grain in just about every way, and I’ve never felt like I’ve really ever “fit in.” But as I’m getting older, I’m really coming to value my uniqueness, rather than feeling insecure about it.

Lastly, I’m obsessed with tiny things. Tiny houses, tiny nurseries, tiny pumpkins, tiny wardrobes, tiny flowers – they all just make my heart so happy!

2. Can you describe and list your simple wardrobe for us including your clothing, pjs, shoes, scarves, coats, etc.? Lots of people have asked me about how many undergarments to keep, so if you are willing to share that information also, if it’s not too personal, that would be great.

Just last month when I lived in Florida, my entire wardrobe consisted of a handful of little black dresses, a pair of flats, a pair of booties, a statement necklace, a set of diamond jewelry and several sweaters. I also had a pair of leggings and a maternity jacket I would wear on cooler days. That was it – less than twenty items – and it was all I ever needed. 

Since moving to Kentucky, however, I’ve had to alter things quite a bit, and I’m still working on it. So far, I’ve got three dresses, some leggings, skinnies, several nice tees, a pair of shorts, flats and I’m on the look out for a pair of sturdy boots for winter. I also have a lightweight coat, a heavy wool jacket and my original maternity jacket from my Florida wardrobe.

But here’s the catch- everything I wear is black. I’m a mommy, so stains are just a part of life – but not on black clothes! Also, Audrey Hepburn… Need I say more?

I have a small handful of workout/ painting clothes that I purchased at second hand stores for less than $10 total. And as far as undergarments go, I have just enough to wear for a week before everything needs to be washed. I purchase really nice panties and bras because it’s such a simple way for me to feel beautiful.

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3. You are a mother. How has motherhood changed you? Do you have any insight for people who are on the fence about parenthood?

Nothing in the world has made me realize how incredibly valuable and fragile life is like motherhood. The moment I locked eyes with that tiny little stranger, the world became so much bigger, so much scarier, and so much more dangerous. But right along with that, it became so much more joyful, playful, beautiful and wonderful all at the same time. When you give birth, you are literally born into a new type of human and you enter an entirely new world. It’s the craziest thing!

Though it was tempting to become “just” a mommy after she was born, I’ve realized in the last year how important it is that I take care of Carrie, and nurture and grow Carrie before I play mommy. The nice thing is, they are mutually compatible. My daughter was born into my world, and the best thing I can do for her is be a mature, growing and happy version of myself first, then welcome her into the world I’ve been living in, rather than make my life revolve exclusively around her.

4. When people say that “children are expensive” or “kids require a lot of stuff” do you agree with that? For anyone who would like to raise a child and still live a very simple lifestyle, what are your tips and suggestions?

I absolutely disagree! Babies need food, clothing, a carseat (at least in America) a quiet place to sleep and lots of love. None of that has to cost a great deal. In fact, for the average mother, all of this can be completely free. There are exceptions of course, but for the most part, babies simply do not need a lot.

Even as the child grows, the costs don’t have to be exorbitant. Living within a budget, buying gently-used items, and “doing it yourself” can all keep costs low.

5. For new Moms-to-be who want to only purchase (or ask for) necessities, what do you think the absolute essentials are to have? How many clothes, towels, cloth diapers, travel items, kits, other items are needed? Is there a way you would recommend tactfully asking for only the items listed on a registry (no extras) or cash in lieu of gifts for a celebratory shower?

My essentials were my electric breast pump, car seat, cloth diapers, and baby jammies. Everything else can be nice to have, but isn’t necessary. Our baby did sleep in a crib, but we were given a hand-me-down. And we received so many clothes and gifts at showers that we didn’t need to purchase anything more.

If you are going the cloth diaper route, I’d suggest 12 covers and inserts, minimum. This will hold you over for two days when they’re newborns and a little longer once they’re older.

Baby towels, toys and utensils are entirely unnecessary. By all means, get them if you like them, but don’t think they are a necessity. Use your adult towels on your baby. Let your infant play with a purse, a rock, and a spatula… heck, they like the boxes the toys come in more than they like the toys anyway! And teach your child to use adult utensils from the start. As the old saying goes, “Start as you would go.”

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6. Regarding mementos and sentimental items, how many do you have? This seems to be the most difficult thing for people to pare down. Have you ever regretted an item you got rid of?

From my childhood, I have nothing left. Several years into simplifying my life I set aside special items from my childhood that I wasn’t ready to release. At first, I thought I’d keep them forever. But eventually I let them all go.

There’s no rule here- hold on to what you want, but realize that it’s okay to let things go when you’re ready… just don’t watch Toy Story 3 right before doing it.

As far as motherhood is concerned, the day I found out I was pregnant, I purchased a sweet, whimsical journal and started writing to my unborn baby. Ever since then, I write a letter to her every two or three months. A few ultrasound pictures are also tucked away in the pages. This is the most precious and sentimental baby item I have, and I’ll give it to her once she becomes a mother. I don’t keep a baby journal because I’m just not a journaler. I tried, but it was always a source of guilt when I would forget to fill in all the appropriate pages. Eventually I realized I simply didn’t need that stress in my life, so I invested all my memory-making energy into the letter journal and stuck with that.

I also have a journal of notes and letters I started writing my husband shortly after we began dating. That’s my favorite sentimental item of ours, with the exception of the simple diamond jewelry my husband has given me as gifts over the years.

7. You just moved. What was that experience like for you? What is your new home environment like?

I moved to Kentucky just about a month ago and it was a lot of work, but so worth it! We sold every piece of furniture we owned rather than shipping it across the country, plus we purged all the unnecessary items from our home. At times it was a little scary realizing I didn’t own anything for a home anymore, with the exception of the carload I kept, but I knew in time I’d be filling my home again soon. And since we sold almost everything for more than we purchased it for, we had change to spare!

We are currently living in one bedroom in my parents house as we transition. We could rent if we wanted to, but my parents have generously offered to let us live with them while we save up for a hefty down payment on a house. Our hope is to move into our own place in the next year!

I’ve actually decided that since I’ll never get to live out my dream of living in a legitimate “tiny house,” that I’m going to make our current space as close to small-living as possible. The room is just a couple hundred square feet (I’m guessing), and so far I’ve managed to include a bedroom, family room, dining room, kitchen and nursery into the little space. It’s a stretch, but it’s a fun adventure, and I’m enjoying it more than words can say!

8. Are you a stay-at-home Mom? If so, what have been some of your best money-saving successes? Any tips for anyone who already avoids shopping most of the time but would really like to take their savings to the next level?

I am a stay-at-home mom. Actually, I was a stay-at-home wife before ever having kids, which is fairly uncommon these days. We’ve been able to make this work simply by staying out of debt and spending frugally. We are not perfect at sticking to our budget, but the tension and expectation is always there, so it keeps us from getting into trouble!

We read and followed Financial Guru Dave Ramsey’s principles pretty adamantly before getting married and we continue to study his material today. Honestly, that’s my number one money-saving (and money-making!) tip – read and follow all his stuff!

9. Friends and Family: This is one area of the holistic health circle that makes such an important difference in a person’s wellness. How have you managed friendships and personal relationships over the years? Do you keep things simple when it comes to friends (such as only having a couple of close friends)? Are you close with only a select handful of friends and family? Thoughts on social media?

I’ve struggled with social anxiety since elementary school. I was also raised in a highly-sheltered environment. Because of that, I’ve had a hard time making friends in my life. But the ones I have – MAN – they are the absolute best!

Relationships can be so tough to maintain. I realized the first year I went off to school that the majority of friendships from my past were going to fade away. I realized years later that that was both normal and healthy. Forgetting and letting go of good things only allows room in our lives to welcome newer, better things. I may have lost many of my closest friends from high school, but then I gained even closer friends in college, not to mention a boy I fell in love with and a child we created together!

But with that said, I believe with all my heart that every single human alive needs close friends. I have a handful of them, and I try my best to invest in those relationships as frequently as I can. Like many women, I want to do so much better. I could call more. I could visit more. I could do a lot of things more. But for now, I’m doing my best and maintaining where I can.

As far as social media is concerned, I would just caution everyone to be wary of “staying close” online. It’s simply not the same as truly being close. There’s nothing wrong with keeping up with friends, but if you’re doing that at the cost of neglecting your current relationships and others around you, you’re simply setting yourself up for some really serious isolation. 

And when it comes to family, by all means, be friends with them. Forgive them. Love them as hard as you are able. And if you can live close to them and still remain happy, do it! 

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10. Faith: You have described your faith as an important part of who you are. Do you have any words of kindness or encouragement to share with anyone who has lost their faith – faith not just in a specific religion or spiritual beliefs – but faith in anything or even faith in themselves?

My faith isn’t just a part of who I am – it is who I am. I believe in a  God who created me, knows me by name, loves me deeply, and has a plan for my life. In my lowest moments in life, I can have hope because God loves me. In my highest moments in life, I can be grateful because God has given me sweet gifts!  

As I mentioned before, I am a recovering addict. I attend regular twelve-step meetings and there is so much talk of God you’d think you were at church. But really, in those rooms there aren’t very many “believers” in the American-sense of the word. But the rooms are filled with people who have decided to give God a chance. And let me tell you- if that’s all you have to give, you have a lot to look forward to!

Regardless of your faith, or lack-there-of, you can know that you are loved. God loves you. And if you don’t think that’s real, then know that I love you (and I’m real!). Life is hard, messy, sticky and beautiful. There is nothing that love cannot fix. Don’t just wait for love to come save you, but actually seek it out. Keep yourself out of isolation. Serve someone lower than you. Eat with a homeless man. Dance in the rain on a summer day… Life is full of beauty, you just have to open your eyes to see it.

11. Anything else you would like to share with us?

I am not a fortune cookie, regardless of how my last answer just sounded. I’m actually a realist. Most things in life really don’t matter. People do. But most everything else simply does not.

Thank you, Carrie! You can learn more great tips and suggestions for living simply from Carrie’s YouTube channel. She also shares valuable information for saving money, living frugally, taking care of yourself, and raising a child.

Learning How to Live Light: A Special Light by Coco Interview

Learning How to Live Light: A Special Light by Coco Interview
One of my favorite YouTubers is Coco from Light by Coco, so you can only imagine how thrilled I was when she accepted an invitation to be interviewed for my website. This is a time of the year when so many people lose themselves in a frenzied world of shopping and sales. I just know this interview will serve as an inspiring step for individuals to declutter and simplify rather than waste or live with excess this holiday season. What I find most inspiring about Coco is her well-rounded approach to decluttering and how she travels with very little. I can only imagine that her living space is a tranquil sanctuary.

1. Your YouTube channel and blog focus on living light and minimalism, but also fashion, travel, and lifestyle tidbits. The information you share, and most importantly how you share it, is something I find this world needs. Can you please share a little bit about yourself, your journey toward minimalism and how you have evolved over the years?

Thank you! Well, I’m from the Netherlands but grew up all over the world, hence my fluency in English. I spent my middle and high school years in the Netherlands, though my parents insisted on us (my siblings and me) having Dutch roots. When it was time for college, the itch to get out there again came and I moved to San Francisco.

Sometimes when my family and I would all be packing up our stuff to move to the next country, I would think about those cartoons with people leaving home with nothing but a bindle. I would wonder how they did it, imagine what my bindle would hold, and then quickly wave the thought away because it was unrealistic. Until I came across minimalism in early 2010. I had boxes and boxes of stuff that I never touched. I imagined I might one day need the contents but when an appropriate occasion arose, I would always default to buying something new instead.

Minimalism didn’t happen in one day for me. It came and went. Somedays I would be fanatically cleaning out closets and drawers, and others I would be shopping like my life depended on it and hanging onto packaging just because it was so pretty. I feel like maybe you can compare transitioning into living light to puberty. It’s a roller coaster. You’re adjusting to this new you, but the old you is still there so you get confused. You still want to buy all the pretty things, but at the same time you want to have empty drawers and a jewelry tree with just one necklace and a ring hanging on it. Now that has all evened out a little; I don’t feel that need to just buy something for the sake of having it anymore. It’s definitely a process.


2. Have you ever regretted something you have given away, sold, or donated? What would your advice be to people who are toying with parting with something (or many things) but afraid that they will regret it? (Note: I recently went through this with my book collection. Yikes!)

I know I have regretted getting rid of things but the funny thing is that I cannot remember anything specific. I think that’s where my advice lies – ultimately it doesn’t matter because it’s just stuff. I always tell people to store the things they are thinking of getting rid of in a box. You can put the box away for an extended period of time, and if you forget what was inside you should just go ahead and donate it.

Most things can be replaced if need be. If it’s something that holds a memory or reminds you of a person there are two ways to handle it:
1. Take a picture of it and donate it 2. Keep it in a keepsakes box. A keepsakes box is a nice way to limit the amount of things you keep for emotional reasons. Once it’s full, you can go ahead and declutter it and see whether it’s worth keeping one item over the other.

3. How often do you do laundry? Some people who have simplified their wardrobe will re-wear certain items because they don’t have enough of certain pieces (like jeans) to wear seven days a week before they have their laundry day. What is your laundry schedule and how do you make it work with the wardrobe you have?

Once a week. I have no problem with wearing my jeans/pants multiple times in-between washes. In fact, it’s recommended not to wash jeans too often. Shirts? I won’t wear mine more than twice and they will always get a sniff test! As for unmentionables, I have enough of those to last me two weeks, haha!

4. What advice do you have for someone who has simplified their home, workspace, technology, etc. but now wants to take it to the next level and live even lighter? Do you recommend a capsule wardrobe, project 333, or something else depending on the lifestyle of each person?

I love the concept of a capsule wardrobe and recommend trying it out to everyone. Project 333 is great because it’s seasonal, so you get the chance to make changes every 3 months. 33 items is quite a lot actually, if you don’t count jewelry like myself. If you’re up for more of a challenge, try the 10 item wardrobe. It’s awesome to see how limiting your options makes life so much more stress-free.

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5. What are some of your future personal and professional goals?

I would really love to, at one point, make a living off of my YouTube channel. I know there are hundreds of thousands of people out there with that same dream but I can’t help feeling like this is what I’m supposed to be doing. I feel motivated and inspired to work on these videos. Living light has changed my life for the better and I want to share that, especially with younger girls. I’d like to make a difference somehow. I’d also like to give back to Stephen (my husband) what he has given me: the opportunity to figure out what I want to do. He has been so incredibly supportive of my journey. When he comes to a point where he wants to try different things career-wise, I want to make sure he can do so 100% with no distractions or outside pressure. Eventually, we want to start a family, but for now we are going to enjoy being just us two.

6. I was so excited to learn that you are married, because I find that many (not all, though) people who enjoy a minimal lifestyle and who have blogs are single and for couples and families, it’s nice to have some ideas as well. I’m married too, so I love learning about how couples can both live simply. I thought it was sweet that your husband did a video with you recently. What have you learned about love and relationships over the years that has profoundly changed your life?

I’ve had my fair share of heartbreak. Mostly because I was afraid of being single and rushed into relationships. The turning point came when the guy I was interested in stood me up for the 5th time in a row. I mean really, what was I thinking?! I decided that I was worth more than that and that I was going to live my life for me and not to be someone’s girlfriend (patriarchy much?). I figured the only one I could really trust was myself and if I was going to be alone with myself I’d better love me. I had fun with my friends instead of chasing after some guy trying to get some sort of validation. I’m so glad I was stood up!

I was happy, confident, and most importantly, not bitter. I was happy for the people who were in loving relationships, and I didn’t feel any negative emotions towards the guys who had wronged me in the past. The moment I deeply and honestly felt okay with being single, Stephen came into my life. As we got to know each other I was more and more convinced that he was the one. There was no urgency in our dating or fear of falling, it was wonderful. Every day I felt this deep sense of trust grow, and I can confidently say that the feeling was mutual.

What have I learned? Love yourself first; don’t make decisions (especially pertaining to your future) for anyone but yourself. In moments of tension with others you sometimes have to put your own reactions aside when you notice the other is having a moment of weakness (be that stress, anger, sadness, insecurity or jealousy). Listen more than you speak and trust your gut.

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7. I just wrote an article about friendships and taking an inventory of personal relationships and how important it is to be surrounded by good, genuine people. Up until I started doing research for this, I had no idea how many people of many age groups struggle with building meaningful friendships, finding considerate people they can vibe with, and letting go of friendship clutter. I realize this is such a broad topic, so please just share your thoughts on friendships. Have you found it easy to make new friends and let go of toxic friendships? Do you minimize your friendships as well?

My family and I moved around quite a bit when I was a kid so I am actually quite good at making friends and talking to strangers. From these travels I have learned that, above all, friendships are transient. We change as we go through life and so do our friends. The people we might have been a perfect match with 5 years ago may now be on a totally different wavelength, and that’s okay. It’s important to let go of relationships that just don’t work anymore. Friendships should feel natural, not forced. I don’t consciously minimize my friendships, but I have come to a point where I feel comfortable about people floating in and out of my life.

8. There is a lot of information on YouTube regarding how to be healthy. You seem to really have a grounded and balanced approach to how you view wellness. How would you define a “healthy life” and how important is having a balanced approach to health (whether that be fitness, yoga, meditation, nutrition, etc.) for you versus an extreme all-or-nothing approach? And going off of that, do you have any thoughts on all of the diet trends that are so prominent online?

Being healthy is my top priority. Exercise keeps me sane and my food is my medicine. That being said, you won’t see me at the gym more than twice a week or on a juice cleanse. I believe that all the small decisions you make add up to the bigger picture. Working out every day is not sustainable for me, taking the stairs every day is. Same goes for diet trends. Sustainability is very important. How does this impact the earth? My wallet? My mental wellbeing? No diet trends or all-or-nothing approaches for me, just sensibility. Figure out what you are eating too much of and what you are eating too little of. Find a good balance where exercise is enough, yet still enjoyable. Be healthy but still have fun.

9. Regarding social media, do you limit the time you are on social media each day? Do you only use certain platforms? Do you only follow a limited number of accounts? I could talk for hours about social media alone, because it’s a pervasive part of our society. How do you manage your online relationships?
I’m pretty bad about social media. This is such an exciting time for me that I check almost every hour. I know that’ll even out eventually though; I’m already seeing a change. I’m barely ever on Facebook so that’s a start. On Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest I only follow a small amount of accounts so that my feed doesn’t get overloaded. I don’t update  social media a lot either because I only want to send out content that’s worthwhile. My channel is about removing clutter from our lives, so I don’t want to clutter up other people’s feeds! Apart from interacting with my viewers, I’m quite a passive user; I lurk.

10. Do you have a career outside of writing and making videos? And if so, what is it? What advice do you have for all of the career people out there who don’t always put themselves first and who perhaps feel as though they don’t have time to live light?

I’m a Ux designer with a love for branding and identity design. I think that after the initial decluttering, living light is an amazing time-saver. It’s all about a shift in perspective. So instead of going out this weekend and spending your hard-earned money on things you don’t really need, stay home and go through a room to get rid of the stuff you already own and don’t really need. It’s pretty addicting actually. Plus, you can make extra money from selling stuff, and you can actually claim a tax deduction from donating stuff in the US.

Once everything is out you can spend your valuable and limited time on the things you like, instead of taking care of your possessions or shuffling around an overcrowded mall.

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11. Anything else you would like to share?

When it comes to living light and minimalism, I think a lot of people assume the goal is to have the least amount of stuff. They are afraid that their house may no longer feel like a home and that they will be rejected by society or that they themselves have to reject consumerism. This is not the case. This lifestyle is about finding a balance between too much and too little. You can still collect magnets and live light. You can still be a minimalist and have a garage full of tools. The key is to keep the things you use and/or love – the things that make you truly happy.

Coco’s Video on Changing Spending Habits:
For more information on Light by Coco:
Light by Coco on Youtube
Thank you, Coco!
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Also: Please be sure to check out my most recent video where I answer your questions and host a special giveaway.

An Inspiring Look: Lauren Grogan on Health, Yoga, and Self-Love

An Inspiring Look: Lauren Grogan on Health, Yoga, and Self-Love

Last week, I had the opportunity to interview Lauren Grogan of
Center Your Health. Lauren is a holistic health coach and yoga teacher who is passionate about life. I wanted to interview Lauren because I find her to be incredibly positive, authentic, and kind. These are qualities that I admire most in others. I also love how Lauren lives a full life and manages to balance everything with grace and organization. After reading this inspiring information, please watch Lauren’s video which is embedded at the end of this interview. Her smile and shining light will brighten your whole day.

1) Thank you, Lauren, for taking the time to allow me to interview you. How would you define yourself to those who have never met you?

You’re so welcome! It’s funny that you ask that question, because I’m at the point in my yoga and spiritual practice where I’m trying to no longer “define” myself! It’s been a very, very difficult process since it’s easy to attach to certain labels or ways to identify ourselves. With that being said, hopefully this brief interview together can help others get a glimpse of who I am at this point of my life and accept me for what I’m all about!

2) You are a holistic health coach (like me ::high five::) and a yoga teacher. What are your coaching/teaching philosophies?

It’s pretty simple, do what’s best for YOU. We’re so conditioned to look outside of ourselves for knowledge or healing but we need to remember that our bodies are designed to heal. We each have an innate wisdom within us that’s always there as a guide, no matter what is going on. We must learn to listen to our bodies, hear what they’re saying to us and give them exactly what they need. I love explaining this to my students/clients in hopes to remind them of the personal strength that resides in each one of them.
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3) From what I can tell, you are an advocate of gluten-free living. Do you recommend this for all people or is this just something that has helped you personally?

The only thing that I advocate or recommend for all people is to eat more veggies! Otherwise, I love explaining to my clients how gluten effects our system (it’s an anti-nutrient that causes inflammation) and then ultimately leave it up to them if they’d like to minimize their gluten intake or avoid it all together. Either way, I support them and always remind them to take it slow. It certainly takes awareness, patience, and practice. If they decide to give gluten-free a try though, I’m thrilled! I’m amazed at the symptoms that clear up in my clients after they’ve gave up gluten such as less body (joint) pain, no more bloating or gastrointestinal issues, weight loss or less headaches. To clarify though, while (in my opinion) gluten stinks, whole grains in general may be pretty disruptive to our health in large quantities. It varies person to person though.

How has going gluten-free been a game-changer for you personally?

Going gluten-free was something I never even considered until I was diagnosed with Hashimotos disease, an autoimmune condition effecting my thyroid function. When it comes to (any) autoimmune conditions, consuming gluten is like pouring fuel on the fire, so it must be eliminated. I realized that I had to finally give it up after my diagnosis. It was a slow and gradual process until I finally could feel the benefits enough to ditch it for good. It was a hard breakup, I must admit, one of the hardest I’ve ever gone through.  However, I’ve NEVER been happier! I breathe so freely each day (have absolutely NO congestion in my sinuses), I can focus and think clearly throughout my day (no more brain fog), I’ve lost weight and my muffin-top disappeared, my face/body in general is less puffy, my keratosis pilaris (a rash on my upper arms that I’ve had all of my life) cleared up, and I almost never have that “stuffed” feeling after I eat a meal (even when I’ve eaten a bit too much!). I’ve had a blast getting creative with prepping gluten-free meals. The best part is it’s made me eat more whole, real foods more than ever before. I’ll make cauliflower crust pizza, spiraled zucchini pasta, stuff half an avocado with tuna salad, enjoy hummus with fresh crudite, or create wraps with lettuce or collard greens. I steer clear of foods like breads, crackers, cookies and other goodies marketed as gluten-free. Let’s be real, that’s straight up junk food. Before I transitioned to gluten-free I viewed it as so restrictive. Now I see how wrong I was to think that since I’ve never been so satisfied or felt better!

4) I have written about being body positive and for people to focus on health and healing rather than their looks/weight alone. What are your thoughts on this topic?

I love that you’ve written on this subject. It’s so important, especially today. Obsessing over looks/weight only encourages unhealthy behaviors towards ourselves and effects our relationship with food. I think it’s so important to truly love yourself. This concept may be foreign to us since we are not encouraged to do this, but it’s an extremely important practice. Changing the way you speak to yourself is a great place to start. Most of us would never speak to others using the tone or words that we use towards ourselves. Part of my morning ritual is applying oil to my whole body after I’ve showered and silently thanking each and every part of my body. “Thank you, feet. Thanks, elbows! Thank you, eyes. Thanks, fingers. Thank you, belly.” It may sound silly, but I’ve grown to love, adore and appreciate so many different parts and aspects of my own body. It’s also helped me realize how grateful I am for the body I’ve been given and for its health. I highly recommend giving it a try!

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Where do you think most people go wrong when it comes to dieting and restrictive eating?

All or nothing thinking. I give so many lectures on different types of diets…just to lure people in, not to encourage them to subscribe to them. They think they’re coming to learn all about a plant-based diet, or even a paleo diet, and while I’ll educate them on it I like to give suggestions of how to take aspects of the diet that they like, “drop the label” and make it their own. Then, there is no longer restrictions and unnecessary pressure – two things that should never be associated with foods in the first place!  Create your own way of eating that’s best for you. 

5) Do you have any recommendations for people reading this blog who might be new to yoga and a little nervous to try a class?

Skip the free yoga class at your gym. While gym yoga teachers may be talented and great, it may not be the right environment for yoga if you’re a newbie. A simple google search for “beginner’s yoga class” in your area will bring up a bunch of local studios. Start checking out different studios and see what classes resonate with you and your schedule. Most studios even offer a discount or free class for your first time. When you attend class, go with an open mind. A true yoga class should be free of judgement and/or competition, so if you’re feeling any of that from the teacher or students (or sometimes even your own mind!) that may not be the class or studio for you. Your yoga practice is your own. It will look and feel different than anyone else’s, and that makes it beautiful and your own. Embrace that and you’ve embraced the essence of yoga…even as a beginner!

6) What is your message to more advanced yogis reading this blog?

I find that there is always something new to learn with yoga each and every time we roll out our mat. This mindset will keep us a beginner at heart when it comes to our advanced practice, remind us not to be so focused on “mastering” the asanas (poses) but rather enjoying them wherever we are that day. I have observed that as most yogi’s practice progresses (including my own!), the ego tends to be overconfident. It’s important to recognize when this happens so that you can realize you’re no longer practicing yoga with ego-driven thoughts. Yoga teaches us to be present and honor the body wherever it is. We must remember the fundamentals of yoga to truly excel in our practice…and that may or may not have anything to do with the asanas!

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7) Is there a personal struggle you’ve experienced in your life that you would feel comfortable sharing, as well as how you dealt with that challenge?

I’ve had a few personal struggles with my health over the years that I can now confidently say that I healed myself. That’s a lot easier said than done though! However, since I’ve done it more than a few times by now, I approach any struggle or health issue the same way and can execute the healing process much faster. I catch myself when I’m being the victim and instead look at whatever I’m going through as a blessing. I look at it as a challenge for me to go through so that I can learn from it and then help others to overcome similar issues. I make sure that I recite positive affirmations each day during my struggles and most of all allow myself the time to practice self care. I make rest and food prep my top priority so that I’m nourishing myself healthfully on all levels. I also reach out to the therapists, practitioners and mentors who I know will be helpful in my healing process. Healing takes lots of inner hard work and patience. After healing my IBS, anxiety disorder, autoimmune and thyroid disease, I feel pretty empowered to take on whatever is next. Our bodies are designed to heal themselves, we just have to realize that and give the body what it needs to thrive! 

8) What inspires you?

Yoga…on and off the mat, because it’s the thing that I resonate most with before anything else. 

Creating…in all different forms keeps me sane and allows me to express myself. 

Food…because I’m a total foodie. 

India…everything about it. The smells, rich colors, the rituals. To me, it’s the most beautiful place on the planet. 

Nature…the colors, the patterns, the textures, the taste! 

Connecting with others…because I make it a point to surround myself with others who leave me feeling empowered rather than drained. 

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9) Can you name one public figure who you admire and share why?

Lately, I’ve totally been admiring Daniel Vitalis of Rewild Yourself. I heard him speak about the domestication of human beings and it blew my mind. I’ve been a fan ever since. He reminds us of that wild wisdom that resides in our DNA which most of us have lost touch with. He’s got an online magazine and informative podcast. Check him out! His girlfriend Ali Schueler, of Wild Woman Speaks, also offers a similar approach that I’m totally jiving with. These past few years I’ve been so intrigued by primal living and working towards making little shifts here and there to get back to a more ancestral way of living.  

10) What are the most important lessons you have learned so far in life?

(Cue John Lennon’s song, Love.)

LOVE. Just love. Love yourself. Love everyone. Love every being. Love everything. Love cures all. Love nourishes all. Love is what we all desire. Love is what it’s all about. Give it, get it, share it, enjoy it! 

Also, my Italian Pop-Pop, Mike the barber, would always say, “The darker the vegetables, the better they are for you.” I have fond memories as a child of watching him tend his garden harvesting fresh fruits and vegetables for us to eat.

12) What are some of your future goals?

Bhakti yoga has been a major part of my life in these recent years and I want to continue diving deeper into the practice as time goes on. My husband and I plan to start a family and I look forward to making that a big part of our children’s lives. Chanting each day has brought me so much joy and satisfaction and I look forward to sharing that with any kiddies we may have. 

Any additional thoughts or comments?

Thanks so much for having me, Mary. I’m so inspired by you, your recipes, your homemade soaps, and your warm, positive message in general. Your smile lights up a room and is unforgettable! 

Thank you, Lauren! Keep shining bright!