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!