Living Small(er)

In today's episode I'm joined by Laura Fenton. Laura is a writer, editor, and the author of The Little Book of Living Small. She and I are chatting about the ways that small living has impacted our lives and what it looks like in practice.

Laura Fenton: I would actually say the kitchen is not, um, as much of a problem because it is a workspace and like, there's kind of a workflow in there. Like you make the meal gets messy, clean up and set it back to, you know, baseline. For us, surfaces are definitely an issue, whether it's like the coffee table or the console in the entryway, like stuff gathers on those horizontal surfaces, no matter how diligent we are.

Um, One of those things. That's like constant maintenance.

Denaye Barahona: Hi, this is Denaye. I'm the founder of Simple Families. Simple Families is an online community for parents who are seeking a simpler more intentional life. In this show, we focus on minimalism with kids, positive parenting, family wellness, and decreasing the mental load.

My perspectives are based in my firsthand experience, raising kids, but also rooted in my PhD in child development. So you're going to hear conversations that are based in research, but more importantly, real life. Thanks for joining us. Hello. Hello. Thanks so much for tuning in that is the voice of Laura Fenton you heard in the intro. She is my guest for today. She is joining me in conversation about living. I don't worry. I'm not going to try to persuade anyone to sell their house and downsize. But as we downsized, I really appreciated Laura's resources, especially her book, the little book of living small before we get into today's episode, here's a quick one minute word from our sponsor.

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And you'll get two weeks. All right back to today's episode today, I am chatting with Laura Fenton. Laura is a writer and an editor. She's the author of the little book of living small and has a brand new book coming out this year, too. If you are in search of a lighter, simpler life in 2022, I hope that this episode brings you some hope and inspiration without further ado.

Here's my chat with. Hi, Laura, how are you?

Laura Fenton: And well, how are you?

Denaye Barahona: You good. I'm glad to have you here today.

Laura Fenton: Thank you for having me. I'm excited to, uh, talk about the start to the year. Yeah.

Denaye Barahona: I feel like new year, a lot of people thinking about decluttering, getting rid of stuff, living smaller. So let's just start, if you could just tell us a little bit about you and your journey and your lifestyle.

Laura Fenton: Absolutely. Um, well, my family of three, we live in New York city and we live in a relatively small space. Um, our apartment is. Just about 700 square feet. And so we, um, clutter is definitely something that is like a daily battle. I wrote a book about living in small spaces called living small, and this is a topic that I've been really interested in because I love living in a smaller space.

I think it. Is really beneficial in a lot of ways, it saves you money is less to maintain and it's, you know, for my family been really great, but it's definitely something that requires a little bit of discipline imagination and, um, you know, a little work to make it work, which is part of the reason. Um, I wrote my book.

Denaye Barahona: Yeah. And I loved your book when we downsize last year. And I mean, we downsized by about 70% and I had, I got so much inspiration from your book and so many ideas. I loved seeing all the different case studies of the families, living smaller and seeing the pictures, I think really helps me to visualize it, to see how it works.

Because honestly, before we downsized, do you know what was my inspiration for living small? What I thought it looked like was the, um, when you walk through Ikea those little demo rooms,

Laura Fenton: Well, I mean, those demo rooms are certainly appealing everybody. They're amazing. Well, you know, that was something that like, when I set out to write this book, part of the reason I wrote it was because I was really frustrated the magazines and books about like people living in smaller spaces showed like tiny houses or one room studio, apartment.

Or they were like somebody's beach house or they're like guest cottage or they're on the ciliary dwelling unit. It wasn't like somebody's real home. And man is what I really was interested in. Then it's like, where are real people and real families living, um, you know, that like this is their primary residence and that it's not like this extreme small, but it's smaller than.

Most people. It's what a lot of people would consider to be, you know, small, but not tiny, or, you know, like micro in any way.

Denaye Barahona: Right. Like when I I'm in those Ikea spaces and I'm like, oh, look at all the storage, they've done an amazing job of fitting everything in, but then like, where do they put the vacuum?

You know? I mean, there's so many things you're right. That real people, when you're seeing those spaces, like real people. More stuff. I mean, even minimalists, I have more stuff, like bigger, awkward stuff, things that have to go somewhere. Right? Yeah.

Laura Fenton: Well, and you know what, it's interesting you say that about all this storage, because it's just guests today.

Um, I saw someone that had written a review of the book and they said there's so much wasted space in some of these homes. And I thought to myself, I was like, you know, like wasted space. Like that's such an interesting idea. Like for me, the goal is not. To fill every space, right? That like those Ikea worlds where like every corner is out there with storage, like it's not a real reflection of like how people live.

Like you do actually need some breathing room, some empty space, like some corners of the home that. Maximum to the, you know, 10th degree. Um, so it, it's an interesting thing to think about is like, sort of that balance between making the most of your space, Ikea style and like real life needing a little breathing room.

Denaye Barahona: Yeah. You know, it's interesting that you say that because I would have felt the same way pre minimalism. Like I just would see an empty space on the wall and think I need a piece of furniture there. You know, like I felt like I needed to fill all the spaces and I did have that mindset. And I think that people who have always lived like that.

Kind of maximized themselves in their space. I can see how that makes sense to them. Like why would you have an empty wall that looks weird because it feels unusual to them. If they've never experienced it before, kind of like, why would I have a half empty closet? You know? And I have found like once I, the first thing I started minimizing was my closet.

And once I did that, I found so much peace being in my closet. I wanted to take my coffee in there in the morning and just like, hang out in there. It felt so good, but I didn't know that until I tried it. So I don't know. I wonder where these people are coming from where their starting point is.

Laura Fenton: Yeah, one, it's the cost that this is an interesting, we just did like finally tackled our big shared closet in the apartment.

And I like, I have that same feeling right now where I want to go in there and just like, it is like the piece of our apartment that is. In order right now. And it's such a good feeling when you like take the time to pull out the excess and make sure everything is in its place and it's home. Um, and I guess you can't experience that feeling until like you've done it, like until you've seen what it feels like to pull it back and live with a little bit less.

Denaye Barahona: Right. And that's why I always encourage parents to do what I call a toy vacation with the toys, which is tell the kids you're sending the toys on vacation. Get the globe out, have them pick a spot on the globe, pack the toys up in the suitcases and leave like 10 or 15. See what it feels like living with less, see how they play different living with less.

You don't have to commit, but that, because for me, that experience of living it and feeling it, it just, it was transformative for me. It felt addicted.

Laura Fenton: Absolutely. You when to feel, um, like a little bit of room to breathe, it it's something want more of, for sure.

Denaye Barahona: Yeah. And it has to be in your own house because the feeling you get when you walk into a hotel, the feeling that you get, when you walk into a hotel room, Empty and peaceful and feels really calming like that.

Isn't something that you really anticipate you're ever going to experience in your house. I mean, you're not going to really experience that in your house, but I think in order for it to feel real to you, I think you have to do it in your own house.

Laura Fenton: Well, and I think everybody has different levels of comfort of like how much stuff is right for them.

That's definitely something I saw, um, working on the book we were like in real people's homes, photographing them, you know, seeing, not just like the pictures where like what it's like to be in there. And, um, we intentionally. Showed a range of homes from like one family that was like truly minimalist, like white walls, no clutter.

It was like that sort of archetypal minimalism to like some people who have like a lot of stuff in a small space. Um, one woman in particular was like a real collector and different people have, you know, like different. Experiences of space and only you are going to know, like what's the right amount of stuff for you

Denaye Barahona: now.

I agree. And I think that. You have to kind of feel it right. And people will say like, well, how many toys should I have? How many shirts should I have? And I'm like, well, see clutter, if it's still feels like too much, then it's too much for you. There's no magic number for each person, but you'll know how you feel in that space.

And if you still don't feel comfortable, if it's still feels like too much, then it's probably too much.

Laura Fenton: Yes, I think that's good advice. Right? So

Denaye Barahona: in your house where, like what parts of a smaller space do you feel like are the most challenging to live? Like do you feel like your kitchen is always really crammed or are there any spaces, like any pain

Laura Fenton: points?

Yeah, we, I would actually say the kitchen is not, um, as much of a problem because it is. Uh, workspace and like, there's kind of a workflow in there. Like you make the meal gets messy, clean up and set it back to, you know, baseline for us. Surfaces are definitely an issue, whether it's like the coffee table or the console in the entryway, like stuff gathers on those horizontal surfaces, no matter how diligent we are.

Um, and that's one of those things. Constant maintenance is trying to make sure things aren't filling our horizontal surfaces. Um, and then in this lovely wintry season, our entry way with the boots and the mittens and the hats and the coats and all of that is like, again, the daily battle. That's the, the place that it needs.

Constant attention.

Denaye Barahona: Yeah, I feel all those things too. And the, the horizontal spaces are so challenging. Um, when we moved into our first home in New York, the one that we sold last year, um, we bought some of the furniture from the previous owners. The owner was a designer, a fashion designer, and she just had beautiful taste in, in house for too.

And we were sort of buying from a distance because we lived in Texas and she was downsizing. So she offered to sell us the furniture and we bought several pieces of the furniture, not really understanding the scope of it as much. We saw just kind of a quick picture of it. And we're like, okay, sure. It looks great in that space saves us buying stuff.

So he bought it. And one of the things was this gigantic farm table and we love it. But it's so big. I think it's like 90 inches. I don't know. But it is, I can't even tell you how challenging it is every single day to try to keep it. I don't even try to keep it clear. I just try to keep it like half of it clear.

And that's kind of what I'm settling with.

Laura Fenton: One, I think that is. One of the things too, about living small, about living a minimal life is that there's like this big work of getting to what's comfortable to you, but then like the reality is that it's ongoing, right? Like you have to chip away at it every day.

Um, it's like, it's not like once you've decluttered and once you've minimized that, like all. Um, problems of clutter and mass go away. It's just that it's easier at the end of every day to like, get back to, um, you know, how you want to keep things. Um, and like, I'm looking around my apartment right now and like, we didn't do that sweep last night and you know, like it shows, but one of the things I love about living small is that like, when we hang up.

I can probably get the whole house back, looking like ship shape and half an hour. And that wouldn't be true if we were in a bigger space. Um, and that just like having a smaller space, having less stuff, it makes it easier to like, do that daily maintenance, um, because there's, there's just less to clean and tidy.

Denaye Barahona: Yes. And when we moved into our rental, we had a 36 inch round dining table. And the thing that. Really struck me the most was how easy it was to wash that table. Like it took like three swipes and the dining room table was clean versus our 90 inch farm table, which is just mostly dirty because it takes so long and so much effort to wash that bigger table down.

So I think just like the cleaning of the spaces. So different in that aspect. And my daughter's bedroom is very small. It's like eight by eight, probably, probably not small in New York, New York city terms. But, um, she, she is our messiest person in the house right now and she gets it from me and, um, I had kind of contemplated giving her the bigger room because she has more stuff and she collects more stuff and maybe she should have a bigger room than my son, but then I was like, you know what?

The bigger room she has, the more stuff she's going to have, the more mess she's going to have. So I'm very grateful that we've given her the smaller room and, um, the other day it was a disaster. And do we set the timer for one minute? And in one minute she and I cleaned it top to bottom and it looked like brand new.

Laura Fenton: Well, and that, I mean, that's a lesson for like our little ones, but also for grownups too. I mentioned that we had, I just tackled like our biggest closet that we have in our home. And I had to like actually set aside a whole day to do it. I was dreading it so much. And then when I finally did it, I was like, I took everything out, cleaned.

I pulled out the things we needed to donate. It only ended up taking me three hours. And even this task that I was dreading, like I knew I needed to deal with it. We've been here for like seven years and haven't really ever like done a really big sweep out of that space and realizing that like some of these things take a lot less time than like we're imagining they're going to take.

Denaye Barahona: Yes. Did you find that the things in your closet didn't rethink were kind of just like a hodgepodge of stuff? Not necessarily just your clothes and your shoes, where you're using that as kind of a multi-functional storage?

Laura Fenton: Yes. And it also had become like the repository of delayed decisions and actions.

Um, for example, my son. Almost six and a half. And I had a giant bag of baby blankets and like infant towel, you know, bath towels that I've been meaning to donate for, I don't know, three years, um, that had just sort of like gotten shoved into the back of the closet. So there was a lot of stuff like that, or a favorite handbag that like needs a repair that like.

Had gotten lost in the shuffle and not been used and not been fixed and all this time, because I couldn't like literally see it. So I discovered that there was a lot of knee, just like things that I had not gotten to that were taking up space.

Denaye Barahona: Yeah. Yeah, that, that resonates so much with me. And it's interesting, you said that you moved in seven years ago and you still kind of feel like you're, you're settling in right.

Finding that closet organization, because whenever we've moved, I feel like we just unpack as fast as possible and just cram things, places. And then I need a few months to really get settled in and figure out how to make the space work for.

Laura Fenton: Well, and I also think that's like the season of life we are in with young kids, you know, like our family's needs have changed so much.

And so quickly over these years from like me expecting a baby to like now having, you know, a elementary school aged kid and add on top of that, the strangeness of these last couple of years, when school has been remote, when you know, we've been working from home, like. There has not been a period of time where like, it was just like, everything stayed the same and our needs were constant.

So I feel like that's part of it too, is that, you know, everything keeps changing.

Denaye Barahona: Yeah. I do agree with that. And I think. As kids grow, especially in the early years because they changed developmental stages so fast that their needs change, their stuff changes just like the turnover of clothes from every six months, outgrowing something, I think.

Yeah, I, that is a huge, huge piece of the accumulation of stuff. And then the aspect of letting go of the sentimental stuff. Do you struggle with that?

Laura Fenton: Yes. And no, I think that I'm, I fall on the least sentimental side of things. Um, I, it's not. Big struggle for me personally, but we, you know, some of the struggles too are like figuring out, um, the timing of when to let things go.

Like my son hasn't played with his, like, you know, the big trucks in a long time, but he really isn't ready to let them go yet. And, um, No, it's not like a little tiny junky toy. I can spirit away there. You know, we're, we're waiting for the moment where he's ready to say like, okay, it's time. Um, so there's, you know, that for us is like the, you know, balance of, you know, respecting what he's ready to get rid of versus what I'm ready to get rid

Denaye Barahona: of.

Yeah. Yeah. And that can be challenging for sure. Um, my son has kind of, you know, there's multiple stages and Lego sets where there's kind of like the, the easier younger ones and then like the bigger kid ones. And then the adult ones where he's recently transitioned into the stage where he's ready for the bigger kid ones.

And we have two shelves where he keeps his Lego sets, which some of them he's worked on like two years ago. And it's kind of like a little display shelf and. So this Christmas, he got a couple of new sets from aunts and uncles and grandparents, and he has a new Lego sets and he has nowhere to put them.

So we use kind of a one-on-one out policy where you can keep what fits on your shelf there. And now that you have some new things, if your shelf is full, then we got to empty out that. So we can make room for the new stuff. So that if I would have just said, like, which Lego sets do you want to get rid of?

He would have said none, but the fact that I said, okay, we're bringing in new ones, we're bringing in something new, let's make space for it, which means something has to go. Um, so that it actually went over super smooth. Like he was like, okay, let's pack all these up and put it, put out the new ones proudly.

Um, and that I feel like can be. Uh, a good way to transition our kids thinking about this one in one out, because so, so many of us are inclined to when the toy box is full, just buy another

Laura Fenton: toy. Yes, it's true. Um, no, and I think for sure, they, it's also, um, you know, like it's good for kids to have to make some of those decisions, but it's definitely, um, in real life, so hard to make happen.

Denaye Barahona: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And I think that when we say. When you're ready, then they may never be ready. Right. We have to kind of put some, some conditions around it where we explain like, okay, like, right, that we can't, there's no room for anything new until we take out something old. And that can feel, I think when you have a bigger house and you actually have room for more things, it can be really hard to enforce that.

Um, because there was actually a white space where you could put those things.

Laura Fenton: Yeah. And I mean, it living in a smaller space keeps you honest, you know, we have so attic, we have no basement. We have no storage space. Like this is where everything is. And so you, there isn't like that ability to serve like, Put the box away out of sight and then later on, um, deal with it.

And another thing I find, which is maybe a little less effective with my son, but like, I feel like whenever I get like the energy and the motivation to tidy, to declutter, to really like tackle, you know, like when our house is starting to feel crowded, um, once I do it. My husband feels it. My son feels it.

Like they feel how good it feels and it makes it a little easier to then sort of come around to them and say, Is there anything you want to have to like our donation pile that there's, you know, like the seeing, you know, the positive effect of it can, you know, get them ready to get on

Denaye Barahona: board. Yeah. It's funny how impacted our kids are by cleanliness.

You know, I think we think of. If a play space is so messy, we don't want to go into it. And the reality is is our kids are more easily overstimulated than us, and they definitely don't want to go into those crowded, messy play spaces or bedrooms. So when they experienced that feeling of calm with not having the clutter, I think they feel as good as we do almost all kids.

I would do.

Laura Fenton: Yeah, and I, I don't know about you, but I definitely, especially with this Rocky start to the school year, my son has been, um, a little more emotional lately and had a little bit more of a temper and a little bit more, you know, like emotional outbursts and it's hard as a parent, cause there's not a lot.

We can do, but like making home B you know, a refuge for him and trying to like, make, create a space that feels good during this kind of challenging time, um, is like something I can do. So it definitely motivates me to, um, you know, make sure that like I'm making his home feel good when the outside world is kinda scary right now.

Denaye Barahona: Yeah. Did you at all during COVID think that you might want to move to the burbs to a bigger place?

Laura Fenton: You know, we, we spent some time with family outside of the city and I love being in nature and having like more connection to like having easy access to nature. But for us, um, being in the city is best because.

It's where my husband and I work. Um, it has been particularly, and the idea of commuting and having those hours of the day where, you know, we, that would be kind of lost to either family life or work life just never seemed like it made sense. Um, yeah. And one of the things that was. I heard, not just from, you know, my own family, but from some of the families that were featured in my book was that, um, along with COVID, um, it was like a really scary financial time and having a small mortgage payment that we knew we could manage was.

Very comforting. Um, last year and the year before, and I, you know, in those moments, I was really glad we didn't have like the bigger apartment or the house out in the burbs where, um, it would be harder to, you know, feel like we were comfortable make that payment every month. So I never really wavered in my small living.

Denaye Barahona: Yeah. A lot of people did though. So we live sort of on we're one hour on the train from this from grand central. And so it's, most people feel like that's kind of the farthest they would commute. So our town, I would say is like 50, 50 commuters and other or non commuters. A lot of people work at home.

It's always been a lot of people working at home, but during the pandemic, a lot of people. Moved out from the city or the demand went way up. Oh yeah, we're the suburbs. And it just seemed like there was kind of a, a mass Exodus, which is it slowing.

Laura Fenton: You know, I mean, we, we had a lot of friends leave the city, um, for sure.

And we have others who have told us they're, they're headed that way too, but it's hard to know if that is related to, um, The pandemic or if it's also just like that season of life, where you've got kids and you are ready to, you know, like get out of town. Um, but I think even if somebody is considering, you know, move, um, the thing that I always like encourage is to try and figure out like, what is like enough for your family?

Um, I, our culture is really like, Once you to stretch to get the biggest house you can. And, um, even like my own super sensible parents, like felt like we should be getting a bigger apartment and. You know, I feel like it can sometimes be good to just sort of take a step back and be like, what, you know, like what is really what we need.

Um, because once you've committed to a big house, especially if it's a house you're buying and like the bigger mortgage payment and the maintenance of a big house and the maintenance of a yard that goes from the big house, like it can be a lot. Um, and so like trying to, it's not necessarily about. I always like the smallest space and staying in a small space.

No matter what it's about, like trying to find like the right size space for your family.

Denaye Barahona: Right. And I was talking to someone yesterday who recently started listening to the podcast and is really inspired to simplify everything. And she said, but we're building this bigger house. We're halfway through building a bigger house and I'm wondering, should we, should we stop?

And I think it's possible to live small in a bigger house and have a lot of white space. What do you think about that?

Laura Fenton: Absolutely. Um, and it, um, that she's in an interesting place, right? Where like the big house is coming. Um, but I, um, talk in the book about sort of, for me, I talk about it as test driving, tiny, like all the ways you can sort of start to live smaller in a bigger space.

Um, and that is. W it really good exercise and like to do the work of like, maybe you have that guest bedroom it's like full of stuff. Right? Like we all have stayed in that guest bedroom or maybe, you know, like we had that guy's bedroom to like take the time to. Go through that room. Like, pretend you don't have that room.

Um, where would you put all of those things that you've shoved in there and forgotten? Um, and if you do that work and like declutter that room, you're then creating what you described before, like that hotel experience for anyone who does come visit you to like really give them like a beautiful, welcoming breathing space.

Um, so you, I think there's a way to do it and you know, like to then. Explore from there. Um, Shivanda Gardner who's a blogger and a designer who is featured in my book. Um, something she told me about her family's downsizing, which is always like stuck in my mind was that, uh, she and her wife had a house that was double.

The size, they were in like a 2,500 square foot house and then downsize to about 1200. And she said, you know, we had two living rooms, we hadn't eaten kitchen. We had a dining room. She said, we were like, just, we had a whole room that like had no furniture. And we felt like we had to fill it. And, um, I think like, Of that feeling, which I've never personally have, but like to resist it, like you don't have to fill every space.

And just because you have the space doesn't mean that it, it has to be filled and then maybe you have to have everything. Maybe, maybe you have some empty space for like the kids can run around and get the energy out and lose like cold winter months. Um, yeah.

Denaye Barahona: Yeah, I agree. And I also think that, you know, when we downsized, it was less about wanting a smaller house and more about just wanting a simpler house because the, the maintenance and the lawn care and all of the other things that we didn't really.

I dunno, this is our second time buying a house. Our first house was this little ranch in Texas on a smallish piece of property with very little landscaping. It was easy and it was our first house and it was all we knew. So then when we bought our second house, we didn't know about. Complexities that can come with a bigger house on a bigger piece of land with more landscaping and more stuff to maintain.

So I think it was just, we kind of took it for granted that home ownership was fairly straight forward and it's not, not all houses are created equal and some are more complicated than others.

Laura Fenton: But I think definitely like what you propose this idea that like you can live small, that you can live simply in a big house is for sure possible.

And yes, if you have the beautiful old Victorian with rose gardens, like it's always going to, you know, like there's always going to be maintenance. Um, but there's, um, The same exercises of like, what is essential? What do I need? Um, which my children need versus like, you know, like what is like taking up?

What, what are we having to maintain that isn't serving us? Um, if that can be applied to any size space that you might like. Yeah.

Denaye Barahona: And also, how do you like spending your time? Like some people love shopping for furniture and decorating and redecorating and renovating, and that really excites them. Like for me, I just want a house to live in that I don't ever have to think about.

Like, I just want it to work for me. And maybe that's my season of life.

Laura Fenton: Yeah, I definitely, um, feel like I've been on a dream. There were like I, as a younger person, like one of my favorite activities on the weekend was to go to the flea market and, you know, like look for things for my home and. That you know is not right.

I am now partly because like we furnished the home, we've filled it up. Um, but it, so like at a certain point, your, your home is, you know, like you're done building and maybe that's when, like, it starts to be the other side of the curve where you're pairing back. Um, but there are. Plenty of people who are passionate for like home decorating and renovating, who like do that in a way that is simple and manageable as well.

You know, that that's possible too. I think.

Denaye Barahona: Yeah. And I think that it's to each his own, right? Like if you enjoy that and you want to take on a project like that, I think that's wonderful. But also knowing your own limits, like, I didn't know my own limits, you know, I thought that I was going to enjoy all these things and taking care of all these things.

And I just, I found out that I don't really want to be a house manager. I just want a bed to sleep in and I want to know everything. The heat turns on when it's supposed to turn it on. I guess I value reliability more than, um, the joy of homeownership that some people get through the fixing it up and, uh, and the making it very special to you.

But I don't know, maybe someday I'll feel differently about that.

Laura Fenton: Well, and that, you know, it's interesting to do because I don't think there's any way to figure that out unless you do it. Yeah. Yeah. That's true. You know, cause like, I think like in my mind's eye, like would be more of that person. Um, but when it comes time for the weekend, like, what I really want to do is like get outside and go on a hike with my family or go running by myself or, you know, like.

Bake a cake. I'm not interested in like DIY or home improving, even though that that's like what I write about every day, something I am passionate about. It's not really how I want to spend. Like every last bit of my free time.

Denaye Barahona: Yeah, my husband in our previous house, there was so much landscaping, um, that he always felt like he should be dealing with the landscaping, like the, the vines growing into the garden that.

Chopped away. And he always felt like he should be doing that. And now there's no, there's no, it's not looming over his head. Right. I mean, there's like, sure, like maybe a couple of things because you do here and there, but it's not a big deal. Um, so it's, it's not that constant feeling that like, you should be doing something else.

You can actually relax and go for a hike or hang out outside and not think, oh, I should be landscaping or I should be painting or working on this. So I think that. I find that we, we find that to be a nice part of living in a simpler house and a small.

Laura Fenton: Um, well, it's funny you mention that when my parents moved back to the east coast, they were looking for a home and I encourage them to look at condos, um, which they were sort of not interested in.

And I was like, you guys are getting older. Like, wouldn't it be nice. They plow the driveways. Maybe you should think about it. And they did end up moving into this. You know, like a HOA where they have a home that feels like a house of their own, but somebody else moves the lawn. Somebody else does the plowing.

And my mom can like put all of her energy that like, she loves gardening into the actual garden and not have to do like all of those sort of maintenance tests. And it, you know, it brought her so much happiness that she. Had this idea that like, she was like the homeowner who wanted to do it all and then discovered that, you know, she didn't late very later in life.


Denaye Barahona: Yeah. And so we're always learning. I feel like every step of this process we're learning.

Laura Fenton: Yeah. And I, I think that it's, um, it's worth. Learning and it's worth doing the work. You know, like I, when I do some in the energy to, um, work on my home, like it, it always rewards me, but figuring out like ways to make your home not be so much work is also like part of the.


Denaye Barahona: absolutely. So do you think that your son is deprived in any way growing up in a smaller space with less stuff?

Laura Fenton: Well, he would tell you that he is deprived of as many toys as his friends house. No, I don't think so. Um, I think that he's, you know, enjoying a very enriched childhood. Um, there's definitely like, and I think any other city parent would agree that like there's a little bit of a feeling of like, oh, I wish we could, he could be in nature every day.

Um, but in the actual sense of like our home being smaller, I don't think he's missing it.

Denaye Barahona: Yeah. Okay. That's, that's a good perspective. Cause I, I also, my kids have a couple of times, it's not a really big thing, but a couple of times they've mentioned that other kids have more toys and it's, again, it's, hasn't really been something that's stuck or turned into.

An issue. But I do think that, you know, if other kids like my, my daughter has this obsession with God to go turtle of a lot of people who listen to the podcast, know that she wanted it for Christmas. And I said, no, she's still talking about it. It's still saying like, I wish I had got to go turtle. I can't believe you didn't.

Let me have got to go turtle of. I think that like, there's always going to be something that they want. Right. And like that somebody else has that they want. So if other kids have like the pop patrol toys and they don't have the pop patrol toys, then another friend is going to have, um, like the, this Lego set that they don't have.

So I think there's always going to be something that other kids have that they want. That envy is always going to be a factor. And if we try to chase it, like we're never going to get. Yeah. And I

Laura Fenton: w I think that one of the ways that became clear to me was actually in the last couple of years, we haven't really been in side, like a lot of other people's homes.

So the way we were when we had more indoor play dates and. Um, so it's not like for my son, it's no longer, like, there's rarely like a specific toy he has seen and wants and he still wants, right. Like he just wants to another toy, you know, like, and I think that's part of. The age it's like, they, you know, they delayed in toys to a new toy.

Genderly makes a toy, a kid happy. Um, but like you said, like if you keep chasing it, like you'll, you'll be buried in toys. Um, and so it's, you know, it's about like, You know, trying to find the balance. And, you know, if she keeps asking, I remember my son two years ago, there was, it was a paw patrol vehicle that he had spotted in a catalog that came to our house, you know, unbidden and he talked about it and he talked about it and talked about it.

And like, finally I broke down and got a mint thing and, you know, like that was like, You know, because they want 10 stayed so long. It became a thing that we finally said, okay, fine. We're getting it.

Denaye Barahona: And then was it, were they like, did he play with it?

Laura Fenton: Some, and that also fell into that category of like, then there's this big toy he's not ready to write.

And, you know, bless grandma, the Palm patrol vehicle carrier now lives at grandma's house and eventually one day. It will completely disappear, but, um,

Denaye Barahona: yeah, they gotta go. Turtle's not big. It's not big. It's just a piece of junk. And it's funny because we've talked about most when you're watching ads on TV.

Most of the toys that they advertise are just straight junk. Like I would say 99% of the toys on TV that hit the ads are junk. And I tell my kids that I'm okay. I'm comfortable telling them that. And I did kind of generalize it though and told my daughter that. Everything you see in ads is junk. And now she's constantly trying to prove me wrong.

Like actually this morning she was brushing her teeth with crest and she said, I saw this in an ad and it's not junk. So I'm always eating my words.

Laura Fenton: Well, I do think, I mean, our kids also figure out how to like push our particular, but, um, and I. I'm on this journey to try and be a minimalist to try to be less of a consumer.

And like, my son is like a hundred percent maximalist. Like he's, you know, like literally obsessed with money and, you know, That's who he is. Right. And that's what it's okay. You know? And like, I think he's, he's fine living in my minimalist world.

Denaye Barahona: Yeah. Yes. And I think that some people will, would take that as, oh, I've done something wrong or I haven't taught him something because he has those wants.

And I don't, it's not that at all. That's just, you know, part of growing up and like wanting to learn more about the world and be a part of the things that look interesting. And I don't know, I, I wouldn't personally be triggered by that as some people I think are, but, um, I love that you're kind of keeping on your own path despite the fact that he might not necessarily.

Inclined to join naturally with you.

Laura Fenton: Oh, and I think it's like, how do we indulge it? You know, like it's picking the moments and, you know, like letting him, you know, still live out his joy. And then also just like modeling, modeling, modeling, like who and what we hope he'll be, you know, and showing him that, um, You know, like what we value.

Um, he like with his interest in like how much things cost, like he's very conscious of it now, as I was asking how much things cost and he was pretty astounded when he found out how much ice skating costs the other day. And my husband was like, well, this is something I'm really happy to spend money on here.

We are like, we're, we're outside getting exercise. We're having fun. And, um, that, you know, just trying to keep talking to one of them about it and tell them what we think. Um, hopefully the message will get through.

Denaye Barahona: And I do think that sometimes our kids are going to veer off in the other direction. Like I have one minimalist on one maximalist and I'm positive that my maximalist is going to grow into our teen years and early adult years into a lot of clutter and then find her way out of it, kind of like I did.

Um, and maybe that's just going to be part of her journey. And if it is like,

Laura Fenton: Yeah. And it, and like, we're like the other thing, like, people sometimes get mad. What I write about this, or talk about this, but like, you know, like we're still at the grownups, like, and we're still the boss and you know, like I do sometimes.

Spirits toys away that my son doesn't know have left the house and you know, like I am editing for him and I am saying no to stuff. And like, I feel okay with that because like, you know, I'm the grownup.

Denaye Barahona: Yes, yes. I like to say, if you've gotten them into this mess, then you need to help get them out. So I think we do have a responsibility to give them only as much as they can handle.

And sometimes we get carried away and we give them more than they can handle. And the result is that it's chaos and we also need to take the responsibility to help to scale back and manage that. And it can feel scary, but it also is important.

Laura Fenton: Yes, absolutely.

Denaye Barahona: Well, thank you so much for chatting Laura.

I'm excited about your bunk bed book. That's coming out this spring.

Laura Fenton: Thank you. That is actually was 100% my son's idea. So I got to give him credit, but it will have 115, um, bunk beds, loft beds, other kind of cozy sleeping knocks. And, um, it's really just like. Uh, joyful little look at windsical sleeping spaces.


Denaye Barahona: does he have a bunk

Laura Fenton: bed? Well, yes, indeed. His big boy bed is a bunk bed. Um, and that was, uh, sort of part of the book writing. He demanded he get one

Denaye Barahona: of course I love that. So.

Laura Fenton: Um, it will not be, but, uh, it will, it will be revealed around the time.

Denaye Barahona: Oh, exciting. Sounds good. Cool. Well, thank you so much for chatting with me today, Laura.

Laura Fenton: Thank you for having me today. It was nice to chat with you and, uh, has me motivated to get a little homeless simplifying started

Denaye Barahona: for the new year. Oh, likewise. Likewise.

Laura Fenton: Thank you have a great day.

Denaye Barahona: Thanks so much for listening. If you want to get in touch with Laura or get her book, go to simple forward slash episode 2 92, and you'll find all the links there as always.

Thanks for tuning in and have a good one.

Denaye Barahona

Dr. Denaye Barahona is a loving wife and mama of two. She partners with families to tackle the challenges of raising children. Denaye is a minimalist who claims to be a decluttering expert (don't let her near your closet). She loves to travel, talk health-and-wellness, and give unsolicited advice. She has been featured on the likes of The Today Show, The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, The Minimalists, Motherly, Becoming Minimalist, and numerous other media outlets. Denaye holds a Ph.D. in Child Development and is a Clinical Social Worker with a specialty in child and family practice.

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