Katie makes me want to move to the country, make my own preserves and live a more simple life. She runs a successful blog, House of Humble, that is filled with many fascinating stories of thrifting adventures (seriously, she has the best collection of vintage plates), gardening tips, recipes and ideas on how to live a happy, simple life. Oh and her photos (IG @houseofhumble) are simply darling. Last year she became a mother to Jude – a delightful little strawberry babe. Katie is also busy curating @wattleseedcollective – an Instagram account aimed at nurturing the community towards a simple, conscious way of life. We have virtually met through IG and I would love nothing more than to sit down and share a pot of tea (naturally drunken from a divine vintage tea set) whilst our two strawberry babes played together in the morning sun. Alas we live in two different states; so this is me, virtually sitting down with Katie. She helps me keep it real and reminds me to slow down. To top it off she totally makes me want to own chickens.
Katie, what inspired you to start House of Humble?
I began the House of Humble blog with my partner, Reuben, back in 2011. At that time we were living and working in Sydney but feeling fed up with our lack of work-life balance, long commutes and high cost of living. We began dreaming of a simpler life in the country with backyard chickens, a veggie patch, more time to pursue the things that made us happy and space for our (future) children to grow. We started blogging as a way to document that journey – to keep us accountable (so that we’d stick to our goals and actually follow through!) and to connect with other like-minded people seeking a slower, more conscious way of living.
I haven’t actually blogged since our son, Jude, was born in March 2015, because in many ways Instagram now serves the purpose our blog was intended for and I’ve found a lot of the blogging community has moved over there now, but I’m so grateful for our blogging journey and where it has led us.
What has been your biggest surprise since starting House of Humble?
Our biggest surprise was winning the Kidspot Voices of 2013 competition. We won a trip to Europe, a writing contract and the use of a new car for a year. I still can’t believe it! I’ve also been surprised and delighted by the connections and friendships I’ve forged through the blog and Instagram. There are a few things I don’t love about social media, but the ability to connect with like-minded people all around the world, who we would never otherwise have the opportunity to meet, is wonderful. It’s also really great on the long, sometimes lonely days as a stay at home mum or a work at home small business owner.
You’re now a mama to beautiful Jude. How has living a simple life changed since you became a mother?
It has become more challenging to do all the things I want to do, but it has also become more important to me. When Jude was new some of my ideals and goals were temporarily put aside (our veggie patch was neglected, I wasn’t doing much cooking, or making a lot of our cleaning products from scratch, etc.) but now that he’s a bit bigger and I’ve got a little more time and energy back, I’m more focused than ever. Having Jude has inspired to do more, try harder, push further. I make our cleaning and personal care products because I hope to reduce his exposure to the not-so-nice ingredients in the commercial versions. I grow veggies and cook from scratch because I want him to have a healthy, nourishing diet, as free of additives and pesticides as possible. I’m mindful of our family’s environmental impact because I’d like to protect the earth for his future. I’m nowhere near perfect and I know I can’t change the whole world for him, but I can do my best to have a positive impact on our little piece of it.
Biggest learning curve as a mama bear?
To surrender. Some days (lots of days!) I don’t achieve anything except feeding, changing and cuddling a clingy baby, but that’s ok. This season of my life is rather chaotic but I know it is so fleeting, there is no use fighting it. All too soon my babe will be playing more independently, going off to preschool, leaving home … and I’ll miss these hazy, crazy baby days like mad. The chores will wait, but babies don’t keep.
You recently made dish soap, surface spray, laundry powder, shampoo, hair spritz, body wash and bubble bath all from scratch! And all in one day? Talk about a productive mama! Can you perhaps share one of these recipes with us? Or even a tip for those who would like to start making cleaning products at home?
Yes, all in one day, but it sounds a lot more impressive than it really is! They are all very simple, easy recipes that are quick to put together. If you are interested in making your own products the easiest place to start is probably laundry powder. It’s just two parts soap flakes to one part borax and one part washing soda (and a few drops of essential oil, if you like). It’s much cheaper and more environmentally friendly than commercial laundry powder, it is gentle on sensitive skin (so great for newborns and little ones with eczema) and it works!
Okay along with making all of these cleaning products you also have been dyeing cloth/clothes. How long have you been playing around with dyeing clothes?
I’ve dabbled with pretty much every craft you can think of over the years; knitting, sewing, crochet … and before Jude came along I had a thriving little handmade jewellery business, which I am currently working to get back up. Recently I’ve been doing a lot of tie dye and shibori, mostly to baby clothes, old things that need freshening up, and pieces of fabric that I hope to (one day) sew into things. That moment when you pull a little bundle of cloth out of the dye pot and unravel it to reveal a perfect pattern inside is magic. I love it!
What is your favourite part about creating something from scratch or repurposing/recycling something?
I love everything about making. I’ve always been an imaginative, creative person and making stuff (whether it’s jewellery, a baby bonnet, cupcakes or shampoo) is essential to my sanity. It just makes me happy. It is so satisfying to look at something finished and be able to say “I made that!” Handmade creations may not be perfect or uniform but they are made with love and intention and, to me, that’s more beautiful than anything you can buy.
Best advice for other people who want to live a more simple life?
You don’t have to do everything, and certainly not all at once. It’s not a race and it’s not all or nothing. Start small and take baby steps, focusing on one thing at a time. Begin by making your own laundry powder, planting a little herb garden or committing to replace one commercial product (for example, biscuits) with homemade. Once you’ve got that little goal figured out set yourself another one. Our family’s life now looks completely different to the way it did five years ago but the backyard chickens, homegrown tomatoes and homemade jam didn’t happen overnight. We started with just a few herbs planted in pots on our apartment balcony!
You’ve recently started @wattleseedcollective; aimed at nurturing a simple life. What is your dance around your living room / big picture dream for Wattleseed Collective?
Wattleseed Collective is a little project I’ve just started with my beautiful friend, Sophie (@sophieisobelasher). Our vision is to create an online space where anyone pursuing a simpler, more conscious way of life can share their story and connect with like-minded people. It can be a lonely journey and is one that not everyone understands, so having a community for support, encouragement and understanding is a beautiful thing.
Five books that changed your life?
I’m going to list just one book because it changed my life five times more than any other! Down to Earth by Rhonda Hetzel.
Best way to spend a rainy afternoon?
Baking, crafting, and snuggling with my baby. With lots of cups of tea and cake still warm out of the oven.
A morning with Katie always starts with …?
Tea and fresh fruit.
What would you bring to a pot-luck picnic?
I go through phases with cooking and baking. My current specialties are cinnamon scrolls, Portuguese custard tarts and Vietnamese rice paper rolls.
What is one life skill you hope to pass down to Jude?
To be able to grow and prepare healthy, nourishing food, from scratch. I believe that’s the single most important skill any of us can have.
To finish … Favourite Quote?
I love quotes so it’s pretty much impossible for me to choose only one. I’ve narrowed it down to two…
“With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?” – Oscar Wilde
and … “In a gentle way, you can shake the world” – Mahatma Gandhi
All images courtesy of Katie – House of Humble Blog
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