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I started simplifying my life when my daughter was 12. Our family lived in a big house with a yard, garage, attic and storage shed in the backyard. All the space was filled with stuff. Our home and closets weren't the only full spaces. Our calendars and brains were full, too—overloaded actually. We didn't have enough time for each other. Even when we were together, we seemed to be preoccupied with other "stuff."

After I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2006, I realized I had created a very full, busy, stressful life and decided to make a change. I wanted to feel well and have time for what mattered most to me.

I slowly began to make space and time by getting rid of things that I didn't use or need. As a working wife and mom, I knew the big changes I wanted to make were going to take some time. Slow and steady was my approach as I jumped gently into minimalism.

Some minimalists have successfully turned their lives around and decided to live out of a backpack in the blink of an eye, but most of us (especially moms) need a more gentle transition. If you have a spouse, children, pets, or all three (like I did), be patient. Respect the fact that it took you many years to get where you are today, and it may take time to get somewhere new.

Here are realistic ways you can incorporate minimalism into your life as a mom.

1. Prioritize your mental and physical health.

Make your health and wellness the top priority. Eat simply, prioritize sleep and move every day. It will feel selfish at first, but know that you can better serve the people around you when you start with you.

2. Own less for more space, love and connection.

Our homes are not containers for stuff, but rather a place for love and connection. By removing the excess stuff from our homes we make more physical space and create less distraction to allow us to really live the way we want to live. Start removing items that you don't really need and focus on holding onto things that bring your family joy.

3. Dress with less for more time, money and clarity.

If you've ever looked in your closet and thought "I have nothing to wear" while staring at hundreds of choices, I can promise you relief from dressing with less. Thanks to minimalist fashion challenge Project 333, I spend less time and money shopping and experience less decision fatigue choosing from a small capsule collection. You can reduce a significant amount of stress in your life simply by reducing the number of items in your closet. If you haven't worn it in the last year, let it go.

4. Owe less for more freedom.

Dump your debt. Having no monthly payments will free you up to do things that matter. It may lead to making different decisions about work or provide more time to spend with your family. Consult with a financial advisor to help if you're unsure where to begin.

5. Do less for more productivity and creativity.

I accomplish more and do better work by doing less of it. You know how it feels to try to get something done when you are burnt out from trying to do it all. Your work suffers. Your health suffers. Your people suffer. There will always be more to do. Choose less and do it well. Only add what's most important to your calendar.

6. Worry less for more peace and sleep.

Worry keeps us up at night and weighs us down. Worry encourages fear and makes us tired, cranky and scared. Worry is a trap. Simplicity helps you stop that cycle.. I used to worry about making ends meet, then I started working on fewer ends. With less around, there was less to worry. Be discerning about what you choose to surround yourself with. Hold on to what matters. Let go of the rest.

7. Say yes less for more time to do things you love with people you love.

We've all said yes, when we wanted to say no. Whether we say it out of guilt, for fear of missing out, or out of habit, it's important to note that saying yes, when your heart says no is a disservice not only to you, but to everyone you say yes to. If your heart says no, it will fight the yes all the way through. You won't be excited to contribute. You won't give your best, and you may end up resenting the commitment or the person who asked you to commit. If you don't have time for what matters, stop doing things that don't.

8. Connect less to your devices for more connection with who yourself and loved ones.

If you want real connection and honest answers, check your heart more than you check your phone. Start by sitting quietly for a few minutes with your hands on your heart, and your eyes closed. Listen. Your heart knows who you are—now you just need a little time to know your heart.

9. Less drama results in more ease and equanimity.

Choose to under-react when possible. Take a few (hundred) deep breaths or go on a long walk. Whatever you need to ensure you don't let the drama in. Just because everything is crazy around you doesn't mean everything has to be crazy within you.

10. Remember what matters.

I remember times when I gave my phone more attention than I gave my daughter, or said, "one sec" and took much longer. When everything is important, nothing really is because you're always distracted or thinking about what's next. Always consider what matters most to you and act accordingly.

11. Create a version of minimalism that works best for you and your family.

There is a big difference between less and nothing and it's up to you to determine what's best for you. If you love to bake, you may have more baking items than someone who loves to ski or hike. Take stock of what adds value to your unique family situation. And don't feel guilty for keeping those items.

As you incorporate minimalism into your life as a mom, you won't just be changing your wellbeing, but your whole family's. Living with less has helped me to restore my health, engage in work I truly care about and show all the way up for the people I love.

Living with less can lead to so much more.

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As a former beauty editor, I pride myself in housing the best skincare products in my bathroom. Walk in and you're sure to be greeted with purifying masks, micellar water, retinol ceramide capsules and Vitamin C serums. What can I say? Old habits die hard. But when I had my son, I was hesitant to use products on him. I wanted to keep his baby-soft skin for as long as possible, without tainting it with harsh chemicals.

Eventually, I acquiesced and began using leading brands on his sensitive skin. I immediately regretted it. His skin became dry and itchy and regardless of what I used on him, it never seemed to get better. I found myself asking, "Why don't beauty brands care about baby skin as much as they care about adult skin?"

When I had my daughter in May, I knew I had to take a different approach for her skin. Instead of using popular brands that are loaded with petroleum and parabens, I opted for cleaner products. These days I'm all about skincare that contains super-fruits (like pomegranate sterols, which are brimming with antioxidants) and sulfate-free cleansers that contain glycolipids that won't over-dry her skin. And, so far, Pipette gets it right.

What's in it

At first glance, the collection of shampoo, wipes, balm, oil and lotion looks like your typical baby line—I swear cute colors and a clean look gets me everytime—but there's one major difference: All products are environmentally friendly and cruelty-free, with ingredients derived from plants or nontoxic synthetic sources. Also, at the core of Pipette's formula is squalane, which is basically a powerhouse moisturizing ingredient that babies make in utero that helps protect their skin for the first few hours after birth. And, thanks to research, we know that squalane isn't an irritant, and is best for those with sensitive skin. Finally, a brand really considered my baby's dry skin.

Off the bat, I was most interested in the baby balm because let's be honest, can you ever have too much protection down there? After applying, I noticed it quickly absorbed into her delicate skin. No rash. No irritation. No annoyed baby. Mama was happy. It's also worth noting there wasn't any white residue left on her bottom that usually requires several wipes to remove.


Why it's different

I love that Pipette doesn't smell like an artificial baby—you, know that powdery, musky note that never actually smells like a newborn. It's fragrance free, which means I can continue to smell my daughter's natural scent that's seriously out of this world. I also enjoy that the products are lightweight, making her skin (and my fingers) feel super smooth and soft even hours after application.

The bottom line

Caring for a baby's sensitive skin isn't easy. There's so much to think about, but Pipette makes it easier for mamas who don't want to compromise on safety or sustainability. I'm obsessed, and I plan to start using the entire collection on my toddler as well. What can I say, old habits indeed die hard.

This article was sponsored by Pipette. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Military families give up so much for their country, particularly when they have small children at home. Those of us who have never witnessed this kind of sacrifice first-hand could use a reminder of it once in a while, which is just one of the reasons we're so happy to see the beautiful photoshoot Mary Chevalier arranged for her husband's return home from Afghanistan.

The photoshoot was extra special because while James Chevalier was serving a nine-month deployment, Mary gave birth to their second son, Caspian.

Getting ready to meet Dad

"During the laboring and birthing process of Caspian, I was surrounded by family, but that did not fill the void of not having my husband by my side," Mary told InsideEdition.com. "He was able to video chat during the labor and birth, but for both of us, it was not enough."

While James had yet to meet Caspian, their 3-year-old son, Gage, missed his dad a whole lot, so this homecoming was going to be a big deal for him too. That's why Mary arranged for her wedding photographer, Brittany Watson, to be with them for their reunion in Atlanta.

Gage was so happy to see his Dad 

"[He] had no idea he was going to be getting to see his daddy that day," Watson wrote on Facebook. "The family met at the Southeastern Railway Museum for Gage to go on a special train ride... little did he know, he'd be doing it with daddy!"

Watson did a beautiful job capturing the high emotions of every single family member, from Gage's surprise, to the delight on baby Caspian's face. It's no wonder her Facebook post went viral last week.

"Caspian is natural, a very happy baby, but both James and I felt like Caspian knew who his father was almost immediately," Mary told Inside Edition. "He was easily comforted by me husband right off the bat and seemed to have an instant connection. It was very emotional."

The moment this dad had been waiting for 

If we're sobbing just looking at the photos, we can't even imagine what it was like in real life.

"We are all so blessed and take so much for granted," Watson wrote. "I cannot contain the joy I feel in my heart when I look at these images, and I hope you feel it too!"


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During both of my pregnancies, I was under the care of an amazing midwife. Every time I went to her office for check-ups, I was mesmerized by the wall of photos participating in what may be the most painfully magical moment of a woman's life: giving birth. But there was a painting that always drew my attention: a woman dressed in orange, holding her newborn baby with a face that could be described as clueless. The line above the canvas read, "Now what?"

I felt like the woman in the painting as I kissed my mother goodbye when my daughter was born. She came from my native Colombia to stay with us for three months. When she left, I realized that my husband had been working as usual during those first 90 days of our new life. My baby was born on a Friday and on Monday he was back at the office. (No parental leave policy for him.)

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Now what? I thought. The quote "It takes a village to raise a child" suddenly started to hit home, literally.

After a few years in Miami, I had some friends, but it truly didn't feel like I had a village. Some were not mothers yet, most of them worked full-time and others didn't live close by. My nomad life left my best friends spread out in different places in the world. I found myself signing up for "mommy and me" classes in search of new mothers, immigrants like me, alone like me.

It seemed like a utopian dream to think about when my grandmothers became mothers. Both of them had 6 and 10 children and they were able to stay sane (or maybe not? I don't know). But at least they had family around—people cooking, offering help. There was a sense of community.

My mother and father grew up in "the village." Big families with so many children that the older siblings ended up taking care of the little ones; aunts were like second mothers and neighbors became family.

When I was about to give birth to my second baby, my sister had just had her baby girl back in Colombia. Once, she called me crying because her maternity leave was almost over. My parents live close to her, so that was a bonus. Hiring a nanny back there is more affordable. But even seeing the positive aspects of it, I wished I could have been there for her, to be each other's village.

The younger me didn't realize that when I took a plane to leave my country in search of new experiences 19 years ago, I was giving up the chance to have my loved ones close by when I became a mother. And when I say close by, I mean as in no planes involved.

It hasn't been easy, but after two kids and plenty of mommy and me classes and random conversations that became true connections, I can say I have a mini-village, a small collection of solitudes coming together to lean on each other. But for some reason, it doesn't truly feel like one of those described in the old books where women gathered to knit while breastfeeding and all the children become like siblings.

Life gets in the way, and everyone gets sucked into their own worlds. In the absence of a true village, we feel the pressure to be and do everything that once was done by a group of people. We often lose perspective of priorities because we are taking care of everything at the same time. Starting to feel sick causes anxiety and even fear because it means so many things need to happen in order for mom—especially if single—to lay down and recover while the children are taken care of. And when the children get sick, that could mean losing money for a working mother or father, because the truth is that most corporations are not designed to nurture families.

In the absence of that model of a village I long for, we tend to rely on social media to have a sense of community and feel supported. We may feel that since we are capable of doing so much—working and stay at home moms equally—perhaps we don't need help. Or quite the opposite: mom guilt kicks in and feelings of not being enough torment our night sleep. Depression and anxiety can enter the picture and just thinking about the amount of energy and time that takes to create true connections, we may often curl up in our little cocoon with our children and partners—if they are present—when they come home.

Now what? was my thought this week while driving back and forth to the pediatrician with my sick son. I can't get the virus, I have to be strong, my daughter can't get ill, my husband needs to be healthy for his work trip next week, we all need to be well for my son's fifth birthday. And so, it goes on. I texted one of my mom friends just to rant. She rants back because her son is also sick. She sent me a heart and an "I'm here if you need to talk."

I am grateful to have talked to her at that random postpartum circle when I first became a mother. She's a Latina immigrant like me and feels exactly like me. I will do it more, get out of my comfort zone and have—sometimes—awkward conversations so I can keep growing my own little village.

It may not look like the one I'd imagined, but still may allow me to be vulnerable even through a text message.

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Halloween is around the corner, but if you are like me you are still trying to figure out what to dress your family (especially the little ones), so here are some cute ideas inspired by famous characters. There's something for everyone—from cartoon lovers to ideas for the entire family!

Here are some adorable character costumes for your family:

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