My grandmother was the
first minimalist I ever knew.

I’ll always keep a vivid image of my mom’s mother in my mind: sitting quietly, a sweet smile brightening her face, her hands cradling a mug of black coffee. She’s wearing her pink and white striped polo, blue slacks, and pristine white Reeboks—the uniform she wore for the 23 years I knew her. She is surrounded by her six children and 21 grandchildren, taking in all the noise and joy around her.

She lived slowly, and simply.

And my dad’s mother had a fire and an independence to her that inspired creativity. She taught me to crochet, to bake crusty cinnamon rolls, and to equip myself with silliness in my daily life—even in the face of challenges. I am certain she’s the one who handed down the love of embarrassing puns to my father and me.

She was resilient, and brave.

Whether we realize it or not, our daily lives are deeply informed by where we’ve been, what we’ve seen, and the people we’ve known along the way.

Whether we realize it or not, our daily lives are deeply informed by where we’ve been, what we’ve seen, and the people we’ve known along the way. This holds true in the way we show up in our journeys towards more intentional and sustainable living.

Some people have learned to be voracious readers, avid DIYers, or fierce activists, while others have learned to slow everything down and enjoy life’s tiniest details. Our team at The Good Trade has found so much inspiration from our grandmothers—but maybe you’ve found the spark for intentional living through a parent, a neighbor, or a spiritual leader.

The only way we can create lasting change is if we celebrate the good that previous generations have instilled in us, and dedicate ourselves to improving upon the positive foundations they’ve laid. So we took to our community to ask: what did your grandmother teach you about intentional living? Here’s what they said.

21 Women Share Bite-Sized Wisdom From Their Grandmothers

My grandmother taught me…

  • To be resilient. She worked as a full-time nurse and raised a family alone (my grandfather passed away when my dad was ten)—and succeeded at both. – B

  • That a little kindness can go a long, long way. – A

  • To live as colorfully as you can! – T

  • That spending time on yourself is always worth it. – S

  • To not waste when it comes to food. She has grown her own garden. – A

  • That taking care of family is the most important job you could have. – M

  • How to be both frugal and giving. How to be loving, yet always stand up for myself. – S

  • To have a boundless curiosity for life and the people I meet—she’s 95 and still practices this. – C

  • Not to have anything you don’t plan on using. Nothing should just sit unused, looking pretty. – T

  • To never let anyone feel unseen. Once during a hospital visit, she ordered presents for all the nurses on her floor who she knew carried out dozens of thankless tasks each day. She never missed an opportunity to express love and appreciation. – A

  • How to compost! – S

  • The importance of cultivating a spiritual practice. That was a big part of her life that I subconsciously picked up on and carry with me to this day. – C

  • To trade with the family first instead of spending money, and make what you can’t buy! – S

  • How to enjoy life and not stress over the little things. – S

  • To mend things and breathe new life into your clothes—and if all else fails, DIY! – O

  • The importance of fostering your hobbies. The woman is 83 and still participates in a weekly hiking group! – K

  • To save every bit of food that was left. She puts the smallest things into tiny boxes to freeze them. – J

  • To keep in touch with friends. Not all our phone calls need to be planned—just call! – A

  • How to use one item for multiple types of outfits (to dress it up/dress it down). – M

  • To live in the moment. Never hold a grudge. Love your family! – K

  • That nothing lasts forever. So be grateful for the good, and don’t fret too much over the bad. – K

What did your grandmother teach you about living well? Share in the comments below!


Emily Torres is the Editorial Director at The Good Trade. Born and raised in Indiana, she studied Creative Writing and Business at Indiana University. You can usually find her in her colorful Los Angeles apartment journaling, caring for her rabbits, or gaming.