My husband Kiran and I are both South Asian and grew up in traditional South Asian homes. Though we both lived close enough to the Universities that we went to, we couldn’t wait to move out of our parents suburban homes and live in the city once we started our undergraduate studies. I was in Toronto and he was in Montreal and we absolutely loved city living. At the time, we were met with resistance from our parents, but we found part-time jobs and figured out how to pay the rent so that we could have the lifestyle that we wanted. It wasn’t a glamorous life, that’s for sure. We were living in tiny apartments, typical student housing, but still loved every minute in those cramped quarters.
Fast-forward a bunch of years and not much has changed. Kiran and I got married in 2010 and we now live in Toronto. We still can’t get enough of the city so we decided to live in a small condo in downtown Toronto. One major change though is that we now have 3 children. So there’s actually five of us living in our 850 square foot condo.
Why Do We Do It?
Let’s begin in 2014, when my husband Kiran and I had our first child, Isha. Rather than buying a house — which would have cost us well over a $1 million and leave us living paycheck to paycheck servicing the mortgage — we opted for a smarter investment in a smaller space.
We bought a triplex in the city and moved into a 900-square-foot unit within. It had one bedroom, one bathroom and a shared laundry space. Our goal was to eventually convert the triplex into a single-family home when we needed it. As time passed, however, we realized that we enjoyed our compact lifestyle. A smaller unit was easy to maintain, gave us access to the city and was a short walk to restaurants, street festivals and parks. Collecting rent from the other two units also basically covered the mortgage payments.
We decided to put off the renovation, rented out all three units in the triplex, and moved into a rented two-bedroom-plus-den condo in 2015. We had our second child, Kian, the next year. We adapted by turning the den into a nursery, but by then, things were starting to feel a little cramped.
That’s when Kiran came across the documentary “Minimalism” on Netflix. It had an immediate and profound impact on us. We didn’t need more space — we needed less stuff. We started by purging old textbooks, garbage bags full of clothing, random kitchen gadgets and shoes. Little by little, the space opened up.
In 2018, when our third child, Josh, was born, we felt confident we didn’t need a bigger place to call home. Make no mistake — it’s definitely cozy here — but the positives outweigh the negatives for our chosen lifestyle.
We don’t have to deal with maintenance issues, shoveling snow or mowing lawns. Our children love the pool and we enjoy having our friends over in the summer to have a BBQ by the pool. Kiran takes advantage of the gym on a weekly basis and I like having a concierge desk to accept my Amazon packages. The greatest benefit is that with a smaller mortgage compared to a full-sized Toronto house, we have been able to put our money to work for us. We currently own three triplexes and a condo in Toronto all being serviced by tenants.
That said, we still spend a lot of money, we just choose to spend it differently. We gravitate toward experiences like vacations, restaurants and activities with the kids.
We’re also able to afford services that make our lives a lot easier. During my maternity leave, we were able to put Kian in full-time daycare. Daycare costs in Toronto range into the thousands every month, depending on a child’s age. We also have a housekeeper that helps us with laundry, cleaning and meal prep two evenings every week.
And you know what? After a full year as a family of five, we’re still not yearning for more floor space. Here are some ways we keep things organized and clutter-free.
How Do We Do It?
Furniture and Decor
We found it essential to avoid bulky furniture like a coffee table, wide shelving units or a three-piece sofa set. Instead, we went for condo-sized furniture found at stores like IKEA, BLVD Interiors and CB2.
Throughout the condo, we have pieces that stow easily — folding chairs hung behind bedroom doors, a large table with wheels that folds away — and don’t have a dedicated dining table, freeing up floor space.
As for decor, we try to keep things as simple as possible. We don’t have many decorative pieces and very few photographs. Using neutral colors helps the space look less cluttered.
Organization and Storage
The crib, our beds and couch have storage spaces beneath them, fitting slim containers containing diapers, paper towels, toilet paper, baby wipes and travel essentials. Our ceilings hit 8.5 feet throughout, so we took advantage of this with tall, narrow shelving units and cabinets.
The back of every door in the condo also has some kind of over-the-door organizer to store things like our ironing table, cloth diapers, shoes and miscellaneous cords and chargers.
Every closet, storage cabinet, pantry and shelf contains clear containers, labelled baskets and bins for things like craft supplies, hats, tools, baby items, dry goods, shoes, toys, disposable plates, cups and cutlery.
Clothing and Closets
In order for everything to fit in our closets, we created capsule wardrobes for each family member. Most of our clothing is basic and neutral, and can easily be mixed and matched to create a variety of outfits. We each have approximately 40 to 50 pieces of clothing and we’re working on reducing that number.
In the kids’ shared bedroom, we added a second rod to maximize their closet space and added labelled clothing dividers to give each garment a home. Our master bedroom is approximately 200 square feet, and a regular-sized dresser or chest of drawers would not fit. Instead, we re-purposed slim shoe storage organizers to store clothing.
Morning Routine and Bathroom Situation
The key to avoiding hectic mornings: two bathrooms. One has a shower and the other has a bathtub. Around 5:30 a.m., Kiran and I take our showers and prepare for the day before the kids are awake. We give our kids baths in the evening.
When the little ones do wake up, they take turns brushing their teeth in the master bedroom’s en suite bathroom. They still need our help, so while one parent helps one child brush, the other parent helps the other child dress.
Meanwhile, Baby Josh is usually happily eating away in his hook-on high chair.
Since our children are still small and always want to be around us, they’re not craving their own space — yet. However, as they get older, I’m sure they’ll want more privacy.
The limited space means you have to consistently dedicate time to decluttering, and you have to be very organized in order to live comfortably. Luckily, I actually enjoy simplifying and organizing, and I’ve been able to apply these skills to TINY AND TIDY.CO, where I teach others how to declutter their homes and get organized.
I would love to have a bigger kitchen and pantry so that both Kiran and I can actually cook together without getting frustrated. Lastly, we don’t have a large foyer or mudroom. When we’re all heading out the door in the morning, it can get a bit cramped when trying to put on our shoes and jackets at the same time.
Our parents now understand and support our choices. Living more of a minimalist lifestyle has made it possible for us to grow our investment portfolio and pay for services and experiences that make life more enjoyable for us. We truly believe that our lifestyle has brought us closer together, allowing us to play and interact with each other more — if only because we can’t really escape one another.
It is officially that time of year—the holiday season. There’s nothing like Christmas and New Year’s in the West Indies. Between the pepperpot in Guyana and the palm trees decorated in lights in Trinidad, the home food, warm weather and laid-back ambiance makes us wish we could escape the cold and head back to the Caribbean. Most of us, however, cannot “take holiday” and find ourselves hungry for fresh dhal puri and doubles. But, thanks to these Indo-Caribbean food bloggers, we can bring the motherland to our kitchens.
From Diwali mithai specialties to curry chicken, Matthew is creating a name for himself as a young Guyanese food blogger. He makes a great effort to incorporate Hindu holidays and traditions on his Instagram account, in conjunction with the customary foods and sweets associated with these religious events. However, his expertise does not end there, with new and alternative recipes for classic dishes such as curry chicken and bhara, Matthew takes center stage sharing both traditional Guyanese dishes as well as specific religious dishes made for festivals. His most popular YouTube video, with 1.4 million views, features his grandmother and focuses on the best tips to make the softest Guyanese paratha roti. In addition, his YouTube account is home to many videos offering guidance to Indo Caribbean cooking. Find recipes at @mattews.guyanese.cooking
Natasha Laggan of Trini Cooking with Natasha is wildly popular throughout the Caribbean and the U.S. With humble beginnings, Natasha credits her love of food to her family’s business. She speaks of the nostalgia home food provides her as she reminisces memories of her grandmother’s cooking and helping her mother make sandwiches early in the morning. Featured by Forbes, Natasha grew her Facebook following quickly throughout the pandemic by posting old YouTube videos. Today, she has more than 1 million followers on Facebook and over 200K followers on YouTube. She uses her passion for cooking and Trinidadian culture to bring easy-to-follow recipes to viewers. Her following has now reached the West Indian diaspora globally as she has also become a brand ambassador to two well-known food companies. Follow the food expert @trinicookingwithnatasha.
With over 100K followers on YouTube, Ria is quite the expert when it comes to making roti. Her dhal puri, sada roti and paratha roti tutorials have over 1M views! However, her expertise does not stop there. Of the 180 YouTube tutorials, her recipes vary from curry to other Trinidadian favorites like macaroni pie and pigtail soup. Just scrolling through her YouTube page makes your mouth water. From doubles to classic Trinidad bakes like pound cake and sweet bread, she provides precision and anecdotal commentary while guiding you through the familiarity of home food. Check out Ria’s page at @cookingwithria.
Known as Chef Devan, Devan Rajkumar embraces his Guyanese Canadian heritage by creating recipes combining flavors of both the East and West Indies. His love of food has allowed him to expand his role to judge in a popular Canadian cooking show: Food Network Canada’s Fire Masters. His cooking often blends the flavors of multiple cultures but also creates the classic recipes of his motherland. With a multitude of interests, Chef Dev uses his social media platform to connect with followers by sharing various aspects of his life that go beyond cooking. His most recent YouTube video provides a trailer for an upcoming video “Tastes Guyana” which shows him exploring Guyana from the inside, specifically deep parts of the inner country. To learn more about Chef Devan follow @chefdevan.
Reshmi is the chef behind the growing blog, Taste of Trinbago. A Trinidadian native who now resides in Texas, she uses her love of food and Trinidadian culture to share hacks, tips and easy recipes with West Indians throughout the globe. She finds a way to simplify traditional West Indian meals, that we once watched our elders make with curiosity. From holiday specialties like black cake to Diwali delicacies, Reshmi has brought vegetarian and non-veg recipes to followers in an extremely accessible way. She even posts recipe cards on her IG highlights for followers who may need written instructions. Her IG profile is a mix of various West Indian foods while also sharing bits of her life and even her secrets to baby food. Follow her @tasteoftrinbago.
These are just five Indo Caribbean food bloggers sharing their secrets to easy cooking. The once very daunting recipes and food instructions our parents gave have been simplified by most of these bloggers through video, voice over and modernized recipes. We no longer have to estimate a “dash, pinch or tuk” of any masala. We are just days away from Christmas and this is the perfect time to find the best-suited recipe to make that paratha for Santa.
Tina Singh, formerly known as Mombossof3 online, understands how to make her presence known in the parenting space. Seven years ago, she set out to create and share content related to motherhood, and there’s been no looking back since. Singh has mastered the idea of evolving with the times and the needs of her audience while staying true to her number one role in life — mom!
As she navigated her personal and professional life through the lens of a parent, she came across a void that just wasn’t being filled. So, in typical Singh style, this mom of three put her entrepreneurial hat on and got down to creating a solution for Sikh kids who struggled to find a helmet that fits over their patkas (a small cloth head covering).
The problem was personal — all three of Singh’s sons wear patkas and just couldn’t find the right helmet for their safety — and so the solution had to be homegrown. Enter, the Bold Helmets.
Singh gave Brown Girl Magazine an exclusive interview in which she talked about the Bold Helmets, the change in her journey since she’s become a public figure, and what it was like to innovate her very first product!
Here’s how it went:
Let’s start from the beginning. How did this idea come to mind?
This idea has been in my head for many, many years — over five years. I had issues with my kids and having helmets fit them after they turned age four or five.
I worked as an Occupational Therapist, in the head injury space, so I was always the one saying, ‘Okay kids, you’re gonna have to tie your hair in the back, do braids, or something in order to put on a helmet properly because I’m not gonna let you go down these bike ramps without a helmet!’ That’s just not okay for me.
So I talked to my husband and said, ‘there’s gotta be another way this works.’ So we did all the things that parents in situations like these do — they hollow out the helmets, some people go as far as cutting holes at the top of the helmet — you do what works. But I had in my mind an idea of what I think the helmet should look like based on what a patka looks like, and what my kids look like. I then found an engineer to draw it out for me to bring [my idea] to a place where I can actually take it somewhere and say, ‘Okay, how do I make this?’
But, yes, it started mainly with my kids and facing that struggle myself.
You mention that this idea had been brewing in your mind for over five years. How long did it take you to actually bring it to life?
To this point, it’s been about two and a half to three years. I let it sit in my mind for a while. Winters come here in Canada and then we forget about it again until we have to go skiing, and then there’s another problem, right?! I did let it lay dormant for a bit for sure, but once I made the commitment to do it, I made up my mind to see it all the way through.
You recently pivoted and changed the name of the product to the Bold Helmets. Can you talk me through how you came up with the new name?
Bold Helmets became the name because they’re designed to be bold, to be different and who you are. I also think that the way the helmet is made, even though it’s made with Sikh kids in mind, there are other applications to it. I do think that taking the Bold Helmets approach embodies its [the product’s] uniqueness and really focuses on being bold and who you are.
And the Bold Helmet is multi-sport, correct?
This helmet is certified for bicycles, kick scooters, skateboards, and inline skating. It is not a ski helmet. So every helmet you use for a different sport has a different safety certification or testing that it has to go through. So, this helmet is called ‘multi-sport’ because it covers those four sports but I wouldn’t take this helmet and use it for skiing. I’d have to make sure that this helmet, or a helmet like this, gets certified for various other standards for other sports.
Makes sense! I want to change the course of the conversation here a bit and talk more about how you pivoted from Mombossof3 to innovating your very first product. How was that experience?
So what I did throughout this journey was that I went from marketing myself as ‘mombossof3’ to ‘Tina Singh’ because I was sharing more of my life’s journey as my kids were getting older and in an effort to respect my children’s space as well, and letting them decide how much — or how little — they want to be involved with what I was doing online. And part of that was about the journey of what I was doing next, and the transition came naturally to me.
I think right now, truthfully, I’m struggling in the space where I kind of have a shift in audience and so my usual, everyday self that I share on social seems like it doesn’t work. I feel like I need to find a new balance; I will always be true to who I am, and I will never present myself as something that I’m not. But, just finding a space for me to continue creating content while also taking on this new endeavor with Bold Helmets, is important right now.
Aside from this struggle of finding that new balance, what is that one challenge that really sticks out to you from this journey?
I think my biggest challenge being an entrepreneur is finding that balance between my responsibilities as a parent, which is my number one role in my life and there’s no one that can take that role for me — my husband and I are the only parents — and passions outside of that.
Do you think it helped that you were creating a helmet for Sikh children so it allowed you to pursue your passion but also work with your kids in some capacity since they inspired the whole idea?
I never thought of it that way, but yes actually, it did! So all my entrepreneurial projects have involved my kids. Even now they were involved in picking the colors, all the sample tests we did they tried the helmets on! They’re probably sick of it since they’re constantly trying on helmets, but I get their opinion on them. Even as we pivoted with the name, we involved them and got their feedback on it also. So, they were involved in very large parts of this project.
And my husband is also a huge part of this project. He’s been heavily involved in this process, too!
You have a huge online presence, and I know that you’re probably not new to trolling and bullying that comes with being on social media. More recently, Bold Helmets was subject to a lot of backlashes. Is there something that you took away from this recent experience? Was it different this time around?
The extent to which things got was different this time around and that’s not something I have faced in the past. But I have been in the online space for about seven years now, and I’m accustomed to it. I think what I learned this time around is that sometimes silence and reflection is the best thing you can do. Sometimes reflecting and not being defensive on feedback that you get — and this may be something that comes with age as well as experience — is best.
But, I’m happy with the pivots we made, the feedback we’ve gotten, and the way we’re moving forward.
You mentioned that this isn’t your first entrepreneurial venture. But each experience teaches you something different. What did you learn while working on Bold Helmets?
I learned to be okay with taking things slow. I’ve never been that person; I’ve always jumped the gun on lots of things. It’s understanding that it’s ok to slow down and recognize that things have to just run their course.
And while the interview wraps up there, there is more to come with Singh on her journey! Catch Lifestyle Editor Sandeep on Instagram LIVE this Saturday, January 28, at 10 a.m. EST, as she has a more in-depth conversation with Singh on Bold Helmets and more!
In the meantime, Bold Helmets are available for pre-order now, and as a small token of appreciation, Canadian pre-orders will get $10 off their purchase until the end of January 2023!
While growing up, the only complaint I had when wearing desi clothes was that the embroidery on the fabric would always end up scratching my skin. As beautiful and intricate the details were, putting on an embellished blouse meant wearing an inner or a comfortable t-shirt underneath. Fortunately now, many South Asian brands are changing the game; focusing not only on the quality and intricacy of the embroidery, but also on comfort and wearability of the blouse itself. One such small business is Khushey.
Khushey is a one-stop shop for “buttery soft” performance blouses that don’t compromise on comfort for fashion and pair just as well with any of your mom’s saris as they do with your newest lehenga. In an interview withBrown Girl Magazine, founder Neha Seelam talks more about what inspired her to launch Khushey and what the brand has to offer.
Why did you want to start a brand that specializes in South Asian/Indo-Western blouses specifically?
I wanted to specialize in blouses because blouses are really the only part of Indo-Western clothing that I found a specific ‘problem’ with — one I thought I could solve. I absolutely love everything else about our clothing — with the variety of patterns/styles/cuts available, I feel that you can easily find the perfect piece out there.
But the part of South Asian clothing that my friends and I found to be a perpetual challenge was the blouse. They’re usually gorgeous, but by the end of the day you can’t wait to take them off. Also, it’s so hard to find a fit that looks seamless and beautiful — usually the chest, underarm or sleeve just wouldn’t fit the way you want it to with the heavy material and traditional tailoring.
I wanted to start off with basic colors but in shiny/formal-looking material that I could mix and match with all the different colors and styles of South Asian clothes that I already have in my wardrobe. The goal is that the blouses can be used multiple times with different outfits, are ideal for long nights of partying, and feel great against the skin.
What’s the story behind the brand’s name, Khushey?
The English word “cushy,” which means comfortable, actually originates from the Hindi word ‘khushi’ (happiness). I thought that the origin story was very sweet and resonated with the idea of comfort and happiness I had for my label. That’s how I chose the word Khushey — slightly adjusting the spelling so I could snag the right URL!
What is your number one priority when it comes to your blouses?
Formal wear that’s actually comfortable! I would love for women to be in the moment at their celebrations, and not feel constrained, itchy, or uncomfortable in their blouse.
South Asian women! Customers, from recent graduates all the way to stylish moms, have loved the product — especially moms since they typically value comfort and movability if they have to chase down kids at events!
How do you think Khushey allows South Asian women to embrace their love for South Asian fashion?
Over the last decade, I’ve seen women repurposing crop tops from Zara and H&M as sari blouses, and while I think that’s awesome and creative, I wanted to create an option for South Asian women where every detail was oriented around recreating the perfect sari/lehenga blouse. The shine is intended to be appropriate for formal wear, the cuts were inspired by some of my favorite blouses from when I was younger that wouldn’t have bra straps showing from underneath and were versatile for saris or lehengas, and the embroidery is intended to add a desi flair.
You’ve mentioned sustainability on your website. How are your blouses sustainable?
I plan to donate five percent of profits every year to a sustainable organization. Once I get enough interest from the public, I would like to fund new product lines that use eco-friendly materials that were prohibitively expensive for me to launch with. But I am eager to incorporate recycled spandex/nylon and metal into my pieces once I can afford to!
What sort of designs do you plan on incorporating into your label in the future?
I’ve thought of so many designs that I can build on. Starting with colors; I’d like to have all of the major colors available in my basic sleeveless blouse and then create a more modest version of that blouse with a variety of basic colors as well.
I’d also love to expand the patterns and embroidery options on the blouses. I hope to create seasonal collections that enable me to tap into the vast array of style/color inspirations that South Asian wear includes.
Khushey promises to offer comfort and style, all packaged into one performance blouse that you can reuse with a variety of desi outfits. Like Neha said, ditch your Zara crop top for a design that actually complements your desi look. Make sure to keep your eyes out for her latest designs!