Small Cool

Apartment Therapy is just about to finish up their Small Cool contest, in which they ask people to submit photos of their small homes (under 1000 sq feet). It’s really great to see how people work with their small spaces. My favorite is always the teeny-tiny division (under 400 sq feet) because some people do some really amazing things, even in the tiniest of spaces.

A couple of my favorites this year are Anna’s Serene Studio


and Vina’s Minimal Impact on the Earth.



Both of these ladies have created wonderfully simple homes with little to no clutterand remain spacious in spite of their small size.

Click the Small Cool link above to see the rest of the entires.

What to Get Rid Of

I feel fairly confident in saying that most people are familiar with the rule “Don’t use it? Don’t love it? Get rid of it.” But like so many rues of thumb it’s a lot easier to say it in theory than in practice. Like many others, I keep things (specifically chotkes) that I’m not exactly in love with but that I just don’t want to get rid of quite yet. The reason? I might use it in the future. Granted, being a college student this statement may be more true for me than for others, I have not yet had the privilege of having a home which I get to decorate all by myself, but the “I might use it” trap is still dangerous.

So how can you avoid this trap? Try to look at things objectively. For example, a while back I was cleaning off my bookshelf and came across a book a bought at a rummage sale. I was on the fence about getting rid of it, I kept thinking I really wanted to read it, but when I tried to imagine myself reading it, I found it difficult. Now, seeing that book as I actively sell it in a garage sale, I experience none of the one the fence feelings I had from it a few months ago.

If you’re experiencing the “I might use it” syndrome one of the best things to do is imagine that object on display in your house or imagine yourself using it. If it’s difficult to imagine yourself getting any concrete pleasure from the object, get rid of it. (If all you’re getting is a vague sense of pleasure simply because you have it that also means you should get rid of it.) Essentially, it’s like ripping off a bandaid. Once you rip off the bandaid and get rid of it there’s no more discomfort and you’ll find you don’t miss having the object at all.

Home Decor and Consumerism

While perusing the comments on a recent Apartment Therapy post someone mentioned that they had once seen someone comment that Apartment Therapy (and other home design blogs and websites) were vehicles for consumerism.

While they have a point to a certain extent, some people may scroll through these site, see all these gorgeous homes and immediately go out and buy something to make their own home look “nicer”, it is my opinion that many home design sites promotes thoughtful design within the home and thoughtful living. Anyone can fill their home with stuff, but it requires thought to fill a home with stuff well and responsibly.

It becomes quickly evident when trying to decorated a home that you cannot simply buy a bunch of new stuff, most people don’t have the room or the budget to do that. People must think about what they really need, make space by purging unneeded things (which may actually be needed by others), and thoughtfully refill that space. Design sites do not support mindless buying (buying because you can), which is essentially what is wrong with consumerism. Design sites promote design oriented shopping in which people look at the quality and function of things, not only price.

Thus I would argue that while design site and lifestyle blogs seem to promote endless consumption, they actually aid a more thoughtful way of living that results in, not necessarily less consumption (although that is probably true in many cases) but at least one being more aware of their purchases.

Moving Out

It’s common moving knowledge that before you move you should purge things and it is no different for college students moving out of their dorms and back home.

At the start of the year, especially for freshmen, it’s tempting to load up on stuff, like lights and furniture, dishes and wall decor. Being away from home [for the first time] presents two traps; you want to make this brand new space wholly your own and you want it to feel just like home.

While it may be difficult to get rid of things, you feel you might need them next year, sometimes it’s better to simply get rid of it and do without. Most colleges have a way of trading dorm goods, like refrigerators and futons, with other students and it may be a good idea to take part in that. Especially after you’ve grown accustomed to college life, you realize exactly what you do and don’t need. Maybe that futon wasn’t such a good idea because you’re the only one who uses it and you could just as easily sit on your bed and save the space. Maybe the only dishes you really need are a couple mugs and spoons. The end of the year is a great time to think about what you actually used, what you actually wore, and purge the useless things. Not only will it be less to get back home, but it will be less to bring back next year.

For me, bringing too many books and clothes is my downfall. While my freshman year was worse (not only did I bring ninety percent of my closet, but also a whole pile of books and DVDs that I ended up not reading or watching). This year I only brought about five books, a couple of them were reference books, and while I acquired some, I still have fewer than I did last year. DVDs were wholly unnecessary, I’ve since put all my movies on a hard drive which takes up less space than a single DVD. And clothes, the biggest thing with clothes is to be realistic about what you will actually wear. I just sent a box of clothes home with my parents and as I packed them I realized I didn’t even wear most of them throughout the winter.

Bring the your staples; wardrobe, books, supplies, and don’t bring random things because you might need them. Use this critical eye to get rid of stuff and discern what you will bring back. After all, an uncluttered space promotes an uncluttered mind.


Shopping Traps

If you’re trying to minimize on stuff, it’s obviously difficult to get rid of things sometimes, but buying things (or not buying things) can be just as hard.

One of the downfalls of living in a consumerist society is CONSTANT pressure on every front to buy things. We buy things to fit in with people, to fill our homes, to fill the emptiness that we will inevitably experience at some point; something new and shiny is just so instantly gratifying, which is why it is so difficult to resist those urges.

On of the downfalls of trying to cut back on purchases is impulse buying. It is one thing to go into a store with the intent of buying something that you actually need (meaning something you will use regularly, of course regular use does not always constitute necessity, but more on that another time) but impulse buying often is buying something simply because it’s on sale or you think you could maybe use it at some point in the future. The easiest way to resist impulse buying is to have a defined list before you go into the store and actively work to not pick up something that is on that list. More often than not, when walking past it ten or fifteen minutes later or seeing it again when you return to the store, you will notice the need to buy is significantly lower.

And if you still find yourself wanting when you return home, the best cure I have is getting rid of something, then, you either have gotten rid of something to make room for the new thing or, better yet, simply purged another unnecessary item. I always say “the feeling of buying something new is nothing compared to getting rid of something and seeing the space it once occupied.”

Cut Back Unnecessary Tech: Televisions

Xbox-One-TelevisionLiving at college in a dorm, where the only television I have access to is in the downstairs lounge, makes me realize how little I actually need a television. While I like to stay caught up on a few television shows, the internet is so handy that I have no trouble keeping up with things, even if they aren’t yet available on Netflix or Hulu. Additionally, so many channels, whether they are network or news have live streaming, so if you are really keen to watch something real time, there are resources for you to do that. AND, if like me, you enjoy keeping the television on for the sake of background noise, public radio is a great option.

Televisions, especially today, take up a large amount of [wall] space and simply not having on can give your home some much needed space. You can also have far more time on your hands; if you walk past your TV and, seeing something is one, just sit down at watch the rest of the program, a large chunk of time is taken out of your day. Not having the TV minimizes that potential for eaten time. Additionally, televisions not only use a huge amount of energy but disposing of them improperly can lead to dire environmental consequences (due to the lead that is used in many TVs).

All in all, a television is not a wholly necessary home item, considering most people have a computer, and disposing of it or simply not buying a new one, can benefit you, your home, and (eventually) the environment.

What about bookshelves?

I am a huge propagator of minimalist if living, but my weakness is books.
Everyone loves books in the home, they look beautiful and they are wonderfully bound knowledge. But the danger lies in having too many books that are opened too sparingly.
So how do you trim down your books and keep you book collection from cluttering everything?

Rule of thumb for purging books; think hard and if you cannot imagine yourself actually reading again in the foreseeable future (next few years at most) get rid of it. You want you bookshelf to have between 10-25% open or bare space. Work with your shelf, it can be a great visual asset for your home. Look at it and take the time to edit it and curate it. Organize your books in whatever way works for you, by size, by color, alphabetically, or, for a more uniform look, you can turn the books around so the pages are facing the room.
And of course, a beautiful shelf enhances the book vignettes that you place on it.


Here is an image of my bookshelf. Because my collection is fairly small I organize my color. Many of these books have since been purged, the photo is over a year old, but each of the books that are currently on my shelf are ones that I will use/read in the best future. You can still have stuff without cluttering your space by creating a beautiful bookshelf.