Furniture Update: A Couch and Table and Chairs, Oh My!

Two years ago, my family and I moved into a 3-bedroom, 1700-sq-ft house. It was a big change from the 390-sq-ft apartment we’d left behind in England—but just about the smallest home we could find within a short commute of my husband’s office.

Several readers have asked me how our larger space has affected our furniture needs. In particular, inquiring minds want to know: do we have more, less, the same, or different stuff than we had before?

The answer: a little bit more, but really just different.

Our house has an open floor plan—the kitchen, living room, and dining room are all in one big space. In that space, we have the following:

1. Couch
2. Dining table + chairs
3. Shelf for Plumblossom’s toys and books

In our former tiny apartment, we had two lounge chairs and a coffee table instead of a couch. The reason: we moved often, seldom entertained, and had no real need for a large and unwieldy piece of furniture (see my post, Questioning the Couch).

In our new digs, we did a 180 and replaced the two chairs (figuratively, not literally—they were left behind in England long ago) with a couch. Why? Because it better fits our new lifestyle.

First, we have a toddler who loves to climb. The couch provides a low, wide space for her acrobatics, without the tipping potential of chairs. Sure, IMO, cushions on the floor would be even better, but… Second, we entertain friends and family quite often; some are older, some are posher ;-), and most are generally not enthusiastic about sitting on the floor.

We made do for some time with the futon we had in storage (seen in Our Dirty Secret)—but the foam was disintegrating, the cover was threadbare, and the heavy metal folding mechanism proved too much of a hazard for my daughter’s curious little fingers. So we settled on the little number pictured below—which I’m happy to report disassembles and packs flat (!) in case we pull up stakes again.

We replaced our tiny-apartment coffee table with a dining table. This was a tough one for me—my husband and I haven’t owned one in 15 years, and loved the relaxed, bohemian ambience of eating at a low table. However, we now host dinners about twice a month, as well as holiday gatherings like Thanksgiving and Christmas, and want our guests to be comfortable. I think it’s helped Plumblossom, too—since she’s accustomed to sitting at a proper table for meals, she’s remarkably well-behaved in restaurants and at dinner parties.

We did keep versatility in mind when selecting a table: it’s simply a birch slab with (detachable) metal legs. We can repurpose it as a desk, if need be—or replace the legs with shorter ones if we ever return to floor dining.

Finally, since our living room doubles as Plumblossom’s playroom, we acquired a long, low shelf for her books and toys. We’re trying our best to create a Montessori-style environment for her, which calls for a carefully-edited, nicely-arranged selection of materials (in contrast to a jumble of things in a toybox). I’ll write more about this (with pics) in a future post.

Wondering about the rugs? We have hardwood floors throughout our living space, and used FLOR tiles (20” carpet squares) to create area rugs. Plumblossom spends most of her time playing on the floor, and the tiles add a bit of softness and warmth underneath her. They also provide some noise-dampening—important in a small house, especially when the resident toddler has finally succumbed to sleep.

The random patchwork of tiles under the dining table was also a Plumblossom-centric decision. Babies and toddlers can be messy eaters—and while the tiles can be individually-removed and washed (yay!), we’ve had need to replace one or two. The patchwork allows us to do so without worrying about a color or pattern being discontinued (we simply pick a new one out of the sale section).

Another plus for carpet tiles: if/when we move, they can all be stacked into a pizza-sized box and easily transported. I know, I know, why all this talk about moving when we just bought a house? Because the wanderlust doesn’t go away just because you’ve stopped wandering.

So that’s two chairs replaced with one couch, and a coffee table replaced with a dining table. Not too bad. Do the four dining chairs and shelf tip us into slightly less minimal territory? If you practice minimalism by the numbers, I guess so. But if you prefer my kinder, gentler, lagom version of minimalism—where you own just enough to meet your needs and make you happy—then it’s all good. :)

Note: I’m really enjoying my new monthly posting schedule; while the weekly one was starting to feel like work, this is more like coffee with friends. I hope I’m not boring you with the mundane details of my life—while I love to read (and write) a good philosophical post, sometimes I think we bloggers need to show how we walk the walk. Do you have any requests or suggestions for future posts? Let me know in the Comments!

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

Storage is Not a Solution

Look at any organizational website or catalog, and you’ll find a plethora of boxes, bags, and containers billed as “storage solutions.” No matter what the item, there’s a vessel to hold it—big, small, tall, flat, thin, wide, clear, colored, fabric, plastic, leather, wood.

Put them on shelves, pile them in closets, stack them in your attic, basement, and garage. If you run out of room, gather them up and stick them in a storage unit across town.

And presto—your clutter problems are over!

Uh, not really. Storage is not a solution.

Just because it’s out of sight, doesn’t mean it’s out of mind. Your clutter is still there, hanging over your head, piled beneath your feet, lurking in the dark corners of your home. Just the thought of being surrounded by junk can be psychologically suffocating.

(And forget about dressing it up in designer boxes—making it pretty doesn’t make it go away.)

I re-learned this lesson myself, just recently. When my husband and I returned from England, we had our own little storage unit to deal with. Stuff we’d lived swimmingly without for 2+ years had come back to haunt us. It wasn’t all unwelcome, of course—we’re happy to be reunited with our bikes, and Plumblossom loves to cruise along our newly-reinstated futon/sofa.

But I’m also dealing with a box of books, a box of paperwork, and a box of clothing that I’d all but forgotten about. How tempting it was to toss them without opening them—after all, I hadn’t used (or really missed) their contents in years. Unfortunately, I had to peek inside and rediscover the “nice” office clothes that would be $$$ to replace (will I work outside the home again?), the dress shoes made in Italy, the out-of-print art books that will never be available in a library or on a Kindle.

Sigh. While three boxes is far from a clutter problem, it’s more than this minimalist wants to own. And in all fairness, the paperwork is mostly tax, housing, or medical-related, and necessary to keep. But my goal is to slowly detach myself from the rest (I’ve already started).

So take it from me: storage is not a solution—it’s just a way to hide your stuff until you (or worse yet, someone else!) must deal with it later. Instead: declutter, declutter, and declutter some more!

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

Happier Without

happier withoutThe consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things. -Elise Boulding

What a wonderful quote, and so true! We’re constantly bombarded with the message to buy, buy, and buy some more—it’s hardly ever suggested that we might find greater satisfaction in not owning something. Yes, you read it here, week in and week out; but I’m just one tiny voice questioning the status quo—hardly a match for the marketers and advertisers that command so much of our visual and auditory attention.

So after three years of blogging, I’ve been inspired to look back and celebrate the things I’ve learned I’d rather not have. I’ve included links, and hope you enjoy my walk down memory lane. Better yet, I’d love it if each of you would share one post (or more!) with someone else via email, Twitter, or Facebook.

My website stats say I had 93,971 unique visitors last month (!)—imagine if all 93K+ of you passed on the minimalist message to someone else? We might actually create a ripple effect to drown out some of the more-is-more rhetoric, and introduce a greater audience to “the happiness of not having things.”

So here they are: 15 Things I’m Happier Without (and you might be, too!)

1. Television. In Life Without a TV, I wrote about how my husband and I gave up our television when we moved overseas in 2009. See my No TV Update: Three Years and Counting to learn how we feel about pulling the plug.

2. Couch. During our time in England, we lived without a couch—for seating, we used two Ikea Poang chairs instead. Although we’ve now been reunited with our sofa-in-storage (and need the seating for frequent guests), I’d still prefer to do without.

3. Desk. Last year, I shared a photo of My Minimalist Workspace: a windowsill and floor cushion. From the time I was a child, I’ve never really been comfortable at a desk. I wrote my book, The Joy of Less, on the floor. :)

4. Bed frame. In My Tiny Apartment Tour, I gave readers a sneak peek into My Minimalist Bedroom. A mattress on the floor is my idea of a serene oasis!

5. Other furniture. While I thought we lived with The Bare Essentials in England, we downsized to just a coffee table and mattress in our Empty, White, and Beautiful summer sublet. If you want some instant decluttering gratification, I recommend ditching a piece or two of furniture—here are 15 Pieces of Furniture You May Not Really Need.

6. Curtains. Ah, how I love Naked Windows! Our current house has translucent fabric shades on the street side, but the back-facing windows are bare as can be.

7. Collectibles. In my post On Not Collecting, I wrote about dissolving a cocktail shaker collection, piece by piece, on eBay—and how I never again wanted to own 10, 20, or 30 of something. This holds particularly true for any kind of valuables; I’d much rather have Nothing to Steal.

8. Books. Physical books, that is. When I moved abroad and became separated from my favorite tomes (which were too heavy and expensive to ship), I became a huge fan of ebooks. I dream of someday having a completely digital library.

9. Hobby supplies. I’d rather not have a closetful of craft supplies, or garageful of hobby and/or sports equipment. Therefore, I try to focus on Minimalist Hobbies—leisure and creative pursuits that don’t involve the acquisition or storage of a lot of stuff.

10. Specialty kitchenware. I’ve pared my kitchen essentials down to a few versatile pieces (What’s in a Minimalist Kitchen?)—just enough to cook and eat our favorite foods, without relying on restaurants or takeout.

11. Heirlooms. I suspect I’m not the only one who could do without a relative’s “treasures.” See The Top Ten Ways to Declutter Heirlooms to learn how you can gracefully part ways with grandma’s china.

12. Large wardrobe. I began my minimalist journey with two closets full of clothing, and eventually pared down to a suitcase. Last year, I shared with you my 10-Item Wardrobe—the pieces that get me through the majority of my daily activities, in every season.

13. Mail. Stopping the postal deluge gives me far less paperwork to deal with; here’s my advice on creating a Minimalist Mailbox.

14. Perfume. When I learned about the health risks of perfume (and the environmental impacts of its production and distribution), I went fragrance-free. Perfume is One Less Thing I need in my life.

15. Gifts. I’m blessed with everything I need, and prefer my friends’ and family’s presence over presents. If you feel the same—and dread accumulating more stuff over the holidays—you may enjoy my Gift Avoidance Guide.

Again, I’d be delighted if you’d share a post or two with friends and family. I think the idea of minimalist living is just beginning to gain momentum, and would love to introduce some more people to the lifestyle.

So tell us in the Comments–what are you happier without? Or here’s an interesting question: what was the first thing you realized you were happier without, that started you down a minimalist path?

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

Possessions as Promises

When Plumblossom was just a few months old, I bought an infant swing. I never thought I’d own such an item—but desperate to get my daughter to nap, I went online and discovered this “solution” to my problem. It promised to calm my little one with its gentle rocking, and send her off to sleep in no time flat; the Amazon reviews confirmed its efficacy (“My baby naps 3 hours in this!”). I couldn’t part with my money fast enough.

My enthusiasm to acquire this new thing made me think: what are our possessions, really, but a bunch of promises? That dress promises to make us look stylish; that smartphone promises to keep us tech-savvy and connected; that cookbook promises to make us a culinary whiz; that moisturizer promises to take years off our face; that heirloom china promises to help us remember our grandmother.

These promises to make our lives easier, better, chicer, or more productive are enticing. The problem: the products don’t always deliver. In our disappointment, we shove them to the back of the closet, up in the attic, or out in the garage—or we may just let them sit around in our living room, kitchen, or bedroom, unwilling to admit that they didn’t really live up to our expectations.

All too often, we end up with a pile of broken promises—or, in other words, clutter.

So what can you do about it?

For the stuff you currently own:

* Ask what “promise” each possession holds. It’s a great way to evaluate exactly why you own a particular item.

* Ask if it’s delivering on its promise. If not, pass it on to someone else; perhaps its true potential may be found in another home.

For stuff you’re considering acquiring:

* Identify any insecurities that may be behind the purchase. Are those stilettos calling your name because you’ve been feeling a bit frumpy?

* Consider non-stuff solutions to your problem. Could an aerobics class make you feel fitter and sexier than a new pair of shoes?

So back to my own story: when the swing arrived, my husband and I had it out of the box and set up in minutes. At her next naptime, I lowered Plumblossom into it with bated breath, waiting for her to close her eyes and drift off to dreamland. Instead, she looked up at me as if to say “you must be kidding,” and in about three minutes broke into a wail. Undeterred, I tried it again and again, almost always with the same result. She’d sometimes lounge in it for ten minutes while my husband and I ate dinner, but napping? Not a chance.

The swing clearly spoke to my insecurities as a new mom. In the process, I learned that for my daughter, a mechanical device is no substitute for the warmth and motion of my own arms, and that a softly-sung lullaby is much more soothing than an electronic one. A thing was not going to instantly make her a better napper. (Needless to say, it’s since been donated.)

I’ve used this example not because I’m becoming a mommy blogger, but to illustrate how these things can sneak up on us when we experience new situations in life. As a long-time, card-carrying minimalist, I thought I was long past falling for such promises. I’d become a minsumer extraordinaire, immune to the siren calls of miracle creams, designer handbags, and the latest-and-greatest gadgets. But in the past year, I’ve found that you don’t “perfect” minimalism and call it a day—you have to keep working on it as life throws new challenges your way. :)

Do you have any broken promises cluttering your home? Tell us about them in the Comments!

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

Minimalist Hobbies

I’ve received several inquiries from readers asking what I do in my spare time. At the moment, with a baby, I would have to say sleep :)—but I do have a few minimalist hobbies I try to pursue (or would like to pursue) when I have a few minutes to myself.

1. Walking. I love, love, love to walk. I don’t do it for the exercise, but rather the sheer pleasure of being outside, on my feet, and a spectator of the changing seasons. I can’t tell you how much I miss the public footpaths of England; the weekends my husband and I spent rambling through meadows, pastures, and the little villages in between are some of the happiest memories of my life. Although back in the US, we’re fortunate to live near a large, beautiful park, and routinely do 5- to 10-miles a week. I also take Plumblossom for daily walks through our neighborhood whenever the weather permits.

2. Jewelry making. I’ve dabbled in jewelry making, off and on, for many years. I stick to what I can do at my coffee table—no torches, heavy equipment, or harsh chemicals required. What I love about this hobby is that everything is so tiny. All of my supplies (gemstones, findings, and small tools) fit into a pencil case.

3. Digital art. This is a relatively new one for me. Sure, I’d love to have a little art studio where I could paint (and make a mess) to my heart’s content. But with an infant, I have neither the time nor space for such an endeavor. Therefore, I recently bought a Wacom pen tablet and Corel Painter software, and am trying out digital painting (the effects are surprisingly realistic!). My daughter is a catnapper, so I can only work in 30-45 minute spans—but with no setup and cleanup involved, I actually have a bit of time to create something. Another advantage: no toxic chemicals to worry about with a wee one underfoot.

4. Haiku. Writing haiku has been a passion of mine for years. I love the ultra-compact form, in which every word is precious, evocative, and chosen with the utmost care. And since they’re so short, I don’t even need pencil and paper (or laptop) on hand—I can compose them in my head when I’m on the train, in traffic, or waiting in line at the post office.

5. Reading. I think just about every writer is an avid reader. And even though I don’t have as much time as I used to, I still try to steal a few moments with my iPod Touch if Plumblossom’s asleep in my arms. My preference is nonfiction, on whatever topics interest me at the time. And every ten years or so, I do a Year of Great Literature—re-reading as many classics as possible, to see if my life experience brings a greater understanding and appreciation of them.

So those are my minimalist hobbies—a few leisure and creative pursuits that don’t involve the acquisition or storage of a lot of stuff. I’d love to hear yours!

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

Walls of Stuff

An observation from my minimalist life: when you don’t have a lot of stuff in your home, you tend to look outward for entertainment.

When my husband and I lived in our tiny flat in England, we rarely spent our leisure time indoors—other than reading or cooking, there simply wasn’t much to do. Instead, weekends and evenings would find us walking the streets of London, or the idyllic paths of the countryside.

The same holds true now: even though we live in a larger house, there’s still not much to keep us inside. During the day, I usually put Plumblossom in my Baby Bjorn carrier, wander through the neighborhood, and chat with anyone who happens to be out and about. On weekends, our little family goes for long walks and picnics in a local park. As far as I can tell, Plumblossom—budding minimalist that she is—much prefers an outdoor jaunt than staying inside and playing with toys. And my husband and I would certainly rather get some fresh air and exercise than sit around at home.

Along my minimalist journey, I’ve learned that too much stuff can build up into walls around us—keeping us isolated from everything and everyone out there. When we declutter, we dismantle those stacks and mounds and piles of clutter, and reconnect with the world at large. Oftentimes, it’s simply a matter of pursuing our interests and activities on public ground rather than private.

Here’s a few examples:

* Instead of buying (and storing) a treadmill or rowing machine, go for walks/runs or join a recreational athletic league.

* Instead of outfitting a media room with the latest and greatest in viewing technology, take your family out to the movies.

* Instead of owning an ice cream maker, cappuccino machine, or specialty bakeware, go out for an indulgent treat.

* Instead of accumulating collectibles, visit a gallery or museum (or window shop) to satisfy your aesthetic interests.

* Instead of stashing away closetfuls of craft supplies, take a class or course in your hobby of choice. That way, you can use the studio’s equipment rather than invest in your own.

As I write in my book, The Joy of Less:

In our quest to become minimalists, we want to reduce the amount of things in our homes that require our care and attention. Fortunately, we have ample opportunity to do so—simply by shifting some of our pleasures and activities into the public realm. In fact, such action produces a pretty wonderful side effect. For when we hang out in parks, museums, movie houses, and coffee shops—instead of trying to create similar experiences in our own homes—we become significantly more socially active and civically engaged. By breaking down the walls of stuff around us, we’re able to get out into the world and enjoy fresher, more direct, and more rewarding experiences.

Do you have any walls of stuff you need to break down? Tell us about it in the Comments!

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

No TV Update: Three Years and Counting

Three years ago, my husband and I gave up our television when we moved overseas. At the time, I had no idea how we’d feel about its absence, or whether or not we’d replace it upon our return. Well, I’m happy to report that we love being TV-free, and have no intention of obtaining another.

In fact, we recently traveled to Texas for a family wedding, and during the five days in our hotel suite never once turned on the TV (we didn’t even notice its presence until the third or fourth day!).

Here’s a quick rundown on how tuning out the tube has enhanced our lives:

More silence. Without the TV as background noise, our home is incredibly peaceful. It’s much easier (and more pleasant) to hear the little coos of my baby girl without headlines blaring from CNN (I’d like her to grow up without having to talk over the TV).

More serenity. Reduced exposure to news (particularly that of a violent or worrisome nature) and political ads has led to less stress and anxiety in our household. We stay informed via the Internet, reading only the stories in which we have interest.

More satisfaction. Since our house is commercial and celebrity-free, we’re not exposed to aspirational goods or lifestyles. We’re perfectly happy with what we have, and how we live, and never want for bigger/better/different/more.

More space. It’s been wonderful to not plan a living room around a television, or devise a way to mount, contain, hold, or hide such an (in my opinion) unattractive device.

More focus. Without the distraction of a TV, we can pursue hobbies, conversation, and playtime with our daughter while being fully present in the moment.

More holiday spirit. Back when we had a TV, the onslaught of commercials—whether they be hawking cashmere sweaters for Christmas or jewelry for Valentine’s Day—would make me tired of the upcoming holiday before it even arrived. Now that such advertising no longer enters our lives, we enjoy the season and celebrations so much more.

More time. According to this New York Times article, the average American watches 34 hours of television per week. 34 hours! (I had to triple-check that to make sure I read it right.) So by not owning a TV, we gain more than a day’s worth of extra time every week. :)

I think our no-TV experiment will become even more interesting as our daughter grows up. How will she fare without Sesame Street, Saturday morning cartoons, or Disney princesses? (I’d like to think just fine.) I envision for her a childhood of playing outside, chasing butterflies, drawing, reading, and creating—even if it means not understanding every pop culture reference made by her peers. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no TV for children under 2, so I don’t think our lack of Baby Einstein videos is doing her any disservice.

Of course, and as always, I must add the disclaimer that this is what works for us. By no means am I suggesting that everyone should give up their TVs, or that you can’t be a minimalist if you own one. It’s just another thing that our household is better off without—and I’ll continue to provide updates on our decision as the years go by.

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

A Kinder, Gentler Minimalism

Up until now, I’ve practiced a rather extreme form of minimalism: living in tiny spaces, and carting around all my worldly possessions in a duffel bag.

But with my recent lifestyle changes (a new baby and a home purchase), I’ve given up my membership in the globetrotting, minimalist elite. I’m now ready to explore a kinder, gentler minimalism: one that will (hopefully) be relevant to a wider range of my readers.

My husband and I used to be able to get by with a pair of chairs and a coffee table, and just enough dinnerware for the two of us. Now that we’re back among friends and family, we’ll be entertaining much more frequently—our house is centrally located, and will likely be the de facto gathering place for holiday celebrations. Furthermore, we live on a street with very friendly neighbors, and I imagine many get-togethers, both impromptu and more formal, are in our future. The upshot: our sit-on-the-floor and BYOP (Bring Your Own Plate) style may no longer fly. We need someplace for guests of all ages to dine and relax comfortably.

We also have to outfit a guest room to accommodate Plumblossom’s grandparents and other out-of-town visitors.

And of course, there’s Plumblossom’s nursery, with her crib, changing table (a repurposed desk, which will serve its original purpose once she’s older), and playthings.

The result: the number of my possessions no longer tally in the double digits.

I’m okay with that, though. I’ve never subscribed to the notion that minimalism is a race for the fewest possessions, or an exclusive club of Macbook-toting nomads. In both my books and blog, I’ve always espoused a more inclusive approach to minimalism–one that is just as relevant to people with homes, children, pets, gardens…even sofas and deck chairs. ;-)

To me, minimalism is about having just enough to meet your needs. And when your needs change due to life circumstances, you adjust accordingly. The most important part—eliminating the excess—still applies.

Even though we’re now living in a larger space, every item that enters it is still carefully considered. And decluttering happens on a daily basis—whether it’s outgrown baby clothes, outdated paperwork, or random objects that have snuck their way in.

Is it harder to be minimalist in a larger space? Of course. When you have a few hundred extra square feet to put stuff, the temptation to keep it just in case is much stronger. However, after being on the road for so long, my husband and I are conditioned to toss every extraneous item the second it’s no longer needed. And you know what? When a few extra objects manage to gather in our home, I get a little thrill out of putting together a donation bag (when I owned next to nothing, I had few opportunities to declutter!).

Fortunately, our home (like many 50+ year old houses) has very little in the way of closet or storage space. Yes, I said fortunately! For as I wrote in my book, The Joy of Less, those of us with less-than-adequate storage space are the lucky ones:

The more space we have to put things, the more things we tend to keep—things we don’t always need. Those with walk-in closets and extra cupboards must summon up extra motivation to declutter; while you, on the other hand, get the benefit of a little tough love. Having less space is an asset, not a liability, and puts you on the fast track to becoming a minimalist.

While my former focus was on the bare bones possessions for a nomadic couple, my new focus is on the bare bones possessions for a more settled family of three. I’ll be exploring such issues as what furniture we now find desirable (is it time for a couch?), what we still don’t (no plans for a TV), and what we’ll need to host guests gracefully and comfortably (are eight plates too many or too few?).

It’ll be an interesting new twist on my minimalist life, and I’m curious to see how we adjust. And you never know…in a few years, we may hit the road again, Plumblossom in tow. But for now, a kinder, gentler minimalism is on the horizon.

What appeals to you: a strict, 100-item minimalism, or something more inclusive? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

For Photos of Minimalist Spaces, Join Me on Pinterest!

Oftentimes, in my travels around the internet, I come across photos of minimalist spaces I’d love to share with you. However, because of copyright issues, I’m always hesitant to post them on my blog.

Fortunately, I’ve discovered a wonderful new way to consolidate and share these inspirational resources. It’s called Pinterest. I’m usually the last person to embrace a new social networking platform—but honestly, this site is just too much fun!

Basically, it’s a digital space where you can “pin” your favorite photos from around the web. So far, I’ve created two boards:

Minimalist Home

Minimalist Design

A snapshot of my Minimalist Home board on Pinterest

You can follow my boards (or anyone else’s) to keep up with new additions. And, of course, you can also create boards of your own.

If you’re a visual person, and inspired by beautiful pictures of minimalist living rooms, bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms, etc., I think you’ll love this!

[Note: Pinterest requires a Facebook or Twitter account to sign up. If you don’t have either, consider this woman’s solution. In a nutshell, she set up a temporary Twitter account, signed up for Pinterest, then unlinked her Twitter account and deleted it. After you sign up, you can simply log in with your Pinterest username and password—no Facebook or Twitter required.]

How a Minimalist Loses a Vase

I travel quite often, and rarely bring back souvenirs from anywhere. I’ve learned that once something has memories, it can be a bear to declutter later on; so I save myself the trouble and typically return only with digital photos and some leftover foreign coins.

However, when I visited Oslo, I found myself in a chic Scandinavian design shop—and couldn’t resist bringing home one of its wares.

Before I continue, let me give you the backstory. On our first Christmas in the UK, a dear friend sent us a beautiful bunch of white tulips. My husband and I were 3000 miles away from friends and family, and her wonderful gesture really brightened our holiday. The problem: having just moved overseas, we hadn’t yet bought a vase. Furthermore, we knew we were likely to move again by year’s end, and were reluctant to acquire a heavy glass piece that would be difficult to transport and awkward to store. So instead, I made an impromptu one from an empty bottle of sparkling water (it actually didn’t look half bad).

Fast forward to our Oslo trip, where I see the solution to this particular domestic problem: a minimal, collapsible vase. It’s completely transparent, folds flat, and is light as a feather. You simply fill it with water, add your flowers, then empty it out and flatten to store. It may not be as elegant as a proper glass vase, but it’s vastly more convenient when you live a mobile lifestyle.

So this weekend I saw some beautiful flowers at a farmer’s market, and thought my clever minimalist vase would make a nice little blog post. But when I returned home, I encountered a dilemma: neither I, nor my husband, could remember the last time we’d laid eyes on it.

Now, when you live in a tiny apartment with a minimal amount of stuff, you don’t lose things. It’s practically impossible. I can rattle off almost everything I own, and exactly where it is. (When our apartment was robbed many years ago, I was able to give the police officer an inventory of the stolen items within minutes.)

Convinced it had to be around somewhere, we conducted an exhaustive search of our small space. We looked inside our closets, cabinets, and travel bags. We looked in between clothes, pots and pans, and our small stash of books and paperwork. No luck—it was nowhere to be found. I have no idea if it disappeared during one of our several moves, or if it has simply slipped into some crevice here, eluding our eyesight.

Oh, the irony.

So what profound philosophical insight can we glean from this minimalist misadventure? Not much, really—to be honest, I just found it kind of amusing (and thought some of you might like the vase). If anything, I would say it’s a little reminder to keep everything in moderation. If we take our minimalism to extremes (like buying a vase that’s barely visible!), we may run the risk of things slipping away. Remember, minimalism isn’t about owning 100 things, or 50 things, or less—but rather what’s just enough for you.

Or, perhaps the message is even simpler—that life has a way of telling us we don’t need certain things after all. ;-)

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}