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.}

The Exquisite Lightness of Being

A few years ago, I was reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and came across the most beautiful phrase: “the traveler’s exquisite lightness of being.” It became a sort of personal mantra for me as I whittled down my possessions to a single bag, and traveled throughout Europe and Asia with nothing more than a large purse. I’d never felt so light, so liberated, so free. Read the entire post…

Clean Slate Part 3: A Place of Our Own

(Photo: Cristiano
Betta
)

In my last two posts, I announced two big changes in my life: my return to the United States, and the arrival of a brand new minimalist (my little Plumblossom)!

Well, today it’s time for Big Surprise #3: my husband and I have bought a house.

When Plumblossom was born, we brought her home to our small, one bedroom, urban apartment. We had no immediate plans to move; after all, we reasoned, a tiny baby doesn’t take up much space. And on that count we were right: her crib fit into a cozy corner of our bedroom, and her wardrobe took up just a small sliver of my closet. I was ready to congratulate myself on smoothly inserting an infant into our tiny living arrangement.

What we realized: a tiny baby doesn’t take up much physical space. Auditory space, on the other hand, was a whole other matter! Our delicate flower has an impressive set of lungs, and no compunction about exercising them. Unfortunately, we were living in a high rise apartment building without soundproof walls. When she cried in the middle of the night, we always wondered if an eviction notice might be forthcoming (!).

Even before our little girl came along, my husband and I started contemplating a house purchase. For the past three years, we’ve been drifting: moving every few months between hotels, sublets, and various apartments. We really enjoyed this nomadic lifestyle…but the continual search for new digs eventually began to wear on us. We’d also grown tired of living with faulty appliances, maintenance men who popped in without notice, and all the other quirks of temporary accommodations.

But most of all, we wanted a little green space of our own. My husband and I have lived almost exclusively in urban areas since college, and always considered ourselves “city people.” But our time in England gave us a great love of the countryside, and made us yearn for some trees, some flowers, a small garden of herbs and vegetables. We wanted to be able to step outside to a quiet little oasis, to enjoy dining al fresco, and to someday watch our daughter toddle on the grass and pick wildflowers in the backyard.

We’d kept an eye on the local real estate market during my pregnancy, but never saw anything too compelling. The biggest challenge: finding a small house in our preferred area—close to my husband’s office, a charming downtown, and several beautiful parks. Such a lovely and convenient area means a high premium on land—so most of the housing stock is of the 3000+ square foot variety.

But one night at 3am, with Plumblossom in one hand and my laptop in the other, I struck gold while browsing the listings: a small, midcentury, 3 bedroom rancher on half an acre. It’s in an older neighborhood with wonderful character and mature trees—a little pocket of modesty in a rather posh area. We settled on in it thirty days later, and just recently moved in.

The house itself has an open floor plan, and lots of glass to the partially wooded backyard. We’ve already painted all the walls bright white, and love the light, airy effect. Right now, it’s a big empty space with a few pieces of furniture and a scattering of baby items. As you might guess, we have no interest in filling it up—plus, I think it’ll make a great open place for a toddler to play and run around. It also has a lovely deck, which is becoming our second living room as the days get warmer.

Although at 1700 square feet it’s considered a small house, it’s the largest space we’ve ever lived in. It may seem antithetical to the how-low-can-you-go, tiny living movement—but it’s the smallest we could find in the area (local ordinances ruled out building a tiny house), and I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m an empty space junkie. :)

I look forward to sharing our new space with you as we get settled. However, home improvement moves at a snail’s pace with a new baby on board. And with spring rains and warm weather coming, we’re focusing what little time and energy we have on getting the garden planted and backyard in order. However, I’m really excited about tackling the interior—and in time, look forward to exploring with you the joys and challenges of keeping things minimal in our “larger” space.

{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.}

Clean Slate Part 2: Bundle of Joy

(Photo: John-Morgan)

On the course of our minimalist journey, my husband and I had never seriously entertained the idea of having children. For a long time, we couldn’t imagine how an infant/toddler/adolescent/teenager could fit into the carefree, nomadic lifestyle we had created for ourselves.

But last year, after purging all the excess from our lives, something changed.

In my book, The Joy of Less, I liken minimalism to “emptying our cups”—not for the sake of being empty, but for discovering what’s truly special to us and making room for it.

Well, after my husband and I stripped everything to the bone—giving up our home, our possessions, the expectations of others—we discovered the potential of our “empty cup”: the capacity to love, care for, and share this amazing world with a child.

So today, I’m thrilled to share with you the biggest (and littlest) surprise of all… During my sabbatical, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl!

She’s such a sweetheart, and incredibly alert, active, and curious for her age. She has the most beautiful smile, and a wise, “old soul” expression in her eyes (I like to think that babies are born knowing all the mysteries of the universe, but just lack the communication skills to share them with us :) ).

I know in the blogging world, there’s an expectation that I’ll share the name, photos, and other details of my new bundle of joy. After all, I’m a very proud mama. However, my husband and I have decided to keep our child’s life private. It doesn’t seem right to me that in the United States, 92 percent of children have an online presence by the time they’re two years old. Bottom line, we don’t want to make our daughter “Googleable” before she has a say in the matter.

Therefore, I’m going to resist posting all those adorable baby pics, and use a handle instead of her real name when referring to her online. It didn’t take me long to come up with the perfect one: Plumblossom. Like her namesake flower, she’s tiny and delicate in appearance (weighing only 6 pounds at birth), but hardy enough to bloom in the darkest days of winter. The plum blossom is a symbol of hope, strength, and courage—bursting forth amongst snow and barren branches, an early sign of a much-anticipated spring.

To put it poetically (as I’m wont to do), my husband and I had decluttered our lives into a pure and serene winter landscape–into which our lovely little Plumblossom bloomed, filling the space we’d created with love, light, and happiness.

Has Plumblossom turned my minimalist life upside down? Absolutely. Although I’m striving to keep things under control, I now count a crib, infant swing, play mat, board books, rattles, and a plethora of other baby items among my possessions. I’ve let go of my need to have a pristine, uber-minimalist environment in order to meet her needs—but it’s all worth it, as her smiles and coos fill our home, and hearts, with more joy than I ever imagined.

Longtime readers need not worry: this won’t turn into a “mommy blog,” and my focus will remain on minimalist living—just now with a new perspective that’ll help me relate to even more of my readers. And I’ll try my best to write something intelligible, despite my state of sleep deprivation. It’s a very exciting time in my life, and I’m looking forward to discovering, and sharing with you, the joy of less family-style!

{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.}

Clean Slate Part 1: Homecoming

Hi everybody—I missed you all during my sabbatical! Oh boy, do we have a lot of catching up to do…

If you’ve been following my blog for awhile (or reading the archives), you know that in 2009 my husband and I sold our house, and almost everything we owned, to move overseas. The whole experience was like starting life anew with a clean slate. We traveled extensively, and lived a mainly nomadic life—moving every few months with all our possessions in our duffel bags.

Well, it’s time for a clean slate once again. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be filling you in on some big changes in my personal life (and revealing why I’ve been taking some time off). Today’s post is Big Surprise #1 of 3; stay tuned for the rest!


Photo via Amazon.com

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of home—mainly because I’ve had so many in the past few years.

During my time abroad, I’ve lived in numerous flats, hotels, and sublets: some tiny, some large, some empty, some furnished top-to-bottom with other people’s stuff.

The experience has changed my perception of “home.” No longer is it linked with my ownership of property or possessions; it’s simply where I lay my head to rest each night.

Minimalism made this nomadic lifestyle possible, and enjoyable, for me. It gave me an incredible sense of freedom, enabling me to experience daily life in a foreign country, and extensive travel throughout Europe and Asia. In a sense, I felt that the world was my home.

But travel and temporary accommodations aside, my home has now changed in a significant way.

For the last few years, England was my home—and a beautiful one at that. I loved the energy of London, the beauty of the countryside, and every minute of my time there. My husband and I were embraced by the people we met, and enchanted with the places we visited. We felt so comfortable there, it was easy to forget that we were expats.

The only exception was when we traveled, and returned to England by air. We spent a lot of time in Heathrow airport, much of it in the passport control line. Because we were on visas, we were extensively questioned each time we landed. We were asked where we’d been, where we were living, and what we did to support ourselves. Our fingerprints were usually scanned as well, to make sure they matched the ones on record. I always felt there was the slightest chance they might not let us back in.

Well, I recently went through passport control once again—but this time in the US, as my husband’s job has returned us to the States. It was the first time I’d been back to America since we moved to the UK. Over on the baggage carousel waited my duffel bag with all my belongings—the same one I’d carried the opposite direction two years before. As I stood in line, I prepared myself, as always, to explain my qualifications to enter the country.

But this time things were different: when it was my turn, the agent didn’t ask me questions, fingerprint me, or give me a suspicious look. He simply stamped my passport, looked up at me, and said with a smile, “Welcome home.”

I’d love to know what “home” means to you—is it putting down roots, or simply where you are at the present moment? Has minimalism made you feel any differently about it? Please share your thoughts in the Comments. And once again, it’s great to “come home” to my blog and this wonderful community!

{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.}

The Miss Minimalist Collection: A Request and a Giveaway

Price: $0.99

A little while ago, a reader suggested I publish a “Miss Minimalist” collection of articles on Kindle (thank you, Sara!). Her logic: readers browsing Amazon for books on minimalism might never trip across my blog, and even those that do might prefer reading the articles in book format.

Why hadn’t I thought of that? As I’ve mentioned before, I love to write, but am not a very good salesperson or marketer. Thankfully, I have wonderful readers to give me a kick in the pants. :)

So I’ve done just that—I’ve gathered together sixty of my favorite blog posts, and bundled them into a $0.99 Kindle book:

Miss Minimalist: Inspiration to Downsize, Declutter, and Simplify

(No need to have a Kindle, by the way: Simply download one of the free Kindle apps from Amazon’s website, and you can read it on your PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Blackberry, Android, or Windows phone.)

Here’s my dilemma: with millions of titles on Amazon, a new book is virtually invisible until people buy it. Once it has some sales, it starts to pop up on various pages (like where it says “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought…”), enabling more people to discover it.

So that’s why I’m taking a deep breath, going against every grain of my nature, and asking you for help today.

If you enjoy my blog, I hope you’ll consider buying this Kindle ebook. The obvious question: if you can read all this on my website, what’s the point?

1. Convenience. To have a collection of articles that reads like a book, rather than clicking through the archives.

2. Posterity. To be able to enjoy these writings in the future, even if my blog disappears into a black hole someday.

3. Sharing. To gift or lend it to friends and family you’re encouraging to simplify (who may be more inclined to read a book than a blog).

4. Outreach. To spread the word about minimalist living, and attract more people to our little community here. (On Amazon, more sales means more visibility.)

5. Support. To help me introduce more people to The Joy of Less, and continue writing on this topic.

Rest assured, this is no grand moneymaking scheme; I’ll make about 30 cents for every copy sold. I’m simply trying to increase my visibility on Amazon, and provide you with something of value in the process.

That said, I’m going to put every penny of sales over the next four days into a giveaway: I would like to thank each of you who buys Miss Minimalist by entering you in a drawing for The Joy of Less.

Simply forward your Amazon receipt to me at ag8 AT missminimalist.com. Each email receipt will count as an entry (if you buy or gift multiple copies, send along all the receipts—there’s no limit to the number of entries per person). And don’t worry—the receipts don’t include any sensitive information like credit card details. You’re even welcome to delete out your name and address, if you wish; just make sure I have an email address at which to contact you!

I’ll give away one copy of The Joy of Less for every 25 entries. (If I get 50 entries, I’ll give away 2 copies; if 75, then 3; and so on…) That’s a 1 in 25 chance of winning—not bad, considering my previous giveaways had 300+ entries.

I’ll keep the giveaway open until this Friday, June 10, 5pm EDT. As always, I’ll choose the winners using the random number generator at Random.org. Winners can choose between a signed print copy or Kindle version.

Okay, a big thanks to all of you for reading and considering this. Believe me, if I could hole up in a cave and write all day—and never give a thought to sales or marketing—I’d do so in a heartbeat. And if someday I don’t need an income (LOL), that’s exactly what I’ll do. In the meantime, however, I have to make some kind of promotional effort to avoid drowning in obscurity.

Therefore, I pray that nobody’s offended by this request—and hope that some of you will choose to purchase my Miss Minimalist collection and participate in the giveaway. Either way, know that I appreciate all of you, and the support you’ve given me, immensely; I couldn’t imagine a more fabulous group of readers!

Empty, White, and Beautiful

For the first time in months, I feel like I’m back in my element. Let me explain…

My husband and I have been drifting since February—living in a succession of hotels and sublets—because we’re reluctant to commit to long-term housing. It’s an interesting, and liberating, way to live; the only downside is that most short-term housing is furnished, leaving you with little control over your visual environment.

One thing I’ve learned from this experience: my surroundings have a big psychological effect on me.

My last two “homes” both had brightly-colored walls, plenty of pictures and décor, and lots and lots and lots of furniture. Now, don’t get me wrong—these were lovely places that most people would find delightfully warm and charming.

I, on the other hand, could never quite adjust to all the visual stimulation—especially while trying to work from home. How I yearned for one blank wall to rest my gaze upon! It got to the point where I’d close my eyes, and imagine myself sitting in a stark white room—just for a few moments of mental peace and clarity.

Lest you dismiss this as the rantings of a crazy minimalist, scientists have found that a visually chaotic environment restricts your ability to focus. I have to say, I wholeheartedly agree!

But before you worry that my blog implodes because of this turn of events, I have happy news to report. This week, we moved into our latest abode, a small one-bedroom sublet in a converted factory. Oh, what a wondrous sight—high ceilings, huge windows, and glorious bare white walls!

Summer sublet

And since we’re finishing out the lease of the current tenants, we got a great deal by taking it unfurnished. After four months of navigating around other people’s sofas, tables, chairs, and desks, the emptiness is heavenly.

Overall, the effect is airy, ethereal, and serene—and makes my spirit feel the same.

I’ll admit, an unfurnished sublet is not the most practical choice. Since we’re only here for three months, and have no idea where we’ll move next, we won’t be acquiring much. But you know what? I’m looking forward to living this summer with the absolute minimum—a coffee table and a mattress, to be exact—and having plenty of space to do yoga. It’s a little like camping indoors. :)

Over the next few months, the property manager will be showing the place to potential new tenants. I can’t imagine what they’ll think of our sparsely-furnished space (that we’re strange? poor? on the lam?), but I honestly don’t care. Because at the moment, I am staring at this empty room, with its empty walls—and I can’t stop smiling.

Does anyone else have trouble concentrating in a cluttered room? Do you share my love for an empty, white space? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Drifting

Drifter {definition}: a person who goes from place to place, job to job, etc., remaining in each for a short period.

Two years ago, when I moved to the UK, I thought it was pretty impressive that I lived out of a duffel bag for six weeks.

Ha! I’ve been doing it now for over three months.

My husband and I gave up our flat in February, and decided we didn’t want to commit to any long-term housing options. Therefore, we’ve been in and out of hotels, sublets, and extended stays ever since.

In two weeks, we’ll be moving into our fifth “home” in less than a year (“home” being somewhere we’ve stayed longer than a month).

Last summer, my home was an 800-square-foot two-bedroom flat. That’s where I started this blog, and wrote my book.

Last fall, my home was a 390-square-foot one-bedroom with high ceilings and enormous windows. That was my first taste of tiny living.

Earlier this year, my home was an extended stay studio with yellow walls, green carpeting, a red sofa, and a small kitchenette. That’s where I filed my tax return.

Right now, my home is a 1200-square-foot apartment in a grand old Victorian mansion. Architecturally, it’s one of the most stunning places I’ve ever lived, but is filled top to bottom with someone else’s stuff. (I fantasize at least once a day about emptying it out and painting it white!) That’s where I’m writing this post.

Next month, my home will be a small one-bedroom in a converted warehouse, in close proximity to a lovely park.

I know it sounds like a royal pain to be always on the move, and hunting for new digs. Fortunately, though, we’ve been lucky enough to find nice accommodations; and moving day has been reduced to stuffing our bags in a cab and taking it across town. To be honest, this nomadic life has been quite easy and carefree—and dare I say, it’s begun to feel “normal.”

I remember when my husband and I bought our house back in 2003. It took about a month before it really felt comfortable to me, before I could walk around in the middle of the night without bumping into things.

Since then, my adjustment period has drastically decreased. Now it takes me all of a few hours, from the time I first plop down my duffel bag, to think of a new place as home—even if it’s furnished with stuff I’d never choose, or the closets are packed with someone else’s clothes.

I’ve become accustomed to (and quite fond of) the fact that the sum total of my possessions are in packing cubes in my duffel bag, a toiletry case in the bathroom, and a handful of cooking implements on the kitchen counter.

I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like to put my clothing in a closet, my books on a shelf, my spices in a drawer, or my lotions and potions in a medicine cabinet. It feels like ages since I’ve slept in my own bed, or received mail at a regular address. I’ve become adept at tracking things down on an as-needed basis: I’ve borrowed office supplies from hotel reception desks, cleaning supplies from housekeeping, and kitchen supplies from various landlords.

Furthermore, I now analyze the portability of every potential possession. I buy shampoo, laundry detergent, and olive oil in the smallest bottles possible. I calculate whether I have room in a packing cube for a new shirt or pair of socks. And yesterday, I passed on buying a bag of flour because I didn’t want the hassle of moving it in two weeks.

Most importantly, though, drifting from place to place has changed my way of thinking. Lately, I’ve been contemplating, do we ever really own anything? Whether it’s books, clothing, tchotchkes, cars, or even houses, things feel radically less permanent to me. In the grand scheme of things, it seems they’re all on temporary loan until we can’t (or don’t want to) use them anymore—at which point we pass them along, or they get passed along for us.

As such, I think material things deserve far less attention than we tend to give them. I’ve become more and more enamored with the notion of the itinerant monk, wandering with only what he can carry and meeting his needs on the go. Sure, I’ll never reach that level, but I like it all the same. :)

I’ve become acutely aware of how possessions can needlessly complicate things. If I were carting around a houseful of stuff, this past year would have been nothing short of a nightmare. However, it’s been just the opposite: minimalism has made this experience surprisingly pleasant and enjoyable. As someone who thrives on change, I love the novelty of trying out a variety of neighborhoods and living arrangements. I like the idea of not knowing where I’ll be three months down the road.

I can certainly see the value of having roots, a community, a permanent address. But given our current situation, it’s just not in the cards right now. We’ll likely be drifting for the foreseeable future, and to tell you the truth, I don’t mind a bit.

{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.}

The Joy of Less Named to Amazon’s Best Books of 2010

bestof2010Wow! I just received an email from a reader, congratulating me on my book being named to Amazon’s “Best Books of 2010.” To be honest, I had no idea what she was talking about – but oh my goodness, it’s true!

The Joy of Less has been chosen as one of the “Top 10 Books” of 2010 in the Home & Garden category. If you scroll down, you’ll see it at #6. I never hoped, nor dreamed, of receiving such an honor—not to mention being in the same company as the likes of Bill Bryson. :-)

I’m pretty shy when it comes to self-promotion, so I hope you’ll excuse my little happy dance here. I poured my heart, soul, and countless hours into writing those 286 pages, with the hope that its message—that less stuff can mean more happiness—would resonate with a few readers. I’m grateful, and truly humbled, that it’s been so well-received.

Most of all, though, I’d like to thank you—every one of you who has purchased my book, requested it from your library, reviewed it on your blog, or recommended it to a friend. You are the reason for its success, plain and simple. You inspired me to write it, you kept me motivated to finish it, and you celebrated with me when I published it. I wish I could give each of you a big hug and thank you personally, as these words I’m typing can’t begin to express my love and gratitude.

In writing the book, I wanted to convey that anyone can live a joyful life with less stuff—you don’t have to ditch your house, travel the world, or live out of a backpack. In fact, the benefits of decluttering can be even more powerful when you’re raising kids, making mortgage payments, and doing the 9-to-5. Simply getting rid of some excess stuff can energize you, liberate you, and change your entire perspective on life.

I thought if that message touched just one person, and helped them live a happier life, it’d be worth all the effort. But thanks to you, it’s touched more people than I ever imagined. Thank you so much for spreading the word, and helping The Joy of Less reach so many. I couldn’t have done it without you!

Radical Downsizing

tinykitchen2-sA little over a year ago, my husband and I were living in a 1000-square-foot, 3-bedroom house with a 2-car garage and postage stamp backyard.

Now we’re living in a 390-square-foot, 1-bedroom apartment.

I have to admit: I loved the idea of such a radical downsizing, but wasn’t quite sure how it’d work out in practice. But you know what? So far, we’re functioning perfectly well in about one-third of our former space.

Here are the differences between our former (larger) house and current (tiny) flat:

Former house: 3 bedrooms
Tiny flat: 1 bedroom
Thoughts: Having three bedrooms was a lot of wasted space for us. We turned two of them into offices; however, I rarely used mine, preferring to work (on my laptop) in the living room instead. We’ve found one bedroom to be adequate for our current needs, but may opt for two in the future (the extra could serve as an office/guest room/flex space).

Former house: large, eat-in kitchen
Tiny flat: compact kitchen in corner of living room
Thoughts: I love having an open-plan kitchen, and the lack of space has been a great disincentive to accumulating excess culinary gadgets and appliances.

Former house: full-size refrigerator
Tiny flat: small, dorm-size refrigerator
Thoughts: When we first moved in, I thought the tiny fridge would be a problem – but surprisingly, it hasn’t been an issue at all. We’re a five-minute walk from the grocery store, and have found we prefer spontaneous meal-planning to bulk-buying or stocking up.

Former house: laundry room
Tiny flat: small washer/dryer combo in kitchen cupboard
Thoughts: If the unit worked well, this wouldn’t be a problem. However, it’s a temperamental bugger, and I often resort to hand-washing and air-drying rather than fight with it. I really don’t mind, though – there’s a certain simplicity and mindfulness to it.

Former house: two-car garage, two cars
Tiny flat: no parking space, no car
Thoughts: My husband commutes to work by rail and foot, and we take the train or bus on our weekend jaunts. We heart public transit!

Former house: front and back yards, garden
Tiny flat: public parks, pot of herbs on the windowsill
Thoughts: We miss having a garden (but not mowing the lawn!). For now, we’re content with growing some herbs and frequenting farmers’ markets – but in the future, it would be nice to have a small plot of land.

Former house: basement full of equipment and tools
Tiny flat: shoebox with a handful of small tools (hammer, screwdriver, etc.)
Thoughts: Since we’re living in a rental, we’re not responsible for maintenance and repairs; after owning an old house, that’s been quite a relief!

Former house: two offices
Tiny flat: ziplock bag of supplies in a kitchen drawer
Thoughts: Most of our work is done digitally, so we really don’t need a roomful (or two) of office equipment and supplies. A few envelopes, paperclips, pens, pencils, tape, etc. have been enough.

Former house: two bookshelves full of books
Tiny flat: a handful of books
Thoughts: Ebooks are my minimalist dream come true. If I can’t get something from the library, I purchase the Kindle version. Since another overseas move is likely in our future, I’m determined not to accumulate physical books.

Former house: TV
Tiny flat: no TV
Thoughts: If you own a TV in the UK, you must pay a yearly TV tax. We decided to skip the expense of the TV, cable, and tax by forgoing it altogether. We occasionally watch shows or movies on our laptops (via iTunes).

Former house: attic
Tiny flat: no storage
Thoughts: As I say in my book, stuff expands to fill the space available. Having less storage space makes it much easier to be a minimalist!

Former house: 21 normal-sized windows
Tiny flat: 4 enormous windows
Thoughts: 17 less windows to clean!

Former house: doing repairs and maintenance on the weekends
Tiny flat: traveling and hiking on the weekends
Thoughts: :-)

Overall, I’m really enjoying our tiny-living experience. It’s fascinating to see “how low we can go” and still meet our needs – without many of the things we once considered necessities.

In our consumer society, downsizing is often associated with deprivation. Our experience, however, has been the opposite: living with less has given us an incredible sense of freedom, happiness, and spontaneity.

Have you ever done a radical downsizing (or do you dream of it)? If so, tell us about it in the Comments!

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