Feb 21, 2011

Guest Blogger: Ten Tips For Simplifying Your Space

Please welcome guest blogger Margaret Everton, an architecture design writer who often focuses on how good design can affect behavior. Before consulting privately, she received her MA in writing and ran a design boutique in Los Angeles. See her at places like www.houzz.com.

When considering a serious downsize, you may scratch your head at where to begin. It can be stressful, especially in the current economy, to think of letting go of possessions. But take heart: you aren’t simply pushing your life out the door for a sparse existence. You’re taking steps to simplify and add greater abundance to your living. Here are ten steps to get you on your way.

Evaluate the object in question. Try to go through each item with a wider perspective. Ask yourself if you’ve been keeping this object because it has value itself to appreciate (your grandmother’s silver that you use), or if it simply has sentiment attached to it. In most instances, the memories attached (that are the real value) still remain when the cluttered item is gone.

Reconsider how you archive. Along those lines, consider how archives can help you get rid of stuff. Rather than keeping around a red cake stand that your mother gave you (that, face it, you’ll never use )simply because you can’t face the guilt of letting it go—consider keeping a log of the meaningful things that have passed through your life. Take great photos. Keep detailed journals.

Let go and allow yourself to evolve. Clearing out the stuff in your life is the outdated you making way for the new you. This can be unbelievably clarifying as you give yourself permission to reassess and change for the better.

Allow for visual quiet. Just as an artist needs a blank canvas, a writer a blank page, blank space in your home can provide for peace and unexpected creative releases. Love your things, but balance the design in your home with aesthetic quiet.

Keep or acquire multi-purpose furniture. Whether you’re downsizing to simplify or fit into a new dwelling, you’ll want to re-evaluate the role of your furniture in your home. We recently got rid of a guest bed that was taking up an entire room and are replacing it with a chic fold-out couch. Create a dining room that can be both daytime office and evening dining space. Make your sideboard offer coffee up top and hide your kids’ toys within. You get the point.

Keep true toys for the kids. Where kids are involved, it can be extra challenging to downsize. Studies have shown that fewer toys enhance creativity and encourage deeper play. True toys (ones with multipurposes and that can grow with the child—such as blocks) can be so much more versatile and interesting in a small space. Plus you’ll watch your child’s imagination actually improve in the process. Pretty cool.

Stick to one collection. No, slimming down doesn’t mean getting rid of all of your beloveds. In fact, it’s making more room for them. If you’re not a minimalist at heart, consider focusing on one collection. Art. Copper pots. Little strange robots. I, for instance, no matter what the cost will not get rid of my books. The library is simple to balance this collection. Balance is good.

Remember that outer simplicity is the start. Keep in mind that something is driving your desire to simplify. It’s not just about the stuff. Whatever your motivation, the outer clutter is simply a place to start. From here you can enhance your daily life with a slower focus, or start to really design the space that fits you perfectly right now.

Remember the scarcity/abundance balance. Along those lines, we keep our stuff to create a sense of abundance. Think oppositely. Think how keeping simple is the better way. Make greener choices that produce less waste (for hints, check out The Zero Waste Home http://www.zerowastehome.blogspot.com/). Find abundance by filling your space with less items made of better quality.

Be the guard at the door. Letting things go won’t matter in the long run if you don’t radically change your paradigm. Think smaller, simpler, sparser. We gave our kids the image of the Buckingham Palace guards, who move for no one. Be a snob about what comes into your home, and make your new space exactly what you’re dreaming of.

Post script. I’m not just talking the talk. This month, my husband and two young kids participated in what we named The Great Awesome Cleanout. We radically swept through our home and so far have donated about 1/3 of our stuff. It is so freeing to be so deliberate about our dwelling. And the stuff we bade farewell? In our six-year-old’s own words: “Whew. We can breathe!”

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