keeping it simple.
by victoria comment


when i move, the space i occupy is bound to be much smaller. there’s no doubt about that. san francisco rents are at an all time high, so i need to spare down and keep it simple. i’m really okay with that. i collect (dare i say hoard? no!) stuff that i really don’t need or use as often as i should to justify their presence in my home. so homes like this one from bostad erikolsson are quite inspiring to me right now. how to scale down? what to keep and what should go? i’m only keeping the pieces i really truly covet. any keen advice you have to spare on how you keep it simple is most welcome! wish me luck!

53 responses to “keeping it simple.”

  1. I recently moved from a very small house, which I absolutely loved and shared with my son, he is off to college and I moved into a very large home (to me) with my partner. He loves spare, I collect and hoard. So I had to compromise. I hand picked my favorite things from my collection and then I stored the other stuff in a public storage unit ($55.00). I found that I love the pared down collection, I can see and swoon over a particular piece and I am so much more conscious of what I collect. I truly have enough stuff, and now when I collect they are usually presents. Long answer, but kinda my MO these days. Love your post today.

  2. My rule of thumb: If the piece, furniture or decorative chachka, does not serve a functional purpose or provoke a fond memory, it must go. Projects in progress are harder to toss. In that case, I ask myself “if I haven’t worked on this project in the last 2 years, what makes me reeeeally think I will attack it this year!?” Letting go is hard — try to view it as clearing & opening the way to seeing the stuff of real importance. Good luck!

  3. My advice remains the same – don’t get rid of things you might miss. It costs a heck of a lot to replace those beautiful things later. We’ve moved so many times – and, actually there’s only one thing I really wish we’d kept. We thought we would move to a tiny place but we’re actually in a huge house!

  4. My best tip for minimizing your belongings is that after you’ve moved, you don’t use any storage for the first couple of weeks. No cabinets, boxes, baskets, shelves etc. Just put everything you own on the floor and any other surface available. (I know this sounds crazy but bare with me.) This will a) make you see exactly how much stuff you have and what it is, and b) make you so tired of looking at everything that you’ll want to throw it all out and c) sort out your stuff for you, because whatever is not on top of the piles after a few weeks is stuff you haven’t used and won’t need.

    Of course you still need to purge before you move, but this method works great as a boost, and makes you get rid of much more stuff than you initially thought you could.

    • Emma, that is a truly unique and interesting approach! I’m not moving any time soon but I’m definitely going to file that idea away.

    • hard core, emma! but i like it! my mum actually used to do this with my stuff when i was little. a little bit ‘mommy dearest’ but it made me organize and clean and purge. thanks! :)

      • It would be interesting to find out how many mom’s cleared out their daughter’s cherished things. Hmmm. Emma, I tried that and in one impulsive desparate thought decided to keep it all. But I will meditate on the idea, it sounds liberating.

    • I recently did the exact same thing Emma is talking about. While it is definitely a complete nightmare to live with, you really see how many things you own but truly do not need! For two people living in a small one-bedroom apartment, who both have lots of hobbies, it was incredibly hard to let go of certain things, but it all led to making room for a dedicated workspace for my business. Plus, it has changed the way my man views his overgrown book collection, thrifting escapades, and general love of finding a good deal on something–just because you like it doesn’t mean you need to live with it! In all, it was totally worth the one-week nightmare of sort out our stuff!

  5. i just downsized myself into a smaller NY apt and it feels more spacious than much bigger places I’ve lived because I ditched most of my furniture and made new furniture with lots of built-in storage. It brings a lot of harmony to the place as a whole and gives it a kind of organized serenity (while letting me keep the things I love neatly stowed away).

  6. Let friends borrow it long term. When my boyfriend moved across the country, he let his friends have a few pieces he couldn’t part with (like his Eames chairs). My parents have loaned out nice pieces of furniture to family friends that they didnt want sitting in the garage/storage but didn’t want to sell. This way, your stuff gets used and enjoyed and (assuming you have good friends) you can get stuff back the day you move into a bigger place.

  7. hello victoria,
    i am sorry to hear that you are having to move-out.
    i have moved from sf to australia and back, so my tricks for clearing the clutter are tried and true.

    1. does what you have lift your energy or make you truly happy when you look at it?
    2. do you positively love it? in spite of loving it, are there some sad feelings attached to it?
    3. is it genuinely useful?

    i found that reading clearing your clutter by karen kingston to be extremely useful when we moved.
    i hope this helps!

    all the best of luck in finding your new home!!

  8. I would agree with Emma. I live in 340 sq. ft. and that’s how I did it. Everything was put on drop cloths on the floor and put away as I used them. It looks like a dump for awhile, but as you put things away and they start to pile up, you trade them for what you really want. That way you only have the essentials and it’s really nice to be able to breathe once the clutter is gone. Good luck!

  9. Our space is bitty, really truly–and we had to get rid of lots of things before we moved in–but I can honestly say that while I miss the actual spaciousness of our old apartment, I don’t miss the stuff we left behind. I’ve always kept a pretty spartan home so it’s not as if our old place was overflowing with things, it’s just that I knew that much of what we did have would never fit in the new place (240 sq. feet) and wasn’t terribly precious anyway. In a sense, I did the opposite of Emma’s technique above. Before we moved, when we still had the benefit of a much bigger apartment, I began to make a pile of things that I thought I could part with. Over the course of a week or so, I added to and took away from the pile and slowly but surely I started to be able to make sense of what I really thought I would miss, and what now just looked like unnecessary (and unemotional!) stuff. Anything that didn’t call out desperately from the giveaway pile, I gave away or sold or otherwise left behind. Does that make sense? Courage, friend! You’ll be just fine.

  10. oh! love this. i agree with everyone.

    when i left sf for the east bay, i was merciless (no choice, no storage and no space in our new home). the most striking is this:

    1. i kept all the books, we have thousands of books. love.
    2. i got rid of all my antique whosits and whatsits. when i was in my twenties and thirties these were emblems of my taste and personality. now we just have a few great pieces of furniture. and great rugs.
    3. two years later, i miss nothing of what’s gone.

  11. We are currently having our floors refinished which is quite similar to moving. We’ve packed up most of our belongings. I plan on following Emma’s technique while putting things back. Thanks, Emma!

  12. I moved 5 months ago from a 2 bedroom house with a garage to a 1 bedroom with a storage cabinet the size of a kitchen cabinet. I run my handmade biz out of my home, too, so I knew I had to keep all of my supplies and inventory and make room for it in the new place. That meant getting rid of a lot of stuff… My first approach was that if it was still in a box from the LAST time I moved, it had to go. I donated lots of text books from college and took the ones I could still use to work to keep at my desk. If I didn’t love it, or could use it for something useful, it went in the donate pile.

    I’ve been moved in for a while, now, but I’m still making a point of going through my closets and pulling things out to donate. It feels really good to live with less!

  13. I have moved many times in the past few years, and the more I move the more I get rid of things. One question I ask myself is “yes, I like this thing, but do I like it enough that I would buy it now?” Often the answer is no, especially if the item was a gift. I’ve liked it enough to keep it around, but if I wouldn’t spend money on it today, I probably don’t need it and won’t miss it if I get rid of it. Another thing that helps me part with things is finding them a new home. If I have craft supplies that I wish I could use but never have time to touch, its less painful to give them to a friend who I know will use them than to just drop a bag at the thrift store. If I feel like an item will be loved and used elsewhere, it is easier to part with. I’ve also learned than even when you hate to part with something, if your new space is complete without it, you won’t miss it. When I got divorced my ex kept some of my favorite furniture, but in my current home, craming that stuff in would be more of a burden than a pleasure. My home is simple and complete as is, and ready for my next move.

    • i like this practice too, and have been donating much of my things to the makeshift society. so at least while i’m working there, i’ll get to visit my former belongings. books are the hardest for me. i’m going to donate/loan/store a bunch at makeshift, too.

      and i’ll probably donate a boatload of art supplies to some local spots around the city.

  14. I feel sort of schizophrenic about this subject. I love the feeling of letting go of things and having the freedom of negative space, however I have parted with some dearly loved items in the last year that were antique and I miss some of them so much.
    Using the utilitarian approach just doesn’t always work for those of us that are attached to their belongings. Sometimes the amazing feelings you get just looking at an object are so good that not using them isn’t such a bother.
    I really admire your positive attitude about this move Victoria, you seem to really roll with the punches.
    Good luck with your search and I echo the storage pod idea at least temporarily.

    • I agree with you, and have had the very same experience. there are those people that are minimalists and those that feel. But it’s silly sometimes how you can get such a comfortable, happy feeling by just looking at your stuff. So glad to see I’m not the only one. Good comment, thx.

  15. i read this article, and then multiple similar articles, on living simply. simplifying your life to just one hundred possessions. just before i graduated college i started making my list, my one hundred things to keep, pack, and move. i must have tried to make the list a dozen times and would get to about sixty and realize i hadn’t even made it out of my bedroom yet. i kept getting stuck, does a pair of shoes count as one item, or two? do i really only have room on my list for one spoon, fork, and knife.. maybe i need to switch to sporks. and then i gave up. and threw out the list and the idea of simplifying to one hundred things, but in the process i realized i didn’t need, or want, a good amount of the things i’d collected to that point. now, three and some years later, i could stand to make some lists again. lists always help me realize and prioritize.

  16. Love all the suggestions. I spent the last 2 years working for the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company and you quickly learn the value of keeping what you need and needing what you keep. I’ve lived in 120 sq. ft before and the purge I did before that move was so therapeutic. I’m also a firm believer of making the space you live in feel like home. There are certain things that survive every move. Those things stay.

  17. these are all such great ideas. i’ve never heard of emmas’s — wow.

    i try to live by the william morris quote, “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

    but something elaine st. james wrote years ago really affected me, too: what would you grab in case of a fire? that says it all.

    and v., you could always downsize to a small boat with little storage. or pretend you are. :)

  18. Oh, what a lovely place! I’ve never been a minimalist – am sure I liked the more-more look even when I was a baby! But that looks so… clean, fresh, clear. Am looking at my place now…
    I rented a BIG place on my own before I bought my smaller house. I foolishly bought a couple of things while there that are just the wrong scale for my house. One of them cost me quite a bit, and reminds me of a holiday I took. I’m not parting with it, so am making it earn its keep – it’s now got TV, stereo, DVD, VHS player (yes!) and speakers on it. One day, if I can ever afford a small extension, I will make sure there is space for it. HA – that’s because I haven’t convinced my brother to give it a home!

    But I’m going to keep coming back to these images – and I’ve saved some of the advice in the comments (thanks folks!) to inspire the contined purging of stuff..

    Good luck Victoria and Lucy – may you find a house that is truly home for you both xx

  19. I really liked this looks me contemporary and a little bit touch of Victorian style in one or two images. These picture make to see the very nice white interiors and I really like to follow of my own.

  20. Good luck! I wish I could share some words of wisdom, but unfortunately when I moved to a technically smaller place, I still kept everything. I just put what couldn’t fit in storage. Didn’t make the husband happy, but my heart was. ;)

    p.s. Can’t wait to see your new space! Your images are always so inspiring!

  21. ohmygosh, i love everything about this apartment, it’s perfect! my boyfriend and i live in a tiny 1 bed flat in london and i’m constantly wishing we had more space… i’m loving all these tips! i’m pretty good a de-cluttering when i move but then it just builds up!
    hope the move goes well :)

  22. I wish you luck in paring down. I notice in my apartment that I have objects that are about the size of my head: a convenient measuring tool. So I put the brakes on further acquisitions. I also noticed that they are arranged in vignettes according to color combinations. That’s just something I love. The thing I DO want to really fix is the amount of paper I have. I work at home, and I also save old letters and home decorating design files, and manuels for gadgets. On all fronts, there will be a time when I need to be ruthless.

  23. Bummer about the move but I admire your spin on it – letting go of things you don’t really need – inspiring to all of us. I am always surprised how much lighter I feel when I travel and have limited clothes/stuff with me…now to make home feel like that…that is the challenge!

    You might take a look at Karen Kingston’s “Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui”. Regardless of how you feel about the Feng Shui thing she has some very good questions to ask yourself when trying to pare down. She goes by room by room. Anytime I need to be RUTHLESS I reread her book – and get those Good Will boxes out of the house before I backslide into keeping stuff “just in case”…

    Happy clearing!

  24. Well, I tried going the simple way when I moved and regretted everything I gave away and I decided that I like my stuff and the “clutter” is what makes me feel comfortable as well as anybody else that comes into my house. Take as much as you can with you and give it away after when you see what works in your new place and what doesn’t. You’ ll need the old familar stuff to adapt emotionally to your new place, then clear out, otherwise you end up feeling like you gave up so much and the mood goes down. It’s an extra pressure to think of what to keep and what not, put it in storage and deal with it later if you have to.

  25. I’ve just done a big move from one city to another. This obviously calls for desperate measures… It might not be the right thing for you, but here’s how I did it:

    1) I started long before I thought was necessary.
    2) I, too, kept the William Morris quote in the back of my head when deciding what to get rid of – and as far as possible, I tried to keep an item only if I found it both useful and beautiful.
    3) When I had a nice collection of things I wanted to give away, I made arrangements with all my friends to stop by and take whatever they want. This was really, really nice – it made the process so much easy and fun! I got to see everyone before I moved, and people happily hauled away about half of my belongings. I also told them that they are welcome to pass it on to others if they get tired of it.
    4) I gave a lot to The Salvation Army shops (I guess this is the Norwegian equivalent to Goodwill?) because they’ve provided me with lots of cool clothes over the years.
    5) I sold some of my furniture, and the money I earned is earmarked for upholstering the few pieces of furniture I’m keeping.

    I think there’s a lot of great advice in these comments, and I’m sure that you’ll figure everything out throughout the process.

  26. When we moved from austin to sf, we had to scale down big time. I loved it though. I love living in smaller places, LESS TO CLEAN! I love throwing stuff away or donating it. SF made us realize that we don’t really need so many materialistic things. I also hate clutter :)

    I am in love with that space above! I hope you can simplify your life, maybe this moving is a blessing is disguise….!

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