My cat and I live in a 220 square foot studio apartment.
People seem to be intrigued by this. A co-worker commented that his garage is more than twice this size. Many wonder how I fit my “stuff” into this space. They’re even more perplexed when they find out that I’ve chosen to live in a space this size, after downsizing twice in the past 5 years.
My decision to live in less and less space is part of my larger evolving worldview. Though I’ve always had a respect for the natural world, I didn’t always aspire to reduce my impact and live with as little as possible. In fact, I spent most of my twenties chasing “more” and “better”. But as the years passed, and I delved into health, spirituality, and conscious living, I developed an awareness about how stuff isn’t just stuff. Stuff takes resources to create, it affects the lives of everyone who touches it, and then it needs to go somewhere after it’s outlived its usefulness. I began to notice that people around the world lived comfortably with a lot less. This awareness led to questions about the value of my stuff.
A big life event in 2009 was the final push that set me on my path towards simplicity and minimalism. My stuff seemed increasingly excessive and cumbersome. I purged the 800 square foot house that I lived in, and then I sold the house. I’ve always been an adventurer at heart. I felt trapped by the house and the activities required by homeownership, and I had long since let go of the need to own things in order to feel legitimate. So in my mid 30s I packed up what was left of my stuff and moved into a 450 square foot apartment.
I wish that I had taken photos of what I moved, but I didn’t realize that I was on a journey at that time. At first the new apartment felt small, even though I had already reduced my belongings by half. I struggled to fit my possessions into the available closets and cupboards, but slowly, over the four years that I lived there, I removed the stuff that I had kept but never used. I didn’t have collections or a lot of sentimental items, but I had kept a lot of things representing the person that I thought I should be. You know, the person who held quaint dinner parties with friends (though I hated to cook), the person who knitted chunky cable knit sweaters (when it took me a year to knit a simple scarf), or the person who read well-respected novels (when I preferred to read biographies and travelogues). These are all terrific endeavors, but they weren’t mine. I had to face the fact that I had outgrown my love of knitting, I would probably always dislike cooking, and I might read fiction once a year. I let go, and I purged some more.
Though I loved my little one-bedroom, I started to get bored. I was itching to move. I had learned that I was someone who preferred to be out seeing and doing rather than settling in at home, so I didn’t need the 450 square feet. It was at this point that I considered moving to a smaller space. Could I do it? I started to pare down again in preparation for a move to my current home.
This was what I moved, along with a queen sized bed not pictured.
Surprisingly, I needed/wanted even less post-move. I continue to cast off the stuff that no longer serves me, and I carefully evaluate each item before I choose to bring it into my home and my life.
Do I miss anything that I got rid of over the past five years? I can honestly say that I can’t even remember what I passed along. Is it hard living in a studio? No. When I first moved it was an adjustment getting used to doing everything in one room. Oddly, after years of sleeping in a separate room it felt weird to sleep in the living room. Otherwise, living in a smaller space is easier than living in a larger space. It’s faster to clean, I can stand in one spot to prepare food in the kitchen, and I’ve learned that I enjoy my bed being the center of my space.
I understand that this life isn’t for everyone, but I think that there is always value in evaluating your stuff. Through the process of learning to live with less, I’ve become better at detaching myself from things. I still appreciate beautiful things but I don’t feel the need to own them, and I’m not distraught if something slips from my possession. Living this way is lighter. I’m concerned less with my stuff so that I can be more concerned with living my life.
Do you feel buried by your stuff, or do you just want to make your space easier to maintain? I suggest that you evaluate your possessions using just two questions.
Do I use it?
Do I love it?
If the answer to both of those questions is “no” then do yourself a favor and release the item from your life. It will give you the strength and space that you need to meet your next adventure.
How do you feel about stuff? Have you ever tried living with less? I’d love to hear about your thoughts and experiences so please comment below.