What are you without your possessions?

IMG_4405Forget the Dwell photos, this is what it really looks like for one adult, two kids, a dog and a cat live in 750 square feet. I, like most freshly divorced people, downsized significantly—I moved into a space that is approximately 25% of the size of my previous house. It had been more than 15 years since I lived in an apartment, and I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Surround sound was definitely overkill, as it would rumble the ceiling of the apartment below me. I had a small patio that a bistro set for three would barely fit on. Gone were the years worth of seed starting, gardening and the subsequent need for canning supplies. I mourned the loss pulling out a jar of tomatoes and basil grown in my garden to use to tenderize a pot roast as it baked in my crockpot on a blistering winter day. However, the farmer’s market is just a few blocks away from the new space and I can easily acquire all the fresh produce I desire.

Downsizing is about finding new ways to use less space and resources to function. Over the past few years I have come up with a few essential tips to moving into a smaller space

  • Take on a new way of looking at your space and your belongings. While the footprint of the apartment is small, the ceilings are high—so it makes sense to go vertical. I gathered a multitude of hooks and devices to hang gear on the walls: skateboards, snowboards, a bow and arrows, etc. all take on a decorative look when hanged on a wall.
  • There is no room for things my sons and I do not love: my grandmothers bamboo dresser and carved heads her brother found in Bali in his travels, my mother’s china, my grandfather’s clock, pottery from the boys elementary school days. I found that by passing things we no longer use or need on, we have created space for new things to come into our lives.
  • Organization is key. In a small space everything item needs a home, and that home needs to be convenient to using it and putting it away. A small space gets messy quickly, and, for me, peace of mind comes with eliminating clutter.
  • Storage is essential. Lets face it some things need to be stored, like camping gear and painting supplies. After a year of having every closet stuffed to the brim, I found a storage unit a few blocks away. The extra 8 x 10 foot storage space opened up gobs of new living space. We put a study desk in the boys’ closet, and surprisingly decided to get rid of a few more items we did not use and we decided they were not worth storing.
  • You probably own supplies to do most things. Look around your space before going to the store—can you alter a recipe to use ingredients on hand, or recycle other items to meet your needs? I got rid of most kitchen utensils that have only one function. Get outside! Urban living means loads of events going on all the time, and public transportation is easier to use. When we get cabin fever we get outside—concerts, museums, libraries, hiking, snowboarding, or just walking the dog.

As Patagonia founder, Yvon Chouinard, says, “..simplify your life. It’s a lot more satisfying.”