Earlier this summer, I caught up with a new friend, Maria. We were chatting away at a party and she asked me all kinds of questions about my work as an organizer, what I enjoyed about it, how I perform the work, and promote my business. All really great questions that I love to answer because I sharing my knowledge and philosophy around bringing order and beauty into a space.
I remembered Maria telling me how she lived in a very small space, roughly 200 square feet, and I asked her how she ended up in such a tiny space. She told me all about the cross-country moves (yes, moves as in plural ... ugh) and how she continued to pare down her things between each move and what led her to her current home in Ballard.
I couldn't get her story out of my head and she graciously agreed to an interview.
How did you end up in this apartment? Have you always lived in a small space?
It all started with four bookcases; sixteen inches deep by six feet tall that I shipped across the country. It was expensive - the cost is calculated by weight times distance. It's expensive! My first move was was North Carolina to Texas. I later moved to Seattle, back to Texas, then to Montana, and the Arctic. I've been back in Seattle the last year and a half.
I pared down when I left North Carolina. I had friends over and stickered all the items that I wasn't going to move with me. I used to own a ton of art, like these huge sculptures.
Do you regret giving away any of the art?
Not sad enough that I'd want it back. I would need cathedral ceilings! It's interesting moving to other parts of the country - a standard apartment in Texas was around 900 square feet with vaulted ceilings and a fireplace. Yes, a fireplace! Then you move north and everything is much smaller.
Do you feel like you are missing anything by living in a smaller home?
It would be nice to have a slightly larger place so I could have a couch for extra seating and entertaining.
How do you deal with receiving gifts, especially things that you don't have a use for?
People still give me stuff but I let friends know around my birthday that I would really like experiences. Cook me dinner or take me out to eat! If something is bigger than a cup of coffee, I don't really know what the hell to do with it! I want to put things I find along the way on my shelves instead of displaying gifted objects. It's more meaningful for me to have these kind of keepsakes.
What are your recommendations on digital storage?
Did you notice I don't store any paper? It was a big project in the beginning but i took all of my paper to work and scanned everything. Insurance policies, receipts from the doctor's office, even sentimental things like a birthday card. I had a two-drawer file cabinet and it took about two weeks to scan and name all the files. Everything is in Google drive.
Do you consider yourself a minimalist?
I do. I love minimalism. It doesn't mean you have to give up anything. It just means to stop and think about what you do have and if it works for you.
I had a friend who really wanted a riding tractor mower. Everything he needed to get it, maintain it, store it just made things more complicated. After a lot of frustration, he discovered a push mower. He lost weight from the physical activity and even found sharpening blades a zen and calming task. Ultimately, the thing he thought he wanted didn't really work for him.
Also, as a photographer, I only use my cell phone to take pictures so no "real" camera is another move in my minimal lifestyle (that would mean investing in a special bag for it and all the accessories which I don't have room for). My requirements for using my phone as my camera are it must accept an SD card, it needs to feel good in my hand, meaning that it's lightweight and slim.
I'm using the Moto X Pure by Motorola. I bought the phone direct from Motorola so it's unlocked and when I travel off the continent, I just switch out the SIM card. When you buy from the manufacturer, you get less bloatware added.
What advice do you have for people who are exploring minimalism and simplifying?
You need to ask yourself a couple questions. What's your goal? Do you want more physical space? Look at what you have. There'a a difference between what you need and what you want. Needs come first, wants come second.
I learned so much while talking with Maria. Whether you identify as a minimalist or you just want to make some more space in your home, she offers some pretty sound advice. She focuses on experiences like traveling instead of stuff. If you want to check out her photography, you can follow her on Instagram here.
This wouldn't be complete without a tour of her home - check out what she's done with her space!
I love seeing all the open space in the storage areas in the bathroom. Nothing is packed in and she still has room!
She still has a decent amount of kitchen storage for dishes and dry goods. You can see a few containers in there to keep items neat and visible. Her entire closet is about the size of my seasonal capsule wardrobe and it surprised me how much room was in there.