# Clutter

Living with LESS

For the past two weeks we have tried a radical experiment chez nous to see how we get along living with less. I'm talking a lot less. This wasn't necessarily by choice. It all started when we refinished the hardwood floors in our apartment. We had to take all of our furniture out. We removed everything from our home save the beds, side tables and dining room table. We even boxed up most of our clothing and saved just a few pieces in a suitcase (more on this interesting observation in a moment).

A while back, I recommended Marie Kondo's book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Ms. Kondo writes about radically getting rid of your possessions to understand the freedom of living with less. I was so happy I had read her book before doing this because I was quite excited to see how we would fare. It turns out (save for a few files and my beloved piano)... We didn't miss anything!

What a surprising verdict! We are quite minimal with our belongings anyway compared to the average family, but over the years with two little ones, we did acquire quite the collection of this and that.

One of the most surprising results is that the children didn't miss their toys! Their little playroom (which was really a play corner) was filled with bins of blocks, legos, dolls and art supplies among many other things. This space frustrated me because I felt it offered too much choice for them. They would play with one thing, get distracted and them move on to the next without putting anything away. Now with the toys all stored away, we bring out one puzzle, or get an art project going or keep out a rotation of around 5 books and they are still as happy as they were with all of their toys. In fact, they have been prompted to use their imagination more and have created things to do (like making a "midnight soup" from old food in the refrigerator). And what about those clutter hot spots and stagnant spaces as discussed in At Home With Madame Chic? With less possessions to begin with, the cleanup of these areas has been dramatically reduced.

The clothing experiment is also quite telling. It has been the ten-item wardrobe on a diet. We are all wearing the same three or four pieces over and over again. There is less laundry, we still look great and there is no question about what to wear in the morning. Now, don't worry, I'm not going down to a three-item wardrobe (!), this is only temporary, but this radical experiment has really opened my eyes to the fact that we can not only live comfortably with less belongings, we can thrive.

Living with less encourages me to only bring items into my home that I adore and to constantly reassess what I have.

Check out this week's video for the full discussion. If you are unable to see the video above, click here, look in the sidebar of this blog, or check out my channel (and subscribe!): www.youtube.com/TheDailyConnoisseur **

I am quoted in Bankrate this week in an article called, Living Luxuriously for Less.

Madame Chic Inspiring Thought
Take one room in your home this week and get radical with it. Take out excess furniture, any clutter and all items that don't belong in that room. See what living in that room is like after you remake it. Enjoy its simplicity and use that room as a springboard to enjoy the same process to other rooms in your home.

Comment(s) of the Week
On Life at Home: Get Some Sleep, Alexa writes:

Naps, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee after a good night's sleep. I love thee after a bad night's sleep.

Naps seem to smooth out all the rough edges. Even a short one can be so refreshing. Naps or siestas used to be traditional in many cultures. It's another unfortunate aspect of modern life that schedules and routines no longer accommodate an afternoon rest. After all, who can guarantee a good sleep every night? Even when I was working, I used to nap during my commute on the bus. What does "nap" spell backwards, if you add a few letters? panacea!
I wish everyone a good rest!

Alexa, I have never been able to nap, but people who can swear by it! I'll never forget my time in Spain where the families would leave work for two hours to go home for a siesta. I like your thinking!

Madeleine writes:

Hi Jennifer,

in Beethoven's day the average amount of sleep people got was ten hours - TEN hours! No doubt lack of electric lighting and gadgets made this possible. But I think it tells us most of us are probably sleep deprived most of the time. Seven to eight hours is not for me!

I have to admit that the biggest habit I am trying to break this year is that of staying up late because i do just want some time to myself. I'm aiming to reverse the trend by going to bed earlier and doing yoga in the morning - which definitely makes my life a whole lot better.

I am a bedtime reader, but usually cannot stay awake for a full hour!

Great comment Madeleine... modern convenience has surely changed the way we live, particularly with regard to sleep. I would love to know what time Beethoven himself went to bed! :)

On my author website Guestbook, Lise B. writes:

Dear Jennifer,
Thank you for your belief and promotion of a quality life style. Your “Lessons from Madame Chic” has had a profound effect on my life.
I have and continue purging, going from 3 full closets to only 1 small one. I have purged everything else in my house and I am constantly thinking about what else I am no longer using which can be sold/donated or simply dumped.
Because of this book, I now only wear my best clothes whether to go to work, to teach or go grocery shopping on the week-end. I have gotten rid of everything that does not promote a quality lifestyle and that includes acquaintances. Thank you!

Thank you Lise and to everyone who has signed the guestbook. I love reading about your evolving journeys!

**This video was shot in my mother-in-law, Jane's Santa Monica flat in front of her lovely painting, "The Dancers" by British artist, Ashley Luff.

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Unknown said...

I love this post and could not agree more with what you have said. After reading your two books, I have been on a mission to clear the clutter from my home and wardrobe. I have donated countless bags of old clothes that were just taking up space. I have a very tiny 1950's house with tiny closets. I use to keep my current season clothes jammed in my one closet and have out of season clothes stored away and would switch with the seasons. After your books, I am able to keep both seasonal sets of clothes in my one closet. I did keep some stuff that i might regret donating in a storage bin and surprisingly i have not missed that. Also, back in December my husband and I were debating an out of state move for his job. We got our house "market ready" and de-cluttered a lot of stuff and put many boxes in storage. Since that time, we have decided not to move but i have been dragging my feet with getting our boxes out of storage because I don't miss the things and love living without the clutter. I also appreciate you touching on the clutter that kids bring and how to deal with that issue. I would love to hear more of your thoughts on keeping clutter to a minimum with kids, including kids wardrobes. Do you try to keep a 10 item wardrobe for them as well?

Unknown said...

I want to thank you for answering my question about the painting behind you! I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my question, that was very kind and made my day!

I read a book, while I was pregnant, on Parenting that I think you and Hillary Lockwood would really enjoy, answering her question about children and what you mentioned about your girls. If you have not read it, I really think you would enjoy it. They even mention similar philosophies you have to managing time and life, etc. Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier & More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne and Lisa M. Ross

I really enjoyed it and do find that by monitoring the number of toys in our house it helps me and my son concentrate better in almost all situations and have noticed when he is over stimulated at someone's house he seems to be more stressed.

Thank you again for your inspiration. We are getting ready to make a move and I am going to concentrate on working on my closet and our bedroom today to clear the clutter that seems to always accumulate.

R. Nesbit said...

I absolutely adore all your posts on getting rid of clutter, living with less, making things simple, etc. When you first recommended Marie Kondo's book a while ago I read the whole thing in one day then promptly got busy. Our problem is that my husband and I (and our two kids) have been in our house for 7 years -- neither my husband nor I have ever lived in one place for this long so we have accumulated so. much. stuff. We are not even sure where it has come from as neither one of us are what I would consider "hoarders" or "pack rats". As soon as I finished Ms. Kondo's book I bought a box of those huge lawn bags and made a goal that weekend to take as much stuff as possible to charity or toss in the garbage. How surprised were we when ALL 30 of the bags were full and we still had stuff! Since I wasn't completely done, I extended my "goal" to fill up and toss at least one lawn bag full of stuff every weekend. That was several months ago -- I am still stuffing and tossing. But I am seeing the light at the of the tunnel!!

Anonymous said...

My children and I did this book for our Spring Break last week. It was a huge success. We all thought it would feel silly to thank and say goodbye to the items we no longer needed, but it ended up being exactly the right thing to do. It really helped alleviate guilt when we wanted to discard an item that had been a gift from a loved one. To say "thank you for giving my grandma joy when she gave me this shirt" somehow took away the guilt of not really liking a gift grandma gave you.

Shira said...

Are you familiar with Zero Waste Home-- there is a book, website and videos. I think you would really like it and relate to much of it.

Renee Suzanne said...

Hi Jennifer, I have read both your books and I have Marie's on my list to get soon! We have had a similar experience. My husband retired early and wanted to be a hobby farmer half the year. So we bought property 2000 miles away that had a double-wide mobile home on it. We wondered how we would manage downsizing for 6-8 months of the year from 2700 sq feet to 1100 sq. feet, but we don't miss very much at all when we are there - a few books and a few files, but that is it! It has made me want to start decluttering our winter home. We just got rid of 15 college textbooks - why were we keeping them? Just to prove we are educated I guess. Ha.

Ladylike said...

This is an amazing synchronicity! We also just had some of our floors rejuvenated, although only in two rooms of our home. It was eye opening to experience our home with less furniture in it! "We" (I had to argue with my hubby a little about this) decided to not bring back two items, a sofa and a sideboard, and we switched another couple items with each other, creating more space in three rooms of our home! What a great feeling it is! You never realize how crowded with furniture your home is until...it is not so crowded. Warm best, Alexa

Unknown said...

Hello Jennifer, Thank you so much for sharing your story of living with less. I really enjoyed it and it has me inspired to do some spring de-cluttering of my own.

I also loved your post about sleep- would you be willing to share some more book suggestions? Looking for some fun quality nighttime reading.

Thank you!

Soyokaze said...

Last week we had a long week-end where I live, and I used it to take out some books following Maris' advice. Despite some doubts --personal and from my mum--, I managed to take out about 200 books, books that I had had for 15 years! School books, books that I felt guilty to throw away... in the end I realised that, had I the need, I could live with under 10 special books and throw the rest away. I feel very happy and free after completing that task. The only thing that hurt me was that no one seemed interested in having my old books. That made me sad for my country. Anyway, I love these posts, Jennifer. Thank you for giving us so many tools to un-clutter, simplify, and fight the dumbing-down.

Unknown said...

Thanks Jennifer!

I have read ALL the books on clutter busting – and that’s how I found you! Until I found your blog, YouTube etc I didn’t find too many of the people promoting a life with less stuff to be very relatable. I didn’t see how a regular person might live with that much less than I had. Once I saw your ten-item wardrobe I was hooked! Then I went to Europe for 6 weeks with just one carry-on bag. Once I got home, it was on for young and old! I had loved how my tiny suitcase wardrobe looked when I unpacked it and hung it up in my hotel room – and I wanted more of that when I got home.

I started downsizing, decluttering/living with less (or whatever you wish to call it) approximately 5 years ago and it never ends. Your blog really sent me into over-drive. I was by no means a hoarder. I have moved house every two years or so – so I can’t afford to hoard. But not a week goes by now that I don’t take a small bag to good will (or the old dogs’ home – depending on what I have to donate). And on it goes! I’ve also started to sell a few things to make some cash – today it was a high quality frying pan that I sold to a colleague at work (it was too big for my single lifestyle & he has a large family). Happy days!

In culling my wardrobe I have also used Nina Garcia’s 100 List to make sure I have a well edited wardrobe with the basics in place. Her 100 is not all about clothes – one essential item might be a tailored blazer – but she also includes a signet ring, or a valid passport, or quality champagne! I have about half of things Nina thinks makes a top notch start – not all of them are clothes – but she does have some really great suggestions. Another great place to start is the blog “Paris to Go” – this lady really does have a 10 item wardrobe and not much else.

I just love the incredible sense of lightness that comes with letting things go – now if only those books of mine would de-materialise…

juliagray19 said...

Here is her talk about her book. http://youtu.be/w1-HMMX_NR8. Great stuff!

Stephanie said...

Summer, I also read and loved Simplicity Parenting! I'm going to reread it this week.
His thoughts on children's clothes: the only clothes available to them should be those that fit their current size, and the current weather (season).
"By simplifying clothes you ease transition. You offer freedom from choice and overload, while still allowing for the slow and sure development of personal expression."
He also suggests buying a few of the same pair of pants--if you have found one that fits your child and budget.

Anonymous said...

Even though I am a minimalist and have much less "stuff" than the average person, I am always finding things I can give to Goodwill or sell at a consignment shop, or just plain throw away. Right now, I am in the midst of doing my "spring cleaning", and each year I try to get rid of the things that I haven't used in the previous year. I don't always succeed with this; some things I am afraid that I may need as soon as I get rid of them. But, yes, it takes my husband and me only a couple hours on Sunday morning to completely clean the house -- mostly because we don't have tons of stuff to clean and/or maneuver around. I intend on reading Marie's book anyway... but I will get it from the library.

Kathryn Bechen said...

Dear Jennifer,

I'm glad you had such a fun and rewarding "living with less" experiment. It's true! I have moved 14 times in nearly 35 years of marriage, and if you do that, you will definitely appreciate the joy of living with (and moving) less! And you learn early on that you only want the very best things to move and enjoy, too, so it makes you constantly evaluate your belongings and how you live in order to live a quality lifestyle. Which I have, and have always strived for since I was a young bride like you. My husband is a longtime minimalist by his own definition and both of us have always much prefered quality experiences and travel over things and we don't do "bold, big, and loud" as is the typical American way now. In fact, we purposely strive to stay away from all that and live a quiet and aesthetically-pleasing life in our sweet small apartment. It makes us cringe when we drive by garages filled to the brim with "stuff." Enjoy your pretty new floors and keep on your happy home path! :)

dysfunctionalscrapbooking said...

I recently discovered your blog after buying your most recent book. Wow! I love your philosophy and style. You're eons ahead of where I was at your age. I had my moment, when we were living in a gigantic 107 year old house and I was mired in the repairs and "oldness" of it, where I decided to just love the house as best I could. I started forcing myself to enjoy taking care of it, filling it with flowers, playing music in the morning to welcome the day. It made a huge difference. I also slowly tackled all the closets, rooms and drawers. Fast forward, we did sell the house, but I enjoyed my last few years there way more than the previous years.

I am also a writer and have a story in the recently released anthology, "That's Paris. An Anthology of Life, Love and Sarcasm in the City of Light." I would love to send you a copy. The collection includes fiction and non-fiction and is the brainchild of the woman behind "Confessions of a Paris Potty Trainer."

Again, I really am enjoying getting caught up on your insightful writing, and elegant approach to life.

Little Miss Know-it-all said...

Yes to everything, really, and I also wanted to mention the book Simplicity Parenting: I have two grandchildren but also a 19yr old and much of what is in it still holds for her (and her bf!). In fact, I sometimes wish I had found all these great books earlier, but hey, nobody's perfect and I've come a long way in all areas, but particularly in the decluttering…
I really like what you address and that in both your books and Marie Kondo's there is a certain demureness that is very pleasing in this modern world.

Ladylike said...

In answer to your question about reading Marie Kondo's book, Jennifer, yes, I did read it, and I'm very grateful to you for suggesting it last year. I completed all the categories of tidying that she describes, with the exception of the last one. Not surprisingly, I became stalled at the sentimental items category. It's something to tackle this summer. The only category she doesn't have in her book is furniture, but now this area has been addressed as well, as I mentioned above. When I go to my local library, I see my books there, on the shelves, as well as some for sale. And when I go to the fire station flea market (to donate more things) I see my old handbags! I am becoming used to this experience now. The more I clear the clutter, the easier it becomes. For anyone who has a sincere desire to clear clutter, and the time to do it, since it is a time-consuming process, I highly recommend Marie Kondo's method. Thanks again, Jennifer.

Rebecca D said...

I would really love to know what your 3 item wardrobe looked like. ;)

Unknown said...

I read Marie Kondo's book & cleared out my linen closet. Only leaving what I love & use. I ended up with a fairly empty closet! Living with less is definitely in my top priorities. I'm anxiously awaiting your Spring/Summer wardrobe reveal. I also live in sunny SoCal & love to get inspired by your wardrobe.

Tara Lynn Jordan said...

Hi Jennifer,

Big fan here. Love this post.

I also subscribe to the belief that children thrive in an orderly environment. “By simplifying, we protect the environment for childhood’s slow, essential unfolding of self,” writes Kim John Payne, author of Simplicity Parenting.

But, life is also trying to constantly teach me not to try to be too neat, too simplified because, well, that's extreme ... and they say that how you do anything is how you do anything.

I write about my own reaction to Condo's book here: http://bookbirdie.com/on-resisting-the-urge-to-tidy-up/ I hope you'll take the time to read it.

Thanks, Jennifer!

Nana said...

I´m really trying to live with less, especially because we are in the midlle of our #houseproject and all our money is been spent in Building Material.
Thansk for the tips!
Kisses and God bless you.

C Bryan said...

Dear Jennifer
How would Madame Chic live chic-ly with pets? That is, somewhat unconventional pets, like tame parrots! I am embracing the "chic" way with gusto (with current project being the wardrobe) but I have 2 cockatiels and one short beak corella. They sit on us during the course of a day if we are home, and of course we do not notice all their little droppings all the time (if we catch them it's not a problem; it's when we miss them and they end up smeared on our clothes!)

Would you tackle such a situation by say, delegating an additional 3 items of clothing as being "home clothes" only that are not the "high quality" we would usually go for day to day, just so the pain of finding a smeared little poop is not as heartbreaking if it was done on something a bit more expensive than on something that is just classified as home wear? I'd be interested to hear your thoughts/a post?

Polly said...

I love this! I agree wholeheartedly that there is value in living with less. We live in a house that is rather small by American standards but we live very comfortably in it. I think children thrive on less, too (which reminds me to spring clean my son's room here soon....). They end up thinking up their own fun and I believe it makes them more creative.

The Purge is something of a joke around here as my husband knows that when the spirit grips me to do it, I *do it*. I find it therapeutic and fun! I don't shop a ton and we don't seem to amass a lot of stuff, but I am still magically able to find things we simply do not need. I'd rather just donate them to someone else than live with the stress of having them in my life.

The only thing I'm not a minimalist about is fabric. I have an enormous cedar chest full of it (organized and edited, for sure) and am utterly unapologetic because I love sewing so much!! And it's fun to create stuff.

wholeheartedmom said...

I think one of the big reasons why vacations are so restful/peaceful/enjoyable is that we only have a few things we take with us. So there is much less time needed for 'chores'.

I lost everything I owned, along with my house and most of my town in a huge fire a few years ago. At first, it was so freeing to not own anything! I vowed to always keep my belongings to a bare minimum. But after about 2 months, it became a type of bondage to own so little. It began taking more time to make use of the few things I had to re-create a normal life. So, I think the first few months were really like a vacation to real life.

Carey said...

Less is More! So true. When you have less, it really is liberating! We think that if we just have more, we will be happy, but this is simply not true. A year ago, we decided to get rid of half of our children's toys. We were drowning in toys. We ended up giving away (or in a few cases, throwing away) 2/3 of their toys. And guess what, they are happier! They play better. They are getting along better, using their imaginations more, and playing with the remaining toys more consistently and with more creativity!