just the essentials: living small with stuff


less is more.   back to basics.   fewer, better.   keep it simple s****d.

although it's not for everyone, we have been embracing a more minimalist lifestyle for the past few years. as we talked about in this post. For us, minimalism doesn't mean throwing out everything we own. instead, we try to spend our resources purposefully. it's a way to uncover what brings us contentment and back to ourselves.

but first, let's talk about clutter.

clutter isn’t a new problem, but suddenly it’s evils are touted everywhere partly thanks to marie kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” (have you read it?). kondo's book promises that once your house is orderly, you can “pour your time and passion into what brings you the most joy, your mission in life.” and i get that. but all stuff can't be that bad, as kondo may lead us to believe.

when it comes to deciding what stuff is essential in our lives, to me it isn't about getting rid of all our beloved belongings. it's not deciding on how little we can live with, but more about working out what we cannot live without. making room (in your space / schedule) for the stuff (and commitments) that adds value to your life

I want to acknowledge that everyone has different definitions for essential. one person’s essential might be another person’s unnecessary, and that’s good. identifying what is essential is a great way to discover who we really are and what we really like to do. the question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life and the values that guide that.

" you can pare down your stuff and live an edited, uncluttered life. your environment is filled with things that are essential, beautiful and meaningful. " m. kondo

here are some of our thought-process around managing stuff and what’s key for us at this point in our lives.

  • making room for what is meaningful.
    • ... first, decide what is useful / meaningful.
    • take everything out at once. a big pile of all those sweaters, spatulas, and tchotchkes in the middle of your floor. take stock. seeing how much space it takes up and how much of it you've forgotten about will help you decide what is useful / meaningful. (*just as kondo brings up in her book - "do we really know how many items we own?")
    • when we moved from a 2-bedroom apartment to 400-sqft a few years ago, it made us look at everything in a new light. and with a move to a 280sqft micro loft just around the corner, there's more of this to come for us!
  • fewer, better things. 
    • once you've taken serious stock, you're less likely to double-up.
    • we have made a commitment to shop with a purpose, trying (v. hard!) to not be persuaded by price ("but, it's on sale") or availability ("it's right in front of me"). That 3:2 shorty suit you wish you were wearing to catch waves in the warm(er) waters of Southern California? nope. because the water is 8C in Canada. Get a 5:4. with a hood and thick-ass booties and gloves, and you will be set all-year round. buy the shorty when the trip south is actually booked.  
    • make a list, create a budget, and save. see what items on your list stand the test of time. whether it's a list of places to visit, or a new leather tote - make a mindful decision. it's going to take up time, money and space. so, do your research. plan. save. execute.
  • develop a routine.
    • ... and cut out unnecessary items and time commitments.
    • with limited closet space, create a uniform to wear to work. keep it simple. decide what you love to wear, what you feel good in and create a wardrobe around this. less to think about, less items to stock, look and feel good.
    • with limited time/energy to spend on groceries, we pick up a pre-packaged produce bag once a week from one of our favourite local grocers OR we order groceries online and have them delivered - we find that we're less likely to put those  unhealthy and non-budgeted snacks into our virtual shopping cart.
  • everything has a purpose and a place. otherwise known as, don’t hide extra unused stuff only to be discovered next time.
    • with the limited space we have, we don't store or reorganize items because we may want them later ... if we don't use it now, we won't later. get rid of it. (*with the exception of seasonal items)
    • making sure that everything has two purposes is an ulralight backpacking commandment. It is worth considering, but maybe a little too far reaching for the household. at the very least make sure that you don't have two things with the same purpose, duh.
    • our space is organized based on our regular activities and how we spend most of our time. 
    • for example, for two people who don't host many dinner parties, a dining table is not so important. and when we do have dinner guests over, they are pretty cool with sitting on our yoga bolsters on the floor around our coffee table. but the 4 surfboards that get carted in and out every week? they take prime real estate in our living room so they are easily accessible.


in our #smallspace, we try to make conscious choices and live with intention, rather than letting it all just kind of pile up or allowing others to decide how (when, where) we spend our time and money.

having only the essential stuff frees up more time space and energy for the things that really matter.