Lean Minimalism – Twelve chairs and a whole lot of surfaces lighter
We have noticed on a number of occasions that when problem solving around how to make things flow through our downsized home that the solution often comes with us choosing to reduce the amount of furniture we have. This may sound a little strange until you realise just how much furniture we started from when we took the step to downsize our living space.
When we moved into our new house in early 2016 we had a total of thirty one items in our house that we could use for sitting on, if you don’t count the eight additional camping related seats we own. The thing is, there are generally only four people in our house that need somewhere to sit. Sure, we have guests at times and they need a place to sit but thirty one seats? Crazy and more than a little embarrassing in hindsight.
The number of seats we owned in 2016 comes from once owning a large house with two lounges and a large dining room. When we moved into our previous big house, we felt our older dining table was much too small for the new dining room so we upgraded, keeping the original table because it had belonged to my husband’s grandmother and is delightfully original and retro. The old table had four seats and the new one eight. It looked amazing in our giant dining room but we still only had four people sitting at it. To make it even more crazy, one of those people at the time wasn’t even sitting in a chair but in a highchair. Sure, on the one occasion in three years we had all our relatives in the same house at the same time it was great. Now, in hindsight I’d probably just stick to the small table and use our stools and office chairs for the guests.
So when we moved to our new downsized home, we brought all the things from our big house with us, knowing we would need to let some things go as part of our transition to a simpler life with less debt.
Obviously, there was no way that all of this was going to fit into our new house, which is about half the size of our old one. We shoved most things into our teeny tiny 1950s garage and everything else into the spare rooms and wherever else it would fit. It was cramped.
Since then, we have spent a lot of time working on making our living spaces as simple and easy as possible. It’s been a time consuming process and we’ve had to work through lots of problems, moving pieces of furniture from room to room in our efforts to find the perfect combination. What’s interesting is that on a regular basis we have found that the solution to achieving better flow and simplicity in our house has often been a piece of furniture leaving our possession.
Stage One: 31 seats
In stage one, we dispossessed ourselves of anything we knew was never going to fit in our downsized house.
We said goodbye to our beautiful solid wood, giant eight seater square dining table which was never going to fit anywhere in our downsized house. It went to a nice couple who took it to their holiday home. They took the seven remaining seats as well (one of the girls had put their knee through the eighth seat previously and that ended up at the dump unfortunately). Ironically, we’ve gone back to our original super retro and on trend 1950’s formica dining table. So now we owned twenty three seats.
We also found ourselves with a one seater recliner that we just couldn’t put anywhere without it looking crowded or making it impossible to move around. So it had to go too. Down to twenty two seats.
During this stage we also sold a queen-sized bed that had fit beautifully in the large guest bedroom of our old house and would fit nowhere in our new one. We also sold our daughters’ cot to an expectant mother. It was a nice feeling to know a new family would get some use out of something that had been a big part of our life.
Stage Two: 22 seats
In stage two, we had enough room for our remaining furniture but it was pretty cramped. This is where the problem solving furniture removal really started to happen.
The interesting thing about having too much stuff is that it accumulates other stuff. We had way too many surfaces around the place and they were always covered in toys, books, drawings, mail, magazines and my personal nemesis, dust.
We moved our furniture around a bit to see if we could come up with arrangements that would create more space but kept coming back to the fact that something would have to go. At this time we used a technique that I really love and will change your perspective on what you really need. If we were unsure about whether we really needed a piece of furniture we moved it out of the living space, into the garage or the spare room and tried living without it. In all cases, we never wanted to move it back in once we had experienced the freedom of living with less.
Working things out this way led to the removal of the three seater couch from one of our remaining lounge suites, a large square coffee table and the spare TV cabinet (which is still currently lurking in the garage due to a lack of interest from buyers.) Nineteen seats left.
Stage Three: 19 seats
This is the stage we are in now. In this stage we have begun to question the function and value of the things that appear to ‘belong’ in our house.
What is interesting is that in this stage, we are starting to tackle things we have taken for granted as “needing to be there”. The first to go in this stage was a gorgeous solid wood bookcase we bought while living in Perth to house my rather large book collection. This was in the days before Kindle and before minimalism. I now have a lot less books and have only kept the ones that have a strong value for me or will be read by my oldest daughter in the next few years. Despite the fact that I loved this bookcase, it was taking up a heap of space in our spare room, space we needed for other things. Again, at the end of our problem solving process we decided that our life would be better with less, which meant less bookcase. To my delight we sold it to a lady with a large book collection of her own who probably loves it as much as I did.
After this, the wine rack which had been up against a wall in a through area had to go. We hardly drink wine and were mostly using it to store few ornaments and our weather meter on the top. To our great surprise, the difference moving this wine rack out of the through way made was quite significant and it’s now much easier to go from the kitchen to the lounge. I also don’t have to dust it so that’s a double win.
Recently, we have finished carpeting a section of our hallway and needed to move a hall table out of the way to do it. When the carpet was done my husband suggested that we leave the table out of the hallway permanently. He had a new use for it in another part of the house where he felt it could add more value. So that we could fit it into its new location, you guessed it, we had to dispossess ourselves of some more items which ended up getting donated.
I love the way our house flows now. It’s easy to get around and there’s not a lot of places to leave things so the house is much tidier these days.
We are down to nineteen seats from thirty one. We have four dining chairs, four seats in our living room and five in our lounge. We also have two bean bags, two stools and two desk chairs.
Our three seater couch in our lounge has seen better days and we could use the extra space for working out or even just mucking around with the kids. So we’re seriously considering letting that go too.
Even once we get the number of seats in our house down to sixteen, I think we’ll still have more than enough places for four people, a cat and the odd guest to sit.