Living With Less

(room above by Chaffee Braithwaite) I was so excited to see our kitchen renovation on Design * Sponge and one of the reader's comments really got me thinking. The reader wondered about our losing storage space when we tore down the upper cabinets & replaced them with shelving.

(image above from

It hasn't been a problem for us & I actually have a ton of storage space for what we have (we have a pantry for our food & miscellaneous appliances & a large sideboard in the dining room for servingware & sets of china and our wine & most of our hangs from the wall) but it did get me thinking that there are things that we've gotten rid of or don't buy simply because I don't want my kitchen filled to the brim... and that maybe if I did have all of those things, this kitchen wouldn't work for me... Things like specialty appliances & gadgets that we would rarely use. We really just don't have these. (We have a blender, a toaster & a mixer & even one of those "set it and forget it" rotisseries... but we never opened the fondue set we got as a wedding gift, I borrow my mom's crockpot when needed, we don't drink coffee so the coffeemaker stays in storage until guests come and we have very few kitchen gadgets.)

Sure I'd love to have all of these things at my fingertips, but cramming my kitchen full of the latest & greatest and the "just in case" items would make my life more cluttered on a daily basis, and it's not worth it to me. I'd rather do without the amazing fondue we would make once a year... or make it on the stovetop instead and put it on a pretty bowl..

Living like this doesn't come easily to me & we have to purge constantly as I've said before. We have a cabinet in our laundry room with "giveaways" that we have to empty about once a month or so. Stuff just wants to sneak into your house! It's crazy!! We accumulate and have to fight off incoming-stuff daily or find places for it: coupons in the mail to restaurants we'll probably never use, mail-mail-mail!, paper clutter, cardboard boxes from packages, little notes & lists, purchases we decide to return, and somehow toys are always finding their way into our home... BUT, on top of fighting off incoming clutter, I think it's important to not have a lot of stuff in the first place. (room below, Susan Ferrier, House Beautiful)
What I mean by "a lot" is also very subjective. To the extreme minimalist, "living with less" might mean living with clothes and a few dishes and furniture, but to someone like me, "living with less" means having only what I need and love... and this includes lots of books & decorative accessories & dishware ;) The important thing is keeping what you need and use and love- whatever it may be- and then ditching the rest.

OK- OK -- I have a confession to make: I have hoarded some things from my childhood: I've saved all of my Barbies in case we have a little girl and am waiting for the day when we can play with them (she WILL love Barbies ;) ;) and also some of my stuffed animals and toys that are still in good condition. This may sound weird or cheap but we give them to Christian for birthdays & gifts because to him, they're new and it makes me so happy to see him playing with my old toys. (He loves them & so many of them are better than the new plastic toys!) (image below from

Ok, but back to "living with less": It's freeing and you honestly have more time when you live with less. (image below from Nate Berkus) We spend enough time as it is cleaning up our own messes: laundry, dishes, toys, and the 3 bibs that my dog drags into the dining room EVERY DAY arggg, but nothing makes me more frustrated than trying to find a place for something I didn't really want in the first place. So why let that stuff stay in my house? I don't. Living with less is a constant process and battle, but one I find very-worth fighting.

"Keep and seek only what you love and your home will be truly yours."


So how about you? Do you try to "live with less?" And what is "living with less" to you?


Danielle @ Transforming Home said...

I hear ya!
We have been really trying to scale back this year. Our house is just filled with so much stuff. I make it a point to donate to AmVets every month - even if it is just one bag - and it is very freeing. I no longer buy things just because I like them - I have to know exactly where I will use it, otherwise I won't buy it. And I have to LOVE it, not just like it.
It has been great on our budget, but more so on our peace of mind. I also think it is teaching our children an important lesson.
Have a great weekend! I think I will go and declutter now...


Velvet and Linen said...

I have been decluttering for the last couple of months. I actually applied for a space in a local antique store to sell some of my things that don't fit into the look of our store.
You're right, it is liberating!
Have a great weekend.


Carry Grace said...

I am fine with less, but the husband keeps everything. So he has to find a place for his "stuff" that I can live with. This means our garage is overflowing. I would rather not have the stuff in the garage, but I also love my husband. So this works for us. I'm just glad it's not in the house.

Marty@A Stroll Thru Life said...

It is so good to feel like you have the things that you love around you, not just stuff. Great also to donate so others can enjoy what you no longer need, want or use. Hugs, Marty

Kasey at Thrifty Little Blog said...

I feel like the one place I'm really rocking the 'living with less' is in the kitchen. I love being able to open a neatly organized cabinet that's filled with coordinated dishes. To me, living with less is simply more peaceful.

Kathy said...

It is a constant battle, against the stuff AND the inertia that sets in after fussing yet again for some assistance in dealing with the shoes, socks, sweatshirts, even pants (!) that seems to appear everywhere except in the drawers or laundry baskets where they belong. Who changes their clothes in the dining room! I digress. Your post is a great inspiration. Thanks!

Janell @ House of Fifty said...

Yes I try! Half my kitchen cabinets are empty, I try to live by the rule that if something comes into the house something must leave.
But...if you look at my post today I am obviously a bit behind on this guideline. Craigslist has been missing me lately!

Tracy Watier said...

Good for you, Lauren! I've always been pretty brutal when it comes to editing out unwanted items and denying myself some new something because it's really not necessary or I don't have anywhere to put it. The last four or five years though I've fallen down on the job a bit (my post two days ago about my crashed closet is proof!) So I'm gearing up again, and have taken some small steps, to get my house back in order so that I control it and not the other way around!
Oh, and I love that you give your son your old toys! Kids only care about "stuff" as much as their parents influence them to. And there is no way he knows where you got that old toy that's new to him anyway! Keep it up... you only have a few more years til he starts "demanding" to have the things his friends have or that he sees on tv or in stores. Then you have to get REALLY creative (and cave in now and then too!)

life, in small chunks said...

I am an enthusiastic admirer of Sarah Susanka and her series of "Not So Big" House books. She teaches that same message - live with what you truly love and NEED and forget the rest. If you have true quality you will not miss the quantity! So many people, especially in this country it seems, have SO MUCH STUFF and are always lamenting that their house is too small for all their stuff! Thanks for sharing your views on living with less - it is so important during these hard times especially, to learn to do just that!

Grace said...

I LOVED the kitchen and dining room renovation on design*sponge, and I just put two+two together to realize it was yours! GORGEOUS! You really transformed both spaces from mundane to mag-worthy.

I completely concur with your philosophy. I try hard to make sure that the only items in our house are ones that we use or absolutely love. I'm constantly purging and giving away, and I try to stick by the rule, "one thing in, one thing out" which is not always easy when I see so many vintage treasures trying to follow me home!

I really appreciate your philosophy on designing for living that is comfortable, real, and of course, inspirational and beautiful.

KellyMellyBoBellyBananaFanna said...

Amen. I wrote about that here (the article in Digs):

By the way, I like your kitchen!


Karen said...

There is a lot to be said about living with less. You have a beautiful home, it is obviously working well for you.

bagfashionista said...

i'm definitely getting, or at least, trying to do that in our own home....there's just so much JUNK in the house. and then there's stuff that we keep "just in case" or for the next baby, etc....but there's only so much room that we have.

i'm trying to just donate everthing that i know i won't realistically use, but my husband is a pack rat and he's like, "well, we'll use it next year", or "well, we'll get rid of it later" or he'll pull the sentimental reason "it was my dad" or "i've had it when i was young" --- but how many holey tshirts, old sweaters does he need to hold on to??!


Cristin // Simplified Bee said...

Yeah Lauren!!!
Yes, I try to live with less as well. When the girls get a new toy - another one has to get donated. If I buy new shoes, one pair gets donated (or thrown out depending on condition). Do we really need all this stuff??? That is why my design practice offers organizational services. Purge people! Keep the things of sentimental value and show them off beautifully in your home. Collect high quality items you will want to give to future generations.

I will now get off my soap box!

Loved your post & kitchen.

cristin @ simplified bee

Amber B. said...

Amen, sister! I think it's especially difficult to control the clutter once you have children. I find myself constantly purging little broken toys, little toys from birthday party goodie bags, etc. My son never notices or cares; we keep the toys he loves and plays with. I feel like I can enjoy our home so much more if it's not filled with STUFF!

Carolyn said...

Yes. My husband and I moved to Austria from Texas in February and could only take two suitcases (mostly of clothes) with us. I had to leave behind everything in my apartment. Nothing was valuable enough to keep. We bought the basics for our apt. at Ikea (the only cheap home store here!) and can't afford to buy much, and although it was tough for the first 5 months, I actually like it more. I still would like some good artwork and a little bit more furniture, but our house is easier to keep tidy and looks fresher. We did have to leave behind a lot of our gorgeous wedding gifts, but I realized you don't need a lot of the kitchen gadgets and took those back to Bed, Bath and they got all of my crystal...which I will have forever. All we need is our nice silverware, a good set of knives, white dishware and a cutting board most of the time! I think it's really harder in America because there is so much stuff (cr@p) that's inexpensive to lure you in. I'm a sucker. Here everything is nice and twice as expensive. Great post. Why does EVERYONE register for fondue sets? So silly!

Diana Ngo said...

I am the biggest clutter bug and I can't seem to throw anything out. <3 your blog!

micah said...

Great post! I agree.... less is more!

Shannon said...

I have been on a decluttering binge for the last couple of years. I don't go shopping much so that keeps me from impulse buying. And my internet shopping rule is always sleep on it before I click that buy it now button. I think it is all about planning. And consciously being aware about what you are spending money on. Now that we will be moving into a much bigger house, I am really excited to have more than enough room. I plan on keeping it that way too!

Windlost said...

Lauren, I have been dying to post on the same topic for the past while and have been thinking of mentioning you and Janet from Gardener's Cottage and Trina from Country Farmhouse as such great inspiration for having a home filled with fewer, but more precious things and living on a budget and not buying too much crap. You all live by philosophies that I am sampling these days, all in slightly different ways.

I hate clutter and you are right, it is a full-time job to keep ahead of it. David never sees me in the evenings spending 30 minutes or more putting things away, recyling, filing, etc. because he just puts things into a big pile! It is a conscious effort to put things in their place constantly and get rid of the never-ending overflow!

If I weren't there, our kitchen island would be a giant pile of bills, lunch containers, grocery bags, half-read magazines, junk mail, receipts, etc. It is maddening! We had a "No Flyers" sign on our mailbox until recently but David wanted to see the pre-Christmas sales so we took it off. I swear we get 3 lbs of paper everyday. haha.

Love this post. I honestly think that the recession did something to all of us - it made us all VALUE what we have a little more. I love beautiful things, but I am trying to live my life in a much more conscious way these days and not just accumulate more and more.

Great thoughts. I do believe that less is more. At least for someone like me who likes airy un-cluttered spaces. For me it is more about quality than quantity these days.

Of course, there is always the trendy stuff that comes in, like the red Olympic mittens David bought me the other day that I will never wear! And the little Halloween decorations. But if you can keep that stuff to a minimum, it feels a lot better!

P.S. My secret for living leaner is going to the library. I only get a few big decor books for Christmas. The rest of the year I borrow! The ones I love, really love, go on my list. This year, Suzanne Kasler and the Elle Decor book are on my list.

xo Terri

LindsB said...

I try to live with less but it never seems to work out for me. I tried to go by the rule when something comes in, something has to go out. But, again that has not worked at all. Maybe when we move I'll do a major purge.

Have a great weekend! xoxo

Linda@ Lime in the Coconut said...

The last three homes we lived in I took out the upper cabinets...the true key is having enough other space (whether a pantry or good lowers). But, learn to have what you need. No more. Kinda checks and balances itself.

I like less...and get the heebie jeebies with too much clutter (and God knows we can accrue it as a family of 7!. As a matter of is de-clutter and clean day.

Great post...and your kitchen looked BEAUTIFUL on design sponge!

Maria Killam said...

Great post as always. I have a bag in my closet so that anytime I pull something out of my closet and wear it and then that day think, this is the last time I'm wearing it, then it goes in the bag for the Sally Ann. I am a good purger for the most part because my house is small and I don't have a lot of storage!

I agree with you, only live with the things you love!

Julia @ Hooked on Houses said...

I totally agree. I think I'm allergic to clutter because I start getting "itchy" if there's too much stuff around. :-)

Bettina said...

Nice blog! I´m not so good at writing in English but I will tell you that I like it....from a swedish illustrator...

Hill Country House Girl said...

Great post. I am constantly fighting the clutter issue, both the family stuff on the kitchen island (like Teri!) as well as with decorating! I agree - living with less if so liberating and I find I can actually SEE my favorite things better if there isn't as much going on. That being said, being an antique collector and dealer, I have to be really diligent about moving things on or my house does become too full.
Obviously a post that many of us related to!

Anonymous said...

I've been thinking about this recently because we're getting ready to move into a house much larger than any place I've ever lived. Now that I'll have more space, it's tempting to just get more "stuff" but I want to keep that in check. I love beautiful things but at the same time, I don't want to be loaded down with a lot of unnecessary things.

Congratulations on the D*S feature! I can't think of a better before and after anywhere!

paula said...

I love to purge our stuff. Although people can't believe how "little" amount of toys we have for our children. I feel like we have a lot, but if we did compare then it may seem like little to some.

congrats on design sponge feature, your kitchen so rocks.

Ness Lockyer said...

I am with you! I am off to the local market on the weekend to get rid of some more stuff that I have no idea where it came from!!

I am constantly de cluttering and it makes cleaning the house so much easier too if you dont have heaps of stuff you never use about. As I always say "If you haven't used it within 12 months, you never will...chuck it out!"
Ness xx

The Covered Porch said...

I've been following along for a while and love the inspiration. Thank you for your work! I've added you to my list for the Kreativ Blogger award, so you're next! Here's the link.

The Covered Porch said...

I've been following along for a while and love the inspiration. Thank you for your work! I've added you to my list for the Kreativ Blogger award, so you're next! Here's the link.

The Covered Porch said...

I've been following along for a while and love the inspiration. Thank you for your work! I've added you to my list for the Kreativ Blogger award, so you're next! Here's the link.

Things That Inspire said...

Great post, and I can't wait to go over to Design Sponge and check out your feature!

I love the little truths you learn when you are pregnant with your second child - like the realization that a decked out nursery is for you, not the baby. When my second was born, I found that my oldest really needed the extra time with her dad, and I was not offended when my husband spent a lot of time with #1, not #2; all #2 needed was a warm and loving set of arms, and mostly me!

I have lived in the same house for 12 years now, and I have a very large unfinished attic with permanent stairs, which means that I have not had to throw away much at all. I am dreading the time when I finally tackle the attic and get rid of the accumulation of over a decade of 'stuff'.

prashant said...

I actually applied for a space in a local antique store to sell some of my things that don't fit into the look of our store.
Work From Home