Q+A: My Story of Living with Less


Amanda asks "I would be interested in hearing more about how you saw the connection between your 'over-shopping' and the sense of order that you have found. Thanks!"

While I'm naturally neat and organized, I'm a shopaholic. And while my over-shopping is under control, I have to work to keep it that way. Here's how it all started...

Before I became a professional organizer, living in my first apt, there was a moment I looked around and had a revelation. I thought "All these things I buy are supposed to make me happy, but the reality is they don't. My apt doesn't reflect me, I'm embarrassed to have friends over. I have lots of clothes and nothing to wear. And the worst part is my bank account is drained from buying all these things!" I immediately put a 30 day stop on shopping and used the time I would have been shopping - which at the time was about 3 days a week - to think.

Thinking logically instead of emotionally, muting the voices all around me, enabled me to see things clearly. My first lesson was that things are simply tools to help us do something. You buy a pot to boil water, you buy a toothbrush to brush your teeth, you buy a pen to write something down. Before that, things were something to buy in the moment to pass time, a great 'bargain' at a sample sale, or something other people tell you you’re supposed to have. That we must buy the new and improved, or the most current looks to be valued is a terrible cycle with no end.

I realized it’s not about having a LOT of things, it’s about having the RIGHT things.

I needed to figure out how I want my apartment to look, feel, and function before I got rid of anything and especially before I got anything new.

Once I changed the way I saw the things coming into my life, I bought and still buy much less, I also hardly ever return anything (common practice before) and have very little to give away at the end of the year when spring cleaning. I think hard before taking something new into my life and once I do have it and figure out a place in my home, I don't think about it again; I use it and put it back and get on with living.

Dan Flavin @ SFMOMA. Photo by Laura Cattano.

Dan Flavin @ SFMOMA. Photo by Laura Cattano.