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Stuff: and everything in it’s place

The common complaint we hear is that we feel like we are bursting at the seams in our homes and we have inadequate storage for it all.  The answer isn’t more rooms, it is two-fold:

1. Challenging how much we have and being happier with less, and

2. Find the right space for everything.

So from the perspective of an architect and aspirational minimalist, what does this look like?

Most people come to us searching for a home which is an oasis of calm.  “Everything to have a spot. Everything in its place”.  If I had a dollar for every time we hear this desire expressed by our clients early in the design process…

Before we start putting pen to paper, we ask our clients to answer some questions that drill down into how they see themselves and their project. We’ve collected 84 responses and we can tell that:

1. People who describe themselves as “an ordered person” almost always partner with someone who selects “I’m messy – give me cupboards to hide stuff in”; and

2. Three quarters of our clients say they “love the idea of order, but always fall short of my ideals”.

I moved house recently and for all my smug self belief that I’m a minimalist and only keep what is necessary or sparks joy, the addition of two small boys who collect everything (from gravel to sticks, crayon artworks and broken toys!) it had definitely gotten on top of me. One skip bin and several dump trips later and we had culled to the point that we could fit into our new two bedroom Queenslander.

It got me thinking about stuff.  It’s almost Christmas, and our already overfilled houses are getting ready for even more. Feels a bit like Christmas pudding when you had too much Christmas lunch.

Challenging how much we have and being happier with less.

This came home to me in the cull.  I realised I had about 5 wooden spoons.  I’m not much of a cook – so it’s a stretch to say I even need two!  I also have a teatowel fetish and can’t go past a kitsch tea-towel.  This has resulted in TWO DRAWERS full of tea-towels. I’m getting the appropriate help I promise!

When I set up our small off grid weekender – Donnington Ridge – setting up the kitchen was a dream. I bought one great peeler, one great whisk, a small set of excellent cooking pots and pans, just the right amount of crockery for four people for a weekend and no more. And it was beautiful crockery because I didn’t need much of it.  There is so much pleasure in simplicity. In good quality over a lot.

When we photograph a house for magazines or web, a lot of time is spent removing things from the space so that the clarity, calm and intention of the space can be felt through the image.  This clarity only comes when you give yourself the permission to be a bit vicious.  When you have 5 finger paintings from daycare, pick your favourite one, file it in a crate and throw the rest out.

It can seem like a brutal approach, but sentimentality is the nemesis to order.  My own challenge here is a range of clothes I positively love, that are all a size too small for me.  I’ve been hanging on for two years now, I think its time to take my own advice.

Sentimentality is the nemesis to order.  Give yourself permission to be a bit vicious.

Which brings me onto finding the right space for everything.

Thinking through the workflow of arriving home, dropping shoes and bags and washing and lunchboxes and keys is important. If we don’t have ‘the spot’ to put things, and if that isn’t easy to do, it won’t happen.  Instead, the island bench becomes the dumping ground for every bill, piece of homework, bobby pins and broken pen.  And we shouldn’t expect the best of ourselves here. Always plan for the lowest common denominator.

When planning for the ‘right space’, a few things our clients love:

  • A deep drawer near the kitchen with charging ports built in
  • Built in shelves for the books – not too deep that they have to dust the front or back!
  • A pinboard somewhere discreet to get the bills off the fridge and into a family ‘hub’ somewhere
  • Shoe racks in the laundry if its near where you walk in – consider a dehumidifier in here to quickly dry shoes and sporting gear!
  • Open shelves are not for the feint hearted.  If you aren’t a stylist and you don’t like dusting, go for cupboard doors 😉
  • Hooks are your best friend – particularly in kids rooms – it gets stuff off the floor until you can deal with it!
  • Consider splitting up your storage (ie, 2 towels, 2 sets of bedding for each kid, stored in their own robe)

Having less ‘stuff’ is a way of life – much like having a smaller footprint home. It requires some commitment to buying less, fixing more, recycling thoughtfully.  It’s easy to adopt a mindset that we need more in a country as wealthy and status driven as ours.  It’s almost Christmas – I’m hoping to give my kids a bit less, teach them to look after what they have (massive swing and a miss to date on this one) and think about the impact of stuff in a world riddled with pollution and waste.

Our homes can be the oasis of calm that we are all hoping for. We just need some careful planning of our ‘spots for everything’ and less ‘stuff’ to shove in there.

Merry Christmas!

There is so much pleasure in simplicity. In good quality over a lot.


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7 Fagan Road
Herston QLD 4006

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