I am an accidental minimalist, mostly the result of making three cross-country moves in fewer than five years. As a result, I’ve learned to pack lightly, purchasing and keeping things that will be worth the schlep. But the more I’ve pared down, the more I’ve realized how owning less creates a lot of clarity. It forces me to think about what I actually like and want and to prioritize my interests rather than just buying for the sake of it. It’s a mentality that has seeped into my overall approach to living, reminding me to be intentional not just about what I bring into my home, but also what I create, what I consume, and how I spend my time. It’s less about owning fewer things and more about owning things that matter to you. Here are some suggestions for developing a similar approach.

photography by michael muller

Find creative solutions for displaying what you’re interested in. 

This is a wooden peg drying rack repurposed as a magazine rack. I am really interested in independent art journals and have a nice stack of them that I didn’t want to just have piled in a messy stack so I used this as a way to display them.

A lineup of art periodicals printed on newsprint, including the latest “gazette” I edited for the brand Apiece Apart — a short newspaper filled with content inspired by the line’s newest collection

Design custom pieces when you can. 

My boyfriend Michael is a musician and has amassed a serious record collection. To house them, he designed a custom shelf just for records and hired a friend to build it so it would look exactly how he wanted.

Create unexpected art. 

A found photo tacked up on to a clipboard that we like to use as a frame.


Consider the art-object.

This ceramic Japanese donabe pot is supremely functional — it works similarly to a Dutch oven where you can put it directly on the oven burner or in the oven and cook big amounts of food slowly, and all at once; also I just think it looks really nice as a freestanding ceramic piece.

No packaging.

My friend Ann told me — and this is something I have in turn totally put into practice — that an essential step in having a dinner party is to eliminate all visible packaging. As in, if you’re putting out chips or crackers, put them in a bowl. It takes two seconds and looks way better than a plastic bag.

I do the same thing with how I approach storing food and also with small things like Q-tips or paper clips. I’ve also been known to rip labels off everything from hand soap to the mustard jar…but that’s a little crazy.

Support local designers and work often with talented friends. 

This goes back to the “find creative solutions” point: I hired my friend Megan, who is a talented woodworker, to make this magazine rack modeled after one I saw at a Judd installation. I like that it displays nice journals as art.

Always be editing. 

I use this bench as a rotating platform for what I’m into right now to keep things fresh — right now, it’s microfiction by Lydia Davis, the design philosophy of Bruno Munari, candles by Oui, and the LBM Dispatch project of Alec Soth and Brad Zellar.

Mix it up. 

I like to mix up the stacking and orientation of the way books are displayed to make them fit together in unexpected ways. 

Consider a daily uniform. 

I have a wardrobe palette of mostly black and white — less strictly enforced and more about just what I’m drawn to. I recently interviewed Greg Armas of the NY boutique brand Assembly, and talked about the freedom that comes with developing a style uniform, how it forces you to notice quality and detail. I like the daily reminders to pay attention.

Leigh Patterson directs creative content for editorial and visual projects. She is the editor and co-founder of the design journal synonym. She is currently working in Philadelphia as Senior Content Editor for Urban Outfitters.

  1. 1
    Jennifer Rose Smith | September 30, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    I love the idea of the “art-object” and creating unexpected art from things you already own. My favorite interiors don’t ever “play it safe”. Thanks for showing us that simplicity can be daring! You’ve given me some great ideas to incorporate into my approach to shopping.

  2. 2
    kelly colchin | September 30, 2014 at 2:44 pm

    Such an inspiring post! Thanks for sharing your vision, Leigh.

  3. 3
    Micaela | September 30, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    I’ve pretty much been forced into a minimal way of living due to the fact that I’ve moved an island, without a licens or a car, so I’ve been moving with my backpack. It really shows what you do and do not need in your life, and it’s a perfect opportunity to go “secondhand”-hunting!

  4. 4
    Dana | September 30, 2014 at 6:58 pm

    This is so beautiful and inspiring. Leigh is the most amazing!! Go Leigh go!

    • Lauren Smith Ford | September 30, 2014 at 8:27 pm

      Dana, you are right! Leigh is quite inspiring!

  5. 5
    Rachel | October 1, 2014 at 11:58 am

    Minimalist living is a delicious way of life. My husband and I have always avoided clutter and useless knick-knacks, but when we moved cross-country on our own dime, we really discarded anything that we weren’t in love with. We are inclined towards a daily uniform – for me that’s just a great bag and shoes, black tee/blouse/sweater and jeans. Shiny sleek hair, white straight teeth and fresh bright skin are my only accessories besides my wedding ring. When I encounter women who are over-fragranced or accessorized, they strike me as being insecure. Nope – we are happy to choose quality over quantity…

  6. 6
    arielle | October 1, 2014 at 8:08 pm

    this is such a great post. we all need to minimalize and I could really use a step in the minimal direction. thanks for all of the great tips!

    love, arielle
    a simple elegance

  7. 7
    Kelsey M | October 1, 2014 at 11:07 pm

    For the first few years I lived in NYC I got rid of a lot of stuff because I moved almost every year but once I settled into Brooklyn things started to pile up again. Hoping to excavate and get rid of a lot of stuff soon so that I can have more physical space for my “mental space”.

  8. 8
    Hallie Stephens | October 10, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    Hi There! I am a huge fan of the blog. In fact, not a day passes that I don’t check in. I recently started a lifestyle blog with two of my best friends, one of whom lives in New York, the other in London. I enjoyed this post so much, that I included it in my Friday Link Love. Such a helpful and insightful entry! If you want to check out our link back to your post, you can see it here: http://www.videndae.com/lifestyle/friday-link-love-3/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *