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.
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.
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.