Stuff Your Stuff
“What’s in the box?” Graham asked, as he sauntered out onto the warmly lit stage and plopped down onto a nondescript, large brown packing box. His red sneakers, which matched the glowing red “TED” letters behind him, tapped twice with anticipation as he smirked, leaned in, and looked out to the audience for a reaction.
“Whatever it is, it must be pretty important,” he said with a twinkle in his eye, “because I’ve traveled with it and moved with it to apartment, to apartment, to apartment…” The audience chuckled knowingly.
There’s nothing quite like moving to make us realize how much “stuff” we have and question what’s actually essential. Graham knows this all too well.
After making his first millions from Sitewerks, a web firm he founded in the mid-nineties, Graham Hill promptly bought a 3,600-square-foot home in Seattle, which then necessitated a personal shopper and the great expense of filling it with furniture and things. Later, Graham would need to move to New York City for work and sell his Seattle property — and all the stuff that was inside it. Through the expense and hassle of flying back and forth from New York to Seattle for the selling process, Graham realized how few of his possessions he had actually used in Seattle and decided to go with a simpler approach for the next move.
Graham worked remotely from all over the world while launching Treehugger.com, an eco-blog to spread the message of sustainability to mainstream markets. He moved first to Barcelona, then Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Toronto, and many more international cities, carrying little more than a couple of duffle bags, living in small apartments with great satisfaction and freedom.
The journey from grandeur to duffle bags sparked his next venture, LifeEdited.
LifeEdited suggests that we have too much stuff that we use too little — way too much, in fact. The average American home now takes up three times more space per capita than it did in 1950; yet we still don’t have enough space for all of our things, leading to a burgeoning $22 billion storage industry.
Moreover, Graham claims that in spite of our consumerism, our happiness levels have not gone up; in fact, the more objects and properties we acquire, the more mental overhead we experience.
“There’s a lot of complexity in the amount of products and clothes and stuff we pack into our lives,” Graham says. “It just becomes very, very full, and it ends up being about minutia… and you lose the plot: What’s important to me?”
To help others strip down the nonessentials and get back to what is most important, Graham now uses LifeEdited as a platform to propose ways to live with more ease, financially and otherwise, by simplifying your living space and all the stuff inside it.
The result can be surprisingly pleasing when “less is more” is done well. Graham himself now owns a 420-square-foot apartment in New York City that serves as an elegant example of how to live with less through smart design.
Like a swiss army knife, Graham’s compact apartment in SoHo converts into several useful spaces: A moving wall with built-in storage allows the main room to serve as a home theater, master bedroom or two private bedrooms, a generous dining room, or a home office with a few simple movements. Everything is designed with efficiency in mind to serve as a laboratory for minimalistic, but high quality, living.
With this simplified approach, Graham believes he has found a key to happiness. With fewer possessions, he can focus more on what matters most to him: experiences, people, and meaningful work. He reports in his widely shared New York Times article, “I have less — and enjoy more. My space is small. My life is big.”
Are You Simple?
Or simply curious? Changes of all kinds demand courage and stamina, and we need to be exposed to alternative ways of thinking about how we live—and how we could live—in order to uncover our own truth. More of us must vulnerably share our experiences and gratitude so that others may be inspired.
Has someone inspired you? MeSimple is looking for stories of pioneering people living simpler lives that are meaningfully integrated with nature. Help build the wealth of a connected world and a let us know if you have content to share, introductions you’d like to make, or resources worth spotlighting.