1. Adjust your stuff to your space, not your space to your stuff
It’s common to choose a home based on how it can accommodate your belongings. Example: “I really liked that place, but it wasn’t big enough for the sectional couch I got from Grandma.” It’s more important to
find the furniture that fits your space, instead of the other way around
find the furniture that fits your space, instead of the other way around.
David Friedlander, managing editor of LifeEdited, recently found himself in this trap. “When my wife and I were looking for apartments, we turned down half a dozen units simply because they wouldn’t fit our dining room table. It never crossed our mind to forsake the table for the apartment we actually wanted,” he says.
While we realize that not everyone has the time — or funds — to get new furniture every time they move, it’s worth it to think about it. What fits nicely into a sprawling apartment at the University of Wherever might not work in an urban studio. With the many inexpensive options for furniture today, like Ikea or Muji, it’s becoming easier than ever to restock your home.
2. Bigger isn’t always better
When choosing your home, think about your day-to-day life. Does an annual trip from Mom and Dad really necessitate a second bedroom? Is the off chance you’re called upon to host Thanksgiving dinner enough to spring for an eight-piece dining set? Extra space and belongings can be more of a burden than a blessing.
“In the 1950s, the average home was 1,000 square feet. Today, it’s 2,600,” says Friedlander. “There are just as many people living in sprawling, suburban homes as there are urban people in tiny studios. And people feel an urge to fill that space up, which can lead to a lot of clutter.”
Donald Albrecht, the curator for architecture and design at the Museum of the City of New York, attributes this to demographic changes. “In recent years, we’ve seen a sharp jump in the number of singles living alone. People are living longer without spouses, and just living longer in general. Yet people haven’t really adjusted the way they structure their homes.” He cites a recent study that followed families around, cataloging the spaces they actually used in their house. “The result was that people only needed a very small portion of their homes.”
While a bigger home is great for impressing the neighbors, it may not be practical on a day-to-day basis. Avoid choosing a home on size alone — because there is such a thing as too much space.
3. Avoid clutter
“A study explored whether classrooms are too cluttered with paper turkeys, posters and the like. The research found that kids actually learned better in a clutter-free space — and the same goes for your home,” says Friedlander.
We’ve all been invited to a friend’s house, only to discover an endless swamp of dirty clothes and worthless trinkets. It isn’t pleasant to visit, and it can’t be pleasant to live in.
“The number-one contributor to clutter are books,” Friedlander says. “After college, I had this extremely heavy box of books that I would schlep from apartment to apartment — but I never read them. The books I actually liked, I would give to a friend because I wanted them to read it. Ditch the books you don’t read.”
A good rule of thumb is the one-year law: If something hasn’t been used or worn in a year, it’s time to let it go.