Graham Hill is an entrepreneur.
He’s made quite a bit of money and he wrote a fascinating piece for “The New York Times” about how he’s downsized his life.
After he sold his first company, “to celebrate” he writes, he bought a huge 3,600-square-foot house in Seattle. He didn’t just celebrate by buying the house. He filled his house with stuff.
Soon after purchasing and filling the house he wound up moving to New York to work there. He moved into a 1,900-square-foot apartment, another place he had to fill with furniture and gadgets.
In his article, Hill mentions one of my favorite statistics (yes, I have favorite statistics):
The average size of a new American home in 1950 was 983 square feet; by 2011, the average new home was 2,480 square feet. And those figures don’t provide a full picture. In 1950, an average of 3.37 people lived in each American home; in 2011, that number had shrunk to 2.6 people.
The house my wife and I rent is around 1,200-square-feet, small by modern American standards, but plenty of room for just the two of us. I say plenty of room, but as I look around it is filled with stuff.
I have more clothes than I can possibly wear. I probably have over 100 t-shirts. A couple of months ago I went through them and found 12 to donate to Goodwill. That’s progress right there, except I’ve added another 10 to the collection since then.
I, like some many others, have difficulty getting rid of things. My wife and I bought a new bed a few months ago. The old one is still sitting in her office, leaning up against the wall. Why didn’t we get rid of it? We are waiting to sell it. To who? I have no idea but in the meantime it’s temporary home against the wall seems permanent.
Every one of our drawers is full. So are all of our closets. And don’t get me started on the garage. I’m just happy we can still pull both cars in. This is precisely Hill’s point. Many of us spend much of our lives buying things, adding to the house, but have a much more difficult time purging. Americans have so much stuff, Hill writes, the storage industry is worth $22 billion alone.
Bruce St. James admitted this week he has boxes in a storage unit he hasn’t opened since 1994.
Hill writes his life started to change after he met a girl and fell in love. He moved with her to Spain. There he downsized from his spacious apartment to a “tiny flat.” From there they moved elsewhere.
“We packed a few clothes,” he writes, “some toiletries and a couple of laptops and hit the road.”
From there, he never looked back. Now, he lives in a 420-square-foot apartment.
My apartment sleeps four people comfortably; I frequently have dinner parties for 12. My space is well-built, affordable and as functional as living spaces twice the size…I have less — and enjoy more.
Hill says he has six dress shirts and 10 bowls. That’s it.
I’m not ready to go that far and move into one room but I do suddenly feel the need to go through my closets and really evaluate what I truly need. Maybe, this time, I’ll actually start getting rid of the things that just take up space.