LifeEdited: Less Stuff, More Happiness

Treehugger.com founder Graham Hill established a competitive project about editing one’s life for more time, freedom, and happiness. Simply it is a philosophy of the “luxury of less.”

In this world of declining expectations, stagnant incomes, strained natural resources, global warming and excess pollution, dramatically unequal income distribution… in this world… your world… our world… understanding a “luxury of less” is paramount to establishing a life of “happy.”

So, what’s the scheme? What’s a LifeEdited?

Think about editing your life’s story. What of the plot is essential? Which locations and settings are necessary? What characters are essential? Now… what could be left out? What parts of your life serve as filler?

Every choice made — the home lived in, the furniture bought, the objects on the coffee table, the relationships kept, the career chosen, the activities engaged, the media consumed… all shape your story.

So, if you want a good story, you want to live a good story with beautiful settings, an interesting plot, great characters and a good message. Good stories need good editors, a difficult effort for many if not most. Good editing gets rid of that which fails to move the story forward — including letting go of things to which we might have strong emotional attachments.

The point is: good editors know that great stories can be ruined when crowded out by unnecessary elements.

LifeEdited project launched last year because the story of humankind needs a good edit. The splendor of the story — the beauty, art, love, etc. — is crowded out by unnecessary crap — the six-car-garage McMansions, the disposable culture, the overstimulation. LifeEdited is showing a different way.

The project initiated with Treehugger.com founder Graham Hill’s 420 square-foot New York City apartment. The point was to demonstrably show through creation… “the luxury of less” — having everything that’s needed while our lives and planet will be happier, healthier, and more beautiful using less stuff and space.

The effort was to find the best way of working these principles into the apartment through design — to launch a competition to design the space. Graham defined what was essential to him, personally: the ability to have dinner parties for 12, plenty of seating to socialize with friends, comfortable beds for self and guests, and a home office.

300 entries arrived from all over the world, with the winning design submitted by two Romanian architecture students: Catalin Sandu and Adrian Iancu. Their elegant design, entitled “One Size Fits All,” met all of Graham’s requirements and brought purpose and intention to every square foot.

Learning about this project, I recalled a line from an old movie: “Honey, good fashion and taste is about good editing. Stand with your back at the mirror. Twist around real quick. Whatever first hits your eye… take it off.”

This small apartment should serve in such a manner: to be the launch pad for an editing movement.

A better future with large-scale developments that have beautiful, compact units, communal spaces and sharing systems can make lives happier. Such spaces are extremely energy efficient and have healthy, safe air. Such developments support focusing on what’s important… prioritizing.

Such spaces create a world where people spend more time with one another, where possessions and time can be shared, not hoarded, where products are passed onto children, not trash collectors.

200 years of industrialization have brought us to a point where we can produce products, services and information at an overwhelming rate. The story of our civilization in 2012 is really a rough draft. So far, it’s a great story, whose meaning is often hidden by unimportant and unnecessary stuff.

As the project creators say, “2012 is the time to edit. We edit for the sake of the planet, for the sake of our pocketbooks, for the sake of our happiness.”

Your personal edit might be buying a smaller home, participating in a car share, or buying one less pair of jeans. The specifics are not important. Remember that everything added to your life that is not important detracts from everything that is important.

From The Designers…

one size fits all

Catalin Sandu and Adrian Iancu

DESIGN CONCEPT

Given both the small footprint of the existing apartment and the quite high number of desired functions that should be fitted inside of it, we thought the most logical solution would be to draw a line between the convertible and non-convertible areas. So for the starting point of the concept, we decided that the best configuration of the apartment would have the wet and non-convertible areas (the kitchen and the bathroom) positioned next to the eastern wall facing the building’s private courtyard, using the rest as the convertible area, a comfortably sized open space, receiving natural light from all four windows and meeting all the owner’s needs, by transforming itself.

In order to achieve this multifunctional space, we came up with a mobile modular piece of furniture that can be retracted from the apartment’s entrance wall, providing a degree of privacy that is needed for the 2 guests’s space ,and the work space(home office), and another fixed modular piece of furniture, occupying the whole length of the opposite wall, so that the main area of the apartment could be used entirely, without partitioning, as a clear, bright and generously sized open space.

LOUNGE/DINING/BEDROOM AREA

The main area of the apartment is a convertible room,by using smart space saving furniture systems, combined with the mobility of the modular piece on the entrance wall.

The furniture modules fixed on the south wall of the apartment contains storage space for the 12 dining chairs , clothing  and other personal things ,an Atoll 202 sofa for the lounge area, with a wall queen size bed behind it, that can easily transform the lounge area into a bedroom, and also a built-in wall folding side sofa at the right of the sofa/wall bed that can complete the lounge area when is needed. The coffee table and the other 2 extra stools  for the lounge can also be hidden in the furniture modules behind them. Basically, that features permit this space to be used, one at the time, as a lounge area for 8 people, a dining area for 12 people, or  a simple bedroom for 2 people.

The mobile furniture module can be positioned on the entrance wall,in order to permit a bigger area for living, dining or bedroom activities, or it can be moved horizontally towards the central area, with  a system of double tracks, built on the surface of the floor and the ceiling as well. This mobile module  has two sides: on the one facing the apartment’s living area there is a  folding dinner table for 12 people built-in, with a folding system that consists of two boards with pliable metallic legs on the interior side, dining storage ,an empty rectangular space for the rotating 31” monitor(that can be also used  as a computer screen from the  office area, when the mobile module is moved) and more storage drawers.

Also there is a thinbike slot behind the folding dining table that can be accessed from the entrance area.

GUEST AND OFFICE  AREA

The other side can be accessed when the module is moved horizontally towards the center of the room, and contains  built-in retractable bunk beds for the the 2 guests, and sliding doors that can close the guest area, providing them privacy ,and also a retractable desk for the home office area, that can also be closed with sliding doors, offering visual and auditory privacy.

The living/bedroom area can be closed as well with sliding doors( positioned in the fixed south furniture wall),in order to offer  privacy/separation from  the guests, in the situation of using the bathroom.

KITCHEN AND BATHROOM AREA

Positioned  near the entrance, oriented to the private courtyard ,the kitchen contains a  front positioned on the entrance wall ,having an electrical oven, an induction cook top with a built-in  hood on top,with a storage space  above it, a tall storage space for drinks, an electrical  dishwasher and a fridge on top; also there is a large drawer at the lower side ,for storing shoes,  that is accessible from the entrance area.

The other  kitchen front is on the opposite side, having  a sink near the window with a trash container and  a compost machine under it, storage drawers, and  a tool cabinet that is accessible from the living area.

The kitchen area is also separated from the living area by a small breakfast bar for two people,.Between the kitchen and the bathroom there is a stridia slot, and a few shelves above it, orientated to the main living space.

Also oriented to the private courtyard, is the bathroom, which contains  a space for the washbasin with storage space under it ,a cabin for shower and sauna near the window, and a separated room for the toilet, so that the shower/sauna and the water-closet can be used separately at the same time.The bathroom is entered  by a sliding frosted glass door that allows the natural light to enter the main living area.


9 responses to “LifeEdited: Less Stuff, More Happiness

  • Mike

    Milady and I live in a 1 bedroom apartment. We are working towards the focus of this article. Our “vanity” is that we are part of a Victorian themed arts and social movement known as “Steampunk” and truly ENJOY the costuming that goes along with it. MiLady sews a ood deal of this herself. This means we have a lot of clothes. Our life is in almost constant “tetris/edit” as we are attempting to pare our possessions down while still maintaining those we feel we need for our lifestyle.

  • di

    Develop new behaviors:

    Shelving, drawers, cupboards, closets, bureaus, desks, tables or lamps are not really needed.

    Try a spacious room with a vaulted ceiling, skylights, arched windows, recessed lighting and heated floors.

    Try a sofabed and chair to sleep, lounge, study, dine and entertain. Try sitting on the floor. Store minimal wardrobes in baskets beneath furniture. Use a computer for media. Store handy items in a tote bag.

    Use a portable stovetop and one-pot recipes. Use large cutting boards to cover a sink area, under-counter fridge and washer/dryer. Stack minimal kitchen items behind a small set of curtains beneath a kitchen sink. Store utensils in a single basket. Dry dishes on towels. Dry towels on hooks.

    In the bathroom, try a tiny corner sink without a vanity. Hang towels on hooks. Store cosmetic baskets on the back of a toilet. Store soap in a shower. Try a full-length mirror and clothing hook on the back of the door.

    Try a swivel sweeper and one multi-purpose cleanser. Clean by hand, rinsing in a sink.

  • di

    This is rather cold and gloomy…

  • di

    Pale yellow walls brighten a room.

  • di

    Vertical storage is claustrophobic.

  • di

    This seems like an expensive, unnecessary investment.

  • di

    Rather than a dining room, eat with a plate in your lap – while sitting on a couch, chair or on the floor.

    • Coronare Modestus Faust

      Well, I think one needs to bear in mind the project assignment: “the point was to demonstrably show through creation… ‘the luxury of less.'” Luxury of less, yes, but luxury all the same… or, nevertheless. Your comments propose, “rather than a dining room, eat with a plate in your lap – while sitting on a couch, chair or on the floor,” and “shelving, drawers, cupboards, closets, bureaus, desks, tables or lamps are not really needed.” While what you say is absolutely true, such a “rustic” manner of living is not a life of luxury. The proposal in this assignment needed to show that luxury is not a life of “more” and “bigger” but of “less,” (less space, less resource use, less clutter… less but not minimalist) which is not the same as you propose for your preferences… a life “without,” a life more rustic and survivalist. The proposal was to provide a lifestyle fulfilling needs AND satisfying wants… a life of luxury redefined, not a life of reclaimed items on a minimalist scale more appropriate to a village setting in Kenya. The proposal was about an upscale life of less. To you, that proposal may be an unnecessary expenditure, and I would never argue it is wrong… for you. It is wrong for someone like me and those to whom this project was directed… those with the means and desire to live an upscale life of luxury on a more resource and space responsible basis. Thanks for stopping by, reading, and offering your own insights. Much appreciated.

  • di

    “Less, but not minimalist” and “luxuriously” designed for a specific customer – thanks for clarifying…

    Enjoyed the different perspective.

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