Graham Hill: Less Stuff, More Happiness
Imagine you are editing the story of your life. What parts of the plot are essential? Which settings are necessary? Which characters are indispensable? And what could be left out? What parts of your life feel like filler?
Now stop imagining, because you are editing the story of your life. Every choice you make -- the home you live in, the furniture you buy, the knickknacks on the mantle, the relationships you keep, the career you choose, the activities you engage in, the media you consume -- shape your story.
We all want our lives to be good stories. We want beautiful settings, an interesting plot, great characters and a good message. But good stories need good editors. That can be difficult for many of us. Good editors must be willing to let go of everything that doesn't move the story forward; this includes letting go of things they might have strong emotional attachments to. But they know that great stories can be ruined when crowded out by unnecessary elements.
We launched the LifeEdited project last year because we believe the story of humankind needs a good edit. We see how the magnificence of the story -- the beauty, art, love, etc. -- is being crowded out by unnecessary crap -- the six-car-garage McMansions, the disposable culture, the overstimulation. LifeEdited is showing a different way.
The project starts with Treehugger.com founder Graham Hill's 420 square-foot New York City apartment. We wanted to show that people could have what we call "the luxury of less" -- that we could have everything we need, and that our lives and planet will be happier, healthier and more beautiful using less stuff and space.
To find the best way of working these principles into the apartment, we partnered with the crowd-sourcing platform Jovoto and marketing firm Mutopo to launch a competition to design the space. Graham defined what was essential to him: things like the ability to have dinner parties for 12, plenty of seating to hang out with friends, comfortable beds for guests and a home office. To make sure this happened, we had contestants incorporate Resource Furniture's brilliant transforming furniture into the design. To make sure the space was produced in a healthy, environmentally responsible manner, we partnered with the green-building supplier Green Depot. We knew that meeting these requirements in such a small space meant every item had to be considered.
We received 300 brilliant entries from all over the world. The winning design was submitted by two Romanian architecture students named 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.
This small apartment will be the launch pad for an editing movement. We envision a future with large-scale developments that have beautiful, compact units, communal spaces and sharing systems. These spaces are extremely energy efficient and have healthy, safe air. These developments will support people in focusing on what's important to them. We envision 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 has 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 like one big, rough draft. It is a great story, whose meaning is often obscured by unimportant and unnecessary stuff.
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. Simply remember that everything you add to your life that is not important, detracts from everything that is.
David Friedlander works with Graham Hill on the LifeEdited Project. For more information visit www.lifeedited.com and sign up for our newsletter.