A few years ago, I decided to depart the Upper East Side of Manhattan for the charming streets of the West Village. Moving from a one-bedroom apartment to a studio for twice the price was the pill I had to swallow to live this dream. I never doubted the move. Although I knew I was giving up space and "stuff," I would get to take on a new lifestyle, have all of the best restaurants on my street and share a great close-knit neighborhood. But this does not mean I parted with my things easily. I am in the interior design business and have been collecting furniture and knick-knacks ever since I can remember. Also, I have brought many goods back from my around-the-world travels that I consider priceless. So, what do you do when you have to surrender these cherished objects to live the the way you've always desired?
First, I turned into a really "generous" person by giving anything and everything away that no longer served me, but that could definitely serve someone else. It seems much easier to "gift" things rather than throw them away, because at least I know they are going to a good home.
After this first phase, I had to adopt a mantra of William Morris': "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." I was brutal. An old laptop that seemingly has some sort of monetary value? Recycle. A Diane Von Furstenberg dress that I will never fit into unless I catch Mono? Resale shop. All of my CDs that have already been downloaded onto my computer? Donate. A hand-carved mirror that used to hang in my childhood home? Well, wait.
This mirror had nostalgic value and could be useful as a reflective device, but had no place on a wall in my new home. How do you part with nostalgia? Well, with sacrifice. I'm talking throw-a-virgin-over-a-cliff-to-save-the-rest-of-the-tribe-from-the-fury-of-the-gods kind of sacrifice. It seems counterintuitive at first, but after sacrificing a few treasured belongings that no longer fit into my life, I did not feel loss -- I felt emancipation.
It turns out, I am not the sum of my possessions and my stuff is not the only tie to my past. Once I ripped off the first Band-aid, I couldn't get rid of excess inventory fast enough. It was a religious experience -- to be dramatic -- to realize how little the physical items meant to the value of my life. This transferred into the beginning of living an examined life.
I now see what a positive thing it is to make sure everything in my life is measured by quality, and not by quantity. I am able to stop consuming things because there is simply no room for more. And, I finally realize, my cup is full.
Click through the slideshow below to see photos of my West Village home.
All photos by Skyler-Smith