Some Items You Can Probably Go Without (Part II)

I tend to post stories about designs and practices that help us live comfortably and contentedly in our little house, but I think it’s just as important to share information about the everyday items that we happily live WITHOUT. After all, making a home of a small space isn’t mainly about figuring out how to cram as much stuff as possible into your compact quarters— it’s about experiencing more by owning less.

The following is just a very small sampling of everyday items that you can probably make do just fine without. (Explore Part I of this series here.)

Before we jump on in, here’s a lil’ disclaimer: To each her or his own. While these items don’t work for me, they might be gems elsewhere. You know your own needs and space best, folks. Design and decor should be different and enjoyable for everyone. 

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Random Sets
From office supplies to hair accessories, lots of smaller goods tend to come in sets. Unless you’re buying packs of supplies for an entire staff, I expect that one or two mindfully-crafted, beautiful versions of whatever you’re seeking will probably suffice. 

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For example, I haven’t bought a pack of pens in years. I now have three handmade pens on my desk, and a few handpicked color markers in my desk drawer. Because I chose these deliberately, and selected versions I thought to be beautiful and practical, I’m more careful with where I leave them. (If you have an excess of office supplies that you want to offload, I'd recommend donating them to a local school. Teachers often end up buying school supplies out-of-pocket, and your contribution could save them time and money, and help their students.)

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Similarly, do we require 100 hair ties at a time? I’ve had long, thick hair my entire life, and I frequently wear it pulled back-- but that's no excuse to buy a million elastics and pins. Since paying closer attention to my consumer habits, I’ve stopped absent-mindedly grabbing packs of clips or bands at once, and have managed to keep track of a small handful of these tools instead. By being more careful with how I use them and where I store them, I've been able to keep the same ones for years. 

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Vases & Candle Holders
I appreciate that so many homewares are works of art. If you have a collection of vases or candle holders that you love, that’s great— show them off and enjoy them often. But if you’re just starting out or looking to reduce your inventory at home, consider upcycling an ever-changing assortment of glass jars and other similar containers for tealight candles and/or vases if and when you need them. After they’ve lived out their second life, they can either be tucked away in a cabinet for future use, or dropped in the recycling bin.

 Photo from the Cottage in 2014 by Monica Wang

Photo from the Cottage in 2014 by Monica Wang

Frames
I worked closely with art galleries and museum collections for over a decade. I appreciate the need for a protective frame for a piece of fine art, and genuinely enjoy the process of picking out moldings, mats and fillets that compliment original works when designing a supporting frame. But if you’re hanging posters, personal photos, textiles, or inexpensive prints that you anticipate wanting to regularly switch up, try skipping the frames. Bulldog clips with flat thumbtacks will cost you about $1 total, save about an inch (or more) of space on your walls, and won’t go to waste if and when you want to change your walls or artwork.

Ash Trays and Palo Santo Holders
If you’re not a regular smoker of any kind, chances are you’ll never need an ash tray. Just use an upturned metal cap, a shallow glass jar, or a petite ceramic plate instead. They can all be washed and reused for their original purposes and beyond. (As always, please use your brain and keep safety at the top of mind when it comes to fire and ash.)

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Changing Table and Accessories
We had a changing table that doubled as a baby bath (our sinks wouldn't have worked for bathing an infant), and storage space. But now, in retrospect, I can see that we didn’t NEED it. I am glad we had it for that initial year with our first child, but we ultimately gave the unit to friends who we're expecting. I hope that they too passed it on when the time came. A Gathre Mat or portable changing roll work just fine as a surface for diapering your baby. (I prefer the Gathre Mat because it comes in an array of larger sizes, which can help when you're cleaning a squirmy little kiddo.) 

Wipe warmers and diaper stackers are even more unnecessary. Your hands can warm up a wipe if needed. And if you want a neat stack of diapers, an organizer can easily be made out of a spare basket turned on its side and nailed to the wall or placed on the floor.

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A Top Sheet
I recently got a new round of my favorite bedding from Parachute to replace the linens we’d worn out over years of co-sleeping, and realized that we didn’t actually need a top sheet. It took some getting used to over the first few nights, but now we don’t miss it at all. In fact, it’s a mini relief not to have the displaced fabric bunching down around our legs at night as it always inevitably did. Plus the lack of a top sheet speeds up the time it takes to make our bed in the morning, and cuts back on laundry, as well as the need for more storage if you have a spare set.