The past few weeks have been a blur for me. I woke up one day and it was clear to me what I had to do: Sell all my furniture. I know that sounds extreme, but there was just this crazy convergence of factors that made the conditions perfect for a big purge. And I decided to track the process in a photo book that chronicled my extreme makeover.
With its excess of decorations, incoming and outgoing gifts, materials for holiday craft projects with the kids, the detritus of constant entertaining – not to mention the PINE NEEDLES EVERYWHERE – December triggered some internal meltdown, which caused my typical low-grade anxiety to metastasize into something impossible to ignore. For every piece of clutter in my home there was an exponential equivalent in my head. Something had to give.
Like many people, my late teens and early twenties were spent accumulating stuff. I had little money, so I held on tightly to the few things I had. My late twenties and early thirties were about making a home with my new husband and, then, gathering all the things we needed to welcome children into our lives. And suddenly – almost overnight – it was time to lighten up. Here’s how I did it:
Focus Your Vision I’ve always gravitated to a midcentury modern aesthetic, but for a long time I hesitated to go after that look at home because I wanted to make sure it wasn’t just a passing phase. Perhaps it’s because I have a milestone birthday coming up, but suddenly I just decided that if I’ve loved pared-down style with roots in the 1950s for about thirty years, it’s probably an affection that will be with me for life. Even though I can appreciate style from lots of different genres, the one I felt most comfortable in was clear. It was time to make it happen at home.
Create an Inspiration Board I started by creating a digital inspiration board on Pinterest. Without regard to price, I just started pinning items I liked from a multitude of designers and blogs like Apartment Therapy – just to clarify my vision. I wanted to do this step before I had any other concrete plans so that – for once in my life – functional needs, financial limitations or expedient solutions wouldn’t distract me from my end goal. Upload photos from your board right into your book using a collage format from the layout tab within the Mixbook editor to make it look designerly.
Set a Budget – Track Your Expenses If you’re lucky, you have a budget. I had exactly zero budget. But I did have lots of furniture I had acquired over the years of working for a home furnishings company. I decided that I wouldn’t spend a penny more than what I made from selling what I had. I created a spreadsheet for all the items I posted on Craigslist, including what I projected I could sell them for. I then posted each item for a little over what I hoped to get – and for many, I brought even more than the original posted price. If, in the end, you’re proud of how successfully you were able to flip what you had for what you wanted, create a page in your book to showcase the numbers.
Catalogue What You’re Selling In a 1500 square-foot home, I probably had enough pieces to furnish a home twice the size. I had about ten items to sell – and I wanted to replace them with three. The math was on my side. I photographed each item from multiple angles so I’d have images to include with my for-sale ads. But it also served as a great way to catalogue, for posterity, the items that I had become attached to even if they weren’t my ideal. It became a nice way to honor the happy role they’ve played in my life over the past decade or so, and bid them adieu in a way that felt amiable – mutual even. My giant armoire that was far too big for my living room had one last chance to bear down on me from its ridiculously high vantage point – and crown molding that looked to me like a hairy eyeball. I did one final wrestling match with my boys on the floral rug that I honestly loved, but just wasn’t in line with my overall creative vision. And my sage-green sofa, which was pretty if super traditional style is your thing, acted as the backdrop to my kids and my cat for one more family photo.
Photograph the End Results And then the buyers came – up my steep hill with minivans, Suburbans and pickups – and hauled off almost every piece of furniture in our home, save for my grandmother’s bureau, my kids’ bunk beds and precious few other beloved pieces. And for at least a day I reveled in an uncluttered, nearly empty home. I cleaned it stem to stern, then went back to my digital inspiration board and used cash to buy pieces that approximated the look of the items I had chosen. I took my truck and drove up other people’s steep hills and emptied their homes of the more pared-down items they had deemed no longer fit their vision of style. And then I photographed the results of my big overhaul. Any nostalgia I had for the pieces that went their separate ways was replaced with euphoria that I had made it happen! My new pictures displayed a living space with a premeditated palette (with enough aberration to make it feel unstaged), furniture pieces that quietly did their job without excess flourish, plenty (but not too many) nods to the midcentury style I love – and, perhaps most importantly, enough blank space that I could breathe.
Take Time to Reflect Once you’ve got your book roughly laid out, add some text to describe what worked and what didn’t in your “before” pictures, and drop in captions about funny stories, connections and meaning that came up in the process. I’ll write about all the (clean) infant-sized diapers found behind the drawers in a dresser I sold – as well as the serendipitous unearthing of a classic Eames chair that’s now the centerpiece of my living room.
My home now looks just like I want it to. I didn’t spend a dime. I have a book to remember it by. And my kids and my cat have a new soon-to-be-sentimental backdrop to all the family photos that will happen there over the next decade or more.
Happy Homemaking! Happy Mixbooking!