On Moving, Home Decor, And Learning To Live With Less

Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 9.46.59 AM

I’m in the process of moving. If you were to imagine moving as a checklist from one to ten, with one being “considering the fact that you could do better, apartment-wise,” and ten being “perfectly settled and happy at your new place,” I’m at about a three. I have spent a good part of my days this past week and a half in the throes of an apartment search. I track down listings, I email my broker (formally brokers), I visit places, some of which elicit an immediate “no” and some of which lead to disappointment when I find out someone has already taken it. It’s a tedious task, but not without its excitement, and the rush I felt today in a potential Upper East Side living room (with huge, beautiful, south-facing windows and a garden-sized fire escape outside them) is very worth the frequent disappointment.

That living room won’t be ours, though, as someone bid on it while we were walking from the metro. You live and you learn.

Still, compared to the other times I’ve moved in my life, this has been a relatively painless and productive experience. Nearly every other time in my life, moving has been profoundly constrained by circumstances (moving to a different country, limited income, needing to find last-minute roommates, etc). This is the first move where we are neither limited by time frame nor money (within a reasonable budget), and can take the time to find something that suits our needs in a long-term way. The fact that we’re doing this in winter helps greatly, too, as it tends to be the real estate dead zone (because who the hell wants to move during a polar vortex?). Yes, it’s still frustrating to trek all the way to Murray Hill to see a place that ends up not being a fit, but at least we have the freedom of saying “this isn’t perfect,” instead of having to settle because it’s the only one that fits our needs.

With that in mind, I have become determined to make this move the most deliberate and “adult” of my life, and to finally take the time to do things right. Some of our furniture will be making the move with us, but a good part of it is IKEA knock-down stuff, bought in a haze when we were just trying to get settled in from France as quickly as possible. I am not opposed to IKEA at all, but knowing that some of our furniture will have to be replaced is more of a reason to think clearly about what I want this new place to look like.

And for me, that planning can’t really happen until I’ve figured out everything that needs to be gotten rid of. I’ve already done a closet purge or two over the past year, and still I find myself with an abundance of crap that has no business being moved from one side of New York City to the other. Sure, not all of it is clothing or accessories, but it all still comes from the same Diet Hoarder impulse to buy cheaply and on a whim, and then to never throw away because some part of that feels wasteful and immoral. I can barely stand to look at most of my linens, for example, because I rushed through their purchase and — as with many things — am left with too many of them, and not enough that I actually like.

I am getting rid of more clothes. I am getting rid of linens. I am getting rid of little knick knacks that litter my tables and windowsills. I am getting rid of storage bins full of decorations that I’ve never put up, magazines I’ve never read, and promotional tee shirts I’ve never worn. I am getting rid of as much clutter as possible, using the move as an opportunity to be truly ruthless about the kind of things that are worth keeping in my life.

And just as much as I am being thoughtful in my choice of apartment (and thinking practically about how each room will be used, and when), I intend to be the same way about my eventual decor. No more striking colors chosen on a whim in the paint store to counteract the perceived lack of light on an accent wall. No more wall hangings that I resent every time I pass by them. No more half-measures when it comes to my themes and styles. I will enlist the help of my mother, consult Marc every step of the way, and find a way to create a space that may take a few months to become fully settled, but which will feel like a breath of fresh air every time I come home to it. I want it to be a home where I finally feel like an adult, like I have chosen and created my space in an intelligent way.

Having to say “no” to mostly-good apartments with flaws I would have overlooked even a year ago has been tough. But walking out of there, I find myself overwhelmed with relief that I did not cave into pressure and immediate gratification, and waited for something better to come along. And no, it won’t be as easy or as clear to do that with other things in my life, but I can certainly practice it when I am creating my living space. I can say “no” to clutter and leave it behind. I can say “not right now” to an unnecessary item that’s caught my eye in a store. I can say “I’ll pay a bit extra for something that will last, and will truly fit my lifestyle.” I can make the smart, delayed-gratification decisions in the way I live, and how I set up my day-to-day. And I look forward to living a life of my own creation, one that took time, planning, and effort, but which feels so much richer for having waited.

Feel like you’ll never save enough money to be a real person? So did Steph Georgopulos. Read about it in Some Things I Did for Money

  • I just moved across the country (from DC to Portland) and did the exact same decluttering, maybe to an extreme. I showed up with two suitcases and shipped three boxes, and that was it. I’ve bought silverware, dishes, pot holders, cleaning supplies, linens, body wash, you get the point.

    While my budget is crying with the whole “buying something you just got rid of” feeling, it’s nice to be able to stop and recognize that I don’t need three different scents of Clorox wipes or more shitty Dollar Store frames.

    Plus, my decorating style in my early twenties is different than it is now, and it’s nice to be able to start over with all of those items.

  • jesssayshi

    I love your site but the font is REALLY hard to read on the background color.

    • chelseafagan

      Sorry to hear that! We will take a look today.

      • Erin Marie

        I agree with it being difficult to read.

        • Jillian Taylor

          I second that agreement! Sometimes I have to highlight it to be able to read it easily.

  • Rose

    You should look at Queens (just saying—affordable, lots of space, beautiful apartments & great neighborhoods) 🙂