My household contents vs 21st century US houses

If you don’t read An Exacting Life, you’re missing out! She’s inspired so many of my posts.  Today, I was a little stuck on what to write.  Nothing I’d drafted felt right or finished, and I just lacked the drive to know what to write (so, if there’s something you’d like to know, feel free to send me an email with what you’d like to know livetolist(AT)  And then whoosh,  An Eaxcting Life’s post comes and I think ‘oh, I could write a whole post on that, rather than just commenting!’.  So here goes:

Inspiration behind An Exacting Life's post.

Inspiration behind An Exacting Life’s post.

An Exacting Life’s post is about a book she recently read, Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century: 32 Families Open Their Doors (Jeanne E. Arnold et al., Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press, UCLA, 2012).  She used images and the texts to compare to her life.

Firstly, I live alone, so my ‘stuff’ ratio is at least 1/3 of what a couple with one child would have.  However, I likely earn as much as these couples, based on my rudimentary knowledge of US salaries and my salary.  So I have the means to have as much as these families, if not the time in life to have bought it all (I’m 28, I’m not sure how old the respondents were).

Interestingly, if I was to participate in a program like this, I wouldn’t react with ‘Oh no, I don’t want someone poking through my house’ (probably explains why I blog!), or even ‘I need to clean first’.  Sure there’s dust on the skirting boards at the moment, but overall I’m content to show strangers a few bowls in the sink.

I also have nothing on my fridge – I think the advent of stainless steel fridges has made that more and more common.  No one has ever said anything about it being ‘empty’.  I do have a magnetic noticeboard nearby, and that’s where invites and cards go, as well as some nice subway map magnets.

Noticeboard takes clutter off the fridge

Noticeboard takes clutter off the fridge

To some extent, my house is a cultural museum, almost all my ‘art’ is from my travels (I plan to catalogue all my art in a blog post in the future).  Actually,  I buy almost all my clothing overseas too.  I plan and save for trips and have the time to shop thoughtfully.  If homewares weren’t so heavy, I might also partake in buying those too (I didn’t even know there was Zara Home til I got to Dubai.  I was in HEAVEN! )  I don’t display anything related to my religion. Religious art sort of creeps me out.  And if it creeps me, imagine all my non religious friends’ reactions!.  I don’t have any trophies at all, and I don’t display my certificates.  As to photos of family: I have none! I have a photo strip of my best friends and myself from the day of my first date – but none of the said date, now bf!  I LOVE making photo albums for my brother’s 21st and my grandmother’s Christmas present last year, but I don’t display photos.  They age quickly.  And… I don’t know. Perhaps it’s all those years at boarding school, it was too painful (at the height of homesickness) to see a reminder?

With technology, I have two phones (work and personal).  The work phone tends to live in my handbag at the front of the house.  My personal phone follows me around, and it charges at the foot of my bed.  I watch a bit of TV, particularly when I’m home alone.  But I try to pick programs rather than just watch for the sake of it.  Cause I have book reviews to get too as well!  And I actually quite like the radio on, and often feel conflicted when I have to turn it off!

I do not stockpile food – I don’t have the space! I have a 10L water canteen just in case, and lots of grains, so I can eat from my pantry should I have to.  But I buy all my meat and fruit/vege fresh as it’s just outside my door.  I can’t imagine having an additional fridge or freezer, as I grew up in a family of five without one.  I always cook in my own kitchen, and about 50% of the time I cook with the bf’s help at his place.  He can cook by himself, and I’ll leave him to it, but happy to help as requested. (So blessed to have a man that cooks… something I need to teach one of my brothers!)

I don’t have a backyard.  I have a comically small balcony. I have one fold up chair. It’s sad – the size, but I knew I wouldn’t utilise a balcony, or bother keeping it clean and nice, so it’s probably good I didn’t waste money on a place with a bigger outdoor space.  I’m lucky to have a communal rooftop, that’s super sunny with an awesome view, and soon a pool and BBQs – all of which I don’t have to maintain!

More colourful than a hotel room.

More colourful than a hotel room.

In my bedroom, I think it’s spartan, similar to a hotel. But there’s more colour than a hotel – at least in the bedding.  White bedspreads are a little scary to me.  In my house inventory, I spend roughly 4% on my bedroom in the past 16 months, but I don’t include soft furnishings in that (that’d add 10% or so in actual costs).  When I look at replacement cost of the furniture (I owned by bed when I moved in), it’s closer to 11% of the total costs on the place.  The electrical items (ie ANYTHING with a power cord: fridge, phone charger etc) and the living room are the highest ‘stuff’ costs.

My car space is almost totally for my car, and my unridden motor scooter.  I have a metal tool box, with all the scooter accoutrements, and some paperwork that I seldom need, but keep.

I think I have a minimal home, mainly because I was mindful when I ‘filled’ it when I moved in at the start of 2012.  It helps that it’s small, so I don’t have space to ‘hide’ stuff.  I also sit around thinking ‘where do I have too much stuff’ and look to thin things out regularly.  And I’m happy to defend my choices when I compare my stuff to others, such as extreme minimalists like Zero Waste Home.

How about you? (Don’t worry, if you already comment over at An Exacting Life, I’ll be reading eagerly!)

10 thoughts on “My household contents vs 21st century US houses

  1. It was nice seeing your photos, Sarah! FYI, the average age of the parents in the book was 41! Thinking about it, there’s a reason I don’t display photos either – I suppose it’s because they capture a moment in time, and I don’t always want to be looking back nostalgically. There’s nothing like the present! Your access to the roof sounds like a great perk for your building.

    • There you go, thanks for the tip on average ages, I assumed they’d be older.

      The roof is a perk – what I didn’t share was that the pool has been out of action since I moved in, and the roof top out of action for at least 6 months for renovations that have stalled. sigh!

  2. I think my home is quite minimal as well, partly because it’s one big room and clutter would get out of control pretty quickly. Both of your posts made me realise that I don’t have any photos on display in my home at the moment – I would like to put some up because they remind me of happy times.

    I also watch some TV – it’s nice to have it on sometimes to break up the silence when you live alone. And I also like making photo books – I made a calendar for my grandparents for Christmas and my mum just told me they refuse to write anything on it because it’s so nice! They are such good gifts for people who have everything.

    • Small places can still get cluttered but you’re lucky you’ve got it under control! I bet the photos will be great – sounds like you have some artistic flair, if you’re relatives are a guide!

  3. The book and ensuing discussions are fascinating! I love your minimalism…sounds like the perfect balance between “complete minimalism” and “comfortably right.” We’re pretty minimal still after our 19 months in a Sydney apartment…but now back in the ‘burbs I constantly fighting against clutter accumulating. Loove your colourful room!

    • It is a constant battle no matter where you live, I swear! I’ve just listed the most banal things on freecycle: notepads, pens, eye masks and a carabiner. I do try to keep some warm in my home, without having more to clean or dust!! And having concrete floors do need softening.

  4. I came to my house with one suitcase and have been buying a few things since, but mostly we are using what the previous owner left. There were a couple of paintings we hung on the walls and that is about it, the rest of decorations and stuff are practical things like candles. If there was an Ikea or Zara Home nearby, it may be different!

    • Now that’s a good strategy – moving away from homewares stores completely! What an eco friendly way to live though – inheriting all the ‘stuff’ from the previous owners.


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