Steve Mouzon on what he learned from downsizing his office

office is in the back
© Steve Mouzon/ the office is in the back behind the books

Steve Mouzon is a regular on TreeHugger for his thoughts on The Original Green. He recently closed his 1500 square foot office and merged it into his 747 square foot apartment, which isn't easy. He describes what he went through in a wonderful post on his Original Green blog; I am going through a similar downsizing right now, from a rambling old 2400 square feet down to just under a thousand, certainly not Tiny House dimensions but a significant drop, still including two home offices. Steve has a lot of excellent recommendations that are similar to what I was going to write about when I finished this process, so let's compare notes. Here's part 1, how to get lean enough to fit into your new digs. Part 2 will cover how Steve designed his office, and how he manages to work in 50 square feet.

The hardest part is getting rid of stuff, so that everything will fit into the new space. Or as Steve puts it,

Get lean by ditching flab, which is anything I don’t need today.

We keep far too much stuff because we might need it someday, just as our body does with fat… storing calories because we might someday need them.

Steve gave his stuff away to a local maker group; we had a big open house for all of our kids' friends, most of whom are starving theatre types starting out in life.

Kelly Rossiter/CC BY 2.0
Our open house; we gave away all that stuff.

Lean by lack is poverty, but lean by choice is highly treasured.

No diet is pleasant at the moment, but the leanness that comes afterward can be great fun. Getting lean has caused a massive 4-month hit to my productivity, but it promises to pay off for years to come.

Indeed, it isn't pleasant, it is hard getting rid of stuff built up over a lifetime. My son's rock collection. My rock collection. The books hurt the most; I Freecycled most of them. I had hundreds of architecture books and expensive magazines that I probably could have sold for good money if I had the time; instead I gave them to our architect, who has a young practice and will put them all to good use. I look forward to the "great fun" that comes afterward.

Shred with text left-to-right so ribbons of paper include only a digit or two of an account number.

But most importantly, shred like mad. Steve kept every cheque he had ever written and of course, had lots of office records, and shredded them all. We had file boxes full of stuff, and then my wife Kelly's mother died in the middle of this all, leaving her with 60 years of every bill and cheque she ever had. Kelly shredded every piece, a couple of pages at a time.

Years ago I hired a shredder truck to get rid of all the drawings from my architectural practice that I had been keeping in an expensive storage locker; they were gone in 90 seconds but it cost a few hundred dollars. So instead of spending that money, Kelly spent what seemed like days.

© Steve Mouzon is lucky, he can work in the garden.

Keep things you use each day close around, but store further away what you use less often.

People say storage units are a sign of hoarding, and an indicator of not getting rid of enough stuff. Quite the opposite is true if you’re moving your office home.

Steve and Wanda are running an architectural practice and there are a lot of records that have to be kept. But not nearly as many as there used to be; most can be stored digitally. I think that for most people, storage lockers are indeed a sign of hoarding, and I worked hard to get rid of mine. But I don't have a basement anymore for my snowboards and winter stuff, and may have to reconsider.

Tomorrow (or soon) Managing the office.

Tags: Living With Less | Small Spaces

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