Two Friends Are Publicly Documenting Everything They Own — & It Will Make You Rethink Your Possessions

Photo: Courtesy of Corey Vaughan.
For most of us, material possessions can be a blessing and a curse. Even the most practical and sentimental of our stuff can often feel as if it's weighing us down. And then there's the crap we're holding on to for no good reason at all. In an effort to cut through the clutter, two artists in Los Angeles have embarked on a yearlong mission: Anything they haven't publicly documented by December 31 must be donated or thrown away.

"It's easy to pack away, throw away, and give away your things," photographer Corey Vaughan told us. "But it's an interesting challenge to really meditate over the things I've collected over the years. I want to take pride in the things I have chosen to keep. If I'm not happy or proud to own it, maybe it's time to remove it from my life."

The same goes for his friend and partner in minimalist crime, illustrator Emily Okada. Together they've created Every Little Everything, a website to track their progress. "I'm hoping for a fuller understanding of myself," she told us. "I'm hoping to gain pride in the things I hold dear, and let go of everything else."

But the project isn't without struggles. "It's a rewarding thing to revisit old memories, moments, travels, etc.," Vaughan told us. "But it also can be difficult. There have been a few items that have reminded me of times that were once great, of things I've said, of mistakes I've made. It's still a worthy thing, though, looking through memories and tokens that hold weight and context and story." Luckily, the two have each other for encouragement. "Having another artist work with me keeps me moving. There's an accountability; it's nice to know someone else is slogging through their stuff with me," he says.

The rules are simple: If they haven't publicly documented it — Vaughan by photographing it, Okada by illustrating it — by New Year's Day, 2016, it's got to go. And while disposable things like shampoo and food aren't being included, mundane essentials (like dishes and socks) and more private ones (like underwear and receipts) must be documented to be kept, which provides an interesting challenge. "This project doesn’t allow for me to be as careful or guarded as usual," Okada told us. "I tried to start on a panties poster, but it wasn’t working, so we’ll see how that goes!"

Ahead, Okada and Vaughan share their favorite posts to date with us.

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Photo: Courtesy of Corey Vaughan.
"Easily the most important thing I own, my pair of Ray-Ban glasses," Vaughan says about this shot, for which he tapped a friend to model.
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Photo: Courtesy of Emily Okada.
"I spent a lot of time on this one, and I love how detailed it turned out," Okada told us about this complex piece she created in order to save a collection of DVDs. "This piece stands out to me amongst the other work, and I like that it’s less obviously representational. Gilmore Girls is one of my favorite shows of all time, and I love the town that it exists in."
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Photo: Courtesy of Corey Vaughan.
The saved objects include the wildly sentimental amongst the practical. "This little brick holds weight and meaning for me; it's just a piece of rubble, but I'll never let it go," Vaughan told us. "It fell off a now out-of-commission fire pit. I meet fairly regularly with a small group of guys; nine years ago, we started meeting around that fire pit. Every other guy in that group has one of those little tiles, so it has become a symbol of friendship and mentorship."
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Photo: Courtesy of Emily Okada.
"My favorite pieces have ended up being the ones where they forced me to get creative in how I depict them," Okada says about her collection of striped T-shirts. "This was one of the first times during the project where I was able to abstract something successfully."
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Photo: Courtesy of Corey Vaughan.
"I'm amazed that this piece of tech history is still in working condition," Vaughan told us about a Game Boy Pocket he photographed early on in the yearlong experiment. "I played weeks' worth of Pokémon and Super Mario Bros. on this device. It packs some serious nostalgia. Though I'll be honest: I haven't played it in probably nine years."
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Photo: Courtesy of Emily Okada.
Taking personal inventory of her possessions was the goal for Okada, but secondary was the daily flexing of her art form in new ways. "This was the first time I really experimented with texture during this project, which was a huge turning point in my style and process," Okada says about this ink drawing of a skull.
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Photo: Courtesy of Corey Vaughan.
"I've been using my Fujifilm Instax camera for six years now, and these little photos hold years of memories, friendship, travel, and art making," Vaughan says. "Photos don't hold up that much physical space, but they hold much meaning. It was an easy choice."
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Photo: Courtesy of Emily Okada.
"Spirited Away is definitely my favorite Hayao Miyazaki movie, and I posted this while I was in Japan this past May. This landscape scene ended up having a really nice flow and rhythm to it," Okada says about the lengths she went to to save another DVD.
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Photo: Courtesy of Corey Vaughan.
Some things are so special, they get double placement for Vaughan. "A Wrinkle in Time is basically my favorite book," he says. "The book on the left is an autographed copy, given to me by my mother. Inside, it says, 'To Corey, Tesser Well.' The book on the right is the one I actually read; it has notes and highlights and underlines. The autographed copy was an easy choice. My second copy? Maybe not necessary, but nice to have. If you haven't read this book, read it!"
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Photo: Courtesy of Emily Okada.
"This plant shirt is currently my favorite piece of clothing, and I’ve only worn it on very happy occasions," Okada told us. Therefore, an obvious choice.
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