Decluttering Secrets Every 20-Something Needs To Know

Photographed by Erica Gannett.
With KonMari mania sweeping the country — Japanese author Marie Kondo's book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, has sold over two million copies worldwide — "decluttering" is the buzzword du jour. And, with more and more young people moving into smaller and smaller apartments, there couldn't be a better time to undertake a "makeunder." At least, that's how PR professional Dustin O'Neal felt when he decided to take his NYC apartment from marvelously moody (the kitchen was painted black) to bright and minimal.

But does living with less have to mean living sans luxury? O'Neal's smart space proves you can skimp on stuff and still live with great style. Click through for the full tour and let us know in the comments — could you live so well in 300-square-feet?
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Photographed by Erica Gannett.
How did you decide that you needed to make under your space? What was the tipping point?
"In the last six months I co-founded a creative agency while crossing over into the second half of my twenties. I suddenly realized my entire way of viewing the world had shifted. Everything is more personal, from the influences I surround myself with, to the objects that make up my environment. I had to press the proverbial 'reset' button and make room for new, exciting, scary things in my life."
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Photographed by Erica Gannett.
What were your first steps? Did you really upturn your whole apartment?
"The first step is involuntary, which is that disorienting moment when you look in the mirror and no longer recognize yourself — then you notice bits and pieces of your personal space have become invisible, almost like relics of that former self. That’s when you know it’s time to give your space an exhale, tossing anything that represents fear — fear to let go, fear to forget, fear to change — and give yourself a clean slate."
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Photographed by Erica Gannett.
Floor-to-ceiling shelving in the entryway functions as a bookcase on which O'Neal can display decorative objets d'art and doubles as a spot to stash surplus shoes.
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Photographed by Erica Gannett.
Did you find anything unexpected or that you'd completely forgotten about during this process?
"I don’t know if any object of significance in a tiny New York apartment can be completely forgotten about, but I know that when you ask yourself about the physical things in your life, 'Do I fucking love this?' you can forget why something was ever important to you in the first place. That was unexpected."
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Photographed by Erica Gannett.
"Weirdly enough, an ancient indigo button-up from The Gap that you tore holes in while rollerblading as a teenager can, in fact, be kind of scary to part with," says O'Neal of the downsizing process.
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Photographed by Erica Gannett.
The bedroom ceiling is covered in wallpaper in a light grey honeycomb pattern that offsets the lilac-colored walls. "I did discover a habit I hadn’t noticed before, which is that I apparently collect and hoard novelty gold chain necklaces," admits O'Neal. "But, that’s another cool thing about cleaning up your life."
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Photographed by Erica Gannett.
A tall dresser tucked in a corner provides additional storage for clothes and accessories. A mirror above the dresser reflects light from the opposite window and makes the space appear larger.
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Photographed by Erica Gannett.
What are your go-to stores or brands for a little something to spruce up your place?
"It changes all the time, and it’s mostly informed by one of two opposite forces: Fashion or practicality. I’m obsessed with pattern and marble right now, so I’ve got a few Madeline Weinrib pillows sitting on top of my new Ikea plaid sheets and a black marble remnant plopped on my desk. As we are designing our offices at DNA, my agency with Alexandra Polier, I’ve come to covet everything in the window at The Future Perfect, a showroom just downstairs. And, I’m head over heels in love with Melanie Courbet of Atelier Courbet. Her store is my future go-to."
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Photographed by Erica Gannett.
You decided to go light in your space — was that a good idea? Are you happier now?
"I loved the dark black I used to have! I miss it. But it just felt right to go the opposite way for awhile. I’m much happier. I feel like my kitchen is a miniature recreation of a normal-sized kitchen in Connecticut."
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Photographed by Erica Gannett.
What have you learned from this makeunder?
"Minimizing my space gave me a visual reference for what I think we’re just now going through as millennials — that friction between the person we are and the person we were — and in that way I gained so much empathy for anyone searching for the story hidden somewhere in their daily life. Our stories are all we have at the end of the day, but understanding when to start a new chapter is what keeps it interesting."
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Photographed by Erica Gannett.
Do you entertain ever?
"You know that part in Sex and the City where Carrie says, 'I like my money right where I can see it: Hanging in my closet?' That's how I feel about my kitchen. I'm not a great cook or entertainer, but I love to pretend I am, so when it came to the kitchen I didn't want to part with anything. Well, my boyfriend pointed me to an article on minimalist kitchens by the brilliant Mark Bittman that I found really helpful. You can do a lot with a little. But don't throw away any good knives."
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Photographed by Erica Gannett.
A zen moment in the kitchen offers visual rest. "All of my drinking glasses are from CB2 and my desk items are from my favorite store in the city, McNally Jackson Goods For The Study. Most of the art that hangs in my place is either by friends of mine or my brother, Dillon O’Neal, whose photos of my best friend Lillian in my apartment are hanging in the kitchen — I think that’s hilarious."
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Photographed by Erica Gannett.
Boxes, boxes, everywhere! O'Neal swears by containers for corralling all of life's necessities.
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Photographed by Erica Gannett.
A strip of photographs of O'Neal and his partner, Jon Call, is tacked to the fridge with a magnet that nods to the PR maven's home turf.
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Photographed by Erica Gannett.
At the end of the day, O'Neal can rest easy knowing he's crafted a tiny space that's intentional, useful, and — best of all — a great place to call home.
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Photographed by Erica Gannett.
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