Considering the Items We Bring Into Our Lives
with Whitney Leigh Morris
As a creative director and small space living consultant, Whitney Leigh Morris reveals plenties. For a decade, she and her family lived in a tiny old cottage along the Venice canals in Southern California. Their compact home was like a game of Tetris. Whitney and her husband had to innovate to fit the physical elements of a life inside of it. Yet they let the less than 400-square-feet of space inform them, and what blossomed was a beacon of creativity and abundance.
Over the years, their home, deemed the Tiny Canal Cottage, became a vessel that incubated Whitney’s insight for living mindfully and sustainably. She documented her tips for how to pare back, consider the impact of the things we choose, and curate a home with intention. With every image she posted, the Tiny Canal Cottage community grew, eager to learn from Whitney’s artful, caring perspective. “What I’ve found, at least for me and for my family,” she tells us, “is living with less is actually living with more.”
This all explains why Whitney considers everything. It’s why she asks certain questions before making purchases and researches the brands she supports. Her appreciation for the tangible—and intangible—extends to the light she brings to her world.
Now on a new journey that includes moving across the country with her family and, most recently, welcoming her second child into the world, Whitney offers us her insights on the life-shifting aspects that come from considering all that we bring into our lives.
Words by Stacey Lindsay. Photos courtesy of Whitney Leigh Morris.
A Conversation with Whitney Leigh Morris
Through your work, you’ve exemplified that living with fewer, more meaningful things can have an immensely positive impact on our lives. What are the virtues of being a more conscious consumer?
In America, at least, I feel that we’re taught that more and newer are aligned with being better overall. And that living with less is somewhat a failure to meet some kind of benchmark in our lives. What I’ve found, at least for me and for my family, is living with less is actually living with more. This is a lesson that was imparted to us through our home. For ten years we lived in a very very tiny old cottage, and, because the cottage was so small, it limited what we could bring into our lives in terms of tangible goods. That became a huge lesson for us about what we needed and didn’t need in order to live contentedly, comfortably, and confidently. That taught us that living with less can be living with more—more time, more savings, depending, and more flexibility. It’s such a liberating feeling to not be weighed down by so much stuff, and the benefits of that, of course, are that it extends into sustainability, it extends into savings or where we allocate our funds, and it hands us the greatest gift there is: more time.
Above: The leafy patio at The Tiny Canal Cottage in Venice, California.
We live in a world filled with messages that entice us to constantly consume and to ‘keep up.’ What touchstones do you have for staying mindful of this?
When it comes to keeping up with trends and dealing with the message that we need more and more and we need to buy and buy, we stop and ask ourselves a series of questions before making purchases—and that helps curb our consumerism. We ask: How was the piece made? Are the individuals who crafted this piece being treated justly? Is the piece made with materials that were ethically harvested? Is this piece going to sit on the planet for a very long time and harm our food supply, our water supply, our animals, or is it going to break down naturally? Can this piece be repurposed or reused in a tangible, helpful way? We also ask ourselves. Do we need this piece, or do we already have something that serves this purpose in our home? Where is it going to live when it’s not in use? How often is it not going to be in use? Can we rent or borrow something instead of acquiring a piece anew? By asking ourselves these questions, we’re able to limit what we bring into our lives, and in doing so, eliminate that feeling of keeping up with the Jones.
Above L-R: Whitney's son playing in the field; Whitney's 'company car' taking a pause near her new home.
When you do choose to bring new items of clothing into your life, what do you seek?
Timeless pieces that are going to last us our whole lives through, that then eliminate our need to buy several others of that piece over time. Those things are worth investing in.
One of the things I value most about Lan’s clothing is that not only is it beautifully crafted, but it is also versatile without being spartan or bland. I feel very often when you seek out a capsule wardrobe, you’re getting these pieces that lack personality or character, but they’re multifunctional. These clothes are multifunctional and can be dressed up or dressed down, and work for multiple seasons, but they have personality. They have unique design traits.
You are going through tremendous shifts right now: You and your family recently left your Tiny Canal Cottage and relocated across the country. You also purchased a tiny cottage in France. And you welcomed your new baby girl into the world. What lessons have these changes revealed?
Like so many families and individuals in the world right now, we are going through some major changes. They are all happy and positive, but some don’t come without heartache. For ten years, we were in this tiny home that we loved—but it’s time for a new adventure for us.
These changes have proven to us that home is a concept not necessarily a place, and that’s kind of a big statement coming from someone whose career is built around creating homes and designing homes. But I find it reassuring to know that “home" can be fluid, and wherever you need it to be—depending on factors such as work, family, finances, health, etc.
The concept of home is flexible and fluid and ever-changing and different for all of us, at different times of our lives. I find that to be a comforting thing—because we all change.
Above: Whitney strolls near her new home wearing our Stamford Long Coat in Camel. “It has this incredible dramatic collar that makes me feel like I’m wearing an outfit," she says. "And it’s also antimicrobial and water-resistant, so it’s very practical.”