Amanda Jones is the human behind the popular Instagram account @small_sustainable_steps. Known for her honest and helpful posts across a wide host of topics, from living with MS to fighting a culture of excess and waste within her home, Amanda’s social following has gathered serious speed. In an age of microwave consumerism, and the subsequent throwaway culture which can arise from this, our curiosity was piqued by Amanda’s smart approach to curating her home and what finds a place in it. Her recent ‘Exit Strategy’ – by which we refer to the removal of anything deemed to be excess – resonated with many of Amanda’s followers. Enjoy this candid chat with her about all things interiors and creating a home which breathes.
How did you become interested in interiors?
I first became interested in interiors at the grand old age of 10. I was moving into my own bedroom for the first time, and my Mum gave me carte blanche on how I wanted my room decorating. It was the smallest bedroom in the house… I chose a dark brown wallpaper with small sprigs of peach flowers printed on it. Very 1970s. I could tell my Mum thought it would be too much, but I loved it. I went away for a week with my friend’s family, and when I got back my bedroom was done. I loved it, and I’ve been hooked on interior design ever since. The chest of drawers I had in my bedroom belonged to my grandparents. I still have it now in my living room. So I’m not only hooked on interiors, but also secondhand furniture.
How would you describe your home?
My home is an eclectic mix of vintage and new pieces. Everything I have in my home has some meaning to me, my family, or some practical use. It is colourful and calm. Whilst I might have a minimal mindset now, and my home is very pared down to what it was, I don’t think I’m what you might typically see as minimalist. There’s no monochrome or clean lines. It’s all about being comfortable, about not being too precious. When people visit, I want them to feel relaxed and welcome.
What concerns you about buying patterns today, particularly for home design?
I am particularly concerned about the growing trend of fast interiors. We are being encouraged to replace furniture or decor on a regular basis. If we’re not careful, the interior industry will go the same way as fast fashion. This throwaway mindset means we aren’t really giving any value items we are bringing into our home. Mass produced furniture and decor can be bought so cheaply now, and therefore easy to dispose of. This is a worrying trend, not only for the planet, but also for our pockets.
Can you tell us about your recent ‘Exit Strategy’?
My Exit Strategy is something I devised when I started to declutter. These are some tips to make the process of letting ‘stuff’ go as easy as possible:
- Decide where that item will go. It could be to a charity, a local group, a friend, or sell something. This actually makes letting go easier, especially as you know that someone else will benefit.
- Have a holding place, out of the way, where donated items can be stored. That way you’re not tripping over bags and boxes. Ideally get items out of your house as soon as possible because then you are less tempted to pull things out again. When decluttering it is important to get a sense of the space you’re creating, this gives you motivation to do more. It’s your reward, so to speak. If you have bags and boxes piled up, it’s difficult to see your progress.
- Set a date to remove these items, and do it.
- Now I’m living a low waste lifestyle, I’ve developed another point. Before I bring anything new into my house, I ask where that item will go when I no longer require it. Is it something someone else will want, is it recyclable? I try and avoid items that will only end in landfill. This has made me more mindful of my purchases, and really question if I genuinely need something.
What is the first thing you approach when renovating a room?
When I’m designing a room, I first think about how I will use the room, and just as importantly, how I want the room to feel. I might then choose an item of furniture, or a decorative piece, and pull the look together from there. I never rush a room, I like it to evolve over time. I’m a firm believer that a piece of furniture will find its way to you, even if you have to wait a while. I always have a mental list of things I’m on the hunt for, and keep my eyes peeled when I’m out and about.
What do you most value in sourcing second-hand/vintage furniture?
When I’m buying secondhand furniture, I really value the history of the piece. I love finding things that are unique, things that have been made to a high standard. I always look for something a little bit different, and when I do eventually find what I’m looking for, it’s a bit like you’ve hit the jackpot.
Which aspect of your home do you enjoy the most and why?
The aspect I love most about my home is the view over the garden. It was originally why we bought this house. We are in a slightly elevated position, with views over our neighbourhood. Even though we are in a town, it feels more like the countryside. We recently updated our old conservatory, adding a large gable end window and solid roof, which means we can appreciate the view all year round now. It’s a really lovely, calm space to sit.
Do you have any renovation projects in the pipeline?
Updating our conservatory was the first phase of renovations, and we still have more to do. I have MS, and we are looking to ‘future proof’ our home, should my needs change. We will be changing the layout of our downstairs, so we can add a bathroom, without extending. This will mean moving our kitchen into the dining room/conservatory space. We want to keep the look of the new space as simple as possible, to feel light and airy. We are going to have to make a relatively small space, work very hard.
What are your top three tips to those who are thinking about sustainable consumerism for home design?
- Think before you buy, is it something you really need? What will it bring to the quality of your life, is it something that you will have for many years, or is it just an impulse buy?
- Don’t bow to trends. Know what you love, and stick to that. I’ve had a similar look to my home for 30 years, I’m confident in the look and feel I want in my home.
- Buy secondhand if you can. It’s not always possible but the more we stop the demand for new, the healthier our planet will be.
Do you feel inspired by Amanda’s approach to sustainable home design? Let us know in the comment section! If you would like to find unique and built to last vintage furniture, enjoy browsing the Vinterior collection here.
Don’t forget to follow @small_sustainable_steps to hear more from Amanda about living a life with less waste and much more besides!