What comes to mind when you think of wealth? For some, it may be a new car, a big house, a bank account with several zeroes, or an incredible wardrobe. For others, wealth is more of an investment in experiences and relationships. There’s a new generation of people using creative solutions to living comfortably with less. They’re crafting their values around what’s fulfilling, not what they own. And they’re stripping the idea of materialism to its very core.
People like Stacie Lucas, owner of Amae Co., a sustainable clothing line in San Francisco, find ownership in shared spaces and collaboration. Rather than living in a large house, Lucas and her family find happiness and satisfaction in their community, the outdoors, and through travel. An artist and mother of two, Lucas has created a lifestyle that focuses on her passions—running her business and spending time with her family.
Prioritizing her love for her work and family is integral to the message she hopes to send to her kids: “How do you spend your time?” “Are you doing what you love?” It’s about removing value from objects and transferring that value to experiences. Her own shift began with how to dress her newborn daughter.
Fostering a Better World: Amae Co.
“Amae is an ethically-produced and sourced women’s and children’s clothing line,” said Lucas. “We do everything from the design, to the sourcing of our materials, to the production. We have our own production team and e-commerce store that sells the product.”
Lucas operates her business out of a shared studio space, less than a half mile from her home.
“I was motivated to start Amae in pursuit of creating an ethical, locally-produced clothing line,” she said. “After having my daughter, I was looking for options to dress her in a way that fit our lifestyle and was conscious of both environment and human impact. The company was born from that idea and has grown from there.”
Now in its fifth year of operation, Lucas has discovered a fascination with the life cycle of her pieces, beginning with the very first cotton seed. “The process starts in the first thread of the fabric, before the construction of the garment. We are touching all this material and learning where it comes from. We want every person’s hands that has been a part of this business—from the first seed that was planted to grow the cotton to the final stitch to be taken care of—to be above the livable wage line.”
Being the owner of a small company gives Lucas a perspective that ripples into her lifestyle at home. “You see the amount of waste that you produce. When you have extra space, you use it, but it’s not always a good idea.”
The Big Benefits of Living Small
The benefits of living small are huge. Less to clean, less to manage, and less stuff to accumulate. “[In a larger space], the pile can reach your knees before you need to address it. But in a small space, we don’t have any room here in the house for extra [mess],” said Lucas. “We have our basic needs met and that‘s about it. We love that about living small. We have no desire to live bigger because we can’t keep up with it.”
Lucas and her family live in a 1,000-square-foot space. The two kids share the master bedroom. She and her husband share the second. “I worked from home for a while by choice,” she said. “But as the kids got older, this opportunity to work from this [shared] space came along, and it was a perfect location. I can get anywhere I need by biking or walking, and I can still pick up the kids from school.”
Living small allows Lucas to have separation between work and home, and the shared studio is a major part of that freedom. The studio space is where she chooses her fabrics, where she cuts and stitches, where her work comes to life. The richness of her craft is everywhere in her studio. There is an airy lightness to the room, a space where her creativity is allowed to move freely without the hindrance of furniture or toys.
But the inventory is still packaged from their home. “That’s probably the most important aspect of our job—the packaging and shipping. With how many packages we ship weekly, it shocks a lot of people that we do it ourselves. But it’s something that we often say it’s the last thing we’ll give up.”
Instead of being forced to work and live in the same space, this freedom to divide design from inventory gives Lucas a chance to truly enjoy the balance between work and home life.
Home is Where the Art Is
Lucas, her husband, and their two kids live in Walnut Creek, a vibrant, artsy neighborhood outside of San Francisco. Home to the City of Walnut Creek’s Civic Art Program, one of the largest community arts programs in California, this area is a haven for creatives. There’s a strong sense of community as well.
“We don’t have an owned outdoor space, but in our community, there’s a shared yard for 60 houses with probably 20 kids. Every night, you can come here and see the kids out on their scooters.”
For Lucas, the trade-off for a smaller space is the freedom to explore the outdoors. “Walnut Creek, specifically, has protected, open spaces that cannot be built on, so we spend our weekends there and at the farmers’ markets. We’re also at the base of Mt. Diablo State Park, so we spend a lot of time hiking.”
The beauty of the natural environment helps facilitate an attitude of preservation, especially among entrepreneurs. “San Francisco as a whole does a great job of creating environmental consciousness,” said Lucas. The tech companies in the Bay area encourage the development of healthy business standards. “There’s a lot of creators here looking to help big industries move toward ethical practices.”
The idea of moving corporate entities in an entirely new direction may seem challenging. But through a series of small steps, change can be made. This encouragement from the city and from businesses helps residents like Lucas employ this same philosophy in their own lives. By living smaller and spending wisely, Lucas is able to provide her children with experiences beyond the family home.
The World As Your Backyard
“Our second love is travel,” she said. “We do enjoy getting out of our small space. But instead of moving into a bigger house, where we are married to our mortgage, we take our kids on summer adventures that will shape their lives and give them perspective on how big the world is and how much there is to see out there.”
The family is gearing up for a six-week trip to Iceland this summer. Last year, it was Ecuador. “Every year, we hope to keep expanding and seeing more of the globe and introducing them to different lifestyles,” she said. She hopes to pass down the value of experiences and the collection of memories to her children.
“I want my kids to believe they can do anything. We do live on a very modest income for our neighborhood, but for them to see that we live big and we have a great life is a huge impact,” she said. “Having it all isn’t defined by a dollar bill. It’s not defined by how much you make. It’s defined by how much you do with your time, with your space, and how you utilize it to do what makes you happy.”
And Stacie Lucas really does have it all. In spite of her 1,000 square feet of small living space. No, because of it.