A Small-Space Living Expert Puts a Stylish Spin on Sustainability
Simplicity is key for Erin Boyle.
Updated Sep 29, 2021 7:16 AM
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It really all took off for Erin Boyle when her Brooklyn Heights super tiny studio apartment came into the picture in 2011. The miniature space—measuring a total 240 square feet—ignited her love for thoughtful living, and she started musing about the sustainable lifestyle on her blog Reading My Tea Leaves, which she began in 2009. Fast forward ten years, and she’s got a thriving site, a dedicated community of readers, and a book, Simple Matters, which came out in 2016.
But one thing has stayed consistent: Her point of view on Reading My Tea Leaves. “It is a little bit of a point of pride that it really hasn’t changed much.”
That tried-and-true niche? “Sustainability, conscious consumption, and living in an environmentally sound way,” says Boyle. “It’s a space for me to muse about stuff I’m thinking about, and pose questions to readers that are also thinking about it,” she says. One of the things she’s proudest of is the spirited discussions that happen on a regular basis on Reading My Tea Leaves. “It’s this lovely relationship where people are coming not just to get advice or hear my point of view, but also to offer theirs.”
And that community of discussion has kept readers coming back: “The community becomes a sounding board,” she says. “So in that sense, it’s really bigger than me, which is really lovely and humbling.”
One reason why readers have embraced Reading My Tea Leaves is the personal point of view that Boyle brings to the blogosphere. Everything is written by her, photographed by her, and inspired by daily moments and challenges in her life.
“My inspiration is my lived experiences, what challenges I’m facing in that particular moment,” says Boyle. “Right now, I have a 10-month old, who’s learning to walk and banging his toys on the floor, and that makes me think about rugs, so I might write about rugs in small spaces,” she explains. “It’s so much informed by what is actually going on in my own life.”
The community and the engaging relationship Boyle has with her Reading My Tea Leaves readers is the most rewarding part for her. “It’s nice to feel like there is a shared experience, and write about things on my own terms, and for people to be interested in them still,” she says. “Sometimes I feel like my blog is kind of off the beaten path in terms of what I’m writing about, and things I care about. But then there are all these people I meet who also think that matters, too.”
Before starting Reading My Tea Leaves, Boyle worked in museums and archives, focusing on material culture—aka the stuff of life. It’s a topic area that fits naturally with the focus of the blog: One weekly post, titled ‘My Week in Objects’, explores the large and small objects in her life. “I’m really interested in how things in our lives tell stories about us,” she says. “Sometimes it feels like a throwback to a blogging time of yore—time to reflect on the stuff in my life and what happens in the course of a week.”
As Reading My Tea Leaves grows, Boyle is focused more and more on an arena that she feels has been overlooked by most outlets: writing about living simply for parents with small children.
“I think that there is a lot of work to be done in that sphere, especially in the home and living realm,” says Boyle. “I field a lot of questions that reveal a lot of generalized anxiety about it.” She hopes to offer a counter-narrative than what she calls the “baby industrial complex”—this idea parents need so much stuff in order to raise their children in a happy, healthy way. Boyle believes that you don’t need to rearrange your home just because you have a young child.
“I like to be able to offer a different perspective on that,” says Boyle. “[Having a child] doesn’t mean that your life becomes utterly chaotic.”
Read more about the 2017 Design Blog Award winners: Introducing the Winners of the First-Ever Domino Design Blog Awards! How One Blogger Is Empowering Others to Do It Themselves The Bright, Colorful DIY World of Sugar and Cloth
This story was originally published in December 2017, and has since been updated with new information.