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Living with less: Tech millionaire downsizes to 420 square feet

March 21, 2013 at 10:16 AM ET

Video: Graham Hill wasn’t even 30 yet when he sold his tech start-up for millions and started living large, but eventually he felt his swanky lifestyle was wasteful and made a drastic change, moving into a 420-foot home and scrapping the excesses. NBC’s Craig Melvin reports.

After selling his tech start-up for millions in the 1990s, Graham Hill lived in a mansion in Seattle stocked with expensive furniture, the latest gadgets, and flashy cars in the driveway.

Hill still has the money, but now he lives in a sparsely-furnished, 420-square foot studio apartment in New York City — and he couldn’t be happier.

An advocate of the minimalist lifestyle, Hill showed TODAY’S Craig Melvin how less could be more with a tour of his apartment, which features a fold-down bed, a table that extends to seat 12 guests for dinner, and an office space that recedes into the wall.

“People understand that we have super-sized, and it's not really working for us and maybe there's a better solution,’’ Hill said in a segment on TODAY Thursday. “I think life is about experiences and about connections and about relationships, and I think you want to maximize your time focused on that and minimize your time focused on acquiring more stuff and dealing with it."

Hill’s current lifestyle, which he described earlier this month in an op-ed for the New York Times as well as a TED talk last year that has received nearly two million views online, is a far cry from his “MTV Cribs’’ existence in the 1990s. While jet-setting around the world, he realized the things he owned were starting to own him.

“That process of acquiring lots of stuff relatively quickly and feeling sort of wasteful and not very conscious about the whole thing and realizing at the end of the day, it didn't really make me any happier than my smaller, simpler life,’’ Hill said.

At the practical level, Hill now has a lot less clutter to worry about. His dining ware consists of 10 shallow bowls for salads and dishes, he only owns six dress shirts, and he doesn’t have a single DVD. He also points out that having less space to heat and cool means saving money on bills.

“Less stuff to take care of, less stuff to think about, less stuff to maintain, easier to find things — it’s just overall simpler,’’ he said.

Hill does acknowledge that the minimalist lifestyle gets a lot tougher to maintain for those married with children. As Melvin noted after one look into Hill’s stripped down bathroom, “This is a bachelor's bathroom. If you were married, there is no way you share this space with the wife.”

Despite its challenges, Hill still believes the lifestyle can benefit many and is looking to take his approach to the masses by working with a developer.

“I want to build larger buildings composed of small spaces paired with a lot of community,’’ he said.

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