A Marie Kondo-Inspired Guide To The Perfect Minimalist Home
American homes are bursting with clutter. Over half of us who own two-car garages either don’t have room for our cars, or we can barely squeeze one in.
We are filling our homes with things, whether we need them or not. Whether they bring us joy or not. The result? We’re more stressed than ever.
Your home should be where you feel the most comfortable. It should be a retreat from the craziness of the bustling modern world. Unfortunately, most of our homes reflect the cluttered, stressed-out state of our minds.
Like a breath of fresh air, minimalism is sweeping the designer trends and finding its way into homes across America. Leading the charge is Marie Kondo with her bestselling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Marie Kondo’s mantra of living with less and her method for decluttering are revolutionary.
Anyone can do it. And you don’t have to be wealthy. With a few basic changes, you can have a minimalist home.
Are you tired of feeling overwhelmed and anxious in your own home? You’re not alone. A new way of living is just a few hours away.
So let’s get started.
Nothing Is Something
Empty. Cold. Sterile. These are all words often associated with minimalism.
But, minimalism is much more thoughtful. Japanese minimalism is focused on what they call “Ma,” or the importance of negative space. Minimalism in art has a similar philosophy. It’s officially defined as:
Minimalism is a style or technique (as in music, literature, or design) that is characterized by extreme spareness and simplicity
Minimalism in art makes a big statement by using very little. A minimalist art piece might break down its subject into the most basic essence of itself. For example:
A tree might be represented by a simple stick with a circle on top
A chair might be depicted as just 3 lines at right angles
This type of artistic exploration breaks things down, strips away what’s unnecessary, and makes you look at things in a different way.
Minimalism in architecture is similar to minimalism in art, but larger. You can easily spot these buildings because they have clean lines and open spaces.
Minimalist architecture asks you to find beauty in the basics of structure:
Four walls and a ceiling
Windows without decorative glass
Stairs paired down to their essential structures—no risers or even rails
These types of buildings can feel cold, but they are asking important questions. What do we need to live? To be happy? To find beauty?
So, why is minimalism, as a lifestyle, trending?
- It can help remove stress from your life by making your spaces less cluttered and more peaceful.
- It can teach you to say no.
- It can help you live a happier, more intentional life.
Creating your minimalist home involves implementing a new way of controlling your space. It will leave you feeling lighter, more refreshed, and more focused on what’s really important.
So how do we live a minimalist life? First, let’s confront our stuff.
Help Us! We’re Drowning!
Americans own a lot of stuff. We know it. Sometimes, we’re even proud of it.
Here are some surprising facts about Americans and our clutter:
- We buy 40% of the world’s toys, but we only have 3.1% of the world’s children.
- The average American home has about 300,000 items in it.
- We have about 50,000 storage centers in the US. That’s 7 feet of storage for every person.
- 1 out of every 10 Americans rent offsite storage
- 25% of people with two-car garages don’t have room to park cars inside them
- The average 10-year-old owns 238 toys but plays with just 12 daily
- The average American woman owns 30 outfits—one for every day of the month
- The average American throws away 65 pounds of clothing per year
- We consume twice as many material goods today as we did 50 years ago
- Women spend more than eight years of their lives shopping
- We spend a total of 3,680 hours or 153 days searching for misplaced items
- Americans spend $1.2 trillion annually on nonessential goods—items they do not need
Do we really need all of this stuff??
Minimalism answers that question with a resounding, “No!.”
Purging all the extra “stuff” and creating a minimalist home can make you more productive and positive. Are you ready to rid yourself of everything that’s stealing your joy?
Then let’s purge.
Step 1 – Look at Yourself
Before you tackle your home, your first step towards living a minimalist life should be to take on yourself.
You may not feel like you’re carrying a lot of extra emotional or spiritual clutter, but most of us are. We live with the mindset of consuming, rather than producing; we are constantly taking on more, rather than focusing on less.
Here are a few ideas to get started.
We are a nation of consumers. We love to buy things, whether we need them or not. The first step towards minimalism is to do the opposite. Here are some ways to take in less:
- Don’t shop for recreation. This is one of the hardest changes to make, but living a minimalist life means only buying what you need.
- Wait at least 24 hours before you buy. Giving yourself some time to consider a purchase will often reveal whether you really love it or need it.
- Does it have a purpose? This is an extension of the last suggestion. Do you need what you’re about to buy? If you don’t have a current need, it will most likely just take up space.
- Take a break. In order to reset your habits, consider taking a breaking from shopping for a period of time. Only buy the necessities. A break like this can help you refocus yourself on what you need in your life.
The more we consume, the more we produce. That’s an obvious assumption. Using the Japanese concept of “Ma,” the things that aren’t there are as important as the things that are. When we free ourselves of what we don’t need, we put less waste into the world. So how do we waste less?
- Repurpose. Before you buy something new, consider whether you have something that can be altered to your current needs.
- Shop Smart. Sales are often designed to encourage you to buy more items, but most people end up spending more than they would have without the sale. Make sure you need two of something before you buy them.
- Today’s purchase becomes tomorrow’s trash. Don’t just consider whether you need something in the present. Consider whether you will enjoy it long term. If something is going to be tossed out in a few months, it’s just part of the cycle of consumption.
Step 2 – Live Intentionally
If you’re considering the minimalist lifestyle, you’re in for a big change. It’s a way of living that will run contradictory to most of western culture, and you may feel like you’re swimming against the tide. Don’t be discouraged, though. These are just a few of the positive things you will experience after creating your minimalist home and lifestyle:
When you choose to cut out the unnecessary things from your life, you will be forced to focus on what is necessary. Begin asking yourself—do I need this?
That extra pair of shoes you saw in the store window—do you need new shoes?
That pretty lamp that’s on sale—does it have a place?
Every purchase you make will become intentional. You will find freedom in the word, “no.” You don’t have to stop buying, but you will make better choices. Sustainable choices. Healthy choices.
Step 3 – Take a Look at Your Home
Now that you’ve taken a look at your lifestyle, it’s time to tackle your home.Your home should be the most peaceful place in your life. It should be a break from the craziness of daily life. If you come home every day to piles of clutter that you step over to avoid dealing with them, you probably don’t feel much peace. Even if it’s not your whole house but a cluttered room, it’s time to deal with it.
According to bestselling author and television personality Marie Kondo, the best way to tackle your home is not by room, but by category. So you’re going to use that method to help you achieve a clutter-free home. Here are the main concepts you’ll be using:
- Imagine Your Best Life
- Work in Categories, Not Rooms
- Be Considerate of Your Things
- Look for the Joy
- Say No to Nostalgia
- Fold, Don’t Hang
- Storage is Square
- Everything Has a Place
Now that you have the plan, it’s time to make it happen. Let’s take it one step at a time and clear out the clutter.
DIY Guide To Your Minimalist Home
Imagine Your Best Life
The first step toward a minimalist home is to imagine the lifestyle you’re hoping for. Close your eyes and see your space the way you want it. Take some time and focus on this. Knowing what you’re aiming for will help you purge more effectively.
When you decide to declutter your home, set aside an amount of time, perhaps a weekend, to purge. It’s important to commit to the project and not let it linger over time. If you can’t commit to the whole house in one weekend, choose one category to work on each time your purge.
Work In Categories, Not Rooms
As we mentioned above, decluttering should be done by category, not by room. According to Marie Kondo, this allows you to see how much of any given type of item you have. It’s important to see things as whole to decide which things to keep. Here are some suggested categories:
This one is fairly obvious. Go through your home and decide which furniture pieces you use and that you enjoy. If it is neither, donate it. Deciding which furniture you will keep helps you establish what storage space you will have left.
This is where most people are overwhelmed. Women only wear about 30 percent of their current wardrobe. Gather all your clothes into one room and sort them, only keeping what you really love wearing.
Most books are available on Kindle or another digital format now, but some people still love books. If this is you, make sure the books you have are ones you will read again. If you love it and read it, keep it. Otherwise, give it away. Or, recycle them.
Even though we all have computers and scanners, we still keep so much paper! This category should be easier, because most of what you keep is either redundant or can be scanned into a computer. Get rid of all papers you can save digitally and file the others neatly.
Here’s a great list from money management guru Dave Ramsey about what to do with all that paper. If any of the “keep” items can be saved digitally, do it to save space.
Keep for 1–3 Months
- Utility bills
- Sales receipts for minor purchases
- ATM and bank deposit slips
Keep for 1 Year
- Checkbook ledgers
- Paycheck stubs
- Monthly mortgage statements
- Expired insurance records
Keep for 7 Years
- Bank statements
- W-2 and 1099 forms
- Receipts for tax purposes
- Cancelled checks
- Disability records
- Unemployment income stubs
- Medical bills/claims
- Keep Indefinitely
- Annual tax returns
- Deeds, mortgages and bills of sale
- Year-end statements for investments
- Legal documents (birth certificates, marriage license, divorce papers, passports)
- Home improvement documentation and receipts
- Receipts for major purchases—for warranty and insurance purposes
- Living wills
- Power of attorney designation
- Medical and burial instructions
- Beneficiary directions
- Real estate certificates
- Automobile titles
- Current insurance policies
- Medical records
- Education records
- Pension plan records
- Retirement plan records
- Paycheck stubs after reconciling with W-2 form
- Expired warranties
- Coupons after expiration date
This category is difficult, because it’s full of all the things we just don’t know what to do with. This is where you have to very picky. If you don’t use it, love it, or know what it’s part of, toss it. You might think you’ll miss it, but you won’t.
When it comes to the sentimental, don’t get caught up in it. As you’ll see below, you have to decide whether these items hold good memories and are worth you space. If they are, keep them. But decide quickly.
Be Considerate of Your Things
When you look into your closet, do you see clothes and shoes crammed onto shelves and into corners? The Marie Kondo method asks you to be considerate of your possessions. Make sure they all have room to breathe. Seeing your things this way helps you to feel like you can breathe.
Look for the Joy
Creating a minimalist home is not about making it into a sterile, highbrow art gallery or turning it into a place devoid of warmth. Minimalism is about focusing on what is most important. So, as you go through your things, look at each one and ask whether it brings you real joy. If not, out it goes.
Say No to Nostalgia
We all have those boxes stored under the bed or in the closet. Boxes of letters or photos—sentimental things. Minimalism doesn’t mean you have to get rid of all those things. But don’t get caught up in them. If it’s something that is still meaningful, decide to keep it and move on.
Fold, Don’t Hang
One of the most revolutionary things Marie Kondo has brought to the table is her folding method. Instead of hanging clothes, consider folding clothes vertically in drawers. This saves space and allows you to see all your garments easily. Here’s a link to the method:
Storage Is Square
Once you’ve decided what to keep, you’ve got to put those things somewhere. The best storage spaces are square. They divide shelves and drawers into more manageable spaces and allow you to further sort items. So use some smaller storage boxes to make your closet or dresser a more organized space.
Everything Has a Place
You’ve done it. You’ve purged your belongings and you have bags and boxes to donate. Now, you have to keep it that way. The best way to do that is to make sure everything you keep has a place. Things that don’t have a defined “home” in your home end up as clutter. So give them a home, and put them away.
Love It, Live It.
We’re not used to the word “less” meaning “more.” Check out the list of how much we store again. Our American philosophy has been that having more means being happier. But a new philosophy headed by Marie Kondo and others like her is showing us a new way.
It’s time to see the joy in the negative space. Choosing not to have something can be just as intentional as filling your space with things. So, be intentional. Surround yourself only with what brings joy. Store what you keep differently. And don’t compromise. Make a place for everything, and put it in its place. With this guide, you can have a home that Marie Kondo would love.