As Americans, we are surrounded by opportunities to collect more stuff. From big box stores with colorful displays to online retailers promoting the latest gadgets, we are a culture obsessed with stuff. And that's not all bad. We live in an era of abundance, and that can be a good thing. We are free to own as much stuff as we want, to pursue wealth and prosperity. Some would say that having more things is a measure of success. However, there is a practice that has gone in and out of fashion for the last century or so that asks you to look at things differently. This practice is called Minimalism.
What Is Minimalism?
Some people think it's a method used in interior design. Others see it as an artistic style. And some refer to it as a way of life. Whatever way you define it, minimalism is making a comeback. If you whittle it down into its most basic definition, minimalism is “a style or technique (as in music, literature, or design) that is characterized by extreme spareness and simplicity.” Basically, minimalism is a way of living, building, or creating that seeks to use less stuff. The "stuff" can be furniture, decor, embellishment, or anything deemed unnecessary.
Minimalism in art is characterized by making a big statement using very little in the way of media. This type of art hit its peak in the 1950s and 60s. It also launched a trend toward minimalist architecture and home decor. 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 could think of this type of architecture as sculpture on a massive scale. Minimalist buildings started cropping up in the US at the beginning of the 20th century and reached the height of popularity in the 1960s. You can easily spot these buildings because they are stripped of all ornaments. Basically, minimalist architecture asks you to find beauty in the basics of structure—four walls and a ceiling. Windows are without decorative glass. Stairs are paired down to their essential structures—no risers or even rails. These types of buildings can feel cold, but they are asking an important question. What do we need to live? To be happy and find beauty?
Minimalism in your everyday life seeks to answer the questions above. In a society obsessed with having more, eating more, and buying more, it asks what we really need. It can help remove stress from your life by making your spaces less cluttered and more peaceful. It can teach you to say no. Minimalism can help you purge out old, unnecessary baggage, both literally and metaphorically, and it can teach you to live intentionally. This new way of living, this new way of controlling your space, will leave you feeling lighter, more refreshed, and more focused on what's really important.
Don't Settle For More
When you think of the word “prosperity,” you most likely think about owning a lot of stuff. As Americans, we have a bit of an obsession with owning more and more things. Perhaps it comes from how our nation was born. We have a perpetual need to show the world that we're the best, that we didn't need anyone else governing our nation and that we can succeed on our own. Or, it may be a 20th-century issue brought on by the first Great Depression. Many of us still remember going without, so we're determined never to be “without” again. What it's turned into, however, is an obsession with stuff.
We love our stuff. 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, and we have storage centers on every corner to store the stuff that doesn't fit out our homes. We fill our basements and attics with more and more stuff. But...do we need all this stuff? Minimalism answers that question with a resounding, “No!.” The minimalist movement would say the opposite. It's a philosophy that asks you not to settle for more, because that isn't your best life. Purging all the extra “stuff” in your home and your life can make you more productive, more positive, and help you feel fulfilled in a way more stuff cannot.
Live a Better Life with Less
Before you tackle your home, your first step towards living a minimalist life should be to tackle yourself. You may not feel like you're carrying a lot of extra stuff emotionally or spiritually, 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. So, if the first step to minimalism is to tackle yourself, how do you go about it? Here are a few ideas to get started.
We all know that we're a nation of consumers. We've talked about it in this article already. Most of us are keenly aware of our desire to have more stuff, driven by a society that associates your value with how much stuff you have. So how do you overcome that? Make a conscious decision to consume less. Put your foot down. We've all heard the story of the unhappy millionaire. As much as we love stuff, we know it doesn't bring us true happiness. So, draw the line. Before you make another purchase, ask yourself what it adds to your life. What need does it fill? If the only purpose it serves is to fulfill your desire to buy things, don't buy it.
We have all heard the staggering numbers showing how much trash the American household produces. We live in a disposable society, and this makes consumption easy. When you know you can just toss things out, it's so easy to take in more and more things. On your journey to minimalism, try consuming things in an intentional way. Consider the byproducts of what you do or what you use. When you start thinking this way, you'll find yourself consuming less. This, in turn, produces less.
What Are The Benefits Of A Minimalist Home And Lifestyle?
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. There are so many benefits to adopting this lifestyle. These are just a few of the positive things you will experience after adopting a minimalist lifestyle.
When you choose to cut out the unnecessary things from your life, you will be forced to focus on what is necessary. Minimalism will ask you to evaluate every purchase and consider whether you really need that item you're about to buy in your life. 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 meet a need? Every purchase you make will become intentional when you adopt a minimalist lifestyle. 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.
Peace, Not Possessions
Once you start living intentionally, you will find yourself saying no to more and more impulse purchases, or just purchases overall. The more you purge from your life, the lighter your spirit will feel. Minimalism seeks to free you from the obsession with wealth and possession in our society. Our culture puts a high value on owning things. The more you own, the more important and valuable you are. Minimalism can free you from this prison of possessions.
Change of Heart
Even though it starts with physical changes, the goal of minimalism is to change your heart. When you become comfortable with less, when you declutter your spaces and get rid of things you don't really need, you take a load off your heart as well. Your spirit feels lighter. Clean, open spaces calm your nerves and help you to feel at peace. All of this translates into less stress, which causes you to be healthier and happier.
If you're going to aim for a minimalist lifestyle, your home is the best place to start. Your home is where you begin your day, where you set your personal tone. Your home is an extension of you, so let's look at how you can peel away some of the unnecessary layers of clutter and reveal a minimalist space that will rejuvenate your cluttered soul
Furniture Should Function
As you create your minimalist paradise, look around each room of your home and consider whether you use the pieces of furniture in that room. Do you use both end tables? Do you sit in that uncomfortable chair? Do you need that bookshelf, or is it merely an excuse to buy things for its shelves? As you ask these questions, remove anything that doesn't have a specific function.
The Surface Shuffle
We've all done the shuffle. You lay something down. Then another thing, and another. Soon, you have a collection of things on a table. You “clean up” by moving it to another surface, but it's all right back on that table again the next time you clean. Eventually, more items join the pile. It's so easy to use surfaces as places to collect things, but minimalism asks you to see those surfaces differently. A clean, clutter-free surface is a physical representation of a clutter-free mind. Surrounding yourself with clean surfaces allows you to concentrate on what's most important. If you have to display something, stick to one accent piece. Removing the rest of the clutter will help you appreciate that piece even more and will train you to get down to what's most important in all areas of your life.
Quality Over Quantity
One of the ideas at the heart of minimalism is to get the most out of your life and your space by having or using less. That might seem counter-intuitive. You might be thinking--how can I have more if I have less? It's simple. The goal of minimalism is to strip away all the things you don't need or aren't really thrilled with and make room for what is most important. Rather than having lots of trinkets and clutter, clear it away for accent pieces that are high-quality and bring you peace and joy. When going through your things, ask yourself if they bring you a deep sense of satisfaction. If they don't, they need to go. Do the same with the less tangible things in your life, like relationships and activities. Pair your life down to the best things in it.
Lifestyles Of The Rich And Minimalist
Contrary to what you might assume, a minimalist lifestyle is not just for the wealthy. It's not arrogant. When you picture minimalism, you might imagine a home that seems only to serve as a display for priceless artwork, a plain white canvas for expensive vases and strange sculptures. You might imagine furniture devoid of all softness and kitchens that are too clean to be used. However, these images aren't indicative of what true minimalism seeks to accomplish. Minimalism should make you feel as though you can breathe in your space. Whether you display priceless art or a beloved family heirloom, it's about choosing what's important. You can have softness in a minimalist home. You can have children and toys. The whole philosophy is about purging clutter and distractions so you, and your family, can enjoy your space.
DIY: Creating Your Minimalistic Home
Now that we have a better understanding of what minimalism is, and what it is not, let's take a look at how you can apply these ideas to your most personal space: your home. As mentioned above, 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. It's about enjoying your space more because it contains only the things that bring you the most joy. And clutter rarely brings joy. So let's get down to it.
Step #1: Assess Your Space
The first step on your journey to minimalism is to evaluate your space. Take a good look at your home. This might feel overwhelming as you take in old magazines, a refrigerator covered in drawings, and toys scattered all over the living room. However, don't despair. Take a deep breath and tackle the house one room at a time. It might be helpful to take a notebook and devote a page or two to each room. Ask yourself the following questions.
What Do You Love about This Room?
Take some time in each space and think about what's in it. How did you acquire the items? What do they mean to you? Consider which furniture pieces really have a story or what knick-knacks embody who you are. Write down what brings you joy in each room.
What Do You Dislike about This Room?
Once you've identified what you love, identify what you don't love. What things about each room drive you crazy? What would you throw out right away? Be honest. Don't be afraid of hurting someone's feelings. Just because Aunt Susan gave you the wall hanging doesn't mean you have to love it. Really evaluate what doesn't bring you joy. Once you've evaluated each space and you have a good idea what you want in your life and what you don't, it's time to starting purging.
Step #2: Fix the Furniture
When you're striving for minimalism, it's a good idea to start with the bigger issues first. You cannot build a road until you move the mountain, so start with the “mountain.” What furniture pieces really belong in each room and what can go? Find a balance between joy and nostalgia just for the sake of nostalgia. Just because something has been around forever doesn't mean it has to stay around forever. You can remember Grandma without her sofa if the sofa no longer brings you joy.
Does It Function?
When you're striving for minimalism, furniture should have an obvious function. It's better to pick a few pieces that meet your needs than to cram a room full of chairs simply because you have them. Ask yourself what you really use. And don't keep furniture around just to store things you don't really love. Take the time to go through drawers and purge what is no longer needed.
Do You Love Using It?
There is a balance within minimalism between function and joy. You want the furniture pieces in your home to be functional, but you also want them to be things that make you feel good. Your home should feel welcoming to you. You should be able to just breathe and not feel as though the stuff in the house is overwhelming or negative. Remember, your minimalist home is not about creating an art gallery. Pick furniture that is simple, but loved.
Step #3: Floors Are for Walking
In a minimalist house, floors should be kept clear at all times. There shouldn't be extra clutter sitting around where it can be seen. Avoid stacking things in corners or sliding things under your furniture. This can be a challenge, but that's what minimalism is. It's challenging you to get down the raw essentials of what you need. It's giving you room to breathe.
Challenge Yourself: Choose Open Pieces
A great way to push yourself on your minimalist journey is to select furniture pieces that are open underneath or have glass doors or panes. Being able to see under and into your furniture will keep you from hiding clutter. Sleek, open shelves keep you from stashing things in the back of cabinets and will force you to keep only what you really want to look at every day.
Everything Is Art
In a minimalist home, everything is part of the overall aesthetic of the house. So, if you have toys, store them in a way that's appealing to the eye. Create storage spaces that also add to the decor of the room. Everything should serve a purpose, or it's unnecessary. Even trash cans can add a sleek touch to a minimalist kitchen.
Step #4: Flat Surfaces Are Clutter Magnets
Most of us know--there's no better magnet for clutter than a flat surface. Kitchen tables, countertops, bookshelves, coffee tables, and end tables. These are places where stuff lands and never seems to leave. Even the front of the refrigerator, which is a vertical surface, tends to get covered in...stuff. Held up with actual magnets. The next step in minimalism is to fight the flat surface disease.
In order to clear those flat surfaces, you're going to have to be very honest with yourself. Are you ever going to use those coupons? Are you going to read those magazines? Do you love that knick-knack? Is there a better way to organize those photos? Ask yourself these questions as you go through your home and clean off every flat surface. For the things you decide to keep, consider better storage options. Put photos into albums and use them as decor on a bookcase. Create a space in a kitchen drawer for those coupons. Create a system for displaying children's art on the refrigerator and then either keep in a notebook or purge it after a time.
Don't Lay It Down!
To maintain those newly cleaned surfaces, you will have to retrain yourself not to lay things down. Have a place where things go when you come in the house so you can resist the urge to dump them on flat surfaces. Create a space for mail, both opened and unopened. Create a space for keys, purses, shoes, and jackets. If possible, store them out of sight. And when you bring things into the house, have a plan for their final destination. Make decisions right away about keeping things or throwing them out. Chances are, waiting isn't going to change your mind and getting rid of them sooner prevents you from having things lying around for weeks.
Step #5: Walls Are Flat, Too
Just like the refrigerator, walls are vertical flat surfaces. It's easy to clutter up your walls with things that don't bring you joy, just like the other flat surfaces. So strip the walls down to the most important one or two pieces in each room.
Create a Focal Point
Choosing a simple art piece on an accent wall allows you to enjoy that piece, rather than losing it among all sorts of other things. If you want to hang a family photo, choose one great photo or create one beautiful art piece out of a few photos, but keep it simple. Store other photos in albums.
Nothing Is Something
Choosing to leave one wall blank in each room can be a freeing, intentional choice. Resist the urge to hang something simply because there is an empty wall. Let the empty wall speak for itself. Enjoy the clean lines and open space of...nothing.
Step #7: Declutter
What is clutter? It's just...stuff. Clutter is a word for all the things we don't know what to do with or don't want to take the time to manage. It's unfinished projects and things that go somewhere else in the house that just sit. As you strive for minimalism, you must be intentional. Remember: less is more. Let's look at how you can get rid of the clutter in each room of your home.
Tips for Decluttering a Bathroom
The bathroom is a place where a lot of things disappear. Where is that travel bag from several vacations ago? Probably in the back of the bathroom cabinet. This is a room where a lot of purging can be done. Start with your medicine cabinet and throw out any expired or unneeded items. If you're not sure, throw it out. Then, pull everything out of the cabinets and drawers so you can see what you have. Consider the quantity. Then sort it into two piles: what you really need and use and what you don't. Donate everything you don't use and neatly store the items you've kept out of sight so that counter is clean and clutter-free.
Tips for Decluttering a Closet
This is one of the most daunting tasks for some people. Closets are where things go when we just don't want to deal with them. Minimalism is going to ask you to deal with it. So start by pulling everything out and sorting it by type. Then, look at how much storage space you actually have. Choose only enough shoes, shirts, pants, etc. to fill the space you have. Really consider what you love wearing. If you haven't worn it in a year, it should go.
If you have clothes that don't fit, donate them. Seeing things that don't fit you anymore will not bring you joy. It's better to buy one item in your goal size if you are trying to lose weight and use that as a motivator than hang onto a whole wardrobe that doesn't fit. If you absolutely have to keep it, pack the clothes away and store them neatly.
Tips for Decluttering a Living Room
The Living Room is a place where things tend to get left out, and there isn't a lot of good storage space. In order to make your living room livable, make sure you have a clean storage space for things like DVDs, books, or photo albums. If you have a coffee table, clean it off daily and get rid of things you no longer need like old magazines. Make sure you have a bin for toys that can be tucked away and goes with your chosen decor. Keep a basket handy for taking things back to other rooms where they belong.
Tips for Decluttering a Kitchen
The kitchen is another difficult space because so much activity takes place in the kitchen. Obviously, when you are cooking, the space is not going to remain perfectly minimalist. However, when you are not using the kitchen, it can be a space that evokes calm rather than frustration. First, clean out your cabinets and trash or donate anything you no longer use or that no longer works. Don't be sentimental. It's just an old blender. If you know you're never going to fix something, get rid of it. Then, find a space for your small appliances and cooking tools that is off the counter. Your goal is to leave the counters free of clutter so the space feels open, inviting, and calm.
Tips for Decluttering a Dining Room
Dining rooms tend to create less of a problem when it comes to clutter than other rooms. In some homes, the dining room is hardly used. However, the kitchen table is a flat surface. And we know what tends to happen with flat surfaces. Kitchen tables have ended up as everything from computer desks to art centers to laundry folding stations. To avoid this happening in your home, remove everything from the dining room that isn't related to eating or the decor. To keep the table from being a landing zone for junk, consider setting four neat, clean place settings that remind you what the space is for. This will define the space and keep the clutter at bay.
Tips for Decluttering a Bedroom
The first step in tackling a bedroom is simple: make your bed. That might seem obvious, but so many of us don't bother. However, making the bed cleans up the space and makes it feel more orderly. Visually, it is calming, and this will affect how you feel in the room. Next, go over your flat surfaces. Put away anything that's laying out that should be somewhere else. Toss out trash and any items you no longer need. Then, go through your drawers and donate any additional items that aren't needed. Look at what's on the walls and what you're keeping on your flat surfaces. Try to eliminate everything but the necessities and avoid stacking and storing things in corners and beside furniture.
Tips for Decluttering a Pantry
It may seem counter-intuitive to declutter a pantry. After all, it has a door. You can just close it and not have to see what's happening in there. However, in your quest for a minimalist lifestyle, opening a pantry to find disorganized shelves where you can't find anything won't help you feel calm and relaxed. So, attack the pantry. First, throw out everything that's old or you no longer want. Remove everything and clean the shelves and the floor. Next, assign places for things by category. Do it in a way that makes sense to you. Finally, put everything back neatly and make sure to maintain the order by putting things away where they go daily.
Step #6: Empty Is Not Minimalist
Once you've taken the time to purge out things you no longer need, create better storage, and clean your flat surfaces, it's time to consider the aesthetics of your minimalist space. Simply donating or trashing everything isn't the answer. Minimalism is not just about emptying spaces. If that were true, a barren hospital room would be considered minimalist. But I don't think anyone feels like they can take a breathe and enjoy a hospital room. So, what's the difference? It's in the intentional choices you make. It's removing what you don't love to make room for what you do love. Here are some tips on how to do that.
Create a Focal Point
When you walk into a minimalist room, you should know immediately what the focus of that space is. Whether it's an eye-catching art piece or a sculpture intended to start a conversation, these focal points can only be achieved when the rest of the space falls away. Minimalism uses negative space intentionally to draw you toward what's most important. Even something as simple as a duvet in a bedroom can create a focal point that defines the space. In this way, minimalism uses what isn't there to make you focus on what is there.
The Power of Color
Color is a powerful tool that has been proven to affect our emotions and even our actions. Using color intentionally is another part of the minimalist aesthetic. Rather than choosing colors that are loud and forceful, the minimalist will choose softer palettes that gently evoke feelings of calm and openness. The idea is not to overpower the space with color. However, minimalism does not have to mean devoid of color. By choosing one accent color, you can create a space that feels fresh, open, and focused.
Once you've purged your home of clutter and unnecessary furniture, and cleaned your flat surfaces, the next challenge is keeping it that way. It feels like human nature to leave things lying around or to constantly acquire more stuff, but you can change that. There are a few simple steps to maintaining your new minimalist lifestyle.
Learn to Say No
This is so hard for some of us to do. When we're in a store and we see a cute pair of shoes or a new electronic device we want to buy it. Even if it's thrift store purchases, we can't resist the desire to have new things. It's part of being an American. But you can change that by learning to say no. Teach yourself to enjoy things without the need to bring them home. Or consider less shopping as part of your new minimalist lifestyle--which extends to yourself as well as your home.
Don't Drop It!
When you come into your home with items, make sure to put them away immediately. Have a place for bags, keys, coats, and other daily items. When you buy things, know where they're going to go and put them there. Don't clutter your flat surfaces!
Continue to Cull
Even though you may feel like you've done a thorough job of throwing out or donating what you don't need, don't stop. Continue to cull your belongings. Consider over time what you use and what you don't, and make more donations. As you change, allow the things you have to change. The purge doesn't have to be a one-time thing.
Purge the Intangible
Minimalism, as we've said, isn't just the state of your home. It's a lifestyle. So take a look at the intangible parts of your life, as well. What activities do you really enjoy and which ones are you doing out of obligation or guilt? Do you love your job? Do you have hobbies? Do you regularly take time for you or just do nothing? Ask yourself these questions and begin to purge from your life the commitments that clutter your life. Clear your mind and create a healthier, calmer lifestyle through minimalism.
Minimalism is a design aesthetic and way of living that has been around for a long time. It's a lifestyle that can free you to be more successful, more intentional, and more positive. It's not about what you remove, but what you keep. It's a shift in the way you see your life, your home, and your experiences. With just a few changes, you can feel the freedom that so many other minimalists experience. It may be difficult at first, and it will take a change in your way of thinking, but you can achieve minimalism in your life. So take a deep breath, and