This article is an excerpt from The Minimalist Home: A Room-by-Room Guide to a Decluttered, Refocused Life.
I shake my head at those home makeover shows that are so popular on TV.
You know, a couple who are discontented with their home invite a design expert to come in and evaluate the situation. The couple nervously agree to stretch their budget as far as possible to make as much of a change as they can. Then a renovation team takes over, carrying out repairs and upgrades (there’s always an obstacle that arises and creates drama), and after that the designer stages the house with new furniture, store-bought decorations, and this year’s color scheme. Finally the homeowners come back for the big reveal and get teary-eyed at their house’s new look.
I shake my head because, even though their house may look nicer, the homeowners typically wind up with just as much stuff as they had before, maybe even more. That’s all stuff that may be getting in the way of how they want to spend their days more than it’s contributing to the pursuit of their goals.
I wonder, after the initial dopamine zap from the redecoration, are their lives really any different?
Is their home more personal and life giving to them now, or is it just more pleasing to the eye?
Or worse, will their renovated home require more time and money and energy for upkeep than it did in its previous form?
Very few of us get picked to be on TV’s home makeover shows, yet most of us who have a house or apartment go through something similar with our own homes. We’re disappointed in our living space. We’ve spent a lot of money buying stuff for our home—and a lot of time organizing, cleaning, and maintaining that stuff. And nevertheless, in the rare times we have left to simply enjoy the home, it doesn’t feel like the place we really want to live in. What do we do then?
If we don’t just give up hope, we most likely double down, continuing to look in all the wrong places for help. We pay attention to commercials and visit showrooms and scroll through shopping sites online, and we decide that we need more stuff or better stuff, with a different organizing and decorating plan. And when we take our best shot at making our living space better, it’s…well, it’s somewhat better in some ways, but it still doesn’t give fundamental satisfaction or kick off any lasting life change.
What if the problem isn’t that we don’t own enough stuff or aren’t managing our stuff well enough?
What if the problem is that we’re living in the homes that advertisers and retailers want us to have instead of the homes that deep down we really want and need?
I’d like to suggest that what the huge majority of people in my own country—the United States—and other countries need if we are going to be content with our homes and start living more fulfilled lives is a minimalist makeover of our homes.
Are you willing to explore that idea for your home—that there is more joy to be found in owning less than we can ever find in accumulating more?
I know from years of experience that by getting rid of the excess stuff in every room, you can transform your home so that you feel not only free from the stress of so much clutter around you, but also free to live a life focused on what you want to do with your limited years on this planet.
Consider the benefits of a minimalist home:
1) A minimized home is a better place to come home to. Without all the clutter, you’ll find that your home is more relaxing and less stressful. With fewer things competing for your attention, you’ll appreciate more and make better use of what you have. You’ll be able to focus more on the people and activities in the home that bring you joy. I know some people fear that minimizing their home will make it feel cold and impersonal, but I assure you, through minimizing, you’ll feel more at home than ever. It will be a place you anticipate returning to at the end of every day or relaxing in for a weekend.
2) A minimized home is a better place to go out from. After you minimize, you’ll be buying less stuff and spending less on repairs and maintenance, leaving you with more cash in your bank account—what I call a “minimalism dividend”—that you can use for other purposes. Even more important, because you’ll be spending less time and energy cleaning, organizing, and taking care of your possessions, you’ll have more time and energy left over for dreaming and planning for the future. With these extra resources, you’ll be better prepared to go out into the world, whether it’s for a day’s work, an evening’s entertainment, or a life-changing adventure.
By doing a minimalist makeover of your home, you can set out on a new course toward better fulfilling your purpose and potential in life.
This article is an excerpt from The Minimalist Home: A Room-by-Room Guide to a Decluttered, Refocused Life.
Good points, I don’t agree with all but I get it. It may be to late to minimize from a infrastructure point but we definitely have opportunities whilst building.
It’s obvious to me that many/most of the commenters & perhaps the author has not personally done major restructuring, remodel & rehab. Otherwise they’d know that it’s rare to find things in your typical remodel that are worth the time. More often then not the cost to recycle exceeds the items value. Try to find someone that needs it and is willing to just come get it, let alone expend the effort to remove it.
I have seen many useful innovations on these shows that I’ve personally adopted because they save time, expense and space.
Maria Pinto says
I have watched some of the home improvement/re-do shows in the past and let’s face it. They are purely for entertainment but on a darker side they are like a bad drug & the addicted viewers need a constant “fix” to keep them satisfied. It is similar in a way to a child getting too many gifts at Christmas and not appreciating any of them, never feeling satisfied. Part of this can also be due to a person feeling bored, and using constant tv viewing as an excuse to reevaluate their lives on more intentional living. Like any consumer driven shows, advertisements, lifestyle shows that try to convince their viewers you must have this or your lives will not be happy/complete, are there for their bottom line, the almighty dollar.
There is not thought to the destruction of our planet as one person here said they rip out the old cabinets like it is a fun game with no thought that someone else could use these items. How about Habitat for Humanity for example.
When your life is consumed by “stuff” or never feeling satisfied with your living environment I think it is time to venture out into the natural world to try to rediscover the magic of our real world.
The payoff is worth it.
Deborah Chase-Lauther says
Keep what you love, eliminate what you don’t. Life is a process, and like Coco Chanel said, “edit, edit, edit,” it is an ongoing refinement of what we choose to wear, and the items we choose to keep in our homes. If polishing silver gives you pleasure, and restoring its luster is satisfying, then it earns a place in your home and heart. As a professional organizer who focused on decluttering, I can say that for many clients who tried to radically pare down, subsequent visits saw the purchase clutter return, and sometimes dramatically. I prefer a ‘use up what you have already’ approach, and give away what you no longer love or need. Dividends for me are saved money and diminishing “stock.” ;)
Lana Brooks says
It always astounds me when on these shows they rip out perfectly good kitchen cabinets because they are not the latest “style”. They don’t even donate them to a rehab. They make a big deal out of smashing them with sledgehammers. I cringe every time I see that.
It bothers me as well. Some people cannot afford cabinets at all and would appreciate the recycle. Also, our landfills here on earth are full enough already without all this added clutter that could be recycled.
BETSY A MCCLOSKEY says
I so agree. I have been looking for a smaller home with 2 bedrooms and in my market they just don’t exist. Everything is a mini mansion. Now I am considering moving towns not just homes.
Peggy Sabau says
I read a book a few years ago about a custom called “Swedish Death Cleaning.” This struck a chord with me as I am retired and facing these “Golden Years” with total respect for my life’s accumulation of memories and meaning. The goal of Swedish Death Cleaning is to thoughtfully dispose of and disperse all the things in the house before you die so as to unburden the family of the dreadful task when you are gone. For the last ten years, I’ve been doling out keepsakes to my children who might want them. I donate books, clothing, appliances,etc to charity and churches. I do a major purge once a year with the plan of getting rid of 1/3 wherever I can. It feels great! And it frees my mind to devote my time to writing my memoirs and travel as I can. My goal is to die within the space of one room filled with only me in pajamas, music on my i-pod, and a couple of loving family around me.
Carolyn White says
I love it! I am doing the same!! In the little town where I live there is a fb group where people can give away items to anyone who may want or need. I have given alot of items away & met some great people in the process. There is also a local bartender thata goes to Rockky Point Mexico every week. He helps out at the Orphanage. I have donated toys & cloths that my grandchildren grew out of. — —There are legitimate needs out there –
I have never thought I would be living in my house for such a long time. It makes me feel sad to leave it and at the same time we live in a digital world now and home is becoming office. My neighbors send theirs kids outside and when it rains they are inside. I can
picture the fun I had when I was young and play in the backyard, mowing grass and trimming tree. Then now I do clean all day long after my three children, 10,12,14. There are some days I let the house be messy and won’t get fussy about it. So now I am inclined to donate some of my sofas (we have two) , my shelves and put everything in the downstairs. We don’t want to accumulate debts , because we would like to travel in some few years post Covid . I like the few things in my house and just want to keep some few things that I care about. I know that selling on eBay is possible . That’s something I will do to have some money saved for my vacation.
Philly Chatterton says
I can relate to it, Karen. I moved out three months ago from my parents home to be with my partner in a small condo. It was something we have planned for years. Although the rent was free at my parents’ I felt this is the right thing to do. Many of my clothes (very few) and personal objects are left at their home. It does bother me to have my things in two different places, me and my partner are weighing whether we are going to go back this week end to bring them to us or decide to keep our new condo to the minimum just only the necessary. This would be a good place to star this new lifestyle.
Julie Anne Campbell says
DO go back to your parents house and get YOUR things! You can try to sell or donate YOUR things. This gives you a sense of finality and accomplishment, AND also gives your parents space that belongs to them, for them. A win/win for all of you!
Go back and take your belongings. You may not want them at your house, but your parents shouldn’t be used as a storage unit.
Somnath Jadhav says
I am living a stressfree life after reading about and following your minimialist approach. Now I think twice before buying things. Have donated most of the old stuff. I am feeling more free, I find more time.
As I started reading, this word “minimalism dividend” just clicked. I tool a look around my room to see literally a hundred more things which I don’t need or cared to remove.
Just started removing this clutter and already liking the new found openness in my room.
joshua becker says
“Minimalism dividend” is a term I use in the book.
I love this article. Not sure I’ll ever be a minimalist…….oh, let’s be real, I’m certain I will NEVER be a minimalist. Maybe I am a………..reducerist? I badly want to get rid of most of what I have in storage, but I find some of it to be a comfort to me, even if it’s not necessary. But at least I’m thinking in the right direction. I hope!
My husband and I watched an episode of Love It or List It yesterday. It inspired the most interesting conversation, in which I realized that the walk-in closets on this show actually embarrass me, on behalf of their owners (who cannot live without them). I will NEVER want a closet larger and nicer than the spaces that half the world’s population LIVE in. Nor do I want sofas and crystal chandeliers in my closet…….I hope to enjoy my clothing while wearing it, and don’t feel any particular need to sit in the closet to gaze at my belongings. I’m not suggesting that we regress to WWII rationing. But I think it might be a good idea if we, as a nation, go on something of a reduction diet, in terms of our huge, glittery, and absolutely up-to-the-moment stuff. Our home is quite lovely (I think) but would never make the cut for a decorating show or magazine. Thank the Lord!
Thanks so much for providing more food for thought, in the articles and interesting comments. Peace, all.
Liz P. says
How do minimalists display or share family photos? That’s an area for which I can’t seem to find a good minimalist solution.
Have you tried to minimize their size, my nieces showed me mini grads pic of her from last year, they are cutsie to keep.
Jen G says
A simple multi photo wall frame works- that way no individual frames taking up space on a side but you can still display your loved ones and you can get some visually pleasing frames.
Robert R. says
Put them on your computer or your cell phone and share them that way.
Click and put in your phone photo gallery or cloud
You can buy Wi Fi digital photo frames. The one I have has an 8 X 10” screen plus frame around it and stores 2,000 photos. You send the photos from your iPhone or Android to the digital frame. It is like a continuous slide show.
I’ll try this, hopefully it isn’t to hard to find and buy those .
Can you save your pics from the phone to the USB, because it will take less space in your computer?
I was considering so this with the photos. I really like this idea !
That’s me! Keep what gives you joy—Marie Kondo. My home is full of framed pictures of my boys, now 40 and 44. Along with my 3 grandkids 16, 14, 12, these are a “few” of my favorite things. They comfort me, bring back precious moments in time…JOY to the max! Dusting is a necessity, but when I do dust, I stop and look and reminisce those precious faces, places and events. I devote a whole day of this necessary uplifting chore and smile. I’m retired, 70 years young😍 with photographs that embrace each and everyday of a life well lived. I’ve minimized a lot, but my boys, “daughters” and grands will one day pick up these photographs and remember….hope they also bring smiles to their faces. I hope!
By keeping your stuff in storage you’re paying for it over and over. It’s costing you a fortune for things you don’t use.
Go through it bring home stuff you really want and donate what you can.
In German Makeover shows they usually insulate the house better, alter the house, so a handicapped family member can live there better, remove broken stuff and appliances… And the people don’t have to pay for the makeover.
Auriel RibeiroSa says
Hi. As a woman, I must say that I love to have new things but I also know I can’t always afford it. So I use a simple trick. I just move things around in a room or from one room to another. It makes me feel like I’ve got a renovation at no extra cost!!
Joy Nicholas says
Love this! When my family moved to Korea for my husband’s work, we cleared out so many things to fit into our much-smaller apartment (as a family of 7!). Around the same time, I honestly started not being able to watch those kinds of shows you talk about. I just got really tired of people talking about “must-haves” when it was clear that there were other “must-haves” for a happier life.
And what you say about a minimalized home being a better place to come home to — absolutely. It was our sanctuary!
I am wholeheartedly on board with minimalism. However this year we replaced our badly worn carpet, trim, bathroom floors, and repainted the house and it has been amazing! With less clutter we see the walls and floors more so having them clean and in good repair makes a huge difference! One thing I love about minimalism is that it makes it easier to afford to replace things that need replacing and to buy quality things.
That sounds like practical maintenance, not consumption just to follow a trend. I think an essential part of minimalism is keeping what we have in good repair.
Frances Michael says
“the couple nervously agree to stretch their budget as far as possible”. Nothing like adding unnecessary stress to their lives in the form of more payments for years to come.
I am always amazed when people on these shows have beautiful homes and they act like it’s garbage. Sad. Some people will never have anything even close. It makes it hard to sell a house now! Potential buyers want it “all” ! If it’s not granite, stainless steel and doesn’t have walk -in closets etc. … no one wants it!
Mary Arbuckle says
The home renovation shows are all about prompting people to spend money. They are mostly just big advertisements from start to finish. The house we live in was on the market a long time because it had been sort of let go when the previous owners got too old to take care of it. It needs some things, but when the realtor told us a previous potential buyer had said the kitchen just needed to be completely gutted, we shrugged our shoulders because everything works in there and with just a little paint, a new sink, and some simple repairs to a couple of the cabinet shelves, I plan on enjoying it for years.
How do you get a husband to get rid of things he hasn’ t used in years? It. always becomes an argument!
Marie, I’m married a SAVER and I know what you are talking about! I decided to go ahead decluttering my own and our grown children’s stuff. Then one Saturday, my sister came over to help me work on the basement. We were shocked when, after an hour or so, my husband, unasked, came to the basement and started getting a lot of his own unused stuff out! Some things we took to charity, but I called and texted photos of some better items to an auctioneer first. We ended up making almost $300 from items that had been unused and cluttering up the basement for decades. Hopefully your decluttering will become contagious and your husband will catch it. I think it definitely helps when other people are decluttering with you.
Dana Henderson says
Mrs. Em says
So, how do you decorate? I am asking in earnest because this has always been an issue I have trouble with. My homes have never felt homey. They are either cluttered or stark. I don’t really know what’s missing or what I’m doing wrong.
What makes your minimalist home feel homey? I’m working now to remove the clutter and have made a lot of progress, but I’m left again with the stark look, and it’s discouraging.
Home design and minimalism are two of my favorite things! After decluttering as much as possible I would suggest reading up on the following three things:
1. Furniture Layout – Work on the flow of the room. Make sure there’s plenty of room to maneuver around your space. Only keep furniture you really use. A general rule of thumb is to place the heavier pieces of furniture away from the room’s entrance to balance things and have a good focal point, which bring me to the next suggestion.
2. Focal Point – Have places for your eyes to rest. Try not to have too many things going on at once. Think big. For example, in the living room your focal point may be a large piece of artwork over the sofa or in the bedroom your focal point could be the bed and headboard simply placed away from the entrance.
3. Comforts/Decorating – This is what you’ve specifically asked about. If the base of your rooms, items 1 and 2, are done right the rest should fall into place. As you’ve noticed, if you have too many of these things a room becomes cluttered and if you don’t have enough the room looks stark. I tend to go light on decorating and keep it functional because that’s how I am most comfortable. A few suggestions are: an over-sized ottoman to put your feet up, a couple of throw pillows on a sofa, a large plant to filter the air, a pinned map of travels. Choose just a few decorating ideas – that you love and add to your quality of life – and do them well. If you keep these things simple, and size them right, your home should feel comfortable and uncluttered.
Mrs. Em, I know what you’re talking about. There are many things to consider. Scale is one. A few small things will look stark indeed. Try playing with scale and making sure you have one or two large pieces to focus on like an oversized clock or rug or tree. Texture is crucial. I like minimal color palettes (warm, neutral tones) and only one or two hues, but in varying and inviting textures. This will literally make your home softer and warmer. Lighting is crucial. Avoid harsh overhead lighting and fluorescent lighting. Indirect, low (both in wattage and in height from floor) will help. When you can’t see the light source, it adds ambience. Aim lights at the wall or try dark shades. Lastly, adopt a page from the Feng Shui manual. Use different, real materials. Wood, stone, glass, fabric, metal. Hope these help. Fresh flowers and candles never fail. The size of the space matters too. Since I already live in a small space, I have limited options. I have found that keeping the point of view lower rather than higher (low furniture, nothing placed too high, etc), helps with the coziness as well as keeping furniture closer together, even in a large space. Counter intuitive as it may seem, it helps to break up an open space so that not all is visible at one time.
Betsy Berre says
I took the The Nester’s Cozy Minimalist e-Course. It absolutely addresses this! Check it out.
I know this is an older post, but I have to say that I have so much fun using seasonal items that I can return to the field once they are gone. Seasonal fresh flowers, gourds, pumpkins, greenery, corn husks, branches, dried flowers, Indian corn, cranberries, etc. They don’t stay with me for long, and I love the process of carefully choosing them each season. Of course, I have some pieces I love that last long-term, but very few. Even most of my art is pressed flowers, herbs, mistletoe that has been framed. Nature soothes me and makes me happy. I think it’s just finding what you absolutely love, and trying to only surround yourself with those things.
Think about how you like to use your home. This is one idea I took from my sister’s living room, b/c I realized how comfy and welcoming it felt: she has a pretty big wicker basket full of nice, soft blankets/throws. It is so nice to sit down to watch TV/Netflix and pull your favorite blanket from the basket. When guests visit, they feel so relaxed and welcome.
quickly nearing retirement, my husband and i are in process of a major downsizing task .. we don’t need or want or desire to maintain all that we’ve accumulated over the many years. today i’m donating 74 items to a local thrift store (yes i’m keeping track of the number of items). it’s so freeing! add to that, we’ll be selling our home along with much of our belongings – setting out for a nationwide tour with our little vintage trailer towed behind our jeep. some (most) folks think we’re nuts – and perhaps we are (wink) but we’re excited to begin our new life and figure out where God wants us in our golden years, in a much smaller home with simpler furnishings.
Donna Joy says
I hope you got to spend some time on the road before Covid-19 hit.
Yes! I believe in the minimalist makeover of your home to start loving where you live in a whole new way. But in my minimalist journey, remodeling my house is actually a big part of that. With less stuff, I have removed storage that took up floor space. With less things coming into my home I had money to make my kitchen more beautiful than ever, which makes me happy every day. With less things we don’t need as many walls (no need to hang art or lean furniture for no reason), now our family can be together easier.
For my family, our minimalist journey started with letting go of things and led to recovating our house.