Minimalism can start in the home, but its benefits reach far beyond a design style.
We hate to use cliches, but there’s mounting evidence suggesting that less really may be more when it comes to your home. (More happiness, that is.)
With consumerism as king, it can be pretty hard to subscribe to a Minimalist lifestyle--but the benefits far outweigh the difficulties once you get the hang of it.
As a design style, Minimalism focuses on the following core principles:
- clean lines
- monochromatic color palettes
- sparse but highly functional furniture and accessories
Minimalism reaches far beyond interior design, though. It’s about learning to live with less, and consistently putting what you have to use. Ahead, we’ll give you a little snapshot of Minimalism’s history and how to apply it to your own life--in your home and beyond!
What is Minimalism?
By Merriam-Webster’s definition, Minimalism is a style or technique (as in music, literature, or design) characterized by extreme spareness and simplicity.
Philosophically speaking, Minimalism has a reputation for being highly restrictive--you’re limited to only the necessary number of possessions, you can’t have a family, a car, or anything else “extraneous.” So, is the key to a Minimalist lifestyle just...no stuff?
Not really. Take it from The Minimalists:
"[There’s nothing] inherently wrong with owning material possessions. Today’s problem seems to be the meaning we assign to our stuff: we tend to give too much meaning to our things, often forsaking our health, our relationships, our passions, our personal growth, and our desire to contribute beyond ourselves."
That’s what Minimalism is about: learning to live consciously, with less if you can, and assigning proper value to the things you have. It frees you from being emotionally chained to physical things, prevents waste, reduces your impact on the environment, and even saves you money.
A Bit of History
Minimalism design rose to popularity in the 1960s, but the reach of its core philosophy has permeated many sectors over the years.
Several religious groups, such as Buddhists, embrace Minimalism in a bid to grow their spiritual focus by renouncing material possessions.
Around the 1950s, artists like Frank Stella triggered a shift from busy, avant-garde methodology to symmetrical, geometric details. Much of that period’s art evoked order, simplicity, and harmony.
Minimalism took hold of the music scene in the 1960s when the contributions of composers like Steve Reich impacted music for the first time. Minimalist music is characterized by repetitive patterns, uniform harmonies, and extremely simplified rhythms.
It’s hard to pinpoint the exact period when Minimalism as a lifestyle became a thing, but we do know that it’s been around awhile. One of the most prominent contemporary Minimalist lifestyle experts is Marie Kondo, whose book (and subsequent Netflix show) has helped thousands of people tidy up their homes and lives by intentionally, methodically going through their belongings and only holding onto those that “spark joy.”
Minimalism in Motion
Curious to know what a Minimalist approach might look like in your life?
Minimalist practice means making deliberate decisions about what you buy, where you place your things, and how you decorate your home. Everything is done with careful thought and intention.
If you want to employ Minimalism at home, ask yourself questions like:
“What do I own, and how do my possessions affect me?”
“Do they ‘spark joy’ or am I indifferent to them?”
“Do I breathe easily in my home, or am I overwhelmed by clutter?”
“Are the items around me beautiful or functional? If not, why are they part of my life and my space?”
Practicing Minimalism requires a mental shift similar to the one you might make when deciding to start working out or eating healthy. Many of us are accustomed to excess in one way or another. We get comfortable with it and can become unsettled when we try to declutter our lives. We may be surprised to discover the emotional attachments we’ve formed to “things.”
It’s hard work at first, but that change in perspective makes all the difference when it comes to Minimalism.
Here are a couple of tips to get you started:
Don’t Buy for the Sake of Buying
We’ve all been beguiled by impulse purchases--it happens! Part of pursuing a Minimalist lifestyle is making mindful purchases. Before you buy something, ask yourself if you need it, why you need it, where it will belong in your home, and for how long you’ll use it.
These questions will help you think more deeply about your buying habits. Your wallet will thank you, too--and you’ll have a little bit more mad money to spend on the things that actually contribute to your life’s enjoyment.
Functionality is a fundamental principle of Minimalism. When purchasing items for your home, think about the purpose they’ll serve--and for how long.
If you’ve got the dough, it’s always better to invest in pieces that will last a long time, even if the price tag is a little heavier than that of IKEA’s Lack Coffee Table. (We’ve all had one of those, right?) Finding singular articles that serve multiple purposes--like a bed with built-in storage--will help you keep organized while optimizing space.
Rent Instead of Buying
One of the greatest crimes against Minimalism is buying something you’re going to use once before propping it up in a closet somewhere, never to be seen again. (Kitchen gadgets, anyone?)
Renting allows you to temporarily benefit from items you otherwise wouldn’t have a use for: tents for a once-a-year camping trip, a truck for a one-time trip to IKEA, or a glittery gown for a gala.
Bonus points: you’ll avoid adding clutter to your nicely organized garage.
What Do I Get Out of Minimalism?
The benefits of a minimal lifestyle are boundless. Here are some things you might notice:
- Your home will be decluttered
- Your belongings will all have true value to you--functional or otherwise
- You’ll save money by purchasing enduring pieces that serve a clear purpose (and renting whenever you can)
- You’ll reduce your impact on the environment
- Your mental health will improve
- You won’t be over-attached to material possessions
Once you’ve got your home in order, start looking around your life. What else can you approach minimalistically? We’ve found that schedules and relationships are a great place to start.