My family has been on a journey towards minimalism and simplicity in many regards; financially, work-wise, and with our home. With two kids (and the stuff that comes with them), this has been a challenge, but we have done a pretty good job.
We have gone through our home, one room at a time, and decluttered over the past few months. What’s left is a pretty “streamlined” and simple home with nothing in it that we don’t need. Since I believe that clutter actually takes up space in our heads as well as our physical space, I have found that a minimalist home has had a profound effect on my family’s life thus far. Here’s how I did it:
How to Begin to Create a Minimalist Home
Although I numbered these, there are no “steps”, per se. You just have to decide that you are going to pare down as much as possible. I don’t think I will ever quite “get there”, and create the perfect minimalist home, but here are some tips for anyone dabbling with the concept of minimalism:
- Try one room at a time. It’s overwhelming to try and simplify an entire house at once. Focus on one room, and then “spread the wealth” to others. I started with my bedroom; especially the closets. Use this room to inspire you to simplify the next room, and onward!
- Start with furniture. The fewer pieces of furniture, the better, for the most part. Think of which furniture can be eliminated without sacrificing comfort. Is there a piece of furniture you don’t even use? Consider removing it.
- Only what you need. When looking at stuff in a room, ask yourself if each item is truly essential. If you can live without it, get rid of it. Try to strip the room down to its essentials — you can always add a few choice items beyond the essentials later.
- Clear floors. Your floors should be completely clear. Once you’ve gotten your furniture down to the bare essentials, clear everything else on the floor — either donate it, trash it, or find a place for it out of sight.
- Clear all surfaces. All flat surfaces should be clear as well. This alone makes everything much more minimalist.
- Clear your walls. Clear your walls except for one or two simple pieces of beautiful artwork or mirrors.
- Store your stuff. Store everything you need out of sight, in drawers and cabinets. Bookshelves can be used to store books, but not much else. As you are storing stuff, this may be a good time to donate, sell or trash it!
- Investigate simple window treatments. Bare windows, or simple, solid colored curtains, or simple, wooden blinds are good.
- Subdued colors. Most of the room should be subtle colors – white is classic minimalist, but any solid colors that don’t stress the eyes is good. Throwing a tiny splash of bright color to create accent in small places is fine, of course.
- Edit and eliminate. After a couple of days, look at everything again. Ask a friend to take an objective look at the room. Most of the time you will find that there are things you can simplify even more towards a minimalist home.
- Find a place for everything. In a minimalist home, there is a place for everything. Designate a spot for everything in your home…even the coffee maker!
- Sit in the room and celebrate. Once you’ve simplified a room, sit and simply stare. Notice how peaceful the room is? It’s really a wonderful feeling.
My Financial Independence Journey says
I had the opportunity to start fresh with my furniture when I left grad school. Nothing I had was worth the expense of moving, so I moved to my next location with nothing and bought all my furniture new (and as cheap as reasonable). Most of the above list fits how I bought things. One room at a time, a few pieces of furniture at a time starting with the most important ones. Overall trying to keep rooms clean and as open as possible. I didn’t achieve minimalism (I wasn’t striving for it), but I wound up with much less clutter and a much nicer looking place than I had in grad school.
I hear you! MY big moves have been incredible times to purge my stuff. It’s hard to totally achieve a truly minimalistic home, but it is very rewarding to try! Thanks for the comment!
Great post! We’re planning a move (after 19 years!) which will allow us the minimal approach we’re working toward. Since we already own our current home and there’s no huge rush to move out, we’re going to take advantage of it as it will be the last one for us. We’ve already begun the process of purging, in hopes that it will cut down on the time it takes, we are not moving anything that we find useless or unloved. Once we have everything we want to take out of our current home, we will be having an indoor sale of the rest.
I don’t plan to have much on the kitchen counters, but the coffee maker has to stay as it’s a Bunn and keeps water hot at all times. But it makes AWESOME coffee! :~)
Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank says
I really like this post and the idea of living a minimalist lifestyle, the problem is that my wife really likes her creature comforts and won’t even entertain the idea of a simple camping trip.
Also, I won’t show you a picture of our sons nursery as you will never think of me the same way again :s
Glen, with 2 kids of my own it is sooo hard to do! My kids luckily like very small toys, so every few weeks we pack up large bags of stuff and bring it to the thrift store to trade for the tiny things. It’s awesome!
John S @ Frugal Rules says
Good post Tony! We’ve actually got to do a bit of this ourselves once it becomes warmer. We have three little ones and the crap just grows exponentially when you have little ones. We’re devoting a good part of the Spring to go through and de-crapify the house and garage.
“De-crapify”. I should have named my post that! Pauline would have been cool with it….Good luck this summer man!
Lauren @ L Bee and the Money Tree says
I’m trying to minimize my life. Easy since I just broke up with my bf and he kept most of our household items, but I am trying not to acquire too many things in the process. The thing about living minimally, is that it takes awhile to get to the point where you don’t have anything to get rid of anymore. Great post!
When you have no more stuff to get rid of, you know that is your “enough”. It’s a very cool feeling! I have a couple of rooms like that right now. They are my happy place! Thanks for commenting!
Marie at FamilyMoneyValues says
It gets more complicated when you inherit heirloom ‘stuff’ that has been in the family for generations and feel a responsibility to pass it along – some day…..
I hear you about the sentimental stuff. I finally got over it knowing that it is just stuff. The memory never goes away….
When I start this spring going thru our stuff, my philosophy will be if I’m keeping it packed for sentimental keeps, take a picture and pass it on for someone else to enjoy. You have a memory in picture which doesn’t take up space!
Beverly Hayes says
I have read that you take pictures of the sentimental things and get rid of them!!
Uggggggggh. I totally agree. Please offer any tips if you come up w some solutions to minimizing your “heirlooms.”
If the heirloom item means something to you then repurpose it into something useful. I inherited my mom’s dresser but all my bedrooms were already furnished. I repurposed it into a file cabinet for my work space. I took out the bottom of middle drawer, attached joining plates in corners (joining middle and bottom drawers), placed hanging file holder and voila! The top drawer is a small items catch all.
If you have older or adult children, why not discuss this with them now. They may like to have those items now. Or, they may not be interested at all in any of it. Heirlooms are to be loved and appreciated, not cause you stress or frustration. We own things that would be passed down to our children, but ONLY if they WANT them! If not, they’re free to do with it as they like. We have lost all our parents and grandparents. I only keep what I love from each of them and limit it to as little as 2 or 3 for each. Pictures of them is the most precious thing I have. Look at it from the perspective of your future generations, not the past. I recently read of a woman that left a note with each special item, telling of it’s origin and why it was special to her. I thought that was brilliant! Good luck!
Great tips! I try and minimize the stuff we have and I am constantly trying to de-clutter.
Keep going, Mackenzie! It is a constant battle, but if you get rid of 2 things every time one comes in, you are golden!
Brick By Brick Investing | Marvin says
Great posts. I love living the minimalist lifestyle although we have slacked some since having children. There are a million and one toys/dolls we have but do not need. Fortunately we acquired them through friends and family.
The toys are the toughest part…my wife and I cannot wait to be done with tham!! That said, we don’t have a lot, and kids don’t need a lot to be happy. Thanks for commenting!!
Tackling Our Debt says
Great post! Our home follows all of your tips! I love walking into a room that is only furnished with a few key pieces, and where everything is clean and organized. The less the better.
The less, the better indeed! When you think about only what you need, minus all the little trinkets, the rooms look a lot better! Thanks for commenting!
I have been doing some of the things you mentioned in this post. My home office had begun to be the place in my house where things began to pile up. I have been getting rid of the stuff I don’t need slowly but surely. It has made it a much better environment to get work done.
Home offices are tough. If you check out my posts on “Getting Things Done”, there are a lot of ways you can streamline your home office in order to simplify and declutter!
Minimalist sounds an attractive option but it also goes with being well organised and knowing what to throw away. I start (regularly) to tidy up my office but always get side-tracked and then wonder whether I will need something in the future – particularly paperwork.
I have this theory that, for any one person, there is a total amount of disorder with which they can live. This is the sum of internal (ie mental) and external (ie physical) disorder. My mind is quite well ordered, I work on computers all the time so can reorganise there easily but it is my external disorder that I need to control.
Then I can address the minimalist ideals…
That’s a really good way to do it, John….I can manage a lot of “internal” clutter, although it has gotten a lot better since I write all my thoughts down. External clutter takes up a lot of needless brain space as well, and we have control over that….Good luck!
Maybe we should call it personal entropy.
I’ve always been fascinated by entropy.
Great post Tony,
We are far from minimalist but don’t keep stuff hanging around or building up in our home. Everything has a place and for the most part is pretty darn tidy. We find less is more and just less stuff to worry about, clean, and move.
CBB I always look forward to your comments! I am sure you have done a great job in this regard. Thanks!!
I love the concept but with a five year old and our two dogs, there is always some pillow, blanket, or toy in the floor. We try to clean up before bed and not leave clutter around. I doubt we will ever be minimalists, but getting rid of clutter is a big step in having a clear mind in my opinion.
It is an ongoing process, Kim…A 5 year old and a dog definitely throw a monkey wrench in things, but it is still possible for everything to have its place! Adequate storage space and containers are definitely key. Thanks for commenting!!
Budget & the Beach says
I think you’re right in that it’s key to break things down into manageable chunks so it doesn’t become overwhelming. One small step at a time!
Tony @ YOTDO says
Chunks, indeed! Room by room is the best way to go, for sure….
Chris @ Stumble Forward says
I’ defiantly going to give you tips some thought as I’m building a new house right now and would be much easier to start now.
Tony @ YouOnlyDoThisOnce says
I think you mean definitely, right? To do so defiantly would be too much energy…ha! Either way, ging minimalist while building is TOTALLY the way to go!!!
Amy Turner says
Wow! I’ve been trying to do this for years. My biggest stumbling block is my children’s stuff in their rooms which are the most cluttered parts of the house! If only I could just trash all of their things, it will be one big day to celebrate the minimalist campaign in my house. They are not living with us so how to start sorting through their stuff, since I’ve been waiting for them to do this, like, forever!
Tushar @ Everything Finance says
Minimalism can be incredibly refreshing, if you have everything you need. Not being bogged down with stuff all the time is freeing and really helps you simplify your life, too. Step 1 is starting with the home, so this is a great post!
Edward Antrobus says
Hey, another Jersey boy! I grew up 10 miles west of Great Adventure.
There are a few places where I sometimes feel the tug for minmialism, but for the most part, it isn’t really for me. For things like seating, I’d rather be prepared for having company than base my furniture selection on day-to-day needs. Sure one sofa is sufficient most days, but not when we have 10 people over! And one place I will absolutely never, ever go minimalist is my kitchen. Personally, I wish I had a larger kitchen so I could have space for more stuff!
I live in a fifties house and there are no closets! I renovated a room and put in a Pax wardrobe (bought second-hand) and it has solved my clothes problem. My husband can now use a small wardrobe that I use to occupy with junk!
Pauline P says
the lack of storage actually helps keep only the essentials!
Home Minimalist says
Simply nice the white Living room concept its like best place in Home . thanks for sharing
I’m on this journey too. I think the hardest thing for me is letting go of things that a lot of time and money went into accumulating; DVD’s and CD’s. I minimize or organize something everyday. Thanks for sharing.
Angela @ Setting My Intention says
I love these suggestions. Our family is going minimal as well but I’m the main driver. Getting rid of furniture has been key to minimizing rooms! I’m still working on keeping surfaces clear. Darn those flat surfaces. 🙂
I am just starting my journey a few weeks ago, but what I have completed so far has felt awesome! I have never liked clutter or to much visual stimulation. I find it draining. One problem I have had is during holidays/birthdays trying to explain to people in as nice as way as possible that I do not want any gifts. Especially “things”. I tell my husband I would rather donate money to the local animal shelter or go out to dinner. He insists on wanting to buy me items to open. I do appreciate his sentiment but feel bad that I really don’t want more “things”. How do you handle situations like this?
@ Laurel I totally understand what you mean. Try giving him a small lust. I’m sure there’s something you may not need but, you would be happy to receive such as consumables. As for me, I don’t like him buying gifts while we are working on paying off debt especially gifts that require me to dust or clean them. My exception is if it’s something I would use daily or eat in a day such as a bag of organic chocolate covered gummy bears lol! Maybe you can start saying you like opening up cash and save it and go on a nice vacation.
Elane Sheridan says
Hi I’m an newbie. I watched the Netflix documentary on Minimalism and am hooked, so I am reading as much as I can find and love the diversity of ideas from everyone. As a decorator at heart, I have a lot of stuff, I am willing to let go, but what I don’t understand and don’t have a vision on, is, aside from getting ride of clutter, what should I aim for, I don’t have a vision of what it should look like when finished. Many pictures look like near empty rooms with basic furniture, undecorated and I dont want to live like that. Advise or direction of compromise or suggestion of a place to look for good examples would be apprecitated.. I am afriad I will give away too much and regret it. Does anyone regret getting rid of anything in specific? Thanks, Elane
Island girl says
You have to be truthful and ruthless in the process
Kostas Chiotis says
An interior designer friend of mine used to say, if something is cluttering your space, you probably don’t have the storage to keep it. So find the right storage space for everything. Another factor to add minimalist energy to a room is lighting fixtures.
I have found it easier to donate items rather than trying to sell or throw away. We actually added a floor to our third story in our house to make a second attic. Which we do not have a usable basement or a garage. But our first attic is made up of stuff we havnt touched in 4 years mostly being baby items. As we have decided we don’t want any more kids we are now trying to go through that attic and get rid 90% of it. Kids items do take up so much space. We also have a ton of tools since we have had to rebuild our house from studs and I find it difficult but after we finish our last bedroom those are going to probably sold in a sale or online besides the ones we really want and have used for.
The best minimalism article I’ve read.
I started out doing the decluttering that comes with a downsizing. I went through many life changes very quickly due to my fibromyalgia diagnosis. All of my things seemed to be sentimental to me, parting was difficult. However, I knew that it was necessary to get daily life manageable for me and my husband. I’ve gone through three rounds of declutting and have been ruthless in stopping more stuff from coming in. Now, I feel inclined to pass on the heirlooms, clean out my photograph collection and further reduce my wardrobe. I love opening a closet and seeing space, knowing exactly where something is when I need it, knowing that everything has a home. I still need to work on my paper retention paranoia. My goal is minimalist within five years. Or sooner!
Emery Ocampo says
Another thing that you can do is to update the flooring of your house. This will drastically change the way your house looks! 🙂
Kassel Marie Williams says
Wonderful tips! Acquiring a minimalist home is indeed a wonderful change, however, it entails a lot of hard work and effort. Just to add to your list, you can also opt to invest in high-quality extension cords as this will truly aid you in attaining a minimalist home. 🙂 Thank you for sharing this, very helpful and informative!
April Ebarvia says
Great tips! Thanks for sharing this! 🙂
Hi, I found your article on Pininterest… I’m planning on decluttering soon but I don’t know what to do about displaying my collections. I collect those tiny Tsum Tsum plushies and Simba stuff. My archie comics collection is in a cabinet. How can I display my Simba collection without looking too cluttered? This is hard for me.