Minimalism is a wonderful philosophy to live by that can give you freedom from the overwhelming burden of too much physical and emotional clutter.
But it’s not for everyone.
Many don’t like what they believe to be a stark and cold minimalist design aesthetic. Others feel like failures if they don’t live up to the Instagram version of minimalism with its expensive white furniture and empty kitchen counters.
And so some people find minimalism too daunting to even consider and therefore miss the benefits. Which is a shame.
That’s why I’ve adopted the term Essentialism as a home style.
I think of Essentialism as being a more moderate sister of the Minimalism: it’s not about trying to pare down to a certain number of things in your home or create a capsule wardrobe; it’s simply editing out anything that gets in the way of the essence of what you want your home and life to look like, and adding in anything that helps.
Essentialism at home is creating an environment that’s supportive of the life you want to live. Often that means simplifying, but it doesn't necessarily mean minimizing. It means having around you what you need (and only what you need) to be highly functional, effective, peaceful and comfortable so that you can thrive.
This philosophy is based on the eye-opening book, Essentialism, by Greg McKeown (author affiliate link), which has helped me change the way I spend my time during the day. As McKeown says, Essentialism is “optimizing what we keep in our lives in the pursuit of doing better.”
Apply essentialism at home focuses in on what we need for an abundant life that is meaningful, healthy and true to ourselves. This is, of course, different for all – some need more, some need less.
So how do you create an essentialist home?
- Visualize the life you want and the goals you’ll need to meet to get there.
- Figure out the things you need help with - perhaps it's exercising regularly, socializing/entertaining more often, or leaving work behind and unwinding at night.
- Set up your home to encourage and support these behaviours (ie. get rid of the spare bed in an underused room in favour of creating an exercise space; rearrange your living room to encourage conversation instead of TV watching; make space for a hobby you can’t wait to jump into in the evenings.)
- Put on display things that will inspire and motivate you and keep you in a positive frame of mind.
- Minimize anything that doesn’t.
Basically, design your home for function, ease and efficiency, then layer in comforts and beauty, being careful not to add so much that it distracts you from your essential purpose and goals.
Ten Practical Ideas for Creating an Essentialist Home
1 — Carve out a dedicated space for daily quiet reflection, listening, meditating and journaling so you can keep your life intentions top of mind.
2 — Make your bedroom an oasis that encourages sleep (use these tips).
3 — Paint your walls soothing light colours that enable a serene and calm feeling.
4 — Reduce all clutter that isn't functional, beautiful or that doesn't bring comfort or joy.
5 — Have enough coffee mugs for guests if you like to entertain.
6 — Make daily tasks easier and more efficient by setting up practical and functional systems, thereby saving time and mental energy (ex. set up a drink station).
7 — Put to use or put on display meaningful, personal things that inspire you and make you happy.
8 — Get a really good reading light and a warm throw to make reading more comfortable (if that’s on your list).
9 — DIY a dedicated charging station for your phones and leave them there when you’re at home.
10 — Eliminate anything that’s associated with negative feelings (ie. guilt, frustration, anxiety).
Minimalism is a wonderful way to unplug from our consumerist, fast-paced society and draw closer to a more meaningful life. I'm not in any way dismissing it. I’m simply advocating that every individual who craves something more, less, or different than their current state take a high-level view to get to the root of what they really want, then design an essentialist home to support that vision.