If you haven’t yet watched the documentary Minimalism on Netflix or picked up a copy of Marie Kondo’s best selling book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” it’s time to start thinking about minimalism. Minimalist philosophy, which promotes reducing excess and living on less, has become wildly popular and has people around the world throwing out garbage bags upon garbage bags of their stuff.
In the documentary Minimalism: a Documentary About the Important Things (watch here), creators Joshua Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus share the story of how they gave up dejected corporate careers and found a passion in minimalism. They simplified all of their assets (Josh reportedly owns fewer than 288 things) and wrote a book that took them around the country. It’s worth a watch if you’re already open to minimizing but are needing a little motivation.
Marie Kondo’s book on minimalism promotes that you should only keep the things that “spark joy” – literally going through everything you own, holding it and determining if it makes you feel joyful. The book suggests a series of precise steps to follow when going about this process.
Personally, I don’t believe there needs to be hard and fast rules around minimizing and decluttering.
The web is full of tips that may be helpful, but don’t let them get in the way of starting now. One can declutter and still keep treasured belongings, one can minimize and still keep a home’s character.
But why? I like my things!
Keeping old and unnecessary things around can create stale and stuck energy in a house – clutter can increase anxiety, feelings of guilt and overwhelm and can put a damper on creativity and productivity.
One study by Officemax found that 90% of Americans admit that unorganized clutter at home or at work has a negative impact on their life, with 70% reporting that it affected their productivity.
In another famous study, a team of researchers at UCLA surveyed the effects of clutter on 32 Californian families and found some astonishing things. A family’s number of possessions increased 30% with each new child during the preschool years alone. 75% of garages were so full of stuff they had no room to store a car. And most importantly – mothers with messy homes had significantly higher cortisol (stress hormone) levels. A.k.a. mess = stress.
4 Ways to Bring Minimalism to your Home Design
Traditional minimalist design – sleek surfaces, clean lines, lots of grey and white – can sometimes be a bit cold and sterile. But there are ways to bring minimalist design concepts into your home without losing all warmth, flair and personality.
1. Good lighting (natural light)
On a biological level – natural light is necessary in order to produce our circadian rhythms that tell us when to sleep and wake up. Natural lighting in homes and offices has been proven to produce better sleep, more productivity, better social behavior and enhanced cognitive function. So draw the curtains back and open the blinds. Consider investing in window replacement if your home’s design doesn’t allow natural light. Over time, reduction in electricity bills may offset the cost of construction.
2. Functional and fun storage
If your storage space is pleasing to look at and incorporated as a design element – you will be more likely to keep things neat. Consider investing in storage solutions that actually enrich the design of your home and are fun to interact with.
3. Empty space
The plague of consumerism is that we buy so much stuff that we need a bigger space to fit it. Then we get a bigger space and feel like we need to buy more stuff in order to fill it. Just because you have extra space doesn’t mean you have to fill it with something. Don’t be afraid of blank space. If a piece doesn’t have a specific function or purpose, consider getting rid of it.
4. Consider Downsizing
Nothing like a smaller home to force you to get rid of unnecessary things. But you don’t have to go to the tiny homes extreme to reduce your costs and ecological footprint. In Boulder, the cost of utilities is about $0.16 per square foot so reducing by 1,000ft² can save you you about $160 a month, or $1,920 per year.
If on a tighter budget, whitewashing a room can add the feeling of space and brightness.
Storage can be beautiful. Using an assortment of different textures baskets and bins is both beautiful and functional. Baskets and ladder shelves can easily be found at Target and around the web.
Declutter your Mind and Your Media
Nowadays we are so inundated with media we hardly take a moment to consider we can be more tactful with our consumption. Our digital space can be cleaned up the same way our closet can – and result in the same benefits of reduced anxiety and enhanced productivity.
1. Cleanse your feed
You open up facebook innocently – thinking you may spend a few minutes catching up on what friends are doing and an hour later, you’re looking through photos of your neighbor’s niece’s wedding from 2007. The facebook rabbit-hole effect. If find yourself getting distracted with social media, try going through and cleansing your feed – actively unfollowing things and people that are distracting. Make sure you are only following people that you really want to be staying in touch with. Only follow brands or public pages that offer some sort of intellectual benefit to you, and unfollow ones that are promoting things you don’t care about.
2. Set boundaries and conscious practices to your media consumption
It can be helpful to set limitations or boundaries around media consumption- the same way you may limit “screen time” for your kids. Schedule an hour when you will allow yourself to aimlessly troll social media. Schedule an hour where you will let yourself catch up on news. Then when your hour is up get back to business.
3. Declutter your Desktop
Do you have a desktop that is so covered with files so you can barely see your screen saver? Since your Desktop homescreen is the first thing you see, is the gateway to a productive work experience. Take time to organize your desktop by grouping things into folders and deleting old and unnecessary content.
4. Clean up your inbox
Does opening your email fill you with dread? Set aside a day when you will commit to cleaning up your inbox. Get rid of any unread messages. Unsubscribe from email newsletters you don’t read. You can even go as far to set up folders or organizational systems within the inbox in your account settings.
It doesn’t take much to start to notice the psychological benefits of minimizing. Try starting in one of these areas and go from there. Guaranteed it will make your home, your family, your body and your mind feel better!
Your Conscious Homes Team
Written by Melissa Hostetter on behalf of Conscious Homes
Melissa Hostetter is a contributing writer for Conscious Homes blog. She is Mary’s oldest daughter, whose passions include singing, writing, design, wellness and travel. She is a certified health coach from the Institute from Integrative Nutrition and has worked for the New York Times and NBC News. After spending the last 4 years in New York she is currently traveling South East Asia.