Your Minimalist Home

Six questions to help define your style, save money, and avoid clutter

Words by Alicia Woodward

I ran my hand across the wool alpaca blanket and admired the Native American design and bold, bright colors. My husband and I had been looking for a blanket to put at the foot of our bed, and this would be a perfect memento of our trip to Colorado. In the past, we would have bought the blanket without hesitation. Instead, we considered a few questions and avoided purchasing something that, though beautiful, we would have likely regretted.

I hope the following questions help you...

1. What words do you want to describe the aesthetic of your home?

Note this question doesn't ask what styles you like. I admire everything from blue and white chinoiserie vases to abstract art, but that isn't what we've chosen for our home. Unless your style is purposefully eclectic, decide on a cohesive look. Consider the bones of your space, your environment, your lifestyle, your budget, what you already own, and what you find yourself drawn to time and again.

I believe a simple, minimalist home can also express a distinct style such as classic, bohemian, cottage, traditional, rustic, glamorous, vintage, or French country. Defining your personal style will keep you from acquiring thing s that may catch your eye but would just add clutter to your house. It will also help you create a unified space that reflects your personal aesthetic and feels like home.

2. What color scheme do you want in your home?

Minimalist homes are often thought to have a distinct lack of color, but they don't have to. Choose two or three colors that feel right to you, or pick a range of colors, like earth tones, bold brights, or pretty pastels. Sticking to a specific color scheme makes decluttering and shopping so much easier.

This one question prevented us from buying that colorful blanket and stuffing it in a closet because it didn't coordinate with the palette of our home. Knowing your home features serene blue tones will make it much easier to pass on your grandmother's red rooster clock.

3. What textures and materials do you want in your home?

Do you eat dinner on bone china or heavy pottery? Do you prefer rustic furniture or sleek, modern pieces? Would you rather sit on luxurious velvet or casual cotton twill? Textures and materials are a personal choice that help determine our style.

Are the objects in your home delicate and fragile, smooth and shiny, or big and chunky? The only decorations in our home come from nature, including heart-shaped rocks, pinecones, and feathers. Understanding our preference for organic decor makes editing out other objects a breeze.

4. What kind of patterns do you want in your home?

Patterns, or designs, have a huge influence on the feel of a room. They come in checks, plaids, paisley, toile, florals, chevron, houndstooth, herringbone, dots and stripes to name just a few. Some homeowners mix patterns with flair, but they can quickly become visually confusing.

Also consider the size and scale of patterns. Would you prefer a sweet chintz or an oversized Greek key pattern? There's no right or wrong, but it is helpful to discover what you like. It took me most of my life to realize I don't like too much pattern and prefer solid colors with lots of texture.

5. How comfortable are you with empty space?

I love white space! Our walls don't have artwork. Our windows don't have curtains. Our surfaces are mostly bare. Choosing not to fill this space saves us money and gives our home the uncluttered look we desire, but I know that's not for everyone.

Be aware of how much empty space you like. If you aspire to have a simple or minimalist home, you must embrace at least some empty space. Experiment with this to see how much empty space feels comfortable to you. You might be surprised to find that less really is more.

6. What item do you own that represents your personal style?

We have a set of bookends made from cut and polished gemstones. Their natural colors, texture, and function make them a perfect representation of our style. Before we bring anything into our home we consider whether it would complement those bookends.

What object represents your style? Maybe it's a leather club chair, a needlepoint pillow, a sleek serving tray, a funky painting, or an antique clock. Let that item be your touchstone to build upon your own distinct style.

Considering these questions can help you create a consistent style for your home that keeps it simple but still reflects your unique personality. Some may believe personal style is superficial and antithetical to simplicity, but I disagree.

Even the most extreme minimalist must have a few possessions, even if just a blanket to sleep under. Your choice to curl up with a vintage quilt, a high-tech sleeping bag, a Japanese kakebuton, or an alpaca blanket can make the difference between counting sheep and having sweet dreams.

Alicia Woodward

Alicia is a retired teacher, an empty-nester, and a writer. She is an optimist who tries to keep life as simple and joyful as possible. She has degrees in journalism and secondary English education and taught middle school literature and language arts for 28 years. Along the way, she worked at several newspapers as a copywriter, reporter, and columnist. She co-authored the book Lessons in Loveliness with a dear co-worker with whom she wrote a blog by the same name. She and her husband, Mike, live a simple life on a quiet lake in Brown County, Indiana. They have four grown children and a six-year-old grandson. When they aren’t enjoying family or nature, Mike is cooking something spicy while Alicia is writing something cheery.


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Inside Minimalism is our series of exclusive essays on simple living. Each essay is written by our team of writers who are passionate about helping you craft a simpler life. Supported by their own personal experiences, we want to inspire and encourage you to clear the path of life’s stuff, so you can get to where you really want to be.

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