The common fallacy we attribute to our homes is that we need more space when in truth what we really need is less stuff. We Americans consume twice as many material goods as we did 50 years ago, says Joshua Becker, author of The Minimalist Home.
Not only that, but one out of every 11 American households rents off-site storage—the fastest-growing segment of the commercial real estate industry over the past four decades, according to the New York Times. Given the context, Becker’s mantra, “Own less live more” makes total sense. For Becker, minimalism is about removing the things that distract you from what you love.
Unlike Marie Kondo, an organizer and author whose signature question is whether an object sparks joy, Becker suggests asking “Does it help me fulfill a greater purpose with my life?” To minimize our “stuff” is to be more intentional about the things we most value—hence the removal of anything that distracts us from them. If something brings you joy or fulfills a need, it may be worth keeping. Otherwise, it may be time to toss.
To help you make the call, here are three tips to minimalize your home and maximize your life.
1. Remove duplicates
When it comes to minimalizing, it helps to go for the low-hanging fruit first. Becker talks about removing duplicates as a “minimizing accelerator.” How many towels, sets of sheets, staplers, pillows does a family actually need? Probably less than what you have stockpiled. There’s no magic formula for ascertaining how much is enough of a given item but recognizing the excess and paring down is a good start. “If you are looking to make progress…identify the duplicates. Keep your favorites, or a few favorites, in each category and get rid of the rest,” Becker says.
2. Get rid of excess furniture
Furniture seems to procreate all by itself. One day the room sprouts an ottoman, the next a new side table appears. But a good question to ask if whether the furniture adding benefit or burden to the room overall. Armoires, dressers, nightstands, big plants, uncomfortable chairs, display hutches all need to be considered with a fresh eye. They maybe only minimally functional and make the room feel claustrophobic and stuffy. Overall, the goal for just about every room is to create a calming space. Nothing will have as much impact on freeing up the space as letting go of some furniture.
3. (Discriminating) eyes on the prize
If you have knickknacks lining your bookshelves and mantels, and no blank space on your walls, you might want to do a reassessment. When a home gets crammed with stuff, it’s hard to tell what really matters. The unimportant items crowd—and dilute—the impact of the items that have true significance. Ask yourself if your decorations tell a story, and if so, what story they tell. If they communicate your values, then give that item a spot with some breathing room. If the story they communicate is no longer relevant, find a good home for it—either through giving it away, selling it or donating it. Learn to be more intentional (read: picky) about what you choose to adorn your home. When you get rid of what’s unnecessary, the beauty of the objects you do choose to display is easier to appreciate.