How to Simplify Your Home and Transform Your Life with Minimalism

Courtesy of Sainsbury's
Courtesy of Sainsbury's
Photo of Charlotte Luxford
Architecture & Design Editor2 April 2017

In a world of political unrest, excessive consumerism and environmental concerns, many are becoming more mindful of their lifestyle choices and are embracing the minimalist look at home. It’s more than an aesthetic choice – minimalism can offer a life with less stress, less distraction and less waste, while also providing more freedom and time. Here’s how to transform your home into a calm retreat.

Founder of OYOY and homeowner Lotte Fynboe likes a simple, playful interior with graphic shapes | © Gestalten

Back to basics

A minimalist home doesn’t necessarily have to embody the gallery look with pure white walls – any home can be minimalist; it’s about creating a calm, clutter-free space that still provides you with everything you need. The first thing to do is discover what you really want your home to be – it’s easy to get confused or influenced by the latest colour trends that you never really identify what your true style is. Go back to the beginning and start with a blank mood board to figure out what you really want your home to look like. Keep it simple, but use this as your blueprint going forward.

This home renovation by Scenario Architects has turned the property into a calm, fluid space | © Matt Clayton

The art of losing

Decluttering may be hard for some and liberating for others, but the result will often be the same – a calm retreat, free of distraction, with space to think, breathe and relax. Firstly, try walking into a room, walk back out and try to memorise the items that are within it – those that automatically pop into your head are more likely to be those that are more important to you than those you forgot about. Also, start to think about whether the room would potentially work better without certain items – start big and gradually work your way through the smaller possessions.

The focus of this room is all about connecting with nature through the large picture window | Courtesy of Sainsburys

Change one room at a time

It can be completely overwhelming to try and turn your home into a minimalist haven overnight, so just focus on one room at a time, giving each the attention it deserves. Start as you mean to go on – what you do in the first room, will inspire the next, and so on.

– Firstly, identify the ‘clutter hotspots’ you want to tackle.

– Take the three-box approach: one labelled ‘keep’, another ‘toss’ and one for ‘storage’.

– To help you be brutal, use the 80/20 rule: when it comes to clothing, we generally only wear around 20% of the clothes we own 80% of the time. Your mission is to apply this rule generally to all possessions, getting rid of the things you don’t use 80% of the time.

– With the items you no longer need, rather than just throwing it away, consider donating to charity, listing them on sites such as Freecycle, or recycle in dedicated bins.

This bedroom in a compact apartment still feels calm and spacious | Courtesy of Amara

Clear all surfaces

Many of us have that chair in the corner of the room that we pile clothes on top of rather than putting them away – if we were being brutally honest, most of us never use the chair to actually sit in, just as an extension of the wardrobe, so firstly, why not get rid of the chair? Secondly, if we got rid of 80% of our clothes, we wouldn’t need to put them on the chair because there would be plenty of room in the wardrobe. And voila, there’s suddenly a patch of floor you’ve never seen before, making the room feel bigger, lighter and a better space to spend time in. Same applies for stacking up books on the floor because the bookcase is bursting at the seams – everything will find its rightful place and surfaces will become clear if you’re ruthless in the early stages by getting rid of those items you never use.

Storage is key to creating a minimalist space | © Dinesen

Display or store?

You don’t have to be a total purist to achieve the minimalist look, but it’s best to only have possessions on display that hold deep sentimental value or tell a personal story. Make sure everything else has a home – if there isn’t a specific spot for each item to be stored it will never get put away, which is how surfaces become so easily cluttered.

Bespoke storage in this bedroom keeps spaces free from clutter | © Stiff + Trevillion

Avoid visual clutter

To create a serene environment after all that physical decluttering, you need to ensure that your decorative choices reflect this too. Avoid colour clashing, loud patterns or bold colours, or at the very least, keep these to accents. Make spaces feel lighter and brighter with soothing neutrals, reflective materials and a harmonious, tonal colour palette. Keep large surface areas plain, covered with solid blocks colour or raw, natural materials.

A mix of pale woods and subtle touches of harmonious colour makes this a successful scheme | © Marks & Spencer
Fresh greenery adds vitality to this crisp white interior | Courtesy of Debenhams

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