Sometimes the simplest, most obvious answers in life may surprise you. The same goes for design.
You know you need to make a change in your home, but maybe you’re not sure where to start. Or perhaps you just don’t have the budget (right now) to make any major overhauls to your living space. We’ve all been there. So what’s the one thing you can do to make the biggest impact in your home? And even more, what’s the one change that will bring the most happiness?
Sometimes the answer to such simple questions have very simple answers, as if the key has been right there all along. Intuition, common sense, and simplicity go a long way when it comes to interior design. But for some, even the idea of hanging new art on the walls or picking out a new color scheme can seem overwhelming. “Where do I start? Does this truly represent me? Will I get sick of it in a few months?” And while these are legitimate questions, there’s still that inner monologue of indecision and uncertainty to contend with.
Julie Schuster, a New York-based interior designer and feng shui expert, says that the one thing you can do for the biggest impact is to declutter. It’s not only free, but it can drastically increase your well-being and happiness levels in the home. “There really is an awful lot of truth to the saying that ‘in order to amplify, you must first simplify,’ ” she says.
“There are no truer words. Stuff bogs us down, so get rid of it. Get rid of anything that doesn’t serve a purpose in your life or bring you joy.”
While this answer may seem obvious, none of us are naturally good at getting rid of things, and even Julie admits that it’s something almost everyone, including herself, could get better at. But rather than letting the clearing out process overwhelm you, she recommends making a plan and sticking to it.
“The first thing we have to do is stop comparing or beating ourselves up. Especially in [the United States], we tend to have massive guilt about everything. I’m more of a believer in creating a plan and just sticking to it. If your plan is to do a thorough spring cleaning of your closet this weekend, do it and revel in it,” she says. “I don’t know about you, but when I clean out a closet, I feel like the queen of the world.”
That sense of accomplishment, that self-affirming action not only brings joy, but also becomes a snowball effect. And that, according to Julie, is what’s so life-changing about it. “You’ve just gotta take the first step,” she says.
Laura Benko, a holistic lifestyle expert in New York City and author of The Holistic Home: Feng Shui for Mind, Body, Spirit, Space (2016), recommends the same thing. You just have to clear out all the clutter for the most effective results. “Clutter is an energetic anchor that brings you down and impedes your growth. It’s hard to think straight or welcome new opportunities into your life if you are surrounded by too much stuff,” she tells me.
“Go through every item you have and if you haven’t used it in the past six months or don’t honestly love it, let it go. Living with less makes you feel lighter and clearer.”
Other small changes, like making the bed each morning, can also have profound psychological benefits. “It sets the tone for a prepared day,” Laura says. But if you really want to take a deep dive into the most beneficial home ritual, with the biggest results, it begins with letting go of all that stuff.
For more holistic design stories, check out our interview with NYC’s psychic designer and how you can transform your space with these 12 steps.