For decades, American homes have been getting bigger and bigger. And if you’ve been in Austin for any amount of time, you know that this city is no exception to that rule. With all of the people and money that’s poured into this city over the past several years, we’ve seen a significant rise in square footage. McMansions have seemingly replaced the ranch house as the standard house of choice.
Not only have houses been getting bigger, but the average family size has gotten smaller. This leaves more space per person. And what do you do with space? You fill it with stuff, of course. Lots and lots of stuff.
While the average person wouldn’t be considered a hoarder, per se, the fact is we hate to let go of our things. They accumulate and build up, which leaves us stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed. In response, a new trend has emerged over the past 10 years. It’s called minimalism. And as countercultural as it is, this movement is picking up momentum.
What is a Minimalist Home?
Most people have a preconceived notion of what minimalism means. Some assume it means living in a tiny house, while others think it requires getting rid of all but 10 or 15 basic possessions. Both of these would certainly be considered a form of minimalism, but that’s not really what we’re talking about in this article.
A minimalist home doesn’t have to be tiny or devoid of character. The goal is to simplify and declutter to the point that you can spend your time and energy focused on the things that matter – i.e. the people in the home.
Defining characteristics of a minimalist home include:
- Essentials only. You only keep what’s necessary. This applies to everything, including furniture, kitchen utensils, toys, etc. If it doesn’t add value or bring you joy, it has no place in your home.
- Clean surfaces. All flat surfaces, including tables, counters, and mantels are to be kept clean and free of items (except intentionally selected decor).
- Quality first. The priority is on quality over quantity. It’s better to own one quality item than three or four poor quality alternatives. For example, there’s no point in having three cheaply made winter jackets when one quality jacket will do.
The benefits of owning a minimalist home include less stress, greater visual appeal, simpler cleaning, and a more relaxing and enjoyable experience as a homeowner.
Minimalist Design and Style Tips
Going from a “normal” house full of stuff to a minimalist home that’s free of clutter and full of peace requires a lot of difficult work on the front end. Here are a few design and style tips that will make the process a little easier:
1. Start With Surfaces
It’s wise to begin with surfaces – if for no other reason than it gives you instant visual results and provides momentum. The kitchen is the most likely starting place. Begin on one side and work your way to the other, finding a home for small appliances, jars, pots, pans, etc.
Other problem area surfaces include living room mantels and side tables, bathroom counters, bedside tables, and entryway tables (which tend to collect keys, wallets, and purses).
2. Focus on One Room at a Time
If you live in a 3,000- or 4,000-square-foot house, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the thought of decluttering. However, you have to drill down and get focused. Instead of looking at it from a big picture perspective, focus on one room at a time.
By doing one room, you’re able to focus all of your energy and effort on 200-300-square feet at a time. Start in one corner of the room and work your way around. Pick up each and every time you run across and ask yourself a series of simple questions:
- Does this serve a functional purpose? (If so, have you used it in the past six months and/or do you plan on using it in the next six months?)
- Does this item bring you joy?
If the item doesn’t serve a functional purpose/isn’t being used and/or doesn’t bring you joy, it moves into a pile of things that you’ll get rid of. This pile will eventually be subdivided into piles like “trash,” “donate,” and “sell.”
3. Avoid “Just in Case” Items
One of the biggest struggles Austin homeowners have with minimalism is not knowing what to do with all of the just-in-case items. In other words, it’s easy to get rid of things you know you aren’t going to use. But then there are those thousands of items that you keep just in case you need them someday. This includes things like random kitchen utensils, old garage tools, old baby clothing and toys, and books.
The best way to unload these items is to follow the 30×30 Rule. This rule states that if you can purchase an item for $30 or less and replace it in 30 minutes or less, you should get rid of it. For example, if you have an oversized mixing bowl that you haven’t used in three years, you can get rid of it. Because if you ever need it, you can drive to the nearest Walmart and buy a replacement for less than $30.
4. Use the One In, Five Out Rule
You might find it fairly easy to get rid of things, but the real struggle comes on the shopping front. This is why we recommend following the “one in, five out rule.” This rule of thumb says that anytime you bring one new item into the house, you get rid of five items that you currently own. Not only does this help purge your home of unnecessary items, but it also forces you to be more discerning when you purchase something.
5. Prioritize Natural Light
From a design perspective, you should prioritize natural light and open sight lines throughout your home. This will make your house feel bigger and airier (both of which contribute to that minimalist feeling). For simple tips on how to best integrate natural light into your house, reference this guide.
Buy and Sell With Green Residential
At Green Residential, it’s our mission to help Austin homeowners buy and sell with ease (and without giving away unnecessary amounts of equity in the form of commission). As a flat-fee real estate agency, we can potentially save you thousands of dollars. Contact us today to find out more!