How to create a simple, minimalist life even if you love buying things for your home
I am the last person I would ever have described as a minimalist. I just have far too much stuff, and although I know I can get rid of alot of it, I like a lot of my stuff! I have boxes of my childrens art works - yes I need to cull some of it but id never throw it all away. I like books, and I love interors magazines - I have too many but I’ll always have my favourites around me. I have old clothes with considerable sentimental attachments and I love buying things to make my house look pretty.
I do however crave a more simple life, where I can find what I’m looking for straightaway where I can quickly clean up rather than spend most of my time tidying up. Where I can host an impromptu dinner without spending the day cleaning, then scooping up all the mess and dumping it on the bed as friends are knocking the door (sound familiar?). We’re in the process of unpacking so Im being faced with all our stuff and what to do with it. Even though I’m determined to use this chance to create good habits, the terms minimalism and simple living seem so unattainable, something I can never achieve.
I looked up a description of simple living and it described this person
someone who grows their own food (I’ve had 2 allotments - I spent so many Sunday mornings just digging and weeding so that I could actually find anything that was growing , that the few handfuls of strawberries and salad leaves it produced could not be described as worthy of the effort. In my mind i’m skipping home with a basket of produce, but the reality was somewhat different.)
someone who spends more time outdoors away from technology (I love a nice walk but I’m equally keen on snuggling up on the sofa watching a good film or poring over interiors on Instagram and Pinterest)
practice mindfulness and meditation (one day that will be me, I hope, but no sign of it yet!)
However when I looked up a definition of minimalism I was happily surprised to find this website aligning minimalism with the Swedish concept of lagom, which is defined as “enough, sufficient, adequate, just right.” It is also widely translated as “in moderation,” “in balance,” “perfect-simple,” and “suitable.” Now I can live with that concept, as we can all decide whats ‘just right’ for us. For one person their sofa full of cushions and a wall full of pictures could be perfectly in balance. while another might crave a simple, pared back style. So what is ‘just right’ to you? And how can you create a simple life if you love buying things for your home.
I think this quote sums up the concept perfectly for me ‘ Minimalism is like pouring tea into a cup. Too little tea will fail to satiate a need (thirst), and too much will result in an overflowing cup that requires time and effort to clean up.’
The Ikea Life at Home report 2017 asked over 21,000 people in 22 countries what their biggest frustration was with their home, and at the top of the list was how hard it was to declutter, and the complicated emotional attachments which led to them having too much stuff.
In general, for most of us reading this, having less stuff = a less stressful life. Having too much stuff means more to tidy away, more to clean, more to choose from, more to look through when we’ve lost something. While having a well stocked kitchen might mean the ability to create delicious home cooked dinners, it might also be where you feel guilty every time you open the cupboard to find the ice cream maker you’ve never used, or the 3 pizza cutters in the drawer, or the pasta maker gathering dust which you have to move every time you need to get to the thing you actually need.
While the term minimalism can conjure up an image of an empty white room with a sofa and not much else, it really isn’t about having little or nothing in your home. Neither does having a bare home make you a minimalist. You can live in a batchelor flat with very few pieces of furniture but it doesn’t necessarily make you a minimalist, it might just mean you don’t spend much time at home, or you have no interest or money to go out and buy things. Minimalism is more about living intentionally and consciously than owning few possessions. It should be a conscious choice and an intentional way of life. It about simplicity not scarcity. The focus of minimalism should not be on stuff as much as intention. Some people might prefer to live with fewer possessions while others love being surrounded by hundreds of books or houseplants and this makes them truly happy and at home. Minimalism should be about focusing on what is essential to our happiness and fulfillment rather than just never buying anything or getting rid of everything.
And minimalism doesn't have to mean downsizing to a tiny home. You can have a big 6 bedroom house full of just the things you need and love and still have a simple and happy life if you can keep the clutter at bay.
So what can we do for a more simple life, where a visit from family or friends isn’t preceded with a panicky tidying up spree, or we can’t find the very thing we need because our cupboards are so full. How can we shop guilt free and with purpose and intention for things for our home. We’re all very mindful of sustainability and the huge impact we can have on the planet by changing our ways and how we buy things so here are a few tips I’m full taking on board myself (and it doesn’t include an allotment, although I would consider taking on a third if I could grow just dahlias on it)
The first step - the declutter phase
first up is the hardest bit - the big declutter. There is no getting around this, even if you do it room by room, you have to face every single item you own and decide whether you keep it or not. If you haven’t already read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: by Marie Kondo then you should - on kindle, unless you really want another book! Just make a start and you’ll soon see the benefits and want to keep going. Ive also written blog post on how to recycle clothes which you might find useful.
The next steps - shopping with intention
So, here are five basic things to ask yourself before you buy anything for your home without feeling at all guilty, and how Lisa Valentine Home can help you live a more simple, minimalist life with the things you need and love;
Do I need this and does it serve a purpose and add something of value to my life
This is a key question that you need to ask yourself before you buy anything but remember, its all about balance - if you really love something, or if it will make your life easier, or replace something with a better version then it will add value, but it won’t serve a purpose if it just adds more clutter to your life.
Remember the concept of Lagom - is it suitable, is it perfectly balanced? Will that lamp light up a dark corner of a room and fill you with joy every time you look at it, will that cosy throw keep you snuggly on the sofa. If so, buy it completely guilt free - its a balance after all. Just don’t forget about the cosy throw you probably already own, or the lamp you don't like anymore, don’t store them away - pass it on to someone else or recycle it
Does this suit your life now (or is it for a life you wish you had)
Maybe one day you’ll have that life you aspire to, but does it suit you now, today? For example, if you have spare bedrooms and regularly have guests to stay then you might need more spare bedding. But if its mostly just you and the kids, why do you need all those sheets or towels. And if you really really want them, thats fine, don't feel guilty just give an old set away rather than add it to your already full cupboard. I bet if you were honest you’d have more fitted sheets in your airing cupboard than you really need! Do you need to buy extra plates for the one time of year you have all the family over or could you borrow them if you need them.
Do you already have something which already serves this purpose.
Before you fill up that huge blue bag in the interiors heaven that is Ikea, try and remember how many tea lights you already have, whether you really need another pizza cutter, or tablecloth. It’s just about being more mindful about what you really need, and what you probably already have at home.
is it well made and good quality
Buy less but buy better, is a concept I truly believe in and the first product I ever stocked at Lisa Valentine Home was this dustpan and brush after buying several plastic versions which warped and needed to be replaced. Ive now had my wooden and metal version for 7 years and it will last many years to come. Good quality doesn’t have to mean expensive either. Sometimes the simplest of things are much better value.
Whats the story behind it
Has it been made a company that treats its workers properly and who supports sustainability and environmentally-friendly policies? This is very important to us at Lisa Valentine Home and we truly believe that more than ever we must be very mindful of where we are buying from. Here are some of our suppliers;
Nkuku who are proud suppliers of ethical, eco friendly and handmade products made by artisans throughout the world, supporting and celebrating their skills by bringing their products to a wider audience.
Redecker , a family business started by founder Friedel Redecker who became a brush maker after becoming blind as a child. He passed his skills down through the family and the company firmly believes that ‘quality and sustainability always prove themselves and that this must, and eventually will, become more and more important in our “throwaway society.” ‘
Riess Enamel is another family business now run by the ninth generation of Riess family in Austria, and the only cookware manufacturer whose production shows a a positive CO2 balance. Their plant operates using electricity from their own hydroelectric plants, generating more electricity than they need which is then fed back into the networks as green energy.
So will I ever call myself a minimalist? I don’t think so but i’m determined to be more intentional with everything I buy and keep now, and live by the Lagom concept of balance.