Practical Minimalism

Author | Morgan Paixao

Way back in 2015 I had my big ah-ha moment. I read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo and it opened my eyes up to a more intentional way of viewing my ‘stuff’. I’d always been someone who was interested in and found so much joy in styling spaces, (all the way back to my tween days of watching HGTV religiously), but, I wasn’t the tidiest person and definitely had clutter that I moved with me from my parent's home, to dorm, to apartment, etc…

I struggled with nostalgic and sentimental items and things that in my heart I didn’t want, knew I didn’t need, but felt like I should keep, until I read Ms. Kondo’s book which, for many many other people as well, gave me permission to let these things go. But not only that, it helped me become so much more aware of my things. I began to ask myself, ‘Why do I have this?’ ‘Do I even want it?’ ‘If I lost it, would I try to replace it?’

That was just the jumping off point. Since then, I’ve read other books about living with less, watched movies, and listened to podcasts all about the topic of ‘stuff’. Because of my innate interest in creating spaces that feel warm, inviting, and true to oneself, consciously analyzing this ‘stuff’ component, and the emotional attachments we assign to it, was the missing piece of the puzzle.

My approach has ebbed and flowed over the years, but now I see myself well-rooted in a place of ‘practical minimalism’.

To me, practical minimalism means using the guiding principles of minimalism as a way to analyze the personal attachment to things in a way that appropriately suits an individual's life.

So what does this look like?

  • Surrounding yourself with items that lift you up and bring you energy.

  • Letting go of sentimental, unneeded or unused items that are kept because of a ‘should mindset’

  • Gaining awareness about what is brought into your home and knowing/defining your style so that you are confident future purchases are exactly what you want. Aka - be intentional!

  • Thinking long-term, how will a specific piece (clothing, furniture, fixtures, tile, etc…) hold up over time? Is it simply trendy and will look outdated within a few years, begging you to replace it?

What isn’t practical minimalism?

  • An aesthetic! Minimalism has worked its way into our pop culture as a clothing and home décor aesthetic. While yes I find this design style very pleasing, I think it can be quite surface level if it’s not authentic to the individual. I love a beautiful bright and airy, neutral home any day, but my home doesn’t look like that because it’s not me!

  • Replacing items just because. At the heart of true minimalism there is a conscious component. Replacing all your old mismatched containers for matching new glass ones isn’t an act of sustainability!

  • Bragging rights. This may come off as a touch controversial, but I think it needs to be acknowledged. I’ve seen a lot of discussion and criticism that minimalism is something privileged individuals have the option to do. I think that this is an outcome over my latter two points - the idea of minimalism as an aesthetic that's trendy right now, and the ability to swiftly replace items to get that aesthetic ‘just right’. As a cheerleader for minimalism, how does one advocate for it while being aware of this other side? Honestly it’s been tough, and I’ve been trying to navigate it the best I can by showing up authentically and sharing how these concepts have improved my home and other aspects of my life (and now my clients’ lives!). I really want to dive into this discussion more, but I think it’s a whole other blog post (that I really want to explore!). I’d love to hear your take too, please reply if you have ideas you’d like to share :)

Okay so to reiterate it one more time - why do I call this take ‘practical minimalism’? For me the distinction is in the flexibility, it’s a way of describing an approachable look at minimalism - something that can work for anyone, in any home, at any point along their ‘decluttering journey’. There aren’t any numbers you have to follow or a standard you are comparing yourself to, it’s completely tailored to how those guiding principles work for you, your home and your family.

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