HOME | The Minimal Look and How to Live With It
Since we started redecorating our house, I’ve had a few comments about the “minimal” style we tend to favour, most of them revolving around how on earth we manage to live with it – especially given that I like the minimal look, but I also like the STUFF. ALL THE STUFF. BRING ME STUFF. (Aside: I just had to Google the word “stuff” because I’ve already typed it so many times it’s started to look weird to me. Looks like it’s going to be a loooong day…)
I’ve also read a few fairly scathing comments online recently about all-white rooms and how people who have them MUST be lying about how clean they manage to keep them. “I bet they don’t look like that all the time!” these people say, or, “Yeah, we all know she had to spend an hour cleaning before taking that photo!” None of those comments have been directed at me, I should say (Er, just realised I made it sound like there were hoardes of online meanies, all criticising my prechus white bedroom, and no, there aren’t. Or not that I know of anyway, and that’s the way I like to keep it…), they just tend to jump out at me because I like that style, and am always a bit confused by the whole “I’m not tidy, so no one else can possibly be tidy either” thing. I think it’s related to the “I can’t walk in heels, so YOU obviously can’t either!” comments that get directed at those of us who really DO wear stilettos on a daily basis. But I digress. This post is not about stilettos (although I’m sure I could work some in if I tried), it’s about the minimal look, and how to live with. So here are my tips…
HOW TO MAINTAIN A MINIMAL LOOK IN YOUR HOME (without losing your mind…)
(I should probably preface this by saying I’m using the phrase “minimal look” because that’s how other people have described some of the rooms in my house. Not the cupboard under the stairs, obviously. Or my crammed dressing room. Mostly the bedroom, really. Anyway, I don’t know if there are “rules” about what you can describe as “minimal”, so please don’t call the minimal style police on me, is all I’m saying…)
CREATE A HOME THAT FITS YOUR PERSONALITY; DON’T TRY TO CHANGE YOUR PERSONALITY TO FIT YOUR HOME
So, as I said, the main thing I tend to hear about the so-called “minimal” style is that it’s impossible to maintain, and that people who have this kind of look for their home can’t possibly keep it THAT tidy ALL the time (so must be lying liars who lie, basically). Well, it’s certainly true that no one’s home is tidy aaalll the time, but it’s also true to say that not everyone is the same, and not everyone is naturally messy, which seems to be the assumption behind this idea.
In my case, I’ve always been a bit of a neat freak – even as a child, my mum rarely had to nag me to clean my room: I had my moments, sure, but for the most part I didn’t like being surrounded by mess, and I’ve gotten more like that as I’ve aged, to the point where I now just can’t relax or concentrate if the room I’m in is untidy, or the floor needs to be cleaned or whatever. I’m not saying this is a good way to be, by the way, or that tidy people are somehow “better” than messy ones – to be honest I’d love to be a little more relaxed about things, but it’s just the way I am, and I’m probably not going to change much now.
And this, I think, is the most important thing to understand when it comes to “minimalism”, because you’re probably not going to change much either, and you shouldn’t really HAVE to change just to live in your own home. The fact is, if you’re naturally quite a messy person, then yeah, you’ll probably find the minimal look pretty hard to maintain, without making yourself miserable. Instead of trying to change your entire personality in order to make it work with a particular style aesthetic, I’d say just pick a style that fits the personality you already have: trust me, you’ll be happier that way. So my first “minimal style” tip is to ask yourself if you really WILL be able to live with it. If you answered “yes” to that, you can move onto tip 2, which is…
HAVE LESS STUFF
This probably sounds a bit rich coming from a woman who converted a spare bedroom into a walk-in closet, but while my clothes shopping style definitely isn’t “minimal” (not even close…), when it comes to everything else, Terry and I do make an effort to keep things as simple as possible, and not buy tons of unnecessary STUFF. When we were selling our last house, we had to spend a good few days clearing out the attic (and the wardrobes, and the kitchen cupboards…) and it was a bit of a wake-up call: most of the things we got rid of were things we didn’t even know we had, and when we were finally finished sorting through it all, we decided we’d never be in that position again. Nowadays we’re far pickier about what we bring into the house: family members are under strict instructions not to buy us anything for the house (Other than gnomes, obviously. It’s not a home without a gnome, though, is it?), and we have regular clear-outs, during which we’re pretty ruthless about what stays and what goes. The less you have, the easier it is to keep it all in order – and the less you have to tidy up, too!
CHOOSE LOW-MAINTENANCE FURNISHINGS
When we put a white floor down in our master bedroom, a lot of people thought we’d lost our minds and would be basically spending the rest of our lives cleaning it. Actually, that floor is amazingly low-maintenance – and much easier to keep clean than the previous, dark wood laminate we had before. This is partly due to the fact that it’s not a high-traffic area, obviously, but then again, the previous floor was in exactly the same place, and it had to be cleaned every single day – sometimes more than once, because that floor highlighted every single speck of dust that every landed on it, and never really looked totally clean. The new one, meanwhile, has a very matte, textured finish, which just doesn’t show marks anything like as easily. Obviously actual dirt would be another matter, but actual dirt doesn’t often make its way up to the third floor (and would be visible no matter WHAT we had on the floor), so I’ve found that I spend much less time cleaning that floor now that it’s white than I ever did before. Amazing, huh?
The key here is to think really carefully, not just about the colours you use in your home, but the textures, too. So, we have a white sofa, for instance, but it’s leather, so it just wipes clean if something spills on it; our white worktops, meanwhile, also have a matte texture, so they don’t pick up fingerprints. (Unlike, our white desks, say, which DO need quite a bit of cleaning: lesson learned!) When we replaced our bedroom floor, we spent a lot of time looking at flooring samples to make sure we picked something that wouldn’t require constant cleaning, and we’ll be doing the same thing again when we replace the high-maintenance flooring downstairs with something that doesn’t highlight every mark.
STORAGE IS EVERYTHING
Almost everyone who comes into our house has at some point turned to me and said, “But where’s all the STUFF?” I always feel like I’m getting more credit than I deserve here, because part of the reason our house looks “minimal” is simply that we moved from a very small house into a much larger one, and we still don’t have enough furniture to fill it all: we do love the minimal look, and want to continue with the same style as we gradually fill the house, but for now a lot of the rooms are “minimal” by accident rather than design. Another reason, though, is that we’ve paid a lot of attention to storage, and have a lot of it.
My dressing room, for instance, holds almost all of my clothes, leaving the built-in cupboards in the other bedrooms available for anything else we want to store in them (I realise this isn’t practical for everyone, obviously, so I’m not saying everyone needs a dedicated room for their clothes, just that you need to maximise the storage you do have…), and while the bedroom might look empty, there’s a built-in double wardrobe, as well as a fairly large chest of drawers, two smaller ones, a bedside table, and a dressing table which holds all of my make-up. The white colour scheme makes all of this blend in and look “minimal”, but it’s actually quite a lot of storage space, which is absolutely essential if you’re going for a minimal kind of look. We’ve also opted for storage with closed fronts (as opposed to shelves, which are on display, and can look messy), and I’m a big fan of things like my perspex dressing table chair, which is see-through, and therefore doesn’t add clutter to the room.
TIDY AS YOU GO
I do a “big” clean once a week (normally on a Friday, so I can start the weekend with a nice, clean house!), but during the rest of the week we tend to just tidy as we go, so plates get put in the dishwasher as soon as they’re used, clothes get hung up rather than left lying around on the floor, and we generally just try to keep things picked up. It helps here to be a little bit anal about this kind of thing, which I am (Terry, on the other hand, not so much, although he has been pretty good lately…), and it also helps that there are only two of us (plus Rubin, who is messy enough for at least four people): I can’t imagine the place would be nearly as easy to maintain if there were toddlers running around, say!
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Aaaand I think that’s it! Well, I might like minimal style, but I’ve never claimed to be “minimal” with words…