MINIMALIST living is a lifestyle that focuses on what’s important. You purposely decide to own little.
”The trend towards minimalist furnishing evolved in the late 1990s as a counter-movement to pursuing opulence,” says Oona Horx Strathern of Zukunftsinstitut, a future trend think tank in Germany. And the coronavirus pandemic has helped to spur many people’s interest in the movement.
”The more time we spent with our furniture, the more we thought about whether we really needed these things,” Strathern says about the time when many were confined to their homes amid strict lockdown measures to curb the spread of the virus. And the cleansing process within our own four walls is continuing, she adds.
Anne Weiss, author of a book on minimalist living, believes that downsizing has many positive effects. “It saves space and allows you to have a better overview of your belongings,” she says. This lifestyle often begins with discarding things. Once you know what you possess, you can avoid superfluous purchases in the future.
”Minimalism is a constant challenge to question one’s own consumption,” Weiss says. It can also direct one’s focus on the important things in life – such as social relationships, health, or creativity. “With less junk at home I feel more calm and balanced,” the author says. For, things can be distracting. Fewer objects in your immediate surroundings can help improve your concentration.
The question is: How to get the process started? Strathern and Weiss have some tips on how to create a minimalist home.
Decluttering: Less is more and also more sustainable
A minimalist home is tidy, functional and reduced to the barest necessities. “It’s important to ask: What are my living needs and what do I regularly use?” says Weiss. Each object must undergo scrutiny for its function and its uses. Superfluous items should be weeded out so that the overall number of objects is reduced. “But it should not degenerate into a competition á la the 100 Things Rule,” Weiss says. The decisive factors are one’s own taste, values and sense of cosiness.
What to keep: Furniture and decorations that serve a purpose
A minimalist home needs furniture items which are both functional and multifaceted – that is, fulfilling two or more functions. “For example a bed that is also a couch, a laundry basket that at the same time can serve as a place to sit,” Weiss says. Other examples: “A kitchen shelf that contains a pullout table top, or stools that stacked together make an end table.”
Furniture which offers storage space will moreover help clutter disappear.
The furniture that you keep should ideally be somewhat smaller. Instead of a wall unit in the living room, a chest of drawers or a shelf which at the same time can serve as a room divider are sufficient.
Those who want a change right away can start by rearranging their existing furniture – which can have a positive effect on how you feel in your home. Living expert Strathern says she regularly rearranges her furniture. “Then I immediately have a different look without having to buy anything.”
One idea needs clearing up however – that minimalists don’t own anything at all. Also, their rooms are not barren. Decorations may be kept – so long as they serve a function. “In order to liven up a room, plants – also large ones – are a good idea,” Weiss says. “At the same time, they improve the room’s climate.”
Pictures also contribute to a cosy feeling – for example photos of pleasant experiences, of friends, family or a beloved pet. The author’s tip: “To look clear and uncluttered, I group the photos, use similar frames or hang them on a string with clips.” In this way the photos appear as one element and not as a hodgepodge.
What to buy new: Things that are here to stay
Even a minimalist might come to the conclusion that a piece of furniture needs replacing or that they need more storage space. When it comes to purchasing new things, “today’s minimalism is influenced by ecological awareness,” says Strathern. Many people, she says, “buy less furniture, but opt for higher-quality pieces when they do because they last longer.”
This kind of furniture also changes our feelings about status. “You show off things which are truly sustainable. Or things which express your own personality.” The trend researcher calls this ”autobiographical living,” when people express their identity through their style of living. Instead of some interchangeable and uniform look with furniture from mass suppliers, Strathern says, you can pick up items from a flea market, or add a piece you inherited from your grandma. Or even furniture you have made yourself.
Design: Clear forms and bright colours
Minimalism also has its aesthetic components. Many fans of this style favour straight lines and clear forms instead of ornamentation in order to create a calm atmosphere. Think for example of the Bauhaus style of architecture.
”In order to create clear lines, it can make sense to choose a basic colour and then only use colours within the same spectrum,” Weiss says. Blue and green, for example, can be complemented by lime green and turquoise or cobalt. Or otherwise, by only black or white. The ambience then comes across as “more harmonious, simply tidier,” Weiss says.
An alternative are shades of grey as well as the colours of materials such as wood, rock or linen. Colour accents appear where they have a significance. They guide the overall picture. Weiss has one further tip: Grouping items together whose look and function match. “For example, when I get a second-hand monitor, I make sure it’s the same colour as my computer.”
Is minimalism right for me?
”Living more minimalistic is not for everyone,” Weiss says. “The clean look is scarcely realistic for a family with small children.” But, the author says, there are a few things parents can do as well, like placing a child’s favourite toys at eye level on the shelf and others in drawers or boxes so that the room appears tidied up. – dpa