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Why Absolute Minimalism Will Never Feel Like Home

    We often say that stuff doesn’t matter. And, yes, of course that is true.

    In the big scheme of things, stuff is meaningless. Absolutely. 100 percent.

    I always thought this was true, but now I can say that after living with very, very little, I believe it more than ever. It’s the people and the real life experiences that make life richer, not the things we accumulate.

    And yet …

    While all the stuff – the clothes, the furniture, the dish collections or pillow collections or christmas decorations taking up most of your home’s storage space – while these things are not the most important things in life, they do matter.

    I’ve had a hard time reconciling my deep belief that stuff is meaningless with my insatiable desire to be surrounded by beautiful things.

    Which one is it, Emily? If you really believe trinkets are worthless then why do you find so much joy in styling out a shelf with each new season? Why do you move furniture or arrange flowers or take great delight in a color-coded closet with matching wood hangers? 

    We traveled and lived as a family for over three months in less than 300 square feet. The kids each had one small bin for their clothes. I had one wooden spoon, one set of sheets, one throw blanket, one picture on the wall. And the crazy thing was that we didn’t really miss the rest of our stuff back at home!

    This non-missing had me all concerned. What would this experiment in living with less do to my lifelong love of houses, of decorating and pretty things?!

    Would I get home and just want to pack it all up and give it away? Would life on the road have taught me that minimalism is the way to go?

    That couch you used to love – send it away! The old books you used to collect – off they go! Get rid of it all! All this excess is getting in the way of living! 

    Or would all the things we have collected and inherited and purchased for our house just make it feel like home?

    And if that was the case – this feeling of being at home amidst the stuff – would that be okay? Would it be okay, after all this time of tiny living, to not choose absolute minimalism for our normal life? Would it be okay to still love the couch and collect old books and deliberately choose an afternoon of moving furniture around even though I have now tried it the other way and was perfectly happy?

    Well, you want to know what happened?


    We arrived home and it did feel good. The kids pulled out their toys they had not seen in months. They put on clothes they had forgotten about (the ones with bright colors and big logos that were not part the mom-approved capsule wardrobe they lived in all summer). I cut branches from the back yard to bring life indoors. I switched out our bedspread for a new change. I admired and used the things in our house that make it feel like home.

    And I also packed up a carload of excess to donate.

    The truth is, our home wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t for the couch to stretch out on or the wall of L’s to give it personality. It wouldn’t be the same without fresh greenery and stacks of white dishes ready for entertaining.

    It’s not the stuff that makes a home, but what is a home without stuff?!

    So after living minimally for 4 months and now being back in our large and happily decorated home for the past three weeks, here’s my conclusion:

    Our homes are here to serve us. They are meant to be a place of comfort, protection and joy. They are where we do life, where we invite others in, where we gather and grow. They are the backdrop of our lives and important ones at that.

    The idea of minimalism has its benefits; there is much to be appreciated and adopted about a life free from excess. My style and shopping habits have changed over the years that definitely reflect the simple, clean, living-small and clutter-free mentality this movement is all about.

    But there is also nothing wrong with surrounding ourselves with the things we love and intentionally filling our homes with beauty.

    As much as I love getting rid of unused trinkets and donating items that we don’t need, want or use, I’m not sure I’ll ever stop collecting and styling the things we do choose to keep. Making a pretty home is part of me and even though popular culture says it is better and more responsible to live tiny with very few possessions, that doesn’t feel like home to me.

    The goal of our homes is to be comfortable, safe places where we want to spend time and invite others in. Is my house serving me in this way? Is yours?

    That’s the important question.

    Are our homes doing their job?

    The answer isn’t necessarily to get rid of everything just as much as the answer isn’t found in buying more stuff. What we learned about home from our time on the road is that it is not a matter of having a lot or having a little; it is about intentionally creating a space that makes you happy.

    And it is about intentionally creating a home that feels like you. One that reflects your style, your needs and is a place where you want to invite others in to.

    Creating a home that feels like you and makes you happy could mean clearing out the overstuffed closets that stress you out. It could mean rearranging the furniture to make for better traffic flow. It could mean painting your piano or learning how to create a gallery wall or investing in a new couch or finally figuring out what to do with the problem areas that bug you the most.

    Now that I’m back, I’m more excited than ever to explore this idea of home. Of houses. Of decorating and letting our houses serve us. 

    Tiny living was great for a few months, but it isn’t home to me. I’m a fan of stuff. Not too much so as it starts overtaking my life and certainly not at the cost of relationships and valuable experiences.

    The privilege of making a home is adding our personal style and filling it with meaningful and pretty touches that make all who dwell inside feel happy and at home. I absolutely believe this. 

    So here’s what I’d love to know from you, my darling reader-friends:

    What is making you super happy about your home right now and what stresses you out? Do you struggle with making your house a place you love to be? What is getting in the way? (aside from budget. Money will always get in the way. But I fully believe you don’t have to have unlimited funds to create a home you love).

    I wish we could sit face to face to talk about these things! But since we can’t, let’s chat online :)

    Leave a comment and tell me, what is your biggest challenge when thinking about decorating your home? 

    I can’t wait to hear …

    108 thoughts on “Why Absolute Minimalism Will Never Feel Like Home”

    1. You have so beautifully articulated a concern that I’ve had for a while…how can I be a home stylist when I am so concerned about the earth, her resources, and sustainability?

      Yet I cannot deny my creative side, that part of me that so loves to create beauty and harmony in a home.

      So perhaps I continue, just layering in those things that I find so important, because no matter what my beliefs are, people will still want to live in comfortable and beautiful spaces.

    2. Hi Emily, thanks for your post. I feel like I’ve been in a constant struggle to define my personal style while creating a home that fits our family. These things seem to always be changing! My main challenges are actually visualizing what I want and how it works in our space and finding the actual sources to make it happen. This is where people like you come in ;-)

      1. This is great feedback and I totally get it! There are so many great styles and products that sometimes it is hard to choose just one – or even know which one to choose! I’ve got a resource coming very soon that will help!

    3. My fear is wasting money. More than what I purchase looking good, I don’t want to waste my money on paint that ends up not looking good, accessories that end up not standing the test of time, etc. Plus, what I like, my husband may not like, my kids are just going to mess up, and on and on! It gets to be overwhelming so I end up not doing anything. I have nice cedar shelves that I put in myself in May and they’re STILL not styled. They’re still a mess and practically unutilized. Frustrating.

    4. I’ve been a reader for many years now and I love your blog. This post definitely Touched me.
      It’s exactly how I feel! I lived In a 500 sq ft. apartment with My family of five, for a little over 12 years.
      I would read about the cute and decorative spaces thinking am I ever going to have that… the space to do that?
      4 years ago I thought to myself, I can have that and I don’t need a lot of space to have, a picture frame wall or a (H) wall ;) what I did learn about me is to love the thing I have and to utilize it.
      We just bought our first home and we doubled in size… 1800 sq ft. ;)
      I’ll still keep my house decor the same amount as I have in my apartment, because that’s what I have found works for us. You can make a little out of a lot…thats what 500 sq feet will do! but I also can get rid of most of my trinkets if I had to. But it does make our home feel homier! Thanks always for the inspiring and creative posts.

    5. What makes a house a home? Is our home ment for our comfort and our pleasure? Today I have read several of your blog posts and while each one was talking about fun and creative ways to make beautiful things there was a deep underling feeling of “self”. Most of the world lives in poverty and here we are investing in our personal space. A home is built to provide shelter from the storm and and hopefully a warm place to lay our heads. You have a beautiful decorating style and I think it is wonderful that you can make a living out of something you love to do. I understand that just like any magazine you have to advertise and promote your products/yourself if you want to make any money off of them. While there is nothing wrong with having fun decorating there is something wrong with telling people that there home is there to please them.

      “The goal of our homes is to be comfortable, safe places where we want to spend time and invite others in. Is my house serving me in this way? Is yours?
      That’s the important question.
      Are our homes doing their job?”

      Is that really the important question?

      Would you feel comfortable reading this in the home of a single mother or father who is working two jobs just to feed their kids? The things in their home are not their style and they might never be. Would you be comfortable reading this to a family in Asia who is living in a one room dirt floor house? Are they not able to have friends over because their house isn’t “serving” them when it comes to comfort or style?

      I heard once that if it is not true for a single mom in Haiti than it is not true.

      As much as I LOVE decorating and throwing parties A home is a shelter not a style. It is meant keeps us dry and warm nothing more nothing less.

    6. Wow. I really loved this article. I think the biggest stressor for me is all the stuff that just seems to not have a place, but I can’t seem to get rid of, and just organization overall. I feel like there is always something out that should be put away. There are a lot of things we just need and use, but don’t have very good homes out of sight. Thanks for the beautiful article!

    7. There are parts of my home/property that I LOVE. But there are parts that I hate. We have a 1963 home that is about a third of the way renovated. LOL I want to be done. So the renovations that are left…are in my way

    8. Love this post! I have been struggling with finding a “stuff balance” for a while but especially this year. I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up in January. I’ve never had an overwhelming amount of stuff but after reading that book I donated multiple carloads of stuff that didn’t spark joy and never missed a single item. I felt like I had achieved a good stuff balance. However, we purchased our first home this summer (it’s dated & needs major updates to reflect our style) and I feel like I am somehow back in the midst of stuff chaos after the move. Unpacked boxes, pieces of art propped in stacks on the floor, etc… I want to live a minimalist simple life but, much like you, I struggle with the balance between simplicity and beautification. Anyway, I digress, that was just a general comment because I connected so much with this post and wanted to share. Thank you!

      So, on to my current biggest design challenge: should I decorate a home in the midst of a remodel. We are remodeling as our household budget allows, so of course, it is going a lot slower then we originally anticipated. I am torn: to decorate or not to decorate. That is the question. ;)

    9. This is a very relevant topic in my life. We have made so many transitions moving with the US Navy. Often with military moving you are waiting for a home within military housing. Then you await for your household goods to arrive. In my current move to (Guam) we are sitting in a empty house for 2 months with rented furnishings. The “things” I miss are comfortable rugs to walk on, my own bedding and kitchen supplies. It is costly to need and pick up even the minimal living comforts. For example a small a dishware set, towels, clothing as needed. I’m in my 7th month of pregnancy and it would be fantastic to “nest”. How do you do that in a empty home?

      In answer to your question about decorating. I don’t buy any patterns. Just simple basics and then enjoy fun art. (mostly purchased from Esty) It feels like I’m in a hospital or mental care center with nothing zero decor.

      1. Hi Valerie,
        I am a navy wife who has lived in Guam… Yes, it’s very stark living on boonie furniture in an empty house while pregnant! Thank you for supporting your husband and country. Go to Infusion Coffee and Tea, buy a little something nice for your baby at the NEX and make friends with the geckos :). Before you know it, you will be doing the same thing on the other end!

    10. I just love this post. I am sending the link to some of my favorite, home-loving people.

      My husband and I have been married a little over a year, still in our mid-twenties. We are still renting but searching to purchase our first home. When you were buying, what were the things you look for first about your home? (Other than school systems and the neighborhood…)

      One thing I have deeply loved over the last few years (I’ve lived in 3 different, UNBELIEVABLE industrial lofts in Downtown Knoxville) is to make wherever I’m laying my head at night, home. I think renters often feel like their hands are tied when it comes to decorating and creating a home. But, the challenge makes me light up inside and helps each space feel more like me and now, like us.

    11. My biggest challenge is balancing beautiful ideas that I see everywhere (friends homes, magazines, maybe google images) with creating a space that looks specific for our family, indivualistic and unique without looking hodge-podgy. I think financial constraints actually help me with this issue. Just so you know, I’m pretty busy doing things I love to do and don’t/won’t make time to read blogs….except yours! I love tuning in and reading your thoughts and checking out your ideas.

    12. We live in a really small appartement, basically 4 rooms: kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, living room. It’s perfectly alright for 2 persons, but I will admit it, we do have lots of stuff and thus very little space. Sometimes I feel a bit stifled by all my possessions, but most of the time I’m fine. The real problem is that I just can’t give things away, even if I know they’re just junk, but I always think that I might use them one day (and sometimes I do). Runs in the family, my mom is basically the same.

    13. My biggest problem is storage. Sortof. I’m so used to living in small spaces that I have gotten very good at maximizing what I’ve got and only keeping the essentials. Now we have over 2k sq ft (plus crawl spaces and a garage!) and I have no idea the best way to store things like seasonal throw pillows and linens…space bags? more rubbermade bins? hm….

    14. This is exactly what I needed. In light of the “KonMarie Madness” I have felt so bogged down and anxious and guilty and shameful about how much “stuff” I have that only serves to be pretty or enjoyed sparingly. This hits the nail on the head. I want to enjoy my home and create a space that is warm and inviting, as well as pretty! We have purged and donated and sold excess amounts of things (toys and clothes, mostly), but the things that remain are the things I love, and I hated being made to feel guilty for having them. Thank you thank you thank you for this! May I quote you and link back to this post?

      My biggest challenge is not covering every space. I love the “blank slate” feeling, but then I can also veer into “decorate all the places!” territory. We purchased our first home in January, and I tried my best to go slowly with adding new decor, so that I didn’t add or hang or install anything I don’t love. My second biggest challenge is budget! ;)

      Also, I have been reading your blog for several years, and loved following your road trip!

      1. Thank you so much for sharing! I’m totally with you on the not wanting to feel bad about loving my pretty things. These are the things that make our house feel like home! No shame!

        As for covering every space – I get it. You are on the right track going slowly, keep editing and only add what makes you visually happy.

    15. Yes! With this “toss everything unnecessary” trend, I have felt a little guilty in my corner of the world. I like pretty things. I like a cozy home with extra blankets and sheet options.

      My biggest problem/challenge? I’m fine with things how they are. My mom visits and comments that my house will look the same in 30 years. Maybe? She rearranges and I love it. I read The Nester’s posts and so WANT to be someone who rearranges and swaps out and moves furniture. It simply does not cross my mind but I love it when someone does it for me.

      1. Maybe have your mom or girlfriend come over and you can reimagine your space together! I loved when my best friend lived nearby – she would call me and say “I just need a change in the living room, but I’m not sure how to do it”. Then I would come over and together we would move things around until it felt like a new space. Not a dime was spent and it gave the room a new look!

    16. House Thinking! It’s a book that I really suggest. Super interesting look at the function each room in the past has served for the way its residents lived. Helped me move forward from the get rid mentality, to, ok, now that I know what I have … what do I want to do with this space? How does it serve our family? It led to a kitchen renovation and a reworking of a lot of our spaces, BUT I really feel like we are finally in a place for our house to work in the way we live in it! It’s surprising how much all this work has led me to not thinking about the house anymore.

    17. I really enjoyed your article!
      I am getting married soon and am in the process of decorating my fiancé’s apartment which will become mine once we are married. The trouble with renting is that we do not have total control as to what we can change, but our landlord graciously allowed us to re paint which has made a great difference! We painted the walls a lighter color and now I’m noticing they seem quite bare. So, deciding how to fill the space and add color has become a little challenging. Also, I’m not a huge fan of the carpet, but I’m excited to find an area rug that will bring some color to the space. I keep reminding myself that where we live is special because it’s where our first memories as a married couple will be, but I am also excited to decorate the space so that it feels cozy and inviting. Thanks for the read:)

    18. Love, love, love this post. I think there must be so many women who feel stuck between the idea of simple/minimalist living and being surrounded by beautiful things they love.

      I just moved into a new home this summer. I’m slowly filling it up with furniture, but the hardest part for me is filling up the empty walls!

    19. Hi Emily!

      I’ve been a reader of yours for several years now and have always loved how creative you can get with your decorating. I enjoyed following your family’s journey around the country and have loved reading about how you grew together as a family should. I did wonder, as you discussed in this post, whether you would decide to live tiny once you got home or not. Part of me hoped you would because I would love to see how you would creatively downsize and still make your home beautiful. The other part of me prayed that you would still enjoy your home, but appreciate it more. Owning a home is a true blessing and being able to decorate it to add to the memories you make in it is a beautiful thing.

      My husband is military and, after 11 years of marriage, 2 kids, and moving around the world, we’ve finally bought our first home. We have officially been moved in for one year now and we have all loved and cherished every moment. Being able to finally hang curtains and knowing they wouldn’t be taken down and packed away was thrilling for me. We have actually unpacked everything we have (and donated quite a bit of what we really don’t need).

      Having a home stateside means we can actually have family and friends visit (we were always over an ocean before – too far for anyone to come over!), and so, I’ve been keeping a journal of every visitor who has walked through our front door. The journal sits on our bookshelf in the living room. It has the date the visitor came, and their reason for visiting, and then it chronicles all of our adventures and fun times during that visit. It has probably become one of our most treasured items since buying our home because it helps us remember moments that helped make our house feel more like a home.

      As much as I love having a home to decorate, I would say my biggest challenge is getting projects done. I have so many plans for our home (which I’ve been mulling over since I married my husband way back when), and I have such an eagerness to finish the house, but life slows you down and sometimes that’s just frustrating. We’ve been painting the inside of the house since we moved in and now we’ve finally finished everything but two hallways and three bathrooms (and all the closets, and the garage …). Then there’s the outside, which is hard to tackle when the husband deploys and isn’t there to watch the young’uns while I take on the great outdoors. So, I guess my biggest challenge is just patience. We’ll get there, I keep telling myself, as I pray for more patience. I have to remind myself to just enjoy the process and appreciate the journey.

      Thank you for your wonderful post! I look forward to seeing how you decorate your house a little more/less now that you’re back and are settling in again!

      1. I’m so happy for you that you now have a place – a home – to settle in to! My best friend’s husband is active duty army and they have moved a bit. It is a different mentality and one where you just never do the projects you want to do because you know you’ll be leaving soon. I totally get it. I love hearing about your visitors journal, too! What a beautiful thing to have.

        Patience in decorating is a real thing :) But slow and deliberate will allow you to choose only what you love and let your taste gradually change. Best of luck!

    20. Thank you for such a great report on what it’s like to some home to all your “stuff”. The longest I’ve ever been away from home is three weeks and usually go through a few weeks of simplifying both my possessions and my routines. I want to have the time and space to really enjoy what God has blessed me with.
      This year I find myself in a unique place. I sold my house of 25 years in early April and immediately started packing. As I packed I tried my best to get rid of at least 25% – 50% of each category of my things. Then I moved to a smaller house that is the perfect size for me, but immediately started a remodel to make it even more perfect. I’ve been living with very little for six months and now I’m excited about unpacking. As I find things that I’ve completely forgotten about, will I part with them or fall in love with them? You’ve giving me much food for thought and I look forward to the adventure ahead.

    21. I found this post via Emily Clark, and I absolutely loved your perspective. I have been on a mission over the last year or so to eliminate clutter and live a more “minimalist” lifestyle, although I live in a 4,500 sf home with 5 kids. My biggest challenge is hanging art. What to put where, how high to hang, etc. I have a lot of vaulted ceilings and I feel like most of my stuff is too small for the space, so our walls are very blank. For me, not just the stuff, but the cleanliness helps make a house a home. I think it helps people feel more comfortable when things are in order and there is no pet hair or weird odors.

      1. I totally agree. Clean floors and surfaces make everything feel better!

        As for what to hang and where – you really do have to pay attention to the scale of a house. We moved from a teensy 1920’s bungalow to a 3200sq ft new build and what worked in our first home was way too small for the tall ceilings and open floor plan in our new home.

        Since you likely have large walls to fill, look for larger-sized art. Too many tiny things just looks cluttered and off-balance. One large mirror or painting or enlarged photograph fills in an empty wall. As for where to hang, I prefer the center to be at eye level. Too high and the proportion is off; too low and the same is true.

    22. Love this topic Emily and the thought-provoking it creates in my head & heart.
      My biggest issue is how to edit. I love that quote that goes something like “have nothing in your home that you do not find beautiful or useful.” I’ve tried to let that guide me, but welcome any input from you. Thanks.

      1. I love that quote and agree – keep what is beautiful and useful. I might also add, keep what makes you happy, what brings good memories, what feels like ‘you’. Even if it is not ‘on trend’, if it is somehow meaningful and makes you smile when you see it, display it proudly!

    23. Emily, I love this perspective! We have spent the last year in a studio apartment. It was our solution to the itch for a tiny house we were having. It is perfect and I want to stay here forever. (Though I’m sure there will be seasons with different needs ahead of us.) I’ve minimized to an extent, but it isn’t 150 square feet and we still have more than the absolute essentials. I’ve felt slightly discouraged about it – I wanted to be all in the minimalism movement. But we’ve found what works for us and I our home is serving our needs! Thanks for your words, they were very encouraging!

    24. I really appreciate your more balanced approach to minimalism and creating a home we love… I often find myself teeter-tottering between the two. I think I’d like to land somewhere in the middle as you have.

      My biggest struggle is that I have a home full of hand me downs that I don’t really love and while most of it goes together pretty well, it’s not totally my style. But the thing is, I dont hate it either so it feels really hard to justify replacing it… especially since I want a new look. Do you see my dilemma? We don’t have a lot of extra money so I know that once and if I start it will be a long commitment to changing things up.

      1. Totally see your dilemma. It’s a weird balance of gratitude vs. switching things to make it more ‘you’. Just go slowly – maybe try adding a few inexpensive accessories to start to move things more in the direction you like. As you save, switch out furniture pieces, or paint or recover existing ones for a fresh look. It is a process, but when you enjoy the house you live in, it makes such a difference!

    25. First time visitor (here from Emily A. Clark). What an excellent post! This really helps me clear up my own conflicted feelings of stuff vs minimalism. Thanks.

    26. I, too, have realized what simplifying means as I have lived with a minimal wardrobe and not been in my home many nights since March 11th when my son was hit by a train running to Subway. Our lives have been changed forever as he learns to walk on his “Iron Man” prosthetic. Considering he was in a coma for four weeks and didn’t get to go to his home until June 20th, his life is a miracle. This experience has taught me how little I need in the way of clothing and ‘things” in my home to make me happy. On tape of all that, we sold our four story historic home and moved into a small three story townhouse. We have been decorating it with a minimalistic approach and purchasing furniture that have a much smaller scale. And I need to add, I read your posts about your vacation with joy. We have traveled to nearly every stop you and your family made and it was a joy not to have to leave my comfortable chair and travel with you. Thank you.

    27. Hello Emily
      I live in France and I have followed closely this super trip I’d like to do one day with my family!
      I looked forward to your return impressions of the “normal” life because I thought you could not change everything at once !! To me, you like too much decoration, cushions, flowers and abandon all was not like you !!
      Especially since you have a class on decorating that opens soon online !! I did not see you give up, cancel or remove your beautiful decoration! And you are right not to remove the decoration !!
      Although I am reading the Book of Bea Johnson on the subject of “zero waste” and I’ll try to do even olus effort and try to move towards less stuff … I do not think renounce my decoration !!
      No, because as you said so well, it makes me happy, me and my family!
      And it is very impportant to feel like home!
      Well I also think it is a “problem” of people who have money. For those who peinnent through the month, should not have this kind of questioning …

      If one has money for decoration, then one wonders what makes us happy and Verily decide to keep certain things. To answer the last question, my project was this summer store, empty a little closet … But we have done little or nothing !! We enjoy the house and garden with swimming pool! And even if I did not renounce sort, future flea markets will help me, I tell myself that if I delay doing this “empty” is that it does not correpond me!
      I have to accept to love my mess and I must however ask me before buying a new object or a new dress: do I really need?
      For decoration, I revendrais if I change and I have to sort my dish cupboards, they overflow and I do not seas of all no need to keep things that are never used me !!
      For me, the decoration is feeling good like you in a house and that means beautiful throws, cushions and friends around my large coffee table! For the finest decor is for you but also for sharing! Otherwise, it’s very sad !! Thank you for these questions! Have a good week-end

    28. Hi Emily,

      We went away for 3 1/2 weeks this summer, and it felt so weird walking back into our house. Almost like it belonged to someone else, except that it is filled with things we love. Being gone for a bit helped us see things we might not notice otherwise. For instance, my husband noticed how we really need a headboard. :) Now we just need to decide what to do. :)

      My biggest problem is too much stuff, toys, etc. Getting rid of things(that are not loved, used, or beautiful) is on our to do list this year.

      Could you please share where you got your bed cover and sheets?


    29. Thank you Emily for the reminder that the people make our house a home. I love that you recognize that the unique items that we have make our specific to us. I am in the process of intentionally keeping the items that bring me joy and that I love having in our home. Biggest challenge with decorating that I am facing right now is updating our dated wall colors & curtains, along with creating a gallery wall with some of the art I purchased from your site. I can’t wait to get that done. I love your neutral palate and may try that here. I can always add a pop of color with art or items I love!
      Thanks for your honesty!! I love your blog!

    30. Very interesting post. I never grew up in a home where style of the home was stressed. Not that that is a bad thing; but style of any sort (home or fashion) was never talked about. Hence, as an adult I feel at a complete loss as to how to furnish and style my home. I know what I like but I don’t know how to get from point A to point B. I could go to a paint store and stand and stare at wall after wall of paint chips and still come home with the same “tan” that exists on my walls! I have no idea where to start. I have lovely oak trim and struggle to pick out wall colors. My home gets the sun in the back of house in the morning and then light in the front of the house as the sun moves west into sunset. What colors go with honey oak trim? Most home design shows feature homes with wood trim that has been painted white or cream or ivory. Any wall color looks good against those trim colors. I have struggled with watching the home interior design shows and ended up turning off the TV because I realized it made my heart become ungrateful for the home I have and wishful of what I have not. I have learned to be content and grateful for the blessing of owning my home and accept the fact that I have no sense of style whatsoever and instead have chosen to focus on creating a home that is full of love, laughter, support and the safety and sense of allowing one another to be who we each are and not concerned with whether or not my home looks like my neighbor’s or someone else’s home on TV. I just want it to look coordinated and pulled together :)

      1. You are doing the right thing with making your home a place filled with laughter and love. And while you may not think you have style, you do :) You just need some help defining it.

        Oak trim usually has yellow/orange undertones. Choosing a paint color in the warm family will compliment the trim (or floors or cabinets). Choose a color at least a shade darker or lighter than the oak so that there is some contrast. Hope this helps!

        1. If you have orangey coloured oak trim just do a search for what paint colours go with it and you will get brand specific colour ideas.

    31. I love to read decorating blogs . I also like to keep abreast of what’s new in decorating trends but if I’m not careful, I’ll find myself wanting to redo or replace items that I purchased in the last two years. I moved from a house to an apt. two years ago and have purchased almost all new furniture so far except for my dining room furniture. I have also painted almost the whole apt.,changed light fixtures, including a chandelier. I still have a desire to do more because I keep seeing things I’d like to try. I keep telling myself “that’s enough” because this is a rental and I might not live here forever, so just stop doing stuff and buying stuff. Just be satisfied with what you have! By the way, I get tons of compliments on my apt. but I’m always looking for my next project.I’m also a senior with a shopping obsession.It is my belief that too much stuff can cause a stressful life, so it’s important to me to try and be balanced. As a result, I find myself constantly buying and constantly donating. Like you, I also love to be surrounded by beauty, I just have to find a balance.

    32. A couple of things come to mind. One is that our homes should reflect our hearts. That’s a big concept to talk about, huh? I do believe HOME is our sanctuary and we need to make it a wonderful place for our families and friends. What I believe is the biggest issue is one that comes back to the heart and asks a big question… Why do we have the stuff we do and why do we want it? So many times our hearts are hungry for God and instead we go shopping or we re-arrange our home or remodel or redecorate and find ourselves needing to do more of it… it doesn’t stop. And if we would have just chosen to seek after God our hearts wouldn’t be so unsettled and we would discover contentment in a fresh way… whether through minimalism or fully decorated homes. Trying to figure out if we’re just enjoying the beauty of a bouquet or we “need” those flowers to fill that messy spot in our hearts… that’s challenging. And I don’t have the answer.

      Thanks Emily for sharing your experience and your thoughts as your process. I know there is a tension in this topic and look forward to reading the other comments, too.

      Be blessed today!

      1. This is so wise! And you are absolutely right. Trying to fill my life with more stuff can often be a clue that my heart is feeling quite empty. I so appreciate you commenting and sharing!

    33. I think the biggest problem we have is kid stuff…we live in a relatively small house with 3 boys under 5, and with them just comes stuff! Toys and trinkets and baby equipment…and not much “talent” from them to keep it tidy. ;) And in this season of life, without driving me crazy to keep breakable things away from little ones or unnecessary tidying (basically, to keep life simple), I try to keep it all to a minimum (and yet it’s still overwhelming, right?).

      But one thing that keeps me from my “perfect” home is being afraid to invest in things. I’m never sure if it will be a fleeting trend or something that I will love forever, so I either settle for a cheaper alternative (so I’m not afraid if it breaks or goes out of style), or don’t get anything at all. Which, overall, leaves it good, but not perfect…and that’s probably just fine in this season, and when my family, space, and savings grow, I’ll be closer to what I love as well (and maybe know myself and my style better for more confident decisions as well!).

      1. Seasons are for real – especially with little ones. No need to buy a fancy, unwashable sofa when you know sticky hands will be on it. And that is what it is for!

        There, of course, is a balance here, too. I have always felt that the kids should learn at home how to treat certain things with respect and so even though we have a nice, light couch that they sit on, they are not allowed to eat on it or have shoes on it and that is okay! You can create boundaries that feel right for your family.

    34. What a fantastic and timely post, Emily! I’d imagine that it felt wonderful to sink back into your routine surrounded by your curated and comfortable home. We moved cross-country two years ago and because of the hurry never did the “move purge” that most are able to accomplish. As we get ready to finish our basement, we completed a big purge of our belongings- totally KonMari style. Nothing went into storage or into our living space without being touched by our hands. Now, as we expand our living space, I’m struggling between the “save money, buy nothing, be minimalist” mantra we’ve embraced and a complete nesting phase.

    35. I love this post, Emily! It gave me a lot to think about. I have never been able to keep things totally neat and beautiful–and having 5 kids didn’t help. Now, at this time in my life, I not only feel out of place in my messy home, but I know I’m teaching my kids what is acceptable and how to live. It’s a struggle for me. Some people come into my home and say, How do you keep it so neat with 5 kids? But to me it feels cluttered (888 square feet). So this is something I would like to pay more attention to this year. Thank you for inspiring me to notice and care about the little things that have a big impact. Love you!!!

    36. I love to hear that your time away inspired a renewed interest in all things “home”.

      My issue is that I get caught in the trap of wanting to keep on-trend and I have a tendency to make changes that are in-style instead of living through changing trends. For example, I am living with painted white wood floors that were beautiful and modern and popular, and are now feeling tired and out-dated. How do I stop feeling like I need to make major updates every time the trends shift?

      1. Such a good point! I think we need to take a step back and really identify what our style is. There are certain ‘bigger picture’ things that will stay with you and can help inform what big decisions to make (like for big investment things – floors, furniture, etc). The little things like pillows and accessories? I’m all about trying new trends if they seem fun to you!

    37. What an honest, earnest, practical post to consider…
      “I’ve had a hard time reconciling my deep belief that stuff is meaningless with my insatiable desire to be surrounded by beautiful things.”
      YES. Always. Feeling. THIS.

      I’ve been blessed with major life experiences (weddings, grandchildren, extended overseas travel) in the last ten years. However, those things have forced me to look away and get by with the way our home is now. It’s hard, because I feel as if I have lost control of its true beauty and order and that makes me feel unsettled. Editing and letting go of stored things does help. But those pictures covering the fridge? My grands love those. The toys my children had that lived in the attic for twenty-five years? The grands enjoy those, too. At this time in my life, our home needs to stretch and adapt for more guests than ever. So far, God has stretched the walls to make them sufficient. May He continue to teach me how to use what I have or may have in the future to share beauty…

    38. You said it perfectly, Emily! When my husband retired 2 years ago, I determined that I would get rid of half of what we owned. Although I am normally an organized person, who doesn’t believe in keeping anything I don’t use or love, I couldn’t believe how much stuff I didn’t use or love. lol We bought a house half the size and now I absolutely do love and use what I have. I firmly believe that clutter is the reason for a lot of stress. Just the right amount of what makes us happy in our home is necessary though. ☺

    39. I have loved reading all the comments and to hear that I am not alone! I struggle constantly with the balance between what is needed and what is too much. I do believe that life requires a certain amount. Living on the road may not have had the daily challenges that getting all the kids to where they need to be and having meals at different times and all the business that goes into daily family life might need.
      “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” William Morris. Sums it up perfectly!!

    40. Once again I feel like we are soul sisters! Maybe in heaven I will finally get to have a cup of coffee with you :)

      As a Christian interior decorator this topic has been on my mind A LOT lately. I have often had these questions myself and sometimes run into clients that wonder why certain things are necessary. Sometimes I feel guilty for loving pretty things and sometimes it brings me to tears knowing I have such a passion and gift for decorating but don’t always know how to use it for God’s glory.

      My husband brings a lot of wisdom into my life and a few weeks ago he said he believes God cares very much about the details of my designs and the items I’m hunting down for my home or my clients. The reason he said this is because he is confident in God’s nature. I would hesitate to say that God is a minimalist. Think of this world and ALL the beautiful creations he made simply for us to enjoy. There are very few species of things we would have HAD to have to survive. This tells me that He created to create and that is a beautiful thing. If it brings Him joy, it glorifies Him when His children express their creativity.

      I am a purger and I don’t like keeping a bunch of stuff I don’t use but I still do love the stuff I do have. We recently moved and I have been having a lot of fun changing my style up significantly and taking some decorating risks I have never taken before.

      With everything, there is a balance. Like you said, we don’t want to choose stuff over people. We don’t want to be always cleaning and dwelling on our homes. On the flipside, inviting friends over to a home with just a sofa and nothing on the walls or anything else in the room would feel void of life and beauty. We were created (for better or worse) to be influenced by the things around us. In a lot of ways, our homes are expressions of us and how we love others. It is a life-giving act to make our homes beautiful, for us and the people who visit.

      The key is making sure we control our homes, what is in them, the amount of money we spend on them and how much we think about them and that these things don’t control us. <— this is hard for me every day and I am working on praying more to God in the moment when I feel like it's overtaking my thoughts.

      I've started reading two books I am hoping will speak to this topic in my life because even though I am coming to terms with all this and how God CAN and DOES use creativity/interior decorating for his Glory, it's hard to express these ideas to my clients. The first book I am reading is Walking on Water by Madeleine L'Engle and The Gift by Lewis Hyde. Both are written by Christians (I believe) and are on art and how it's essential to this world, especially to creatives. Our culture values beautiful things but we also look down on artists and consider their time wasted to some extent. I hope to understand our Father's heart on this a little better through these books.

      Love you Emily, YOU are a gift!

      1. Dear Rachel, my heart goes out to you in full understanding as I read your post. Being in the design world and running my own business for a number of years before the economic downturn, I often fought with those same questions. Just to encourage you, something that I found in praying about those same conflicts of being so involved in what seems somewhat materialistic, was that God was using me to be invited into peoples most safe and personal area of their life. When you meet with your clients, you get to know them on such a personal level because you’re in their home, and they share things with you!! So I just encourage you just to be the light of God to them, pray over their homes, pray over the kids rooms while you’re there. Just bring God’s blessing to them:)

        1. This comment was such an encouragement to me. Thank you for taking the time to write! I agree with this perspective whole-heartidly and want to be this kind of decorator. I want to leave behind more than just pretty things but a piece of God’s love, spirit etc. Thank you for reminding me of the importance of this and that God has given me a direct line to impact others.

          1. This is so powerful. Thank you both for sharing your thoughts. I am a decorator also and struggle with this same feeling at times, but I also feel like its what I was created to do!! xoxo

      2. THis is so wonderful! Thank you for sharing. I especially love what your husband says about God not just being a creator of useful, but also of beauty for the sake of beauty!

    41. 1. Time – I have three pictures and some painter’s tape templates, and a giant stack of frames to make in to a gallery that’s been sitting for a couple months. It’s just not done yet.
      2. How – Will my gallery wall even look right? No idea. I gave up on even trying to figure out how exactly its supposed to go together and am just sticking things up on the way. Are the frames right? Do they go together? No idea. We’re just going for it.
      3. Stuff – I like stuff. I have stuff. I am homeschooling a second grader. We have craft supplies we use . I have scrapbook stuff I use. I am an avid reader that LOVES books so we have tons everywhere. We have puzzles that we love doing and an entire shelf of games we love to play. We do things at home. Where does all of these things go that looks decent but its still not hard to put them away. (I’m inwardly a 12 year old at times. If its not easy to put it away it may or may not happen.)

      1. These are such good tangible struggles!

        One thing I hear in your words is the worry that you are not doing it ‘right’. Is there a right? I’m not sure. There might be easier ways and some guidelines, but I think it is the lack of confidence we feel in not knowing that keeps us from moving forward.

        So what if the gallery wall isn’t ‘perfect’? You may end up with a few extra nail holes in your wall, but that’s okay! Give it a try! (I do have some tips for hanging a gallery wall here: )

    42. I’ve lived in a lot of houses in my 67 years, but the one I’m in now seems most like “me”. It’s a 1950, two bedroom house. I pulled up the carpet to find slightly less than perfect, but still nice hardwood floors. The fireplace is red brick, the doorway to the dining room is curved at the top. My biggest problem has been trying to decorate the kitchen in period style without looking kitschy. Retro print curtains, a yellow step stool, shelves for my collection of S&P shakers…all make me happy. I keep art and knickknacks that have sentimental value, not just monetary value. I have pieces on the wall that I kept from my parent’s home and they remind me every day of their love. Decorating should reflect who you are, not just how much money or time you have.

    43. This is an area I constantly struggle with. As an interior decorator, I love pretty things and changing my home up seasonally as well. However, after raising a child with special needs, friends with cancer, parents with health problems, it can seem superficial and I also know it is intimidating to friends who aren’t decorators or don’t have means to do so. I guess the reality is to keep it in perspective and do things to your home out of a love for homemaking instead of out of compulsion or greed or a need to keep up with the Jones’. Easier said than done:)

    44. This has been on my mind a lot lately since the last of our 3 kids moved to college last month and we are empty nesters after almost 28 years of having at least one child at home. I am giddy at the thought of cleaning out things I’ve kept for years “in case we needed it” but it’s still hard to let go of some things. I am gradually working through drawers, cabinets, and closets releasing things little at a time. I hope as I continue the process I can be a little more ruthless instead of holding on too tightly to things that I truly don’t love. I am glad I kept some of the toys and things my kids used when they were younger because now I am pulling some of them out for our grandson who just turned 6 months. It’s hard and for each person it is different. We have plenty of room in our house for things but after a while those less cluttered, organized spaces look so nice.

    45. I am in the same place as you right now but with decorating a home we just bought and are fixing up. I’ve stayed down there with the bare minimum of things– which makes me miss having all of my books, art supplies, and art on the walls! But I also realized I have way too much stuff too! My decorating problem is deciding how to make colors flow from room to room. I did the white walls for decades (way before Fixer Upper!), but now I’m ready to be more colorful in my space because it really makes me happy. I’m just afraid I’ll get overwhelmed… there must be a balance and a breezy, light aesthetic. I loved how you made idea boards in your online class! I intend to do that! I am just having trouble getting started and deciding on a palette for the whole house!

    46. Great post! I think my biggest problem is twofold:) 1) I look at blogs and Pinterest, etc., a bit to much and then get overwhelmed by ideas and struggle to make a choice and 2) I sometimes struggle with flow. Flow meaning, if you go for super patterned curtains, do you need a plain rug? And what if your rooms flow together which some of mine do…then you have to factor in multiple rugs, etc., not to mention paint colors and everything else. I do have a consistent color pallet that I work with so that has helped a bit!

      1. I think you are on the right track with consistent color palette. In my eye, it does look better when each room relates to one another – not necessarily matches.

    47. Love this. Can you give us an idea of what you purge regularly? I’ve been trying to donate more, but tend to hang onto things that I might need or could use in the future. I’d kick myself for having to rebuy things I just donated. What is your strategy?

      1. I have a constant pile in our front closet of things to donate. If I’m folding laundry and I find a item that is too small or ill-fitting, I’ll add it to the pile. I have a tendency to buy new pillows and so I try to donate the others I’m not as fond of. Extra dishes or items from the kitchen. Accessories I don’t use or no longer fits my style – these go in the giveaway pile.

    48. We bought our first home eight years ago and decorated in tans, neutrals and fall colors.
      I’m feeling the need to move past all of that to white walls, brighter colors and less stuff on the walls. One challenge is limited time and budget. I can’t do it all in one day or week.

      Another challenge for me is getting rid of perfectly good things. The decor objects are well kept but they aren’t new. Difficult to resell and I know I can donate them.

      The other thing I struggle with is gifts from other people. I display things because they were given to us but I don’t really like them or feel an emotional attachment to them. My husband’s brother still comments on the picture he gave us. Well, it is going away!

    49. I completely agree with this.
      My family is large, so our biggest challenge is space. We are constantly throwing things away, and donating items. However, we still keep buying what we need.

    50. Your post made me think of the late, Edith Schaeffer’s book, The Hidden Art of Homemaking. While the book is dated in some aspects, it puts forth the important idea that beauty and creativity are a vital part of homes. I reread Edith’s book, whenever I start to question if I am just superficial b/c I care about the arrangement of our furniture or making new pillows for the couch. I mean compared to the Word of God and the souls of men what do white walls matter. But you are right they do matter. Anyway… well said. And something that does need to be said.

    51. While I haven’t been living on the road lately, I can really relate to most of your experiences in this post. I’m so grateful you wrote it! I don’t need to feel guilty about my plans to paint the kitchen whenever I finish painting the upstairs bathroom. I can be a good Christian homemaker who loves beauty and truth in a home full of stuff! I see myself as a protector and nurturer of beauty(and truth) and sometimes that requires having some stuff. “Are our homes doing their job? The answer isn’t necessarily to get rid of everything just as much as the answer isn’t found in buying more stuff.” Thank you for sharing your experiences and motivating me in mine.

    52. Hi Emily. This post couldn’t be more perfect timing. My journey towards simplifying and styling our home has come to a halt this year when our boy turned 2. Now our most used room, the living room, have been taken over by trains and trucks. On top of that, i see wires that has been “temporarily” unplugged from players and speakers, wonky curtain rod from playing too much peek a boo, nail holes on the wall where a shelf once stood, empty walls where my collection of frames used to be, our sectional full of cheetos fingers prints. This is the same room where our guests automatically end up – not the rest of the house where it’s styled and tidy. Lol. With that being said, i do love this room exaclty how it is. This room is my baby sitter and my reliever. I am never sorry that yhis room is a mess. That is also in a way how i simplify our home and my life. i do miss seeeing beautiful things in that room but one day, it will be like christmas day when i am able to put them all back.

    53. Love this post! So well said and I am totally in the same place with you. I live in a small rented apartment and wish so often for a house of my own where I can do whatever I want to the space and walls. But honestly I’m learning to be content. There’s an ebb and flow to my contentment and currently I have to remind myself of how blessed I am. This fall season has me wishing I had a large spending budget. But again I remind to be content. :) I can’t wait to hear more of your thoughts on making a house a home!

    54. Something that is ‘getting in the way’… something that is a constant issue/consideration/hurdle for us, and for making our home serve us fully and bring us all of the qualities that you mentioned (joy, comfort, safety, etc)… is the climate.
      We live in sweltering, oppressively, dangerously (at times) hot and humid Central Florida. And while we love CFL and love to call it home, the 8+ months out of the year that have a ‘real feel’ of 105+, temperature-wise, make it challenging to enjoy many aspects of our house all of the time. Aside from 3 (ish) months out of the year, our indoors and outdoors don’t meet… meaning, you can’t just go outside for a little while and come back in- you’ll need to take a cold shower, because in those 10 minutes outside, you’ve become completely drenched in sweat and totally stinky. We can’t have our windows and doors open and create that often-desired open concept, because there’s a 30 degree difference between what’s going on outside in our swamp state, and what our a/c is trying so hard to achieve.
      We purchased a home a few years ago that (very sadly) doesn’t have a pool because we NEEDED to be in a very specific public school district, and so that’s what we did. And while the schools have all been fantastic, our home life and quality of life (because of said heat) has been majorly lacking- And so we’ve decided to take the proverbial plunge and put in an in-ground pool. So while it’s not exactly a change IN our home, it’s going to help us to enjoy our entire space so much more, and give us a reprieve from all of the heat.

    55. I love this post. I decorate our home with a “less is more” approach. I like simplicity and cleaned surfaces. Don’t get me wrong, I want our home to be decorated and welcoming just not cluttered with stuff. I no longer do tablescapes and place settings. I have a simple centerpiece instead. I don’t have surfaces that are full of decorative accessories. I limit myself to only 3 at most. However, my home is filled with stuff that I no longer use or need. I have a room dedicated to all of my thrift store and antique finds that I just don’t love. Closets and drawers are packed full of clothes that I no longer wear. It is overwhelming and stresses me out. A purge is coming. As far as our home, I am learning to only purchase things that can be used in a variety of ways. Antique jars can be used as vases, filled with seasonal elements and used as candle holders. Picture frames are great for switching out art. Containers are used for decorative centerpieces or for holding fruit. I have changed the way that I shop for items by making sure that I love them and they have multiple uses. I can still have a decorated home while spending and living with less.

      Thanks again for sharing your heart and your journey. Have a wonderful day.

    56. It’s hard to just say one! First would be that I love, truly love, so many different styles and colors. I started picking according to what my husbands favorites are and that was a tremendous help. When I saw friends houses decorated, even if it wasn’t what I would have chosen, I just loved that it looked done. So I started to realize that some choice was better than no choice. And as the years have passed I’ve become happier with my choices. Now my biggest problem is time. With six little kids and other joys of life, I really have to make it happen if I’m going to research, shop, hang, fix, craft etc. And it always take three times longer than I planned. So excited to read house posts!!

    57. I really like this post. I only read about three blogs on a regular basis. This post was like talking to a friend. I get the whole living simple thing. We bought a home two years ago and I am just making it ours. I am decluttering and need everything in its own place to stay organized. The stuff that was taken out of the kitchen for our remodel that hasn’t found a place, is sitting in a small pile in the hall. Figuring out organization on the miscellaneous things is hard. So glad you’re back! Again, love this post. I think keeping the things you really love and actually use is the key. I don’t like junk drawers because things end up there when they don’t have their own place and then forgotten about.

    58. My biggest problem is narrowing choices and finalizing a style, color, option. You are so right about having what you love around you to comfort you and welcome guests. There is a balance and moderation is always the best route, I think, to having what makes you comfortable without overdoing. I’m not too good at letting go, but I’ve been working on it lately and there is comfort in releasing the unneeded, I’m finding. More practice should make me better at it. But I’ll never be a minimalist since there is too much I love. Thanks for this post (and no need to reply!).

    59. Best blog post by far! I also feel like just the right amount of decorating can turn your house into a cozy, family centered home. Your blog has inspired me to bring a little greenery into my home, my first fern is going strong :) still saving to purchase a sofa similar to yours. How do you feel about family pictures hanging on walls? What do you do with the large amount of papers coming home in your children’s backpacks?

      1. Oh my goodness! THe papers from school! There are too many. I recycle nearly everything, saving only important letters in a file that is attached to the side of a cabinet in our kitchen or maybe a piece or two of artwork. Maybe I’ll regret someday not having elaborate scrapbooks of all of my kids’ art, but I doubt it :)

        As for family pictures, I’m a fan if it makes you happy. We have a collection of frames on our piano with family photos and those feel special and there is a big one of the kids in Audrey’s room (see it here:

    60. The challenge for me, is that sometimes minimalism in decor can leave a home looking and feeling cold. But then having too many can make your home look cluttered and untidy as well. I especially have a hard time letting go of books of all kinds, especially art and design books :)

    61. I always used to think bigger was better. 8 years ago, my husband and I built a large 2 story custom home. It was spacious and beautiful, however, I found that we weren’t as connected as a family with it being so big. So 2 years later, we sold that house and moved into a single story home that was half the size. We are so much happier here, and it is a joy to decorate a smaller space because it has so much more of a cozier feel to it. I have always been drawn to the cute cottage style homes, and that is what I have tried to create here. I’m very happy when I walk in the door & just really enjoy the space. I have a love for the farmhouse style, & thoroughly enjoy finding items at great prices to decorate our home.

    62. Well said! I’ve enjoyed reading your blog for a few years now…one of my favs! But I was a little worried that you’d come back from your trip and fully embrace minimalism. Then where would I go for decor inspiration and fun tutorials? ;) As a mom of 5 I fully agree that too much stuff can get in the way of what is important. But there is nothing wrong with beautifying your space, changing it up sometimes, and creating an atmosphere that our families enjoy coming home to…especially this time of year!

    63. My biggest problem is that I just don’t know where to start! Pick a color palette? A piece of art I love? Should I do an entire wall of art or 1 piece? So instead I have white walls, white curtains and blah furniture! I do have 2 small kids so I have to take that into consideration. I would love to have fabulous colors on my walls but have no idea HOW to go about it!

      1. Great question! It helps to have a jumping off point, doesn’t it? Try looking at different rooms that catch your eye and see if there is a common thread. What colors are you drawn to? What patterns? Why type of art? This helps so much in trying to figure out which direction to go.

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