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 …