how to maintain a minimal style home

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…

minimal all-white bedroom

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.

white bedroom with bright flowers

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.

minimal style dressing table in all-white 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!

*   *   *

Aaaand I think that’s it! Well, I might like minimal style, but I’ve never claimed to be “minimal” with words

22 Comments
  1. I wonder if you had read Mari Kondo “KonMari – The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying”? A lot of what you say here echoes this method.

    I read it and decluttered my home with this method. It worked wonders for me. So for anyone who read this article and wonders how to achieve it, I recommend this book/method. There are hundreds of videos on this method on youtube, if anyone wants a sneak peak.

    To break it down: Mari Kondo says you should declutter by category rather then by room and provides an ordered list to follow. The key is that you should only keep what you love, which makes this whole process a really positive experience.

  2. Although I’m not a minimalist, I don’t like clutter or twee. So the majority of my house is white too – lounge, kitchen, hall, stairs, landing, downstairs loo, both bathrooms & my study. I have 2 black cats and a ginger ninja pup and yet I don’t find it difficult to keep clean, even though I hate housework. White is very calming I find.

    1. I do too – I always loved our bedroom, but now it’s so much more calming! I know a lot of people really dislike white and think it’s boring (I was actually scared to post about it when we did it, because so many people seem to prefer ‘cosy’ and ‘traditional’, which are the absolute opposites of what I like!), but each to their own – I’ve always liked lots of light and lots of space, and white is an easy way to achieve that 🙂

  3. Your bedroom lookt so beautifull. And so much space. I would love to have all that space. But then after a while it would bore me and I would find a way to fill it with more furniture or like hundreds of pillows. And then it wold be really hard to clean. And it’s not really that I don’t like to clean, it’s just that I don’t know how to do it.
    So what I wanted to say was that minamalistic homes are so beautiful but not for me. At least not right now. /love Ida

  4. I like the white walls too, my house is white with grey carpet. I don’t think is boring. If I would move in a Victorian home, then I would make it as Victorian as possible, but we have a relatively new home and white is perfect. Most of my furniture is white too and it blends in perfectly, what is not white is light grey like the carpet. I agree with you, having storage is crucial to a tidy home, without where to put all the stuff, it would end up on the floor or on shelves and so on.

  5. It’s funny, I’ve always sort of admired people who favor the minimalist look. Okay, maybe envy is a more appropriate term. When I see pictures of minimalist rooms, like in your blog posts, I never think the negative thoughts of those you mentioned. I think, “Wow, I bet that room is a cinch to clean.” I associate a lack of clutter with ease of cleanliness. Less stuff to move around when you sweep or vacuum, fewer objects for dust to settle on, or in my case, pet hair to cling to.
    Me, I grew up in yardsale Mecca. Everyone in my family has eclectic shabby-chic taste, and so that’s what I gravitate towards as an adult. I never saw a hallway I couldn’t put a trunk in, or an end table, an antique oil painting or twenty, throw rugs, burnished copper vases, flowers…you get the point. I’ve toyed with other styles, but like you said, they just don’t fit, and I’m actually ill at ease with empty space, regardless of how much I lust after minimalist decor.
    What I’m trying to say is excellent post, wonderful tips, and fantastic advice about creating a home that fits your personality and style. ^_^

  6. My daughter doesn’t understand why I want to paint my house white (when we finally get it) and wants me to do magnolia (can’t do magnolia, sorry). She is like her father, everything is left she she drops it. I, on the other hand, like order and storage space, although I don’t mind my own clutter. I love your bedroom 🙂

  7. Less stuff is key! My room gets a bit messy at times but my desk at work is pristine–i can’t focus on anything if my desk is cluttered.

  8. Im in no way your level of minimalist, but i do like to keep things clean and tidy and pared down. My friends comment on my “lack of stuff” even though i feel there is stuff every where! I think people are just accostomed to too much stuff, thats the norm. I love the look of your home, to me it seems like it would be easy to keep it looking nice/tidy the way you have it! Stuff just gets in the way.

    1. “My friends comment on my “lack of stuff” even though i feel there is stuff every where!”

      I feel like this too – I get a lot of comments about how “tidy” it is, but all I can see is the mess! (It also always makes me wonder what on earth people were expecting when they’re so surprised that the house is tidy!)

  9. Dear Amber:

    I’m more in the cozy and country style but… I LOVE your minimal look bedroom.

    Sometimes, I wonder if I could do that myself. Having my wood furnitire (pine) and a minimum of knick knacks to dust.

    However, I love country and cozy so I keep with my style even if here in Quebec, what is “en vogue” is the very modern, almost industrial style furniture.

    What I want you to know mostly is that you have good taste and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

    Hugs and Kisses.

  10. Forgot to tell you: I LOVE THE WAY YOUR WRITE. It’s like I’m your long time friend and you confide in me.

    Thanks again.

  11. I adore the minimalist look but alas my boyfriend doesn’t haha! I am forever donating things to charity to make space, or selling online but unfortunately in my humble opinion he hoards crap. I vow when we have a house we can have 50 percent to ourselves haha xx

  12. Your decor is my idea of heaven. My kitchen and bathroom are as bright white as can be with a few colourful ornaments, and I would’ve asked for white lino on the floor if the council had offered me that option when fitting new units. The room I use as my sitting room and bedroom, given that I do my art in the real bedroom, is also as white as possible, though if you were to walk in all you’d see is colour since I have my artwork up on the walls. I’m not into homely at all. For me white suggests light and is bright and airy, plus makes the place feel cleaner.

  13. My partner and I are both hoarders and each come from a long line of hoarders. No longer though! I am determined to break the cycle. I’m becoming more and more aware of how we’re just drowning in stuff. Our house is never clean as a result because it takes more than a day to clean it (despite being small) and I always get too overwhelmed part way into the job. I’m pretty sure my house and belongings shouldn’t be overwhelming my life!

    I think there’s a lot to be said for minimalism. We are all affected by our surroundings in different ways. My goal is to achieve a minimalist house and lifestyle (uh… but not wardrobe ahem). I think the calm and peace that comes with it will be worth it. 🙂

    PS Love white bedrooms. The bedroom was the first room I successfully transformed and it feels wonderful. I like a touch of colour though so I bought some sheets in soft blues. Lovely 🙂

  14. I love your bedroom. I recently embraced minimalism. I went to see The Minamilsts speak in Glasgow last October, and was delighted to hear that minimalism is a personal thing and I didn’t have to get rid of all my clothes. It took me a while to get round to the actual Big Clear Out though, and I used the Marie Kondo method to give me a structure to follow. Was surprised at how easy it was and I think I genuinely got rid of 60+% of my stuff (I too am anal, I kept a note ;)). Anyway since then I have decorated my bedroom entirely in white, I have the same drawers as you. I got a really fab white mirror from Ikea that has storage behind it so even my hairdryer and stuff is tucked neatly out of sight. I’m still in the process of changing some of my furniture, but the rest of my space is also painted white with one feature wall of palm print wallpaper in the living room. There will be colour in there eventually, but I’ll stick to the minimal furniture and very, very little ‘stuff’ rule. One thing I have found since getting rid of so much unnecessary stuff, most of which I didn’t know I had, is that my mind is way clearer. I feel so much lighter and happier and can’t believe how I existed before with all that clutter and mess. Yay for minimalism :).

  15. There is much to be said for less housework and less mess! That’s for sure. I can’t work when there is a mess because I can’t THINK when there is a mess. But, we humans tend to get on bandwagons and follow fads, and “minimalism” rather fits this pattern. So, best point in this article? Create a home to fit your personality. Don’t change your personality to fit your house. Hear, hear!

  16. Wish my grandma would take note of this. Her flat is full of the crappest clutter you’ve ever seen, it’s actually horrifying

  17. I actually happen to LOVE how you’ve decorated your bedroom (and your house in general). I love minimal spaces, white walls and surfaces, and your vanity area is exactly how I’ve imagined mine to be when I move to my own place. Everything is so pretty and I always admire all your photos, and especially the ones of your rooms.

  18. I have just acquired a tiny box/bedroom as a studio for the first time and have painted it all white, apart from the floorboards (so far) I wondered what your white flooring was ??

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