5 House Rules to Make Minimalism Work for Any Decorating Style

Note: This is a guest post from Myquillyn Smith of The Nesting Place and author of House Rules.

What comes to mind when you think of minimalist home decorating? I used to think minimalism was a style of its own—a harsh, colorless contemporary style that worked for twentysomething bachelors with leather sofas and no drapes.

To me that wasn’t pretty, but I had to admit it did sound freeing. My apologies to twentysomething bachelors and actual minimalists. I was wrong.

The truth is minimalism isn’t a style, it’s a lens for understanding that more isn’t always better when it comes to creating a home you can love. You can learn to decorate in any style with the least amount of stuff by following some universal decorating truths.

Here are 5 rules of decorating that can help your home feel finished, cozy, and simple:

1. Minimal is a form of enough.

Now that I see minimalism as more than a specific style, I know that the negative view I had was unfair, because minimal doesn’t mean getting by with less than enough. It’s actually a form of just enough, neither too little nor an excess.

Minimalism is actually a tool to help you meet the goal of achieving the style you want in your home, then saying no to extra stuff that doesn’t actually improve your space or your life. It’s about getting the same results with less effort, less money, less time, and less stuff. And truly, enough is better than more.

2. Luxury isn’t having more, it’s needing less.

We usually think of luxury as having everything we might need or want at our fingertips. But have you ever overpacked for a trip? I have, and oh, how I envied my fellow travelers who weren’t lugging around oversized bags heavy with a disorganized jumble of things they never even used!

When I moved into our new home with a huge bedroom, I realized it felt like the most luxurious space in the house simply because of the extra space. I’ve fought to keep that space clear of extra stuff and clutter, and to this day it feels amazing to be in a room with empty space and not need to fill it. That freedom is the real luxury.

3. Admire, don’t acquire.

Ever feel like there’s so much beauty and inspiration in the world that it’s overwhelming and everything you have is not quite right or enough? I can scroll online, flip through design books, or simply look at my neighbor’s beautiful property and feel like I have too much of the wrong stuff and not enough of the right stuff. But wisdom is learning to appreciate things without trying to own them.

Much of the joy of beautiful things can be found in simply recognizing and appreciating their beauty. Admiring something doesn’t mean I have to try to make it mine. And admiring without acquiring also keeps me free from needing to care for or store extra things or keep moving on to the latest trend.

4. Cozy doesn’t mean cluttered.

Much like I thought minimalism was a style that wasn’t for me, for the first half of my life I believed “cozy” was a style—my style. The problem was, I was attracted to so many beautiful, welcoming things that I filled every inch of my home and made it feel chaotic and stressful.

Now that I’ve learned to use coziness as a tool for creating a welcoming home, my impulse to keep adding more has a stopping point. I can still love beautiful decorative pillows, but I know the true cozy factor is having space to sit down without first moving a mountain of pillows. I can add just enough to meet the goal and no more.

5. Having it all is a lot to keep clean.

My tendency to overbuy home décor started out innocently enough, when I got into the habit of searching thrift stores for great deals on items I could repurpose to decorate on a budget. But before I knew it, I had clogged up my closets, drawers and shelves with great deals that were almost my style or I might use someday.

I sacrificed spending a little more for what I really wanted and needed because I was spending a few dollars here and there—not to mention the time and effort of buying, storing, organizing, and reorganizing those items. Having it all is more work than it’s worth!

Now minimalist decor sounds beautiful and just right. I’ve learned that following minimalist principles doesn’t have to mean cold or heartless but can help create a home filled with coziness, luxury, and freedom!


Myquillyn Smith, also known as The Nester, is the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Cozy Minimalist Home and Welcome Home. For the past 17 years, she’s been encouraging women to embrace their space—imperfections and all—and make it their own. She recently purchased and redecorated a Victorian home in Morganton, North Carolina, the inspiration for her new book House Rules, which just released this week.

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