Minimalism, house extensions and intentional living

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For me, an intentional life does mean a minimalist one, at least to some extent. I find that I am so much more able to relax and find joy in a relatively visually quiet environment, where every single thing is carefully chosen and aesthetically pleasing. Not for me the shelves of ‘things’ to add interest, or statement paint colours, although I love seeing both in other environments. For my family and I, as with so many things, it is about the haiku theory. Limit what’s there and create more from it.

Something that crops up a lot whenever the word ‘minimalism’ is mentioned among non-minimalist-friends and acquaintances is that they believe a minimalist life to be stark, severe, almost ascetic. More about denial of pleasure and low interest in one’s surroundings than about joy and pleasure and energy. Personally, I have found the absolute opposite. The fewer things I have in my space, the more inclined I am to make sure that what is left is as close to the perfect version of what it is as possible, and to enjoy every last detail. Looking up from my laptop, I can see that I only have two miniature ornamental cups and a teeny weeny succulent on my mantelpiece. The two cups bring me utter joy, reminding me of a once in a lifetime trip to Japan with my husband over a decade ago, while the succulent is housed in an simple fine ceramic vase and was a gift from a local creative artist whose work I admire. All three items bring me absolute pleasure and feel aesthetically right for the space, and I enjoy and appreciate all of them far more than I did a much busier mantelpiece before I began to minimise possessions.

The way we like to live as a family (and it is as a family, rather than coming from one person - we all see and agree the benefits of less clutter and more beautiful things) is presenting us with some really interesting inspiration, and challenges at the moment, as we plan our new living space - we are having an extension built as well as remodelling much of our current interior space. The focus is on light, air, and simple aesthetics. We want lines as clean and purposeful as possible and to make the entire space beautiful through its functionality as well as through putting stylish things in it. I know that there will be a huge visual pleasure in a space which flows and functions beautifully, and the bits of furniture, decoration and day to day bits and bobs will all enhance, rather than detract from, that uncluttered aesthetic.

Of course, it’s a family space, and will remain so, and we all know that means mess sometimes, but I think if we can get the design right, and our possessions minimal, we don’t actually need to suffer constant clutter and stress as a big family in a small space.

The challenge for me is not to spend the time on those design elements, but not to get too bogged down in getting every last detail perfect. I want the light fittings and plug sockets in just the right spot, so I don’t have to look at cables trailing. I want the storage space planned with military precision so there is a home for every single thing we own. But I am also aware that I can’t plan for everything, and that actually it is the little compromises that will give our space texture and meaning once the work is finished, rather than looking too sterile and show home.

How do you find your living space? Does everything flow naturally, or are there ‘pinch points’ where clutter, and attendant stress, accumulates? Do you give into ‘shiny new thing’ syndrome, purchasing just one more decorative object, which later causes you a logistical headache? Or do you live in a busy, full house and absolutely love it? How we live in and feel about our space can be such an indicator of how we feel about our lives, and I love thinking about how we will live in our new space when it is (finally) complete.

Looking back up at that image, it also has to be said that I'm really looking forward to waving goodbye to all the textured wallpaper on every single wall in the entire house.