Why our practically empty home makes me happy

Guest post by Ris

our couch and artThe other day I hung two pieces of art that I’d made with a friend. This brings the art in my house to a total of — wait for it — THREE pieces of art! Whoa. Things are getting a little too crazy over here.

Let me explain. My husband and I live in the parsonage of the church where we work part-time. What this means is really amazing, financially speaking — we get to live in a giant, lovingly-maintained, FREE house.

And when I said giant I mean… This is a ranch house built in the ’50s for an imagined pastor and his boisterous family of many children, so we’ve got four(!) bedrooms, a study, and a full basement.

All of this is obviously wonderful, but we moved into this house from a tiny student apartment. And we didn’t have enough furniture to fill THAT place. The move from apartment to house is usually made by someone who has moved into a new income bracket — you know, the not-still-in-grad-school one. But we are still firmly in the we-could-get-food-stamps-if-we-applied bracket. Basically, our discretionary income doesn’t rise to the occasion of this grand home.

For a while I trawled Craigslist, looking for free couches and side chairs and art to fill our miles of square feet, but I found nothing we could afford to be appealing. I pinned cool décor projects, but I work full-time and am not a DIY-er. Then suddenly, I realized I didn’t feel like looking anymore. I’d become happy and content with our “look.”

our ironing roomAnd our “look” is — little islands of furniture adrift in seas of square feet. If it wasn’t gifted to us at a wedding shower or handed down from family, we don’t have it. Our “couch” is two folding camp chairs next to each other — one lime green, one teal — given to us by my husband’s sister. We have just one tiny rug — it was the only thing in the house when we moved in. There’s one bedroom with only a blow-up mattress, and another with only an ironing board. That’s right — we have an ironing room. How very Downton Abbey of us.

There are lots of benefits to having a furnishing-famished home. We have the youth group over on Saturday nights and they play massive games of sardines and tag through our house — it’s not like they’re going to knock anything over! I can sock-slide around our cavernous living room. There’s nowhere for clutter to collect. And we get to look like trendy minimalists!

But more seriously, you don’t realize how much Wanting Stuff and Acquiring Stuff weighs you down until you just stop doing it. I found that when I shifted from the mindset of “what else do we need” to that of “we’ve got all we need,” I became happier, more at peace, and just generally more chill.

And that contentedness has stretched past my décor and into my closet as well — I probably haven’t set foot in a store (at least, one that doesn’t sell groceries) in almost six months!

Even though it began as a minimalism of necessity, I really am happy living with only the things we have now. Someday we’ll probably spring for an IKEA couch, but I’m in no hurry for that day to come. My mom asked me the other day if we needed anything. My sincerest answer was no.

Comments on Why our practically empty home makes me happy

  1. Good for you!! I would rather have an empty room than fill it with stuff I don’t love or need. We are in a tiny little house right now & are constantly downsizing our possessions. We’ve talked about how we would handle moving into a bigger house, and are both very happy with the thought of leaving extra rooms empty instead of stressing out trying to decorate everything right away. I’d rather have the one right thing & love it than a bunch of “meh” items any day! I love the mindset that you described, too. It is SO easy to get sucked into the habit of acquiring items & looking for the next thing!

  2. Yeah! Props to you for the rocking home and philosophy. I love the idea of emptiness in a room. It’s peaceful and because I’m not competing for space with a bunch of stuff I feel more comfortable.

    That said, my moderate apartment is brimming with things. Most I’d do away with in a heartbeat if it weren’t for my partner! Thankfully we’ve both reached our limit. Now we need to learn to detach from what we have yet don’t need or enjoy.

  3. This is inspiring. I struggle with the balance of simplicity and preparedness. I find clutter stressful, but yet I like to have random things available to feel ready for anything without having to go buy something first.

    As for “decorating,” I love your philosophy. Your art is something you made with a friend, so every time you look at it, you will think of your friend! I don’t like to go out and buy random stuff to decorate; I like to collect pieces while traveling, things that were gifts, or things that I’ve made!

  4. Impressive! I could never do this. Even when I was a student with no space I was constantly bringing home free tables and chairs. My roommate had to give me a stern “no more furniture” talk!

  5. I once got a subletter for my apartment and when I mentioned that I was trying to get rid of a chair and a side table, he said leave them behind and he’d buy them off me. When I came by two weeks later to pick up the money, besides those two items he had a mattress and stereo. That’s it! He said he’d spend most evenings listening to some music while watching traffic out the giant picture window. It was so calming and refreshing!

  6. This is something I consciously try for in my home. When we moved out of our massive 2-bedroom apartment to move overseas and into a dorm room, my husband and I really didn’t know how much “stuff” we had.
    I’ve been living out of 1 suitcase + 1carryon for 4 months now.
    I am thoroughly looking forward to getting rid of stuff that is now in storage when I get back home.

  7. good for you – i am learning to appreciate empty space quite a bit lately. we are deeply uncluttering and the breathing room is so calming and the cleaning is so so much easier with no ‘stuff’ out to get messy.

  8. Brilliant! I’m terrified of moving anywhere bigger than our current one-bedroom apartment because of my desire to fill space with stuff. I’ve easily crammed and three bedroom place to bursting before, and I never want to have to deal with that again…

  9. We are moving across the country (Florida to Washington state) and decided to only keep what we need to keep moving costs down. I really liked getting rid of all our junk, it’s kind of freeing. My husband moved up early to get settled, and me, my newborn, and my mom will be leaving this week to join our families, and in the meantime we’ve been living with… wait for it… camping chairs for a couch and an air mattress to sleep on, and I’ve enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing!

  10. My husband and I are currently looking for a place of our own and are on a limited budget. We found these awesome bean bag chairs that are super comfortable and affordable that we’ll be using in place of a couch for quite a while. I’m really excited to be a “minimalist” when it comes to furniture! lol

  11. That looks a little on the sparse side for what I’m after, but I definitely would like to embrace your living style! It sounds like it suits you guys perfectly 🙂

    Quick question – you mention the ironing board as though it’s old fashioned or special, with the Downton reference – what do people do without one? I’ve never been to a house where people don’t iron, with an iron and on an ironing board so I feel like there’s a secret I’m missing out on!

  12. I just stumbled back on this article – to answer your question about the ironing board, GeeGee, I was saying that the idea of having an entire room devoted just to ironing is the kind of luxury you might find in a three-hundred-room manor home like Downton.

    An our-place update: In the last year we have moved back into a two-bed apartment and added a Craigslist couch as well as a painting and an occasional chair from a local antique shop. The two camping chairs now serve as side chairs, and the ironing board is in our bedroom closet, where I assume most other people’s ironing boards live 🙂

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