Minimalism: Are We Doing It Wrong?

Interiors & Decor

Wit & Delight for Every Girl_045

I’ve concluded this: Small apartment living will turn your relationship to a Seinfeld spin-off; normalcy punctuated with moments of conflicting comedic relief on varying subjects of non-importance.

We live in a rectangular box that hovers five stories off the ground. The 800 square feet we pay a hefty premium for is divided into six small spaces: kitchen, living room, bedroom, walk-in closet, bathroom, and a bonus room. The apartment has plenty of positive attributes. It is sleek and modern with tall ceilings, natural light, exposed duct work– all the shiny amenities those seemingly miserable couples on House Hunters want: Open floor plan. Granite countertops. Stainless steel appliances. BOOYA, am I right?

For the most part, yes. Booya. We’re lucky to afford these amenities, and we’ve enjoyed ourselves here. We’ve enjoyed it as much as two people living on top of each other can enjoy themselves.

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The disappearing Ray Bans. Stolen blankets, hijacked pillows. The walk-in closet we can’t walk in. Our war with fruit flies and spilled white wine. The perpetually dirty black granite countertops. Weekends when we only talk in southern accents. When she wants to sleep and he tap dances out of bed at 6am in a song and dance. The lone high heel outside the bathroom on a Saturday night, waiting to put a 6’3″ man on his back. A rearranged apartment upon returning from a business trip. Melt down. Forgiveness. Dinner cross-legged on the floor. Laughter. Sex. Love. Deep, deep love.

Small spaces prove our opposites do in fact, attract, and in return we accept that our stuff makes life more colorful and loud than dull and reserved.

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I often think about what these pictures look like to the person who hasn’t visited our apartment. After they appeared on The Every Girl, I began to see our home on Pinterest. The captions that accompanied each pin told me what people took away from our space. Modern and clean. A mix of masculine and feminine. Eclectic. To some, minimal. Yes, I think it could be considered all these things. Yet, for as happy as I am with our home,  I won’t remember this space because of the way it is photographed in this post.  I’ll remember the process. The time it took to understand what we each need to live comfortably, my partner’s concerns before my personal preferences, when to give and when to stand your ground.

To call minimalism an aesthetic threatens to leave us with nothing but a thin shell of veneer. If you only have style in mind, you’ll bleach away the true essence of what minimalism reveals: purity and purpose. When we first moved into this space, I wanted it to be something completely different than what is has become. SUPER clean. Lots of empty space. I had a pin-worthy picture in my mind. But what I got was more than I bargained for. That image in my mind didn’t reflect who we are as a couple. We had to let style follow function, and what we needed was a place to live together as equals. We created an expression of our life together that is all our own. The process is everything. It is where the learning is had. Everything else is extra.

Wit & Delight for Every Girl_020

Maybe we strive for reduction and restraint in our lives to deal with chaos and uncertainty. Maybe it’s easier to sell a minimalist facade than it is to need fewer things emotionally. Even when we achieve it, nothing is ever perfectly manicured for long. There’s always something new to process.

Minimalism means a lot of things to me. Right now, it is finding the harmony between two imperfect people so they can move independently and effortlessly together. Minimalism is a clear head. Minimalism is the short list of things I need to stay healthy. Minimalism is a home designed with meaning and intention, not praise or applause. Minimalism is not an idea to sell. Minimalism will never be the end result, for it is the process I admire more than the aesthetic.

August 29th we close on our first house. This process will start all over again on a much larger scale. I can’t wait to see where the journey takes us.

Photos by Melissa Oholendt

BY Kate Arends - August 5, 2014

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66 Comments  +

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  1. Lauren

    August 5th, 2014 at 7:21 am

    Probably my favorite post you’ve ever done! I wholeheartedly agree. I can’t wait to see the new home you and Joe are going to build together, but if we’re being honest, I’m most excited about the puppy!

  2. Chloe

    August 5th, 2014 at 8:22 am

    Loved this post. I just moved into my first apartment that is all my own, and this was the perfect reminder that what’s inside should reflect who I am at this point in my life and not what my “dream haus” board looks like on Pinterest. Thanks for always being so real over here.

  3. Kate

    August 5th, 2014 at 8:29 am

    So well said.

  4. Amy @ The American-Made Guide to Life

    August 5th, 2014 at 8:30 am

    I wish I could have more of a minimalist apartment. It’s hard purging and disengaging from “things” sometimes. We’re working on it. It’s an incentive, for sure, when you have a 750 sf apartment. My biggest pitfall: books. We have hundreds. Nothing minimal about that.

  5. katie

    August 5th, 2014 at 9:12 am

    i can totally relate to this, living in maybe 700 sf. in brooklyn. of course, my apartment has never looked as put-together as yours did for the every girl, but that’s mostly due to my own laziness after moving into a place.

  6. Kel

    August 5th, 2014 at 9:14 am

    Love your thoughts here. And you are so right about House Hunters haha. I feel like so many aspects of life these days are lived without intention and it’s refreshing to hear you talk about the fact that the design of your home has purpose other than just being ‘minimal’ or ‘simple’, ‘modern’. Your home has meaning and the process of getting there really is wonderful.

  7. Katie

    August 5th, 2014 at 9:23 am

    Great post, Kate! I love this line: Minimalism will never be the end result, for it is the process I admire more than the aesthetic. For me minimalism is to get rid of the clutter and chatter in my head and have a calming space for me and my husband.

  8. Valerie | Lily on Fillmore

    August 5th, 2014 at 10:11 am

    you write beautifully! deeply in admiration of the way you put words together. 🙂

  9. Merritt

    August 5th, 2014 at 10:14 am

    Kate, this is one of my favorite posts. You put a beautiful, relatable story into its simplest and truest form. Thank you for an insightful start to the day!

  10. Lena

    August 5th, 2014 at 10:18 am

    Beautiful post!

  11. Shivani

    August 5th, 2014 at 10:37 am

    I love your move towards the grittier parts of life. This post is so beautiful, and I love the “clean” pictures juxtaposed against your words – I can imagine the life going on in each space, not just the space itself.

  12. Kate

    August 5th, 2014 at 10:17 pm

    That’s what I was going for, Shivani! The images pulled up those little memories all on their own. I guess that’s why we take photos in the first place. <3

  13. Natalie

    August 5th, 2014 at 10:53 am

    One of my favorite posts yet. I love the way you write so beautifully on such topics. I love your idea of minimalism and all the thoughts you have on your current home. I can’t wait to see what you bring to your next one.

  14. Erin

    August 5th, 2014 at 11:56 am

    Bookmarking. Saving. Keeping. My partner and I are in the process of setting up our home and we’re both experiencing so many of the emotions described as we figure out how our ideals blend together to create a home that may never be picture perfect but will always be perfectly full of love.

  15. Steph

    August 5th, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    This made me quite emotional. Beautifully written, Kate. I wish you and your husband the best of luck on your journey as new homeowners.

    xo
    Steph
    http://www.iolablog.com/

  16. Jess

    August 5th, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    This was so beautiful. Wish i had better words.

  17. Lisa

    August 5th, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    Loving your posts lately, Kate. I agree. Sometimes life is wonderful, sometimes it is difficult but it is all real. Everyone has their own beautiful journey. Thanks for sharing yours with all of us. It is difficult to be honest in front of a crowd.

  18. Kate

    August 5th, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    Thank you for your kind words, Lisa. I was pretty freaked out when I wrote the first post about mental illness, but all-in-all, vulnerability has made blogging enjoyable again. I’m happy to admit my flaws if sharing my experience helps others. So glad you gain something from my perspective!

  19. Sheila

    August 5th, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    Love this line: “Maybe we strive for reduction and restraint in our lives to deal with chaos and uncertainty.” I completely relate. Nice post!

  20. mariana

    August 5th, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    oh gosh! this is the perfect description of my husband and i living in a teeny apartment in LA. we are so so ready for a bigger home, however the hefty price tag will not allow us to do so. even though life in a compact space can often seem as you said “conflicting comedic relief on varying subjects of non-importance” there is certainly a positive aspect to it all. it teaches us how to compromise and to learn to laugh at the little things that often bother us.

  21. MaryamS

    August 5th, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    beautiful essay and beautifully written, you’ve got such an amazing sense of styling and also writing …

  22. missdawson

    August 5th, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    such a necessary perspective. its easy for minimalism to be the goal; for beauty and simplicity to be sought at all costs. I’ve been trying to filter through things on the basis of inspiration and usefulness. i try to arrange things so that they fuel me and move me through life instead of just sit there and look pleasant. and as life changes, our things can change. a stack of books move from my coffee table to my bedside as my habits change. a lamp is added to a dark corner as I begin to frequent it. the wine glasses move to a lower shelf as summer gatherings pick up. my life evolves, my home evolves.

  23. Kate

    August 5th, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    Sounds like you’ve got the right balance, Dawn!

  24. Ashley Schaffer

    August 5th, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    Absolutely love this! I recently moved into a 595 sq. ft. loft with my fiancĂ© and am very inspired by the minimalist concept (both in design and in life). I’m currently in the process of trying to refine the details of our new home together. I had originally envisioned our loft to have a very simple, monochromatic and clean look. However, my fiancĂ© likes to incorporate bold, colorful accent pieces, and I’m slowly learning how to find the perfect balance between our differing tastes in design. I can totally relate to everything you mentioned in your essay.

  25. Mailinh

    August 5th, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    Kate–you really have a way with words. Love this post!

    Congratulations on the new home!

  26. Chelsea

    August 5th, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    I so needed this. I feel like your more personal posts always come at the very best time for me and that makes me love your blog even more Kate. We’ve been struggling to make our first “real” place together functional as well as beautiful but you really put it in perspective. It’s so true, it’s all about the journey. Thank you for being so brave and posting such candid things lately.

  27. Sarah

    August 5th, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    Ugh Kate, I love this so much. Of course your home is beautiful, but anyone who knows you understands that it MUST be just a template—a SET—for something lively and silly and smart and personal, because that’s who you are, Wit In Real Life and all. So excited for you and the Mr on your new house. I can’t wait to see what you do with it (should you decide to share, and who says you have to). If there’s anything the internet has proven to me, it’s that the takeaways tend to be reductive and minimal. The true success is in creating stories that mean more—something a reader can hold onto—and this is certainly one of them. xo

  28. Kate

    August 5th, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    You are one of the good ones, Sarah. So happy we’ve become friends over the years! Thanks for always keeping it real in this crazy little corner of the internet. <3

  29. hadley

    August 5th, 2014 at 7:55 pm

    what a wonderful and beautiful post. i am getting married in a couple of months, and, while my fiance and i have been living together for some time, we are still in the process of figuring out what our “home” means to us. thank you for the constant inspiration. xoxox

  30. Tori / My Om Life

    August 5th, 2014 at 8:12 pm

    Beautifully written! I appreciate this essay very much. I constantly think about this topic–about the image I have in my head of my home and what actually works for our space and our lives. The process of putting together the space in which we live our lives in is my favorite thing to do. It’s so personal and takes a lot of thought and patience. Thanks for sharing this:) And congratulations on your new home! I look forward to seeing how you make it your own!

    Much love,
    Tori

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  32. Sally

    August 6th, 2014 at 9:11 am

    Such a beautiful meditation on what it means to build a home–especially for two people creating a space together that aims to feel peaceful and comforting to two separate minds. Your home is absolutely beautiful and I hope you’re looking forward to the process of growing into your new space. I know I’m looking forward to seeing it!

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  33. ashley

    August 6th, 2014 at 10:50 am

    oh kate what a gorgeous post! i’m so happy for you. i’m late on reading this but had picked up notes from your instagram feed that a change was in store. all the best for you two. your posts like this and deep love for joe give this single lady lots of hope.
    xo

  34. Victoria

    August 7th, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    So beautifully written, Kate. Yes to everything you said about what minimalism is. You know I absolutely love the apt you lived in and shared with us, but I can’t wait to see the home you and Joe are about to build together.

  35. 5 Ways To Have A Well-Crafted Weekend | Brika Blog

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  36. Danielle

    August 9th, 2014 at 12:03 am

    Beautifully said. And I couldn’t agree more! My heart is so warmed. Wishing you the best as you make your new house a home.

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  38. Jodie

    August 10th, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    Purity and purpose. Meaning and intention. Beautiful. Thank you for this.

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  40. kirsten

    August 11th, 2014 at 9:26 am

    I loved every word of this. I seem to always unexpectedly find ways that your writing relates to my life. Congrats on the new home and enjoy the new process!

  41. Mandy

    August 12th, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    800 square feet for two people is not small at all. There are families of multiple generations living together in spaces that are much smaller all over the world. You’re apartment is gorgeous and congrats on your new home.

  42. Kate

    August 12th, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    I think it all depends on what you’re use to, Mandy! We have friends who live happily in much small places, too. Thanks for the best wishes!

  43. JT

    August 15th, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    Congrats on finding a house. I love your apartment and I look forward to seeing what you do in your new space. I too live in Minneapolis. I have all your amenities on the ground floor but not as much beautiful light and square footage. So yes the living on top of each other? Totally feel you esp coming from downsizing from a Texas loft.

  44. malaika

    August 16th, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    ohhh such a lovely post! I love that you talk about what living together really means, and how two people can have two different ideas of a “home”..!.

  45. rae

    August 17th, 2014 at 4:41 am

    This is a really thoughtful and well-written post and I agree with everything that has been said here. Especially the importance in finding harmony for both people in a relationship living under the same roof and how important the process is. Oftentimes we all look to an end-result we are attempting to achieve and forget that the process is actually the heart of it all.

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  49. Candy

    August 29th, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    I found this blog post through Cider With Rosie, and it really moved me. My husband and I live in a tiny, cluttered flat in the middle of London and like you, we’re about to move. Our little equilibrium is being shattered and I am so excited to rearrange it into something even better once we’ve moved, although it’s definitely daunting!

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  50. Sally

    September 4th, 2014 at 6:11 pm

    “For it is the process I admire more than the aesthetic.”

    Beautiful! Never knew you were a writer. Seriously there is something missing from Pinterest and blogs that leave out the words. Beautiful photos don’t interest me as much as the words, the story, the reality, the process.

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  52. Sabrina

    September 10th, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    Love this post on so many levels!! You dig so much deeper than design, and even touch a bit on marriage advice and how you really need to learn how each other functions and figure out daily needs for the home. Love this so much!!

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  54. Lori

    September 23rd, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    Well said! I am a minimalist – although I didn’t know it until I heard you talk about it on the Jess Lively Show (and then I came to your blog to read more about it). I love for my home space to only have the things that I need, which means that my space looks bare. I am happy and content with it, but I feel the need to apologize when people come over. I tell them that I’m not finished with a room even when I am. I feel the need to accumulate more stuff so I don’t appear to be “too plain” in my style. Now that I’m writing this out, I do the same thing with my own personal style of dress – always adding an accessory because I don’t want to be seen as boring or unstylish. But I am neither boring or unstylish! Whether it’s my home or my personal style, I prefer to keep the excess to a minimum. It was hard to admit that before, but your post gives me just the push I need to stop fighting (and stop apologizing for) my minimalist ways. It’s time for me to celebrate it. Thank you!

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  58. Abby

    May 19th, 2015 at 10:41 am

    LOVE this post, Kate! My husband and I just moved to Minneapolis a month ago and I had been struggling with how to reimagine our life together in a new apartment as well as a new town, new state and trying to figure out what we really need. It takes so much more time this way and we aren’t even close to being done but I’m learning that with patience and saying ‘no’ to quick fixes and tuning into HOW we live our life together that the results will be more meaningful.

    You rock, lady! Such an inspiration 🙂

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