The Cozy Minimalist
My husband, Michel, and I have been paying off student loan debt since we've been married. When we first began trying to make a dent in the debt payoff, we weren't too savvy about what we were doing. This was 4 years ago, and we were too excited about trying to make a home and start our lives together that we weren't always strategic about when to pay off debt and how. Fast forward a few years, where two factors started to collide. First, we began to take our debt payoff more seriously because we realized that it would be a long and guilt-ridden road to vacationing, buying a home, or planning for other big expenses if we didn't tackle our debt. Second, I watched enough Netflix documentaries and read enough online posts and articles to make me a cozy minimalist.
I didn't know at the time that I was, indeed, a cozy minimalist. I didn't even know that cozy minimalism was a thing. I'm still not sure if it's a "thing", but enough of an online community relates to cozy minimalism that at least there's a pocket of relational, supportive people in the same boat.
So what exactly is cozy minimalism? It's the idea (or life motto, ha!) that, while we still want our homes to be cozy and inviting, we don't want to make them cozy by cluttering every nook and cranny with stuff. We're a people over stuff kind of group. Our homes aren't so stark and bland, where people may feel like they're just another piece in an elite art gallery. But our homes also aren't covered in every square inch of the trendiest decor, an excess of clothes, or an excess of anything. For me, cozy minimalism means only, and absolutely only, buying things that I 100% love and that will be pieces that I will appreciate and use for years. I'll spend more money on better quality items, and my life will be simple and classic, not in excess. This has been an instrumental mindset shift as we've been more strategic in tackling debt this year. I no longer have guilt about making purchases because not only have we planned for those purchases, but I know the items we purchase are things that we did not settle for.
To get a taste of how cozy minimalism has appeared in my life lately. here's a list of swaps or tosses that I've made that have made the burden of debt lighter and the feel of home more intentional:
1. In the kitchen
- Swap excessive countertop decor for items of multiple purposes. Display your recipe books or showcase your large cooking utensils in a well-loved canister. Keep the rest of the countertops empty.
- You don't need 100 tupperware boxes. You don't need 4 sets of glassware or dinner plates. Get rid of them.
- Purge your pantry and fridge on a regular basis. Not only are you keeping foods and smells fresh, but you're taking inventory of your spending habits and realizing monetary waste spent on excess.
2. In the closet
- For many, this will be the most challenging activity, but I did it once and then did it a couple more times throughout the past year and I have never looked back. Curate your wardrobe to as close to 30 items as possible. Between your pants, shirts, and shoes, see if you can limit your wardrobe to a small number of items. Choose only items that you ABSOLUTELY LOVE. Do you really like the print on a shirt but it doesn't fit you well? Get rid of it. Bought some pants for work but you hate when you wear them? Get rid of them. Here's what will begin to happen (maybe not all at once, but you'll get there): your clothes will work for you rather than vice versa. Every single item that you'll wear every single day will only be things that you love to wear. Your spending habits will improve because you won't settle for wardrobe pieces; you'll only buy what you'll love. Your time spent deciding "What should I wear?" will decrease substantially. Sound crazy? Trust me. You know you want to try it, and I will root for you every step of the way.
3. In home decor
- wall decor: swap out department store items for storied pieces. Hang up souvenirs from your travels or items from your childhood. In the past, we've hung up my grandpa's old hat, a souvenir from our trip to Fenway, a map from a Moleskin notebook that covers the world from Lord of the Rings (one of my favorite reads). Your home is YOUR home, so it should say more about you and less about Target.
- Get rid of the twenty thousand pillows. People can't sit down on couches with all those pillows, and the last thing you want to do when you go to sleep at night is to move 10 pillows out of the way.
- Knick-knacks are no-nos. They collect dust. They create clutter. They're an attempt to fill an empty space with something, and sometimes less is more. Is it a piece that is extremely valuable to you, full of memories? Keep it. Is it something you bought because you thought your entry hallway table had too much open space? You can probably get rid of it. Chances are, you don't love it, and you probably don't need the entry hallway table either.
I hope this encourages you in your path towards more intentional spending and more intentional home-living. Are you ready to be a cozy minimalist? Are you already there? I'd love to hear what your story looks like! In the meantime, stay cozy!