When the idea of homeownership comes to mind, you probably think of a few quintessential images like posing in front of the sold sign, moving your boxes into your home for the first time, and ordering a pizza and dining amongst the boxes. These are the images that most lenders use in their marketing strategies for mortgages, so it’s not surprising that they are super nostalgic to real estate addicted Canadians.
But none of those images are as powerfully nostalgic as this one: strolling through the aisles of your local home improvement store and picking out paint colours or making plans for all of the home improvements you plan on doing.
All of these images, including that last one, are true to life when you buy a home, as I found out when I became a homeowner over a year ago. It was July 27th, 2016 when my husband and I did the box-moving-and-pizza-ordering thing, and we’ve been hard at work making our small cottage in the city a home ever since. We’ve become pros at the Home Depot shuffle, often making trips to that store multiple times in a week, and always heading straight for the aisles we need.
All of these trips back and forth to Home Depot have been a little difficult to swallow because it’s not like we’re going there to admire the architecture – we’re going there to buy stuff. As a self-proclaimed minimalist I’ve never been a fan of having a lot of things, but there’s no way around it: homeownership requires you to buy more than if you are a renter.
That said, I’m confident that my husband and I have maintained a minimalist lifestyle as a homeowner. While we certainly have purchased items in the past year, our home is not cluttered or full of knick-knacks, and we haven’t done a single decluttering spree since moving in because we haven’t had to. Here’s how we’ve maintained our minimalist roots, despite becoming homeowners:
Spaces are for Living, Not Storing
The first thing we did to keep ourselves on the path of minimalism was that we intentionally bought a small house. This home was listed 1,600 square feet in on the original listing, but there must’ve been some very creative inclusion of the attic and basement in that calculation. I can say with certainty that the main floor of this house is only 700 square feet. That’s where we do most of our living, and it’s just right for two people. We take up the whole space, but we don’t get in each other’s way.
While the basement is finished, it is not for storage, and instead, we use it for brewing and wine making, working out, and plenty of DIY projects.
With a home this small, we don’t have any rooms that are designated solely for storage and instead they must all run double duty as living spaces. This means it’s not easy to bring new items in the house and whenever we buy something new, either something old has to go out the door, or we need to have a particular home for it in mind. This mindful accumulation of stuff is not frustrating or annoying and is instead a great way to limit spending on unnecessary stuff.
Making Use of the Sharing Economy
One thing I thought my husband and I would immediately need to invest in was more tools for our home renovation projects. I assumed that we’d need so many tools to make our home improvement dreams come true, but in reality, we’ve bought very few items. Instead, we’ve found ways around accumulating tools, not just because they are expensive but also because I don’t want to store things I’ll use only a few times a year.
Over the past year we’ve perfected a few strategies to avoid buying unnecessary tools:
First, borrowing from friends is always preferrable. Not only is it free but it also means the item never needs to find a permanent space in your home. In the past year, we’ve borrowed electric sanders, table saws, miter saws, circular saws, the list goes on. I always make sure to return items in the same condition I received them, and I always offer to help out friends or family with any task they need as a way of saying thank you, and of course, they are always welcome to borrow my tools if they need them.
If you don’t have friends or family nearby with tools you can borrow, you can sometimes also get the kind folks at the local hardware store to help you out. If you have wood that you need to cut to a certain length, they’ll often do it for you on site for no extra charge. I used this strategy when I built my DIY entertainment center project because I didn’t own a table saw to rip down the project panels. Also, table saws are kind of scary.
Finally, for tools that your family or friends don’t have and the store can’t furnish to you, there is always the local Tool Library. My husband and I haven’t had to become members of our local tool library yet, but when the day comes, I’m going to hand over my $50 membership fee with glee. For a tiny annual fee, we’ll get access to a veritable arsenal of tools with everything from wet saws to leaf blowers at our disposal. They even have safety gear like eye and ear protection. The tool library will be a great resource for one-off tools for specific projects.
Saying No to Knee-Jerk Purchases
When I became a homeowner, my purse strings instantly loosened. It was like a mental switch went off in my brain that said:
I’m a homeowner, I’m a real adult now, and real adults buy (insert stupid purchase here).
It was so, so easy to justify purchasing just about anything because it was for the house. As if the house needs stuff. Spoiler alert: it’s a freaking house, it doesn’t need stuff!
It took a few months to recognize this impulse and get a firm handle on it. I established a house fund in my budget to help curb this kind of spending, and after awhile I was able to ignore those impulses and determine if the item I was purchasing was essential (like salt for my front steps in the middle of winter) or not (like flowers for my windowboxes).
Learning to Love Lack of Clutter
I recently snapped this picture and put it up on my Instagram as my favourite spot in the house, and it’s not just because of the air conditioner. This corner of my house covers my entire design aesthetic precisely:
In this picture, you’ll see things the I love. You’ll see my whole collection of books, pictures of my family, and the tapestry I sewed this Spring. You’ll also see useful things like that beautiful retro fan, inexpensive IKEA Ritva curtains, and a Mad Men era chair that I’ve dragged from apartment to apartment since my first year of university and will some day reupholster.
What else do you see? Oh yeah, nothing. The easiest way to stay minimalist as a homeowner is to own only things that you enjoy. Forget everything else. Forget stuff that you might need one day, or takes up a lot of space, or seems like something an adult with a home should buy. None of that is necessary.
Only buy things that you’ll use or will bring you joy. Everything else is just stuff.
Have you managed to maintain a minimalist lifestyle as a homeowner? Tell me about it!