I think that buried deep down in my soul there is a minimalist begging to be released. As I wade through the clutter and mess that my family and I create on a daily basis, I daydream of clear surfaces and perfectly ordered closets. When I snap back to reality, I am tripping over plastic farm animals and toy cars on my way to the enormous laundry pile that needs to be folded.

What is minimalism, really? I recently got re-acquainted with the philosophy behind this design and lifestyle buzzword through Netflix’s Minimalism documentary. The film highlights the creators of theminimalsits.com, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, who promote the idea of living better with less and encourage us to ask this question of all things, “Does this add value to my life?” Joshua Becker, the brain behind the blog becomingingminimalist.com, says in his book Clutterfree with Kids: “Minimalism is about intentionality. It is marked by clarity, purpose and thoughtfulness. At its core, minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things that we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it.”

Each one of these statements speaks to me. Minimalism does not have to mean forsaking every decoration or extraneous item you own, it’s about keeping and honoring the things that are really useful or fill you with happiness. You might think a minimalist home would look cold, stark or unused. Actually, a minimalist home can be full of personality, as it highlights the interests, passions and memories of its inhabitants; the things that they value are put on display. Minimalism looks different to each person who practices it, since each of us values different things.

Minimalism is living better by living with less. Less hustle, less clutter, less waste. It is making conscious decisions about what you are buying, the items that you live with and how you are spending your time. It is about aligning your lifestyle with your priorities. It is not just about decluttering your home, although embracing it will make you want to purge your home of anything that does not support a need or your values. It causes us pause before purchasing the latest and greatest. The end result of minimalism actually gives us more — more time to do what we love, more money saved, more peace and more enjoyment out of our environment. 

While trying to understand the basics of minimalism, as it pertains to a person’s physical space, I came up with many questions: Does our home tell the story of our lives? Is there room for practicing and honoring the things that we value most? Are there any items that are only for show? Are some of the things we treasure, buried? Can I create an environment that feels more free, more authentic and less cluttered? Is this even possible with growing children at home?

In our home, the answer to all of those questions is a resounding yes. While I feel that our home is a pretty good reflection of who we are, what we love and how we live, there is always room for improvement and there are always things to get rid of. Practicing minimalism is still new to me, but I am inspired to modify my behavior to live more simply. Here are some of the lessons I’m learning by keeping minimalist principles in mind when shopping for, purging and rearranging my home.

Identify the types of clutter that cause you stress and take action. Both my husband and I love magazines, but the clutter they cause drives me crazy. Recently I made the switch to receive all of my magazines digitally (and I’m working on my husband). In the living room, the amount of toys the kids have available was too many, so I did a quick purge and designated some for donation and packed a few away for the toy rotation. I also created a clutter-free zone on the kitchen counter and am working to keep it that way.

Decorate with treasured belongings instead of trendy accessories. I love collecting beach rocks and driftwood with my family. I keep them on display because I love their simple beauty and the memories they evoke. Any other decor elements I have are things that either mean something to me or that I think are beautiful.

Remove unneeded duplicate items. I didn’t really need two sets of measuring cups and spoons or four pairs of salad tongs… you get the idea.

Make room for the activities you value. This is exactly what I did when I created an art studio for the kids in the basement in a space that used to store a bunch of junk we never used. Things to work on: I’ve always wanted to dedicate a space upstairs for our turntable and record collection to share with the kids. Also, I’d like to reclaim my workshop in the garage for the DIY projects that I love to do.

Be a mindful shopper. When I browse decor shops, I am now looking more for inspiration on how to use what I already have, rather than to buy something new. If I do purchase something it either must serve a purpose or be something that I absolutely love.

Edit your wardrobe. I sat down to evaluate how many pieces of clothing I was actually wearing on a frequent basis and let go of the things I was keeping around just in case. I’d like to slowly and deliberately build up a capsule wardrobe, so that the pieces I own can be combined in different ways to make lots of outfits. Courtney Carver explains the obvious benefits behind this idea through her Project 333, on her blog bemorewithless.com.

Encourage less consumption with your kids. This is totally in your control and a learn-by-example kind of thing. We say no to impulse purchases and no longer order Happy Meals at McDonald’s to avoid the junk toy. I also used to make lengthy online wish lists for birthdays and Christmas to give long-distance relatives gift ideas. Those will be much shorter in the future (sorry Mom and Dad)!