Minimalism isn’t just a mindset and lifestyle choice — it’s an aesthetic, too. A recent SpareFoot survey found that the top design style among people ages 18 to 34 is Modern Minimalist (34%), followed by Coastal/Beachy (26%).

Like all styles, you can interpret a minimalist aesthetic in numerous ways, but the core tenets revolve around simplicity and paring back. Dany D’Andrea, organizer and founder of Spatial Soulutions, calls minimalist design “an ongoing process of only keeping what you need and love.”

“Minimalism is a way to take ownership of our lives by finding contentment with less,” she explains.

Michelle Hale, professional organizer and co-founder of Henry & Higby, adds that many people are embracing a minimalist aesthetic in an effort to reduce stress, particularly the stress that comes from clutter around the home.

And it’s true that the major benefits of minimalist design go beyond style. Attempting a minimalist look is the perfect opportunity to edit your belongings and create a feeling of calm in your home.

Luckily, you don’t need a degree in design to do it. Here are seven essential rules to follow for mastering the minimalist aesthetic.

1. Declutter.

The number one rule of minimalist design can be summed up in two words: less stuff. And decluttering is the process that jumpstarts a life with less stuff.

“Clutter around the home is distracting and mentally taxing,” says Annie Draddy, professional organizer and co-founder of Henry & Higby. “Making decisions about those items and keeping only those that are absolutely necessary will help clear surfaces and some mental headspace,” she says.

Before you start purging, D’Andrea recommends carving out some time to reflect on the relationship you have with your things.

“What stories have you told yourself about the stuff you own? Why is it important to you? Do you see any similarities between the home you grew up in, and the home you keep now? Why do you want to become a minimalist? Know your why, and write it down so you can come back to it when you forget,” she says.

Focus on keeping only the items you love and use regularly. If you feel a jolt of fear, just pause for a moment and acknowledge it, says D’Andrea.

“Once you’ve sat with your feelings, commit to the healing process of letting go,” she explains.

2. Go For Quality Over Quantity.

Part of minimalist design involves choosing items with intention.

“Take the time to research and invest in quality products,” says D’Andrea. Look for pieces that are both beautiful and functional. It’s even better if they can serve multiple uses, like a coffee table with extra storage or a bench that doubles as a daybed.

Another smart idea: “Display your bowls and plates on exposed shelving as an easy way to decorate your space and store your kitchenware,” suggests D’Andrea.

3. Use Neutrals.

Minimalist design is supposed to look and feel calm and peaceful. To achieve that particular emotional tone, stick to a neutral color palette and avoid chaotic combinations or wild patterns. D’Andrea says earthy tones give your home an open, natural feel. Mix and match shades of white, beige, brown, gray, blue, and green.

If you love color, don’t be afraid to add a few pops, D’Andrea says, as long as they don’t overwhelm your space. Incorporate color in items that are easy to swap when the mood strikes, like pillows, plants, dishes, art, or books.

4. Don’t Fill Every Corner.

Resist the urge to cram every corner with furniture or decor.

“Our culture of consumption makes us think that every drawer needs to be filled and every countertop needs to be covered in appliances,” says D’Andrea.

Open spaces, whether it’s a bare wall or empty shelf, are essential to the minimalist aesthetic.

“An open space with intention creates magic,” D’Andrea says. “[There’s] room to see everything you own, to know where it lives within your space, room to breathe and be fully present with everything exactly as it is.”

Instead of trying to fill empty areas, embrace the blankness. “Try keeping 1-2 inches of space between your hangers, your countertops clean and clear, or leaving walls intentionally bare,” D’Andrea recommends.

6. Keep Surfaces Clear.

Collections of photos, antique clocks, or mugs with roosters on them don’t have a place in minimalist design.

“Clearing surfaces is key to having a minimalist home and look,” says Draddy.

Save for a few strategically placed items, like a vase on your nightstand or plant on your coffee table, most surfaces should be free of excess decor.

“That means making decisions about what is being kept and where is it going to live,” Draddy adds.

7. Add Greenery

Minimalism isn’t just about scaling back — it’s also about adding the right elements to your space. When in doubt, add live plants, D’Andrea says.

Not only does a miniature succulent or fresh fern brighten your space and create oxygen, she says, it also contributes to a natural, relaxed look and feel in your home.

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Paige Smith