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Simplicity: Not an aesthetic, but rather a lifestyle.

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The days have slowly grown longer with sunlight lingering past 5:00 p.m., and the trees are starting to wake up with buds on their branches. Despite the frost on our grass in the early morning, I’ve been bitten by the cleaning bug that always accompanies spring. My house has weathered a great purge and cleanse as I ruthlessly go through each room, dusting and organizing and sorting. There are still a few places I haven’t been able to organize (don’t look at the guest room closet!) but all our major spaces feel airy and clean. It’s like a breath of fresh air. It helps me appreciate my home: even though it’s not finished or perfect, it’s ours.

Bout I confess, I don’t appreciate my home as often as I should. The comparison game sneaks in and needles me as I scroll through social media. My house, with its overflowing bookshelves, piles of materials for my numerous fiber arts hobbies, jars full of the summer’s bounty, and empty Mason jars waiting to be filled, does not compare to the pristine houses displayed on Instagram. No one could ever accuse me of being a minimalist.

The minimalist aesthetic is extremely popular these days, and often it gets praised as the ideal for every home. We live in a society that enjoys collecting stuff to a fault, so isn’t less stuff a good thing? After all, doesn’t everyone want a clean and decluttered home?

But the minimalism shared on social media and in celebrity mansions takes it a step further than simply clean and organized. This social media minimalism tends to get rid of things for the aesthetic; there’s no need to have extra of anything on hand. If the shelves are clean and clear, it doesn’t matter if you get rid of things that still serve a purpose or could be useful later. There’s an underlying assumption that instead you can go out and purchase what you need when you need it.

Instead of this minimalism, I suggest an alternative: simplicity. It’s not an aesthetic, but rather a lifestyle, one of mending and making do with what we have. Simplicity cherishes our items, their makers and the homes that hold them all.

And while I’ll constantly strive to cultivate simplicity, I have given up on minimalism. In fact, I’ve come to see my home’s unique beauty because of its joyful collection of things, not in spite of them.

Our kitchen will always have stacks of Mason jars and drying herbs and bags of scraps in the freezer waiting to be made into broths or botanical dyes. Instead of seeing my multiple mugs and dishes as clutter, I see them as preparation for guests who happen to stop by for a meal.

My studio will always be ready for people to spend the night with extra linens and towels (even if they’re mismatched). And as a knitter, sewist and spinner, I will always have an abundance of materials waiting to be made into something soft and warm and beautiful. Instead of seeing the shelves overflowing with skeins and fabric as clutter, I see the raw materials for making things to wrap my loved ones in warmth.

Our living room will always have bookshelves stacked double, art on its walls and muddy garden boots by the door. Instead of seeing my piles of books and art as clutter, I see stories to love and to share, and conversations waiting to be had.

My main hope for my home is that it is a place of rest and a place of beauty. I think about the simple homes I loved in books, or that shared their warmth and beauty with me as a child, and that is what I strive toward. Even if my home is not picture-perfect, may it be simple and ready to embrace all who enter.


Rachel Fenton is a writer and mother who homesteads on the family property with her parents and grandparents. When she’s not running after her baby, you can usually find her knitting, reading, writing or gardening. Follow their homesteading journey at