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How to Have More Style with Less Stuff

by | Mar 16, 2015 | Decorating Inspiration

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How to Have More Style with Less StuffLonny / Jessica Helgerson

I believe what we really want in our homes is more style, less stuff. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by how to find or even stay true to our own style when we are faced with so much cuteness we could add to our home! Stroll down the aisle of Target or HomeGoods and you’ll certainly find great stuff! Pinterest offers a million things you could do for practically nothing with just a bottle of spray paint and a roll of duct tape. But is that what we really want? Do we actually get more style by getting more stuff? Personally, I don’t think we do.

Of course, a home should be functional, comfortable, and beautiful to you. But the problem comes in when people start to believe the lie that getting more STUFF to style their home will transform it. They try that, bringing in all the things, and then they wonder why they are never quite happy with the result. They can’t find the right balance because they are looking in the wrong place.

True style and contentment with your home doesn’t come from random stuff at all. It comes from life and how you reflect that life in your home. That’s been my message for years, it’s all about the authenticity of your style.

One of the things I’m really enjoying about the process of writing books is really taking the time to define what I’ve learned, what I do, why I do it and most importantly, why it all matters.

How to Have More Style with Less StuffStudio McGee

It’s been interesting thinking it all through and organizing my thoughts so they can hopefully help others who struggle with STUFF! It’s been quite a thoughtful journey writing out the processes and lessons learned along the way to a home I love, I’m so excited to have the opportunity to share in such tangible, pretty books :).

As we talked about in the earlier part of the year, one of my main goals this year is to focus on organization and order in my home and how it impacts my life at home. My house is not perfect, it’s in process. I’ve made progress in some areas and am still working on others. I still have work to do! Just like life, it takes time to weed out what is authentic to you and what you truly love.

One of the main reasons I started The Inspired Room was my belief that we should surround ourselves with more meaningful reflections of who we are and where we are going, and we should weed out the randomness that doesn’t inspire us.

From the earliest blogging days I shared my philosophy of authenticity and why what I’m surrounded with mattered to me in my own home. It’s so important to me, I’m still here talking about it.

How to Have More Style with Less StuffStudio McGee

I know not everyone thinks as deeply about the home as perhaps I do (hahah), but I do it because I think the state of our home matters more than we want to admit and more than we might realize. When it comes to style, we often tend to think in terms of what goes together, what others are doing, trends, or labels, rather than how our style actually impacts our life.

When I talk about style, I’m thinking about my authentic style of living at home, not how stylish I am (or am not!) in the mind of the design world. I don’t need a label for my style, I don’t need all the latest rules for how to be stylish or trendy, I just need to learn to be more in touch with how my surroundings impact my life.

My home is a reflection of who I am because I’m happy to be surrounded by stuff that matters to me and I can say good-bye to stuff that doesn’t. What that means is: I have to continually refine my home to let go of the stuff I don’t need, the stuff that distracts me, and embrace the things that inspire.

You don’t arrive at your style one day when you get the magic accessories all lined up on your mantel. It’s a process of refinement and always reassessing where you are on the journey. Creating an authentic home is a matter of personal reflection and the determination to make progress in letting go, as much as it is about knowing what to add in. How to Have More Style with Less StuffI really breathe a sigh of relief when I say good-bye to STUFF that I no longer need.

I need to surround myself with things that inspire me. Less stuff, but with more style. Not junk, not useless stuff, not tacky decor or stuff I don’t love, but things that matter to me and my life. We need to clear out the clutter in order to breathe a little deeper and actually start to see and fully enjoy what we love!

I wrote about finding your style through that important balance of how we live and what we have and do in our home in Love The Home You Have, and in my new coffee table book The Inspired RoomI go into even more detail on more actual home decor principles we really need to know in order to create an authentic home that inspires us.
I wrote about creating an organized life and home in (the now newly released book) Make Room For What You Love  so believe me, I’m fully immersed in the topic of determining what stuff matters and what doesn’t and what to do with it all! I’m excited about these topics because they have made a difference in my life. 

Thank you for being here in this place where I’ve shared my heart for so many years now and for being excited about the books. Truly, it means so much to me.

Today is a good day to look around one area of your home and ask yourself why things are there. Are they there because they inspire you or because they’ve just always been there? Are they there because you saw them on Pinterest or thought they made a fun vignette, or are they there because they actually INSPIRE you? Could you do more but with LESS stuff?

How to Have More Style with Less Stuff

Good deep questions to ponder, right?

The last two photos in this post are from Studio McGee–I really love their fresh style! I love featuring designers who make me feel like I could move right into their projects. Go check out their inspiring portfolio here!


  1. Deanna

    This may be my favorite post here at The Inspired Room, yet, Melissa!

    I heartily agree! I’d rather have less stuff than to have things I don’t love surrounding me.

    We use our home daily as a place of learning, hospitality, and friendship. We love our home to reflect that!

  2. Debra N.

    I’ve been following your blog for some time silently :) I admire your style and outlook on “decorating”. I think this is my favorite post. It is liberating to free yourself of things you don’t love and aquiring new things for your home truly is a process. I love to look at what I have and find ways I can breathe new life into them. Congrats on your latest book. I’m eager to read it.

  3. Debra

    Great article. We are putting our home of 15 years on the market and downsizing. Even though we hold a garage sale every year, I’d still let our place get cluttered. Now we’re “staging” so this a grand opportunity to declutter, toss out, and give away?

  4. Elizabeth@ Rustic Maple

    This is a great post and timely too. I have spent too much time lately trying to give a name to my design style when really it is more of a feel and use of the things and colours that our family loves. I have really been thinking and working hard on narrowing down my style and the feel that it will give our home. I can’t change our tight budget, build a new kitchen or buy all new furniture but I can clear out items I no longer love or that just don’t work for us anymore (and have made several hundred dollars as a bonus.) I hope to add your book to my ‘go to’ library one day.


    Beautifully articulated and I agree 100%. I have had this very topic on my mind lately. I have seen so many just keep adding whatever they think is the new kid on the block with all the things they have already accumulated and they are ending up with a room that frankly looks like a hot mess. Decorating a home is a process and it should reflect the people that live there and how they live, just like you have said so well. Thank you for always putting it into terms that others can relate too. YOU are a wonderful writer,
    xo Kathysue

    • Melissa @ The Inspired Room

      Hahaha, yes. True. And thank you on the sweet compliment, Kathysue!!!! I feel the same about you, I always enjoy what you have to say!

  6. Judy

    Melissa, thanks for all the wonderful information and inspiration. I can’t wait to read your book!

  7. Janice Hamilton

    I love your blog and everything you’ve done with your home. I was wondering if you could give me some advice on whether I should paint my cabinets or not. They are maple with a medium finish but I do love painted..preferably dark on the bottom cabinets and white on the top..I’m not sure what’s holding me back..maybe re-sale. I will be in my home anywhere from 1 1/2 yrs -5 more years…just can’t seem to pull the trigger..any advice..? Thank you!!
    Janice H

  8. Jane

    Thanks for a sharing … I really enjoyed this post. I’m currently decluttering and just love the feeling of “stuff” leaving my house … its so freeing! I do fall into the trap of feeling like I need everything out on display … I shall take some learnings from this post. Thank You :)

  9. Debra

    I love reading blogs and seeing the creativity they have to offer. But when a person has restyled their house four times in a year, I wonder how they can afford that and how they get their husbands to agree to it! Thank you for bringing sanity back!

  10. Cheryl Orin-Forrer

    I follow you on Instagram, I’m Vintagenestpatina. Your book will be amazing! Ibe always thought of my home as a collection of my life experiences and travels, always evolving. When people ask me where I bought my art I just smile because it could be a tiny framed print purchased at an antique store or something that screamed my name at a junk store. Good luck with your new book. I’ll be looking for it!

    Cheryl Orin Forrer
    canton, OH

  11. KAY

    When I look at photos of my 80’s + 90’s décor, I cringe at their ‘busy-ness’. Yikes! And yet, I am still drawn to rooms filled with art, photos, books + other things that tell the story of who lives there. Just say no to ‘stuff’ from Target + HomeGoods, ’tis true — I’d rather find something from an antiques shop or flea market. Old things give a room more soul!

  12. Tara @ Lehman lane

    Melissa, this is a concept that I have just begun to understand in the last few years:). Every time I moved I saw it as an opportunity to start over and fill my house with “stuff” to showcase my style. I worked at a thrift store in college and the first few years of my married life I would continually bring home the things that others no longer had a need for:). I truly believed the lie that I needed to fill my home to make a home:). When we moved in our current home my mom gave me great advice. She said Tara, part of the reason this home is so great is all the open space you have….try not to fill it all up or you’ll lose that:). She was right. I have to constantly remind myself not to “hurry up” with my decorating and just keep the basic things we need along with a few special touches that we love. Thank you so much for this post, it is a great reminder that we truly can be happier with less.

  13. Diane | An Extraordinary Day

    “True style and contentment with your home doesn’t come from random stuff at all. It comes from life and how you reflect that life in your home.” Amen!!! It’s so easy to get caught up in thinking that new stuff will bring happiness. When happiness/contentment comes from “The Feeder” of my soul. Such an important concept to grasp, Melissa. :) And yes… I’ve learned it the hard way.
    Off to tweet it now!

  14. Kristen

    Such a wonderful, inspiring post! Your words always help me refocus when I’m feeling overwhelmed looking around my home!

    • Melissa @ The Inspired Room

      Oh, I’m so glad to hear that, THANK YOU!!! That’s such an encouragement. Have a great day!

  15. Teyre Wido

    Ohhhhhh yes! Taking right with you sister! I’ve been on this journey to make our home more of a story of who we are! That’s awesome about your book. …can’t wait! !


  16. Seana Turner

    Hooray for less stuff! It really crowds our space, requires cleaning & maintenance, and doesn’t necessarily improve our space. So many of us have accumulated clutter, either from gifts, vacation souvenirs, or previous living situations. Elsa had it right with “Let it go” on this one!

  17. Cristina Festa

    This topic is near and dear to my heart ! I too want style without all the stuff that we somehow accumulated in the last few years. I find it hard to sometimes part with things and do store them because I do sometimes bring them out again. But I just recently decided to post “for Free” stuff on Craigslist to get rid of things we really don’t want. For example I have an old steamer trunk from the early 1900’s that’s in bad shape and taking up space in my garage. I mostly have learned to buy things that I love but my husband and kids have alot of things too and we’re busy all the time so I have little time to purge. But I’m working on it little by little. Your post has inspired me ! Thanks.

  18. Betsy

    Oh how I love your blogs and your books !!! In my 44 years of homemaking/domestic bliss I have always decorated with family treasures ! I am blessed to have so many things that belonged to very special people in my life. I have my grandmother’s sewing scissors and thimbles that I have framed. I have quilts made by my grandmothers and great-grandmothers. There are far too many things to mention. My husband and I feel such comfort and peace in our home when we are surrounded by our family treasures rather than the latest mass-produced décor. I feel when we decorated with our family treasures it’s like getting a big hug from those that we loved so very much. I look forward to your newest books coming out. Blessings to you.

  19. Carre Cederholm

    There is a reason for that old saying, “less is more”. It truly is. Since down-sizing several years ago we have learned how liberating it is to simply own what you need-though I am constantly reminding my hubby of this.
    I now find all those “cool” things in Target not so cool. They are just things that need dusting.

  20. Jeanne

    I love your overall blog message and how you approach your home. I have been on a similar mission for the last several years, but still have much decluttering to do. It is a time consuming process, and you inspire me.. . .one bag at a time. I have to comment though on the photos in this blog. They are beautiful, but I was very struck by the one of two chairs facing the window. Just lovely and serene, but those chairs don’t look the least bit comfortable. So much of what is in a magazine, etc. is staging and fantasy. That room is unachievable for 99% of the people that I know. And frankly, that doesn’t make most of us feel better. It makes us feel inadequate. It sets a standard so high that most of us can never reach it. Or maybe we reach it at age 55+ when the nest is empty and you’ve forced the kids to take all their stuff with them. Also not realistic for many people. Life is a balance and we need to keep it real. Your message does that, but so much of browsing magazines is a trip into fantasy land.

  21. Diane@InMyOwnStyle

    I agree with Deanna above. :-) Best post ever probably because I back everything you stated in this post. I love when I see a woman who is confident in their choices. Less is more, and with less you can define what makes you truly happy at home and in life. Elegance is refusal! XO

  22. Crystal

    I love this post and I must agree this is the best post ever… maybe because it is so timely for me, like it’s a message from the gods of homemaking/decorating/home-loving. We have lived in our house for almost 3 years now, and the first few months we moved in, I was also watching out for new trends and just randomly buying pretty things to “fill” this blank canvas we moved into. Until just recently when I realized that much of these things just don’t speak to me–especially the “trendy” stuff. Then I started to remove them all from sight and then slowly I can breathe, I can see my home the way I want to see it, and I can feel the “soul” of my home that has been masked by all the other stuff I have cluttered it with the past couple years. But still sometimes I second guess myself….until this post. And it’s just such a validation. Thank you.

  23. Alicia

    Great article. Very well articulated exactly the look I went for with my new home. I downsized 5 years ago from a one bedroom house into a studio that is 300 square feet . it was a year long process that at times was painful but necessary. Needless to say I disposed of 80% of my “stuff”. I do not miss it nor the responsibility of it. What I kept is meaningful and beautiful to me, my antiques, antique lamps, coastal inspired décor furniture., family photos along with a collection of coastal artwork. I made a Elegant and stylish blend is how I describe my home. In just 300 square feet I made a living room, a dining room and a elegant bedroom . A place of comfort, warmth and welcoming. My home is small but it reflects my style and is always neat and tidy. I adore your blog, I learn so much here. Your writing is wonderful.

  24. Cynthia @herlovelynest

    great post Melissa, it really makes you think about what’s important and what’s just there because it’s there. lately I’ve been daydreaming about moving out of our house into something much smaller. when I ask myself why, I really think it’s because I feel the need to simplify. well…and maybe have fewer rooms to clean!

  25. teresa

    I’m in the middle of simplifying my home…we just sold a home we lived in for 14 years…which was an opportunity to weed out so much stuff!….and I’m still at it…..I’m have a goal to keep it simple and just bring the things I love to our new home….a bag a day is going away =)
    Thanks for all you do to inspire.
    Happy Day

    • Melissa @ The Inspired Room

      Thank you Teresa!! And yay, I see you have a giveaway of the book. You are so awesome, THANK YOU!!!! xoxo

  26. Carolyn Blank

    Awesome post! I love the question “do you have what inspires you in your home”. I’m not a fan of uber decorated homes but rather homes that have personality. Thanks for making it so simple!


  27. Kari

    I am always trying to get rid of stuff! It is so nice to live in a clear space.

  28. Paula

    Wow, I get “it” now! I love my home and periodically bring “stuff” home to make it feel more complete. Then I wonder why it doesn’t work. And then return it. I get it now, it’s just stuff and has no sentimental or inspirational value. So what if it’s the latest trend? I don’t live in a magazine! You are brilliant, and I truly love your blog. Thanks so much, I plan to go through my small house and just pass along (donate) the things that don’t inspire me or have sentimental value – and breathe a little deeper. Ahhh!

  29. Jennifer @ Decorated Chaos

    Great post! I find that I am guilty of this myself and your post serves as a much needed reminder!

  30. Lauren

    I was so excited for this post today because this is exactly where I am. I have been thinking so much about our home (a rental) as we are going to be purchasing our first real home hopefully this year. My goal for our new home is just to start with a fresh and clean slate. So, it has made me go through what I have now and ask these types of questions for each item- Do I love this? Why do I have this? etc. I want to simplify and beautify our home (which doesn’t always feel easy with soon to be five kids!)

  31. Genoa

    This post struck a cord with me, and help me put my thoughts into words! We are currently selling our first home and have just moved into a new, larger home and I am excited for a fresh start. With our first home I felt like we had to buy a lot of “stuff” to fill up the space. This was an expensive and wasteful mistake, and we ended up with a lot of things that mean nothing to me. Now, I am okay with the way things are a little empty in this house. I only want to bring in things that mean something to me and the way we live! Thank you for the insights!

  32. Irma

    Very timely post! We will be moving out of our home ,hopefully, this summer after living in it 14 years. Having it up for sale, forced me to declutter and I love it! I told hubby that I’m not bringing a lot of it back. Now I notice the things I really love and realize the other things were just filler. I’m not into the trendy things at all so those kinds of things hold no interest. I used to be a real antique and thrift store shopper but even those hold little interest now. We’ll be moving into our church parsonage that has been recently refurbished and larger than our present home. The livingroom alone is twice the size so it will be a challenge to add more seating but not too much stuff. Great article!


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