The New Simplicity: Why I No Longer Let Minimalism Influence My Design Aesthetic

By: Melissa Risenhoover

I recently posted this on my personal Instagram account:

The reactions I received were wonderful and very helpful! However, it got me thinking about something a little bit bigger in relation to the very topic we speak so much about here on Cohesive Home...Minimalism. This is something I struggle with in defining my decorating style. What does it say about me if I DON'T want all white everything and a minimalist decor? Why do some of us struggle with minimalism in correlation with our decorating choices? Does personality dictate the space we create? Or do we override that in an effort to be "minimalist"? Oh and the big question people have, can I call myself a minimalist if I don't adhere to the all white aesthetic?  Either way I wanted to dive into this subject with you.

The above photo is me holding a wonderful glass of German wine while sitting in my German apartment with nothing in it. Except that Ikea painting of the girl swimming...I love that painting! Anyways, the choice to live in a bare apartment was intentional it had nothing to do with our personalities or how minimalist we wanted to be. What did this year do to my mind set you ask? Did it cause me to hate the color white and wish I lived next to a Hobby Lobby again? Yes and no. My personality has always been one that loves color, but that year we decided to be all white and create a simple palette didn't change that about me or my husband. Instead it created a "freebie" if you will. Almost a pass to do and be anything we wanted. We chose white. All white and modern. And we loved it for that short time. But now, as I sit in my rental space and dream of my future home I can't help but have an internal war with minimalism as a decorating theme and not just a lifestyle. Do I want white walls? What if I want a green couch? 

We have talked in our Cohesive Home podcast before about how minimalism is a tool, not the end all be all. We use it to help our home reflect our values, not dictate what color we should have on our walls. The tool helps us keep clutter at bay, bring peace to our spaces, and create calm in our agendas. In my opinion it should not dictate everyones style preferences. Don't get me wrong, some people love the minimalist style and rock it quite well, but if it's not your thing you should not feel guilty about it. 


“The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don't know what the hell they're doing or who on earth they are can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino." - Joe Fox”

I'm pretty sure I go to You've Got Mail for almost any life choice, but come on, Joe Fox got it right. Tall! Decaf! Cappuccino! We all have a taste. Personality has a defining role in these choices. Like I stated in my Instagram post, my home is currently a rental and even though I may not love it and don't currently have my dream design aesthetic, MOST of the comments I received on this post indicated that people love to make things cozy and create a space that is theirs no matter what type of home they live in. Minimalist! Country Chic! Boho Eclectic! We all have a flavor. If we all drank tall decaf cappuccinos it would be a boring world. 

Have you taken the infamous Myers-Briggs personality test? I'm sure this says something about MY type, but I have never been one to get into the Myers-Briggs or any sort of personality testing. The thought of knowing just makes me feel trapped in a box. What if I don't LIKE my results? What if I think I'm a totally different type of personality and I'm sad. I took the test...I did it...and you know what? It was great! It confirmed what I already knew about myself. I'm outgoing and love to be creative. Nowhere in my results did it say I desire minimalist decor, white walls and no furniture. And I'm pretty sure yours won't either.

In my design future I'm sticking with a colorful, Scandinavian vibe like this amazing article from Apartment Therapy. But for now my beige walls with minimal decor will do, and believe it or not, it has no say on how "minimalist" I am. 

For another great read on minimalism and design check out this article on Design Sponge.  And for a fun listen check out our Podcast about creating cohesive spaces! 

Melissa is a creativity-driven free spirit that calls Oklahoma home, but recently returned from a year of traveling throughout Europe while living in Germany. As the mother of three home-schooled kiddos and the visual design backbone of Cohesive Home, Melissa is pretty awesome at juggling just about anything as long as a cup of coffee is involved. She and her husband Brandon dream of spending a few months a year back in France visiting with friends and exploring the local culture.

IG: @melissarisenhoover

How Owning a Small Family House and Traveling Reflects Our Family’s Values

By: Kate Saffle

When we sold our Oklahoma City house last May, we were nearly 100% positive we would be traveling full-time in the next 6 months. We had spent the previous year planning for that new life: researching, shopping for trailers, talking to other full-time traveling families, and massively downsizing our belongings.


Northern Indiana was to be a pitstop, a place to get our plan on the road (literally), to have the support of family, and also to have a place to come back to between travels. We were infatuated with the freedom of no roots and no mortgage and spent last summer exploring the area, practically living at the beach.  And so we unexpectedly fell in love with this part of the country that is nestled in the sand dunes of Lake Michigan and not far from Chicago.

So now 10 months later, why didn't we leave? And more importantly how could we possibly make the leap to buying a house again after swearing off of home ownership indefinitely when we sold our last house?

There are several reasons, some of which are personal and some of which I'm happy to share. We had two family members battling cancer, one of which was also about to be a new father. We couldn't find a long-term way to fund travel, and my remote university teaching job simply wouldn't cover our expenses.  And despite my continuous attempts to secure a better paying remote job, it wasn't in the cards.

But then we came to the startling realization that we actually love where we live now. We began making friends and forming community. We met other homeschooling families and formed a nature hiking group. We bought a smaller camper, a Casita, to make road travel possible.  And then we found our house.

Cohesive Home - Small Living

We weren't looking (seriously) and yet, one Friday night I was avoiding grading another round of essays about da Vinci (who becomes boring quite quickly after 80 or so papers on him) and began looking at local real estate instead. We knew we weren't ready or able to travel full-time, rentals in our area are priced through the roof, but we craved our own space again after living with family for nearly a year.
And then I found the house. You surely know the details if you follow me on Instagram. But in a nutshell? Small, borderline tiny 2 bedroom 1 bathroom house walking distance to everything. Adorably cute, ridiculously cheap, and the perfect simple living family home.  I laughed when I first saw the listing, but I should have seen the writing on the wall. Our values had changed over the past 10 months from when we started our journey to reflect a desire for travel AND roots, and the perfect house had found us. 

"Our values had changed over the past 10 months from when we started our journey to reflect a desire for travel AND roots, and the perfect house had found us." 

We close Thursday. This house is part of our adventure, part of our family's story of changing our lives to wholeheartedly reflect our values. We still plan to travel, often as possible, and hope to use this home as an AirBNB rental in the future when we can take longer trips.  We are longing for deeper community, for days spent over lingering walks in our neighborhood, chats with local farmers over leafy produce, and spontaneous trips to the ice cream parlor after a hot afternoon playing hard at the playground. While we deeply desire traveling to new places to experience other cultures, we also want to innately know the fabric of our own hood as well.

Cohesive Home - Home and Travel

And you know what? Travel, of any kind, feels more satisfying when you know you have a home to come back to. For the past few years I've convinced myself roots are bad, and that our happiness is explicitly and only tied to experiences over possessions. I still believe that, but I also know that creating a path that honors wanderlust and secure roots is the best way to meet the needs of everyone in my family. And so we're ready to finally be “home” again, 675 square feet and all.





Cleanse Your Life: a Nomad's Take on How to Be a Calmer, Happier Person

by Hannah Galpin

If 15-year-old Hannah, met 25-year-old Hannah, via some Back to the Future type escapades, she'd call her a hippy. She would be completely confused by her aversion to spending a Saturday shopping, her vegetarian dietary choices, and her make-up free face. That last thing would have likely frightened her too. Luckily, that shy, fearful, sometimes judgmental teenager she once was, eventually outgrew her insecurity, opened her eyes and arms to the world, and discovered her life philosophy. Before I got to where I am today, I had to go learn some valuable life lessons the hard way, and experience difficulty with the concepts of money, consumerism, and relationships.

Cleanse Your Life: a Nomad's Take on How to Be a Calmer, Happier Person

Today I live my life by 3 minimalist principles, all based around the idea of living a smaller, more intentional life, and by small, I mean one less encumbered by things, responsibilities, conflicts, distractions, and the resultant stress. I approach everyday life with these ideas: I acquire only what I need and thus spend wisely, I don't chase wealth and place more importance on relationships and experiences, and I cultivate a calmer more quiet mind with creativity and honesty. 

That's my convoluted way of saying that I simplified my life. I find it easy to live by these ideas especially now that I am traveling. I exist on a tight budget and my wardrobe fits into one-third of a backpack. But somewhere down the line, I envision living in a tiny house, or at least a small home, a place to raise a small family, and focus on enjoying the simpler pleasures. Until then its going to be a few years of nomadic life, which I feel so fulfilled by right now, mainly because of what it took to get me here.

Minimalism came into my mindset when I needed it most. I had been on a path where I was the perfect consumer, partaking in impulse spending, using credit, buying a brand new car on finance, all the while feeling utterly miserable. I had a job in a bank that made me feel incredibly cynical about many things, and left me yearning for escape. It's sad that I believed following that path was the right thing to do, with me failing to connect my mood and self-esteem with my quest for the markers of what I believed signified an successful and appealing individual. I truly believed that I had no power within myself to become more content and at peace, so I tried to buy happiness, as I had always been taught that I could, and should. Although a part of me knew that I wasn't going to find happiness on that route, something I learned in my childhood.

"I had been on a path where I was the perfect consumer, partaking in impulse spending, using credit, buying a brand new car on finance, all the while feeling utterly miserable."

Growing up I had lived in nice houses, always had plenty of nice things, and always had a trip abroad each year. There was an abundance of everything, from food in the cupboards, to stuff in every square foot in my fairly large homes. Funnily enough, there was also an abundance of conflict. My family, blessed with financial security thanks to a hard-working father who built his way up from absolutely nothing, was also rife with anger, bitterness and disillusionment. Its a harsh truth that I remember the fights and the lonely tears of confusion sometimes better than what the gifts were piled up under the giant Christmas tree. Thankfully, my family and I have come out the other side of our turmoil, and are now, closer than ever. 

I have made peace with the distant past, and I can see clearly how my inner discord, that I was still embroiled in just 3 years ago, came from trying to re-create all the positive parts of my childhood, via acquiring wealth, all whilst suppressing my true self. I didn't want to develop my inner truth and live by it, because it scared me. I was scared of not fitting in, and so I consumed as soon as I was able to, as soon as I was able to have a Saturday job to pay for my weekly trips to town, to buy clothes that would impress my friends. 

Its a rite of passage in many ways, expressing yourself through different fashion choices, and giving yourself a fighting chance of fitting in with other equally afraid teenagers by doing the things they do. But my frivolous spending addiction didn't stay in my teens, I took this consumer mindset into my 20's, where it could really do me some damage. By the age of 22 I was a graduate, with a heap of overdraft debt. I then experienced a fairly traumatic break-up, the ending of my first big relationship, which lead to credit card spending. It started with ordering a few takeaway meals, because I felt too sad to go out and buy food. Then it escalated to online shopping to make myself feel better, to try and re-create myself, as if that was the only way to overcome my break-up. And then I got the bank job I hated, and the shopping problem worsened because I now worked 5 minutes from my favourite cheap clothes-store. It was a perfect storm of negative life circumstances, job stress and loneliness, and I was at the epicentre, with no idea how to change things.

Cleanse Your Life: a Nomad's Take on How to Be a Calmer, Happier Person

Things did change. They did get better, and I did head down a healthier and self-empowered path. This was partly due to someone new and refreshing entering my life in 2013. Taran, my partner in love and in travel, helped me consider an alternative way of living, one where it's okay to not have 25 outfit choices, to not wear a full face of make-up each day, and to give time and attention to my creative pursuits, not the pursuit of a full bank account. He was unlike anyone else I had ever met, and he seemed so light, content and laid-back. He was also completely disinterested in buying things and proudly wore clothing he had owned for years. 

Taran didn't have the kind of financial security growing up that I did. His foundations were built on there being lots of love, support, acceptance and fun. That's not to say my family weren't loving, they were their own mixture of personalities fighting to find their own happiness, and its possible money and stress were just getting in their way. 

So it was just 3 years ago that I first came to consider myself a minimalist, which began when I started embracing de-cluttering. I had always loved cleaning, it was my de-stressing technique back then and still is today. I began to want less and less stuff, even a smaller bedroom, and just less things demanding my attention. I was also trying to clear my debts at the same time, with the intention of never using credit again, so my financial habits had to change to prevent this.

I began paying close attention to what I spent my money on, every little amount, and I started to save instead of spend. I built my dream upon having a savings account bulging at the seams, not a wardrobe exploding with material goods. I realized that money could buy something worth experiencing, and that was travel. 

"I built my dream upon having a savings account bulging at the seams, not a wardrobe exploding with material goods."

I see now that being somewhat frugal and mindful with my spending helps me feel less anxious also, because I believe in my ability to live within my means, and thus feel less drive to work all the hours of the week to have more. I feel as if my family life may have suffered because I had parents who were compelled by this drive, and it swallowed them up. 

I now believe that I, and those around me, can still be happy despite spending less, earning less and owning less. I draw contentment from my relationships these days, and I try to keep conflict and arguments at a minimum by letting go of the pride and defensiveness that defined by younger years. I have learned the value of simplicity, and that investing time in our families is what feeds our souls and helps us navigate this challenging and complex world. For so long I let my emotions guide me toward things which provided only momentary relief and distraction, whereas now my emotions pull me toward my family, friends, and my creative path as a blogger. 

Minimalism is infinitely more than just having less, its turning our focus inwards to ourselves, and to our tribe. We can still want and have stuff, but we prioritize valuing our life's artifacts instead of contributing to waste with cheap, low-quality items. We still need money, but we can also cultivate a fulfilling yet simple life that can withstand times of financial stress. I am so glad I discovered this truth, because that's what it is, its the inner truth of a large section of society, many just don't realize it yet. But the long-term benefits of minimalist thinking are endless, and available to everyone, in small increments, or life-affirming amounts.

I built my dream upon having a savings account bulging at the seams, not a wardrobe exploding with material goods.
Hannah Galpin is 25, is traveling the world, and blogging about it on She embraced minimalism 2 years ago, to rid herself of a myriad of stress, from debt, to clutter, to dealing with some deeper issues on the inside. She has recently wrote a book, “Minimalism: Cleanse Your Life, Become a Calmer Person”, where she uses her own experiences to advocate minimalist principles and habits.  (You can find the UK version of her book here.)
You can find her on instagramtwitterpinterest, and facebook.