Home Decor

How to Reimagine Our Homes (Without Renovating Them)

Lessons from The Afrominimalist on how to arrive at what you need from your living spaces—and not just what you want in them.

October  6, 2021
Photo by Meredith Jensen

Simply Living is a new column by Christine Platt, aka the Afrominimalist. Each month, Christine shares her refreshing approach to living with less, with clever tips for decluttering, making eco-friendly swaps, and creating a more mindful living space that's all you.


Without a doubt, the pandemic has forced many of us to utilize our homes in ways beyond what we ever intended. In less than two years, home has become much more than a place of shelter, the occasional flex workspace, and where we gathered with loved ones: it became synonymous with who we are, what we value most, and what we need to ensure that we feel safe and secure.

Because I live in a 630-square-foot apartment, I had to become even more intentional with my living space. In addition to having to consider my own needs as a writer, I had to address the needs of my daughter’s performing arts high school schedule which included virtual practice lessons and orchestra performances, and my desire to make my home a sanctuary—a place to unplug, rest, recharge, and recommit to my priorities.

Making the most of your home isn’t just about decor; it’s about how every inch of your living space can be used to best suit your needs. It’s about reimagining your home. Here are four questions to consider when it comes to ensuring you’re making the most of your home.

1. Am I fully utilizing my home’s space?

When searching for the perfect home, we’re often enticed by model floor plans. But what if you were to forgo using spaces as the builder (and convention) intended—and look at how each room, nook, and cranny can work best for you?

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Top Comment:
“I hired Megan Wallace James to help me reimagine my home in 2020. Something needed to shift as I excavated things that no longer served me, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. After consulting MWJ, I flipped my bedroom into the guest room, flipped the closets, repainted every wall, ceiling and crown molding, hung art, & reorganized everything. A friend who works in textiles helped me with paint colors. As soon as I moved my desk I got offered a position I wanted & now I use every portion of my home. MWJ is my best investment of 2020 because I was investing in myself. ❤”
— Juanita S.
Comment

Consider rooms that are furnished but rarely used, such as a guest bedroom that is only used during the holidays when family comes to visit. Or unused corners that could potentially be converted into reading nooks or storage solutions. (And don’t forget to look up! Wall space is one of the most underutilized areas of our homes.) If you are unsure which rooms in your home are underutilized, look into organizations that provide free heat-map imaging to track your movements. Trust me, it is not as scary and invasive as it sounds, and the results might surprise you.

After heat-mapping my former home, I discovered we barely used the 2,500-plus-square-foot living space. Most of our time was spent in our bedrooms and the eat-in kitchen, despite having a generous living room, formal dining room, and family room in the basement. It was one of the reasons I was certain we could live in a smaller home.

When searching for the perfect home, we’re often enticed by model floor plans. But what if you were to forgo using spaces as the builder (and convention) intended—and look at how each room, nook, and cranny can work best for you?

2. What do I really need (not want) in my home?

Take a moment to think about what you need in your home. I mean, what you really need, not what you want. Often, we find ourselves wanting to replicate rooms we see online and in magazines and purchase pieces based on how they look. But mirroring someone else’s aesthetic rarely works to our advantage.

From functuality to decor, identifying your needs is an essential step in reimagining your home, and a surefire way to know whether you need to make any changes. Consider the needs of everyone in your household: partners, generational and extended family, children, even pets! Then, arrange these by their priorities such as work, school, and play as well as self-care. This way, you can focus on ensuring the most important needs are addressed first.

For instance, I discovered that I enjoy having flexible options rather than a dedicated work space. This led me to rearrange rooms to serve multiple functions in terms of work, play, and rest. For example, our living room serves as our “everything room” and primary hub for family gatherings. It’s where we can relax on two chaises pushed together into a spacious lounger for reading or watching television. It’s also where our dining room table serves as both a place to eat as well as one of my favorite workstations.

3. Does home represent what I love and value most?

While writing the Afrominimalist Guide to Living with Less, I did extensive research on the psychology of ownership. What I found most intriguing was learning about our motivations (why we feel the need to have certain things) and attachments (why it’s so hard to let go of certain things). And home is a motivation when it comes to having what we love and value most.

As humans, we are biologically, socially, and psychologically wired to seek to fulfill these needs. In a physical sense, home is where we fulfill our biological motivations such as having water and food to satisfy our hunger and thirst. It is also a place where we fulfill our social motivation to engage with others and form meaningful relationships with our family and friends. You might be surprised to know that home is also a psychological motivation—the reason we have things that make us feel anchored, comfortable, safe, and secure.

Understanding home as a motivation caused me to want my living space to be a reflection of those needs being fulfilled. This meant reimagining my spaces and decor to ensure they make me feel anchored. Scents that are uplifting. Colors inspire my creativity and tones that are calming when it’s time to rest or recharge. Every object and trinket serves a purpose, reminding me of who I am, what my ancestors overcame, and what I want my loved ones to inherit. Home is a reflection of what I love and value most.

Understanding home as a motivation caused me to want my living space to be a reflection of those needs being fulfilled. This meant reimagining my spaces and decor to ensure they make me feel anchored. Scents that are uplifting. Colors inspire my creativity and tones that are calming when it’s time to rest or recharge.

4. Am I afraid to make changes to my home?

Change isn’t always easy. So, it’s completely understandable if you or your family members have concerns about reimagining shared spaces. Consider allowing everyone in your household to not only share their fears but also offer solutions! During the pandemic, my teenage daughter became Reimaginer-in-Chief and together we found solutions to ensure our small space met our needs. Reimagining your living spaces with a partner or loved ones can be a useful and fun exercise. But if you’re overwhelmed by it, consider hiring a professional who can help.

Most importantly though, remember that when it comes to making changes in your home, nothing is permanent. You can (and likely, will) reimagine and rearrange your living space several times over. Now that my daughter is in her first year of college, I am once again rethinking her bedroom. I am considering ways to make it a functional space when she’s away yet comforting whenever she visits.

Reimagining home is both liberating and energizing. It is through this reimagining that home can become more than just a place to eat, work, and rest; it can become the sanctuary that we need and deserve.

What is the room or corner in your home you'd like to reimagine? Tell us in the comments.

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Written by: Christine Platt

Author of The Afrominimalist's Guide to Living with Less

3 Comments

Juanita S. October 10, 2021
I hired Megan Wallace James to help me reimagine my home in 2020. Something needed to shift as I excavated things that no longer served me, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. After consulting MWJ, I flipped my bedroom into the guest room, flipped the closets, repainted every wall, ceiling and crown molding, hung art, & reorganized everything. A friend who works in textiles helped me with paint colors. As soon as I moved my desk I got offered a position I wanted & now I use every portion of my home. MWJ is my best investment of 2020 because I was investing in myself. ❤
 
Stephanie October 8, 2021
Very well put! I think fear of changing our living space along with setting up a home the way we THINK a home "should' look is a big thing and a hurdle to get over! The house I grew up in and where my mother spent 31 years of her life before moving near me, was set up in 1970 with the help of a department store interior designer - and STAYED THE SAME WAY for 31 years. The positioning of the furniture never changed! "The long couch can ONLY go up against THIS wall!" "The end table can ONLY go here!" LOL I'll never forget how a friend of mine's head exploded as her mom was the exact opposite - she would come home from school to find the living room totally re-arranged from when she'd left that morning!
 
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Christine P. October 10, 2021
This just made me laugh because I am your friend's mom! It is not uncommon for rooms in my home to look totally different than the week before! LOL