Mike and Amanda Sayre settle in the all-white and bright guest bedroom for a portrait with pups Buckley (left) and Penny, for whom Mike made the low-platform bed out of landscape timbers. Roy Inman Special to Ink
Mike and Amanda Sayre settle in the all-white and bright guest bedroom for a portrait with pups Buckley (left) and Penny, for whom Mike made the low-platform bed out of landscape timbers. Roy Inman Special to Ink

Life in KC

Advice from minimalist design disciples: Own less stuff

By Andrea Darr

Special to Ink

December 06, 2016 8:00 AM

A letter board in the home of Mike and Amanda Sayre reads like a mantra of the couple’s lifestyle: “I make myself rich by making my wants few.”

Amanda, an elementary school art teacher, and Mike, co-owner of Easy, Tiger, pass by this timeless message from Henry David Thoreau daily, a gentle reminder in their staircase landing.

The couple take the words to heart and work to reduce clutter in their Brookside house, redecorate with things they already own and try not to buy new stuff. Amanda posts photos and blogs on how to lead a simpler lifestyle at Cashmere and Clover. She covers the gamut from editing your wardrobe to going plastic-free for your pets.

“I’m into minimalism,” Amanda says. “The less stuff you have, the less you have to store, clean or deal with … and the more time you have for experiences.”

Mike teases Amanda that if thieves looked in their home’s windows, they might think no one lived there. That’s because there are no TV or electronics, expensive rugs or art, or bling of any kind. The Sayres’ belongings are limited to a select few that are principally vintage, thrifted or handmade.

While there isn’t a lot of “stuff,” the couple do own objects they love: a ukulele that doubles as decor on the wall, a collection of ceramic wares, an original letterpress and Amanda’s grandmother’s piano.

“I like how things in our home have a story; it’s not a bunch of big, mass-produced stuff,” Amanda says.

She credits the “KonMari” method, from the book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” for helping them pare down to the essentials and things that bring them joy, although the decluttering concept has been around forever, and Amanda suspects she’s a born minimalist, not just someone who has jumped on the trendy bandwagon.

“Over time, I’ve become more simplistic,” she says. “I continue to get rid of things all the time.”

One category the couple don’t have less of is pets. They own two cats and two dogs — the limit in Missouri, Amanda notes; otherwise they’d welcome more.

This mixed family of six lives in a house built in 1922. It has provided shelter for whole families for generations; still, recent owners finished the attic with a master bedroom and bathroom. By today’s standards, it’s not a large house, but there are rooms the Sayres don’t even use: a breakfast nook that Amanda says is too dark; a third bedroom with nothing in it but a rug and kitty console.

The Sayres’ favorite place to be is in the master suite, with their animals at their feet and computers on their laps. Sometimes they watch the only TV in the house, a small flat screen affixed to the wall, in bed. “I could be doing so many more productive things with my life than watching the latest shows,” Amanda says.

Mike spends most of his free time reconstructing the upstairs to better suit the couple’s needs. He has added bookshelves to the stair landing, installed a three-sided fireplace in their bedroom and is undertaking a full-scale bathroom remodel. “He’s a handy guy. He does everything around here,” Amanda says.

Elsewhere in the house, the couple exert their vintage minimalist design talents.

In the dining room, a giant chalkboard the Sayres picked up from Habitat ReStore makes a statement without a single word written on it. “I got it during that phase when everyone was doing chalk paint, but I don’t use it, I just like the look,” Amanda says.

In the kitchen, the counters are clear of stuff, party because the cats get into anything left out and partly because Amanda doesn’t feel the need to show off small appliances. “I like to cook, but I don’t need a stand mixer,” she says.

To further open up the space, Mike removed the upper cabinets because the storage space was unnecessary. “It gives more light to the whole house; we can see the windows from the living room,” Amanda says.

Her favorite touch is the prisms in the windows that refract light around the room in mini rainbows.

It’s a simple pleasure at the core of her definition of minimalism: It’s not a lifestyle of less; rather a honed selection of prized possessions.

“There’s a misconception about minimalism,” Amanda says. “People think it’s about getting rid of everything, but it’s really about keeping just the things you love.”

A clutter-free Christmas

It isn’t easy buying gifts for a minimalist. What do you get someone who wants nothing?

Amanda heads to online marketplace Etsy to find handmade goods that have meaning and whose purchase supports artisans, or she makes something artsy herself.

Or, rather than purchasing a physical gift, Amanda turns to experiences. She will buy tickets to concerts or events at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Alternatively, she suggests making a donation to a cause your loved one is passionate about.

Finally, a gift that almost always goes appreciated is food. Amanda says a perfect present is a homemade dish the recipient will love.

Amanda says that they do not burn much wood in the fireplace but “the cats love to scratch on it.” Roy Inman Special to Ink
Though it looks vintage, the kitchen has been remodeled. The ancient stove works, except for the timer and left-side oven, so the Sayres keep using it. “I’m so glad we didn’t replace it when we first bought the house,” Amanda says. “We would probably be replacing the replacement by now because no one makes things like they used to.” Roy Inman Special to Ink
Simple elements add whimsical touches in the dining room. Roy Inman Special to Ink
The couple’s clothes are cleverly concealed inside built-in drawers and behind sliding doors in the dressing area of the master bedroom. Roy Inman Special to Ink
Sloped rooflines snatch headroom from the upstairs bedroom but make the space intimate and cozy. Penny keeps guard. Roy Inman Special to Ink
A letter board displays an inspirational quote. Roy Inman Special to Ink
A TV-less, couch-less living room looks unlike modern-day spaces, but it nevertheless affords the Sayres comfort and enjoyment. Roy Inman Special to Ink
Bentley occupies his favorite chair beside the 1930 vintage RCA Victor floor model radio. The couple listen to Royals games on the working AM radio. Roy Inman Special to Ink
The Sayres’ eclectic living room includes a pair of old wooden seats and a cat perch hung on the window to provide a view of the street. Roy Inman Special to Ink
An old card catalog hauled in from Ohio stores household miscellany. Roy Inman Special to Ink
Arrow hides from visitors atop the fridge. Roy Inman Special to Ink
Inside this refurbished record console, you’ll find Amanda’s favorite vintage albums, as well as a computer Mike installed to play music through his phone. Above, nonworking pachinko machines have been turned into art. Roy Inman Special to Ink
A cork board cutout shaped like the United States — available at Mike’s West Bottoms shop — features pushpins in cities where the Sayres have traveled. Roy Inman Special to Ink
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