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Recently I repainted the living room.  Going in the direction of less is more I decided to remove almost all the pictures from the walls and the fireplace mantel.   At some point, I may need to post photos of the living room but currently it’s waiting for  a large cabinet to be painted, which will then have a 70-90 gallon fish tank placed on top of it.   I’m trying to convince my sons to be minimalistic about all they put inside the aforementioned fish tank but that’s a story for another time.

So….back to the fireplace.  I did not take “before” shots of it but I will describe it to you:  On the mantle are several framed pictures, a small statue, some painted rocks.  Also, a toy helicopter, a pen and a tack.  If you have kids, you’ll understand how random things appear in odd places.  One of the ways I’ve gotten the kids to cooperate with our own version of minimalism is to say something like this when they are cleaning:  “….and there should be NOTHING on the floor but the furniture when you are done…!”  or “Unique-ness!  We’re decorating the mantle with empty soda bottles now.  Awesome!”  (<—super heavy dose of mom sarcasm) and my other favorite:  “The only thing on the bathroom counter should be the soap….if there is something else -like your underwear and socks…you’re NOT done….”  <— This hollered from the other room almost always causes a sigh from a kiddo and footsteps back into the bathroom.  Still, it’s easy for everyone if there are less things to figure out where they go.

But back to the fireplace….

Hanging above the mantle was an old painting of a German Shepherd I had for 13 years.  She passed away over 10 years ago.  Our family has a new 2 year old German Shepherd (Maya) who deserves her own painting some day. With a little tug on my heart, I made the decision to put away the old painting.   Minimalism emphasizes focusing on what’s most important and determining priorities.  It doesn’t mean your memories are less valuable.  For me,  the less there is to organize and clean, the less time there is spent stressing.   Less stress improves my memory.

So that was the top of the fireplace I just rambled on about.  The bottom of the fireplace? On the right side was a large terracotta pot (which contained a  missing flip flop belonging to my younger son and another toy helicopter), several vases on the left side and some painted Mason jars on the inside.

I decided everything needed to go.   I looked at the fireplace and remembered hearing that just sitting a large interesting picture or piece of art on top of a mantle (not hanging it) helped liven up a room quickly and simply.  I am so not a domestic goddess.  But I know where my domestic goddess friends hang out.  So, I made a quick trip to Hobby Lobby.  Two hours later, I arrived home with something that matched my couches and walls.  (I think it looks like a bunch of mandalas which I also like to color but that’s another story….)

colorful painting


Then, I looked at the lower half of the fireplace and thought of some vases I’d picked up from my sister awhile back.  I could sit them inside the fireplace…..hmmmm…. but then I looked IN the fireplace and saw this:

dirty fireplace


I didn’t want to show that off but I SO didn’t want to clean it either.   Unfortunately,  my kids were spending the week with their father so I couldn’t force them to do it.   No help for it, scrubbing black soot was in my future.

I scrubbed for awhile with MelaMagic (an industrial strength cleaner without harmful chemical ingredients) and also used a little sandpaper.    I wanted it to be totally white but this is a fireplace, after all.  We do use it when it gets cold but that’s months away.  I was hoping to make the fireplace mostly bare.  I got pretty close to making all the stains come up though.  Check it out:

Fireplace after Melamagic


That being done, I grabbed the vases and now the fireplace is one of the places I can tell my kids – when they are cleaning the living room – “and there should be NOTHING on the fireplace!  The room isn’t picked up if there IS!”    Here’s my minimal fireplace:

Minimal fireplace