A Simple Approach to Living With Less

Go Hard Core with a Clean Slate Room Declutter

“The only thing constant in life is change” – François de la Rochefoucauld

Things are changing here on the home front. Our not-so-little combined household of 10 has decided against making renovations on the house. There’s not a lot of money floating around for home renovations right now, plus we came to a decision as a group that we would rather make do with what we have instead of adding onto mortgage debt.

The result of that decision is that 7 out of the 10 of us, are changing rooms around to make the best use of the space here. It has been pure insanity trying to move everyone around. The process of moving someone completely out of a room before we can move someone (or more than one someone) else in a room has been nothing short of exhausting.

What this crazy room swap adventure has shown me (again) is how much I am loving our minimalist lifestyle. Unfortunately not everyone in this combined household shares those ideals, but interestingly that has just driven the point home for me even more! As we moved my grandmother’s room today, I kept saying to myself and to my mom, “I never want to have this much stuff.” Her room was something like a clown car at the circus. None of us could believe how much she fit in a single bedroom and bathroom.

The really cool after effect of moving a room is creating a clean slate for your belongings. After our move today, we only have two dressers, our bed, two nightstands, and a love seat in our new room. We already know we want to get rid of the dressers as soon as we can choose between either built-in closet storage or under the bed drawers. I’ve seen a really cool headboard set-up at Ikea where the nightstands slide into the headboard so they disappear. I’d love to get that, but we have too large of a mattress and I’m not sure we want to deal with that expense. Finally, the love seat probably won’t stay because it looks too large, but I would like some kind of cozy seating in here.

All I know, is that by starting over with a clean slate, we are even more picky about what is coming into our room to stay. I think it’s awesome and I think it’s a great way to declutter. It can be too easy to overlook clutter if you aren’t physically touching each item you own in order to evaluate it. So I’m challenging you to go hard core and make your own clean slate!

How to Go Hard Core With a Clean Slate Room Declutter

  1. Give yourself adequate time. This is not a project you’ll want to complete half way or you may never get back to finishing it. I would give the process of unloading and reloading a room an entire day just to be safe. The level of clutter will determine a lot.
  2. Decide where the room contents will go during the process. You may want to pick a spot out of the way for any boxes or piles of clothes to go until you have a chance to prioritize them.
  3. Do the big pieces of furniture first. Remove all the furniture pieces first. Then work your way down to the smaller items. I’m assuming you won’t be moving to a new location like we did so keeping the items sorted will help with reloading the room.
  4. Give your room a quick clean. Go ahead and run the vacuum and attack those neglected baseboards. You’ll be glad you did and maybe even a little embarrassed by the mess you’ve been overlooking.
  5. Evaluate your space with new eyes. Now that your room is totally empty, decide if you’d like to put the items in different places or maybe not replace them at all. You’ve got your clean slate so take full advantage of it.
  6. Only put back the essentials. Start by putting back less than you think you need. Yes, the bed gets to come back. But after that, decide if you really like what you have. If new dressers or a built in closet system would help minimize clutter in your bedroom, maybe you should sell some of your old furniture.
  7. Be extra discerning with what you bring back in. If you can stand it, leave the rest of your belongings in a different room and go to that area to declutter your stuff. Donate old clothes, sell your books, and remove whatever else you can before you start bringing things back in. Once it’s back in your room, it will be easy to overlook in the future.

So that’s my challenge to you. It’s a big one, but it pays big rewards. Sometimes the drastic moves are the most rewarding.

Have you taken any drastic moves in your journey to minimalism?


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photo by txpotato

Article originally published on 11/23/2010

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  1. abracadabra says

    So far, my strategy is to get rid of storage and then figure out what to do with what was inside. I had an old desk crammed full of closet-fill e-waste, old stationary, etc. I sold it and I had to empty it when they came to pick it up. Ifigured out where to take the old cables, batteries, CDs, etc. to recycle, gave the out-dated stationary to a preschool for coloring paper, and now have a shoe box full of office supplies looking for a home. Similarly, I had an chest of drawers full of clothes, I sold it, emptied it, and figured out what was worth finding a new home for–very little– and what wasn’t. We have tons of cabinets in the basement. We emptied them, closed them vowing not to put anything in them, and have gotten rid of almost all of that the stuff.

    The upside, it forces me out of my pack rat mentality by making me look at it. The downside, if doing the entire house not just selected storage items, it can get quite messy in the process – flat surfaces and empty corners temporarily accumulating homeless items. But we keep plugging away, clearing and re-clearing and about the third time I trip over something I am secure in moving it to the to-go pile because it wouldn’t be homeless if I had a good use for it.

    • I’ve noticed that the very best way of getting rid of a messy surface (or messy container) is to get rid of that piece of furniture. So far, there has gone a small table with drawers from the entrance hall (now keys have a place on the wall to hang, and nothing else is stored), an unused desk (used to contain unused electronics), side table with drawers (with more unused electronics), etc.

      Most containers only contain what’s not needed. Now I just need to do this for the closet – that I can’t remove, so I actually have to take the stuff out…

  2. Karen (Scotland) says

    I agree with abracadabra that sometimes the best way to get rid of clutter is to leave it out so it is staring you in the face constantly. If I have a handy box or shelf, it’s too easy to tuck it away and “forget” about it for a while. If I leave it lying on my mantelpiece, it will start to annoy me so much that I will take it to the charity shop or find the right place to keep it.

    I also totally agree with Minimalist Mom that reducing furniture is a good way to reduce clutter. My husband just tends to fill whatever space he is given. He had filled five drawers (IKEA Malm, tall, thin unit) with stuff just because he has them. I demanded two of the drawers (didn’t actually use them – this was just a ploy) so he was forced to condense and he ended up getting rid of so much old paperwork and random memorablia (that he couldn’t remember why he had!) Those two drawers are still empty and I’m looking to get rid of the whole drawer unit when we can.

    (And, why does he have paperwork in the bedroom anyways?! We have a whole wee mini-office space at the back of our living area! Aargh!)

    Still loving this blog – haven’t had much time to comment with parents-in-laws then sister-in-law staying for separate weeks.
    Karen (Scotland)

  3. I’m on a mission to declutter (partly for my mental health and partly because we’re moving countries) but we live in fully furnished rental accommodation and I struggle because there is definitely too much furniture. Like Karen, the owners had a need to fill every space with a piece of furniture. I compensate by having lots of clear benches to try and keep the fussiness to a minimum.

  4. I have used a method somewhat like this while going through my house. I pull everything out of whatever it is that I am decluttering (all hung clothes from my closet, and everyhting pulled out of my dresser) then I go through the pile of clothes and evaluate each item before I decide what to do with it. This helped me to declutter my clothing by half! I know there are still some items I can let go, but I’m holding on to them for now…. waiting for round 2 of my declutter!

  5. I have a larger kitchen/dining area/sunroom/office. The office area and the table and the sunroom area have been overrun lately. I pulled ALL the stuff out of the drawers, off the top of all the horizontal surfaces, from the floor, and piled it all on my kitchen table. (we don’t typically eat here everyday) Then I started going through it all. I started out by just getting rid of the trash, going through each piece. That reduced the bulk quite a bit! Then I sorted the things to keep into categories. I had lots that needed to go somewhere else in the house. Then I was able to see what things needed a home in my office area. This was the best way for me to get through everything, rather than just moving it all around and trying to organize clutter!

  6. Thanks for the motivation! We recently enclosed our carport to make a school room and office, and the only thing left to move in is my desk. My huge desk covered with piles of things that I need to do, stacks of paper I might need, and cabinets full of Lord-knows-what. It is the one area that I have not really tackled, and I know it will take a while. I am so excited to strip it down and only put back the necessities, it’s just going to take a big chunk of both time and courage!

  7. The idea of a clean slate has always been one I’ve been in love with. Even something just a simple as a blank sheet of paper is astounding to me. There are so many possibilities of what it can become. I love it.

    I have been decluttering my life and enjoying it but I can’t wait till I can move to a new place and get to start over. I was just writing about this in my personal journal this morning as one of the reasons I want to travel so much. I get to be someone new at each place I go to.

    Thank you, Faith.


  8. I haven’t done anything drastic, I’ve only taken baby steps for almost a year now. I think the best thing I’ve done is to stop buying things. Then I sold and donated things all summer. I’m pregnant now and haven’t done a thing for 3 months, but you are motivating me to begin again. I’m starting my second trimester so I’m hoping for more energy. I like that you’re trying to be a minimalist while living with people who aren’t. I’m doing that too. I have a husband who teases me by saying things like “The power of more” and I have five children who like their stuff.

  9. abracadabra says

    I had to share… we’ve been on an intensive house-wide declutter (not a strong enough word) mission in advance of getting our house on the market. We’ve taken an embarrassing number of trips with full carloads of stuff to Goodwill and a few other charities. I put out 7 full large trash bags for a charity pick-up last week!

    Tonight, I spent a couple of hours going through papers from my undergraduate and graduate programs, removing staples and paper clips and storing into coloring paper for preschool, coloring paper for home, and recycling. When I finished (!!!), I moaned to my husband, “We’re almost finished, right? We are getting to the point we don’t get a Goodwill trip from just one room, we’ll have to work at it now, right?” He agreed with the garage and utility rooms as caveats.

    We then preceded to fill our to-go area completely back up in just 20 minutes (it was empty because he had just made a Goodwill run, 2nd of the holiday weekend plus a trip of stuff to a family member’s) with the last of the stuff that had been hanging around the basement from the cabinet purge.

    On the upside:

    I have the kids’ room decluttered. The clothing is more or less under control and almost of their stuff is in 1 medium sized bookcase (2 shelves of books and 2 shelves of toys in bins) and 1 basket for loveys. Now I have a good benchmark — if it doesn’t fit in the bookcase, something probably needs to go.

    I cleaned out the closets where most of my cleaning supplies were and realized one of the absolute best things I have done for beating the clutter is homemade cleaning products. I have a couple of spray bottles, a glass jar for laundry detergent, and a box of washing soda, borax, and baking soda, a jug of white vinegar, and a bottle and a couple of bars of castille soap. I can clean anything in the whole house with some combination and it takes up less than one shelf in the closet versus a clutter of bottles under every sink. It saves a ton of money and it is much better for the environment, including indoor air quality.

    Finally, we were worried about how difficult getting rid of a mattress and box springs would be — they are obviously used but in much too good shape to just toss (we are fanatically trying to throw as little out as possible: sell, pass on, donate, last resort recycle) but donating it tricky especially now with the hysteria about bed bugs… Within 10 minutes of posting on craigslist, we had 3 hits and it was picked up within 3 hours.

  10. Moving rooms sounds like a great way to purge and a good reminder of the value in minimalism. We’ve been working on whole house purge, and while we’re not moving any rooms around, we have been going room by room and making major purges. It’s a big undertaking, but we are on this path to minimalism, and it’s been totally worth the effort.

  11. Loving your blog here! So encouragin… I shoveled out 3 huge bags of mostly clothes from my 8 year old sons room today!! How in the world did he end up with 3 bags full of extra clothing??? Clothes are our main problem…

  12. I have just been telling my husband that we need to pretend we are moving just so that we are forced to sort through every item in our home! I love this idea of one room- completely- at a time. Here’s to early new year’s resolutions- 2012 will be my year of decluttering and maintaining! Starting on December 12th, 2011!

  13. GElMPb2m12w says

    69933 629988Sweet site, super pattern , real clean and utilize genial . 206452

  14. I love the idea of completely decluttering one room at a time; it certainly helps to keep motivated in the big picture of decluttering because the satisfaction you get from seeing such drastic improvement in that one room can really motivate you to continue with other rooms!


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