Start a full-room organizing project with a blank canvas

Earlier this week, our landlord brought in floor layers to pull up the carpet in our master bedroom and replace it with wood flooring. This meant we had to get everything except for the bed frame and mattress out of the room so the flooring guys could work their magic.

Once the crew finished, we moved our dresser, alarm clock, lamps, nightstand, and a bench back into the room. Then, we made the bed, rolled out a new area rug, and stopped moving things back into the space. We didn’t move anything else back into the room because we loved the way it felt with nothing else in there. Without clutter and extraneous furniture, our bedroom felt calm and relaxing again. When talking to each other about the room, my husband and I have used the words refuge and retreat numerous times to describe it. Now, we’re in the process of finding new homes for all the other things that were in the room, such as we moved the hamper to the bathroom, relocated family photographs and books to the bookshelf in the living room, and took a box of charity donations to Goodwill. We were surprised by the amount of stuff that was living in our bedroom that we didn’t want to have in there.

This exercise was a good reminder that there are significant advantages to moving everything out of a space as the first step of a full-room uncluttering and organizing project. When you remove everything, you get to see the bare bones of the room. Additionally, you can bring items one-by-one back into a space to decide if you really want something in that room and be attuned to its presence and its best place. It’s also immediately obvious when a room looks and feels the way you want it to, and you know that everything outside the room needs to be trashed/recycled/donated/relocated because it doesn’t belong in the room.

When you’re uncluttering and organizing a full room, keep these questions in mind once the room is empty:

  • Structurally, does any repair work need to be completed in the room? Do walls need to be painted? Do floorboards need to be cleaned? Do any holes need to be patched or cobwebs vacuumed?
  • What are the purposes of this room? What are my goals for this space?
  • Is the large furniture in its best place? Should the furniture be rearranged?
  • Does all of the furniture need to come back into this space? Why? How does each piece of furniture help me to achieve the goals for this space?
  • Do the decorative elements in this room add or detract from the purposes of this room? Do they inspire me? Do I find them beautiful?
  • Do the other items that are going into this room belong in this room? Is this the best place for these items to live? Do I need these items to meet the goals of this room?
  • Are items placed where I use them? Is there a place for everything, and is everything in its place?
  • Once the room is set, decide if the items that didn’t make it back into the room need to be trashed, recycled, donated, or relocated. Be careful not to let the clutter from one room become clutter in another room.

If you don’t have the space in your home to temporarily hold all the furniture and items of another room, set down a tarp in your yard or driveway and move your things outside (obviously, only do this in good weather). If you’re in an apartment or condo, give your neighbors a head’s up, and then take over the hallway for a few hours. I’ve found that when you use a space outside your home as a temporary holding location, you’re motivated to work quickly and efficiently, which is also a good thing.

The image above is not of our bedroom, but it certainly represents how our room feels to me now.

12 Comments for “Start a full-room organizing project with a blank canvas”

  1. posted by Jenni Shaver on

    This is such a great idea. We recently replaced our carpet and did the same thing. We only have a bed, two small night stands, and a dresser in our room. It is so refreshing to just walk into our room. It is much easier to keep tidy because there is nothing to hide the mess. I love a no clutter space!

  2. posted by Victoria on

    This is a very apt post for me. I’ve been painting an entire three bedroom house in the past week in order to move into it next weekend. It’s all painted in a neutral colour (Natural Calico) with white gloss woodwork throughout and now I have to decide what furniture to take from the old (bigger)house to put into the new house. My new bedroom already has two freestanding white wardrobes. My bed and two nightstands have to go in, but then I’ve got a large space between the two wardrobes left. I’m considering getting a white desk to put between them to serve as a craft area/vanity unit. I don’t want to make the mistake of putting too much stuff in there and making it seem busy and cluttered though.

  3. posted by Abiola, Your Lifestyle Expert on

    Thank you for all of the great advice. I wish that I was able to go blank slate in my space. Keep up the fantastic work!

  4. posted by Emily on

    This is a very timely post for me too. My children’s rooms have gotten completely out of hand and I’ve been thinking about how we can even start the process of de-cluttering them. The way they look now is simply too overwhelming for them (and me) to process! So this is it. Empty them out. Then once they see the room empty, have them decide what is most precious and goes back in. Beautiful.

  5. posted by MichelinTexas on

    YES! I read another blog where the author emptied a room to paint and brought back one item at a time until she was happy – she called it “resetting” the room. In the past year, we’ve “reset” almost all of our house and garage. We empty, clean and repair one room at a time. It doesn’t usually take long to get the cleaning and repair done and put the furniture we plan to keep back in a room. Then we cull, clean out and declutter everything else we removed from the room (this takes longer) and we don’t put anything back unless we love/need/use it. We have one small room left to finish now. We’re older and don’t work full time or have children at home, so we have more time and flexibility than most people. Maybe doing this on weekends could make this work for others. We hate garage sales, so we’ve donated the “stuff” we didn’t want or need.
    This has been a very easy, painless way to declutter, organize and downsize. By doing so, we’ve generally simplified our lives. We spend less money, there’s less stress and the house is easier to take care of. We love the results – they’re soooo satisfying!

  6. posted by Canadian Free on

    This is pretty much what I do. Works well for smaller rooms. But I find re -organizing the kitchen is a lot more of a challenge.

  7. posted by Carol on

    This reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend recently. She was telling me about “sleeping hygiene” and how bedrooms should only be used for two things. She said everything that doesn’t relate to either of those should be removed from the bedroom (ie no tv, no exercise eqipment, no bookshelves etc).

  8. posted by luxcat on

    a very well timed post for me as well. we are in the middle of moving from 1750SF to about 3000SF. Our goal is to add nothing except one bed, and possibly to get rid of more things that we find extraneous once we get settled in.

  9. posted by chacha1 on

    I want the room in the photo. :-)

    Our mid-century apartment came with lots of closet space and we chose a platform bed with built-in drawers, so we don’t need dressers; and there’s a bathroom for each of us, so we don’t need a vanity.

    It’s nice to have only what you *need,* in a space.

  10. posted by JF on

    I recently had an itch to rearrange the bedroom while my wife was out of town (I know, dangerous!). Our bedroom didn’t appear cluttered, but there was a lot of stuff in little decorative basket-things, in the nightstands, etc.

    In either case, once I decided to start moving around some furniture, I had to empty this and that container to be able to move things around. As it turned out, I inadvertently took everything out of the room so that I could have the space to arrange and rearrange at will.

    Ultimately, I started going through a bunch of stuff and, wouldn’t you believe it, I was able to get rid of nearly everything that we had stuffed away in our nightstands, the little wicker baskets, etc. Although the room wasn’t particularly cluttered in the first place, it was amazing just how much stuff had actually accumulated in the room and had zero value.

    When my wife got home, I sort of anxiously tried to postpone her going into the bedroom (it was totally rearranged!), but she actually loved it and thought that it made the space much more relaxing/soothing/etc!

    It takes a lot of effort to empty a room, but the purgative process really is therapeutic!

  11. posted by linda on

    This is timely; I am planning to refinish the wood floors and I’m thinking of donating a few large items to an agency that provides shelter for homeless people. I don’t need half of this stuff and somebody else can benefit. Adios, Stuff!

  12. posted by jessiejack on

    @JF You are one brave dude!

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