In this post: Turn everything you know about decluttering on its head. Learn why you need to empty a space before decluttering! See why this is the missing trick to finally decluttering your home for good!
For years I decluttered the way most experts recommend- review each space and remove the stuff that isn’t essential, useful, or joyful. The problem was, I seemed to continue to have to minimize the same spaces over and over. Don’t get me wrong, minimizing your home is a continual process. As long as stuff flows into your home, you’ll need to analyze it for usefulness.
The problem was I kept decluttering the same rooms, again and again, year after year. They’d stay organized and tidy for a little while, but the long term transformation I was after wasn’t there. I felt like I was never really making the impactful progress I was seeking. However, once I shifted my mindset with this one question, everything changed. Now I empty a space before decluttering. This single method has changed everything!
If you haven’t achieved the success that you’ve been after on your minimizing journey, it’s time you tried this method. It might sound like a lot of work, but I promise you the results are worth it! Need more convincing? Take a look at this!
7 Reasons to Empty a Space Before Decluttering
1. It helps you get a vision for the space
The more we live in a space, the more it slowly fills with stuff. Just as gas fills the container it’s in, our stuff seems to naturally fill the rooms in which it’s kept. As more and more accumulates, it can become difficult to keep a specific purpose for a space.
When you empty a space before decluttering, it allows you to look at the area through fresh eyes. The room becomes a blank canvas. And like an artist, you get to paint the picture of what you want that room to look like. Before a single item returns to the room, spend some time creating a vision for it.
What do you want the room to feel like? What types of activities or events will take place there? Who needs access to the space, and for what purposes?
2. It allows you to rethink the room’s furniture placement and organizational systems
Many times we place furniture in a room when we move in and years later, it’s still in the same spot. Maybe that’s because it’s already in the most sensible spot in the room. Or maybe it’s because we haven’t given any thought to alternatives. When you empty a space before decluttering, it allows you to see the bones of the room and all you have to work with.
Note: If you live alone or can’t move large furniture pieces, that’s alright. Move out as much as you can and do your best to visualize the space with what remains.
Take time to consider your furniture pieces and where they’re located in the room. Analyze if the placement you have been using makes the most sense. Consider the furniture you own in other parts of your home. Maybe something else will serve the purpose better? Rethink the storage solutions you currently use. Once you begin placing items back in the space, focus on these systems and how they can be modified to best serve your needs.
Rethinking organizational systems
We always had a shoe rack on the floor in the master closet. The problem was that most of my shoes fell off it, or our toddler would take them off to play with them. If I brought up shoes from downstairs, more often than not, they’d find their way near the rack, but not on it.
While decluttering some clothing and accessories, I removed enough to regain access to a shelf that had previously been filled. By placing my shoes on the now empty shelf, it made it easier to access them. Plus, it was so nice to see the closet floor clear and not piled with shoes.
In theory, the shoe rack should have helped me be more organized. In reality, it prevented me from achieving the goal. By rethinking my organization, I found a system that worked better for me.
A note about organizational systems
When you empty a room before decluttering, it’s essential to pare down first, before considering any storage solution options. Organizing your stuff into bins and baskets won’t solve your clutter problem. However, once you have simplified your space, choosing the right storage options can go a long way in keeping your remaining items neat and tidy. If you’re thinking about what your storage needs might be in the space you’re emptying, here are some of my favorites!
3. Emptying a space requires you to touch each item
When you empty a space before decluttering, you must physically touch each item as you move it. This forces you to make a decision about it. The item is in your hand. You have to do something with it. Do you keep it? Donate it? Trash it? Store it? Take the time to touch each item and analyze its value in the room.
If the item aligns with your vision for the room, place it in the collection of items to be returned to the room. However, if it no longer serves a purpose in the newly decluttered room, decide if it would serve a purpose in a new place in your home. Pack it up for donating if you no longer want it.
If you can’t figure out an immediate purpose but aren’t ready to let the item go, place it in a holding container for decisions to be made later. While you don’t want to place too many items in this container, don’t spend too much time analyzing your decisions. You don’t want to hamper your progress. Allow yourself permission to go back and make decisions about those items at a later time.
4. It’s difficult to add items to an empty room
Once you empty your room, you can begin to appreciate the amount of space you have. Your room is a clean slate. All the clutter is removed and it resembles the day you first moved in. It’s hard work to empty a space before decluttering. The last thing you will want to do is fill it back up again! Use this to your advantage!
Be particular with what returns to the room! Like a museum curator that meticulously determines which pieces to have on display at an exhibit, so should you be choosy about what you allow into your newly emptied space.
5. It forces you to see just how much clutter you had crammed into the room
Seeing everything you have had crammed into your space out in the open, piled high in boxes or bins, can be humbling. It can be discouraging to see all the money and time you have traded for stuff. However, history is history and the regret will only hamper your progress. Just because you wasted time or money on something isn’t a good reason to keep it- no matter what the cost!
Instead, be grateful that you have the wisdom you have now heading into your future. Keeping too much stuff at this stage will only weigh you down as you seek to live with less. If you spent hundreds of dollars on clothes that still have tags on them, keeping them stuffed in the back of the closet isn’t going to reduce your guilt, or help you feel better about your space. Send them on to someone that can use them and take it as a life lesson.
6. Emptying a room helps you identify duplicates and find hidden gems
Often when clearing out a space you’ll find duplicates of items. I once found four pairs of nail clippers in my vanity drawer. I’ll never need to stash clippers in four separate places in my home, let alone have a use for that many sets. I kept my favorites and got rid of the rest.
Decluttering a space can often lead to finding hidden gems as well. Maybe it’s a piece of jewelry you had long given up on finding, or a favorite scarf that seemed to disappear. Sometimes we have so much stuff that we forget what we own! Dragging everything out from the dark corners and drawers of your room can refresh your memory (and keep you from purchasing another duplicate product).
7. It makes it easier to deep clean, paint, or add new organizational systems
One of my favorite ways to freshen up a room is with a new coat of paint. It’s relatively cheap (compared to other design changes like furniture) and it makes a big bang for your buck! Painting around furniture and clutter is challenging. It is significantly less work to paint an empty room. So, since you’ve emptied the room to declutter, why not take the time to give it a good cleaning and a fresh coat of paint? Vacuum up those cobwebs. Clean the carpets or mop the hardwoods. Hang a new closet organizer (we installed organizers in every bedroom to keep organized! I am all about lots of shelves in a closet!). Paint the walls and trim. You’ll be amazed at what a difference it makes as you begin to add your elements back into your space.
Won’t decluttering this way take too much time?
You might argue that it takes way more time to empty a space before decluttering than it does to just declutter traditionally (scan the room and remove items). While there’s no denying that this method might take more time in the immediate, I do not doubt that it will save countless hours in the long run.
I have decluttered spaces many times over in my decade-plus journey to minimalism. The rooms I have decluttered traditionally have needed to be completely decluttered several times. It might take months or years to peel back the layers and get the room to the level of minimized that feels right. The problem with this is that no room ever just felt done. They all felt like works in progress, and that felt overwhelming.
Conversely, I have decluttered four rooms with the empty a room before decluttering method and I have yet to redo the process in those spaces! This is HUGE for me! Sure, I’ve done quick decluttering walkthroughs to keep the spaces tidy, but I’ve not had to dedicate hours, days, or weeks to decluttering those rooms over again. Did you hear that?!?! If you empty a space before decluttering, you will likely never have to declutter that space again!
To me, saving all that time over & over again is well worth the additional time upfront. Not to mention, the rooms stay looking amazing! I can clean my kids’ rooms in well under 10 minutes each, and the same can be said for my office and our master bedroom. Since the rooms only contain what’s necessary for the space, and everything has a place, it’s easy to get them back to good
if they become disheveled when my tiny tots destroy them.
It’s time to start: empty a space before decluttering
If you’re like me and you haven’t gotten the impact you’ve been after when decluttering a space, this method is for you! Which room in your house could benefit from a total empty out? Hint: often it’s the room that seems the hardest to keep clean!
Maybe you are about to transition your child’s room or want to finally tackle that master bedroom. Empty a space before decluttering and watch how this method will transform your minimalism journey! Remove everything, be ruthless with what returns, and you’ll be amazed at the results!
And, the room will look so nice in the end, I bet you’ll be more mindful of what you allow in that space in the future!