Reset a room: simplify your space with a fresh pair of eyes

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by Emily

Emily Walker writes about making your home a haven, and is a stay at home mom to two littles. While she and her husband have fixed up their 1960s ranch home, Emily has learned lessons along the way in do-it-yourself, making do with what you have, simplifying, and living life to the fullest. When she's not busy bossing her husband around on remodel projects, Emily blogs at Remodeling This Life.

This past weekend, my husband and I repainted our living room. A few years of kids running around and putting scuffs and dings on the walls, not to mention one major home improvement project, made this painting a necessity.

To ease my mind about taking care of the furniture during the process, we moved almost everything right out of the room. We removed mirrors, shelves, photos off the walls, and books off of the shelves, and then moved almost all of the furniture out of the room.

It was then that I decided this was the best time ever to really simplify the space — I was going to reset the room, declutter, and start with a clean slate.

From my experience, here’s how to quickly and easily simplify your space by resetting a room.

Part One: Take Everything Out

Sometimes, organizing and decluttering feels like a losing battle because I find myself shuffling things around instead of actually removing things that I just don’t need, use, or love anymore. They stay because they are there.

When you remove everything from the room, you’ll see how open and free the space feels. You’ll therefore be much pickier about what you choose to put back in.

As I moved things out of my living room, I noticed that some stuff didn’t really belong, but over time they had somehow blended in with the space. Once you’ve removed everything from the room, it’s easy to see what to put back – only the things you need, use, and love.


Photo by Remodeling This Life

Part Two: Put Stuff Back

By starting over with a blank slate, you can better visualize your space. It’s hard to see where to move a chair, table, couch or photo when there is already stuff everywhere.

Picture how you want to walk into the room, what you want to see, and very importantly, what you don’t want to see. When I reset my room, I deleted about 20 percent of what was there. There were knickknacks from shelves, books that were outdated and untouched, and accessories that just weren’t working in the space. They were things that just didn’t belong.

As you add things back into your space, go slowly. Let the space breathe. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in simplifying my spaces is that open space is okay. Less is more.

Questions to ask yourself before you add things back:

  1. Do I love it?
  2. Does it work in the space?
  3. Do I use it?

It’s easy to declutter and say goodbye to things when you’re looking at them in a box, armed with a donation bag next to you and a beautiful open space in front of you. The choice is easy. Keep what you need and love, get rid of what you don’t.

A note from Tsh: Reading Emily’s post here reminds me a lot of what I wrote in my e-book, Spring Cleaning for Normal People. Yes, this is a shameless plug. But I did want you to know — especially you newer Simple Mom readers — that if you’re interested in a step-by-step process that leads you through this exact process that Emily describes, well then, I know of a little handy-dandy guide. The e-book encourages you to ask questions about all your stuff based on the famous quote by 19th century architect William Morris: “Have nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” And then gives you the kick in the pants to do the things you need to do. Head here to learn more about it.

Do you have tips or tricks for streamlining and simplifying the spaces in your home? Please share in the comments!

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Comments

  1. Less is more. I’ve purposely kept the number of toys my daughter has to quality basics, and I see her being so creative with what she has as well as content. I also take the same approach with my wardrobe.

    • Less is more has become my new motto in the last year. I think it’s amazing how fabulous a room can look when you reassess your stuff, declutter, and almost remodel when you put it back together. I’m actually having fun by choosing one room every few months to “remodel” in a new way.

  2. Simplify Your Space with Fresh Pair of Eyes….the title of this post attracted me, caught my attention. We indeed at times need to reset the things, we are used to… A lot more you discover in the process of resetting, may it be the one to reset your living room or any other area. Even some matters in our daily life need resetting; there we need a fresh pair of eyes to see from a clearer viewpoint…the out and in process is enough to make the picture clear and help you in reset.

  3. Lovely ideas, Emily. We’ll be moving home soon and I’m looking forward to it mainly because it will give me a big chance to do a thorough declutter and decorate the new space with things I love and that truly reflect who we are as a family.
    Thank you for this post.

  4. Wonderful pictures and inspiring post!

    The challenge I run into is that there are four other people in this household, many of whom have very different ideas about what they love and what is useful! ;)

    My decluttering solution is to be constantly working on decluttering. It’s a process, one that needs to be undertaken time and time again to really make a difference. Progress is in small increments (and sometimes in big leaps, as with your suggestions above).

    Another suggestion: MOVE! It’s drastic, but two moves in a year (one cross-country, one cross-town) has shown me a lot about what we “need” and what we don’t.

    Thanks again-

  5. I have to do the same thing with my office every few months or so. As much as I try, it just gets crazy if I don’t throw things out regularly. I like to ask myself if I’ve used it recently and if not, it can go. :)

  6. I’m a decorator-wannabe, so I end up helping many of my friends (and grown children) when they’re ready for a change – or when they make a move. I love your advice, partially because it is exactly what I do :) I completely empty out a room – taking everything off the walls and floors (usually to be used in other places to bring a newness or maybe even a change in function.)

    It’s always helpful to have a friend with a fresh perspective – but I prefer to help friends I don’t know too well (LOL) because some people need a gentle push to get rid of non-essentials (like the collection of strawberry ….everything! in their kitchens. ) On the other hand, I’d never tell anyone to get rid of something they love and find joy in. However, sometimes those pieces need to be moved around a bit.
    Great advice!

  7. I recently did this was my kids rooms. We decided to switch the older two kids rooms so that my middle child could share a bedroom with the baby. Simply mocing the baby wouldn’t be a possibility because one room is quite small. :) I had to repaint both bedrooms since they were quite gender specific, my older son apparently didn’t want a purple and green polka dotted room! :) And everything had to come out of both bedrooms.

    It was the perfect opportunity to weed through all their toys and memorabilia. They were champs at picking out the things they loved and things they could part with. I took the opportunity to decorate their rooms in a way we both could love. The best part…I paid for it all from the proceeds I made from a consignment sale of their old clothes and toys!

  8. Taking everything out is a trick I learned from Simple Mom (the e-book, actually, now that you mention it) and I definitely agree with you that it works, especially if you feel like you’re spinning your wheels with cleaning and decluttering or just getting tired of the space but not knowing how to visualize it any other way than how it is right now.

    And, I love questions you give to ask ourselves as we’re putting stuff back in:
    1. Do I love it?
    2. Does it work in the space?
    3. Do I use it?

    Simple, but effective. (my kind of decorating!)

    Here’s to hitting the “re-set” button and getting a fresh perspective :-)

  9. Excellent advice !

    I’ve told the exact same things to the first few clients I’ve had with my budding Organization business.

    It’s amazing the things we hold onto that don’t really serve a purpose, or bring us joy/happiness in some way. Freeing yourself of these items on a regular basis really does breathe freshness and vitaility back into our spaces and that can carry over into your life!

    Enjoy your freshified space – it looks GREAT! ;)

  10. Thanks for the ideas! I’m getting ready to “fall clean” and declutter.

  11. I seriously need to reset a room or two!!! When we are in the depths of our school year so our organization slips and slides… but I am thinking a week off to do a household RESET would do us all a bit of good!!!

  12. What a wonderful idea!! I think I need to reset most of the rooms in my house (one at a time).

  13. I am finding that asking myself how often I (or my family members) have used an item in the past year is really helping me to get rid of items that are taking up valuable “real estate” in my cupboards and shelves. I also have set up regular “declutter” appointments to stay on track with the “less is more” lifestyle. Thanks for the tips!

  14. I feel validated!

    Last week, my husband offered to help declutter the Littles’ bedroom. The room has the potential of being every mom’s dream, thanks to a whole wall of built-ins. Instead, the room had become nothing less than a nightmare, thanks to that very wall.

    I couldn’t even imagine where to begin…except to box up everything. Everything! When I told the Captain (hubby) my plan, he looked at me like I was out of my mind. And, to be honest, I wasn’t sure I didn’t agree. We did it anyway.

    We are still in the process of deciding what goes back in and what goes out, but I must say that I feel like my crazy idea has somehow been validated.

    Thank you.

  15. There is something about de-cluttering / organizing that makes me feel peaceful. Love this blog post! Thanks for sharing.

  16. We came face to face with the “less is more” saying when we moved 3 months ago. A 22 foot truck could not hold everything to get it from Arkansas to Texas, so we had to go back for a second trip! Instead of unloading it all into our apartment, which is about half the size of our house, most of it went straight to a 10×30 storage room. It is amazing how spacious this apartment feels compared to our 2000+ sq ft. house. Lots of boxes to go through now, lest I throw out some family mementos that I’ll regret later…..

  17. I just reorganized the kids’ closet last night! We took everything out and built new shelving. I put everything back in and was left with a pile of random stuff in the middle of the room that very clearly needs to be donated. Ahhhh….

  18. I love this! Almost every time I deep clean I can find something to toss in the give away pile. My mom’s motto is, “one bag in, one bag out.” So if she buys stuff, that means she needs to get rid of stuff too! That’s a good reminder of how often we add needless items to our home and it has made me more conscious of what I buy.

  19. This is so true. This fall I was just telling my boys that when I was their age that I would totally rearrange and clean out my room. It made it feel like a whole new space that I loved spending time in. When I worked in industry, sometimes the only way to create positive change was to remove all the equipment, parts, and miscellaneous desks and tools, clean up the space, then put everything back but only what was needed and in the spot where it was needed. Then suddenly everyone could see the possibilities! I am inspired…I think I will go clean out a room!

  20. Well said. When my husband & I bought our townhouse last fall, my first thought was- “I want our house to be open, airy, inviting & relaxing.” So far so good. :)

  21. We just did the exact same thing! We removed carpet to refinish a hardwood floor and lightened the paint in our living room. The room looked beautiful when we were done and so we really took our time moving things back in. We now have much less stuff in there and I feel so happy and light every time I walk into the room. Now if I could just get my husband to do this in our bedroom…

  22. I just wanted to say–I LOVE the blue on the walls! What a cheerful, rich color!!!

    I agree–keep only the things you love, want to see. With a house filled with a couple of packrats, that goal is ongoing, ongoing, constant, sometimes I just want to give up!!! In fact, it’s what I’m doing–again–today. :-)

    I would love to see more of the pretty blue room!!

  23. Ahh! This is exactly where I am right now and after much reflection I had come up with this exact plan to empty everything and start fresh with only the things I love for their functionality and making me feel happy and serene. It has taken me several months of contemplation to come up with an action plan for simplifying and now I find it all right here in your simple but awesome blog post! Love it, and I feel like I am on the right path to success!

  24. Great advice! We are getting ready to repaint our living room after ten years, and I will be putting your words to good use!

  25. I had to comment on your pictures. I love your rooms. They are so clean, simple, and cozy. I want to cuddle up in your big overstuffed chair by the window and read whatever book that is perched on the arm. Love it!

    Btw, this is also an excellent post. Thanks for sharing!

  26. thank you for the great advice….somehow i find it difficult to have a completely stream-lined decluttered home…it wouldnt feel natural or lived in and i know it sounds nuts but where are people keeping their clothes these days…i only see beds and night tables and chaise lounges in bedrooms..is everyone converting tiny storage rooms into ‘walkin closets’?
    What is so great about stark, empty rooms? A lot of them have the latest ‘stuff’ from tjmaxx or homegoods, yet they claim they simplified, how can that be when they are still wasting time shopping for the latest knick-knack, paddy-wack? Ide rather just keep my old junk and rearrange it, than spend countless hours “refiguring” new rooms, and measuring for stupid subway tiles. By the way, ‘open’ kitchen floorplans are terrible, if you actually are frying fish or cooking real food it is great to have a big sit down kitchen, but for people to insist that they want to “see” what eveyone else is doing all over the house while they fry fish is ludicrous…..happy decluttering

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