January 15, 2015

When I started the process of decluttering our home, at first, I felt a little resistant. Our house stays relatively clean and picked up. It's not overflowing.

Yet, something still didn't feel right. Something deep in my gut told me I could do better. After reading through a few books on the subject, I decided to start with the place that should be the most relaxing part of our home - the bedroom.

In our little San Francisco apartment, storage is a big (small?) problem. We have one tiny closet in our bedroom, a small coat closet, and then a big closet in our dining room that has to store anything else we own from hiking gear to Christmas ornaments. The result is that when guests or visitors were coming, our bedroom became the dumping ground for things around the apartment that didn't have a proper home - my husband's workout equipment, the giant suitcase that is too big to fit under the bed and can't fit in the overflowing dining room closet, laundry. You get the idea. We tried in earnest to keep it picked up, but after letting it lay there a couple of days we started to ignore it and the end result is our room was not the calm oasis it should be.

Here's the process I used to start bringing order back, and hopefully, it will inspire you to do the same. I highly recommend you begin on a Friday evening so that you have plenty of time to devote to this over the weekend and it doesn't interrupt your weekday routine.


Take everything out. Yes. Everything. You name it, it needs to leave. Make another room your staging ground. I pulled down curtains, all the photos off the wall, cleared the tops of nightstands, removed decorative pillows, emptied all dresser drawers and closet, and moved any furniture out that wasn't absolutely needed. If you've got stuff stored under the bed, move that out, too.

When I was done, all that remained was our bed, two pillows, sheets, and two nightstands with lamps.

Step back. How does it feel to have a stark, empty room? When you go to bed Friday night with less, do you sleep better? Does it feel a little more peaceful and quiet? 

When you wake up Saturday morning, what do you notice? The way the light filters through the bare windows? The excitement of a fresh start?

I'm willing to bet this feeling is just the jumpstart you need to get and keep things in order, permanently. Who wouldn't want to wake up in this room every day? Sit in the empty space for a while and ask yourself what the long term vision is for your space. How do you want to feel when you walk in the room? Let your gut be your guide as we move to the next step.


Looking through the objects - don't touch your clothes, for now - you removed, what doesn't belong? 

Are you storing something under your bed that could really have a new, better home? One that makes more sense for what it's used for? 

For me, it was wrapping paper. For my husband, it was his workout equipment. We don't wrap gifts or lift weights in our bedroom, why would we keep those objects there? We pulled them aside to try and find a better place to store them.

Are you finding things you had no idea you had? Things you don't even need that could immediately go?

I found three old cell phones (flip phone, really?) and various cables that were stored in a clear "electrics" container under our bed. Along with the boxes for Kindles, iPads, and multiple generations of iPhones. You don't need those. I didn't need those. They definitely don't belong under the bed. Donate or trash accordingly.

Are there decorative objects that no longer spark joy for you?

Everything looks different once it's out of its usual place. Objects tend to fade in the background once they've become stagnant. But moving them outside of their designated spot allows you to see them more clearly.

Does the print you have hanging on the wall calm you, or do you actually not really like it? Does it truly inspire you, or is it just a space filler? If you can't make a decision now, consider storing it elsewhere until you either miss it so much you hang it back up, or find that you don't miss it at all and can now donate it.

It's very important to place your hand on every single object, and ask yourself these questions. It takes longer, but the end result is so worth it. Keep pressing on!

By now, you've had a busy day. It takes a long, long time to go through things and the more you have, the more you will need to sort. Don't lose hope if it's taking you longer. See the project through and take as long as you need.


Give your room a good cleaning. You'll be surprised that a task that once seemed monumental, like wiping down the baseboards or vacuuming wall to wall including under the bed, is now pretty easy with fewer objects blocking your way.

This step is absolutely crucial - you will notice a difference in how the air in your room feels, and the task of caring for your home is deeply satisfying when done correctly.


Put everything back that you've sorted and determined is a keep. Leave your clothes out of the room for now - we're just focusing on furnishings, decorative items, and things you use daily in the bedroom. These might include:

A treasured photo in a frame you like to keep on your nightstand

Jewelry dish that you place your daily wear items in.

That artwork that you love waking up and seeing.

One book you're currently reading.

Things you might not put back:

The chair that you never sit in but becomes a dumping ground for dirty clothes.

Things you're storing under your bed that can be stored elsewhere.

Space filling decorative objects that have no sentimental value.

Extra pillow that you have to toss aside every single night that you don't even like that much.

You get the idea. 

Give everything a good dusting and wipe down before you put it back in your clean room.

Take a look around - how does the room feel now? Does it have the end result you envisioned when you started? Is something missing?

If you feel something is missing or feel the sudden urge to purchase something to fill an empty wall or space, I encourage you to sit with that feeling for a week. Many times, the answer is that nothing new is needed, your gut is just resisting change and telling you that it is. After a week, you will have a clearer understanding of whether it's a need versus a want.


Maintain. Maintain. Maintain.

With a clean slate, objects that don't belong will become more apparent. Clutter will be more noticeable. Once you see it, take steps to immediately put it back in its right place.

Make your bed every day. The habit of bed making is a turning point - start doing it and see if you don't feel a little bit less stressed and more accomplished as you start the day. And if you don't know the feeling of sinking into a crisp, well-made bed at the end of a long day, you're in for a treat.

Stop the flow of items into the room. For now, stop purchasing new clothes or accessories until we've had a chance to sort through the ones you already own - you know, the ones still in the other room. We'll get to that.

Do you think you're up for the challenge? I would love to hear if you have a great tip that you've used to maintain order in this room. I know it's easy to allow items to creep in because I fight that battle in my own home. How are you taking control?



  1. Maintenance is key!

    Somehow, we've ended up with less stuff then we had in our SF studio a decade ago. One of those studios where the large closet houses the bed with a curtain separating it from the living space. We used one linen closet in the hall, a dresser in the "living room" and it was PACKED. Oh man, I miss SF! I could do it so much better as a minimalist now :-)

    Now we have a 2bd/1bath 800 sq foot house in Seattle, with a carport and a garden shed. More room and less stuff, but only because we maintain. When we clean the house every other week (for a thorough cleaning), we open every drawer, examine every closet shelf. And it makes all the difference in the world. Things can sneak in, from work, house projects, etc. and just stay if you let them!

  2. We will be out of town this weekend, but reading this makes me chomp at the bit for next weekend when I can get to decluttering!

  3. Nice tips! Beautiful room too!


  4. It's exhausting, but so rewarding. Enjoy your trip.

  5. I love hearing stories like that - I feel like I own less now that we live in SF (moved from Atlanta) but I know we can definitely streamline more. I especially like your tip about examining every thing, every other week. It *quickly* takes over if you don't check, and it's so smart to nip it in the bud before it becomes a monster sized task.


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