I’ve been decluttering a lot lately. One thing I do that takes a lot of extra effort is to empty a space completely instead of just going through the items in situ. Today I want to share why I think you should do it too, as well as the best and worst things I’ve found while decluttering.
Emptying a space entirely isn’t always easy, and the process is rarely fun. (Case in point, my recent video where I decluttered our master closet. If you’d like to see the mess my bedroom was in, click that play button.)
So why bother? Well, for all these reasons:
1. Size up the beast
This is exactly why Marie Kondo recommends taking everything out and putting it in a pile. It’s really hard to deny you have too much stuff when it’s all balanced precariously in front of you. It might be just the shock therapy you need to make a drastic change.
I have yet to empty a space and not wonder how all that stuff managed to fit in there. Trust me, it doesn’t seem like a lot until you pull it all out. Then, behold the beast!
2. Check out of the Overlook Hotel
When you’re going through items without taking them out of the space, particularly if they’re packed, it’s likely you’ll overlook something. Holes in clothes are hard to spot when left hanging, and you won’t even notice how worn and torn the item at the bottom of that box is until you go through it.
Deficiencies are hard to spot in dark, tight spaces. Bring everything out into the light of day and I bet some things won’t look quite so appealing after all.
(Note: you don't literally have to take everything outside. 😉
3. Banish blind spots
Just as you can become nose blind to your own odours, you can easily become so accustomed to clutter and certain objects that you barely bat an eyelid.
We also have a tendency towards selective memory. It’s why we come home with a white shirt only to discover we’ve already got three but we still don’t have a pair of plain black pumps. (Just the other day I bought tuna at the store… and then added it to the three other tins we already had in the pantry. >.<)
Emptying a space and going through everything one by one makes it pretty obvious what you're missing... and what you have entirely too much of. Ahem.
4. Hidden treasures
We can probably all recall a time we opened a drawer we hadn’t peeked into in a long time only to spot something wonderful in there. Or diving into the deepest, darkest recesses of our closets and resurfacing with an item we forgot we’d bought.
When I cleared out my home office, I took books off the shelves even though it would have been easy just to scan the spines. Guess what? I found things that had fallen behind them that I didn’t even know about! Hello, extra pens and clips!
Another fun fact for you: my husband lost a family ring several years ago that had sentimental value to him. He tore the house apart looking for it, even searching in the bins. It wasn’t until we were packing to move to the States that I found it for him, wedged behind a pile of books.
(I promise books aren’t always the culprit. Ha ha.)
It might not be newsworthy, but pulling everything out of a space greatly increases your chances of making an exciting discovery.
5. Hidden terrors
If we’re honest, it’s not always good stuff we find. For every stack of coins found down the back of the sofa, there’s also an unidentifiable foodstuff that’s coming up on its first birthday.
Moths, mice, and mould are all examples of things you can uncover when you completely declutter a space. It might not be a pleasant surprise but you should still be grateful because, if left untreated for too long, they could become a much bigger problem. (A stitch in time, an’ all that jazz.)
I once found what I assume was an apple in a bag of mine. I was sad to have to say goodbye to the bag (believe me, it wasn’t salvageable) but glad I could contain and eliminate the mould from my house before it became a big issue.
6. Let there be wipes
Having an empty space allows you to give it a really deep clean. For a lot of us, I’m guessing things like closets and pantries don’t always get the benefit of a good dust and wipe. That means that allergens and other nasties can build up, polluting the air you’re breathing and potentially damaging their surroundings. And ‘like’ attracts ‘like’, so all those bits of dust and crumbs play a siren song for unwanted critters.
When you also remove things like pieces of furniture, your floor may be vacuumed in places that haven’t seen the light of day in years.
Behold what lay beneath the washer and dryer in our old home:
7. Furniture formation
Sometimes you get so used to a room and its layout that you can’t see it’s not the best setup. When everything’s out, however, you get a clearer vantage point of what might work better. In a cluttered room, it’s hard to move things around; in an empty room, you’ve got the space to get creative.
That's exactly what happened to me when I decluttered my home office recently. Once the room was empty I was able to see what worked best where. It made such a huge difference, not just to the look of the space but also to how I use and enjoy it.
8. No more missed connections
One thing I always recommend when re-organising a space is to categorise your items and keep like with like. It makes things much easier to find.
This isn’t always easy to do, though, when you’re just shuffling things from one shelf to the next. As with the redecorating, taking everything out makes it much easier for your items to find their mates.
9. Love & loss
When I see a completely empty space in my home, looking all fresh and bare, the last thing I want to do is pack it back up. I’m much more discerning about what I keep because I know that every item that goes back in is taking away from the clean slate. I don’t want that, so I make damn sure I love that thing before I let it mess up my space.
Next time you’re taking on a decluttering project, consider completely emptying the space. Yes, it will extend the process a little longer, but I bet the benefits will outweigh the time investment.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever found while cleaning or decluttering?