Freeing up space

I talk a lot about freeing up space in cupboards, closets, shelves and floors. No one ever seems to have questioned me as to what all this space is being freed up for. What is the point in having empty spaces on shelves or floor space that could hold furniture to store or organise all your stuff.

Given that you don’t need to declutter anything if you don’t want to then I could understand why this would come into question. However you wouldn’t even be entertaining the thought of decluttering if being cluttered was working for you.

One thing for sure, that I have mentioned before, is that everything we own requires some sort of maintenance. So the more we own the more effort we have to put in to caring for our stuff. If we aren’t doing that our homes would be a pigsty and some of our stuff will perish prematurely from lack of care. This explains why less stuff is less bother, but it still doesn’t answer the question ~ Why free up space when it is there to be used?.

I have two answers to that question.

Firstly. Even the spaces where we keep our stuff needs maintenance. The dust, grime and wear and tear of everyday life needs to be kept in check in order to retain a clean and functional environment to live in. So the less stuff cluttering up these spaces the easier it is to remove it in order to clean and repair the hardworking surfaces underneath. And also, the less punishment those surfaces endure due to a lighter load the less overall maintenance they will need. The end result being ~ less labour and or less expense.

And my second, but no less important, reason for freeing up space is that the less stuff crammed into a space the easier it is to find and retrieve what you need from it. Once again this saves time and energy. It is so much easier to organise, and maintain organisation, in a space that isn’t jam packed with stuff. The minute you start piling things high and deep, that aren’t exactly the same, time is added to the retrieval process. And likewise, the difficulty returning items will add to the likelihood of messiness taking hold.

It makes me wonder sometime why cupboards, particularly in the kitchen, are build so deep. Pantries are often poorly designed for their function. Designed for maximum storage yes but functionality no.

Could I cram more stuff into the cupboards in my house? Sure I could. Do I want to do that and make life difficult for myself? No, absolutely not. And I especially don’t want to do it with a whole pile of stuff that would get used very seldom. The funny twist to this story is that a lot of what was cluttering up my home in the past was stuff designed to make my work load lighter. But in actual fact it was adding to the problem not solving it.

Life is much simpler for me now and it can be for you too.

Today’s Mini Mission

Tuesday – Declutter small clothing items that you kept just in case when you last purchased new ones. Underwear, socks, Tshirts etc.

“If we do not feel grateful for what we already have, what makes us think we’d be happy with more?” — Unknown

Eco Tip for the Day

Use fewer and less chemicals in your home. I cleaned my whole apartment today. I used a commercially made toilet cleaner and my homemade surface cleaner (made from lemon, vinegar, water and a couple of squirts of biodegradable dishwashing liquid. I could probably even make a toilet cleaner if I put my mind to it, but I use so little of it that I don’t concern myself too much over it. For the floors I only use a microfibre mop and water. Not only is is effective but it is also cheap. Being eco friendly can actually save money when it comes to cleaning. Look around you at airports and shopping centres and you might just notice that the cleaning services are starting to adopt these practices. Not just for the sake of the environment I bet.

For a full list of my eco tips so far click here

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow


Continue reading with these posts:

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  • A thing a day ~ Day 2 I forgot to mention yesterday why it is, after so much decluttering has been done in my home over the years, that there is still excess stuff to be removed. And here is my […]
  • Clutter Maintenance Every time I have moved house I have had a reasonable length of notice. Although, sometimes the definite ~ "Yes we are moving." ~ may have come a little last minute but the maybe had been […]
About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.

Comments

  1. I personally like freeing up space because I find emptier spaces more peaceful to look at and/or live with. The lower maintenance and ease of organization are certainly benefits though.

    Why are kitchen cupboards and pantries not designed to be more functional? Our kitchen has two pantries that are deep and a pain in the butt to organize. And even after getting them organized they don’t stay that way. It is too easy for stuff to just be shoved in willy nilly and other stuff gets forgotten in the deep dark depths of the shelves. ::sigh:: I’ve been trying to figure out ways to redo the pantries for better functionality but without breaking the bank.

    • Your comment was exactly what mine was going to be. I love empty places…peaceful to the mind 🙂

    • Hi Rachel W, I used to use baskets in my last pantry that seemed to work pretty well for me. Although I must admit not storing so much food stuffs sure made that more successful. This time around I went for the “break the bank” solution and installed Blum drawers and I love them. I fI ever had to remodel my kitchen I would replace all shelves with drawers. Of course these drawers a made for heavy weight bearing.

  2. It’s not “empty space”. It’s “breathing room”!

  3. Colleen,

    Wendy B said it best…it’s room to breathe!
    It’s nice to come home at the end of a long day and sit down in a quiet, clutter free space.
    It ‘s a respite from the busy world.

    Thank you for this post. It makes the journey worthwhile. 🙂

  4. Colleen,
    This is one of those posts that exemplifies the whole reason I love to read your blog and the comments. I am not perfect in all aspects of organizing and maintaining minimalism but I am so glad I have empty spaces throughout the rooms of my home to enjoy! I personally don’t understand people who clear out an empty space just to put something else there. That’s their business, but for me less stuff really is less to maintain. And the wear and tear on surfaces is such a real issue, and the burden of stuff that keeps dust and grime built up.
    I had some health issues this last summer and my daily priorities were caring for my little guys, and keeping laundry and dishes up to a reasonable level. I stopped deep cleaning and organizing to conserve energy. I only did spot mopping or spot cleaning on walls, and swept the floor when I felt it needed it instead of compulsory sweepings throughout the day. And our home never looked like a disaster even with toys throughout the house. I kind of felt like all of my (our) hard work over the years to resist consumer temptations and reevaluate what we own really paid off. It was so freeing not to have to worry about what would have been piles of unimportant stuff so I could focus on what was important. And it was a great benefit to my husband as he was putting in extra effort to care for me and the boys to not have to do any extra housework.

    • Hi Jean, thank you for sharing your story. It is a great example of how being uncluttered makes life easy to deal with when adversity strikes and one hasn’t got the time or energy to deal with taking care of their stuff. It only makes sense that the less stuff there is to take care of the easier that task will be.

      • Absolutely! I had read and heard of health issues being made more bearable or more intolerable depending on the state that the home was in at the time illness or disability struck. Now I know from first hand experience what a blessing simplicity can bring to a stressful or exhausting situation.

  5. When I first moved into my apartment I had plastic storage boxes from the move. I found these to be useful to store items in and most were put under my bed.

    In time these irritated me and I slowly found room for the items elsewhere, and some were taken to the charity shop. No more dusting the lids or moving them to hoover under the bed.

    One solution for a new place for some of these was in a half height wardrobe – I decided that the holiday clothes in there were more suited to being stored in a suitcase as I only needed them a couple of times a year whereas I needed linens every week, so I turned the small wardrobe into a linen cupboard and storage cupboard for household items (my kitchen has little storage as I have an open plan kitchen, living and dining room). I turned another small wardrobe into a shoe cupboard but it also houses a drop leaf table. Nice table but I doubt I’ll ever use it.

    I am now thinking I should be using up a lot of the household items, as I don’t really need 5 surface cleaners, washing up liquids, packets of loo rolls etc. Also I tend to use my favourite linens so half of them never get used – I have table cloths that belonged to my mother and grandmother that have memories, but only when I clean the cupboard out. How nice it would be to not have these cupboards full to bursting.

    • Hi Diana, organising become logical once you think outside the box doesn’t it. Sometimes we are blinded by convention so the solution to issues aren’t so obvious but once you begin the stray from that usual straight line of thinking you discover a whole new world of possibility. Improvising is a beautiful think that requires lateral thinking.

  6. Colleen, this is such a good post. I agree with Jean that these kinds of posts are why I like your blog. I love the empty space–that room to breathe. We have come a long way and I know that we will eventually get to where the kitchen is there too. I’m excited about the apartments we will eventually move into. Each one has 3 closets. One in the bedroom with a place for hanging clothes and a shelving area for linens, etc. Then there are one each in the living room area and the dining area. In my place I am going to use the living room one to place shelving to use for my few books, my scrapbook albums, my office supplies, my craft supplies and my newly rebuilt laptop when it is done. This sounds like a lot but I have decluttered to where there are just a few of thes items. In the dining area I plan to use the closet as a pantry by adding shelving. I will also use the upper shelves for the few Christmas items I have. I’m looking forward to this. By the way, the kitchen is rather small because we hopefully won’t have much cooking to do as we get one meal a day (at noon) in the dining room of the complex.

    • Hi Deb J, I am so excited for you. When will the big move take place? I am glad to hear you are thinking ahead because knowing where to put the stuff immediately will make unpacking and organising a one off event rather that a dump, run and reshuffle. There will always be some reshuffle of course but it is best kept to a minimum and uncomplicated.

      I hope that one meal a day they serve is large enough to be your main meal of the day so you need put very little effort into catering for the remainder of your nutritional needs. Most people’s main meal is dinner which is silly really because it sits heavy at bedtime. It was one of those things that got pushed into a later time slot as modern conveniences like electric lighting arrived.

  7. I love open floor space. It’s calming, it’s not out to get my toes, the roomba can clean it easily. And it’s great for the kid. Most of the toys I like him playing with the most require space. The building toys, the imagination toys. Yeah, you can do it smaller, but really–a train track that takes up the ENTIRE room is much more awesome than just a couple square feet.

    • Hi Kayote, I am with you on both points. Having dislocated my toe three times on items lying around I am very protective of it. And building and contruction toys are the best. My siblings and I had a big electric train set we would set up during many a school vacation. We had so much fun with that. I also remember taking over the living room floor to make massive houses from playing cards.

  8. I was asked recently when do you know if you’ve decluttered enough? It is a ‘how long is a piece of string?’ type question but the answer I came up with is: when it feels comfortable. I have a room that needed significant decluttering but after re-painting and re-curtaining, we decided some old tired pieces of furniture needed to go, they didn’t fit the ‘vision’. Unfortunately I haven’t gotten around to putting in place the ‘vision’ and it does look a bit austere, so not ‘comfortable’. On the other hand at the moment my lovely organised hall cupboard is a bit of a shambles with sewing stuff on the go and it being used as another small storage area was integrated into this cupboard a month or so ago and needs another cull. So this cupboard isn’t not functioning in a ‘comfortable’ either. On the other hand, I have rooms which are nice to be in, the right balance has been hit.
    Of course, life is constantly changing and the needs of a room or cupboard can change quite quickly too, but a nice clear area is much easier to adapt than a cluttered area.

    • Hi Moni, I can relate to this. My craft area is still constantly on my list of things to declutter and rearrange. And it isn’t the only area of my home. I think we have the furniture balance close to right though. Having moved into a smaller place, like redecorating, forces one to cast a critical eye over many things.

  9. I can’t tell you how much I love this post! Peace, calm, and breathing room.

  10. I agree, having clear empty space around the house is so liberating! After a closet declutter, a pantry clean-out, or gaining another empty box as I crochet down my yarn stash I feel very uplifted to see the freed-up space. It’s a great incentive to keep going on this journey!

    • That all sound exciting to me Christine. I am glad you are enjoying the journey.

    • I know what you mean Christine: I am down to one basket of yarn for knitting and crocheting (I make a lot of items for charity). I find it refreshing not to have too much. Also if I do occasionally buy new yarn I do it guilt free! (However I don’t often because I get given yarn over time. I accept everything, go through it and donate what I don’t like to the Hospice shop, so everything I have is what I want to use.) Such a good feeling!

  11. I agree with all of the comments. As I have mentioned before, I leave one space empty in each closet, cupboard or piece of furniture. An empty drawer, an empty shelf, an empty rung in the closet works wonderfully for me. There are always items that need very temporary storage whether it is things to be donated, christmas/birthday/holiday gifts, items for an event or party you are planning….the list goes on and on. I always have the space to house these items without interruption to the flow of our home or daily life.

    • Good thinking Kimberley. Even I have a few empty spaces here and there, which is amazing as we have downsized greatly. I would like to make a little more though. My best hope is to eliminate some more craft supplies. A constant enjoyable mission for me. If only I wasn’t tempted to bring more in occasionally, especially when it is free. Listen to me I am breaking all my own rules.

    • Great Kimberley… I must make more free spaces. Recently I cleared the top shelf of my pantry completely. We are entertaining tomorrow and I put all the party stuff on that shelf! So convenient!

  12. Hi, Colleen (and everyone)! While reading this post, the first thing that came to mind was ‘breathing space’ … Wendy B, you must be a kindred spirit 🙂

    I feel that the clear spaces in my home are a sanctuary for mind and spirit. Freeing up space is akin to giving myself and my loved ones a priceless gift. It is also a huge morale booster and increases motivation during the decluttering journey.

    • Hi Nicole V, I feel the same way about space. Sometimes I think I might be a little addicted too it and if I feel it closing in on me I get a little desperate to regain it but I can live with that.

  13. Sorry, I have been too busy to comment in the last few days.
    However, this post really resonates with me. Free space – just like free time – is opportunity. Enjoyed on its own, it’s relaxing and soothing, but it can also be (temporarily) filled: for example with friends whom you can host spontaneously and more adaptive to their needs!
    Heck, I brought out my christmas decorations and even in that regard: I have the empty surfaces and walls to decorate. I can take down my usual pictures and replace them by a garland or a wreath – and store them properly and out of the way in the meantime. I am completely free to go for a minimal christmas decor or cover everything in greenery, candles and bulbs: either way, I have the space for it, so it can shine.
    I know we often discussed christmas decorations here and how much there need to be, but this year it first dawned on me that even for the almost-over-the-top decorators among us, maybe especially for them, there needs to be the room for their decorations. How much better it feels to really have that blank canvas to create your festive home instead of heaping christmassy stuff upon the regular clutter or cramming it in corners, due to lack of space.

    So, I’ll work away at freeing up more and more space!

    • I love this comment, Sanna, and the idea of that curator mentality.

    • You are so right Sanna. Decorating for the holidays is so much easier when the space is already free to fill with fun festive décor. And if decoration to the max is what a person enjoys then with less clutter there is space to store them offseason and space to go all out in the festive times.

  14. I’m going to pick up on Sanna’s post with Christmas decorations since in the U.S., tomorrow is Thanksgiving and then typically Friday is “Deck the Halls” meaning time to get the Christmas decorations out. The last couple of years I have decluttered a ton of Christmas stuff. I know there is still some sentimental Christmas clutter I could get rid of. One thing I can definitely get with Sanna on is that our living room is fantastically decluttered and so when I do get out the Christmas stuff, I easily put away the year-round décor because there isn’t a whole bunch of it – maybe 10 things I put away for Christmas, I reckon.

    And to link back to Colleen’s post, a less cluttered space makes the items that actually are in the space so much more special – almost like they are “highlighted”. I hope that made sense. 🙂

  15. beautiful post.

    I explained this before, but my decluttering goal was to live there “one-handed” – meaning I can grab everything with one hand. phone in one, while grabbing the extra guest towel from somewhere. As I dont have a big house I need to have fewer items. less is more.

    this comment just triggered a little epiphany. my home feels not good anymore, and I couldnt exactly put the finger on it. But when I read your post, it hit me. its the missing blank surfaces. I have slowly been adding things to stand on tables, window-sites, sideboards, etc, the clutter creeping up again. I will change this: remove everything and get free surfaces back. Lena’s weekend mini mission

    • I can imagine why you don’t feel good about that stuff on all your horizontal surfaces. Not only does it fill space it also needs dusting. And in the case of small piles of books, like I keep finding , they just look untidy. What is most annoying though is that they aren’t mine.

  16. You are so right. I find that I still have a long way to go in decluttering. My biggest sticking point is probably letting go of things that are high quality…I might use it one day but if I don’t, I can pass it on to my kids when they get their own places. My boys are both in their late teens, so it probably won’t be long before they are setting up house themselves. With that knowledge, I find myself holding on to items that I no longer need/want but they could really use. 🙂

    • Hi Brittany, I held on to things for my kids too while I was decluttering as they were almost 19 & 21 when I began this quest. I boxed them up and put them in the garage out of the way so I wouldn’t have to live with them in the house. At 21 & 23 they both had homes of their own and they took the stuff with them when they left. Including the furniture from their rooms and eventually other pieces I didn’t need when we downsized our home. I still palm things off to them every now and again. If they don’t want them there is no second chance because off to the thrift shop they go.

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