Organize & Clean

Retraining Your Eye: Reducing Clutter by Practicing Patience

published Jan 9, 2015
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(Image credit: Adrienne Breaux)

Ahh the beautiful promise of a blank space, empty drawer, fresh shelf and newly decluttered closet. Our intentions start out so pure — promising to ourselves that this time will be different, but before you know it, that once-new or recently cleaned out empty room/drawer/shelf is filled to the brim with things you need and if we’re being honest, things you probably don’t need. Looking for a weird trick to keep clutter more at bay this year? Don’t be so quick to get rid of an empty space by filling it up right off the bat.

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There’s an undeniable urge to want to fill up an empty space. Empty spaces are as uncomfortable as they are invigorating. It’s just human nature to want to spread out as soon as more room is available to us. But there’s wisdom to taking your time. And being patient.

Not rushing to fill an empty room as soon as you move in, not stuff a drawer full of items as soon as it’s cleaned out and not display everything you own on a newly installed shelf could be a way to keep more clutter at bay this year. How? We explain a bit more below.

You get to sit with a space and learn how you’ll use it efficiently

Sitting with an empty drawer, cabinet (or at the extreme, a room) will allow you time to really consider how best it needs to be used for you. Instead of rushing to fill it with extra stuff you might have lying around, you can think about how this new found space might best function for how you use your home. A linen closet, for example, might seem to be an obvious choice for linens, but what if for you the best use is a combination of linen, craft and winter clothes storage? Taking the time to really consider how each space is used can help repel clutter because you’ll be using the space — not just stuffing things you don’t know what to do with into it.

You take the pressure off

There’s the rush of excitement when you have new space to fill, but there also comes a pressure. So take that pressure off by simply sitting with empty for awhile first. Let your brain consider all the possibilities and settle on a good one to try after careful contemplation instead. When you’re not buying stuff because you feel a pressure to buy stuff, you might find yourself avoiding cluttering your space with stuff you don’t want or need. Like a new shelf in your living room — let it stay empty instead of rushing out to buy some quick accessories. You may avoid adding clutter to your home.

Extra space can help you remember the feeling of empty

Living with empty just sort of feels nice sometimes. Like an abundance. More airy. How will this keep clutter at bay? By living with something open and empty, you can remember that feeling next time you’re having trouble decluttering. If you immediately stuff your closet to the brim as soon as you move in, an overstuffed, inefficient closet will seem the norm. But if you let yourself breathe in a scarce space for while, you might be able to channel that feeling of airiness next time you’re thinking about keeping something you don’t actually need “just in case.”

It gives you more time to find stuff that has meaning to you

Putting on the brakes on just buying up the first thing you see to fill up an empty corner or shelf with the trendiest accessories means you have time to really get to know what it is that you like. What it is that you might like filling your space with — not just being under the spell of recent trends. And clutter is stuff you don’t want or need that gets in the way of truly enjoying the use of your space. By taking time and only adding in only what has meaning to you, you’re avoiding the clutter of unwanted things. And may just help keep clutter at bay!

Have you ever rushed to decorate a room only to regret a purchase later on when you realized how you really wanted to use the space? Or have you let yourself sit with an empty (or empy-ish) room, shelf, closet or drawer until the decorating or filling of it came naturally?