The #1 Decor Tip I Learned From Living a Minimalist Life

A big hello to you all! I hope you are having a fantastic week so far. In working with my clients, I find thatmost of them are overwhelmed at the thought of undertaking a design and decor project. They really want a change and have a notion of the end result they desire but are unsure where or how to begin.

For many of them it is due to the amount of ‘stuff’ they have and the ‘collections’ that have crept into their homes over time. I’m not only referring to collections of memorabilia or knicknacks here – I’m also talking about the collection of furnishings. You know the ones, the chair that no longer works but you paid a kazillion dollars for it 15 years ago, the sofa your mom insisted you take because it’s been in the family for 10 generations or the side tables hand made by your great great great grandfather during the longest, coldest winter in history. You get the picture!

So, how do you overcome the overwhelm and get started to create the beautiful room you have pictured in your mind? The #1 tip for starting a decor project I have learned from working with my clients and progressing toward a minimalist life myself is DECLUTTER! Yep! Before you get started, clear out the unneeded, unnecessary, unwanted stuff. Not only is that stuff overwhelming you and the design aesthetic, it is distracting, in the way (physically and mentally) and prevents you from really ‘seeing’ your space before and after the updates and refresh.

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Right about now many of you are wondering where the heck to start (Janet, I can’t possibly do this!), you are anxious just thinking about it, I can ‘hear’ your eyes rolling. But trust me, once you have done this you will have new energy and motivation to get started on that project. So, let’s get started!

Start by sorting the items in the room into one of four categories. I use this approach as it enables my clients to really look at and consider the things they have in the space. The items in each category can be collected in different areas of the room or you can make list of items in each category if there isn’t sufficient room to collect the items. Alternatively sticky notes work well and can be colour coded too to ease the process.

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The four categories are:

  • keep

  • relocate

  • give away (charity, recycling, etc.)

  • discard


The keep category is the easiest. This is the collection of things you love and use the most and which still bring you comfort, joy and happiness. These are the items that will still work in the space once it is refreshed and continue to support your lifestyle as well as create a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere.


Consider the spaces in your home and decide if an item would be more useful or attractive in another room. Could a side table be re-purposed as a night table? Would that side board add needed storage space to a home office or play room? Would the occasional chair provide another comfy seat in the family room? Would the shelving unit work in the bathroom to hold towels, baskets of toiletries, etc.


Give Away

The give away category is a bit more difficult to contemplate. While most of us know which items we no longer want to hang onto, are tired of or no longer use, this category is more challenging to fill. This process is often an emotional journey for us as many of our items hold memories, we feel obligated to keep it because it was a gift or we paid a lot of money for it, etc.

Once you have compiled items into this category there are a number of places you can donate your unneeded things. Consider charity thrift shops (some of whom will pick up), women’s shelters or the Habitat for Humanity Restore to name just a few.


As some of you may know I moved across the country and back in a relatively short period of time (talk about decluttering!). Both moves were to smaller homes and in each instance I discarded A LOT of STUFF!!! But it was shocking to see just how many things I hung on to that should have been placed in the recycle bin, shredder or garbage bag. Seriously!

As you start to declutter your space you will inevitably unearth a pile of mags you haven’t looked at in a very long time, possibly never. Or that pile of paper (why were you keeping that again?!). Or the greeting cards you were going to re-purpose into some long forgotten craft. I have one word for you – discard! Once you have updated your space there will be no place for these unnecessary items – they will just distract from your beautiful new room and the enjoyment you will get from it.

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As you start planning your design or decor project remember these four categories and how to declutter and make ‘space’ for the new look.

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