Simplify Your Decor ~ The Step By Step Guide

January 27, 2017


How to simplify your decor

Recently, I shared a few articles about simplifying my decor. They featured before and after shots of my home and were very well received. Most people remarked that they loved the pared down rooms, but the majority of comments and emails were from readers asking me exactly how to simplify the decor of a room and redecorate using subtraction.


How to redecorate a room by removing items

Comments like this one: "I love the clean uncluttered simple look. I also want to do that with my small ranch home. We moved last yr from a big house to this small one. Hard to part with all of my 'items'. There is just NO room for all the stuff! Do you have any suggestions on how and where to start to pare down? Do you decorate and then remove things? I have no idea. Help!"

I promised this commenter and others a comprehensive response and guess what?

Today's the day!

For more than twenty years, my husband and I have been collecting stuff. Like most young couples, we registered for things, shopped for things and bought lots of things. 

We didn't question or think about most of our purchases, we were in acquisition mode. 

The kitchen counters, walls and shelves were covered. I viewed every corner of the floor as an opportunity to stage a vignette. At one point, my decorating style consisted of filling every open space with treasure. 

Of course, I had an ample collection of holiday decor, too. As you can imagine this tiny cottage with very little closet space was overrun with...well, stuff.

How to decorate with less

Then one day, I'd had enough and the simplicity bug bit me. Since then, I have been cleaning up, cleaning out and streamlining my rooms.

I love the way the house looks now, the actual decor really stands out, but more than that, I love the way the house functions.

Once I had the motivation to live with less, I got to work. 

It's a simple process, the hardest part is letting go...but remember, the less stuff you have, the less stuff you have to manage. 


How To Simplify Your Decor


1. Empty The Room Of Everything Except The Furniture

Yup, I literally take everything out of the room, except the large pieces of furniture. Accent pieces, window dressing and rugs (if I plan on swapping them out) go, too. I move them all to an adjacent space, so I can see the room I am working on as a blank slate. I am always amazed by how large a tiny area looks when it's empty, that alone is generally enough motivation to keep me from cluttering it up.

2. Clean The Space 

I don't love this part, and it's not good for my allergies, but I use this opportunity to clean the room from top to bottom. Let's face it, nothing looks good when it's dirty.

3. Add Back Only What You Love

Based on my design plan for the room, I pull pieces back into the room, one by one, using only what I really love. I do this with every item, down to the tiniest accessory.

If something doesn't look AMAZING to me in the space, I don't use it. That's the only rule. I have to absolutely love the way it looks in the room, regardless of where it came from, who gave it to me, etc., if it doesn't make me smile ear to ear at the simple sight of it, bye bye.

No fillers, nothing I kind of like, I have no mercy in my approach.

I keep going until I am happy with the way things look. I also step back periodically to evaluate how the space is shaping up. Sometimes, I even take pictures...yes, I'm that girl!

4. Evaluate What's Left

What's leftover gets evaluated...is it a family treasure, an heirloom, something sentimental that I love? If yes, well then of course I keep it and either find another room to display it or pack it away. Just be careful not to pack too many things away. 

That's not simplifying, that's just relocating the clutter. 

If the items are not important, and no longer have a place, they go. It seems simple, but I know it's not...my emotions get in the way all the time!! It does get easier though when you do it a few times and realize that you don't miss what you let go and donating items to our local charity shop always makes me feel good. 

5. Don't Buy Anything Else (well, within reason)

This is the hardest step for me. I am a collector by nature and I love to feather my nest. I also love to change up my decor often, but in my new simplifying state, I make sure that anything I bring into the house is really necessary...and by necessary, I mean I need to have it.

Then I commit to donating an item, one for one.

Balance is the key.

Of course, this is just how I do it. I am sure there are many other methods out there and to be successful, you really have to find one that works for you. I do not mention organization, because I am discussing simplifying decor today. If you would like my take on organizing, you can read this post. It's less about the supplies and more about the process.

I swear.

Well, that just about wraps it up. I hope that I have filled in the blanks a little bit more and given you some insight. If you have any questions you can comment or email and if you have any tips or helpful hints to add, by all means, please share!

The comments area is the one place I do not subscribe to a less is more philosophy.

So comment away!





Looking for a few more simple rooms?



cottage style decor


how to decorate a cottage style living room


How To Update A Bathroom On A Tight Budget

Sharing today: Between Naps On The Porch

62 comments:

  1. OK, Kim. I hear you and I agree with you BUT what if you really LOVE everything and before you know it--it is all back in there! I promise you I have tried and tried but I just can't do it. SO, therefore, I will be what I am--an unintentional hoarder!! Seriously, I really can see that your "after" rooms look so much better. I guess I am just a "before" person..Happy Weekend..Judy

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    1. Judy, I am a firm believer in decorating with what you love. If you love everything you have, then by all means you should keep it! Frankly, I love everything you have!! Each time I visit your blog, I find some other treasure pictured in your home that I would like to have. So it’s easy to see why it would be so hard to part with your pretties! Of course, if the simplifying bug every bites you, I think you should have an online treasure sale. I know a very interested buyer! ;)

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  2. It's amazing how a few months after a major purge it becomes apparent that it's once again time to get rid of stuff. How is it that things just creep back in? With a 640 sq ft cottage I have to be really diligent about keeping on top of too much "collecting". Great post. Hugs, Nancy

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    1. We go through the same thing here, Nancy, trust me! I still have teenagers living at home, too. They are not at all interested in simplifying, they are firmly in the acquiring stage. I have heard that the "I don't want this anymore, but don't want to throw it away" stage comes next. I already have several of those boxes tucked away in the basement for the day when the do want them again and I know there's more to come. ;)

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  3. Kim- That is exactly what I did this last year when we were getting ready to sell. The BARE necessities/accessories to make things look good. After we took the house off the market I brought several items back in and moved furniture around. Guess what? It look cluttered and "too full" to me-I removed the extras, put the furniture back the way I had it and have another load to go to GW. Feels good, doesn't it?
    Great explanation here for people that are getting ready to purge and/or downsize. xo Diana

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    1. It is a great feeling, I agree, Diana. I remember all your purging. It’s a lot of work, no doubt! My home is tiny and it doesn’t take much to make it feel cluttered. For years, I really liked that super full look, but now I am much happier with cleaner surfaces.

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  4. God, how I wish I had the energy to follow your suggestions. I used to do a version of this when I was younger. I also like to go sit in a room and look at it real hard to see how I could improve it. I have been doing that in my sewing room lately, but have concluded it needs about 8 sq ft more area.

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    1. Ha! Yes, that is usually my conclusion, too! This cottage is small...and trust me, I am right there with you when it comes to the energy. We had to clean out my mom's house a few years ago and then I watched both of my sisters downsize. They were daunting tasks. That is what originally motivated me to do it now. On days I have energy. Those days come and go! ;) Thanks for the comment!!

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    2. Ha! I concluded that I needed eight feet added on to my workroom 11 foot wide workroom, lol!Quilting and sewing require a LOT of room! And I crochet and paint as well. Also a little weaving. And jewelry making. And embroidery and cross stitch. And a little upholstery stuff......Sigh. maybe I need a whole extra room, lol!

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  5. Love this post, Kim! I've done as you did; cleared, purged, simplified. I'm amazed every day at how much easier it is to keep my home clean! I love it simple.

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    1. That's the best part to me, Nancy, it is so much easier to keep it all clean and looking neat. Love it! Glad you liked the post! :) Thanks for the comment.

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  6. Great post Kim . . .
    I have done a similar scale down process throughout our home . . .
    Currently I am "reducing" kitchen space . . . spices, containers, dishes . . . STUFF!
    Amazing what an eye opener this has been for me!
    What I need to do now is clear out the "saved, heirloom, treasured"
    pieces, boxes, containers of things in the walk in attic and basement.
    My storage is still full . . . even after my many donation trips!
    I like that "Online Sale" idea . . .
    Now tackling Mister Irish and his mega collecting of "hard copy" site plans, code books,
    business "stuff" etc . . . I find it to be a daunting task. He is not "on board!"
    Wish me luck . . . please!

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    1. It’s addictive, isn’t it, Lynne? ;) Oh and I have the same Mister over here. For every one thing I donate, he collects two. Magazines, fishing poles…even old snow blowers. He picks them up from the side of the road in case we need parts for ours! Oh boy!! We’ve never needed a part, btw, and if we did, I am sure the supply house would sell it! Good luck to you…and me!!

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  7. Good advice Kim! I find that it is so hard to remain happy with how I have decorated a room and feel it needs to be changed! For instance, the master bedroom. It was perfect 1 year ago and now I want to change it up and go with lighter colors and more airy fabrics...Ughh! I am gonna do that but maybe like you said, just remove some things from the room and I think perhaps a coat of fresh paint :)

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    1. That sounds like a great plan, Karen! And don't get me wrong, I think it's ok to buy new stuff, everyone needs a real update every now and then, but I just try to keep it to a minimum and donate the old, instead of packing it away. I used to hang on to stuff for so long, sure that I would use it again and then I never did. Good luck and can't wait to see your update!

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  8. This is perfect Kim. Such good advice. While I hated to move from my other home it was good to get rid of stuff and only keep the things I loved. It was perfect when we moved into this smaller space to have less. I like change as you know so having less stuff makes that so much easier to change things up. Happy Saturday.
    Hugs,
    Kris

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    1. Thanks Kris! :) I agree with you, it is actually easier to change things up with less stuff. I find that I can see what I have, it’s all at my fingertips. I used to forget about things that were packed far away and never use them. Now I swap things out more often, because I know exactly what I have and where it is!!

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  9. Great tips! And most of them work for me, except the getting rid of stuff. I find that if I have to have something, or can't part with something, given a little time, I am over it and it gets put away. My problem is getting RID of it for good. I recently painted my dining room and it was empty for a long time. It is now full to the brim and I am trying to simplify it again :-(

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    1. You are lucky to have a shop, AnnMarie! I think I would feel like ok, I'll move it to the shop and if it sells, it was meant to be. However, I am afraid that if I had a shop, I would keep bringing things into my home until there was nothing left to sell! ;) I hope your new space is doing well!

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  10. I agree with all the things you listed to do. I often arrange things and sit with it a day or so. Then I often delete more things. Amazing how so many of us are getting the "urge to purge" bug at the same time, isn't it? Now I look at blogs that are just chocked full of stuff and it makes me want to run! (Well, if I could run.)
    Brenda

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    1. It's funny how our tastes change isn't it?

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  11. I have lived with simple and beautifully spare for years now. fresh air. sunlight. and shadows.
    and pools of lamplight in the evenings. and books. it's enough!
    I must have been born with shaker genes! LOL! wood and texture and color. but no knick knacks.
    I can't seem to breathe properly in cluttered rooms. even if the clutter is beautiful.
    I like to look at it in others' homes... just not in my own! xo♥

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    1. Tammy, I bet your home is a very peaceful place...

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  12. This is a good idea, although it can be hard to do it. We have had to move many times so I do a bit of shedding stuff but still I know I could do better. Thanks for the food for thought! Hugs!!

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  13. I have the round dining table. Do you know where I can find the chairs? I have been looking forever. I love the simple style. Thanks, Carrie

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    1. Hi. I am so sorry, but our chairs came with our table when we bought it over a decade ago. There is no manufacturer listed on the table or chairs themselves. This is a similar style I found when I Googled cross back white distressed chairs, so there are similar ones out there, but they are not the same as mine. Good luck! :) http://homegallerystores.com/liberty-furniture/ocean-isle/303-c3001s/ocean-isle-upholstered-x-back-dining-side-chair/p201257?CAWELAID=120236970000396730&CAGPSPN=pla&CAAGID=36370981617&CATCI=pla-264638979300&catargetid=120236970000635951&cadevice=c&gclid=COD13vTi-9ECFYKCswodQRQFhQ

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  14. Great tips Kim. I have been looking around my home and simplifying my life more. Thank you for sharing.

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  15. I love simple, and your simplified way of keeping a room clutter free is excellent. Here in my tiny home, I have to stay on top of the clutter coming in too. Sometimes it feels a little overwhelming as I wonder where does this stuff come from? I've stopped going to yard sales and very seldom go to thrift stores (my former favorite haunts) because I simply have no more room for "stuff, lol!

    Your home is beautiful, I love the before and after pictures, shows just how true it is that less is more! Hugs to you today :)

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    1. Thank you so much! Yes, a tiny house is a challenge, isn't it? Just enough room for what we need...and not much more! ;)

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  16. I have literally been purging for 1 year. This January I began the "down and dirty" part where I donated things that had sentimental value. I had a set of china that had been my grandmother's. No one in the extended family wanted it. None of us remember it as the special china. I used it once in 20 years so it is gone.

    I don't feel any regret! What I feel is relief that it is gone, I have space and I have "less".

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    1. Relief is what I feel too, Carol!! Less stuff equals more space!!

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  17. Great tips Kim. You know when we moved into our new home I was hesitant to even put anything up on the walls! Some rooms are still "bare," but gosh I sure do the love the simple, clean and soothing lines.
    Jemma

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    1. Simple has been my mantra for a bit now, Jemma and I really like it in all aspects of my life!

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  18. You always have good tips! I try to really think about something before I buy it. I was so good this holiday season. I passed up so many decor items and now I can't even remember what they were. Just goes to show I really didn't need them. :) I've been contemplating removing everything from the tops of my kitchen cabinets and I think I'll try it today. And as a plus, it'll be less to dust, right? Oh who am I kidding...I never dusted that stuff anyway. ;)

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    1. Way, less to dust for sure, Lisa and I am so glad that you found the tips useful!! Keep me posted about the baskets! :)

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  19. Hi,
    I really like the last idea. I too enjoy to feather my nest. I recently purchased a snowman wreath. I just loved the cheerful look it added to our door. I did clear out some Winter decorations that I no longer feel are me. Sometimes I hesitate, saying to myself, I might want to decorate with this again. Before this sets in too heavy, I have my husband take the box to Goodwill. He agrees, we have to take it away. We both have been known to go peek in the Goodwill box and pull something out.

    We cleaned out two closets last weekend. It felt great.

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    1. Haha...I actually saw some of my stuff at Goodwill and I really wanted to buy it back! I get it. I had to walk out and drive away quickly or take it all home with me!! :)

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  20. Great advice and tips, Kim! I've been simplifying my home, my routine and my life for the last 5 years, and it feels SO refreshing!

    Poppy

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  21. Great tips Kim, and I agree with you on every point. :)

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    1. Thanks Kristi! Great minds... :)

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  22. This is a great post, Kim. Full of really good ideas and tips to keep out homes from looking cluttered. Just this past week I kept thinking about making some changes and donating a lot of my old decor items. My daughter has also been after me to do so since she helped me take down the Christmas decor. :) I think I will follow your advice and hers. :) Have a wonderful day. Maria

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    1. It's not easy, Maria, I know, especially if you have the space to store your treasures. It makes it easier when you don't!

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  23. Kim this is a great post and something that I need to do. As I was reading this I looked around the room and saw all this stuff. Why do I keep it? For sentimental reasons I guess. I will definitely have to do some thinking and paring down too.

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    1. Those sentimental items get me all the time, Mary!! ;)

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  24. Kim this is a great post and something that I need to do. As I was reading this I looked around the room and saw all this stuff. Why do I keep it? For sentimental reasons I guess. I will definitely have to do some thinking and paring down too.

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    1. I have to do it over and over again, Mary. I toss and more stuff seems to show up...hmmm. How does that happen? ;)

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  25. Hey Kim,
    I love your concept on simplifying! I've never thought of it that way before....to just move things out. I can think of a lot of stuff I'm just hanging on to b/c it was cheap, or free, or was my taste at the time, but not now, etc. It's a revolutionary idea to simplify this way...at least for me. Hubby has to be in on the act, & sometimes he's a hard sell on it. He has a little hoarding problem too. I have this swag over the fireplace that I made several years ago. I was getting rid of it for sure 2 years ago b/c I was very tired of it, but people keep talking me out of it, so it's still here. Maybe this is the year.

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    1. It is not always easy Florence, I totally understand that and fall victim to sentimentality, too. After a while though, it does get easier. And it's much, much easier when I do it alone!! ;)

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  26. I love collecting stuff, but I do love a simple decor, so I guess it's balance to find... Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. But I do love the simpler decor yoou showed of your kitchen.

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    1. It IS a balancing act, isn’t it? I see so many things that I love when I am out, I have to really talk myself out of them. And if they’re in red, I’m in real trouble! ;) Thanks for the visit!!

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  27. I don't shop which really helps - still I end up with shells, driftwood and whatever else can be found at the beach filling up the cabin.

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    1. Lovely items to fill up your space, but filling nonetheless I am sure! ;)

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  28. You really inspired me, Kim, and believe me, I've read a lot of posts about organizing and purging. I''m packing up the old and having a garage sale. Then I'm keeping a small area in my storage room for my treasures.

    Thanks so much for your REAL advice!

    Jane x

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    1. Thanks Jane! I love to hear that my writing has touched someone in a real way. As a writer yourself, I know you get it!! :)

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  29. I love the idea of "using subtraction to update a room." I think that removing a few things is often the key to finding a good balance. This is a great post!

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    1. I do feel more balanced, Julie, great word! I just have less to deal with and more time to do what I like... thanks for the visit!! :)

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  30. I had to wait until I retired to really have a lot of time to purge. I also was a collector living in a small/medium size house. I couldn't take it anymore, and I was getting older and did not want to spend most of my retired life dusting items. I was taking boxes and bags to donation places weekly for quite while. I also donated really nice furniture and trimmed down everything. Now, easy cleaning from floor to ceiling, and so relaxing. Getting rid of books, knicknacks, extra clothing, etc. etc. really takes a lot of stress off you. Clean every drawer, closet shelve, bureau, desk, bookcase ( I don't keep bookcases anymore, too much to dust and they take up space.) I donate books, dishes, silverware, etc. What a relief! I love it! Try it! Yor article is great, especially the part about not buying new "stuff" unless you really NEED it, not WANT it. Thanks for the great tips!

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    1. Sounds like you are living the simple life now! I still have a lot of stuff around here, I may be into purging, but the rest of the family still likes their stuff. I do agree that it's easier to keep clean and dust. That is something everyone appreciates! Thanks so much for the visit and taking the time to weigh in on the topic. I hope you come back again! :)

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  31. I've never been a collector (with the exception of cannolis. One can never have too many of them. But then the problem arises of what to do with all the 'fat' clothes I must buy to deal with the inevitable weight gain. Oh well. A minor detail).

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    1. Cannolis are my all time favorite dessert... :)

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