how to get more space without moving

Source: via Janet on Pinterest

Too far but, man, those floors look nice.

This is the third in a series on decluttering in 2012 (wardrobe and books were the previous two). If you are looking to make 2012 your year of less stuff I hope you find some inspiration and ideas in these posts.

Almost a year ago we sold most of our bedroom furniture. We had reduced our wardrobes enough that most of it could fit in our closet. The furniture, while excellent quality, was far too large for our home. It was super home sized. It was made for a house with a large master bedroom. We lived in a condominium. The plan was to sell the five pieces and replace them with one small dresser and two night stands.

It was one of those win win Craigslist sales. The buyer had been looking for storage pieces that would match what she currently had and ours fit the bill to a tee. There wasn’t any negotiating because they were ecstatic to have found just what they needed. When the final piece was out the door and into their pick-up truck I got out the vacuum to clean the now mostly bare floors in our bedroom. The only piece of furniture left was the bed.

It felt great. Our too big furniture had made the room full small and stuffed.  With most of it gone I felt a new sense of calm in the room.

A few weeks later the possibility of moving overseas came up so we never bothered to replace the night stand or dresser.

You don’t have to move to a bigger home to get more space.

If you’re getting rid of things don’t ignore the big stuff: furniture. Removing a few pieces from a room can give it a calmer feel and make it easier to navigate. As an apartment dweller I know all too well how easy it is to cram extra furniture into a room because you need it for storage.

My other advice on furniture: be patient. You’re not going to get rid of your excess in a weekend and you probably don’t have the funds lying around to switch out all of your big pieces for sleeker smaller units. Make a list for each room of your home and decide what stays, what stays for now and what goes. Then chip away at it over a year or more.

The irony to all of our downsizing and selling of furniture: we moved into a furnished rental in the UK. It’s a small two bedroom and all of the living room furniture is over-sized and scaled for a large house. Sigh.

Resources: I’m no interior decorator so I’ve added some links from experts, designers and parents.

“Keep it simple” is my motto. Sometimes, you need just a couple of things to make it personal. I like to keep rooms clear in order to make the house clean quickly. Such an ordinary reason!

The amount of stuff kept in the home is extremely minimal, and furnishings take on both functional and decorative purposes.

Remember: adding warmth isn’t about adding stuff. An empty room with weathered wood floors and a single vase of flowers can be absolutely delightful. Rather, it’s about choosing our stuff with care, so that our homes are welcoming havens for our families, our guests, and ourselves. When you come home at the end of a long day, your space should always make you smile.

The world is your backyard — go play in it!: “Instead of thinking of your home as the place that meets all of your entertainment and recreation needs, think of it as a springboard that provides easy access to all of the enriching opportunities a city can provide. Use the library regularly instead of storing tons of books in your home. Visit nearby parks for outdoor time — and to meet other families in your neighborhood…”

Anyone else sold or donated furniture, and not replaced it, in the last year? How did your home feel with less furniture in it?



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  • I may be moving in April from my own place into rented and am trying to decide how to go – do I ditch my furniture and go to an unfurnished then buy stuff as and when I decide I need it, ditch mine and go furnished or keep mine and go unfurnished? Trying to weigh up the costs of shifting stuff vs selling and possibly not replacing…

    • It’s challenging here in the UK because of the mix of furnished and unfurnished rentals. We decided to get rid of all of our furniture before moving to the UK. So far so good in finding a nicely furnished rental here in the IOM.

      Tough call for you. Would be expensive (and a pain) to set up house again. Even in minimalist fashion :)

    • I like the idea of only keeping the things you’re sure you’ll need and appreciate, like your bed, a comfy chair, things like that, and get rid of non-essentials. Then you can add other things as you find great deals and decide you really want them. I learned this the hard way after we moved and then got rid of the excess.

  • We sold several pieces of furniture – the biggest was the TV cabinet – we got rid of the TV and all the stuff that goes with it – and the room seems huge! It is awesome and the money from the TV cabinet was great! We are making our house into a duplex – basically dividing the house in half – so we just keeping paring down the furniture and stuff and it feels so GOOD!!!!!!!! It just makes me want to keep getting rid of things!

    • TV cabinet: I feel like huge ugly tv cabinets have been following me around for a decade. I am so tired of them! We sold our IKEA tv/book storage unit when we left Canada and I never want to get another one again!!

      I would love to hear more about making your house into a duplex. Did you buy it for that reason or decide later? Will you be selling or renting out the other home? Sounds like a very smart plan.

  • I’m living in a partly furnished apartment. Therefore, I can’t get rid of each piece of furniture – however, I managed to empty out and get rid of two bookshelves in the last year.
    Besides, I’m quite confident that I’ll be able to get rid of even more in the next few weeks. We have a guest here for a couple of months and let her have our bedroom – thus storing clothes etc. elsewhere in the apartment at the moment. Somehow this isn’t a problem at all. So I guess, when we’re back to normal again, we might get rid of one more dresser, bookcase or other storing unit.

  • Oh yes, we donated and sold nightstands and a dresser from the bedroom, a wardrobe and two dressers and a rocker from the living room, and four chairs from the kitchen. Though we brought in two small vintage arm chairs and a small desk for my computer, that used to be in my studio space. We still ended up with a lot more space. In the bedroom we have just the bed (and recently our daughter’s bed) and it’s so calm and serene, I love it. One of the arm chairs is in the kitchen, it was supposed to be temporary but it’s so cozy there that I think it will stay! I used to feel crammed and that we need a bigger place (ours is 600 sf) but once we got rid of excess stuff, including pieces of furniture, we had plenty of space. We now have space for a teepee for our girl in the living room :)

    • Do you and your significant other sleep in the living room? As your daughter gets older, you’ll certainly need your own bedroom for reasons of privacy!

  • I have a friend who is going to have a contractor lift their house and build a basement underneath. This construction project is costing them a lot of money! When I asked why they were doing it, her reply was…..”I don’t have any more room for my stuff.” I then asked, “wouldn’t it be cheaper to get rid of your stuff?” Her answer…..”I CAN’T GET RID OF MY STUFF!!!!”
    Wow! Thanks for all your posts, they help keep my feet firmly planted on the minimalist path that I am loving!!

  • Our home is under 1,000 s.f., and though I was attached to a lot of “stuff” at first, I realized that feeling cramped wasn’t worth it. One of the toughest decisions to date has been getting rid of an antique dining set that I adored. It was impractical, because I have a young child and the surface wasn’t washable, and it also took up a lot of space. I downgraded to a round table with four chairs, which freed up enough space to fit my childhood piano in the dining room and make our living room (where the piano had been) seem vast. I am now considering getting rid of a dresser in my tiny bedroom. Since downsizing my wardrobe, there is plenty of space in my closet, and my large dresser sits more or less empty. At times it has been difficult getting beyond conventional ideas about the value of things and breaking up sets of furniture, but I have NEVER regretted getting rid of something. Also, as we are considering selling our home in the near future, having less stuff packed in can make the house present better.

    • I’ve never regretted getting rid of anything so far either. I will be sure to blog about it if it happens :)

      Nice to hear another family is living in under a 1000 sq ft and loving it.

  • We pared down furniture in several rooms this past year and are really enjoying it. Our bedroom is pretty large. We removed one dresser and added a secretary desk that I ended up taking back out even though it fit and looked nice. Now the room has one small dresser, the bed, nightstands and a chair. This leaves lots of room for children to jump off the bed onto the blanket and pillow pile on sheet changing day. We did the same thing in other rooms too. Everything fit well and looked nice, but if it was just there to be there rather than to be useful or beautiful, then it was gone. We’ve also evaluated what’s left to determine if something different would work better. Thankfully we’ve always been very particular about only buying what we like. There were only a couple things that had been given to us that we ended up replacing and now every piece of furniture we own is here because we like it and use it.

    The sad thing is that we have many friends with smaller homes who say ours is just nice and roomy because it’s big. No matter how I explain it, they just can’t understand that it’s because we have less stuff than most people try to cram into a house. If our house was smaller, we’d have even less stuff. I’m sure they’ve been in big overstuffed houses before so it’s not like they haven’t seen that being big is not the same as feeling big.

  • Last year we were able to renovate an upstairs room into a bedroom with small walk in closet. We realized then that our huge dressers and nightstand weren’t needed anymore! I’m constantly cleaning out my wardrobe and can fit all of my seasonal clothes in our closet, even when not in use (sweaters in the summer). But, for now we have all those dressers and such are in our basement because my inlaws are still considering if they want them back…. this is where the patience you mentioned in your post comes in, I want them gone now but getting them out takes time. I’d like for them to go to a loving home.
    Now that we’ve made this step with the bedroom set, I’ve caught the bug and have been getting rid of all sorts of furniture in our house big and small, it feels great.

  • Tranquil. That’s how I describe it.

    We’re in the process of paring way back on our belongings (2012 un-used items to go in 2012) and already the difference is staggering.

    My husband and I are nearly at the point where we can share one wardrobe, meaning the other chunky piece in our bedroom can go, and we can enjoy the additional light and space.

    We also do need to buy another lounge to fit the newly renovated living room, but aren’t rushing into anything. I really want to pare back significantly (stuff and furniture wise) so we can see what would best suit the space and so we can afford a quality that will be with us for many years.

    • I really want to pare back significantly (stuff and furniture wise) so we can see what would best suit the space and so we can afford a quality that will be with us for many years.

      That’s how I feel as well. When/if we move back to Vancouver we will have to invest in all new furniture. I would like to save for it once we have move date but I also want to just go and live in space for a bit, see what we really need.

  • when I was living in a house, I loved leaving rooms with no furniture. So much space, so many posibilities! That photograph that you posted is beautiful! Look at those beautiful floors! And so easy to clean withouth having to move things around. Now I live in an RV and the furniture is included, but it’s perfect because we have ONE sofa and FOUR chairs. And we are family of four. That’s all we need.

  • We are contemplating getting rid of our bedroom suite, including dresser, blanket chest, and gentleman’s chest. I would like to move all our clothing into a revamped closet system. Would love to have more empty space in our bedroom.

    • Bedroom suites seem to be the thing to get rid of. I think people are more interested in discreet closet units than furniture these days. Over here closets are quite rare so there are big wardrobes instead. Bulky and they dominate the room.

  • We are also doing the 2012 in 2012 declutter challenge, but will probably end up getting rid of more than that as we’ve set a goal for ourselves to have gone through EVERYTHING in our house, garage, and attic by May 25th and get rid of anything that isn’t used or very sentimental. I am already at 360/2012 and that doesn’t include things that are set aside to leave the house, only stuff that’s actually gone!!

    We are also rearranging a few rooms in our house and getting rid of a few pieces of furniture….most specifically we have moved our bed from being centered between windows on a long wall of our rectangular master bedroom to centered against a short wall and have sorted through our books and cleared out a BUNCH and therefore can rid ourselves of two wide and one narrow bookshelf (Billy bookcases from IKEA with the height extensions). The remaining two bookshelves with our dresser between fit exactly in the space between the windows that our bed was in….opening up the floor in half the room and making everything seem so much bigger!! I can even hoop in our room now!!

    I really don’t know why it took us three years in this house to discover how great a declutter and rearrange of furniture could be on an already fairly minimalist house!!

    • Is there a website for this 2012 in 2012 declutter challenge? My friend Erin has done that before as well. Decluttering can be overwhelming so I think using a framework of a number of things to get out of the house is fantastic.

  • I just discovered your blog … sending a big thanks for giving me lots of inspiration.

    I am currently living in Sydney, Australia with husband & 2 kids, in a lovely small 2 bedroom apartment. A few months back I decided that we “had” to move to a bigger place as I was losing my mind living in such a cramped & messy space. And after talking to some real estate agents I embarked on a month long de-cluttering mission to ready our place for sale. We have a very generous neighbour with a spare empty room who agreed to let us store our excess things. After the de-cluttering both my husband and I agreed that we had a lovely place without so much stuff and that we would stay put for the time being as we love the area so much.

    After such a big exercise I needed a break but I am ready to start culling again. I’ve started with kids clothes, my clothes and after reading this post am now eyeing off several large pieces of furniture that can go :) I’m also going to catalogue the stuff we have in storage and see how much I can get rid of, as I was simply focussed on packing it away when I did my first phase de-clutter.

    My biggest challenges are kids toys and little girl dresses, along with working with my husband, who is quite the hoarder … magazines, books, study materials, clothes and shoes. I love your posts about being patient with your family and am setting the example by doing my stuff first. He was quite impressed by my spacious clothes drawers after my recent project so think he will slowly come around.

    I look forward to reading more posts in the coming months,

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