Rethink Design Studio’s step-by-step guide to detox your home of clutter. Photo by Jan Jakub Nanista.
The purpose of a cleanse is simple: rid the body of toxins and unnecessary intake, and refill with good, wholesome nutrients. When it comes to our health and general wellbeing, we’ve come up with every possible extreme to make us feel renewed and whole again.
Whether it’s apple cider vinegar, wheatgrass, or—our personal favorite—cotton balls, we take a disciplined (and in some cases borderline psychotic) approach to monitoring what goes in in order to expel what needs to come out. We are on a relentless search to find balance within ourselves, yet no matter how many gallons of juice we freshly squeeze in our kitchen, we tend to turn a blind eye to a vessel in need of just as much refinement: our home.
“What if we applied the same holistic approach we take with our food to the place we spend most of our time?”
Healthy, Happy Home
Several scientific studies are all pointing to the same facts we seem to ignore: “poor design works against the well-being of [its inhabitants] and in certain instances can have negative effects on the physiological indicators of wellness.” In essence, your home affects your health. Before jumping on the next fad diet or exercise trend, let’s take a deeper look at where some of your stress, anxiety, and underlying need to detox may be hiding. Hint: the answer may literally be right under your bed. What if we applied the same holistic approach we take with our food to the place we spend most of our time?
This is the idea behind The Full House Cleanse, and it goes way beyond clutter.
Just like our bodies, the home has the power to affect both your current wellbeing and future growth, whether you reside as an individual or as a family unit. Let this mantra guide each and every aesthetic decision: your home should be a reflection of your best self. If it’s not doing this, it’s time for a cleanse.
There are two levels of detox you can apply to your home: a Mini Cleanse (weekend to 1-2 weeks) and a Full Cleanse (3-4 weeks to 6 months). Take a moment to sit with yourself or with your partner and discuss which option sounds right for you. The Mini Cleanse is great for a fresh burst of energy, while the Full Cleanse is a deeper process that allows you a clean slate to only bring back belongings that have meaning or serve a purpose. With both options, the focus should be on surrounding yourself with things that represent who you are.
Tip: You may be in the market for both types of cleanse for different areas of your house, and that’s okay. Schedule a time in your calendar for each space and commit to revisiting in a few months to allow time to breathe in between.
Full Cleanse How-To
Step 1: Envision Your Ideal
You’ve chosen your detox and marked your calendar, but you’re not quite ready to get started. Just like how you wouldn’t begin blending that kale smoothie without a fitness goal in mind, don’t touch a single thing in your home without envisioning your ideal. Take a moment (or allow yourself a good week to dwell on it) and picture your dream space. What overall mood does it evoke? Try to get specific and imagine the color, function, and feel. Start collecting pieces of fabric, color swatches, or even a favorite piece of jewelry that you feel best symbolizes who you are. What may seem like a group of random objects could be more telling towards your style than you think.
Tip: This is a great opportunity to explore online mood boards and inspiration images if you’re having trouble piecing it together. Take a moment and clearly identify what exactly in each photo makes you happy – is it natural light, a bold pattern? Get specific.
Once you’ve painted a picture in your mind, walk into your space and ask yourself if anything you see represents that image. If not, it’s time to assess and purge.
Step 2: Find A Support Group
No matter how extreme you plan to get, assembling a team of friends, family, and professionals will help guarantee a smoother, more successful detox. Whether it’s a neighbor who wants to buddy up with their own cleanse or your supportive spouse, dedicate one person as your accountability partner for when times get tough. Just like on day five of that lemon cleanse when the mere thought of a fruit makes you want to scream, there will be moments when sight of a cardboard box will put you into overdrive. Be sure your partner is someone who can balance that frustration with a calm and collected approach to finishing the task at hand. Dedicate certain days of the week for your “weigh in” where you both assess and tweak anything holding you back from finishing on time.
Apart from your buddy, compile a list of the best movers and consignment shops around so that when the time comes to kiss the clutter goodbye, you know where it’s going and how it’s getting there.
If the thought of taking on a room or your entire house gets you overwhelmed, this may be a good time to call a designer, organizer or decorator. There are local professionals available who are trained to provide peace of mind and have years of knowledge to help you see this through. A Mini Cleanse is a great project for an organizer while a Full Cleanse – which has the potential of growing from a space to a whole home to a complete remodel – is best suited for a decorator or interior designer.
Tip: Use a local magazine or an online search engine as a guide to finding recommended professionals in your area. Search terms that combine the service you’re looking for and the name of your town generally yield the best results.
Step 3: The Purge
Before your tag team arrives, designate bins or boxes in your home for discarded items. Mark “recycle”, “trash”, “donate”, or “consignment” to keep organized. Have your accountability partner ready to help when the bins need emptying so you avoid creating more clutter.
Do a walkthrough and mark the items you wish to keep with a sticky note and begin making a detailed list of what to cleanse. If you plan on putting these items up for sale or consignment to earn some extra income for a new design be sure to take well-lit photos and provide all dimensions. Whether you decide to leave or let go, everything needs to depart from the space in order for you to have a clear conscience moving forward.
Use this mini questionnaire as a guide to deciding whether to take or toss. If it takes longer than three seconds to decide, your gut has already given you the answer.
Take-Or-Toss Mini Questionnaire:
Is this “me”?
Does it serve a purpose? (functional or aesthetic)
Does it make me feel good?
Tip: If you’re wavering, remove the item for 1-2 weeks and sit with it. See how your “body” reacts to its absence, just like you would with food.
Step 4: Deep Clean
Once all of your belongings have been cleared from the space and divided into respective categories, it’s time to wipe the slate clean. And by clean, we mean deep clean. Make sure all surfaces have been accounted for: floors, walls, ceiling, even the nooks and crannies hiding on your baseboards and door casements. If the mop and broom aren’t close acquaintances, treat yourself to a professional cleaning crew. You can’t expect to reevaluate the space if you can’t see beyond the dirt and grime of years untouched. The same goes for everything you plan to slowly reintroduce: wipe down with a wet cloth before putting something back in place. If you’re going to do this, do it right.
Tip: Consider this the time to buy more natural, environmentally friendly cleaning products instead of the harsh chemicals of the past. “Green” home products work just as well and keep both your home and the world around you a cleaner place to live.
If all of the wet wipes and dusters in the world still can’t cure your dingy digs, this may be your cue to throw on a fresh coat of paint or lay down a new floor. White walls do wonders with bringing in natural light and ripping up that old carpet might be the best idea you’ve had since starting this cleanse. And that retro ceiling fan that’s close to its last spin? We haven’t forgotten about it either. Don’t take these design decisions lightly; you’re essentially creating the backdrop for your new dream space. Call a designer if you feel at risk of throwing off the Feng Shui.
Step 5: Curate
Your home is clean, kept items are marked, and those pieces that never sat well with you are now sitting somewhere far, far away. This is when that “dream board” begins to come to life. Slowly start to bring in your “keep” pile (as well as any new purchases) and give a moment of pause and consideration after placing each item down. Is that really the best place for that bookshelf? Should those two lounge chairs be closer together? Be open to a new arrangement and allow yourself to play over the next few days. When all is said and done and your belongings are put in place, don’t freak out if it still doesn’t resemble your ideal. That missing “wow factor” may come in time when you find the perfect area rug or piece of art. This process is meant to make you more aware of the things you bring in; be sure they have meaning and make you feel good. Embrace the void.
Of all the tools and tips available to keep you on the right track to building your new “you,” there is one that precedes them all: honesty. Before embarking on any journey with your home, be honest with your time, needs and wants, and your dedication to this project. Consider the possibility of evolution; what may seem like a weekend DIY can easily turn into a month-long redesign as you become more aware of what’s best for you and your family. Next time you’re in the need of a clean slate, pass on the diet trends and put your energy towards replenishing where you dwell.
Your happiness depends on it.