the transformation of a clutter chameleon

settle in & consider yourself warned. this is not a short story!

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i spent an entire day as i packed up our christmas decor and basically re-organized it all. we have a small crawl space off the attic and behind our bonus room. it’s a labor intensive event just to get back there, combined with the fact that i have an unjustifiable fear that a critter will get me when i’m in there means i seldom enter that space! while i am no expert in organization, that christmas reorganization process stirred up a few ideas regarding how i keep things uncluttered & organized. so over the next week or so i hope to share a few easy to follow thoughts.

let me lay out a little history. i’ve always been a collector. from letters & cards to cowboy boots, bottle brush trees to photos, lip gloss to black leggings. if i like something i tend to hoard have a few options. i tend to attach sentiment to most anything. and i like an entire spectrum of colors & styles. while i’ve always been a collector, i’ve had a need for organization as well. and by organization i mean everybody has a place. and the place is usually tidy & intentional.

while i’d love to see my self as a creative, a free spirit and an artist, i realize i’m probably more of an uptight needer of order that just loves the creative free spirit artsy world. so i’ve gone through life wearing fringy things, loving cowboy boots long before they were cool and flowy tops listening to classic southern rock all while keeping papers in nice neat stacks, writing down every debit in my check book register & keeping a clutter free desktop.

back in the day i owned a gift shop. it was cute and quirky filled with cards & decorative things for your home. it was charming & set right beside a wonderful coffee shop. my customers became my friends & i rarely brought home a paycheck. madison would sleep in her little moses basket & i played shop owner. looking back i realize i decorated our home like i merchandised my little tiny shop. i mastered the art of having loads of little this & that’s in a small space. colorful frames & pillows everywhere.  i loved all my little loved things, whether they be cute cards & pictures to collections of mercury glass..i wanted them to be out & visible at all times.

i’m not exactly sure what the catalyst was, but a few years ago i walked into our home & was completely overwhelmed with all the stuff. all the stuff, albeit neatly & tastefully displayed, was on every space & then some. my eye had no where to rest. that day began a quest for simplification. it was not necessarily easy nor was it painless. free yes, but for someone who attaches meaning to every little thing and has loads of little things, this epiphany turned into a project which has since segued into a lifestyle. i went from a cluttered yet tidy home owner to a declared lover of the minimal.

i realize my minimal monochromatic look is not for everyone and probably is sorta boring. our home is about thirty years old and a reno is not in the budget. we don’t have an open floor plan but rather small individual spaces. the need for less & the need for monochromatic colors helps those little boxy spaces seem to flow more open. in my mind anyways.

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let me try to break this process down for you.

1. i tackled one space at a time. i took things off the walls & packed up every picture frame & this and that object into sort of a holding pattern.

2. i painted what were once different colored spaces all the same neutral creamy white. since a pro-painter wasn’t in the budget i basically did this myself over a period of weeks. honestly, my photos make our spaces appear a tad more white than they are in real life. so what i’m trying to say is i used an eggshell creamy white stock paint from walmart. no fancy story there. we also don’t have window treatments so the actual color & tone of each room seems to change with the seasons & how the light plays off the walls. our kitchen cabinets however are high-gloss true white.

i’ll tell you. having everything off the walls, a clean palette, now the unified spaces felt amazing. it truly was like my home took a deep breath and asked me what took me so long.

3. i decided that every space did not need a little something on it. every book shelf did not need to be loaded. every wall space did not need something hung upon it. many small pieces of furniture were actually unnecessary. every chair didn’t need a ginormous pillow that i would cringe every time someone sat against it.  this began the painful portion of the process. that of deciding what would make the team.

4. i simplified and took out all small teeny tiny frames & brought into our family room six large frames all made by the same artist ( dry ads dancing in atlanta). they’re all white & chippy and blend in with the bookshelves. i have a frame for each of my girls, one for art & one for our family and i trade out these images throughout the year. a lover of snapshots, i decided to make one large 3×4 foot cork board into a landing space for these images. it’s covered with linen so it blends into the kitchen wall & i trade out snapshots of the girls & their friends, christmas cards & even add cards and little pieces of art to that. therefore i have my collection of images & art/cards but it’s simplified and appears more as one object than a dozen or so objects all over all the spaces.

5. i brought back in one thing for the wall in my downstairs spaces. one-ish. my dining room has a mirror and a chalkboard. my family room has a large clock. my studio has metal letters that spell out love. the kitchen has a large painting that i change out and the linen photo board. the end.

6. so what happened to the collections? well i now trade out the team. no special schedule & it’s not all the time. i also decided instead of having pieces of my said collection here & there to group the collection all together. this enables lots of small items to view as one. for example. i love mercury glass. so instead of having mercury glass here & there, i will group all 16 pieces together on a table top and now it looks like one. genius.

a few things i’ll share about soon:

~a few more images of simplified spaces

~what do i do with collections & things when they’re not in the decorating line up?

~how to be the boss of what you allow “in”

~how i tamed my inbox

~keeping my workspace clutter free & yet inspiring

~ my disclaimer about goals & lists

~living with 5 other people some of whom do not share my same need for all things tidy & organized

~organizing photos & photo storage

~fear not. i will not even attempt to discuss meal planning, grocery shopping and organized pantries because sister is not a stud in that game

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and for your weekend enjoyment i’m adding a poorly shot video, complete with unsynced voice & video where i talk about a little bit about this process. this was before the days of mastering the video option on my camera. ha! i originally wrote a post about simplifying here. i’ve actually decluttered even more since that post. any future videos on this subject will be better. pinkie promise.

see ya’ll next week!

January 9, 2015 - 10:32 am

Shannon - Oh ma gosh – I loved this. Craving simplification after Christmas, I poured over your blog making notes of the things you just highlighted. I think one of the biggest struggles I have is confidence that I’ve chosen the right “one thing” for each room. Its much easier (but so stupid) to pick up a little thing here & there to try and then pass on if its not the right thing but saving up for something big and the fear of it not working freezes me up every time. Of course, the times I have managed to do it are the things people mention the most and that bring me the greatest joy in my house…….off to ponder that with my coffee. Thank you and I’m really looking forward to the rest of the series.

January 9, 2015 - 11:31 am

Chania - I am on the same path. One thing that has helped me do this, is I look at each item I am clearing out as a $ value. Placing a price on it, makes me realize that my “collecting” is more than just accumulating….it’s spending. $ that could secure my retirement, $ to pay unforseen emergencies, $ that was wasted and spent without thought. I don’t want to be a spender anymore.

January 9, 2015 - 12:00 pm

Jill - How did you know I am in the middle of doing THIS is my house! And I can’t really figure out why I have finally had enough of the clutter but I have. Bags have gone to Goodwill and other worthy charities, I have ‘gifted’ things to friends and put things away to ‘rest’ for a bit; It feels SO good. Of course, my family thinks I have lost it. Ha!
xo~Jill

January 9, 2015 - 12:03 pm

Melissa - YESSSSSSSSS!!! Paige, I LOVE this post and this series! I spent my twenties acquiring more than any one person needs in a lifetime. Clothes (yikes!), books, decor, etc. etc. etc. I had it all. My husband and I moved across the country and as we finished packing the boxes into the moving truck, I had this overwhelming guilt wash over me. So much of the stuff in the boxes had never been touched since I bought it. I felt really sinful even — greedy, like I wasn’t trusting in GOD to provide for my needs. Ugh, it was icky. I didn’t do anything about it because I shoved everything into places in our new place and got busy with life (luggage in the bathtub, etc.).

Fast forward a few years to being done with grad school and pregnant with my first bebe, and I realized that I had no room for my little peanut in my CRAMMED condo. And something in me just CLICKED and I started ruthlessly purging. I made room for my little guy (even though my luggage was still in the bathtub off his room) and we moved again. When we got to our current home, I had space to really pull everything out of boxes and evaluate. I kept getting rid of stuff, but there were some things that I just held on to, too.

And then I saw YOUR VIDEO (the one that you posted here again)!!! I remember actually crying when I watched it, just because deep within me I knew that all my STUFF was holding me back from living the life I want to live. I felt like every spare minute was spent dealing with my stuff, and not spent on my babies. Again, icky feeling. So I continued with my efforts. I posted tons of stuff on craigslist and ebay — stuff that I couldn’t let go of out of guilt for spending money on it. And then I attacked my clothes, something I put off throughout all of this. I had thirteen (yes, THIRTEEN!) wardrobe boxes when I moved to my current home, and I now have about one-fifth of the clothes. I’ve gotten rid of dressers that had to hold the clothes, etc. And most of all, I was able to clear an entire room to fit another baby.

This is still an ongoing process though. I feel like my battle with stuff will always be a bit of a battle. But when people walk in my home they comment on how clear and open it is. I just don’t have the stuff anymore. I got rid of every single book except for books I refer to again and again — so cookbooks mainly. I got my hubs on board and we scanned all of our old school documents and threw away BOXES of paper. Ahhhhh, giant sigh of relief. I feel like I’ve finally gotten a hold of my stuff just by letting it go. And I don’t feel like I’m hoarding the world’s supply of EVERYTHING right here in my home.

Sorry for all of this! But YOU have been a huge inspiration in all of this. It’s so inspiring for me to see people clear things out and LET GO. So I can’t wait for more posts from you!

January 9, 2015 - 12:43 pm

Sharon - Goodness, I love this topic!, I can’t wait to hear more! I love your blog, your family, style, godly insight- so this is like a cherry on top! Thank you for posting on this subject :)

January 9, 2015 - 1:03 pm

Sue - so, so good! Perfect timing although I’ve followed your blog for years now and have struggled with finding the right balance of stuff! I have boys, so the white walls and white furniture just doesn’t seem to work for me with my current house/decor. But I so want to decrease the clutter and the stuff. Hanging on to way too much.
Thanks so much for sharing!!

January 9, 2015 - 2:00 pm

Denise - So enjoyed this Paige!!! I tend to want to put too much out and have too much “stuff”….This has really helped me…Hope your new year is a great one!
Denise

January 9, 2015 - 3:32 pm

Mimi - I think we’re kindred spirits. I love tidy but i’m a free spirit all at the same time. Keeps us interesting, doesn’t it?

January 9, 2015 - 6:58 pm

carol - Love this Paige! I get terrible anxiety from stuff being all around. But it seems overwhelming to me to even start decluttering. Where do I start? I can’t even go into my master bedroom closet because there’s sooo much crap in there. Old blankets and comforters old clothes everywhere. ( my closet is big) it’s so bad but I just can’t get going. Maybe I’m afraid to let things go. I don’t know. Anyway. Do you have a home tour so we can see all your uncluttered spaces? Would love to get inspiration. Thanks Paige.

January 9, 2015 - 7:06 pm

carol - I forgot to ask you. How do you attach your photos on the corkboard? I need to see it. Please? I have so many photos of my 2 grandchildren and they are all around the house. To cluttered. I love your idea.

January 9, 2015 - 7:50 pm

Kerri - Paige I just came across this old video recently when I searched decluttering! I was going to email you to tell you that I found it lurking in cyberspace lol! I don’t remember it and I have been following your blog for a long time as you know. (I was only 5 when I first started reading you blog, right? wink, wink). I absolutely love how you use white as a neutral and I have recently become a self proclaimed minimalist. Simpley because I realize that clutter STRESSES me out! I am looking forward to hearing more of what you have to say girl! XO

January 9, 2015 - 7:51 pm

Jen Widner - I love this! I’m seeing more and more who are craving simplicity in the home. Seeing this gives me more confidence to simplify. After moving recently, having a new space to decorate, I actually lack the desire to decorate it! I mean, I want to decorate but not beyond the usefulness of the decor. I’m so sick of clutter, even if it’s clutter I love, it just has to go. Thanks for sharing!!!

January 10, 2015 - 10:55 am

Heidi @ Decor & More - You’re singing my song, Paige — I’ll be following along and implementing my own simplification process this winter. We’ll be downsizing in the next year or so and I’m so overwhelmed with STUFF right now. Even my pretties are stressing me out. It’s time. :) Bless you!
xo Heidi

January 10, 2015 - 11:29 am

amy maze - paige! thanks so much for sharing this! you’ve put to words what my head has been telling my about my own space lately. i love simplicity and organization, but sometimes do not feel like my home reflects that same vibe. i look forward to your posts!

January 10, 2015 - 12:52 pm

D Miller - I love this post! I’m decluttering too. Fresh feels & new beginnings. Less is more. Way less! Feels like a load is lifted off. Love your home, love your video. You’re so fun. You should follow me on IG so you can see the home I always comment about.

January 10, 2015 - 7:45 pm

Barbara - Perfect timing for this post! New Year is a great time for evaluating what we have around us and taking the time to organize. Thank you!

January 10, 2015 - 9:25 pm

martha - I love your order, calm and serenity…and how you make a little party then of your collected items! I love the Pictures and only a few out in the room…I am out of surfaces and need to have a family gallery wall somewhere.
Have simpliefied and cut down I n some ways, as empty nesters, but now I have my dear little grandson Landon a few days a week and we have so much fun with toys and books. So baskets and bins full of fun are now in our den.

am excited about some of the simplifying topics to come that you mentioned! Thank you and have a great weekend Paige!

January 10, 2015 - 11:31 pm

Brantlee - I love your house and style Paige. This series is just what I need for the new year. Especially can’t wait for the storing and organizing photos post.

January 11, 2015 - 9:48 am

Jo - I’m inspired!!! As soon as I get back from vacation, I’m going to start digging into each room and purge!!! Can you tell me where you got that wooden base sitting on your dining table? I love it.

January 11, 2015 - 10:57 am

Ali - Love this video and your process tips! I hope to do this over time! Can you do a new video / pics house tour so we can see your home currently? You indicated its changed some since you originally started simplifying. Thanks in advanced !! XO

Also can you share pics and lists of what collections you decided to keep and how your store them and where you store them ! It would be so helpful !!

Your home, photos and writings are my favorite !! ❤

– Ali

January 11, 2015 - 11:27 am

Donna - Absolutely love your decorating and blog. I need to get rid of a lot of stuff. Your house is gorgeous and you truly have a wonderful heart.

January 11, 2015 - 8:28 pm

Lemonade Makin Mama - You know you’re pretty much my favorite, right?

January 11, 2015 - 9:52 pm

Tricia - I studied your video when it was first posted and have reprinted my first floor”creamy white”. That’s a start! i am looking forward to your future organizing posts. Since you are an avid reader, where do you store books? I also have trouble keeping organized or simplified all of the tons of photographs I take . I used to scrapbook and now I have many scrap booking supplies and lots and lots of photos in tubs waiting for a home. I would love some of your suggestions. Thanks, Paige.

January 11, 2015 - 11:48 pm

teresa - More, more… let’s learn more about this process, pretty please. I commented back when you first posted but I’m sad to say those breathable wall and floor spaces I felt so good about filled back up.

January 12, 2015 - 9:20 am

Jen@thecottagenest - I loved this, Paige and look forward to more. It’s always a treat to see pictures of your house but I really loved hearing about your process as well. I have gone through a lot of the same minimalizing in the past 4 years but feel like I still have a way to go. This encourages me!

January 12, 2015 - 10:02 am

how i unified a plethora of photos in our home » simple thoughts from Paige Knudsen Photography - […] when i packed up all the clutter in our home, the primary object being packed up was photos & frames. being an avid photographer for as long as i can remember plus a sentimentalist you can imagine this was a bit of a challenge for me. i would have an end table with 3 frames on it. a bookshelf right behind said end table with 8 frames on it. then there was the wall where i might group 3-5 frames together there as well. an overdecorated, over stimulated refrigerator door.  picture frames in the dining room, the kitchen, the family room and on the walls. good gracious. […]

January 12, 2015 - 9:24 pm

Suzanne - “…..deciding what would make
the team….” Ha, love that!!!

I think of myself as a sort of “curator,”
like in a museum, when it comes to
my home (and to my wardrobe).
Kind of take the emotion out of the
whole process. A museum curator
is constantly adding and subtracting
to the “collections” and is constantly
striving for a beautiful and balanced
“whole.”

Looking forward to reading all of
your little tips, as I am really in awe
of how you pack so much into one
life : )

Happy 2015,

xo Suzanne

January 16, 2015 - 10:17 am

Five on Friday (and my Winter Mantel) | Decor & More - […] and making housekeeping difficult — things I DON’T need going on right now.  Here is her first post in the series, explaining how she transformed her perspective on “things”.  And why […]

January 19, 2015 - 12:15 pm

Shannon - Paige, I’ve been mulling this over and taking similar steps in our home and I love it. UNTILL I invite people in. I get so many remarks about being a neat nick (I am so not!), people insisting they not walk on our cream carpet (I didn’t pick it but do vacuum it!), etc. and then the worse is when they say they can’t invite me over because their house is too messy. Not at all what I want but how do I 1) get over caring what they say about my house since I do it because I function better in less clutter and not because BHG/Martha are coming over and 2) how I do make them comfortable enough in our home to invite me over. :(

January 22, 2015 - 10:22 am

catching up » simple thoughts from Paige Knudsen Photography - […] the transformation of a clutter chameleon  […]

January 24, 2015 - 7:55 am

tara - so glad to have a little while to catch up on these posts…always love when you talk about simplifying.

question about one of the things you like to have a good stock of:
what black leggings to you wear? I bought a pair, but they have faded. I need a pair that doesn’t fade at all. Have a brand that I could try?

an equestrian session with two beautiful sisters

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i hope to get back in the swing of sharing some of my sessions with you. often times my busiest season of sessions sorta gets missed over as i try to save many that are used as the family’s christmas cards or i just end up being too busy.

this was an especially favorite session of mine. when the mama of these beautiful sisters reached out & inquired about my availability and photographing the girls with their horses i about flipped! what a dream shoot! we had a few logistical hoops to jump through but finally landed on a beautiful day. turns out it was perhaps the chilliest day we had while technically in the fall season which made both the horses a little frisky. but i thought it turned out dreamy none the less.

as i drove up the gravel path to the stables i was completely overcome by the beauty of it all! often times when i see destinations & landscapes of such beauty ( living in the busy suburbs of a  busy city it’s clearly not an every day occurrence for me) i can only imagine what it must be like to see those places on a regular basis. like the ocean for example. i can’t imagine having the coast or a beautiful pasture with horses & cattle in my little world on a regular basis. maybe in heaven my coastal ‘mansion’ will have a pasture with horses! anyways. these sisters were delightful as were their frisky horses! enjoy~

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January 7, 2015 - 7:28 pm

chrissi - what a lovely family. that little on just steals your heart. your photos are priceless♥

January 7, 2015 - 8:58 pm

Kimberly Falls - These pictures are beautiful! Julian’s parents live on a farm with 130 acres, old fences and barns, cows and horses about 31/2 hours from here and my dream would be to one day figure out a way to get you to take some family pictures there!

January 8, 2015 - 9:48 am

Suzelle - Just beautiful !! The girls are darling :)

January 8, 2015 - 10:52 am

jodi - what a fun session…the girls look like they had a blast and I’m sure you make it so fun! :) The horses are gorgeous! I remember my first attempt to ride a horse…LOL…Oh My. My Dad was a “horse” person and wanted me to ride his horse; I tried to get on and as soon as I put my foot in the stirrup and the horse moved and scared me and that was the end of that. LOL

January 8, 2015 - 7:38 pm

LORI H - Gorgeous, Paige, as always! Looks like such fun :)