Goals, Perspective, Simplicity

Stuff: When We Need White Space

snowy layered morning

+Jeanne Takenaka @JeanneTakenaka

I can’t believe we’re two weeks into 2017! In the interest of starting things new, I’m sharing a three-part series about something that impacted me in a powerful way last year.


I never knew a simple decision would lead to so much heart change.

A challenge to create more white space in my life, my home . . .

An author friend issued a challenge to a create white space in my home. Though I longed to do this, the only room that came to mind was my project/clutter/things-to-sell/stuff-I don’t-know-what-to-do-with room.

And I had no idea of how to begin.



Until two ladies heard what I wanted to do and planted a vision of what this room could be. This vision took root in my heart—the hope of a space where I could breathe. We came up with a plan and a deadline.

Let me put something out in the open right now. Guilt can be a difficult force to reckon with. There were items in this room that I had hardly touched. I felt bad for having spent money and then never used them.

Every time I looked at them, my thoughts condemned me. I really should use them before getting rid of them, right?

Only, that was partially why this room had become the disaster it was.

Snowy waterway


I had to come to terms with the fact that I hadn’t thought those purchases through. After time, I realized that it would be better to give these items to someone who would actually use them. I felt convicted about the money I had wasted. This is when I had to remember the vision I had for this room.

I set to work. I’m not gonna lie. It took me hours to sift through everything.



I worked thirty minutes a day for a number of weeks. I began in the closet—going through every shelf, every bin—and evaluated whether the items deserved the space they occupied. Did I really need over 100 gift bags (I might be hanging my head at that admission)? What about those travel toys the boys outgrew a few years ago?

I worked my way around the room, considering every item. I asked myself three questions:

  • Have I used it in the last year?
  • Does it bring me joy?
  • Does it instill within me a desire to use it again?

Snowy trees


I filled bags with stuff to give away, sell, and throw away. With hubs’ blessing, we sold our computer desk and desktop computer because we rarely used them. Removing unneeded flat spaces also eliminated areas for stuff to land.



Some lessons I learned in creating my white space:

  1. Have an end vision/dream for this space was a huge motivator to get the work done. Setting a deadline for when people would come and help finish things up also gave me that push on days when I felt tired of dealing with it all.
  2. I had to be intentional about making the change in this room. I determined in my mind that doing the work was worth the investment of time it would take.
  3. Going through my stuff forced me to consider whether the things added or subtracted value in my life. Seeing all the “noise” in my project room overwhelmed and depleted me. I wanted it to be my creative space, but everything was speaking—condemning and distracting me from the purpose of that room. As I evaluated books, catalogs, crafting supplies, and other miscellaneous stuff, I realized I hadn’t used most of these in years. Why in the world was I allowing them to hog space in my small room?
  4. I set a time limit for each day. Thirty minutes was a good period to dig in, work hard, and then move into the rest of my day. Some people may only have ten minutes a day to invest. Or maybe, that shorter amount of time is all they can bear to be in the room. Decide on a time limit, set a timer, and then work hard for those minutes.



Keep the end vision in mind. This fosters inspiration when the work feels tedious.

It’s worth spending the time to create white space in our homes, in our lives. 

Can I just say—purging makes me giddy. I think it’s because I now have space to breathe. The more space I opened up in this room, the easier it became to get rid of the things that weighed me down.



My  spirit breathes more deeply. After investing the time to do the work, I now have a “creativity nook.” I feel empowered. I am beyond happy about this room. I can breathe soul-deep.

And my spirit feels the peace of white space.

What about you? What’s the hardest part for you when it comes to purging? How do you decide what to keep and what get rid of?

P.S. If this whole idea of purging and simplifying strikes a cord with you, check out this site and post: becomingminimalist.com

Click to Tweet: We have to be intentional about making changes

Today I am linking up with Holly Barrett’s Testimony Tuesday and #RaRaLinkup (at Katie Reid’s place today)

31 thoughts on “Stuff: When We Need White Space”

  1. Great post, Jeanne! And wonderful results. You look happy! 🙂

    There is an area in which creating white space wouldn’t be a good idea for me…you see, when I became too ill to get down to the workshop (about a hundred feet from the house) I started doing aeroplane work on the porch…and in the living room. Now I can’t do much of that, so logic would dictate packing it up and moving it out…I mean, who wants to see a part clamped to the drill press, untouched for a month because I just can’t do it?

    Well, me, actually. As long as it’s there, I have hope. But once it’s moved to the shop, the leap between where I am now and where I would have to be to regain that part of my old life is just too large for my heart to make.

    I’m very lucky in that Barbara understands, and is willing to live this way. She’s never said, “Look, that part of life is DONE, so get over it and let me have my living room back!”

    And for that I am truly grateful.


    1. Andrew, it’s good to know yourself and to know your limitations. I imagine God gives you satisfaction in the things you are able to do for Barb and the dogs. And, you know how to feed hope in your life. That’s huge. Most people don’t know this. And you are still a rock star in all that you do to encourage hope in yourself and others. You are an inspiration.


  2. Awesome, Jeanne! We’re doing the same thing at our house and your word about guilt and being overwhelmed are spot-on! I love your list of things learned – especially the time-limit tip. Thanks for sharing your life, here. Your words are always a blessing.


    1. Go, Karen, go! Do the purging work. 🙂 I have allowed guilt far more power than it deserves in my life. I’m working on not letting it be the determining factor in my decisions. 🙂 Thank you so, so much for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I can only imagine the breath of fresh air you feel deep down.
    Examining stuff include our relationship, our choices,habits…Like searching what is useful in our lives especially at this moment.
    Happy New Year, Jeanne.
    Many Blessings to you


    1. Very true, Ifeoma. We can declutter and purge more than our physical spaces. 🙂 God has ways of bringing to our attention areas in our lives. It’s not a bad thing to examine ourselves, is it? Thank you so much for stopping by!


  4. Look at how happy you are in your chair! Or should I say – in your space 🙂 It is so true though. I find myself feeling closed in when things get cluttered. Simplified is such a wonderful way to start the new year!


    1. Joanne, when there’s too much clutter around me, I can’t think. If it’s really bad, I can’t function. It’s not pretty. And, my boys said I needed to change the name of “my” room from the project room to something else. I chose my creativity nook.

      Starting the year with simplifying sets a great tone, doesn’t it?


  5. Beautiful change! You must be so thrilled and satisfied! We’re slowly working through our house in the same way, and cleaned out a BUNCH of stuff from the furnace room over Christmas break. Now . . . the book cases . . .


    1. Thanks, Michele. I am so happy with my space. I was able to do some purging in other parts of the house until life got too busy in the fall. Now, I’m gradually getting back to purging through the house. The tricky part is keeping things cleared once the room/space is decluttered. 🙂

      Good for you on clearing out the furnace room. That’s huge! I hope you’re able to think clearly about your books! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I love what you’ve done with your room, Jeanne, and why you did it. Those three questions are so helpful … another one I’ve heard is “Would I buy it again?” I will be thinking of this when I get back to work decorating the wall of bookshelves in my basement that my husband completed a couple of months ago.

    I’ve unpacked all the stuff that will eventually go on them, but most of it has been sitting there waiting for me to really focus on it. I’ve already let go of my old teapot collection (which did not bring me joy anymore), but I need to ask myself your questions as I go through the rest of it. I’m certain there are things in the stacks and piles that I loved in 1997 yet do not belong on my bookshelves in 2017!

    Another practical thing I’m taking away from this post is the part about working for 30 minutes at a time. If I wait until I can do it all at once, it will never get done! I can’t wait to read the rest of this series! (P.S. Now I need to translate this message into 12-year-old-girl language so we can improve the white space in her bedroom/workshop/storage unit. 🙂


    1. Lois, I like that question. Would I buy it again? Such a good thing to consider before pulling out the plastic. Or the cash.

      How exciting to have a WALL of bookshelves! I have a teapot collection I’ve been thinking about too. Do I keep it? Do I get rid of it? I’m not ready to purge that area of my house yet. Goodness knows I have plenty of other areas to purge. 😉 It is good to think about how we’ve changed as people when we make decisions about whether to keep or throw something away.

      And for the record, I have a couple of boys I am working to persuade to do some purging in their rooms too…..;)


  7. Just seeing you sitting in that beautiful chair shows me that it was worth it. I have several areas in my house that I need to declutter and ask the same questions about the items that are in the room. I have many excuses of other projects to work on and need to devote a period of time each day and it will get done.

    Thank you for inspiring me! I have dreams of moving so this is exactly what I need to do.


    1. I love having my quiet time in my creativity nook now. Most days, I sit in that chair. 🙂

      I found that part of the reason I didn’t work on this room sooner was because I was overwhelmed by all that it had become. I wasn’t sure where to begin. Between choosing somewhere to just dig in and working diligently on a little bit each day, I was able to conquer the clutter monster in my room. I hope you’re able to get your areas cleared, and that you can make that dream of moving become reality. 🙂


    1. Thank you, Diane. Yes, having white space where clutter once reigned is FREEING. 🙂 I hope you’re able to clear out some of your areas. 🙂

      Thank you so much for stopping by!


  8. You look fabulous in that chair! I love that chair too! And what an accomplishment to stick with the 30 minutes a day to declutter. Just achieving a goal in one area can be such a boost to our spirit, spilling out to all areas of our life I believe. I purged last year but still have things I know I may need to let of–mostly old manuals and books I think I’m going to look at again someday. The steps you took in deciding are ones I shall be implementing on my next purge. Thanks for sharing.


    1. I think you’re right, Lynn. When we see what we can do in one area of our lives, I believe this can provide the momentum to keep moving in a good direction. It IS a boost to the spirit to meet a goal like this. You can actually see the results, which is such an encouragement.

      If it makes you feel better, I held onto my teaching resources for nearly two decades after I stopped teaching. I finally got rid of the last of it last summer, when I recreated my project room. Seeing extra space where boxes once lived is so satisfying. 🙂

      By the way, I really like my chair, and I bought it very inexpensively. 🙂


  9. Good for you, Jeanne.That’s a huge job! I love you sitting in that chair looking all comfy and relieved. 🙂 I know that guilty feeling, especially when it comes to buying books I have never read. I keep hanging onto them as I think maybe someday I will. Others I have started but haven’t felt like finishing them. How do you declutter books? That’s really hard for me. Love and hugs to you!


    1. Trudy, you and I have the same love affair—with books. It’s hard to get rid of any of them! You may have been kidding in your question about how do I declutter books 😉 . . . but just in case you’re not, I think about these things. First of all my To Be Read pile is well over 100 books. Many of them were living in my project/crazy room. I looked through the titles and thought about what I enjoy reading. Some of the books I’d won. Others I had purchased. I decided I wanted the space more than all the books. So, I considered which ones I’d be able to or/and want to read in the next couple years. I also considered the author. If I didn’t think I’d read the book in the next couple years (I don’t have a ton of time to read . . .sigh), I decided to give it away. Keeping my big picture in mind helped me. I wanted the space, and so this made it easier for me to part with books.

      As for those books I begin but don’t finish, I think about why I stopped reading it. If I don’t look forward to picking it up to finish it, I give the book away. I don’t have time to read books that I’m not excited about.

      So, there. This is probably a longer answer than you anticipated. 🙂 Love and hugs back, friend!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, Jeanne. This is helpful. I actually was serious. 🙂 I will especially try to be honest with myself and seriously consider which ones I enjoy or which ones fit me. Now if I could just get myself to actually do it… 🙂


      2. I’m glad you found this helpful, Trudy. Being honest is an important step. Don’t feel guilty if you decide a book isn’t one you want to read or hold onto. It’s okay. I promise. 😉 Work one shelf or pile at a time. YOU can DO it! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Love this! I am working on creating space and blessing others by my mistakes! LOL! We loaded up the car and headed to Goodwill yesterday with umpteen woven baskets, electronic gadgets, a camera and clothing. It IS a good feeling. I have much more to do. You are right. It DOES feel good to purge. Nicely written Jeanne!


    1. Good for you, Mickey! Your description of taking stuff to Good Will the other day reminds me of a few months ago, when I re-worked my creativity nook. 🙂 I’m so glad you shared your experience. Thanks so much for stopping by, friend!


  11. Oh Jeanne,
    You are a woman after my own heart. I am a self-admitted clutter bug. I save things…for what reason I’m not quite sure? I have made many impulsive purchases and had several rooms that looked like your “before” picture of your room. God bless my dear husband who is great at organizing and de-cluttering. Me, I’m like a deer in the headlights when I look at tackling a room, but he helped me break it down into “doable” pieces. Like you said, before you know it the job is done and oh the giddiness of being able to breathe and not be stressed out by clutter. I do believe that living more simply is Biblical and I am intentionally trying to do more of that this year. Thanks for an inspirational post and your room looks fabulous!!
    Blessings and way to go!!
    Bev xx


    1. Bev, as hard as I try to stay on top of the piles, I just can’t seem to keep from falling down and falling behind with everything. 🙂 Maybe it’s my stage of life (2 teen boys…. ’nuff said). 😉 My husband is also good at organizing, but we both struggle some with paper clutter. 😉

      I’m glad your husband is good at helping you break projects down into do-able pieces. It helps to have others involved in the process, doesn’t it?

      May you and I both grow in being intentional to live more simply this year! I’m so glad you stopped by!


  12. Very very brave! So proud of you. While I don’t have much to purge physically, I’m trying to create some white space in my mind. Managing the affairs of a household of 8 keeps my head bogged down with “information”. I’m trying to catalog it all as to not be overwhelmed. I’m fighting for that mental white space. Whoo-sah


    1. Creating white space in the mind is such a challenging thing to do sometimes. And with a household of 8—even more so!! It’s hard to let things go and to determine what we need to hold onto and what information we need to let go of. I’m glad you touched on this aspect of creating white space. Internal white space is crucial, if we want to live in peace, isn’t it?

      Thank you so much for visiting and adding to the conversation here!


    1. Lisa, I love working in small steps, because it lessens that feeling of being overwhelmed, and it allows me to see progress in getting stuff dealt with. And THAT makes me happy. 😉


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