In the process of decluttering my house, I've learned some VERY important lessons--ones I hope I never forget.
1. My husband and I have a unique style.
This is a very important lesson to grasp. We often see something in our friends' houses (or our parents' or in a magazine) that we like or think looks neat. It's taken us a while to realize that those things look good partly because they fit the friend's style; the house sort of "works." Too much eclecticism can be a bad thing (bad in the sense of clutter). So, we've really begun choosing items that we enjoy and that also sort of work with our "look" rather than trying to mimic lots of different approaches. We've also tried, in our current house, to really "go with the house"--to decorate in a way that fits the needs/look of this particular house. And... we're starting to get rid of stuff that doesn't work for us, stuff we just don't quite like!
2. Decluttering fits basic design principles.
My mother, being an artist, has a good eye for things in general. I often consult her opinion. Even though we don't always like the same things/colors, I still consult her on how to group things, where something might look best on a wall, and so forth; good design principles fit a multitude of different "looks." Rarely does a cluttered house fit any sense of good design principles.
3. The fewer possessions you have, generally speaking, the more you'll treasure them.
For confirmation of this, just watch your kids play with a toy for 15 minutes, toss it aside and pick up another one, repeat, repeat, repeat. Now, give them one or two toys and see what happens. All day the same toys get played with (or your children get much more creative which is always beneficial to their little brains). We still have too many toys, but I'm learning and being much more picky about what we buy/keep.
4. The fewer possessions you have, the more they will be noticed.
If you have only one set of nice canisters on your kitchen counter instead of a blender, toaster, knife block, utensil crock, coffeemaker, etc., people will notice the canisters when they walk in. If you have the big lineup, they'll just notice a general cluttered look. We removed just a blender from a similar lineup above and even that small change made a big difference. I'm still figuring out a working system for our kitchen counters, but that small change has given me hope!
5. Take a picture to give you a good feel for the way your house looks to visitors:
take a photo of a room, a counter, a closet, whatever. Let it sit for a day or two or even a week. Then, look at that picture. You will notice the "first impression" of that space much more than you usually do. We frequently develop selective blinders to clutter that has "always been there," don't we? We just don't even see it anymore. Taking a picture will show you a bit more of an objective view, especially in regards to overall feel.
6. Decluttering is good for our kids.
7. Decluttering is good for the budget.
I made more than $100 at a consignment sale on old kids' clothes. I think twice now when I buy stuff, wondering where it's going to go and if we really need it. We pay bills on time because we streamlined that process. I borrow more, lend more, and don't subscribe to magazines I can get online for free!
8. Decluttering is good for your marriage.
Our bedroom looks much more like a restful retreat. We're not tripping over stuff in the study, which only caused frustration that sometimes spilled out onto the other person. Less clutter in the house means less stress overall. We can find things we need a little easier.
9. Decluttering is good for the environment.
I gave away or sold lots of stuff that might otherwise have ended up in the trash after lingering so long, unused, in our closets that it was moth-eaten or too out of date. I try not to buy what I don't need. I use more natural cleaning supplies (like simple green) partly because I can use the same product on everything and have fewer cleaning bottles lying around.
10. Decluttering is good for the soul.
I mean that a bit tongue in cheek, but it is true nonetheless. In small ways: I finally framed some art we bought on our honeymoon (6 1/2 years ago), and it brings much joy to finally see it on the wall and remember such a special time in our lives (instead of carefully moving the rolled up piece of art around on my closet shelves). I have a space again in which to read my Bible in the mornings. I feel more rested living in uncluttered spaces.
Am I done? No. Will people coming over notice much difference? Not yet, but it's coming! But, my habits are changing which is good. I'm enjoying our house more. I have a bit more time for my kids/husband. It's a great process. It took over my life for a bit, but I'm at a point now where I can continue and live life normally at the same time. I noticed this past weekend during our boys' birthday party that it was easier to put up my sewing projects and other paraphernalia because there was a place for them in the closets! (I also realized how far we still have to go, but the point is: we're making progress!)