Dismantling Spare Rooms

Many of us have a catch-all space in our home. Perhaps it started out with a purpose and good intentions – like a guest room, craft room, or even home office – but over time it became a dumping ground. These un-used spaces offer a place to stash stuff you don’t know what to do with. In this way, they serve to postpone decision-making that would lead to a less cluttered, more organized life. If you have a space in your home that is a catch-all room serving no particular purpose, it’s time to reclaim the space and make it serve your family!

Our client, Peggy, had a spare room that was full of miscellaneous clutter. After moving into the home a year and a half ago, odds and ends were placed in the spare room and were never fully unpacked.

Dismantling Spare Rooms Before Pic

Not only was the jumble cluttering up her space, it began to clutter up Peggy’s mind. She was ready to re-purpose the space! Further, Peggy’s family is expanding and with some of them living out of town she wanted to have a comfortable place for them to stay when they visit.

So, Peggy asked Restoring Order to help convert her catch-all space into a guest room.


If you have a spare, guest, or “dumping” room that attracts clutter, this is a great tutorial for how to approach these catch-all spaces.

When you are rethinking a space, start by asking yourself: What kinds of items land here?

Scan the room for INVENTORY.

Make a quick list of this inventory – the categories of items that have landed in this space.

As you sort items and get into this archaeological dig, you may find other categories of items.

In Peggy’s spare room, many things just needed to be re-homed throughout the house, including:

  • Gift- related items: wrap, bows, cards, and gifts-to-give.
  • Household items
  • Bedroom items
  • Office supplies
  • Paper

The main problem in the room was paper. After many years of business ownership, Peggy had accrued a great deal of personal and professional paper that had been stored in the spare room.

Paper in the Spare Room

After taking an inventory of the space, ask yourself: What do you want this space to do and be for you?

Peggy wanted the space to be a comfortable guest room for out of town family.

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Guest rooms are lovely for providing hospitality to guests. However, before you decide to dedicate valuable real estate in your home to guests, stop and ask yourself how often guests stay at your home and how many people stay at one time. If your guest stays are infrequent, perhaps you could find a less-permanent solution to provide hospitality and space for guests. Unless you have a lot of extra space in your home, you may not want to give up livable space for infrequent guests (and unused guest rooms often become those dumping grounds we are trying to avoid!)

After considering these questions, Peggy determined that indeed a guest space would be a great use of this spare room, so we got to work with our sort!

Sorting Spare Room Items

We began by pulling out all the items in the room and unpacking boxes and rehoming items. The biggest undertaking of the project was sorting through the personal and professional paper that lived in the spare room. We brought all the paper out to the living room to perform the sort.Sorting Paper in Living Room

(The paper sort – in my opinion – is one of the most complex – but most enlightening and rewarding – of all organizing projects. That’s why I have an entire do-it-yourself DVD series on paper management. If you need inspiration on getting the process going, check out my Reclaim Your Paper playlist on YouTube!)

When you tackle a space like a spare room that has multiple kinds of items in it or a lot of paper to sort, you’ll need to be prepared to dedicate the time to go through that process. Quick fixes will not lead to lasting order. Invest the time to find new homes for items and engage in necessary sorting and systematizing.

This is truly the only way to reclaim a space for good.

(Importantly, this is how clutter happens in the first place….We tend to stash and put OFF projects that we instinctively know are going to take time and then we turn a blind eye to finishing them. Hence, the birth of the “junk room”.)

As you unload a catch-all room, be prepared for multiple projects to emerge from this one space.

One obvious need from gutting the spare room was to establish an office somewhere else in the home.

We started looking for the perfect spot and discovered a hallway nook that could serve as the household hub. We created a desk out of a sewing table we found, recruited a bookshelf, and turned a night stand into a printer table.

Transforming a Nook into a Household Hub

Now Peggy has a place in her home to process and store her household and professional paper. Whether it is just a few trays in your kitchen or a dedicated room, every home needs a household hub. A household hub is a mini-office that is the command center of your home. Learn more about creating one here.

Peggy is so pleased with the transformation of her spare room into a guest room. She is excited to have a welcoming place for her adult children and grandchildren to stay when they visit.

Dismantling Spare Rooms Before and After Closet

Dismantling Spare Rooms Before and After Bed

Another benefit of dismantling catch-all spaces is that you’ll likely find some “hidden treasures”. During this process of digging out the spare room, Peggy unearthed a painting that she has had for 10 years, waiting to be framed and displayed. Part of the homework I assigned Peggy was to get this framing done so it could become a centerpiece in the room. This beautiful piece now holds a place of honor on the wall and delights Peggy each time she enters the room.

Recovering Hidden Treasures from Dismantling Spare Room

Organizing will help you uncover your treasures and bring them to life in your home so you can actually enjoy them.

We hope that this transformation and tutorial has helped you reevaluate the catchall spaces of your home.

Imagine the possibilities available when your cluttered and confusing space is actually being used and loved!

Tackling your spare room or dumping space takes commitment and a bit of time, but it’s infinitely worth it as you eliminate the mental clutter of such a space and begin enjoying the newly ordered functions it produces.


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