Back Room Makeover: A Clean Slate

Back in January I showed you a picture of my back room and boldly declared I was going to clean it out.

And I really meant it. But now looking at that same picture, I’m not sure why I thought it looked so bad. The boxes seem kind of organized. They all fit together like a game of Tetris.

But everything was impossible to reach. We use a lot of this stuff on a regular basis. And in the weeks following, since I knew I was going to clean it out, we became even sloppier and the mess was worse. I’d throw things in there haphazardly, “just until I clean it out,” and then slam the door quickly before something fell down.

I was hoping I could just do a little at a time. I didn’t want to commit to a full-on, drag-it-all-out, show-everybody, honest-to-goodness, do-we-need-an-intervention?, complete exposure of what was taking up space in my back room.

But every time I walked in there, stepping into the only clear spot of floor in the entire five-by-seven square foot closet (yes, it is that big)… well, I didn’t last more than ten seconds before I ran right out of there and found something else to do. It was so overwhelming.

I knew I had to empty it.

Six months later, on a rainy Tuesday morning, I decided it was time.

11:00 a.m. There is not going to be a better day than today.

11:30 a.m. I designated the dining table as my landing spot and extended it to a full seven feet. I started carrying things out of the back room and setting them on the table.

11:45 a.m. Yes, it does seem good to pull everything out. Found some trash. It will be good to vacuum the floor.

12:00 p.m. This feels exhilarating. I take pictures of the progress.

12:15 p.m. I start wondering why I’m doing this. Keep going fueled by kettle chips.

12:30 p.m. My arms are tired.  My four year old wants to see all the Christmas tree ornaments.

1:00 p.m. Almost done pulling things out. Wipe shelves and vacuum.

After two hours, my back room was a clean slate. It was glorious.

And my dining table looked like this:

Here’s a view of it from the side, just so you can see how deep it goes:

Obviously, to be continued… the Results!

Back Room Makeover:

  1. The Before
  2. The Strategy
  3. The Clean out
  4. The Results!
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. You have so much good stuff! and I can only see the Star Wars walker and the esky (chilly bin? i don’t know what you guys call them). Maybe it’s time to Ebay some of them and you can get paid for your efforts:)

    Benjamin Bankruptcy´s last post…The sweet taste of financial freedom- eBay liquidation and bankruptcy musings

  2. Oh my- I have to tell you… when I scrolled down and saw the pictures I laughed out loud! That is so something that I would do :) Good luck with that!

  3. I also laughed out loud! We just moved into a bigger house and in the weeks before we packed and moved, I gave up trying to organize and clean, knowing I would get a chance to clean the old house when it was empty and organize all of our stuff as we unpacked it. Now I can’t find parts of my stand mixer but everything else in the kitchen appears to be there. And we’ve been moved in for three weeks and the office has furniture still laying in the middle of the floor. Not even to the side of the room. Right in the middle. I SO appreciate what you are doing!

    Mag @ funktion rambunktion´s last post…Hup Holland-

  4. Good job! I’m so inspired. I’ve been working on a little closet project this week too.

    on the eastern journey´s last post…Grazing

  5. Be brave! Show no mercy! Show the back room who’s in command there! We are waiting for the after picture.

  6. calliope says:

    I sympathize. A couple of days ago, during a heatwave(!), I decided that my pantry/storage/throw-it-all-in-there-unti-there-is-nowhere-to-step tiny room next to the kitchen needed to get cleaned and organised.
    Needless to say that my whole kitchen was a mess for 2 entire days, that my 3-year old ate only fruits, cucumbers and sandwiches and that I filled buckets and buckets of sweat (alas no weight was lost :(
    But now, it’s the apple of my eye! I sometimes go in there just to watch the neat rows of jars, pans, cleansers, tools…
    I’m still at awe thought with the endless capacity of such a small room

  7. I now know why I keep putting off cleaning/tidying my understairs cupboard! Good luck. Oh heck it’s just started to rain here so I’ve no excuse to go into the garden and I still don’t want to start. Oh well they say that a bit of purgatory is good for the soul!

  8. Great job getting started, Rachel! I’m about to tackle my pantry this way, and seeing this gives me hope!

    I had to seriously chuckle at the AT-AT on the table. We have Star Wars toys (and the big ones) tucked away everywhere. My husband is a diehard SW fanatic and has a good friend who is one (and doesn’t have boys and has passed down his favorites to my boys), and we are swimming in SW toys..and you’ll find them in the most unusual places!

  9. Love that pile!

    Nicole´s last post…the dirty dozen

  10. I call dibs on the Star Wars AT-AT walker!

  11. Love this post! Over the holiday weekend I determined to clean out the room that, for the three years we’ve lived in this house, has intended to be our home office/den. I made some decent progress, but it still needs a lot of work. You may have inspired me to blog about it. :)

    Melissa´s last post…Wordless Wednesday- The Fifth Beatle In Honor of Ringos 70th

  12. You GO, girl! My inner organizer wants to get in there and attack with you! Can’t wait to see the ‘after’ shots!

    heidi @ wonder woman wannabe´s last post…Moooo For Your Supper-

  13. That is precisely why my pantry/storage has not been cleaned out lately. I’d have a big pile, too.
    LOL at the bag of Kettle Chips amongst all the stuff on the table.
    Can’t wait to see the rest of the project.

  14. Awesome! I’m going through my house, one area at a time, because my cousin’s having a garage sale this weekend. My goal is to reduce everything by at least a third, if not half. That sure lit a fire under me.

    Wendy´s last post…Spicy Pickled Carrots

  15. Pat Riehl says:

    I the late 1990s, I had to clean out my father’s basement workshop, which I’d grown up using as well: inventing things, building things, taking things apart to see how they worked. It promised lots of ‘heart tugs’ as I went through drawers I’d known for 40 years – here’s the scrap plastic, aluminum…

    …what I did the first day was take out as much as I could and put in on one of the workbenches in a different place than it would normally be.

    The next day, the task was considerably easier, like walking into a garage sale. It was obvious what was worth saving and what wasn’t. Moral: sometimes just moving stuff around is all it takes!

  16. Denise C. says:

    Great job Rachel! I love the “pull-it-all-out” method. To me it’s so much easier to see what I have, what I really need, & what can go. I was wondering what the “dog like” thing was, & a previous comment said something about it being from Star Wars. (I’ve never seen Star Wars, any of them.) I love that you’re tracking your progress! :)

    P.S. I’ve had many closets, where everything fit together like a game of Tetris, & have used the same line with my husband! :)

  17. Most impressive. Can I have the AT AT?

  18. I also LOVE the pull everything out method. If you need motivation to finish, just invite someone over for dinner this weekend. I work well with deadlines.

  19. Patricia says:

    Thanks for the inspiration. I’m taking a break from doing the exact same thing – well, with several closets actually. I want to just put it all in the car and head for the nearest Goodwill store.

  20. Great job! I need to do the same thing to my garage.
    I think I’ll pull everything out first but I’ll have to put it in the driveway and all the neighbors will see the junk.
    (That’s my excuse for not getting started)

  21. Rachel,

    I can imagine how it is, as I go through with cleaning and my both kids think it is extra stuff to play and check it out, creating more mess. Sometime if job is small enough I like to do it after they sleep at night so I can move quicker but it is not always possible.

    Preeti @ Heart and Mind´s last post…No Spend Month Challenge- Update 1

  22. Now that looks like a project that I would start. The fun part (and the really tough part) is getting it finished!

    Tina@RideonToys´s last post…The Barbie Tough Trike For The Princess In The House

  23. Karen w says:

    I am facing a similar project – but there is no to be continued yet – I took out all the junk & I can’t seem to figure out how to put it all back in!!!

    I am looking forward to seeing how you tackled the rest!

  24. Hey! How’d you get 1/4 of the crap from our basement on your dining room table? I about kill myself trying to get to my canned food pantry in my basement due to all the “goodies” I have acquired.

    I like the “Where’s Waldo” picture with your Kettle Chips. I found them!

    Julie @ Practically Spent´s last post…Scaredy Frog

  25. Grace Lazzara says:

    I wish I could say something original, but . . . LOL. Makes me feel so much better about my pantry.

  26. The funniest thing I’ve read today. Biggest belly laugh reserved for the dining table pics and Kettle chips!! Loved it…

  27. Oh, the getting it out is the BEST part, isn’t it? UGH. The sorting. The purging. The decisions . . .

    Can’t wait to see the final result!

    Megan@SortaCrunchy´s last post…The Natural First Aid Kit

  28. Good for you! Keep going! Whenever I reach this point (where the closet looks nice but there’s a pile of mess somewhere else) I invariably have to talk myself down and remember that it’s always darkest before the dawn and always messiest before you start to actually filter through your belongings and organize them. That urge to just chuck it all back in is so strong, isn’t it? Keep at it and pass the Kettle chips! :)

    Ruth´s last post…Mantra – NEW- – 500

  29. I love you for posting this! I need to do this in many spots in my house. Thank you for sharing your pain!!! :)

  30. Great work! Can’t wait to see the ‘after’ shots!!

    anne´s last post…Summer Reading List

  31. I love the bag of kettle chips next to the Kilz paint. :) You can do it!!

    Shawna Pesina´s last post…And the winner is

  32. Love the new back room! The dining room photo cracked me up! I love when projects just seem to multiply…You can do it!

  33. You do know that you appear to have a sand trooper perched atop of your dining room table… you do know that right? !!! I did just this months ago, like in January… with a three month old, inspired by your first post… Our back room was sorted – onto the kitchen table there was no room to breathe at all – madness. You will survive, don’t get disheartened just keep at it!!!
    And just so as you know JUST how inspiring you are we had a grand mending day on account of your recent mending post… we worked solidly from 10 am till 6 pm … made two meals changed countless diapers and did some school. And the mending is done: clothes, books, toys. At this moment in time…

    se7en´s last post…Se7en’s Celebrities- MayaMade…

  34. I feel you. I did the same thing with my craft room supposed to be guest room until I couldn’t put it off any longer because family was coming over to the house. They didn’t even go into that room – the nerve!

    Is your light fixture made out of wine glasses? I did the same thing in my raft room supposed to be guest room!

    Condo Blues´s last post…CSN Stores Gift Certificate Giveaway

  35. I like the way you broke the job into steps. Difficulties are not so big when they are brought down to manageable amounts.
    Reminded me of my job I’ve got on my list of jobs to do over the school holidays, which is to clean out my son’s room. He is off travelling with his grandparents at the moment and if it gets left more stuff will be added to the mess and I can imagine it would be very hard to walk through to his bed. You would certainly not be able to see the carpet. Looking forward to the end result.

  36. You should not feel ONE bit guilty for having clutter and not having your hangers neatly and precisely spread apart. You have kids. Kids have baggage, ergo you have clutter.

    Me, I do not have kids. I have hangers neatly and precisely spread apart, and a separate drawer for the glue. However, I’m pretty sure this is a disease, so don’t covet it!



    Erin´s last post…When all is crumbling

  37. I’m glad to see that we have similar approaches to these kinds of projects. I moved house recently and a lot of my things were still in boxes from an earlier move. I tipped everything out and went through each box. My bed looked like your dining table! Best of luck and you’ll feel so much better after wards. Looking forward to seeing the after photo!

  38. Great start! I started laughing when I saw the AT-AT. My boys have a Lego one that we have to move very carefully! I will be making piles myself this weekend as I sort all of my sewing and craft supplies. You’ve given me a push, so…Thanks!!

    Amy Lynne´s last post…Summer Busy-ness

  39. You can do it! Ahh, why do we do this to ourselves. HAHA! I want to tackle the garage so bad maybe this weekend.

  40. truly inspiring! I did the same recently with my filing cabinet, at the end of the week it was a great exhiliration to know that the job was done :) Looking forward to your update…

    angelvalerie´s last post…of dreams that die…

  41. Thanks, Rachel, for giving me a laugh in the morning, I just love the motin of your 4yr old wanting to take out al the Christmas decorations in July!

    Seriously though, I admire your resolve and may even be inspired to tackle our small and deeply overcrowded pantry. I look forward to seeing the continuation of the work :)

  42. Decluttering and reorganizing are probably two of the hardest tasks one is presented with in life, but also the most rewarding. We recently moved from a 4 bedroom, 5 closet, large kitchen with a pantry house into a 2 bedroom, 3 closet, tiny kitchen without a pantry condo. It’s amazing all the stuff one accumulates in just a short amount of time. The going was tough, but once it was all said and done and we managed to get rid of enough stuff we didn’t need or really want and fit comfortably into a tiny condo we were so happy. Now, we just need to go back through a bunch of the stuff in the closets (of all places!) and get rid of anything else we don’t really use. Good luck!

    Jen C.´s last post…Book 3

  43. Got to give you credit for inspiring me on Tuesday. The result is here: Thanks so much. I am new to your blog and feel very “unjudged” here .:)

  44. OK, the AT-AT has been around for a long time. Kudos to anybody who can find the 12″ Boba Fet in that pile.

  45. Can’t wait to see the results of a great project. Think how good you will feel when everything is in its proper place.

  46. The back room’s clean but. lol

    Jodz´s last post…Extracting the urine

  47. This picture made me laugh. Those projects that make a HUGE MESS before they get done . . . always make me laugh.

    Good luck :).


    Glenda Childers´s last post…30 days of hearing God Day three

  48. Came to your site in a curious way researching competition for my website on the words ‘small notebook”. Blew me away when I discovered the topic here isn’t notebook computers at all, but all kinds of interesting material. Congratulations on building a compelling and interesting blog. And BTW where do you find a dining room table strong enough to hold all that “stuff” :-)

  49. Heh heh heh heh heh.

    Ahhhh…[wipes away tear] when you finish, come do our storage closet, ‘k?

    P.S. We have one of those AT-ATs too, I think. ;) My husband swears he’s going to put all his old toys up on eBay someday…

    Lauren @ Hobo Mama´s last post…Christianitys effect on breastfeeding

  50. Oh, giggle! This is sooo identifiable.

    Can’t wait for the “after” pics. Such satisfaction they bring!

    Anna´s last post…My Official Drink of Summer

  51. WOW! great job! I have a bedroom closet I don’t want to go into. It’s kinda like your closet. I call it my “storeroom”. It is about 3′ x 8′ long and I don’t like going in there.

    However, your photo of the cleared out closet with the words “it was glorious” give me hope. I want to see my closet like that!
    I like your photos documenting the progress. I will do the same.

    WHEW. wish me luck. :)

    (I started a 2nd blog to document the paring down process.. it’s here at )

    sunny´s last post…white organizational containers

  52. You are an inspiration! I have a study that I can’t get into, so, I started to really go at it and remove stuff, donate some, recycle some, shred alot and dump some. I’t starting to feel more open now and I am getting closer to being able to reach my bookshelves. Yay for us.