Sometimes it can be hard to see the clutter in your house. You get used to it (just like that pile of laundry in the bedroom) and you kind of stop seeing it. I have ADHD, and it's common for those of us who have it to leave things out in the open so we don't forget about them. But of course, after you have left 4,623 things out, you tend not only to forget about them but also fail to see them as well.
If you have any doubts that you have excess clutter in your house, one sure way to find out is to take a picture of it and upload it to your computer where you can see it nice and big.
Now I know my living room has too much stuff in it. My husband and I were discussing it the other day because we hope that we will be able to put our home up for sale soon. (First, his employer has to transfer him back to Michigan, which is where we are from, but hey, it never hurts to be prepared. Plus, if I keep telling myself that I'm getting the house ready to sell, maybe I can be better about keeping it clean and decluttered.)
So I have decided to get real with you and show you a few shots I took this afternoon before I vacuumed and dusted. And yes, in that order. I always forget that top to down order. So you clean your floors, then you dust, so that what you don't catch will end up on your nice clean floors...
Just Because You Can Doesn't Mean You Should
As you can see, not only is there too much clutter in my living room, there is too much stuff in general. Because it was so big, I just kept adding more, like the desk in the corner. (We will ignore the large furry thing; she moves all about the house and takes up space wherever she goes.)
It's a large living room - this is the biggest home we've ever lived in - and we use every bit of it. But the living room doesn't really look as big as it is because of all of the stuff that's in it. Now I think that there are three different ways that you can use or arrange your rooms:
- The way that makes sense for your family, which is what we've been doing.
- According to a decorator or your own decorating sense. In other words, looks come before practicality.
- Making the rooms look their best while taking your needs into consideration.
Now obviously we're going for number three because we want to emphasize the space in the room, but still be able to use it comfortably ourselves. This move may not happen for years; we don't know. But we've been in this situation before, right now things look like they might turn out in our favor, and less stuff without sacrificing comfort can be a good thing.
Is it Clutter?
Let's say you do know how much clutter is in your house, but the fact is that you use all of it, or most of it, anyway. That's true for us and most of the things in our home. We did a major declutter starting last fall - and even tackled the basement and the crawl space. Most of what is left here - which is still a lot - gets used.
You may have noticed as you looked at my living room pictures that I have a lot of notebooks (that's what those leather things are), and you might have gotten a glimpse of my numerous jars of pens. I have journals for different things, I use the pens I have (believe it or not), and there's way more I would use if they weren't stored in inconvenient places. (Notice most of this stuff is mine.)
So calling your stuff clutter might not be fair. If you use it, then it's not really clutter. I guess the real problem is that we don't have a place for it.
Step one might be to find a place where you can easily access what you need, but that still keeps things looking neat. If you take a look, you'll notice an army green trunk in the corner between the couch and chair. My brother-in-law bought that for me years ago and I treasure it. It's a nice big trunk and it happens to store most of our family photographs.
One of the rules of organizing things is to contain similar, smaller things together, maybe in a basket or box, or a trunk, like our photos. I do have a basket that you can't see (behind the small blue filing basket with the printer paper on it) that holds extra notebooks. (It's a sickness.)
And we have a small bookcase type thing under the window with bins and open spots in it. The open areas hold books. I'll let you guess what's in the others. (Actually, one belongs to my husband and holds his stuff.) These pieces of furniture can be found everywhere (we got ours at Home Depot) and they are wonderful for holding small items and keeping your room looking neat.
I often use baskets underneath end tables and sofa tables (I think that's what they're called. They're long and are sometimes used behind a sofa). However, I have read that the homes that look the cleanest and least cluttered never have anything like that on the floor. The floors are clear, except of course, for furniture. Just a thought.
If you can find furniture with drawers, that's also another great idea for extra storage. The coffee table in our family room has four drawers and four open shelving areas, plus we have additional storage in our end table and television stand. I've also seen homes where a chest of drawers or dresser has been painted and is used for storage in the living room. If you've got the room, those are great ways to control the clutter in your house.
Some Things to Consider
I have always tried to live by a certain set of rules when it comes to storing your things. If you can follow all of them, they will make your life easier. And if you can't, that's OK too. Just find the ones that work for you and make the most sense for your family.
Here they are:
- Make things easier to put away than take out. This works well for small children, who would be willing to hunt for the right color crayon or the perfect Lego block. Once they are done, it's just a matter of scooping everything up and throwing it in it's container. I have to say that I have tried this technique with my craft supplies and I find that more often than not, I just don't take them out at all, which is sort of sad.
- I guess that means that rule #2 should be to make sure that the things you really use are at least easily accessible. My craft supplies are packed in boxes in the basement. I could have them taped up and ready to move in a matter of minutes, but it seems too much work to get them out to use.
- Store similar things together. I've broken this rule several times in my kitchen because we own too many kinds of tea, spices, and water bottles. Baking spices are stored nearby the others, but still are easily recognized as ones for baking. They're used less often. We are big tea drinkers in our family, so the most popular ones are stored in a cupboard near the stove while the rest are in the pantry. And the water bottles are stored wherever they fit.
- Think outside of the box (so to speak) when looking for containers to fit small items. When the drawer that we kept our lunchmeat and cheese in broke, it was going to cost over $80.00 to replace it. Nope! A couple of plastic baskets would work just as well. But I only had one, so until I found another, I made do with a shoe box. I figure if a shoe box can help control the clutter in your house, why not use it?
- Use storage as decoration if you can. I have an old antique pressed glass goblet that I used for years for my makeup brushes. (Our current bathroom has no counter space, so I haven't been able to use it in a while.) And years ago I found the most amazing piece of handmade pottery on Etsy. It's a tray that holds 14 little boxes, all labeled with the days of the week and then morning and night. It's meant to be a pill organizer, but I use it for my earrings.
Clutter or Not?
We've talked a lot about clutter in your house, but first I think you need to decide if, in fact, what you have is clutter. To me, clutter is taking up room and not serving a purpose. And while I don't think that decorative items fit into that category, I suppose that depends on how many you have. We've all seen homes on TV or elsewhere that are overly filled with knick knacks. To some of us, that qualifies as clutter.
I don't think that you or I are ever going to be minimalists. We will always have stuff, and maybe too much of it. The goal is to try and keep it contained, neat, and still easy for you to get to when you want.
I think I would be much more comfortable in a slightly cluttered home than an overly neat one.
When we lived in Michigan, I had a neighbor and friend across the street. Her kids and mine were about the same age and friends. We each had cluttered homes because we were raising children, but we agreed that the more important thing was that underneath the toys and shoes and sports equipment, the house was reasonably clean.
And that's a good thing to aim for. I was on Pinterest tonight and I noticed a lot of pins about making your home feel peaceful, serene, or just cozy. That sounds good to me. Maybe we should think about that, too. Not just how your home looks to outsiders, but how it makes the people who live there feel.