Almost everyone has clutter lurking somewhere in their home. Be honest with yourself—is your junk drawer compartmentalized and manageable? Is your closet neat and organized? If you answered no to these questions, you’re not alone. Clutter is a national epidemic. As the size of the average American home has risen significantly over the past 40 years, average household sizes have diminished—meaning that we have more space than ever. While this sounds good on paper, in reality, all this extra space is a vacuum. It will eventually get filled with stuff—oftentimes, clutter.A
How to get off the clutter train? Many Americans are turning to “tiny homes” as a way to reject the model of a large house filled with clutter. In 2013, Yellow Scene profiled Ann Holley and Darren Macca’s tiny home that they built outside of Longmont. Smith built his tiny home out of beetle-kill pine and recycled timber. Evidence that the tiny house movement has taken off locally, and those that live in them are forced to find hyper-creative ways to store their stuff in tight spaces. Not quite ready to move into a 100 square foot mini house? These clutter-busting principles can come in handy no matter what size home you live in. Finding ways to creatively store your treasured belongings and collections is the key to a clutter-free home.
So, yes, you can keep your porcelain figurines and CDs and still create an organized, minimalistic home environment. And plenty of evidence suggests that you should—minimalist décor is prized for producing higher productivity and better moods overall. That’s right—your cluttered countertops could be impacting your everyday happiness. Home & Hood Magazine has looked outside the storage box for ways you can keep your stuff without moving it into the garage or giving it away. These tips and tricks for dispelling clutter will help you create a better looking home and more organized life.
To de-clutter your home, you do have to get rid of some excess stuff. For many, this is the most difficult part of the process, but fear not—you don’t need to toss the possessions you love. To make it easier to decide which items to keep and which to toss, define your own working definition of clutter. This often means one of three things: too much stuff in too small a space, objects you don’t use or love, or anything that leads to a disorganized feeling. “Don’t hold onto items unless they have true meaning,” suggests interior designer Barbee James of Details Design Studio. Once you remove items that fit these criteria, you are well on your way to a clutter-free home. As James puts it, “Just get rid of it! You will feel freer and open up the feng shui in your life.”
Most people’s kitchens bear little resemblance to the clear-countered, sparkling specimens of magazine spreads. Kitchen countertops tend to become landing zones for all sorts of stuff, kitchen-related and otherwise. If your counters are cluttered with piles of mail, children’s backpacks, and odd knick-knacks, you’re not alone. To banish this sort of pile-up, interior designers suggest setting up organized “homes” for these objects close to where they’re typically dropped. For example, if your mail always ends up on your kitchen counter, consider setting up a “mail station” (complete with files and paper shredder) nearby so that it ends up there instead.
This approach of organizing clutter by task can also help you revamp the junk drawer. Creating task-based “kits” is a great way to gather all of the supplies you need to complete a task in one place. For example, a shoeshine kit would make the job go that much quicker. Another way to banish junk-drawer clutter is to use ice cube trays or drawer separators for all the little items like rubber bands, paper clips, etc.
If you’re overrun with precious old sets of china and dishware with no space to put them, consider implementing a breakfast nook in which the bench seats offer compartments or drawers for added storage. Remember, too, that floor to ceiling storage isn’t just for books—it can also provide plenty of space in the kitchen for appliances and dishes.
Interior designer Marjie Goode of The Goode Touch Interiors points out that the refrigerator is a focal point for clutter as it becomes overrun with family pictures and kid’s drawings. Her solution? Move the display elsewhere. “I always encourage people to use spaces differently,” Goode explained. “Tailor your use of a room to how you live, not necessarily what it was designed for.” In this case, she recommends installing a magnet or corkboard in the garage and moving the pictures and accomplishments there. That way, you will appreciate them daily as you leave and return to the house.
The Entry Way
Those with small children know how chaotic the entry way can get. Consider setting yours up as a “landing pad.” Give each family member their own storage caddy or bucket with their name on it. This is where their stuff should be dropped when they enter (and the baskets also offer a place to drop family member’s clutter that accumulates around the home). The items in each caddie should be unpacked and organized daily (coats hung up, backpacks unpacked) to keep the area neat.
Minimalist interior designers also recommend removing the coat rack from your entryway. This may sound counter-intuitive for storage, but coat racks tend to become mess magnets and make entryways feel more cluttered and chaotic. If you do have a closet in the entryway, use that instead for jackets and boots. Hang a few hooks in the entry area so you can always find essentials—like your keys—on the way out the door.
The Living Room
When decorating your living room, borrow a tip from minimalist décor and choose calm, neutral colors for the walls. Select one accent color (or color family) for throw pillows or vases to keep the look streamlined in this often-cluttered room.
When buying furniture, choose pieces that pull double duty. For example, buy the ottoman that opens up for storing blankets, remotes, or DVDs. If you have an extensive CD collection that you can’t bear to part with, organize the CDs in a binder rather than a rack to save space.
For extra storage, just look up: “Many people don’t realize that much of the square footage in their homes is vertical, not horizontal,” says Goode. Floor to ceiling cabinets or bookshelves can be both beautiful and offer a great place to display collections. Adding a stylish library ladder for easy access to the higher cabinets is one of Goode’s favorite tricks. Remember, too, that bookshelves aren’t just for books. A few baskets placed on the shelves can provide organized storage for other items. Instead of end tables on each side of the couch, frame the couch with bookshelves for added storage, visual interest, and functionality.
To begin to clear up that clutter of bottles, jars and cans, place them in organized containers to create a streamlined look and help you to cluster similar items and products. Similar to the “kits” described earlier, this will allow you to pull out one basket or container for each task.
Keep your sheet sets organized by folding the set and placing it inside the corresponding pillowcase, or use baskets in this area to compartmentalize. If possible, store your kitchen rags and dishtowels in the kitchen to give the linen closet more space. And if you’ve got bedding that gets used infrequently (but that you don’t want to toss), put them into deeper storage. To keep your storage streamlined, “items put into storage should be stored in plastic bins rather than cardboard boxes to avoid flood damage and labeled as you put them away”, says James.
It’s especially important to keep your bedroom clutter free, as it should be a peaceful sleeping sanctuary. If you really need the extra storage space here, consider installing floor to ceiling shelving with a curtain in front of it. This way, you can store all of your essentials that don’t fit in the closet, and hide them away as needed with the pull of a curtain. Drawers beneath your bed are another sneaky way to add storage to this room, says Marjie Goode. Another stealthy spot for storage drawers? Under the stairs. “And if you can’t afford drawers, go for containers.” Organizing containers make a quick fix if you don’t have the time or money to install drawers.
Ah, the closet. Since space is typically tight here, make use of all that vertical space. Goode recommends investing in simple pull down rods to expand clothing storage. These rods allow you to add another level of clothing storage above while keeping the clothes accessible. Use shower curtain hooks in place of hangers to hang bags, scarves, and other miscellaneous items. Goode recommends bringing in outside help for the closet: “any space you do have existing storage, I’d recommend using a company to help maximize it.”
Borrow a tip from tiny home dweller Andrew Morrison and go digital with your documents. Employ a scanner for uploading important documents and even owner manuals onto a computer, then shred the paper copies and junk mail right on the spot. Many stores now offer the option to skip the paper receipt and get yours emailed straight to your inbox. This is a tried and true trick from those living in small spaces, as using valuable space for filing cabinets filled with documents just isn’t possible. If space is really tight, consider a fold-up desk for maximizing space.
As you can see, your home is actually a treasure trove of untapped storage potential. As tiny house dwellers and minimalists know, storage does not have to mean boxing up your stuff for the garage or storage unit. Tapping into all of the unused space in your home means a simplified, more beautiful space for you and your family to live your lives.