Our best approaches to decluttering your living room

cluttered living room
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Living rooms are for living, but sometimes the living takes over, and you end up with a lived-in look that looks cluttered and messy no matter what you do. There’s no reason to panic, though — decluttering doesn’t mean throwing everything out; it just means a little judicious tweaking and organizing. Here’s how to do it in three easy steps so you can reclaim your space…and your sanity.

Let’s define clutter

If you don’t use it, love it, and really want it—it’s clutter.

Backpacks, games, CDs, old VHS tapes, the kids’ trophies from 10 years ago, dusty silk flower arrangements, shoes, extra throw pillows, extra blankets and throws, paperwork, books, and magazines can all become clutter if you don’t keep them under control.

neat and organized living room

Get a good overview

Take a picture of your living room. Look at it, and you will likely see items you walk past every day that shouldn’t be there. They’ll jump out at you as quick as you can blink: That bobblehead you got at a baseball game five years ago, a grass and flower arrangement with two broken flowers and a dust pile on top of the grass, and so on.

Grab a box for items you are donating, a box for items you will put away (we get you want to keep your child’s trophy, but it can go in a keepsake box for them to take when they move out). And finally, grab a trash bag.

Get the family involved in sorting items

If the kids, you, and your spouse have items you always want and/or use when you are in the living room, assign everyone a basket. All of their belongings should be relegated to that space, which should help keep clutter at bay. Keep the baskets on a low shelf if you have small children that need to reach into them without a parent’s help, and don’t be afraid to implement those baskets into your decor style by selecting a wicker basket for a modern or traditional decor style or distressed crates for a rustic decor element.

Designate a “keep or toss” area for all the things you need to sort through. Remove those throw pillows that you thought you would love forever (but now you don’t), and either repurpose them somewhere else in the house or donate them. Next, fold the extra blankets and throws and store them away.

If you always do paperwork in the living room, consider getting a furniture-style filing cabinet. Tuck it in the corner or against the wall and put a nice arrangement on top. Those home movies you watch once or twice a year, store them away. Magazine racks are big clutter magnets. If you’ve been meaning to look through that magazine for a year now, it’s past its prime. Toss it out. Same thing with games you don’t play anymore and puzzles missing a piece.

neat living room

Organize the built-in bookcases

Built-ins, no matter how hard you try, may always look cluttered. But architectural designer Diana Viera, the Managing Partner of ITALKRAFT, has some suggestions. Keeping the living room, since it is such a big part of where everyone in the house is, neat and tidy is key, she says. Built-ins and shelves can be a clutter trap.

“To start, it is never wise to have too many open shelves as it is easy for people to fill them up quickly with clutter and objects, or else they might look bare. But in order to maintain the balance between storage and display, I recommend integrating beautiful doors to help hide equipment or miscellaneous items, but leave the open areas for just a few beautiful photos or artistic displays.”

Viera adds, “This way, the home design achieves the minimalist look that is currently so popular. Integrating these doors is a more simple way of concealing clutter and creating a polished look.”

These are just a few tips to get you started in the right direction. Decluttering doesn’t have to be a full-scale, painful purge of all the objects in a room, and it doesn’t even have to be a comprehensive task. Simply taking the time to throw out items that need to be thrown out and put items in their proper place will go a long way in getting organized.

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