10 Clever Ways to Tidy Up Your Living Room
Professional organizer Hannah Young shares her best tips for decluttering your most lived-in spaces.
As a key communal area in a home, the living room can end up being used for everything—eating breakfast in the morning, doing homework after school, kicking back at the end of the day, and entertaining family and friends on weekends. So it often accumulates all sorts of stuff that can hinder the function and enjoyment of the room. Stepping back to re-evaluate a space you’re very familiar with can be hard, but by tackling the common clutter culprits with these suggestions, you’ll be able create a more peaceful living room.
1. Pare down to a single remote. Remote controls seem to multiply and then disappear with alarming regularity. Although some households corral them in a basket, another good option is a universal remote. By programming a single remote to control all your devices, you’ll never need to hunt for the right one again. This can even be done with a free app on your smartphone, and then everyone has their own universal remote, which in turn can be rung the next time it’s misplaced!
2. Organize the hearth. The trend for cozy fireplaces continues unabated. In the summer, it makes sense to put away tools, logs and kindling, perhaps filling the space with candles or fairy lights for a seasonal alternative. However, come autumn, having an attractive basket for logs and kindling will help keep the hearth tidy, so choose one to best suit the style of your living room.
3. Curate your pillows. The humble pillow can divide opinion—too many or too few? If you’ve accumulated a bunch of them, then a little culling may be in order. Consider the purpose of your pillows: Are they decorative or practical, for use on the sofa or the floor, for people or pets, washable for everyday use or dry-clean for occasional use only? This can be the starting point of your edit. See if you can donate the ones you don’t want to your local thrift shop or animal shelter.
4. Manage your magazines. Maybe the issue of magazine storage is slowly fading as we go digital, but there’s still something satisfying about settling down with a cup of coffee and an inspiring periodical. If you hold on to magazines with the intention of clipping and storing articles for future reference, start doing it now. If after a few weeks it still hasn’t become routine, be realistic that it’s probably never going to happen.
Ditch any magazines older than a year, and review any subscriptions you have to determine whether you’re getting value from them. If you’ve accumulated a stack of unopened issues, unsubscribe for a few months to see if you really do miss the magazine. If you do, you can always sign up again.
5. Tuck away game consoles. Small and large gadgets are another common multiplier: we buy new ones but often don’t get rid of the old ones, which can lead to chaos. Get rid of anything that is broken, and encourage family members to sell old gadgets to contribute toward the purchase of any new ones—but act fast. If you wait too long, the old version will quickly become obsolete and no longer salable. Closed storage can help keep the remaining electronics safe, clean and out of sight.
6. Release your knickknacks. It’s easy to collect trinkets from travels or gifts from well-meaning friends and family. And certainly many are beautiful and appreciated. However, as tastes, fashion and needs change, these sentimental decorations remain the same and often become difficult to let go of. This can be because of guilt about getting rid of them, but it’s worth remembering that your memory and the love shared aren’t bound up in the object.
If it helps to discard only one thing at a time (maybe once a week or month), rather than sorting through a whole collection in one go, try that. As you’re thinking about what to keep and what to pass on for others to enjoy, consider the time it takes to keep the item clean, the worry spent wondering if a child or pet will break it and the space it occupies. Think about what benefits letting go will bring you, and keep reminding yourself of those perks as you choose to release each item from your home.
7. Rotate and donate toys. Children love toys, and a toy collection can grow at an alarming rate, especially with kids of different ages in the same home. For young children, a toy rotation system (you store some toys away for a month at a time and then swap them around) can work well. A more limited collection will help prevent little ones from becoming overwhelmed with choices and help them stay more focused during playtime.
When considering a new toy purchase, introduce your kids to the concept of “one in, one out,” and encourage them to think about any toys they have outgrown that they can then donate to a local charity shop. This way, other children can continue to enjoy the toys.
8. Designate a bits-and-pieces space. Every home has an assortment of odd things that don’t quite fall into one clear category. This is where the junk drawer comes into play. Everything should have a home, and this is the home of those odd doodads, tools and useful things. Add drawer organizers to instill a bit of order, or you won’t find what you’re looking for when you need it. And be ruthless—store only things you know you actually need, and be sure to have a clean-out if the contents start to overflow!
9. Opt for a hideaway office. Whether you work from home or just need a little space for dealing with personal admin, then a desk in a closet may be the perfect solution for tucking away your computer, papers and files. Building in a pullout desk, for instance, and being able to close it off behind doors means that you can quickly go from work mode to rest without having to tidy things away every day—a much better solution than working from your dining table.
10. Minimize pet paraphernalia. Pets can often end up having more toys and blankets than children have! Although you may enjoy buying new things for your cat, dog or hamster to play with, try to hang on to only a few at any one time, and store them in a neat box or basket. Pets, like kids, often have favourite toys and will seek out a special ball, for example, each time it gets stuck behind the sofa.