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How to enjoy a clutter-free and organized living room.

How many times have you rearranged the furniture in your living room? If you're like me, you get inspired to change up the space from time to time. The living room was the first space I organized as a teenager; my mother loved this about me, but, I never considered becoming an organizer until my adult years. I always wondered why it mattered so much to me when I felt the need to curate the art pieces on the coffee table, edit each room by decluttering it, or move things from one place to another. I would feel at ease when I got the placements just right.

I learned that it was the shift in energy in a room that motivated me to declutter and organize my spaces. After weeks of living in them, I noticed an accumulation of stuff but, would sigh in relief after clearing and cleaning the room. My focus would change, my stress level would lower, and my inspiration and energy would go up.
I just knew that it mattered to me enough to make it a lifelong habit to always pay attention to my surroundings, to change things up when things got out of hand, and just accept how I felt when I was overwhelmed by stuff.
These were my first few lessons in organizing any room. The first lesson was to learn what was my personality type. Second, to always accept how I felt, and third, to make changes when I could.

What kind of living room is comfortable for you?

Do you keep things in your living room without purpose? Let’s say that after a long day at work, your living room is the first place you want to land to kick up your feet and relax. But how do you relax in a room that reminds you of all your unfinished projects or other things you need to do?

Ask the right questions: How do you want to feel when you walk into your living room at the end of your day? Do you want a wall filled with family portraits hanging like a gallery? Do you need the puzzle out on the coffee table until you fit the last piece?

It may seem as if there is no activity too big or too small for any living room. How you enjoy your room, is your choice.  It's only when things get out of control and become overwhelming that turns a great living room into something cluttered and all wrong for you. Remember, it’s what you do in it, and what you hold in it that creates the mood of your room.

So, what can you keep in your living room without making it appear cluttered?

First of all, think about how you want to use your living room. What are your priorities? Do you want your kids to feel free to run around, to draw, to  play, and to be creative when they are inspired? Are all their spills forgiven? Is having an “Architectural Digest" worthy home, or showpiece living room, something you aspire to have?

Having an organized living room means you have everything in its place when you’re not using it, and when it's cluttered, messy, or out of control, you can easily put things away because everything has a home.

We can pretty much agree that having a couch and chairs, a rug, a coffee table, a TV, and media equipment describes the traditional American living room and makes it feel like home. It’s the excess of stuff and excess habits of clutter creation, that create the feeling of overwhelm.

Here’s a list of things that we typically encounter in a living room

  • Decorative items: artwork, wall art, pillows 
  • Furniture: couches, chairs, ottoman
  • Lighting: floor lamps, table lamps
  • Rugs
  • TV and media equipment

Even though you spend lots of time in your living room, that doesn’t mean everything you own should live there too

Our homes start to look cluttered and feel overwhelming when they are filled with all the stuff from our lifestyle choices and habits. The living room is the place you use to entertain guests, read a book, watch a movie, take a nap, set up your holiday decorations, eat pizza, and have Friday family game night. The living room is the “everything” room, where all your activities fit snugly into one place. If you don’t pick up after yourself and put things back in their proper place when you’re done with them, then your space will get crowded and become unlivable.

Here’s a list of things we find lying around the living room that don’t need to be kept there

  • Blankets or throws
  • Board games or other entertainment
  • Books 
  • Crafts
  • Mail, homework, paperwork
  • Media, DVD movies
  • Memorabilia
  • Tchotchkes
  • Toys

How to make your living room livable again and less cluttered

Start by decluttering and taking out all the excess. If you have an overflow of all these items that I listed above, then consider donating some of those that you no longer use. Keep what matters most and get rid of the rest. Pare down on board games, books, crafts, and tchotchkes. Put your mail and documents in your office. Spending time on your paperwork takes a different micro-organizing approach. Visit my blog again to learn how to organize your office and paperwork.

Once you have decided what you really want to keep, find ways to store those items in another area of your home, close to your living room. Make them easily accessible, while cleverly disguising them.

One of my clients did own a big enough home that allowed her to designate all her kid's toys, puzzles, and games into a double-door closet in their finished basement. She would have her children clean up after themselves when they finished playing in the living room (of course, that’s easier said than done, right?). Nonetheless, their games always had a place to go when it was time to clean things up.

Putting stuff away is easy with the right container or cabinet

I prefer placing bookcases, and media cabinets with cabinet doors to hide collections of books, DVDs, your family’s vintage photo albums, and memorabilia. Multi-functional pieces of furniture designed to hold storage are especially helpful. You can place toys or crafts in ottoman-type storage cubes. and just leave your favorite blanket over the couch, and the rest can be saved in the linen closet. Here are some ideas of the kinds of furniture you can use that are multifunctional. Here are a few suggestions that would work well in a living room without looking like a storage container. 

1 - Coffee Table With Storage - coffee table with storage space

Work with what you have

It is important to acknowledge the size of your home and only keep what fits in it. Whether you use your living room to the fullest, or seldom use it, creating spaces for storage is the only way to keep clutter at bay. If you do not live in a large home where you can dedicate a whole closet to your games and puzzles, then getting creative with your space is essential. So in conclusion, declutter, sort, toss, keep, and repeat.


Blog post by Elizabeth Lulu Miranda: Lulu has been working as a home and office organizer in Chicago for over 15 years. She brings new perspectives on how to have an organized life. Writing for the Mercury Organizing blog “Create the Flow" and her personal blog “What would Lulu Do?"

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