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Declutter Now! How to Organize Your Home

Mar 13, 2017
This is a sound example of a wonderful built-in cabinet solution for a shared bedroom.

Junk is the enemy of beauty. If your spaces are crammed full of clutter, they will look awful. It won't make a shred of difference that you've found perfect furniture or art that speaks to you. No guest will walk in and think: "Wow! This is a great room, and I want to be here." In fact, quite the opposite will happen.

I was at a client's house yesterday, and my heart sank as I walked in and realized that our work was already lost.

Previously, after our work on the main public spaces was finished, I left the premises with little on the walls and nothing out on surfaces. But yesterday, every surface had a stack of something, and there were small objects in all rooms. The home looks exactly like it did before. This is a harsh observation that is likely offensive to those who tend to be pack rats. But order is a part of any aesthetic. Surely, the worst thing for a small home is the accumulation of things that do not belong on public display due to lack of storage.

One trick for those of us who are prone to dropping things and not returning them to their proper home is to promise that at least the public rooms will remain tidy. Keep your foyer, living room, dining room and kitchen free of extraneous items. I periodically force myself to pretend that I have never seen my own house before. It's an old trick that I learned when doing commercial interior design to educate business owners about how their physical identity was perceived by customers.

Look with an unforgiving eye. Be hard on yourself, and honest. Force yourself to see the unnecessary items that we begin to ignore over time through familiarity. Start at your front door, including the porch or entryway. Is there a collage of dead plants or unimportant accessory items that detract instead of enhance a first impression of your home? If you have a coat rack, are there far too many garments, shoes or boots clogging the foyer? Is there a collection of purses, backpacks or umbrellas that can be thinned out?

As you move into your living area and dining room, what meets your gaze? What does your eye land on first? If it is anything other than wonderful pieces of art, accessories, furniture or a pretty view, consider taking corrective action and remove the offending articles. These might be storage boxes or stacks of mail, magazines and newspapers. When I visited my client the other day, we discovered empty shoeboxes that had simply been left in the TV room for months for no apparent reason. Closed storage is valuable for a small home. If you are tight on time and blocked by the magnitude of the task of clearing out clutter, try one small project at a time. Remove just one stack of junk this coming weekend. Just one. The old adage "if you have not worn or used something in a year, then it probably can be thrown out" is still valid.

This is a sound example of a wonderful built-in cabinet solution for a shared bedroom. There are two desks for homework and plenty of shelves for books and other items. Or, try enclosing open bookshelves for a more streamlined look.

Is removing unnecessary items from rooms hard to keep up? You bet it is! Is it more valuable in a small house? Absolutely.

Photo Credit: Diamond Cabinets

Christine Brun, ASID, is a San Diego based interior designer and author of "Small Space Living." Send questions and comments to her by email at


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