Cheater cheater

Domino magazine’s February 2009 issue has a fun article with tips from interior designer Ryan Korban on cheating with your clutter control, aptly named “A cheater’s guide to a tidy home.”

In the article, he provides six tips for tidying up in a hurry. Two of my favorite are the following:

make stacks purposeful

Topped with an object, orderly piles of orphaned books and magazines look deliberate even when resting against the wall — and not like you desperately need shelves. Korban likes to dress his with plants or figurines.

realize the power of trays

Instead of crowding your sink with creams, put your products on display. Korban creates a back-of-toilet tableau by grouping his on Venetian glass, arranging jars up front and tall bottles in the rear for easy access — and decorates them with a framed photo and fresh flowers.

The whole February issue is dedicated to the organized home, so be sure to check it out. Unfortunately, we got word on Wednesday that Domino is closing its doors. So, unfortunately, this may be my last fun post about the great magazine. Domino, you’ll be missed.

Photos for this article from Domino magazine

21 Comments for “Cheater cheater”

  1. posted by Susan on

    Piles of books (or newspapers or magazines) will never look neat, tidy or decorative – no matter what you do to them !! Even shelves of books tend to look messy. I know because I used to have shelves of books, floor to ceiling, lining a 16 foot wall in our family room, firmly packed with books. Even with this amount of shelving, I ran out of space for my books. The solution is to get rid of all but a select few and then make use of the public library instead of buying more books. And keep your select few books in a box that is easily accessed. You will find that you rarely access the select book box and during future declutterings, you may consider paring down the select book collection. All I have left of my large book accumulation is a small box of cherished Agatha Christie volumes which may be out the door the next time I clean that closet.

  2. posted by Cat on

    I haven’t seen the other suggestions, and I find these two attractive — but I suspect it’s because the “clutter” itself is made up of such visually pleasing and cohesive things to begin with. Who has that many pretty books? and while I love my drugstore-brand skincare products, a tub of CVS lotion will never look elegant on a tray. Fortunately we have a cabinet roomy enough to store everything neatly, because I share the author’s hatred of a crowded sink!

  3. posted by Lori Paximadis on

    I love the stacks of books. If you need to have lots of books around you β€” and many of us do β€” that’s a great solution when you don’t have a lot of shelf space.

    I’m so bummed about Domino closing. First Blueprint, now this.

  4. posted by georgie on

    I always remember how heavy and cumbersome boxes of books can be when moving households. So, if they start piling up, the read books get passed along. (We haven’t moved in over 20 years but will never forget those heavy boxes).

  5. posted by mark on

    @Susan (comment #1)

    If you believe that “Piles of books (or newspapers or magazines) will never look neat, tidy or decorative – no matter what you do to them,” with all due respect, you simply don’t know what you’re doing. I’ll concede that newspapers are always unweildy; they need to be stored out of sight. But if you couldn’t make books and magazines look nice, I suspect your issue was the *quantity* of items for the size of your room vs. the way they were arranged.

    My father has a library of thousands upon thousands of books — and trust me: they’re neat and tidy. If you have the proper furniture (or in the case of huge collections, the proper *built-in* furniture that’s proportionate to the size of the room), there’s no reason for books or magazines not to look neat.

  6. posted by mark on

    I love the creatively stacked books. However, it defeats the purpose to have any one book — particularly a extra-thick one with a large-font title — positioned such that its title is upside-down. πŸ™‚

  7. posted by Karl B on

    I think the large stacks of books looks cluttered and lazy. Go buy a bookshelf, or clean them up. They make a room visually busy and remove any opportunity for it to feel calm. Putting stuff on top of the pile makes it look more like a junk heap than before.

    Plus, if you are too lazy to edit your books and magazines, how many other piles of junk are sitting around the house or office? Get rid of the stuff you don’t use. If you have that many books you need to hang on to, go get a Kindle.

    Finally, go check out and keep up with which magazines are going out of print.

  8. posted by Jessica @ThriveYourTribe on

    I think lots of books make a space look cozy and lived in, so I love the idea of stacking them intentionally. I tend to have multiple books I’m reading at once, so there’s always a pile of 2-3 books on the coffee table. I might just have to put something pretty on the stack and see if that makes it look more intentional ;-). Then again, my coffee table is right by a bookcase–so I usually just move the books over quickly when I’m straightening up at the end of the day.

  9. posted by RoaringSilence on

    Apart from not looking very pretty, the stacks of books are certainly very impractical when you’re trying to get to one of the books on the bottom.

    This is more a solution for storing books you never read.

  10. posted by Another Deb on

    If you have pets, the stacks of books are in danger of being tipped over, rubbed over or scaled and launched off.

    To me, a stack of books gives me the same feeling of non-accomplishment as a pile of ungraded papers. It’s a sense of “what has to be done with these? I don’t even have time to shelve them, much less read them.”

  11. posted by Ginger on

    I think the commenters who have given these ideas a thumbs down overlooked the author’s intent. The article says they are for “tidying up in a hurry” and not permanent solutions. Shedding unneeded books is smart, but if you have a pile of them on the coffee table temporarily and company is coming, stacking them on a side table and topping the stacks with trinkets makes you look like less of a slob. Same with the bathroom tray idea–it takes less than a minute to take all the clutter you use on a daily basis and group it into something pleasant to look at instead of haphazardly cramming things into drawers that are probably already full.

  12. posted by chaotic kitten on

    I love those tips! Anything that can make piles look better is welcome πŸ˜‰

  13. posted by hmr on

    Perhaps the upside down “Dali” book is from a European publishing company. I have noticed that some Euro companies title the bindings of their books in the exact opposite way of most American (and British) publishers. I have had a few of these books on my shelf, and it always looks a bit funny, but I can find the volume really fast.

    That said, I think both of these tips are great. I do keep a pile of magazines in my living room. I tend to have the last three months of magazines in active rotation, so maybe a paperweight or other objet d’art could prove that the magazines are meant to be there, not just waiting for some further action.

  14. posted by Sarah on

    I do something similar with my desk at work, now that I come to think of it. I square up my pile of reports that I’m working on and put a very decorative paperweight or plant in a pretty cachepot on top. It’s only a moment’s work to page through the pile when I need a particular printout or memo, and my desk looks quite decorative.

  15. posted by Sky on

    Just looks like neat piles of clutter to me πŸ™‚

  16. posted by timgray on

    Ack yuck. Stacks = lazy. All those books and a simple run to the cost plus world market will give you a nice bookshelf that looks great and NOT CLUTTERED.

    Trays full of junk also is not “neat” it’s busy, hard to find anything and your bathroom full of trays of stuff is no better than a counter full of stuff. you’re simply adding an extra item to the pile of stuff.

    you cant fix a hole by digging another hole.

  17. posted by Amanda @ on

    As a bit of a cheater, I’m split on this. I’m awesome about rearranging my messy papers into piles, but they’re still not taken care of, are occupying space in my brain, and, when it comes down to it, are still an eyesore. Stacks of books, okay, I guess, but arranging on trays seems like a way to corral the clutter into a single, more clutter-filled space.

    So sad about Domino. Blueprint, Domino, Wondertime. Sad.


  18. posted by Tania on

    I enjoyed that article and I do a few of the things it mentioned, including the stacked book/magazine trick. For some of us, neat does not equal minimal. I’m not so much with the Tray idea, tho. Random crap on surface areas is an issue button for me.

    But OMG I am DEVASTATED (well, in that non-critical kind of devastation way) to hear that Domino is going under. Ugh!

  19. posted by George on

    I’m loving the bathroom tray idea. I’ve always found that, if you also have to like to cheat like me (Husband is a hoarder) then hiding things in boxes on in trays automatically means it looker neater

  20. posted by Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome on

    I think the point of the article is not to say “live a cluttered life and just make it look kinda pretty.” I think it was more about “if you need to tidy up quickly and you have too much stuff lying about in the moment, here are some ways to make it look intentional.” Over the long term stacks of books or overcrowded trays are impractical, but if you’re in a pinch, they’re great ideas.

    Or at least that’s what I got out of it… πŸ˜‰

  21. posted by Christine on

    One of the things that visitors to my apartment love, and always remark on, is the ceramic-and-chrome “guest towel tray” I repurposed to collect an edited arrangement of skin care products and toiletries (glass bottles from Origins and little jars of Sephora make the cut; the less lovely things are hidden). It brings a seriously 1930s Hollywood starlet-style glam to the back of the toilet!

    Another bathroom-shelf fixture is my little black box: a hinged leather storage box meant to hold 24 compact disks, but inside of which I actually keep, um, girl-supplies hidden in plain sight.

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