Five steps to reclaim your living room

Your living room or family room is supposed to be the place in your home where people gather. However, if this space is constantly cluttered and uninviting, the people in your house might find somewhere less convenient to congregate (like your office), or, even worse, they’ll retreat to their bedrooms and start to act like strangers under the same roof. At the very least, you might be annoyed by tripping over shoes in the middle of the floor or having to pick up a pile of clutter and move it to an end table whenever you want to have a seat.

Your living room doesn’t have to be a constant source of stress, and rescuing it from the clutches of clutter doesn’t have to be an overwhelming chore. These five steps can help you to reclaim your living room and make it a relaxing and fun space for the people in your home.

  1. Identify what you and the other people in your home do in the space. Is your living room a place where you watch television, play board or video games, and read? Do you store blankets, books, and your butterfly collection in this room? What are your needs for this space?
  2. Remove items unrelated to the purposes of your living room. Kitchen items shouldn’t be stored in your living room, and neither should clothes that belong in your clothes or hallway closet.
  3. Have a place for everything. If your possessions don’t have a storage place, they will always be out of place. Find a home for all of your things that belong in this room, and remember to store things in the room where you use them. It’s easier to put things back into their storage place when you don’t have to stand up and walk across the room to do it.
  4. Keep decorative items in check. You probably have a lot of items stored in this space, so don’t let decorative items run amok. Only use decorative objects that you love with a passion and find truly inspiring.
  5. Create and follow maintenance routines to care for the living space. Set a timer for five minutes every night before bed to pick up around the room — return food items to the kitchen, put toys and items back in their storage space, and do whatever you need to do to make the room inviting for the next day. Weekly (or more often if necessary), run the vacuum cleaner, dust, and take care of more intense chores for the room. Seasonally, do the major cleaning responsibilities for the space — polish wood floors, clean vents and screens, etc. Weekly and seasonal chores should be scheduled on the calendar, same as all important events, and everyone in the home should participate in caring for the space.

You’ll have to invest some time initially in the room to get it up to your standards, but then it’s only five minutes an evening to keep it clutter free.

22 Comments for “Five steps to reclaim your living room”

  1. posted by Debbie B. on

    I think your most important advice here is to have everyone in the home participate in keeping the space decluttered. Even children are more likely to keep up with their things if they know that, if they don’t, they’ll just have to pick it up later!

  2. posted by diana on

    These are great tips, as usual, but for families with young children there are some other considerations. You’re bound to have toys hanging around the living room, cycling which toys are kept there once a week or so can keep kids interested in them and help keep a handle on just how many toys are in the living room. Soft sided, fold up toy boxes or a set of cloth bins/bags in which to collect toys during clean up time are helpful for both organization and can add a small decorative touch to a room.

  3. posted by Jen on

    I’ve nearly given up on reclaiming our living room! We have an almost-5-yr old son and he has way too many toys. They reside in many rooms of the house, and lots of them are in the living room (well, the den really, but the room where we spend most of our time). I’d like it to be less cluttered, but I’ve just resigned myself to the fact that it’s not going to happen for a few more years at least. I try to contain the mess to one area of the room and just live with it. I don’t really want to just live with it, but I think I’d go crazy if I tried to organize and streamline it all, so it’s the solution that works best for me, for now.

  4. posted by Rachael on

    After helping some friends with a toddler move some furniture, my clutter-loving husband came home and announced that when we have kids, we will invest heavily in appropriate storage for their toys. Apparently he almost tripped on a toy car while carrying a chair – I could have kissed the kid who left it there for bringing about this declaration!

  5. posted by Andrea @ Behind Closed Drawers on

    Something I do is bring the mail it and not lay it on the counter or the coffee table to sort “later,” but rather I sort first thing, and tear up any and all junk mail and place it directly in the trash. That one trick alone has saved me hours of paper sorting in the past year.

    Granted, I’m still working on conquering the paper that is still left behind. It likes to hibernate on that coffee table until I go mad looking at it and shove it somewhere else …

  6. posted by Living the Balanced Life on

    For those who are struggling with the too many toys issue, really consider do they need as many as they have? My 4 kids are grown, and when we had an overload that we didn’t want to get rid of, we would at least cycel thru the toys. Pack up half of them for a month, and then switch out. it would give you less to clean up!
    I agree that living spaces need to be for everyone that lives there. Toys need to be contained as do books and papers and electronics. You should be able to at least toss everything in a basket or container once a day and it be somewhat presentable, even if for your own sanity.

  7. posted by SunnyDays on

    Re. #4, what gets stored in the living room? I think I am missing something. Maybe it’s the kids/kid stuff that I am missing!

  8. posted by tmichelle on

    I have a toddler and I keep her toys paired down to 2 laundry basket worth (along with a few toys that are too big for the laundry basket like pop-up tents). Then, no matter where her toys are, it takes me 5 minutes to toss them all in the laundry basket. I then switch up her laundry basket every month or so to keep her toys new and interesting to her.

    I don’t get sentimental with a bunch of plastic junk. If the toy is just junk I give it to Goodwill. I don’t buy her a lot of toys myself, but the toys I buy her are nice like wooden and metal instruments or easy to store, like pop-up tents. (It took me a while to learn to fold them by finding a fabulous YouTube video).

  9. posted by Erin Doland on

    @SunnyDays — In clients’ homes I’ve encountered CDs, DVDs, video games, board games, video game equipment, blankets, firewood, books, hobbies (like knitting or cross stitch), magazines, television and device remotes, vinyl records, kids toys, photo albums, musical instruments, sheet music, homework supplies, and a vast array of less common items.

  10. posted by cjhaab on

    I took a look around at my living room this morning and focused on the trouble spot. We use the room to watch tv or read the paper; one person sits and chats while the other cooks, etc. So we don’t have a lot of action going on that requires much equipment or toys. Mostly the room is clutter free, or can be after a 2-minute pick-up, except for one hot spot.

    The end table next to my seat on the couch is where I keep a stack of notepads, a notebook, Bible, pens, crossword book and puzzles torn from the newspaper (that are not yet worked on), sometimes coupons or ads, and my purse datebook when I’m at home. It always looks MESSY. I found a basket in my sewing room the right size and will try keeping this stuff in the basket next to the table. Still accessible, and not in a drawer or totebag that’s hard to get into or out of sight, out of mind so I forget to do my Bible reading, etc.

    Hope it works!

  11. posted by Sarah on

    pearls of wisdom! especially #3 and #5 🙂

  12. posted by Cody on

    Some great tips here. We can all use a little more organization in our lives.

  13. posted by Bryan on

    #4 is the biggest one for alot of living rooms. If you have alot of decorations, try to make them somewhat functional and keep food out of the living room!

  14. posted by aliskye on

    My living room over the last few years has turned into Craft Central. (I paint, knit, embroider, pewter cast, bookbind and a host of other things). I’ve recently gotten sick and tired of all the accumulated junk in the living room so I’ve carved out a craft area in one corner of the bedroom under two windows. I bought furniture from Ikea and I’m looking forward to sorting everything and organizing it in it’s new home.

  15. posted by NeenaJ on

    I recently tried to tackle the living room, which was cluttered enough before my (now) 14 mo old son came along. Over New Year’s, I purged the two lowest shelves of our built-in bookcase and filled them with my toddler’s larger toys. This gives them a home and still gives him access to them. In addition, we have a basket for him where smaller toys get rotated in and out. This has helped tremendously in getting his stuff out from underfoot.

    The battle now is now against my own clutter, which accumulates on a tall credenza. Jewelry, yesterday’s lipstick shade, etc. all end up there.

    Magazines also tend to be a big problem. Where do folks store them for reading?

  16. posted by Amy on

    To add to the toy debate… I have two boys and a girl, 6, 2 & 4 who all share the same room. We have a small apartment so we have no playroom beyond their room. My rule is that all toys live in the bedroom. We were becoming over-run so I packed up all the toys into 8 big plastic bins, and rotated them out (2 at a time) for several months. After a long time of forgetting to do it, I realized that we do not need as much as we had. I saved the toys that they would repeatedly ask for and then donated 50% of them. As Christmas approached, I did another 50% donation, this time with their help in determining what got donated. Because of their age, I let them help a little, but then weeded out the rest on my own. We are down to 25% of what we used to have. Even after Christmas, I have to say I have donated some perfectly good gifts because they are more of a hassle for us than I have time to deal with. Now the amount is manageable enough that with the help of a clean room chart, they can clean up themselves.

    What works for us currently is: one toy organizer with colored bins from Ikea where we store blocks, duplos, cars, trains and track, puzzles and small figures. We also have 2 plastic bins that hold miscellaneous toys like balls, oversized trucks, cash registers, etc., a bookshelf and some hooks on the wall for dress-up items.

    The two biggest hurdles for me in pairing down were parting with some really good toys because we didn’t have space or time to keep them neatly stored, and realizing that just because my kids play with something doesn’t mean they will miss it all that much when it’s gone.

    The question that has helped me the most is to ask myself (as I look at their little faces:) if they would be just as happy as they are today if the item never came into our lives to begin with. Answering that question allows me to keep the things that really give them pleasure verses more toys to fiddle with.

  17. posted by Amy on

    @Neenaj, I keep my magazines in a basket between two armchairs in my living room. When I’ve sufficiently read through them I usually recycle them. The ones I want to keep get kept at the bottom of the basket until it gets full and I realize I really do not need them anymore. My husband likes to keep a lot of his periodicals for future reference so I have gotten magazine files so that they can be stored neatly on our bookshelf. Luckily my kids are no longer interested in dumping them all out!!

  18. posted by ninakk on

    re kids toys in living room. My sister and I were welcome to play outside of our shared room, but when we were done playing we were taught to take our toys back to the kids’ room. Worked for us, can work for others if they wish for this to happen.

    I think #3 is the most important of them all.

  19. posted by Adam Snider on

    What do you think about exercise equipment in the living room? I’ve got a small exercise bike (that I actually use) in the living room. I live in a one-bedroom apartment, so the only other space for it would be in the bedroom, which I think would be less than ideal.

    Limited space sometimes limits our options.

    That said, I like the post and will likely take up many of the points (I really, really need to get back to “everything has a place”).

  20. posted by laura m. on

    My living room is “perfect”. We are retirees and my kitchen is the only room I have problems with. I do my bill paying and check balancing in the kitchen. My small dining room off from the kitchen is full of exercise equip. and a gun safe, and shelving for storage; since we have an eat in kitchen.

  21. posted by Mandy on

    GREAT tips! My husband and I just gave the living room an overhaul and it is much more pleasant to be in there when i’m not looking around at the clutter!

  22. posted by Darla on

    And I agree with you Erin! I say the home and everything about it speaks volumes about the ones who live there. So, if your home is as cluttered as a dumpsite, people may have a negative impression of you. But, if in the other hand, you have an immaculately tidy and pleasant house, your visitors will likely view you in a positive manner.This article is refreshing ! 🙂 Nice!

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