Ask Unclutterer: Designing a new space that prevents clutter and reduces cleaning time

Reader Howard submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:

Do you have any tips for remodeling or building a house that would help prevent clutter or reduce cleaning maintenance in the design of the space?

This is a really fun question, Howard, and I’m so glad you asked it. You have a terrific opportunity in front of you to build a space that can help you achieve and maintain an uncluttered lifestyle.

First things first, thoroughly unclutter your existing possessions so your new space is free of things you don’t want in it. Check out “Start a full-room organizing project with a blank canvas” for tips on uncluttering in this style, but apply it to your entire home.

Now that the obvious is out of the way, I highly recommend designing the space with ample storage that can easily be reconfigured. Use elfa shelving (or the competing product from Rubbermaid) in closets and pantries so shelf heights can be adjusted or clothing rods installed or drawers can be added as necessary. Your needs for storage change over time, and your storage solutions should be able to adapt. If they can’t adapt, at some point they will cease to be helpful.

Also, when it comes to storage, think outside the closet. Have drawers set into the risers of your stairs, recess shelving between the studs of your walls, have window seats double as storage cubes, furnish with ottomans that have interior storage, or whatever fits your design style. The idea here is be creative with the elements you use in the space to improve storage instead of hinder it.

Beyond having ample, reconfigurable and creative storage, there are numerous cosmetic things you can do to help with cleaning and preventing clutter. None of these is a perfect solution, but they’re certainly things I do in my homes when I’m not renting:

Paint the walls with washable flat latex interior paint that contains ceramic microspheres. (You can find these in the washable paint section at most home improvement stores. Check the ingredients on the paint cans. The ceramic microspheres are usually in the higher-end washable paints.) Even if you don’t have pets or young children, it’s still very easy to get marks on your walls. With washable paint that has ceramic microspheres mixed into it, these stray marks come off like you’re washing tile instead of your painted walls.

Lay hardwood floors and use throw rugs instead of wall-to-wall carpeting, especially if you have pets. Cleaning and maintaining hardwood floors is exponentially easier, and it’s much less expensive to replace a throw rug than an entire room of carpeting.

If money is no object, install smart glass windows. You’ll never have to clean blinds again. (But, I guess if you can afford smart glass windows, you could probably also afford a cleaning crew to wash you blinds …)

Finally, I’ve never had one, but I’ve always thought a central home vacuum system would speed up cleaning time. Some of the systems have horizontal intakes (I think they’re technically called “sweep inlets”) so in addition to using the vacuum hose, you can also sweep directly into the suction area and not have to use a dustpan.

Thank you, Howard, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column. And, like I mentioned earlier, be sure to check the comments for suggestions from our readers on designing spaces to prevent clutter and reduce cleaning time.

Do you have a question relating to organizing, cleaning, home and office projects, productivity, or any problems you think the Unclutterer team could help you solve? To submit your questions to Ask Unclutterer, go to our contact page and type your question in the content field. Please list the subject of your e-mail as “Ask Unclutterer.” If you feel comfortable sharing images of the spaces that trouble you, let us know about them. The more information we have about your specific issue, the better.

41 Comments for “Ask Unclutterer: Designing a new space that prevents clutter and reduces cleaning time”

  1. posted by Erin Doland on

    Another idea if money is no object, I think a full house air filtration system would be very nice to have. It can significantly reduce the time you spend dusting.

  2. posted by Alaina on

    I just bought a house with – surprise! – a central vacuuming system. I had never even HEARD of this before. So futuristic! There are one or two ports per floor. It works really, really well, with great suction.

    However, I have no idea what to do with the hose itself. It’s about 15 feet long, ribbed, and very bulky. There’s a separate extension piece (probably an additional 20 feet), and similarly bulky. How do I store it? How best to transport it?

    Have central vacuum system hoses have come a long way since the 1970s? Would a newer, more efficient hose work?

  3. posted by Marie on

    Great question! One of the first things I’d consider is the size of the house and how much space you (and your family, if applicable) really need. Our possessions seem to expand to fill the space we have, so the less space, the less clutter! Luckily, the trend toward enormous, wasteful residential spaces seems to have slowed, but it’s still something to think about, whether remodeling or building from scratch.

  4. posted by Molly on

    Install toilets with straight sides so dust doesn’t collect in all the nooks and crannies around the pipes.

  5. posted by Zach on

    In terms of vacuuming, we purchased a robot vacuum (specifically a Neato) and were gifted a handheld, battery-powered vacuum (a Dyson of some sort). Between the Neato vacuuming all the floors in the house twice a week and using the Dyson for touchups and corners, the house has never been cleaner.

    I think the real advantage of the Dyson is the ease of simply snatching it from the wall charger and sucking up anything that needs sucking up. The lack of any momentum needed to clean just makes everything cleaner!

    Something tells me that combo is probably cheaper (and more maintainable) than central vacuuming…

  6. posted by Nupur on

    I recently saw windows with built in blinds (mini blinds sandwiched in the window panes). You use a switch on the window to open/close the blinds. Pretty nifty way to avoid cleaning blinds.

  7. posted by rianne on

    @Alaina – my parents have a 10 yr old central vac and my grandparents have a much older one. Identically bulky hoses. They hang on hooks in the basement.
    My parents have also had so many issues with theirs. Those nifty horizontal intakes for sweeping? Constantly plugged. And lugging that hose around isn’t much easier than carrying a full vacuum cleaner around. In my experience the central vac really isn’t worth it.

  8. posted by WilliamB on

    “smart glass windows”

    Wow, a whole new thing to lust after. My previous object of window affection was energy efficient ones that are easy to open. (William B mentally ups the house window budget by a factor of 10)

  9. posted by David Wilson on

    One thing that I have found really handy when organizing my work space is the fantastic range of draw organizers that you can get from ikea!

  10. posted by Henave on

    I just changed my kitchen countertops from 13 year old white laminate to a darker colored quartz. The difference in ease of cleaning is dramatic. The older white countertops showed every crumb and marked/stained easily–much scrubbing was required to keep them clean. The quartz countertops have yet to stain and only require a wipe down to clean them.
    @Molly- I hate cleaning the sides of my toilets! I have to stand on my head almost to see what I am doing to properly clean it. There is room for improvement in the toilet world.

  11. posted by chacha1 on

    My mom has a central vac and does not love it. I avoid vacuuming till I am tripping over the dustbunnies. Highly recommend hard-surfaced floors (real Linoleum or cork are foot-friendly options) for ease of cleaning. There is nothing dirtier than dirty wall-to-wall carpet.

    And two words: Closed Storage. Open shelves, even when kept scrupulously clean, can look cluttery unless carefully curated. If you have pretty stuff, put it behind glass doors. Stuff that’s not so pretty, behind solid doors.

  12. posted by Victoria on

    I’ve just gone from a three story, four bedroom, four bathroom house to a one story, three bedroom one bathroom house. The biggest relief is not having so much stuff. We don’t need so much stuff, you need really useful, multi tasking stuff instead.

    My favourite cleaniung gadget is the Gtech electric sweeper, It’s not a chore to run it over the floors and since it’s rechargeable I don’t need to plug it in. The kids are tasked with running it over the floors after mealtimes. A charge lasts more than a week, and then charge it up over a night and it’s ready to go again. I hardly ever bother with a vacuum cleaner anymore.

  13. posted by Shadlyn Wolfe on

    Beware of “fiddly bits” – my house has a built in shelving unit and the front of each shelf has a pretty little rail with tiny little shaped banisters and a three-layered rail. Very pretty when it was new.

    A pain in the butt to keep looking nice; things get into those nooks and crannies. Beware of anything with decorative carving or three dimensional nooks in it; remember you’re going to have to *clean* that, not just look at it!

    I’d recommend smooth surfaces and tight fits, something that a quick whisk with a rag will take all the dust off of evenly.

    Have as few inward facing corners (like the inside of a shelf) as possible, for the same reason; dust will gather in those corners and you’ll have to take time to actually pull it out. Shelves are one thing; decorative fiddly bits another.

    Make sure your kitchen cabinets go all the way to the ceiling; you can have doors for access if you want, but if you leave the soffit open you are going to have a dust magnet that’s hard to get to in a room that you really want as clean as possible.

    If you’re doing a really complete remodel, take a few minutes to really think about where your electrical outlets are, too. I’ve got a couple behind doors; for what reason I can’t imagine! – and not nearly enough in my living room where my electronics live. Making sure the outlets are in the right places will make it easier to keep cords out of sight.

    Consider having small shelves professionally installed above the door/window level, if you have a lot of decorative items or infrequently used media to store. Having a pro do it should keep it from falling on your head later, and having shelving up there leaves your floors and counters free for items you use daily. (Ask yourself if it’s worth the dusting hassle, though.)

    Make sure any windows that you have installed are easy to clean; I’ve got storm windows, but the top section doesn’t come off; it’s almost impossible to clean them properly and I’ve half given up. :/ Don’t let this happen to you!

    I’ll repeat the closed storage comment above; it’s nice to have some open storage for display (and to give the room a more open feel) but the more of your storage is closed the easier cleaning will be. Glass front display cases require cleaning but do keep collectibles from gathering dust if this is a concern.

    I could go on, but that’s probably enough from me!

  14. posted by BethN on

    Shadlyn’s point about electric outlets is a good one – if you’re doing a really thorough remodel or new build, make sure you not only have enough outlets (& the wiring etc. to support them) but put them in the places where you may need them – I’d recommend at least one on every wall, even if you don’t need them all right away. (I recently set up my spare room as a library/study, and the best wall to put the electronics turned out to be the one that has no outlet, so the options are either long extension cords pinned up around doorframes, or nothing till the eventual $$visit-from-an-electrician. And I don’t like extension cords.)

    Also ditto on the virtues of closed storage. Even if you keep your possessions rigorously pruned, there’s bound to be stuff that you need but don’t want to look at all the time.

    Is central vac a current Thing? I’ve never been in a house that had it, but my college dorm had it many decades ago, so it’s hardly cutting-edge technology. I can’t imagine it’s that much more effective or convenient than other vacuum options (frex, you still need to store the hose & attachments, & haul them out when you need them), and it’s bound to be a lot more hassle to maintain & repair.

  15. posted by Carla on

    Try to think about the things that annoy you about the space you live in now (or spaces you lived in the past). My husband and I just bought our first house last summer. While I love it, there are definitely things I would change if I was designing from scratch. For example, I don’t have a coat closet. The hooks on the wall by the garage/kitchen door work, but personally I would like a coat closet much more. Actually, just more closets in general would be nice. I have yet to figure out where to store tall things, such as my upright vacuum and broom. I don’t really have space for them in the bedroom closets, and my only other closet has shelves from floor to ceiling.

    I definitely agree with placement of outlets mentioned above.

    Think about how you move through the house during the day. You get home from work and you want to dump your purse, wallet, etc. So plan for a station to do those things. You bring in the mail; plan for a convenient location to process it.

    Follow the same principles as regular uncluttering, but enjoy the additional freedom of changing the structure of the house itself!

  16. posted by Lisa on

    I would agree with the idea to think about how you live now. Think about where the mail will come into the house – and plan for something near there to handle getting the junk into the garbage/shredder. Think about where you keep clutter in your current place – think about how you wish it would work.

  17. posted by Jannie on

    A large mudroom (or foyer depending on how you live) that has a spot for everything coming in & out (my reusable grocery bags, my work bag, my gym bag, our bike helmets, the library books to be returned …).

    On the subject of toilets, I so wish I could have a wall mounted one so i could simply mop under it!

    After my renovation I have a counter where we charge everything and a drawer beneath it with all the misc chargers. I added extra sockets next to each night stand so we could charge our cell phones while keeping them accessible.

    I second the windows that are meant for cleaning from the inside.

    The everyday dishes on open shelving next to dishwasher makes that daily task very efficient.

    Mostly, think about where you use them and plan for places to store them near by. I relocated xmas decorations from attic to basement since its dry and closer to where i use them (no lugging down two flights of steps any more).

  18. posted by STL Mom on

    Don Aslett has an interesting book, “Let Your House Do the Housework” which is about building homes to reduce maintenance and cleaning.
    One point I remember is to have your flooring in a medium-toned color. Very dark and very light floors show dirt more easily. I often am thankful for my medium oak floors as I clean them and realize they are much more dirty than they look! Woodwork in a medium wood tone instead of white is another big help — I sometimes curse my white baseboards that show every fleck of dust.
    My other pet peeve is stainless steel appliances — I hate them! I spend way too much time wiping off fingerprints.

  19. posted by Mary Denny on

    If I ever build I will have my laundry room near the bedrooms maybe even with access from walk in closets! Maybe even more than one set, or at least more than one dryer. so laundry can get done sooner.

  20. posted by Sharon H. on

    STL Mom, I was glad to see you mentioned Don Aslett. I lent my copy to a friend who was building her house, and she incorporated several aspects.

    It helps if your design sense is mid-century modern. Very streamlined, few architectural details to catch dust.

    Choose to have all floors the same material and you won’t have to switch cleaning tools for each room.

    Mount as many items as possible on the walls. It’s so much easier to clean floors when you’re not picking up and moving individual items. Imagine the ease of a small cupboard tucked in between wall studs in a bathroom to hold the plunger and toilet brush. Every toilet needs both tools (at one time or another) and yet we have to pick them up and move them constantly to clean.

    Same issue in kitchens: mount that radio, or the microwave. Otherwise you’re moving them every day to wipe around.

  21. posted by Marjoryt on

    1. My dream house will have a faucet and a drain with garbage disposal. I just spray, sweep, and grind everything.

    2. When choosing floor color, walk outside and grab a handful of the dirt closest to the door. This is what comes in your house. If you have dark soil, then it shows up on your beige tile and cream carpet. Match floor color to dirt color. Or, pet color.

    3. If you have title, you want the smallest tile lines AND the very darkest tile grout. The installers will hate you, but you will LOVE not worrying about stained grout.

    4. Consider commercial floor coverings – carpet, vinyl, title. No, the pattern choices aren’t as varied, but you are matching the dirt anyway. These are often easier to clean and sometimes to install.

    5. Drawers in bottom cabinets. I wish that was ALL I’d put in. I like drawers better than slide out shelves in cabinets.

    6. Neutral colors for bathroom fixtures. Wild colors for paint and accessories. This is especially important if you plan to eventually sell the home.

    7. Make all metal thingys in the home match. Handles, lights, faucets – get them in the same color family. Bright brass is not very fashionable now – avoid.

    8. When picking cabinets, look at the prices first – get the basic finish – same quality, you are just paying more for “fashion finishes” that don’t last any longer. From there, look for the SIMPLE constructions – the more ornate the construction, the more you will be dusting.

  22. posted by Marjoryt on

    I’m sorry, quick correct – I want a faucet, garbage disposal, and floor drain in every room. Seriously. Hose, grind, go.

    I’ve built or remodeled 7 homes, and the commercial flooring/matching the dirt has saved us so much time when keeping the home ready for viewing. Think “lawyer’s office” type of commercial options. My den’s vinyl plank flooring is also in the local Mercedes Benz showroom; it looks great in both places.

  23. posted by Marguerite on

    My advice is to spend plenty of time now, thinking, planning,testing your ideas. Then do the build or rebuild. You won’t regret it.
    Here are a few things I have learned from building and renovating several times over the years. I hope they help:

    Central vac systems- I love them. No machine to drag around, easier on the door frames, and you empty the collection cylinder maybe once a year. I go through vac bags way too quickly on my conventional vac. If you can manage it, build a closet just for your vacuum hose, accessories and cleaning products.

    Simple materials can yield superb results. We have just renovated two bathrooms, using plywood to line the walls. One bathroom has cork tile flooring, the other has ceramic tiles with underfloor heating- both are a joy to use. Even the vanity cabinet is plywood on the outside, white inside, and is hung above the floor for easy cleaning beneath it. We used polished concrete for the vanity top, with two plain white ceramic sinks semi-recessed into it. The concrete looks great with the plywood walls and is indestructible. I would happily have one in my kitchen if I could.

    Install far more lighting than you think you need. Our eyes are only getting older. If money permits buy the best LED lights that you can. Upfront cost is higher but running cost is minimal and most LED bulbs last for 20,000 to 50,000 hours.

    I agree re the power outlets. Put in more than you think you will need, and LOTS in the kitchen or family room

  24. posted by Marguerite on

    Me again, had more to say:

    Hard flooring in the high traffic areas works really well. We put cork tile floors in the kitchen, laundry, and the two corridors, but opted for commercial grade wall to wall carpets in the bedrooms. The main living area (open plan kitchen, dining and living room) has the original hardwood flooring with a few area carpets on it for the cooler months only. Easier to keep clean all year round.

    Install as much insulation as you can. We put sound-absorbing insulation between the new bathrooms and their neighboring bedrooms.

    Think about whether you will use solar energy or some other alternative energy in future. Plan for it now. Solar infrastructure can be installed relatively cheaply now, e.g., piping in the roof cavity, and then you can add the solar panel later on. Retrofitting solar piping or even central vacuum systems can be done but it is more costly and messier than doing it upfront.

    Drawers under the kitchen counter work better for maximizing storage than cupboards do. Install oven(s) at waist height or a little bit above, but never under the counter top. Who wants to get down on hands and knees to hoick the hot roasting pan and 22-lb turkey out of a hot oven, especially if you wear glasses ? It is really important to install the best lighting that you can in the kitchen (and bathrooms). And finally, have the cook(s) in the family experiment with the placement of the fridge, stove, oven, sink before you turn to the kitchen designer. We used newspaper mock-ups and tape to play around with the work triangle, heights, etc until it felt right. Again, time spent thinking and planning is time weel-spent and often saves money, too.

    Enough from me – enjoy the project!

  25. posted by ChrisD on

    I’m planing to build, so lots of points to bear in mind.
    Re having blinds INSIDE the window panes, I have seen this but I am not convinced at all. I’m sure they will end up breaking and ruining the windows, and surely having something other than air is bad for insulation. Very unconvinced about these.
    Re windows, the type I had in Germany that swung right in for simple cleaning are a million times better than the stupid ones we have here in the UK, which have a complicated metal opening at the top and bottom that are very hard to clean under (and in London the dirt DOES build up) instead of proper hinges at the side. The aim is to have the hinge in the middle so you can reach out and clean the outside, but this is very difficult. Even sash windows, while not super easy to clean, are a million times better. It’s so difficult to get behind ‘green industry’ and retrofitting windows when current windows are so hideous AND hard to clean. (Nice, environmentally friendly windows do exist, just apparently not in the UK).

  26. posted by Mary in TN on

    ChrisD, I moved into my house 3 years ago. The back door has the blinds-inside-the-window feature and I love it. I think it was installed about 8 years ago and it’s going strong. A breeze to keep clean.

  27. posted by Linda on

    I think if I had the $$ to design my own space/home I would love a centralized “charging” area!” (closet or whatever)

  28. posted by Bernice on

    What a super column and super ideas.I love the drawers instead of cabinets under counter tops, I had them and dearly miss them. Getting stuff way in the back of the under cabinets or cleaning back there is so hard compared to pulling out a drawer.The other thing is ..plenty of outlets, when we built a 1200 sq ft home, I had 2 outlets on every wall. Electricians thought I was over kill, but in the long run, I could move what ever I wanted to when ever I wanted to. Now I only have one on every wall, and trying to get behind the headboard…..grrr. Or my computer stuff on same outlet with my table lamp. More grrr Who thinks this stuff up?Have fun, visit new open houses or remodels..see what people have done. But you have done a good thing for all of us in posting here! However out of nosiness, I sure would like to know how big you are going.

  29. posted by Vanessa on

    I have a central vacuum, and I love that it doesn’t have brushes to get tangled or a motor to burn out. In terms of the actual vacuuming, it’s still a hassle to drag the bulky hose and its attachment to wherever you’re going to clean, but at least they’re lighter than a standalone machine. The hose lives coiled up on a hook in the broom closet, btw.

  30. posted by Her from there on

    Just a little add-in from our house building expereince – consider the height of windows in your bedrooms. We decided on very long windows to let in maximum light and to be able to open the windows to catch every cooling breeze. What we didnt consider is that the bottom edge of the windows is lower than the bed head. That limits where we can place the beds. Think about maybe having smaller windows or windows set higher up in bedrooms so you dont limit where you can place furniture. Yes, you can of course place beds in front of curtains but we open ours a lot and its a nuisance if something is in front of them. I also have to say that having the lower window has only been of use ONCE in 10 years – and that was last year when my 12 yr old thought it would be fun to quietly remove the inside door knob from my younger sons room and close the door, locking him in. I had to go around to the window from outside, take off the screens, get my son to open the window and then help him climb out. Daddy climbed back in later to reinstall the knob. Yes, older son got in big trouble for that (and we laughed when they both went to bed). Other than that, I wish we’d put in different windows.

  31. posted by Denise on

    We are building a house in Arizona right now, having finally left the one we built 30 years ago in Colorado.

    The thing I loved most about our Colorado house was the central vacuum. I would never buy a house that didn’t have one. It would be a definite deal breaker for me! We are renting a house now while we build, and I had to buy my first vacuum cleaner. I can’t tell you how annoying it is to drag that stupid machine around, constantly running over the cord. I borrowed a canister vacuum from a friend for the first few weeks and then bought the top-rated upright vacuum. HATED both types!

    Details about my central vacuum system:

    Brand – Vacu-Maid

    Hose storage – I screwed a plastic garden-hose rack to our laundry room wall. Cheap and easy use.

    Wand storage – I kept the metal sections connected, with the floor attachment on them, and hung this from a nail on the wall beside the hose. Low tech and cheap.

    When I went to vacuum, I grabbed the hose and the wand assembly, carried them to where I wanted to start vacuuming, and then hooked the two pieces together. So easy.

    No machine to drag or push around, no cord to have to keep out of the way. The hose was never in the way of itself. Duh. I could reach up with one motion to get a cobweb, vacuum my bedspread, get under the sofa, inside a drawer, around a picture frame, whatever. I was usually too lazy to put on the attachments; I just detached the wand assembly from the hose and used that to do most of my up-in-the-air or crevice vacuuming. But even using the attachments was a piece of cake.

    Another thing I would never do without is my bed with underdrawers. I have a king-size bed with 8 HUGE drawers underneath it, where I can store clothing or bed linens, or whatever. It beats the heck out of having to vacuum under a bed all the time (or wondering if somebody snuck into my house while I was out and is hiding under there). And I need less furniture in the bedroom. Between the use of my closet and the underdrawers, I’m pretty well covered.

    Oh, and floating night stands mounted to the wall. I hate having to vacuum around separate pieces of furniture or around furniture legs.

    Another biggie for me is having no shower curtains or glass doors in bathrooms, if at all possible! I had a big showdown with our architect, the designer, and my husband over this. They (all men) thought I was silly to insist on walk-in showers, but the half hour we spent figuring out how to fit in a walk-in shower will save me hours of squeegee-ing or sliding around a shower curtain to keep the tiles from getting moldy!

    And I agree with designing drawers into your lower kitchen cabinets. In our Colorado kitchen, all of our lower cabinets had either drawers, or doors with roll-out shelves. I MUCH preferred the drawers (although roll-outs are still better than fixed shelves). The drawers will contain so much more without things falling out over the sides and into the cabinet. I am designing only drawers in our new kitchen and will store dishes AND glassware in the base cabinets. It seems kind of strange having no upper cabinets, but several friends have done this and they like it so much better.

    Under-mount sinks are a plus, because you can just wipe the counters and everything falls into the sink. No raised sink rim to clean around.

    And if you can afford it, an induction cooktop!! We remodeled our Colorado kitchen and put in a GE Profile induction cooktop. No lips, ridges, edges, or knobs to clean around; just one smooth piece of glass. I LOVE it, and we are putting one in our new kitchen. Gas cooktops are just too big and clunky and ugly and hard to clean for my liking. Personal preference. Europeans have been using induction for years, and they’re finally starting to be seen in high-end kitchens in the U.S. Also, food doesn’t get burned on, because the glass doesn’t get heated. In fact, you can boil water with a paper towel between the pan and the glass!

  32. posted by NutellaNutterson on

    I highly recommend the book “Not So Big Remodeling.” One of her ideas is to avoid visual clutter on our ceilings by planning the lighting, smoke detectors, attic access, etc.

    Something I’m bearing in mind with any improvements is that our aging population is more likely to need accessibility for walkers and wheelchairs. So walk (or roll)-in showers, wider doorways, and even flooring transitions are a plus.

  33. posted by ninakk on

    There are vacuums without dust bags and they come in small sizes too. All my machines have had wheels underneath so I’ve never lifted anything but simply rolled. Would hate a humongous central vac tube thingy, can’t even imagine how much space it would require to store.

    My blinds are in between window frames and they collect much less dust there so cleaning them is way less troublesome. I would never install windows that open to the outside. It is dangerous on higher levels to wash them when hanging halfway out of the other window. Or then they don’t get cleaned at all if there is no window on the side. Ugh.

    No open kitchen storage for me. Drawers under countertops and preferably bookshelf type storage with only one layer of pantry contents. Oven at elbow level, possibly dish washer there too.

    All storage properly fit after my needs with shelving one can scoot up or down later as well; sort of like elfa but much prettier. Room for bulkier hobby gear than what is needed as per today. Don’t want to run out on proper storage later only to find myself installing second choice freestanding closets and what not.

    Can’t praise cable management enough. They collect dust worse than panelling if left to their own accord. Enough electricity outlets too.

    Store like with like and where it is used. Rather more and smaller units of storage than fewer and more spacious, which would require introducinh boxes and baskets on top of each other.

  34. posted by Allison on

    I think “Ample Storage” is actually one thing that leads to clutter. It’s so easy to accumulate junk if you have somewhere hidden to stuff it away. Living with no built-in closets has sure made it a priority to decide what to do with things immediately and not store anything to think about later. If I do keep stuff, I see it regularly, and it doesn’t disappear forgotten.

    I’m sure it’s not what you meant when you suggested storage, but I have definitely found in moving from Canada to Europe that the change in house configuration has helped keep clutter down. It’s very easy to expand to fill the space you have.

  35. posted by lucy1965 on

    Much to my glee, the company that makes the dimmer switches we use throughout the house has introduced these, sparing me the need to chase down a wall wart when I need to recharge something.

  36. posted by Andy on

    When I was pregnant with my first child, we bought a used Roomba – love it! Now, every organizing/buying decision goes through the “Roomba test.” Keeps everything off the floor because no one wants to pick up the room before setting Roomba to work. Also, my one-year-old loves to press the button and help me!

  37. posted by JustGail on

    I love our central vacuum! At first the hose did bother and get in the way, but now I work away from the outlet into the roooms. Yes, you will leave footprints, but I’m not that fussy on that, and how long does it last anyway? I love the reduced noise and dust.

    However, depending on the house and installation, they can need more maintenance. The more corners in the pipes to the canister, the lower the suction and greater chance of blockages. Vacuuming up anything much longer than a toothpick is a good way to start a clog. It’s also possible that the older units are in need of some TLC or replacement of the motor.

  38. posted by clothespin on

    Lots of vacuum talk so I’ll add the brand that I LOVE – Miele. Priced around the same as a Dyson only made in Germany and designed to last 20 years. It’s bagged and on wheels and sucks like a black hole.

    Having just built a house (albeit, with limited design options… long story) I added in as many closets as I could. The old house didn’t have a coat closet and it drove me NUTS. This one does. I put a book shelf inside the closet to hold purses and back packs and store returns and… and as we are tall, there’s still enough vertical space to hang coats. The vacuum and mop go in there too.

    We have little tiny closets in each bathroom. Perfect for storage of towels and sheets and extra shampoo. Old house didn’t have that either.

    Our bed we made based on plans from Ana White’s website. It’s the platform bed but we raised it up a lot (again, we’re really tall) and I’m adding a bed skirt to hide the boxes we’ll store under it. MUCH cheaper than fancy beds with drawers. And NO side tables. We added a headboard that has a shelf built into it and holes drilled into the back for cords. The alarm clock cord, cell phone charger (for my hubby), ereader charger… all go to a surge protector on the wall behind the bed. Accessable from where we use the stuff and the cords are hidden.

    The cat box and food will eventually go into a little hall closet (with a cat door) so that all of that mess is hidden away – who wants to look at it?

    The living room TV is wall mounted (though, the dangling cords bug me, need to figure out what to do with them) and the outlet SHOULD be in the corner, but is on the side. Hubs can move outlets, so that is a future project, but in the mean time, the future curtains will hide that mess. Under the TV is a vintage mid-century stereo cabinet (lacking the stereo) that I’m converting into media, blanket and game storage. Nothing at all on the top. Partly as the cat has declared that her perch and partly because stuff on it stresses me out. (And no, I’m not OCD, just PTSD… part of that long story.)

    For me at least, finding old funky pieces and converting them into things that I can use for multiple purposes now (stereo cabinet) is really helping. The other useful thing is starting with NOTHING and moving in. It really helps in editing – deciding what comes in and stays in. As most of you won’t be so lucky (I hope) as to go through a disaster like I did… pretend that you did. Just because it is a family heirloom does not mean that you have to keep it. Is there space for stuff or are you craming stuff in? I only keep what I have space for – including kids stuff. And I purposefully put things in spaces that are small – laptop on a side table… so that I have to keep it organized and tidy. A big desk for me just means lots of stuff.

  39. posted by e on

    It’s been mentioned a bit by others, but I want to emphasize: plan your entryways. Coat hooks (or closet), a bench to sit on while putting on/taking off shoes, a place to store muddy shoes (or all shoes), a small table to set down your bags, a recycling bin for the junk mail, a place to set things that need to go with you next time you leave.

    Lack of a proper entry way means these are the things that end up cluttering my kitchen and living room and home office.

  40. posted by Jim on

    I didn’t get a chance to read through all of the comments, so forgive me if someone else stated this already, but one thing I would recommend if building a new house (or re-doing your house, or moving) is something that I always see here on … have a “station” near the front door where you can process stuff right as you walk in, and include a shredder, recycling can, trash, space for mail for each person, etc. I have a “ghetto” version of this in the current place I live (because I read about the idea here – thanks!), and plan on expanding on it when I move into somewhere better. If you are building a new house, I imagine you can create something really fancy-schmanzy, and integrate it into your doorway area quite nicely.

    Just my two cents….

  41. posted by Susie on

    This post is a good example of ‘to each his own’! Some love a central vac, some hate it. One says the blinds inside glass are a great idea, another says no way.

    For me, I would like a catch all spot in a mud room but definitely not by the front door. We have a large foyer inside the front door but I would never want a “station” there. We do allow mail and stuff to clutter one of the kitchen counters- which I don’t like- but that is way better than in the foyer.

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