Unclutterer reader Mary recently wrote to us describing her biggest organizing challenge:
My husband insists on keeping various things by his recliner, on a small table, in the living room. Things like scissors, nail file, pens and pencils, two pair of glasses, toothpicks, nail clippers, bottle of water, Kleenex, TV remotes, files he is working on (self-employed), electric razor, vitamins, crossword puzzles, scratch paper, his laptop, current book he is reading … need I say more?
Actually it is an old TV stand that he has repurposed and it has a shelf where he slides the laptop into. And there is some organization to all of the things mentioned. Some aspects of the clutter can be removed easily when company comes over as they are in plastic shoe boxes. Do other women have this problem and what do they do?!
Mary, the living room is a shared space, so it’s important to look for solutions that work for both of you. The following suggestions might help you find some common ground.
Negotiate which items get kept by the recliner
It’s often wise to store things where they are used. So keeping some things by the recliner can be a good strategy for someone who regularly uses that chair to read, work on the computer, do crossword puzzles, watch TV, etc. But I’d suggest you negotiate some limits, based on what activities are appropriately done from the recliner.
Unless your husband has a disability and getting out of the chair is a significant issue, I would think that personal grooming is better done elsewhere. So maybe a book, some scratch paper, a few pens, eyeglasses, and such stay by the recliner, while things like the electric razor do not.
Get better storage tools
Once you’ve agreed which things are reasonably kept beside the recliner, consider whether it makes sense to invest in better ways to keep those items close at hand.
You might want to replace the old TV stand with an end table that provides storage, such as this one from Levenger.
You could also add a storage ottoman. There are many choices, at various price points — the one above comes from Crate and Barrel.
Another approach would be to make that entire furniture piece mobile, so it can be rolled away when company comes. For example, something like the above utility cart from Ikea could work.
It might also help to add a storage product that goes over the arm of the recliner, such as the above remote control pocket from Ikea.
Agree on a maintenance plan
It’s easy for a well-used place in your home to become cluttered, so work with your husband to develop a plan to keep things under control. For example, you might agree that at the end of the day, your husband will:
- Dispose of all trash.
- Place any book that’s been finished either on the bookshelf (if it’s a keeper) or in whatever place you’ve defined for things being given away or sold.
- If anything has accumulated near the recliner besides the things you have agreed belong there, put those items away in their normal storage places.
- Put everything that does belong near the recliner in its designated storage area: in the drawers or containers on the side table, etc.
An alternative: Follow Marie Kondo’s advice
Marie Kondo, who wrote The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, would say that all your husband’s things should be kept in one place, not scattered around where they are used. If you want to follow her advice, I would suggest (as she would) that you begin by making sure your own things are in order and showing by example how well her approach can work.