Clutter is every homeowner's worst nightmare. Design expert, Lynda Felton, offers some styling tips and tricks for making your house feel homey again.
She’s worked on multi-million dollar mansions and tiny fixer-uppers and she knows that any well-loved abode can be gorgeous and welcoming—as long as there’s no clutter. Here’s how she says we can all clear clutter, create breathing room and stop stuff from taking over.
Take baby steps
“When people think about decluttering, they panic,” says Lynda. But you don’t have to get rid of everything that makes you happy in order to make a difference.
“Start with your junk drawer, closet or purse … something tiny,” she says. “Your goal is to cut the contents in half.” Why? “If it’s packed to capacity, you can’t rummage through it to find what you need, and things you don’t need stay trapped,” says Lynda.
Try this ‘50% off’ approach with pen collections, hair elastics and socks before moving on to more intimidating areas, like the garage or basement. Ideally no storage (drawer, closet, container, etc.) should be more than half full.
Keep a box by the door
“If they aren’t used, your things become permanent squatters,” says Lynda. The solution is to create a system so that as new items come in, older ones go out.
Keeping a wicker basket or fabric-covered box in the hall or living room will help. Take the contents to a charity or let visitors rummage; they might need something you’ve outgrown.
Stop buying storage
Don’t let pretty containers take over, though. “Too many boxes, canisters and bags encourage us to hold onto stuff,” says Lynda. “Keeping your home comfortable is as much about stopping stuff from coming in as it is about organizing once it’s there.”
Excessive storage solutions can really take hold in the kitchen. Canisters for spatulas that collect dust, cookie tins with unused baking supplies and bread boxes for food that belongs in the fridge all contribute to clutter.
Get rid of tools with duplicate functions (tongs and salad servers, for starters) and recycle the container that held them. “Storage is a form of design,” says Lynda. “You need white space to appreciate it and get the most use from it, otherwise it’s just a jumbled, frustrating mess.”
Digitize what you can
“Some books you really want to touch, smell and see, but most you don’t,” says Lynda.
Invest in an e-reader to store those titles that don’t need to be displayed in the real world. “And the space created by the books you’ll donate, doesn’t need to be filled up,” says Lynda. “Lightening your collections isn’t an excuse to acquire more stuff.”
Take the same approach with photo albums: digitize everything and print off only what you want to display.
Don’t build it until you need it
“When it comes to renovations, people can go overboard with storage,” says Lynda, referring to the walls of built-in cabinets that every new kitchen design seems to incorporate. “Think about how you actually live—chances are those cupboards won’t all be used,” she says, “and if they are, what are you keeping in there?”
Ask yourself the same about double-duty furniture: ottomans, bed frames and coffee tables with built-in storage. “Why have that furniture with pull-out drawers and hinged lids if you don’t live in a tiny condo?” asks Lynda. “The problem is that if the space is there, most of us will fill it with stuff.”
If you already have those pieces, try to empty them. Use the coffee table for its main purpose (putting feet up or holding drinks), but keep stuff out of hidden compartments.
Count to two
“My mom has a linen closet that’s stocked like a hotel,” says Lynda. “It’s got hand towels and face cloths and small towels and bath towels… no one uses all that anymore.”
How many people can sleep in beds in your home? Allow two towels for that number, and keep only two sheet sets per bed.
Apply this math to other household items. “Look closely at small appliances tucked in cupboards—do you use the blender and the stand mixer and the hand mixer, too?” asks Lynda. Even for a large family, more than two of any specialty appliance is probably overkill.
Hang everything, fold nothing
Anything in drawers (pillow cases, blankets, even sweaters) gets forgotten. Force yourself to see and move your possessions regularly, and you’re less likely to acquire duplicates.