Whether you are a collector, a minimalist, a maximalist, or anything in between, too much clutter can be damaging for your wellbeing and quality of life. If you can not move around your home, or use the surfaces, drawers and cupboards as you need to, there is a problem! Even worse, furniture that stops you entering into a room properly, or blocks people’s movement around the space, can make you feel overwhelmed.
Visual clutter bothers some people and not others. I am a collector, and fall on the maximalist side when it comes to my love for a visual feast of colour, texture and pattern in my home, as well as gathered items that evoke memories and feelings. However, a table or surface that is visually cluttered, or a shelf that is unstyled and everything is piled on – does my head in. Other people need to breathe more in their homes with clean lines, smooth surfaces and minimal visual stimulation.
There are no rules, but if you find yourself feeling like you are drowing under your “stuff” then clutter is probably an issue. We are overloaded with “stuff” and the drive to consume more – and it is true that what I call messy clutter, can make you feel more stress and experience difficulty in completing tasks, as well as making it harder to relax. But there is such a thing as organised clutter – having plenty of stuff, but making sure it is organised.
Creating clever storage and keeping things organised can help you to reduce the visual clutter and create a more harmonious home. Grouping items on display that work together and leaving space around the, using colour and pattern well, and keeping certain items stored away, can help reduce that visual clutter. We recently started to declutter each room, drawer and shelf in our house, passing a lot of items on to the local op shops, or recycling it. Part of this was to reduce visual clutter and cramped conditions in storage areas. For example my linen closets are now so much lighter and easier to use, as are our wardrobes and kitchen cupboards. It is a work in progress.
Having less on display, helps highlight the items you want to look at. If you have too many things on a shelf for example, it is hard for your favourite pieces to shine. We have lived for 20 years in the same home. It is amazing how things build up over time, and how you can stop noticing items. When I started to shift things and move them on to other people, I realised a lot of things I was holding onto really held no connection for me, and were just not worth having in my life. However, this does NOT make our house minimalist! Far from it, I will always be a lover of things around me. Now, there is just a little less, and a little more room for what is on display to breathe.
How to reduce visual clutter and create a more harmonious home
- Look closely at the messy clutter pain points in your home and develop some methods to clear visual clutter and store it away easily. These pain points may include the dining room table, coffee tables and consoles. Pretty much anywhere there is a surface you can find messy clutter!
- Consider what has been dumped on these surfaces and whether you need the items? If so, where should they be stored?
- Look at the use of the rooms in your home by the whole family and where people dump stuff and who dumps what – chat with others about how they can help keep clutter under control.
- Clear away any obvious messy clutter like old school notes still hanging on the fridge, bills piled up on the kitchen bench, or recycling sitting on the sink.
- Use vintage jars and containers for your pantry – we have an open pantry so need to keep things in jars and containers or else it is a nightmare.
- When you style your shelves and display items on your coffee table, think about how each item relates to each other. Using items in groups of 3 and setting them on angles, as well as using height well, will make your vignettes sing. Having items all piled together, or cluttering out each other, means you can not really see what is there. Likewise, a line of items all in a row can look great in certain circumstances, but not in others. Play with your vignettes to get a feel for what you like. Try a tall vase with a smaller and medium one in a group, or place a beautiful vase with a couple of smaller items in front and alongside.
- On your coffee table try a tray to hold the essential items such as the remote control, and add a vase, candle, or favourite collected item. Get creative with what you use for a tray – I have a vintage china tray that came with a tea set on my coffee table that works well.
- Think about where you put things as they come into the house – do you have one spot you could store notes and bills that is hidden away visually but easy to find? Maybe keep a basket for to do and one for already complete rather than have paper lying everywhere..
- Try allocating one drawer in the house for each person, so they can pop their keys, glasses, papers and notes, and a pin board somewhere for the must remember items. Take them down when finished.
- Consider a set of baskets in the laundry or hall for the kids to throw their school bags and shoes into so they can easily find these thing each morning and throw their stuff in as they get home from school. Toy baskets are essential – we use a series of small vintage cases and boxes for Maxwell’s toys that live in the lounge room.
- Baskets in the pantry and large storage boxes in the tops of wardrobes and cupboards help to keep stored items like winter quilts, out of your line of vision and reduce visual clutter.
- Use a stack of vintage suitcases to hide items you don’t really need right now.
- Look at the way your displayed items are placed – could you create what we call more negative space? This is space around objects so that they work better and can be seen. Can you let some things go to someone else? Perhaps you can edit what you have on display?
- The same goes with furniture – large bulky furniture in small rooms can clutter it and make the room difficult to relax in. Go for smaller, more slimline pieces. Try not to have seating in the walkway when you come into a room. In a open living space, use furniture such as consoles and sofas, to mark out the space.
- Use an ottoman which has storage inside to stack away toys at the end of the day in the living rooms, so there is a dual purpose.
- Go upwards with storage so things are not on the floor, but be aware of open shelving if you want to reduce visual clutter – we have a big open shelved dresser and I try to keep it organised and dusted as much as possible as it is easy for it to become very cluttered.
- Do things in small batches – you do not have to totally declutter your home in one go – this can be exhausting and set you up to fail. Pick a shelf or area of your home and plan to start with that today. Then you can move to the next area.
- As you go through this process be prepared to consider over and over, whether you need to keep an object and try to let go of that feeling and thinking. If you were to lose your home tomorrow, what would you miss? All of those objects or something in particular?
Most of us have far too many items and they really do not add to our lives. It is perfectly possible to be a maximalist but let some things go. You do not have to go minimal however, to have a more harmonious home. Have a good few days clearing some clutter and considering how to prevent the build up, use your collected items well, and play with furniture and decor items.