Living Room Clutter

patterns in the sand
© 2013 Christy King

“The living room seemed to be where no living ever actually occurred.”

– Alice Sebold

When I was a kid, we had a “living room” that no one lived in. Scrupulously kept neat and clean, it was for guests only. Then there was the room we actually spent our time in. It had the comfortable furniture, the TV, the stereo and a set of encyclopedias (that dates me, doesn’t it?).

Maybe you have a formal living room and a family room. If that’s the case, your living room is probably already pretty neat. That doesn’t mean you should ignore it, though.

First, think about whether you even need a formal living room. Do you use it? How often? Would you be just as happy using the family room for both family and guests?

If you don’t need a formal living room, this may be a good incentive to downsize to a smaller home. Alternatively, you could use the living room for something else your family would appreciate more, such as a hobby room, exercise room, media room or playroom.

Remember, you might be able to switch things around and use the living room as your family room, using the old family room for the new purpose.

 Hey! I Actually Use My Formal Living Room

If you do use and want to keep your formal living room, take a look around. Does your living room have as much furniture, artwork and knickknacks as a Downton Abbey set? If so, declutter the excess. Except for keepsakes, it should be pretty easy. Keep only the things that you truly love.

If they are keepsakes and you’re tempted to keep them even though you have too many or don’t like them, see my post Minimalist Keepsakes.

“Toys have taken over my family room. I watch Mary Poppins, and no matter how many spoonfuls of sugar I eat, action figures won’t march into a bin with the snap of my fingers.”

– Barbara Brooke

If you have separate living and family rooms, your family room is likely a lot messier and more cluttered than the living room. Maybe, like us, you have one room that serves both as an area for the family to hang out and as a place to entertain guests.

Either way, this room is probably full of stuff like board games, toys, jigsaw puzzles, magazines, newspapers, projects, books, electronics and DVDs in addition to the knickknacks, artwork and furniture.

Deal with furniture, artwork and knickknacks as described above. If your room is overtaken by toys and other kid stuff, I urge you to read my earlier post, Kids and Clutter. If you have too many books, read Books Taking over Your House?

“The real question one should ask when presented with a puzzle is, ‘Should I solve it?”

– Tony DiTerlizzi

With respect to games and puzzles that belong to the adults of the family, take a few moments to review what you have.

Unless you’re the kind of person who likes to redo puzzles, go ahead and gift or donate any jigsaw puzzles you’ve completed. Not long ago, I found one we’d already completed stuffed in with the board games.

If you have some puzzles you haven’t done yet, answer honestly whether you plan to do them any time soon. If not, they should go too.

We found two we haven’t done yet. We’re not huge jigsaw puzzle fans, but enjoy them enough that we’ll do these two before we donate them. So that this happens in real life (not just in theory), we immediately started work on one.

“Life is more fun if you play games.”

– Roald Dahl

Obviously, if no one in your house likes a game, you should get rid of it. Don’t worry that you’ll have guests someday who want to play it. Surely you can find a game everyone enjoys.

Do you have board and card games you’ve never played? If you know you have no interest in them, get rid of them now.

You might hesitate to get rid of games you’ve never tried. In that case, commit to trying each one sometime in the next couple of weeks. If you don’t enjoy one, or you haven’t gotten around to trying it after a month, out it goes.

I’ve been tempted to keep games for future grandchildren. Since I can get a replacement for a couple of dollars at the thrift store if we ever do have grandkids to entertain, I opted to donate the outgrown games so kids can enjoy them now.

“One reason that cats are happier than people is that they have no newspapers.”

– Gwendolyn Brooks

Magazines and newspapers shouldn’t be allowed to pile up. Cancel subscriptions for those you don’t read. For those you do read, consider subscribing electronically, or see if they’re available at your library.

If you haven’t finished reading a magazine or newspaper when the next issue arrives, odds are you’ll never get to it. Recycle or donate the old one.

Keep newspapers and magazines where you’ll be most likely to read them. Most periodicals lend themselves to being read a few minutes at a time.

Keep a few in the car so they’ll be handy to read when you take the kids to soccer or wait for your dental appointment. Try catching up on your reading during commercials or while you brush your teeth. [Yeah, I know most of you won’t try that one, but I always read when I brush my teeth.]

“If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not with him, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.”

– Casablanca

Look through your video collection. Get rid of any you know you’ll never watch again – including any that in a format you no longer own a player for. Review what’s left. If any are easy to check out from the library or available on a streaming service you subscribe to (e.g. Netflix or Amazon Prime), those can go too.

We’re down to just a few we want to watch before we’ll donated them. Yes, somehow we acquired DVDs and then never watched them. I bet that many of you have, too.

If you have a big collection and are torn about decluttering them, consider selling them. We didn’t have that many and donated ours to the Friends of the Library store.

 Outdated and Unused Electronics

Do you have old video game consoles no one uses anymore? What about your DVD player? It may be time to ditch the DVD player if you stream everything. Still use your stereo? How many old cell phones and MP3 players do you have stuffed in drawers?

The free-standing speaker that was hooked up to our TV recently joined the “donate” pile. We realized that we never used it.

It might surprise you to learn that most communities now have drop-off points for recycling old electronics, so even if something’s broken, don’t just throw it in the trash.

“A half finished shawl left on the coffee table isn’t a mess; it’s an object of art.”

– Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

My parents always told me to have just one toy out at a time, and I believe this should apply to knitting and other projects as well. Not that I always follow the rule….but I’m getting better.

If the family room is where you work on your projects, by all means keep your projects there (assuming you have room). But keep out only what you’re actively working on.

The sweater on the needles that hasn’t been touched in weeks really does not need to be easily accessible. Nor does the scrapbooking project you haven’t worked on since your now grown children were in elementary school.

“When consumerism succeeds, our attachments are shallow, easily broken, so we can move on to the next thing we’re supposed to get.”

– Phillip Cary

The most important step in dealing with living room clutter is not acquiring more than you get rid of. I know it seems obvious, but none of us would be trying to declutter if we didn’t have too much stuff.

Once you’re reached equilibrium, follow the “one in, one out” rule. I recommend those of you who still have two much stuff instead get rid of 2-3 items for each new one that enters the house.

What are your biggest challenges in decluttering your living room or family room?