Aside from the fact that many of us hang out in the kitchen and dump our stuff there, what other room do you and your family hang out in when gray days or tired evening hours arrive? The living room or the family room, perhaps? Whatever you call this room, do you feel some days that it could just be dubbed the messy room? How was it looking after television on Sunday? Whichever room people “live in” in your home, pick up some tips to simplify this high-use evening and weekend family habitat. 

Sometimes our “family” room holds more stuff than family: remote controls, videos, CDs, books, newspapers, games, hobbies, slippers, blankets, stuffed animals, coffee cups, and whatever else everyone in my family happened to be holding in their hands when they walked into the room. Aarrgh!

I am glad my family has a hangout, and I wouldn’t even want to change their habits of using it (much). I think the techniques we use to organize and simplify whatever room we’re talking about could fit the people who live there. Perfect people don’t live here. We do!

Weed Out
Since my family seems to constantly add to the clutter in our family room, I try to weed out any excess clutter in the room itself. With books, CDs, DVDs, and other things already sitting around, I don’t need to overdress this spot with decorating knick-knacks too.

Spring cleaning is also a good time to donate books, magazines, videos, and anything else your family may have outgrown or replaced during winter and the holidays. Keep in mind the famous “one in, one out” rule: If you received a new book, maybe it is time to pass on an old one…

Remove Excess furniture
Years ago, after observing the open living room floor space at our daycare provider’s home, I went home and eliminated our living room coffee table! (Okay, I stored it.) Before you shake your head, consider this: Getting rid of the coffee table reduced the heavy dirt and carpet wear pattern on the floor around it. It also made more room for my children to roll around safely on the floor and play. They won’t always be young, but right then not having a coffee table was a good fit for my family’s style. Eliminate or store excess furniture or decorating if you can.

Clever Containers
I am also in love with “containerizing” everything that can be contained. Piles of stuff sitting around looks messy. Stuff in containers looks calm, and neat to my eye. I’m picky here. I want the containers in the family room to be functional and to look nice too!

When we’re talking about furniture, I like enclosed entertainment centers and barrister-style bookcases—because I don’t have to look at all the little stuff or dust the open shelves all the time either. Wicker baskets are great too. They can hold anything from slippers or blankets to books, magazines, or craft projects.

Larger boxed games and puzzles can be problematic because of their size, but they can also be stored near where they are used! Try a large wicker or plastic laundry basket, or use the space underneath a couch or loveseat, or add some shelving to a nearby closet or base cabinet to store them.

In addition to baskets, I sometimes use nice large canvas bags to hold library books or a temporary project that I want to keep in the room. A sturdy canvas bag is multi-purpose because I can just grab it when it is time to take our library books back, and it looks better to have our library books in a bag next to the end table instead of piled on top of the table. I even choose bags in colors that match the rooms they live in.

A Place For Everything
If there are “homes” in the family room for stuff people use, it will make it easier for everyone to help keep things picked up. Sometimes things don’t get picked up because no one is sure where this stuff could go, or there isn’t any room left where these things are supposed to go. This is why periodically weeding out is important–unless you want to keep getting bigger containers and eventually bigger houses just to hold your stuff!

After removing clutter and organizing the remainder into functional containers, there is maintenance. To keep a semblance of order in a high-use room, help family members get into the habit of taking something with them every time they leave the room. This will help “things” find their way back to their proper storage locations.

Another trick is to spend five minutes straightening up the family room every night for a week. You will be surprised by the improvement. Set a kitchen timer. Don’t skip a night, but also don’t let five minutes expand into thirty–then you know you’ve stayed up too late and you won’t be inclined to clean up before bedtime again. It is amazing what can be done in five minutes per night. Try it before you laugh!

I like to nest in sometimes during evenings or weekends. It is a joy to burrow into the family room with my family for an evening or a Sunday afternoon. Purge the excess clutter, make homes for things your family enjoys using there, and maintain the room to make it a comfortable habitat for everyone.

Barbara Tako is a clutter clearing motivational speaker and author of Clutter Clearing Choices: Clear Clutter, Organize Your Home, & Reclaim Your Life (O Books, 2010), a seasonally organized book of clutter clearing tips that readers can pick and choose from to fit their personal style and needs.

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