Artist, blogger, freelance writer. Experiences include art, DIY, gardening, storm-spotting, caregiving, farming, reading, and kid wranglin'.
The best way to make your home look tidy and uncluttered is to . . . well, get rid of all the clutter and organize the rest. But while you can definitely get a lot purged from your home in a single day, a total overhaul can be quite a process. Having too much stuff everywhere can be stressful, but the real frustration sets in after you've completely decluttered your home and spent your life savings on organizing containers . . . only to realize your house still looks rather messy.
I'm saying this as the voice of experience. There are five us living in around 1,500 square feet of space. Thanks to my partner's hoarder-ish habit of bringing in every free piece of junk he can find, we were literally buried under piles of stuff. After four years of battling the mess, I've learned that just getting rid of things doesn't mean the house will look clean!
Here are a few tricks I learned that will make it easier and faster for your house to look neater, regardless of your (reasonable) level of possessions.
1. Learn to Fold Fitted Sheets
This is seriously a life hack everyone should be taught in school. It doesn't matter if you have a linen closet filled with sheets or you're a bare-bones minimalist with only two. A wadded-up, stuffed-in-the-closet sheet will take up tons of space, annoy you, and make your linen shelf look sloppy even if everything else is folded correctly.
Bonus Tip: Since you are folding stuff anyway, be mindful to fold all like items with the same folds. This way, all the blankets, sheets, etc., will stack up neatly and take up less space. Depending on your shelf or storage container, you may have to play around with different folding techniques to get the best fit.
2. Turn Linen Seams and Folds to the Inside
When you stack linens on open shelves, it will look a lot nicer if you aren't staring at the "open" part where the edges meet. It only takes a few seconds to turn them all the same way. Just think of anything that is folded (from towels to pillowcases) as "books." You want the smooth "spine" facing outwards, not the pages.
3. Choose Matching or Coordinated Storage Containers
When I first started buying bins to sort and organize things, I thought everything would look great as long as it was neatly put away in the proper bin. Therefore, I didn't pay much attention to the color and style of the bins at first. I just picked ones that matched one of the colors of the room they were in and used some I already had on hand.
When you get several styles, colors, sizes, and/or patterns of organizing bins in one place, it looks just as cluttered and busy as it did before you sorted things.
After we built new shelves, we had to buy new containers that fit better. This time around, I was a lot pickier with the colors and styles and tried to limit it to one color per room.
When I can't find a bin in that color that's the right size, I use clear containers or wood painted to match the walls. It's unbelievable how much that makes even an untidy room look put-together!
4. Be Careful With Clear Containers
I love clear acrylic things. I like glass okay. Clear containers are great for organizing some things. But if you end up using them as catch-alls for a variety of junk, then you are just drawing the eye right to your clutter. And it is on proud display!
It will look a lot cleaner and tidier if you keep only one type of thing in each clear jar or plastic container. If everything in there is the same color (think cotton balls or pencils), then all the better!
Note: Sometimes clear is better, even if it does mean things are on display. For example, fridge bins, which are amazing.
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5. Fix the Obvious Spots First
A lot of people start with the kitchen junk drawer when they start decluttering. There is a sense of satisfaction in clearing out all that collection of twist ties and old business cards and having a tidy drawer. But when that drawer is closed, it doesn't make any difference at all to the rest of the house. So while it's awesome to clean out the junk drawer, your makeup box, the clothes in the back of your closet, or the stuff under the bed, you probably won't "see" a difference the next time you walk through your front door.
Instead, try starting with a visible trouble spot. Go outside and come through your front door. Do you have a pile of shoes there in your way, or a table that greets you with a teetering tower of papers, remote controls, and things you plan to fix later?
Yep. You can organize that kitchen drawer all you want and it won't fix that shoe pile. Figure out what the most visual trouble spots are first, then figure out how to sort, store, or organize those things.
6. Decide Where Stuff Will Go Before You Start Decluttering
This might not be a problem where you live, but we ran into a huge obstacle. There was simply no convenient way to get rid of the stuff we wanted gone!
Anytime you plan to do a big cleaning out of your home, you expect to sort things into the basic piles:
- Things to throw away
- Things to donate
- Things to sell
For us, that meant having boxes upon boxes and bags upon bags of things sitting around in our house in the way. And a lot of things that were much too big to fit into boxes or bags or the small car we owned.
To throw that much stuff away meant having to pay an outrageous fee for every car load—which would have been a lot of car loads! It's over 30 miles to a Goodwill, and again, it would have taken dozens of trips in that small car! Even selling stuff took a long time. As we whittled away at the stuff, we spent a lot of time moving it around the house and storage shed. It was a mess.
So if you are going to be getting rid of a LOT of things, check out your area ahead of time to see where and when you can get rid of things. Otherwise, you still have all your mess, and it could possibly end up being "reabsorbed" into your home.
7. Matching Everyday Items
It's not always in the budget (still working on it!), but having matching sets of any item makes them look neater. Really, no matter which way you fold your towels, a stack of white towels will look better than three green ones, four brown ones, and that blue one with flowers that just showed up one day.
This really only counts for things on open shelves. If you have doors to hide the mismatched things behind, then you can relax a little while. But if you've spent a day on Pinterest, you've probably noticed how this works in trendy, open-shelf kitchens.
The more the items match (or at least look like they are coordinated) the better. If shelves are just stuffed full of every color and style of everything, then it does not look as open and clean as promised.
8. Lose the Packaging
If you are really dedicated to making things look tidier without having to do a lot of extra clean-up, an easy solution is to lose as much store packaging as possible. That means the popular canisters for the pantry, yes. It also saves space, and you don't end up causing as many food avalanches.
But it also applies to things that might be seen often during the day, like cleaning supplies (especially if you have open shelves). None of the cleaning supplies come in bottles, boxes or bags that are the same size, shape, or color. So you just stuff them wherever they fit and dig them out when needed, right?
It takes a little time on shopping day, but putting that stuff into same-size containers can make the shelves so much more efficient and nicer looking too. I like using matching, slim spray bottles for all liquid cleaners. Just remember to label your plain spray bottles or cleaning supply canisters to prevent any mishaps.
9. Keep the Fridge Door Clear
The refrigerator is (probably) the biggest item in your kitchen. And most kitchens are open to the rest of the house these days. That means that the fridge is almost always in sight, along with whatever is stuck to it.
Raise your hand if you've ever opened someone's fridge and things flew off the door, because layers of papers and cards were being held up with thousands of weak magnets?
Eh. Maybe you like the "busy" fridge look, or maybe you just don't mind it one way or the other, but keeping it clear will really help your kitchen look tidier.
Tidy Doesn't Have to Be Painful
Those are just a few things you can do to help keep your home looking clutter free, even if it isn't. Matching and coordinated items, tidy shelves, clear spaces, and neatly arranged essentials do a lot of the hard work for you. So you have more time on your hands to tackle that kitchen junk drawer.
(Yeah, it still has to be done. Eventually.)
© 2019 Jayme Kinsey
Jayme Kinsey (author) from Oklahoma on January 07, 2019:
@FlourishAnyway Yes! I use the side for our chore charts and shopping list. They can't be seen unless you go into the kitchen and look for them. :)
FlourishAnyway from USA on January 06, 2019:
I especially like the last tip. I got rid of all the stuff on the frig door several years ago. I stick the magnetized list to the side where you can’t see it.