How Can I Un-clutter My House?

My house is full of little fidgety things - souvenirs and gifts and keepsakes and the end products of hobbies, etc, and a ton of books. Most of the dust-catchers have a sentimental value and I don’t want to just pitch them, and the books aren’t going anywhere, but I absolutely hate the look of a cluttered house. I want my house to look clean and sleek and lovely, not like a rat’s nest of books and mementos.

Does anyone have any ideas on how to get a nice, un-cluttered look and still have and display their keepsakes and book collections? Put all the books in one room and close the door? Put all the mementos in display cabinets? Put them behind closed doors? Help!

Knick knacks are dust collectors, so if you insist on keeping them on display, you may want to put them in some type of display cabinet. You could also put your books in bookcases with glass doors so they can still be seen but you won’t have to dust them every week, or just get bookcases with solid doors. Try to buy really tall bookcases and get some extra shelves to add. That way you can store more books. Keepsakes etc. that you don’t necessarily want to display can be packed away and stored somewhere else such as your garage, basement or attic. Blanket boxes and those nice wooden storage chests can be used not only to store these things, but they can also be used as a useful piece of furniture too, such as a coffee table. If it really bothers you though, try to be ruthless with these things and cull whatever you don’t really need. Good luck.

My step mom has a lot of collections (Hummels, Russian boxes etc etc) and she rotates the collections periodically. She gets to keep everything without having a ton of clutter out at any one time.

You may find this site very helpful.

I can agree with hyperjes that her recommended site is indeed helpful. I don’t follow Flylady’s system religiously but she does keep me up to scratch (a bit!)

How about taking one step before de-cluttering, which would be the “one in, one out” policy. That is, if you buy a new book, one has to go. If you buy or are given an ornament, one has to go. (It might even be the one that has just come in.)

I live in Japanese public housing, and we have a small living room and three other tiny rooms for our family of four. We all have assigned spaces for clothes, books and toys, and we live by the one in one out system (apart from my husband who has to be threatened before he’ll chuck out any of his computer books and mags!). For the other three of us it works very well.

If you hate to get rid of stuff, try giving books to those who need them, like students or to a public library in a less well off area. Find someone who wears a similar size to you and pass your unneeded clothes on to them. Nick nacks are a problem, but goodwill type shops will take them.

If you have a clean room with clean, simple lines and a few things that you really love in it, you will feel free and at peacewith yourself. And it’s wayyyy more stylish than junk on every surface!

Good luck!

Forgot to say, you could take photographs of your completed craft projects and then either chuck them if they are very old and dusty or give them to friends who you know will appreciate them.

I take photos of all my knitting projects before sending them to the friends they were made for, and I also take photos of my kids artworks before either sending them to rellies or chucking them.

Photos are a lot smaller and tidier than the real thing!

Personally, I don’t think books arranged on shelves look cluttered. They look homey. Now, books piled every which way, or ratty books (especially paperbacks) that are about to disintegrate, those look messy. But in rows on shelves, they are just a sign that Readers Live Here. Flaunting your literacy, perhaps. If you don’t feel that way, and you have the space, then certainly putting the books in one room that’s just for the books is a solution. Benefit: you get to refer to it as “The Library”, which makes you feel like you’re living in some old movie set. Right up there with the Billiard Room. Just don’t keep any lead pipes around, especially if your friends have color names :smiley:

As for the rest of the knick-knacks and other momentos, you say they have “sentimental value”, but do you enjoy having them out on display? If not, pack them up and put them out of sight. If so, can you display them in a way that looks orderly? A shadow box, for instance, displays small items in a limited space, and if not stuffed to capacity can look charming instead of cluttered. A row of items with a common theme on top of a bookcase looks better than odd bits stuck in any corner you can find. Glass doors cut down on the amount of dusting you have to do. If you find creative ways to put a little bit in each room, you won’t have lots of clutter in just one place. Who says you can’t put up a display shelf in the bathroom if it makes you happy?

Last year I did the Holiday Grand Plan, which is meant as a way of getting ready for Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year, but has as its core a week-by-week plan for decluttering and deep-cleaning the house. I intend to do it again this year, although there’s less decluttering for me to do this way so I can concentrate on other aspects now. If it sounds like something you might be interested in, it starts next weekend.

If you just want general advice, can I recommend the parent site, Organized Home. No offense to those who find her helpful, but something about the Flylady just gives me the heebie jeebies.

Whatever you may find works for you, good luck, featherlou!

I have a lot of decorative stuff and I like to display it. Unfortunately, I’ve done the purge and the stuff I still have is stuff I want to keep. I also like to rearrange things periodically–change the pictures on the wall, move the furniture… So I pack up the excess and when I feel like a change I take it out and redecorate with what I already have. If you have the space to store the excess, this may work for you.

Hey, guys, I know y’all checked in to help featherlou, but I think you may have inadvertently helped me, too! I’ve bookmarked that website, and fully intend to start the program in early Sept. when my youngest starts preschool 3 days a week. I had fully intended to work on getting things more organized when she started school, and the idea of following someone elses’ experienced instructions makes sense!

I’m decluttering my room right now. Honestly, I am.

This is a constant battle for me! I love my stuff, I love to collect, I love keeping things with a family history, and just recently, Mr. Del’s family started giving us stuff from their family as well.

The downside here is that we live in a small-ish NYC apartment. Granted, we’re in Brooklyn so we have a little more space, but not much.

A few things that I have found that work well for me …

Rotate knick-knacks (like Glory’s step-mom). When I put out the Christmas decorations, everything else that’s around gets packed up. After the holidays, I have another couple boxes for “spring” knick-knacks. Obviously, they are not all seasonal things, but they get rotated just as if they were.

I really took a look at our books. Despite the fact that we have several large, floor-to-ceiling bookcases, the books were still overflowing. I became slightly more ruthless about giving them away (I still can’t throw a book out). I also packed up the books that we don’t really need for instant reference – all the grotty science fiction paperbacks (that I love, don’t get me wrong) are boxed up and stored. Also mystery series books. Textbooks from college. If we simply need to read any of these, we can still get our hands on them, but at least they are off the shelves.

Displaying things up high – the knicks-knacks and other display items tend to creep onto the surfaces that I need to be functional, like the coffee table, desk, dining table, etc. I pushed everything UP as much as possible, adding some display shelves (be thoughtful if you buy these, many of the shelves on the market are very narrow, which can make displaying larger items difficult) and a plate rail in the kitchen. This does not really help with cleaning/dusting them, but it gets them out of functional space.

Photos in frames go on the wall, we have one hallway where the entire wall is used to display photos of all sizes in all sorts of frames. They were taking up too much room on the bureau, desk, etc. I also rotate the photos in the frames (not often, I’m not a freakish Martha Stewart clone, just when the mood strikes me).

flodnak, thanks for the link to that site!

I am cursed to live in a small house with 3 other pack rats. And while it pains me no end to do it, every year I (gulp) box up books I know I will not read again, keep the ones I really want, and take the rejects to a second hand bookstore. Which in turn gives me credit toward the purchase of more books. ::sigh::

I would also suggest your attic, if you have one. If you just can’t part with the stuff, but just can’t keep all of it out at once either, pack up your least favorites, and stow them for a while. Then use delphica’s suggestion of rotation. Which is a good one, btw, delphica, thanks (note to self to rotate knick-knacks)

Well, there’s always the ruthless approach which is to put all the breakables on the mantel and then get a kitten.

Do what every art museum in the world does - leave 90% in storage and rotate exhibits.

I use those cheap “banker box” style boxes with removable lids -
No taping/untaping to seal or look into. They stack very neatly in the end of a closet, I get 10 in the last 18" of one of my closets.

The best way to de-clutter a house is to have to dispose of the contents of a house of some-one who has died. We are going through this experiance with my late mother-in-law. all this hassle of trying to sell /auction/give away stuff means that we have resolved that our son will not be faced with the same job when we go. So now we are into the minimallist look in our house , especially as we want to move to a smaller house next year.

Ah, some great ideas here. Since I’m obsessive-compulsive about labelling and filing things, I think I’ll make a database of books and knick-knacks and then stick them all in labelled boxes. I think this is going to be my project to keep me occupied until we are ready to buy a house.

Ohhh…now there is the best idea of all.

Move. I have insufferable pack rat tendancies. But moving sucks more than anything else in the whole world, so whenever I have to move, I try to throw away as much stuff as I can. I’ve sometimes cut my “stuff” content by three quarters- and I don’t miss any of it. Just get in the mindset that it’s not worth lugging all that stuff around for the rest of your life. And set aside a box entirely for knick-knacks, that you can look forward to arrangeing in your new home. Try not to take stuff that doesn’t fit in that box.

My house was originally a vacation cottage, and so it has literally no storage space. Everything I own that isn’t under the bed ends up on display. I finally had to go out and buy a ton of those folding stackable bookshelves. They are cheap and versitile and still look good. I bought something like twelve of them- and I keep my books on them and leave little spaces on each of the shelves to display one or two select knick knacks. It’s amazing how slick and artsy the vase you made in sixth grade can look when it is isolated on a nice bookshelf and surrounded by books.

I also have an huge selection of nifty boxes, baskets and bottles. I have a container for every type of thing I might have, and since all my containers are so unique and fun, I enjoy keeping things in the right containers.

i use a half hour of the evening news to declutter. you are able to look up every now and then to see the footage, and you are just a bit distracted from the decluttering so you don’t feel the pain. it makes a room that seems overwhelming, workable.

i use little shopping bags to help sort, things that belong in another room, recycle, trash, go into storage, etc.

i have found the little carts that have drawers (3 or 4 drawers) to be the best things in the world. you can sort hobbie stuff, knick knacks, stationary, etc. then when you need the items you can roll the cart in and out.

I have this exact problem, featherlou, although I’ve overcome it to a certain extent. I had tons and tons of stuff all over the place. Some of it I’d had and loved for years, and it still made me happy to see it. Some of it I didn’t necessarily love, but I loved the memories it evoked. And some of it was stuff I didn’t particularly like, but it was a gift from someone I loved and hardly ever got to see.

I finally brought myself to get rid of a lot of the mementoes from vacations. I have pictures to remember them by. I even got rid of a lot of the gifts I didn’t particularly care for. If there were multiple gifts from someone, I just kept the one or two I liked best.

As for Flylady, I like a lot of things about her system, but her attitude has really begun to grate on my nerves. Certain fundamental differences in outlook have led me and a few of my friends from school to form our own little splinter group. We took the bits and pieces of the Flylady routine that worked for us, pitched the rest, and are in the process of adding and modifying to suit our lifestyles. If anyone’s interested, feel free to email me for more information.

      • The easiest way is to have somebody else do it. Get some cardboard boxes and have them go through the stuff, keeping what little they think is interesting, and putting the rest in the boxes. Then you write the date on each box and store the boxes. If you open a box, re-write the new current date on it. -And of course if they boxed something you absolutely insist on having out, you can just get it out again, but if you don’t open a box in two years, then you throw out the box.