If there's any room in the house that needs to be all things to all people, it's the family room. The kitchen and bath are important, but they're doing a specific job and usually have the fixtures and appliances necessary to make them function, keeping clutter to a minimum.
The family room is something else entirely. Over time, it becomes a game room, entertainment center, family office, exercise room and storage bay for everything from that half-knitted afghan to your kids' video collections. Admit it: After a while, family room bloat can get out of hand. If you're having trouble navigating from the flat screen to the box of chocolates on the coffee table, these five tips can help you declutter your way to a cleaner, more useful space.
Get Rid of Everything
Yep. Start over. The kids get a do-over every once and a while, why shouldn't you? Instead of stressing over how you'll fit one more piece of furniture into a room already bursting with the detritus of everyday life, call a local charitable foundation, and have them take the lot. No more worrying about that table with a wobbly leg, the jam stain on the couch cushion and the sticking door on the entertainment center. Save the electronics and the family photos, the rest you can replace (probably more inexpensively that you might think), and start over fresh.
This time around, use lots of area rugs and install couch slipcovers. Now, doesn't that feel better? With the room empty, isn't it amazing how spacious it looks? Ah, now you remember what it was you liked about the space in the first place, huh?
Use the Walls
Instead of climbing the walls, frustrated with the mess, install wall shelving, and lots of it. Open shelves give you more horizontal space to store your belongings. They'll also give you an opportunity to do something with those naked walls. You know they've been bugging you. You'll get stuff off the floor, too, so you can finally vacuum up those drifts of pet hair that seem for all the world like a kind of furry snow landing on everything.
Modular shelving solutions can be customized to fit your room and your stuff. If you need to stow something large, like a bike, you can find wall and ceiling options that will turn your problems into art -- well, maybe not, but close. Seinfeld had that bike hanging upside down from his ceiling, and it seemed to work for him.
Divide and Conquer (or Organize and Stow)
When you were little, you got a big kick out of sticking a little round peg in the round hole, and a square peg . . . well, you remember, right? Well de-junking your family room is kinda like that. Corralling the DVDs and rounding up the magazines, and then, simply designating a spot for them will contain the chaos. If you haven't seen the top of your coffee table in months, give it a try.
While you're at it, get rid of anything you haven't revisited in a while. That means the back issues of "TV Guide" magazine, expired coupons, old newspapers (if anyone still subscribes to a daily newspaper) and that nest of repair projects piled next to your chair.
Oh, while you're rummaging around, you'll probably discover all kinds of things that don't belong in the family room at all: shoes, dirty socks, umbrellas, mittens, mugs, spoons, toys -- lots of toys -- and those huge down coats that never seem to fit in the closet (seriously, what's with that?). Deputize your brood and have them organize and stow their belongings -- before they become part of a lovely backyard bonfire.
Threaten, Cajole or Sneak
If you lived alone, you'd probably be able to de-junk your whole home in under an hour. Because you have loved ones, the pesky darlings, cleaning can become a minefield of recriminations, wrath and acrimony. It isn't just about getting things organized. Some stuff definitely has to go the way of the Dodo. Remember the remote control from your last TV, the heavy thing with the big picture tube? Well, there it is on the coffee table with seven other remotes (none of which you understand how to use, btw).
When it comes to making people part with items that really earn the label "junk," be heartless. Your hubby's impassioned declaration that his moldering relics are useful objects is a huge pile-o-you know what (just like the old license plates he wants to turn into wall art). Pitch the stuff, and if anyone notices, plead ignorance.
Build a Bunker
Well, the underground bomb shelter thing may be a bit much. But you can always add a freestanding storage structure to your backyard instead. These mini-barns and tiny houses look adorable and hold lots of family room rejects you're not quite ready to part with yet. If you've wanted to find another home for that barely-used Stairmaster, move it to the shed -- where it won't make you feel guilty every time you eat a cookie (or a doughnut or a harmless dish of ice cream). See how one small change can make you feel soooo much better?
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- Home Depot. "Decorating 1-2-3." Meredith Books. 2000
- Let's Clean Up. "House Cleaning Tips." Undated. (3/11/11).http://www.lets-clean-up.com/house_cleaning_tips.html
- Life Organizers. "10 Ways to Declutter Your Home." Undated. (3/11/11).http://www.lifeorganizers.com/cm_articles/102_10_ways_to_declutter_your_home_280.html
- My Great Home. "Storage Solutions For Your Home." Undated. (3/11/11).http://www.mygreathome.com/indoors/organization/storage.htm
- Walton, Stewart and Sally Walton. "The Complete Home Decorator." Anness Publishing Ltd. 1997