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Clutter Cleanse (Part Seven)

Clutter Cleanse (Part Seven)


Clutter Cleanse – The Home Office

This, for me, is one of the most interesting rooms to do in a house which is probably why it’s taking me so long to complete mine.  It is an opportunity to personalize and make this unique space productive and functional.  Whether your office occupies one bedroom or an entire floor, the floor plan should allow for storage, workspace and possibly a meeting space.

Acoustical considerations should be taken into consideration here.  You do not want to be talking on the phone with a client or vendor and have dogs barking or kids playing in the background.  Clever ways to offer acoustical privacy include wall upholstery, special wall treatments that insulate against sound and water walls that provide a soothing sound.

Clutter is a culprit in home offices responsible for a loss in personal productivity.  Clutter can create problems like late reports, overwhelm and missed opportunity.

In office design, we take into consideration a place that promotes spontaneous collaboration.  This may or may not be an issue in your home office, but almost guaranteed, you will want to be sure that you do not leave yourself open to spontaneous collaboration with a 6-year-old who got loose from her babysitter, even though it makes for great TV. lol

Many home offices that I see are a desk in the bedroom with a file cabinet and a closet.  Home offices can be so much more than that, an excellent home office functions as well as any office in any other corporate setting.  Ergonomics are important here too.  Don’t just pull a kitchen chair in to sit at your desk.  There is furniture that is designed specifically for your height and weight and can save you from experiencing aches and pains from sitting all day in uncomfortable positions in uncomfortable furniture.  One old classic; Herman Miller’s Aeron Chair might work for you.  It is pretty basic, and if it is not executive looking enough, there are leather chairs that are ergonomic too.


Make a list of everything you need to conduct your business.  Desks, chairs, work tables and chairs, meeting tables.  Storage needs like samples, sample and price books, industry reference manuals and books and office supplies, forms and stationery all require a different type of storage.  Smart design can make it all function perfectly for you and still look attractive.  Bulletin and chalkboards/whiteboards, as well as paper organizers, can be especially fun to work with and display in a home office.


If you have a hodgepodge of furniture from all over the place and time, paint it all the same color to unify the look of your office.  Beautiful custom furniture is a plus, but it is not a necessity.  Some of the most interesting office pieces have come from used office furniture stores.  I’ve always dreamed of a big old library table that with glass cut to protect the table top.  You can also use dining tables or boards with file cabinets as pedestals.  I’m still designing my home office so I’m not sure if I’m going to go for an old library feel or more modern just yet but I’m having fun dreaming.


Home offices can have work islands just like the kitchen.  You may choose to have your desk in the center of the room with bookshelves and your other necesities lining the walls, creating different mini-zones in the room.  It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to storage. More storage is better than not enough.  Walls of bookshelves, modular storage and shelves and hanging systems, even if only partially full are better than books and papers piling up in corners because they have no place to live.  Credenzas and even furniture you use in the rest of your home can work, armoires, sideboards, industrial shelving, baker’s racks and china cabinets can be used in a home office for storage.


A walk in closet can be made into a perfect desk space.  A correctly placed shelf for the desk surface and shelves above and to the side can make into a perfect little mini office that can be closed off at will to hide clutter or just to offer multi-functional purposes to one room.  It is critical to keep a space like this light in color and to add some artificial light to keep from feeling “closeted in.”  Under cabinet lighting and a nice task lamp can solve this problem.  Closets can also be a nice place to hide electronics like printers, faxes, copiers and credit card terminals.  It can also hold forms and office supplies (but you knew that).


I love whiteboards and bulletin boards for home offices.  They hold notes, memos, art display, vendor notices and can be attractive and contain clutter all at the same time.  They can be hung on the wall or place on an easel or art shelf.  Closet doors can be upholstered or painted with chalkboard paint.  Even an entire wall covered in cork or upholstery can be used, plus this doubles for acoustical privacy!

I have a separate little-inclined work surface for drawing.  It can be moved around for light and different purposes, it also doubles as a display.


Office systems are expensive. However, they offer many ideas for simplifying and offering a safer environment.  One of them is “smart” furniture where wiring and multiple plugs are enabled within the piece for all of the electronics we have on our desk.  This can be replicated at home with clever planning.


Habits to get into if you work at home: You can use all of the clever boxes, containers, baskets and jars that you use elsewhere in the home to help keep things organized.  Shelves are the most valuable storage asset in a home office.  Do not rule out housing manuals and books in hall libraries outside the home office.


  • Keep office and home mail separated.
  • Do not take business papers out of your office into the living area.
  • Label all computer discs and tapes immediately.
  • Keep business stationery at a handy location on your desk.
  • File daily
  • Have a spot in your office specifically allocated for placing the things you need to take with you when you go.


Home office design should also take into consideration your industry.  There will be different needs for a teacher, therapist, and travel agent.  As in all things, it is the differences that add the potential for greatness.

Clutter Cleanse (Part Five)

Clutter Cleanse (Part Five)


Clutter Cleanse – The Living Room

How many of you spend minimal time in the living room?  LOL For some people this room is the one room in the house where they spend the most money on expensive, beautiful furniture for entertaining and then never use it for fear they’ll ruin their good furnishings.  Plastic all over the couches anyone? Clear plastic floor runners all along the carpet? How silly is that?  This room should be for living.  It usually has the best views and the most beautiful architecture.  Why have such a beautiful space and not use it? We have to shift our mindsets.Use the good china TODAY. Sit on the gorgeous couch everyday. Enjoy your belongings. Isn’t that what you got them for?


A well-organized living room can be used every day if we design it for living rather than as a showplace.  If your house is casual, then your living room should reflect the same casual style.  If the rest of your house is formal and you are very comfortable in elegant surroundings, then your living room should be formal too.

The most important considerations in designing your living room are; furniture that is functional, art and collection display and easy entertaining features. The living room is no place for clutter.


Furniture that functions well in the living room include tables, tea tables, nesting tables, library tables and even game tables.  A desk can add additional function to the living room; you can use it as a writing table, computer desk or just to add storage.  Desks can also double as sofa tables; this is nice to have a child doing homework or computer work who require minimum supervision and help while the parents visit.  The desk can also double while entertaining, as a surface for serving after papers have been cleared.  Benches, ottomans, and stools add versatility in seating.


Furniture placement should be more functional than aesthetic.  Arrange your space for conversation groups and allow enough movable furniture that your guests can create their own seating areas.  This prevents wallflowers and allows for your guests to mingle on their own terms comfortably.  Cluster areas for standing and visiting are also important. You do not have to have all your furniture as one large circle for visiting.  You can have two or three or even four conversation areas in a large living room.

Collection Display

  • Decorate with books.
  • Don’t just line things along the back of a furniture piece.  Group small and large objects together onto a platter or shelf.
  • Just because you are out of wall space does not mean you cannot display a lovely art piece, use, and easel on top of a chest or a standing easel in the corner of the room.
  • Drape art or decorative textiles, like scarves or blankets on furniture or screen dividers.
  • Mirror the back wall and add glass shelves to display Lladro, Armani, or other figurines, sculpture, pottery and collectibles.
  • Fill a bowl or cylinder with small items, like Christmas balls, colorful bracelets or even seashells and coral.


The Clutter Cleanse (Part Four)

The Clutter Cleanse (Part Four)


The Kitchen

The kitchen and food preparation used to be hidden in the back and food was transported to the dining area.  Today the kitchen can be a focal point of the house, open to the living room, sun room, dining room and even play area.  The kitchen is a source of nourishment, we gather there, we cook, and we eat there.  Regardless of whether your style is ultra modern or an old country kitchen, they still have the same needs for uncluttered, clean space with adequate lighting and ease of movement.  


In the kitchen especially, the food, storage methods, and tools all contribute to your health and the health of your home.  I will address health practices in the kitchen in a later blog, and today I will discuss organization as it relates to healthy living.  If you are wealthy, you have staff who can keep your kitchen organized.  Many of us need fundamental and automatic organization because we do our cooking and serving.  An organized kitchen can save plenty of time as well.

Kitchen Furniture

Furniture that functions well is essential to an organized kitchen.  Cabinets, dressers, and armoires can add surface and storage space to a kitchen.  Walk-in pantries are wonderful; we don’t always have space.  This is when those furniture pieces can come in handy.  The top shelves can hold special ingredients along with measuring cups and baking staples.  The bottom can be used for towels and dishcloths, placemats and food wraps.


Tables work for food preparation, casual dining area, and storage or display.  If the table has shelves, all the better.  Taller 42″ tables can be used for a quick breakfast.  Counter stools are handy for the quick meals and also to sit while you chop vegetables and fruits.  Step stools, especially cute and original ones; like a library ladder or a vintage look are always nice in a kitchen.  Folding chairs can be stored in a nearby closet, pantry or hallway by hanging them on the wall and offer additional emergency seating.


To declutter your kitchen follow these steps:

  • Clear your counters
  • Leave the coffee pot, toaster, canisters and salt and pepper shakers
  • Evaluate everything and if you do not use it daily (like the waffle iron), put it away
  • Mount your television set if you watch it.  Put it in a different room if you do not.
  • Find a cubby hole for mail and school papers and establish a weekly ritual to sort and disburse
  • Make sure you wash your dishes immediately after eating, run your dishwasher nightly.  Empty your dishwasher first thing in the morning before dirty dishes can stack up
  • Designate containers.  Cooking utensils, fruits, and vegetables all can be placed in baskets and stored on the shelves of an island or bakers rack that is open and can easily be seen
  • Clean as you go while cooking
  • Place several garbage bags at the bottom of the can so you don’t have to search when you empty the trash
  • Rotate your dishes, so you don’t use the same ones over and over
  • Write the purchase date on your herbs and spices
  • Hanging cookware on the wall can be attractive and save time
  • Have twin trash cans for easy recycling
  • Add a bookcase to the kitchen for your favorite cookbooks
  • Place a magazine rack near the kitchen table for breakfast reading and establish a ritualized time to empty it out.
  • Fruit stands and cake stands are handy for storing fruit decoratively.
  • Hang some of your collections on the wall.  Cookie cutters, platters, and cups all double as a display.
  • Don’t just throw things on top of your refrigerator, it is okay to put things there, but plan it, so it looks nice, like baskets, flowers, boxes, something that looks nice besides a hodge podge of whatever you need to get off the table tops
  • Convert a kitchen closet into a pantry.  If the kitchen is small, put a glazed glass door on to open up space.  Other options for the door is a screen or to paint a door with chalkboard paint and leave notes or allow children to create art for you there
  • Your pantry should have good lighting.  Under cabinet lighting works nicely in a pantry
  • Use the pantry floor for storage space too.  Basket, paper towels, jars and water bottles can utilize this space that is often ignored

There are so many clever ways to add organization and storage to a kitchen.  You are almost always rewarded with time saved and frustration avoided when you know where to find something, and everything’s in its place!

Get rid of:

  • any foods that are out of date
  • plastic containers
  • papers you don’t need daily or file them away
  • any of those fancy tools or appliance you haven’t used in the last two years
  • dishes you don’t use
  • glasses and cups that have been sitting forever
  • pots and pans you don’t use all the time
  • bowls and serving trays you don’t use

Turn it into a game, report back – what did you get rid of that’s been the longest without being touched.

The Clutter Cleanse (Part Six)

The Clutter Cleanse (Part Six)


The Laundry Room and Mud Room

Laundry and mud rooms are probably the most rewarding places to organize because whatever we do to make life easier for ourselves there will flow into the rest of the house and save time.  In these rooms, we need to find a place for dirty, wet and bulky items that will still be seen and easy to reach.  


Most new homes are built with cabinets in both rooms.  Cubby hole storage makes sorting clean laundry and supplies easy.  It is also nice to have cubbyholes for each member of the family so they can put their laundry away.  Front-loading appliances allows the top of the machines to be used for folding laundry.  The room should have practical and functional storage as well as look good.  Furniture can be substituted for shelves, cubes or cabinets if need be.  Anything with a surface and storage is good, bookshelves, etageres, sideboards are all good.  Use your imagination, and you can even move an unused piece of furniture from another room in the house, and it can become the new utility piece of the laundry or mud room.  Tables are nice in these rooms because we can always use a work surface for folding laundry, sewing, wrapping or sorting.



Baskets in a laundry room are very helpful to store small items. 

You can store cleaning supplies, clothespins, miscellaneous items you pull from pockets, all in containers.  Some containers you might use are canning jars, cookie jars, canister sets, plastic storage boxes and wood crates.  The easier they are to clean, the better.


A place to hang clothes while they dry is helpful as well as a place to store rags and dirty clothes, sheets, and towels waiting to be washed.  Pegs, racks, and stands are useful items to have in the laundry room and mud room to store wet things, shoes, jackets, and bags.


If you have lots of room, a bulletin board or chalkboard for family information and notes and mail slots are nice too.  A dream mudroom would have a sink, a towel bar and hook, a basket for pet sundries, a can

for pet food, a bench and a table for laying things as we come in the door.  This is also a good place to store firewood.

Keeping your laundry room and mud room organized can be very rewarding because it will keep dirt out of the rest of the house and make your cleaned laundry feel cleaner.

Clutter Cleanse (Part Two)

Clutter Cleanse (Part Two)



There are a few ways to de-clutter our homes.  The first way is to purge.  This is the easiest, cheapest and most obvious. To do this, we go through with garbage bags and boxes and select everything we have not used, enjoyed or noticed for the last 2 years and put them in the bags and donate them to a good cause.  In Part One I told you why you should de-clutter your home.  Today I will get down to the nitty gritty and see how.   Purging is not the only way to de-clutter.  Just because you haven’t worn a dress for 2 years does not mean that you won’t want to wear it next week.  You can still keep artwork after you run out of wall space and you can keep toys that a child has outgrown.  The secret is to organize and use your creativity and/or to have adequate and clever storage solutions.

clean-living-room        treasure-chest

Alternatives to Purging   Furniture and accessories can double as storage and clutter control.  If you choose your furniture wisely, it can add aesthetically, functionally and add storage to the room. We can use space wisely and add storage.  Thinking outside the box can bring creative and unusual solutions.  One of my favorite ideas (because I love to learn) is to turn a dining room into a multipurpose room with library shelves and books.  This would maintain your dining room and give you a cozy nook to study and read.   Creative solutions are available as well.  Do you have thousands of books that you enjoy, but tend to clutter the house?  Cover them (see the picture with the giraffe) with book covers that unify.  This allows you to keep your books and declutter at the same time. Anytime you can unify the look; visual complexity will diminish.   Something that is just taking up space in one room can serve a useful purpose in another.  You may consider how you can repurpose something instead of throwing it away.   By adopting new habits, like seasonal cleaning and review, organized rooms should be easy to maintain.  Many of us keep health or spiritual journals.  A household journal is helpful in keeping information and going back to see what works and doesn’t work.  I don’t know about you, but when I change where I put my Christmas decorations after 20 years, I better write it down. Otherwise next year I may never find them.   Next, we’ll begin a room by room walk through with suggestions and ideas for managing your home!

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