How to Achieve Uncluttered Without Going Bare, Cold, or Minimal

As we walked into this home where we stayed in Venice, I knew it held a great lesson for achieving the balance of creating a peaceful, uncluttered space but not going so far as to make it feel cold or stark.

This was a house full of treasures and interesting things to look at. The study held walls full of books, fabric on the walls, a portrait and architectural drawings, a fireplace, mirrors, drapes, flowers, a desk, bookcases, a rug, and two couches (one floral). It was so inviting, and somehow, even though the room was full I didn’t feel overwhelmed like I sometimes do in a crowded space.

If you picture a pendulum where on one side you have completely uncluttered (some people feel it is too impersonal, cold, and boring) and then on the other side you have huge collections of tchotchkes, deals, and stacks of personal mementos, most people desire to be somewhere in the middle.

There is more than one way to accomplish balance, but this room had a trick for it. A shortcut, if you will.

All the horizontal spaces are clear.

Your eyes have several spaces to rest. The coffee table is empty. The desk has only a lamp and my computer. The side tables support lamps but that’s it. The chairs don’t have piles. It’s ready for you to make good use of the room.

To follow this approach in your home:

Clear the bed in your bedroom, putting away your clean laundry.

Clear off your desk in the office, putting the stack of papers in a drawer or in a tote bag.

Take those things (the projects in progress) off your dining table and put them back where they should go.

Keep one kitchen counter free of stuff like papers, kitchen appliances and canisters.

Remove the clutter from your coffee table, taking the remotes and magazines and setting them aside in a basket.

Clean off the top of your dryer in the laundry room so you have a place to fold clothes.

If it seems unrealistic to clear off every horizontal surface, clear the main surface in each room. Your nightstand might have a stack of library books on it, but at least the bed is clear, even if you did move the pile of clean clothes over to the chair.

When you have clear surfaces, your room is ready to be used. You can come in and set down your drinks and popcorn bowl on the coffee table. You can eat dinner at the table without sitting next to the paperwork. Your bed is ready for you to stretch out on it. The room welcomes you. It’s not a place to hold your stuff, it’s a place where you can live.

And if by chance you are on the decluttered side of the pendulum with a desire to move a little more to the middle, making your home feel more warm without adding a bunch more stuff, we’ll talk about that too soon enough. That’s actually the place I’m in, but I did find lots of ideas in Italy.

Where do you feel you are at on the pendulum between decluttered and full, and where do you want to be?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.

Comments

  1. Excellent lesson here to learn! I think I knew this even before, but had never thought of it in such a detail. I’m afraid in my home the surfaces are more on the cluttered side. It does make me nervous and annoyed. So today after work, I will declutter the dining table. That will help a lot.
    Leena´s last post…Electric work – part one

  2. I think I’m a bit freaky on the uncluttered side for my common areas (lounge, diningroom, entranceway), maybe a 2 on but in the personal areas I’m “normal” 6 LOL
    Marcia Francois, Organising Queen´s last post…5 reasons why you must have a master to-do list

  3. Oh I am so happy to see you posting!!! In our home I am the minimalist and hubs is the clutter collector… between us there is an array of children all over the scale… Our happy medium is clear floors and surfaces and while there is stuff it has a place… I can breathe and they don’t feel deprived!!!
    se7en´s last post…Se7en’s August

  4. I diagree. Sure, most of the horizontal surfaces are clear, but there’s stuff all over the walls and to me it still feels cluttered.

  5. You know, I hadn’t even thought of that but it’s true. To me my home feels clear and uncluttered when the flat surfaces are clear and usable (and homey when there are books and pictures, etc, on the shelves and mantle).

    I suppose its about finding your own balance between having space to use and stuff to use in it

    • Balance is the key word, as well as your own personal preference. I like the room above, it does feel homey, however it still has just a little bit too much stuff, if it were my home.
      Living the Balanced Life´s last post…Creating our perfect path…

      • Whereas I’m a book junkie from a long line of book junkies and I feel a wee bit anxious when my space isn’t at least a little weighted around the edges by bookshelves – I’ve tried, but that just resulted in my adding another 100 books to the ones I’d stored when I moved out of temporary accomodation into my current home (I suspect I may have issues, but at least they’re literate ones).

        Interesting though – as a less cluttered soul do you still find some peace from clear horizontal spaces or do you need to clear the vertical too (or eliminate the vertical, indeed)?

        • Ann (N.Z.) says:

          I too am a book junkie, to me books tell me a lot about a person. When I visit a house where there are no books, I really find it hard to tell what their interest are.
          Minimalism yes, spartanism no!
          Ann.

  6. “A place for everything and everything in its place”. I’m quite happy to see stuff (my record collection on shelves for instance) as long as it is in the place its supposed to go. Minimalism to the max!

    • I agree with this 100%. This plus the “mostly have useful things and not things to look at.” Those two philosophies, taken together, make life so much…simpler. Nicer.
      Michelle´s last post…Transition

  7. I recently cleared lots of things from my kitchen counters and I noticed something, I cook even more now! There is space to create.
    Tracey´s last post…Favor On Your Life

    • My goal this year is to focus on my creative workspace: keeping it uncluttered and having a place for everything. This post is a reminder – my table is loaded with stuff and I haven’t used it for a couple of days. Like Tracey, clearing the table will give me “space to create.” Why is that table cluttered? I still don’t have good storage solutions for works-in-progress. Finding a solution for that problem will be my priority tonight. Thanks for the insight!

  8. I like that a room WITH stuff around, but that’s FOR people, not stuff. It’s making me look twice, and three times, at the stuff on the top of the dresser in front of me.

    • I think that’s a good distinction. I prefer the things that are used, with only a few things “to be looked at.”

  9. I thought about your yesterday as we spent 2 hours cleaning up our toy room which had exploded. I long for fewer toys and hope to cycle some of them to the attic. Thanks for the tip to clear a space. It DOES make a big difference.

  10. I found the room to be too cluttered for my taste, though undoubtedly beautiful, especially that patterned settee. I feel we are half way there in our own place. I am the one who wants rid of everything, my dh, not so. Not saying he has a lot, but for him it’s not a priority. I would love just a super simple home, so much less stressful. Thanks for posting :)
    Tasmanian Minimalist´s last post…So Now What ?

    • The combination of color scheme and books were just over my clutter threshold, but if everything were lighter or monochromatic, I would find it less chaotic looking. I too have a room of books, and all the bookshelves and furniture are cream and light wook in that room. It’s very calming considering how much is crammed in there.

  11. Great post to read as we prepare to move to a new place! I like cleared horizontal spaces too.
    Katherine´s last post…In the New House…

  12. This post reminded me of a feeling I had last night. I open up my bathroom cabinet behind the mirror and felt so good to see it decluttered and clean! I cleaned it a few days ago and every time I open it I feel a sense of calm. Oh what a high a simple act decluttering can be!

  13. Great post! While “nesting” before I had my recent son I think I’d swung to far toward the bare, cold and minimal. Now I have a somewhat un-homey but increasingly cluttered space. You’ve inspired me to get my act together!
    Jeanette´s last post…#2. Come hell or high-water…

  14. Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing about this, Rachel!

    Since Corrin and I moved into our new apartment on June 1, we’ve been working to streamline our “stuff” and get rid of the extras that come with combining two households into one; that’s been easy. But we’ve also tried so hard to “minimalize” our décor without throwing or giving away things that we love, or shoving them in boxes in storage. And reading “minimalist” blogs is only helpful for dreaming, since we don’t want to actually live with bare walls, floors, mattresses, and cupboards.

    The photos you selected are a little bit “more” than what we’re going for, but what you’ve called attention to will really help us get art on the walls and choose drapery and upholstery styles that won’t overwhelm our tall-bookcase-dominated living room. Thanks!
    Lissa´s last post…Modesty, Perseverance, Self Control, Indomitable Spirit

  15. What awesome wisdom! And so obvious, yet so many of us don’t get it. Even though I am working to minimize my belongings, I struggle with horizontal surfaces. My mother bordered on hoarder and every horizontal surface in our house was covered. I am not as bad, but it is a constant struggle.
    Now that you point it out, though, it makes such a big difference! I have a renewed motivation for clearing off some spaces!
    Good to “see” you Rachel!
    Bernice
    Living the Balanced Life´s last post…Are you overwhelmed?

  16. This sort of thinking also makes spaces more usable. When it is time to sit down and work on a project, things will mostly be in their correct homes, and there are good surfaces on which to work. Nice photos!

    Would you (or have you ever) do a post on photography? Your photos are so perfect. What sort of camera/methods you use, that sort of thing?

    • Well, my number one method is to take lots of pictures and delete the bad ones. That kind of practice helped me to get better. I also look for natural light.

      I use a Canon Rebel with a 50mm lens most of the time.

  17. Too cluttered for my taste, too (ebooks forever!) but I agree with the premise. A big difference between neat people and messy people seems to be ability to keep the surfaces clear. Neat people remove stuff that isn’t very frequently used, and have a spot for stuff that is.

    • Exactly! Well said on the neat/messy comparison! I’ve pared down my books to a few reference works I use and a small selection of sentimental favourites, all neatly shelved. Unfortunately I’m not quite as good about my desk area but luckily that’s in a cabinet with doors.

  18. I love this post. I definitely need to work on clearing my horizontal spaces.It seems like all mine are covered, especially with piles of paper!

  19. Very insightful! I agree that horizontal spaces can make all the difference.

    For myself, we’ve swung to the maybe-too-decluttered side of the pendulum. I, too, am not interested in being a minimalist, but now that we’ve pared down to what we use and love, I cringe at the thought of buying useless things just to fill the place back up again. Looking forward to your post about that!
    Jennie´s last post…Inspiration for Simplicity

  20. To me it looks cluttered. I like a bare, minimal look though. We have less than 10 paper books and a few children’s books.

  21. We are too far on the decluttered side. Very few things on any of the kitchen counters. White walls with nothing on them. I have no shelving in the living room or family room (just two small bookcases in the family room – too small for the size of the room actually)I’ll be very interested to read what you have to say about starting from here and making rooms warm and inviting.

  22. This room does strike a nice balance. I tend toward more minimalism, but my husband, some of my friends’ homes, and posts like this one remind me that warmth in a room is very important.
    I had not realized that the key here – uncluttered horizontal surfaces – was what I should be focusing on. It felt right to me to have surfaces clutter free – and I attempt to do this often – but had not thought of it as a good rule to go by for all horizontal surfaces. Decluttering was just that – a concept to be applied any and everywhere I thought it “needed” it. Thanks for the tip, Rachel.

  23. I love the pictures in this post! So warm :)

    I am still a little on the cluttered side, but am definitely moving more toward the middle which where I’d like to be). We’ve rid our home of a lot of useless things, but still have a lot of papers! Oh, and books…so many books!
    Stacy´s last post…Becoming a Better Mother: More than a Lifeguard

  24. Hmm…I am in love with books, but that was just a little too much for me. Not chaotic, but a tad cluttered. Definitely organized, though.
    I tend toward impersonal, and it bothers my husband. I am learning to relax a little, and I can’t wait for your post on how to swing the pendulum back. I feel suffocated when there is too much around, so I need some ideas for making a space feel homey without clutter.
    Tracey´s last post…Going Barefoot Week

  25. Great question, where am I on the pendulum between? I’m on the more-cluttered side of where I’d like to be. I’m thinking architects need to be re-thinking how homes are built in general – more storage closets with shelving to the walls to be much more prevalent. Then, our actual living spaces can stay much clearer. I’m often in locatons where older folks are moving into retirement homes – with decades of memory-stuff there’s often just no room for. Helps me prioritze what is important right now.

  26. “it’s not a place to hold your stuff, it’s a place where you can live”…what a wonderful sentiment, and one we seem to all too often forget. i feel i’m doing pretty well at finding my ideal balance of warm & inviting, but i definitely go through stages where i want to unclutter completely, and then i let it build a little bit back up from there – it seems pretty organic to me.
    meg w´s last post…mindful living mondays: the anniversary post.

  27. I think I do a good job at the balance. We definitley have stuff, but all the major spaces are clear (except my hubby’s office and garage, but that’s his space, not mine!) We have kids too, and a lot of people comment that our house always looks clean, but I know it’s not! :)

  28. Very nice, intriguing post. I agree, the horizontal free space gives the eye a resting place.

    One caveat, my husband would need to be convinced the floor is also a horizontal place which needs to stay clear!
    –Kay

  29. I have to point out one thing that this room has, which when my home has had I have been most at peace: You can see the baseboards along the egdes of the walls. I don’t know why this is a big deal to me, but even when out home decor was starving-college-student, as long as I could see the baseboards, I felt like I had room to breathe. Once we were more financially stable, and things began to collect in our home, the less visual space, the more stress.

    • I never thought about that, but how interesting. We are getting ready to move and I have been moving furniture to clean baseboards and touch up trim paint. It is very freeing to see those baseboards and makes me wish we didn’t have so much along the perimeter of the room. I will keep that in mind in our next home… Thanks for the thought!
      Katherine´s last post…In the New House…

  30. Oh how I needed this today! I linked to your site in my blog post today.
    Joanna´s last post…A Summer of Dust, Dog Hair, Grime, and Clutter

  31. “It’s not a place to hold your stuff, it’s a place where you can live.”

    Love that. Would you believe, there was a time when I really, truly thought that counters are for holding stuff? Like, LOTS of stuff? Well, if you were to look at my house, you’d think that’s still true, but I’m changing my mental picture, slowly.

    I like the example of baseboards someone else mentioned. I have found that I do need some visual interest, though, and the more visual interest given in the legit items in a room, the less tolerance I have for adding clutter to it. Does that make sense?

    IOW, learning how to keep things uncluttered actually meant learning how to draw interest to what was good about the room.

  32. I needed this info on uncluttering. I think you’ve been to my house recently! My dining room table, top of my dryer, desk, and kitchen counters are going to soon be uncluttered.

  33. Its so nice to see you posting again! I looked in my inbox and to my delight was your post. Yaye!

    I love the solidness of the Europeans, its not mindless plastic junk, but good solid pieces.

    I try to keep all surfaces clear of stuff and it certainly makes a difference when I walk in. Its like I can exhale and breathe!

    Sara

  34. I already do this but I didn’t realize there was a method to my madness. I have one place that looks a little cluttered that is in the living room. We have shelves for our DVDs and I have things on top that should probably be put away.
    Glynis Jolly´s last post…Involving the Emotions

  35. I love this! I think I just found my new motto from this post.”It’s not a place to hold your stuff, it’s a place where you can live.”

  36. Cleaning is so much easier when horizontal surfaces are clear, also.

    Sometimes I wonder if there is a correlation between who does the cleaning and who wants to declutter, in any given family.

    • Oh, my. I so agree. “Picking up” to keep things decluttered, and “cleaning” are such different things, and cleaning is so much easier/quicker/better when there’s not a lot of picking up to do, first. Thanks!

  37. I REALLY needed to hear this! Lately my house has “exploded” and I’m stressing out over it. You’ve really boiled down the cause and effect (and cure) of the situation. Thank you!
    Stephanie´s last post…All Dressed In Romano

  38. Controlling the clutter of a home that is also our school is a challenge for us! I really appreciate your approach and advice. It gave me some great ideas!
    Natalie @ Maple Leaf Circle´s last post…A Place . . .

  39. I like the lived-in look myself and I think the pictures show the perfect compromise between decluttered and cluttered. I think the books are obviously read. This is different to some book shelves I see which are so tidy and the books are never touched.
    Dan Lawson´s last post…Portable Air Conditioners

  40. Brilliant. Clear the flat surfaces. I can do that.

  41. Growing up in a bookish household with friends whose parents were ministers or teachers, I grew up thinking all homes need books. I’m uncomfortable in an environment which doesn’t have bookcases, and hate the designer bookcase look where a full height bookcase has about 30 colourmatched books and an assortment of decorative objects with a ton of space. I do find it difficult to keep surfaces clear, with small children and limited space it’s often a case of putting things quickly out of reach, so my bookcase tops and dining table collect papers, pens, electronic gadgets, crafting supplies, broken items and small parts of toys astonishingly fast. We don’t have any spare drawers for ‘junk drawer’ duty, so I often have a box somewhere containing all these random hinges I’ve picked up during a decluttering blitz. I’m hoping as the kids grow and we try a bit harder to put things away that we will be able to live with clearer surfaces, but I will never live without books and pictures, they make wherever we find ourselves living feel like home.

  42. I loved this post and can’t wait to see what you write about this topic next. How fun to be able to find your balance all over again. I hope you enjoy the process, and don’t doubt you will! I am certainly happier with a slightly minimal theme, but for some reason I end up with too much clutter, perhaps making up for a life of travel and trying to make up for it. When I take every knick knack away, it seems too cold, and having too many feel too cluttered. I’m realizing more and more how I just need a few handmade things around to make it feel warm for my family. Let’s see if I can keep the flat surfaces clear. I prefer the large vertical spaces to be neat or covered, but I bet if I keep the flat surfaces clearer, with just a lamp and one treasure, I’ll be on a roll.

  43. Yes!
    I’m on the wrong side of the spectrum here. I have clutter and I’m being buried by it. I can never catch up on it. This artcle is very inspiring. I can still have some stuff but I can also fell better, feel like I can breathe with a few cleared areas.

    Thanks!

  44. I live by designer William Morris’s wise advice to “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

    I tend to find more things useful than I do beautiful, so the clutter never accumulates.

  45. I am so happy I found your blog today. I have been looking through the archives and find so much to relate to, and so much that will be of help to me. It is so practical and true. So I just wanted to say hello and thanks!

  46. my house is comfortable and lived in. i like the idea of clearing the horizontal spaces

  47. Catherine says:

    I think this room may be cozy to visit but I wouldn’t want to maintain and clean all the micro surface areas— books, tchotchkes, floor under and between furniture. With 2 small children we are in a season of minimalism where I can do a quick toy pick up, vacuum and wipe down of 3 object free surface areas–done and done.

  48. My husband and I were just talking about this; we went to our first auction (well, his first, my first auction that wasn’t for cows) last weekend and though we were tempted by many cool things, we only bought a set of Norman Rockwell plates. We watched our fellow auction goers pile up boxes and boxes of thread, half-used craft materials, moose decor galore…and realized that when it goes for a dollar or two, it’d be really easy to load up.

    We realized where we fall on the spectrum: we like big bold things to put on our walls, we’ll buy anything that we already use (like plates) if we really love it and have the money for it, and that books will forever be the one thing we continue to pile up ad infinitum.

    Love the tip on cleared horizontal surfaces; I might have to rethink my few, well-placed tchotchkes…although now that I think about it, they’re mostly books! ;)
    MK @ thismomreads´s last post…Pookie discovers a birch tree

  49. Urgh, I can’t declutter my house often enough! I don’t know where it comes from but it just multiplies! You’re so right though, if main surfaces are clear (i.e. kitchen counters, dining table, office table, nightstands) the ‘stuff’ doesn’t seem to overwhelm. I like a house with ‘stuff’ that adds character and makes it look warm and inviting, rather than generic ‘stuff’ for the sake of decor.

    I read something once and try to live by it now: “Buy only things you love so you will only be surrounded by things that bring good feelings.” This helps when impulse buying on a new accessory for the home (or my closet!).

    {mommy chic} latest post: 6 ways to wear a scarf, one way to win it!

  50. I started doing this yesterday and it has already made a huge difference in my life. Thanks Rachel!!!!

  51. The piece about flat surfaces is so so true. I like to keep my kitchen counter clear and every time my parents visit they pile. Drives. Me. Crazy. Usually I end up moving things to the dining room table just so I can prepare dinner.

    I have a small house so it’s great to have a place for everything and only keep the projects I’m working on out so I’m not distracted by everything else.

  52. I like a cleared surface. No knick-knack everywhere. But don’t look inside my closets!!

    Great post.
    don_mae´s last post…And More Barbie Stuff… Roll-up Totes

  53. This is probably the 4th time I’ve looked at this post and just now realized – for the most part, my grandmother kept all horizontal spaces clear. I sure as heck don’t, but she did.
    Jenn the Pen´s last post…The Mangy Cat Story – The Last Part of Two

  54. Brilliant observation! This makes so much sense to me, that I feel like rushing around my own home and “making it so.” NOW. I am a piler–which is the main source of clutter in my home. OK: something to work on that is specific and es, won’t make me feel as if my home is boring, cold, or lifeless. Because I have so many books, photos, etc. Thanks for the wonderful solution!
    Pearl´s last post…Utah

  55. I just had to throw in my nickel regarding the photos above… which is, regardless of stuff on the horizontal or vertical, it’s still stuff! And these walls are overstuffed. I’m with the dissenters on this post.

    First off, I have allergies, so I limit the books — in this case there are way too many, and they could be arranged better (they look haphazard & need to be aligned more consistently. I wouldn’t want to be the one having to dust all those books.)

    Second, the shelves near the desk, in the center, aren’t all the same height — that’s rubbing me the wrong way just by looking at the picture.

    Third, wallpaper is a mold and dust collector. I can’t stand wallpaper on walls (possibly stencils), but I prefer just painted walls.

    Fourth, Big paintings of people are a distraction to me. Prefer some scenery, posters, or some other object.

    Fifth, Those big cabinets on the left side are too excessive. Plus the sofas need to be similar colors to balance things out. Or maybe just one.

    Sixth, there needs to be some kind of object on the coffee table to pull the eyes away from the wall to balance things off. Nothing on the tables make the walls look more cluttered.

    Seventh, the lamps are too big for that room, and there is too much stuff on the fireplace.

    I’m no decorator, but I fancy myself to be somewhat of an amateur at best, and like to look at design mags & ezines and play around with my nest.

    The room looks clean and has some nice items, but it needs to be de-cluttered, as far as I’m concerned. Sure the table is clear, but you can’t look at the table all the time.

    Was this the place in Florence or Venice, Rachel? I’m thinking it was the first. I’d like to see if the rest of the Venice quarters matched the kitchen decor, which was so quaint.

    Yes, I did get carried away, but I haven’t posted in a while. Plus it’s kind of a pet peeve of mine.

    • Actually this is the house in Venice that I shared the kitchen photos earlier. This room seemed open in person, I don’t think the photos do it justice for capturing the cohesive feel of the room.

      At the house in Florence I put away a lot of knick knacks, but this library was easy to move right in. Sure, there a lot of books, but it is a library. The owner is an architect/designer and most of the books are part of his professional collection. I think this room fit the city. I can imagine that you would love to live in a room with more of a light/airy Scandinavian design.

      • Well I wasn’t sure which one it was at first, but I saw the wallpaper & all the books — then I thought this couldn’t be the place with the simple but quaint kitchen in waterlogged Venice.

        You gave us a good idea what it was like at the first place (nice but kind of chilly), however not many comments about this place with all the bookcases, wall covering and uncluttered horizontal spaces makes me think that it created a warm & inviting cocoon for your family in a foreign land.

        But I was also thinking that all the books & wallpaper would be prone to creating mildew and mold in an environment like that. I always wondered how the water effected the homes of the people who lived over water? You didn’t say much about how the water effected you other than dropping laundry or whether or not water was underneath you?

        Anyway, the room looked traditional(which I like) but I think it had too many sofas & stuff on the walls. The black sofa was nice but didn’t blend. But maybe it would have looked different if I had been there.

        Myself, yes I do like airy with a mix of Country Eclectic styles (including Scandinavian and traditional), with off white walls.

  56. I love your point that the horizontal spaces are clear. I have a friend who, when people display lots of things on their counters, says “I just feel like I want someone to put all that stuff away.” I think clear horizontal spaces, especially in a room full of wonderful bookshelves, is a key to finding that balance. Now, I just have to see if I can do it!
    Tanya´s last post…Choose ‘fabulous’

  57. Loved this post! Sometimes we think uncluttering is so hard… clear a horizontal surface – how easy is that! Thanks for the post. I used it in my Friday Challenge to my clients this week and gave them your website. Hope this give you a few new fans! You can listen to the Friday Challenge at http://cinch.fm/natalieconrad/267753 .
    Natalie@OrganizedHabits´s last post…Staying Organized is a Balancing Act

  58. Oh, I feel like I’ve just had the most refreshing, breathe-deep clean cool air feeling…. I get it! “Keep those horizontal surfaces clear.” That’s such easy direction – and an easy place to start as I aim to have a useful yet peaceful home.

    Thanks for the clarity! I love following your posts.

  59. I’ve been musing on this post of yours on and off for a few day – really really insightful. I will definitely use it to try to create a cleaner, more serene feel in the house. A real designer insight on your part- thank you so much for sharing it!

  60. Love this. Simple rule I can use. Thanks for the license to clear my coffee table.

  61. I fall on different sides of the pendulum in different rooms in my house. Living room- a little spartan, Garage- episode of hoarders. Maybe I just need to spread it out a bit.
    Megan@declutterdaily´s last post…Day 177 – Weight Loss Update: Down 507 lbs.

  62. Thank you for your ideas. I have been ill since June with kidney issues (not fun, it is exhausting, leaving me with literally no energy after working all day in a stressful job) and I found your notes and became inspired. In less than 10 minutes, I had cleared off a kitchen counter (that had been nagging me), the dryer (which always used to be clean but had a pile of towels (unfolded-don’t like that) on it, the dining room table, and the clean clothes I had put on my bed this morning-straight from the dryer. Now, although still tired, and not feeling well, I am happy and satisifed once again, because I am in a clean house. Thank you and blessings.
    Kelly´s last post…Exeter, California

  63. How funny you mention clearing just one space–my hubby isn’t too concerned about how the house looks, except the coffee table. If that is cleared off when he gets home from work, he feels he can relax.
    Kait Palmer´s last post…Seasons Drink Deep into our Soul: Musings of a new Father

  64. Hi Rachel,

    This was a great article and something to which I could really relate. I often think of myself as simply cluttered. LOL! I love my books, antiques, kitchen paraphernalia BUT I make a point of finding a place for everything so my flat surfaces are not covered with stuff. I have some things that I enjoy looking at which I keep on flat surfaces but keep it to a minimum. But I also have to say that I do use my flat surfaces for lots of activities throughout the day so I don’t worry about things being out of their assigned “home”. But come evening we straighten up our flat surfaces to keep some semblance of order. (Sort of like Fly Lady “Hot Spot” cleaning.) This is especially true in our kitchen and dining room. As you mentioned about clearing just one space in a room…when our dining room table and kitchen table are clear, my family feels a sense of calm that allows us to live happily and comfortably in our home.

    Also, something that I have really enjoyed doing is turning our dining room into a library. It gets much more use this way. This is not my unique idea but something I learned from my Italian mother. We lined the walls with maple bookcases we bought at an unfinished furniture store which we finished in a lovely cherry stain that kept the room light and served as a nice backdrop for our darker Chippendale table and chairs. The large table makes a great place to lay out cookbooks and spend time working on meal planning, etc. And it also seves as a place for my family to use for spreading out their books or for us to all play a board game. And when needed, we can still use our “library” as a dining room.

    There is a book that I love titled “A Perfectly Kept House is the Sign of a Misspent Life: How to live creatively with collections, clutter, work, kids, pets, art, etc….and stop worrying about everything being perfectly in it’s place.” by Mary Randolph Carter. (Not me. I’m a different Mary.) She was (is?) a long-time creative director for Ralph Lauren. Now don’t get the wrong idea…she does not give folks a license to stop cleaning and live in a messy “hoarder” type environment. Instead she helps those of us who enjoy our stuff by showing us how to only keep those things we really like…much like Rachel advises here…and then how to display it and enjoy it without becoming overwhelmed or consumed by it.

    Thanks Rachel for all your great advice! And for sharing such wonderful pictures. And thank you – just in general – for all the wonderful info you so generously share on your blog

    Love,

    Mary

    Love,

    Mary
    Mary´s last post…Top 10 Secrets to Organizing the Kitchen

    • Mary,

      Like your comments. I agree that those of us who have varied interests, hobbies, collections and libraries are never going to achieve the “minimal” look. Our goal should be becoming wise curators always editing and decluttering as we go along our busy way :o)

      I am anxious to take a peek at that book you mentioned, thanks for mentioning it.

    • Thank you for recommending this book. My adult daughter and I were just discussing this subject tonight, how those with perfectly clean houses must lead boring lives! She is a culinary artist and has 6 children, so there are always projects going on at her house!
      Bernice
      Living the Balanced Life´s last post…Resources for managing your home, family and life

  65. Clearing horizontal spaces is just the thing! I guess I instinctively do that. My walls are hung with a lot of photos and paintings (some would call it cluttered visually, but I love them all). However my tables and counters are cleared so the rooms are useful and welcoming to me.

    Great ideas, everyone.
    Ashley @ Root and Twig´s last post…Organizing the Freezer

  66. I agree that minimalism and simplicity has been trendy but one can have warmth of home and still be simple without going bare wall. I always thought house without books and some pictures is lacking something, but that is personal thing.

    I think that house is fine, simple and inviting with lot of book collection without looking decluttered!

    Preeti
    Zengirl @ Heart And Mind´s last post…How To Preserve Food

  67. Very good advice- and something I had not thought of before. I keep going through our accessories and removing some- I like the less clutter look. I had not really thought of completely clearing horizontal surfaces off.

  68. Brittney says:

    I am definitely moving toward a desire to declutter. I have also found that one space that particularly unsettles me is bookshelves. My husband is at seminary, so obviously our shelves are packed! I find that if there is some margin to add a vase or some other decorative element the massive wall of books looks less overwhelming to me- spacially.

  69. oh wow, I realized this is sort of my clean up goal for each day! If the dining room table is clear, the whole room feels somewhat peaceful to me. It was when I noticed this feeling that I started cleaning up directly after each meal instead of getting distracted by other things first and then wandering back through the hellishly messy dining room.

    Reading your post, I think you have a real grasp of design (I feel I know something about this, being married to an architect with definite design ideas). I’m excited to read the next post about this.
    Margo´s last post…A Dignified Entry

  70. OK, once I’d seen the photos that go with this article I felt quite inspired, so… I put in an afternoon’s effort and uncluttered one room in my house. Guess which is my favourite room now?

    Thanks for getting me motivated. How about some pictures of a decluttered laundry to get me moving on to that job?
    GrowingRaw´s last post…Green Smoothie Health

  71. Hi Rachel!

    I love this room. There is something here that makes me feel very comfortable. Do you have more pictures that you could share?

    Personally, I strive for clear surfaces, but it doesn’t always happen!

    Thanks for your blog – I love it!

    Michele

  72. Christine says:

    I love your website! Having only found it this summer, I’m still catching up with your old posts. I, too, keep surfaces clear and have had many people remark at how clean my home always is…when really they are noticing it is clutter-free! Funny how the two, clean and clutter-free are thought of as synonymous. I love the picture you used. One thing I did notice right away…no television. In American living rooms the tv is usually quite prominent! I thought this room European due to the lack of a television set out in plain sight. Sigh…if I lived alone I’d have a small one in a cabinet for the occasional movie. My family, I fear, would have my head!

  73. Great tips and they seem very achievable. Not overwhelming. Thanks for sharing, now I’d like to get home and unclutter some stuff!

  74. Wow, you’re right! It works because of the uncluttered horizon. Who would have thought a mirrored mantle top *with* large portrait would look chic… and a floral couch.. and pink fabric walls. It’s all in the delivery.

  75. Agree, but this kind of house is too formal for me. Italian houses in general don’t have wallpaper and a fireplace… this one looks a bit like “old money”. ;)

  76. I tried this in my living room and I cannot believe the difference. The whole room feels different!