Containing Clutter

I come from a long line of packrats. I also married one–who also comes from a long line of packrats! Packrats tend to collect and hoard a lot of stuff. There are a lot of us out there. I suspect my son is heading the same direction–I found a stash of 20-something empty papertowel and loo rolls in a box under his bed. He’s saving them to make a marble chute. At least I should be pleased that they are being stored in a box out of sight!

I can recall unwrapping dishes in my mother-in-law’s house after she died in 1997–and the newspaper around the dishes was dated 1958!

We make no apologies for our methods to maddness. I personally can justify everything I collect under the auspice that I love it/have a purpose for it/intend to use it. I assume other packrats are the same. My problem, however, is that I don’t like clutter. I also live in a near-200 year old house with effectively no built-in storage. Therefore, as you can imagine, I’ve had to invent ways to get creative with my storage otherwise our possessions will be on top of us! I figure if I can combat clutter, and I have A LOT of stuff, then anyone can. I’ve listed my top ten surefire tips. I hope you find them inspiring.


1) Everything must have a place. This is my number one rule. If there isn’t a home for it, the item will always be cluttering your home. Define where everything in your home goes. If you can’t determine where to put it–get rid of it.

2) Make storage accesible and easy for everyone to use. My son’s toys are grouped by type and stored in big boxes at his level so that he can open them on his own but equally can do his own cleaning up. He also gets his own laundry bag that he brings down to the machine when it gets full. My husband gets a whole kitchen cupboard for his odd and strangely shaped bottles of spices and sauces. I don’t want to see them all over the kitchen! My dog’s collection of squeaky toys hides behind the kitchen armchair. She knows where they are–but I don’t step on them constantly!



3 ) Label your storage solutions. Once everything has a place, make sure it’s known so that your family can remember where to put everything back! It may sound basic but it makes a big difference for everyone living in the house. There’s no excuse for not not tidying up when you know where everything goes. Before my son could read I drew symbols on his labels. He knew the picture of a train was the box where his train was put away. Labels define storage solutions.


4) Small and unconventional containers work great for storing clutter. My house and car keys rest in a seashell. I use wicker picnic baskets to hide away toys. My ribbon bolts are on a closet pole. My pens are in a marmalade jar. Our first aid kit is on the wall in a [repainted] fishing tackle box. Anything that you consider lovely and can also help with combatting clutter should be embraced. I have a LOT of stuff. But I know where everything is.


5) Display your collections–but be sure there’s space to breathe around them. An overwhelming collection short on space defeats the point of displaying a collection. Give each item the opportunity to stand out. Niches and shelves are a great way to display a few items grouped together. Keep colours to a minimum as too many colours and too many things create a cluttered effect!

6) Group daily items together using those ‘display’ methods. Give everything space. Stick to ‘like’ colours. Make your storage, even mundane every day items feel like a collection on display.


7) Get rid of what you don’t need on a weekly basis. Try my method–it works! I take three paper grocery bags and label them: Give-Away, Throw-Away, eBay. I keep them in my front hall cupboard. I add to these bags all of the time. When a bag is full, I follow through and either drop the contents off at a charity shop, lug it to the communal bin in my road, or list it on eBay and build up my paypal credit. If it doesn’ t match, is stained, or is missing parts–just get rid of it. Equally–don’t keep anything that is in perfect working order–but you simply don’t need or use. If it’s gathering dust and you don’t ‘collect’ it, get rid of it. My husband didn’t use his panini maker for two years. I gave it away last year. He still hasn’t noticed.

8) Hide what you don’t need regular access to. I had two floor-to-ceiling cupboards built in our craft room on either side of the fireplace to hold big storage boxes full of holiday and seasonal decorations. I can reach them easily when they are needed but when the doors are closed no one has to look at them. I also put a fabric blind in front of my washer/dryer. It may seem silly, but I didn’t want to look at them [considering I only do laundry once a week] and a door in that squeezed space wasn’t practical.

9) ‘Happy clutter’ is okay to leave out on display. What is happy clutter exactly? Groups of photos in frames. Craft supplies! Items of related origin that bring you joy when they are out. That’s what happy clutter is. If it makes you smile, it deserves to be visible. Just don’t overdo it…I once went to a friend’s home and she had lined up a cluster of ornate picture frames on the top of her toilet. When you flushed, they shifted slightly…not to mention the strange association with the location and your cherished memories…that’s my definition of definitely overdoing it!!



10) Don’t overlap how you use furniture. Your dining table is your dining table. It’s not also a sewing table encouraging you to keep your sewing machine in the corner on the floor when your family is eating…it doesn’t matter how small your house is. Find a space for everything that it can call it’s own. Take two shelves out of a bookcase and create a sewing corner that lives there full time. Be creative and maximize your space–don’t blur the rooms my double-using furniture.

And a casual but effective life-saving clutter mantra: Pick up a room before you walk out of it. If you never let it get away from you, you’ll never have to tackle putting everything away!


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