When your goal is a tidy, well-organized home, the family room can present a big challenge. You want the room to be the place where your family and friends can relax, have fun, and enjoy each other’s company. At the same time, you want to ensure the room is functional and supports the activities that go on there.
How can you control clutter and work toward overcoming this challenge? Renowned home organizer, Peter Walsh (author of the book It’s All Too Much!) recommends a zone approach in his article “Clean Up Your Messy Living Room.” Walsh writes,
Living rooms are used for different purposes—often at the same time. In order to decide what should stay and where, you need to identify the different activities that take place within each room and divide them into zones. Once you begin organizing, these zones become the center for specific items related to the designated activity. Then, it becomes immediately clear where things belong, where to find things and where to return them.”
Walsh suggests zones for books, games, collectibles, photos, as well as creating separate spaces to relax, study, work, and play.
A place for everything in the family room
Once zones are established, you can begin placing items where they belong. The furniture and décor of the room can play a big part in this effort as you work toward organizing the room and controlling clutter.
- Shelving units and bookcases. Experts agree shelves are key elements in a well-organized family room. In “Organizing Your Living Room,” Jenn Andrik writes, “Shelves are storage chameleons that can change to suit your needs. Versatile and available in diverse styles, shelving units can be the answer to a host of family-room clutter quandaries — they also add visual interest to the decor.” Designate shelves dedicated to books, photos, and collectibles. Another shelf might house Monopoly, Scrabble and other board games.
- Entertainment center. Maximize the use of space on the entertainment center’s shelves and drawers. Arrange albums, DVDs and CDs in an organized manner on shelves or in drawers. The entertainment center is also a natural choice for storing game consoles and accessories.
- Magazine racks and baskets. Stacks of magazines and paper are major sources of tabletop clutter in many homes. Some organizing experts recommend that magazines and newspapers be recycled as soon as you are finished reading them. If you prefer to keep these reading materials a little longer, use a magazine rack or a small decorative basket as a short-term spot for these items.
- Trunks, chests and decorative storage bins. Blankets, quilts and throws make curling up on the sofa warm and cozy on a cold night. But those same blankets may end up on the floor or scattered on the couch. When not in use, blankets can be places in trunks and wooden chests. Fun, decorative, fabric-covered storage bins are another solution. If you knit, sew or do other crafts in the family room, trunks and chests can serve as good places to keep your supplies.
- Coffee tables and end tables. In a well-organized family room, table tops should be mostly empty. Choose tables with drawers for small items, such as pens, remote controls and drink coasters. If your coffee table does not have drawers, there are attractive, modestly priced caddies, small baskets and other organizers that will keep your table clutter free.
Although each family has different uses for the family room—and different furniture and decorating budgets—the goal in all well-organized homes is to have a place for everything. This ensures that nothing ends up on the floor, clutters up tabletops, or gets tossed on the furniture.
Toy tidiness and the family room – a separate challenge
Kids like to play on the floor in the family room. Toys and art supplies can take up a lot of space, but’s they’re part of the fun. However, toys scattered on the floor make it difficult to walk without squishing an action figure or tripping over Lego bricks.
From an organizer’s viewpoint, the question is: “What happens to toys after playtime is over?” Here are some strategies to address toy tidiness.
1. Make a toy box, large bin or basket part of your living room’s décor.
2. Store most toys elsewhere, but allow the child to pick a few toys to be kept in a small plastic bin in the family room.
3. Remove all toys from the family room after play time is over and return them to the kids’ bedrooms or wherever they are stored.
Pick one of these strategies and give it a trial run. Eventually you will find the approach that works best for you and your children. Regardless of the strategy you choose, remember that even young children can and should clean up after playtime.
In “Chores for Busy Toddlers,” writer Kathy Barnes advises,
It’s good to get in the habit of cleaning up after playtime. Encourage your child to put things back by establishing a home for his playthings… take a walk through your rooms and find abandoned toys. Make a game of pickup time by asking your toddler, “Do you see the truck? Where does it go?” You might be surprised that your toddler knows the answer without being prodded.
Cleaning up and controlling clutter—a family affair
Once your family room is organized, keeping this space tidy and clutter free should be everyone’s responsibility.
Organizing experts suggest that all households have a “family pick-up time.” D
During this fifteen-minute period, every family member participates in returning items to the places where they belong.
- Family pick-up time should be scheduled during a time of day when all family members are most likely to be home. Before or after the evening meal may work best for many families.
- Some families assign a specific category of items to each person—one person picks up toys; another person is responsible for newspapers, junk mail, etc. For other families, pick-up time involves assigning a specific room to each person.
From toddlers and teens to all of the adults in your home, if you make clutter control a family effort, your family room can be a place for fun and relaxation without the stress of clutter and mess.