In this post: Honestly, sometimes visual clutter can be hard to pinpoint or get rid of. But these 30 things that may be making your home look cluttered can be cleaned up in a weekend or less!
We all want to make our homes look less cluttered. But what if you’ve purged and purged and your house STILL looks cluttered? What do you do then? And what’s making it look that way? Well, here are thirty things that make your home look cluttered, that you may not have thought of.
30 things that make your home look cluttered
In my opinion, there are two types of clutter:
- actual clutter that causes stress because it prevents one from functioning well in their home and
- visual clutter that steals our peace and leaves us feeling worn out and exhausted just by being in the very spaces that are supposed to relax us and allow us to recharge
In this post, I’m mostly talking about visual clutter. Although a few actual clutter items are on the list too.
1. Gallery walls/too many small pictures
If you follow us on Instagram, you may have seen that in the last couple of weeks, we’ve been working on a little makeover of our main floor. Specifically, I wanted to simplify and reduce the visual clutter in the dining room, living room, and kitchen. We have all spent a LOT of time here over the last few months and it was time to change things up a bit.
In the living room, we had already repainted the black shiplap wall white to brighten and calm the room and removed the layered signs and decor from behind the couch. Which left room for some art.
I went back and forth on what sort of art – a single large image, a few large-ish pieces, or a gallery wall. Since I neither wanted to spend a lot of money nor did I fall in love with any one large piece that I’d want to keep forever, we opted to go with a gallery wall.
But it took a few go-rounds to find a fairly cost-effective layout that worked without making the space look too cluttered with small pieces.
(Main floor updates reveal coming soon! I’m just waiting on a few large prints from Staples to be ready.)
2. Too many decor accessories/wrongly scaled decor accessories
If you’re one of my Decorating Uncomplicated students, you will know this already. But if not, accessories can be a tricky thing to get right. Too few accessories and a space can look impersonal and empty. Too many and well, it can look cluttered in a hurry.
The same goes for the wrong scale of accessories. One oversized piece can look dramatic. But too many large pieces just makes a room feel off. And accessories that are too small often require more of them to “fill” a room, but then look cluttered.
Creating vignettes is a great way to add personality and beauty with accessories while keeping a space from looking too cluttered.
3. Full countertops
So this won’t be the first time you hear me say this, but just because a surface exists doesn’t mean you need to put something on it.
Obviously, you and I need to keep certain things out on the counter. Things that are used daily or multiple times a day can have their home on the countertop. At our house, that includes the kettle, coffee syrups, cutting board, paper towel dispenser, and a crate full of oils and spices we use all the time. It may be different at your house.
If you don’t absolutely have to have something out on the counter, don’t! You should have plenty of empty counter space, both for function and for visual calm in a room that sees a lot of use.
4. Refrigerator doors
While I realize that magnetic refrigerator doors are very handy for putting up the kids’ art, lists, schedules, meal plans, and all manner of paper, it’s just not helping you live clutter-free if your fridge doors are covered in the stuff.
Instead, limit what really has to be there and find more suitable homes for the other things.
For example, to minimize clutter, our paper calendar is on the SIDE of the fridge along with the grocery list. And the only two things on the front of the fridge are this week’s meal plan and our son’s ever-changing college schedule (just so we can somewhat easily keep track of when he’s home and when he’s not).
Simplify whenever possible.
5. Not enough lighting
Yup, really, a lack of lighting may make your home appear cluttered when it’s not!
Inadequate lighting casts shadows that look like clutter and keep those “breath-of-fresh-air” empty spaces in the dark.
You need three types of lighting: ambient/general, accent, and task lighting. Properly use all three types of lighting and your space will seem so much cozier…and less cluttered!
6. Cords and wires
Ugh. Can I just say I cannot wait until EVERYTHING is cordless?! For real.
Until then, I try to corral and hide all the hideous cords the best I can, because untamed cords, wires, and chargers add visual clutter that I despise. (But in keeping it real, some just can’t be hidden and I choose to leave them that way even when I shoot photos. Because erasing them from pics like magazines often do is just silly and monotonous!)
We use zip ties to keep various cords together, we tuck others behind curtains and couches, and yet others get tucked under rugs.
7. Things that have a home, but you’re procrastinating putting away
Okay, so you’ve purged, decluttered, and organized…and now everything has a home. Yay, you!
BUT if you’re procrastinating on putting things away when you’re done with them, you’re going to find yourself right back where you started. You’ve got to put things away when you’re done with them, beautiful! You just have to.
And you have to remind others in your home to put the things away that they’re responsible for, even when it feels like you’re nagging them and you feel like you shouldn’t have to remind them anymore. Just remind them kindly until they do it. And repeat. Such is the life of a momma.
8. Mismatched or transparent storage pieces
This one falls under the “you’ve already purged” column and you’ve either decided to use storage pieces you already own or you’ve bought a mishmash of containers.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always the best choice because things that go away in containers usually aren’t pretty and should be hidden in appropriate boxes, baskets, or bins.
You have a couple of choices to solve this visual clutter issue – buy new, matching, containers, or paint or otherwise modify existing storage so that it matches and doesn’t show off its contents.
9. Too many throw pillows (GASP!)
Okay, I’m a HUGE fan of throw pillows. Especially feather-stuffed, comfy, squishy throw pillows.
But too many – or too many patterned and colored throw pillows – can look cluttered. Especially, if you find that your family (or pets) are making a mess of them constantly.
Perhaps even just for a season, consider reducing the number of pillows you have out and see if that helps to reduce the cluttered look in your home.
Or use my throw pillow and pattern mixing cheatsheet to help you coordinate a calmer collection.
10. Paper or mail piles
Coming up with a way to handle all the paper that comes and goes from our homes is an important part of dealing with clutter. You need to find a system for handling mail and filing that works for you.
If you’re struggling with this, check out The Clutter Fix for some great solutions.
11. A messy entryway
Because the entryway is such a highly-trafficked and well-used area, it’s easy for it to become messy. This is why I often suggest people declutter it and organize it as one of the first places they tackle.
If your entryway is becoming messy and cluttered looking, it may be time to revisit how it’s organized and make adjustments as needed, so that everything has a place.
Then it’s a matter of keeping on top of everyone to put things away as they come and go.
12. Laundry left out
Laundry used to be the bane of my existence, and I wish I could say that I came up with a magical laundry fairy. Well, I sorta did, I guess. 😉
In reality, Dean took over our laundry duties a few years ago, when the kids started doing their own laundry. Partly because he’s more particular about how things are washed and folded, but also partly because he can focus better on repetitive tasks and production type work than I can. (I’d rather poke my eye out with a stick than do repetitive tasks.)
2020 actually helped with the laundry routine around here because we weren’t running all over the place all the time from one activity to the next. Now Dean starts our clothes when he gets home Friday and keeps it going between other things until Saturday when he (or both of us) fold it before we take it upstairs. The key for us has really been folding it before it goes upstairs to our room and usually, that means that it gets folded on the dining room table before being put in baskets to take upstairs.)
(The kids are each responsible for their own laundry and have assigned days to get it done from start to finish and out of the laundry room. And yes, I do have to remind them.)
13. Too many toys out
There are a few schools of thought on toys. Neither is right or wrong and you know your littles best.
Some say that kids only need a few good toys. If this is what you believe, go ahead and purge, purge, purge without guilt and only keep the toys you know your kids absolutely love. Then provide a place for all of them to be put away at the end of playtime.
Some say kids need lots of toys and variety so they don’t get bored. If you’re in this camp, I highly recommend that you keep some toys away in a closet and rotate them out so that your kiddos don’t get bored, but so that you also don’t have every single toy in the house available at once. And of course, still provide storage to put things away after playtime.
Essentially the key is to have organized storage that the toys can be put into with the regular rhythms of your household.
14. Top of refrigerator
I’ve seen people use this as extra storage. And if you have a small space, that’s okay. But at least put things into matching containers.
If you don’t have to use this space to store things – like you genuinely just put stuff up there out of laziness – stop it! It’s not actually a storage space. It’s a surface that doesn’t need filling!
15. Dresser and nightstand surfaces
These are the same as kitchen countertops…just because there is a surface, doesn’t mean it has to have stuff on it!
Clear ’em off and enjoy the empty space!
16. Cleaner or other labels
Often countertops in bathrooms and kitchens can look cluttered and messy just because of the plethora of different colors and labels on soaps and cleaners.
My favorite is to put soaps and cleaners into amber glass pump bottles or spray bottles and add custom matching labels for a cohesive and pretty look. Corralling them on a pretty little tray helps too.
17. Donation items waiting to be donated
Ugh. Have you ever decluttered, only to have the things you plan to donate sit in the entry, hallway, and garage, forever?!
To combat this, keep one bucket, box, or bin in an easy to access location, and when it’s full take it to donate right away.
Do not procrastinate on this.
(For some of us during the past year, donation centers haven’t been open due to closures and lockdowns. If this is the case, continue to purge, but just box up the items asap and put them neatly in the garage – or the guest bedroom since it hasn’t likely seen many visitors lately.)
18. Too much or wrong-sized furniture
A room is going to be cluttered – for real and visually – if there is too much furniture for the size of the room. The same goes for if the room has the wrong scale of furniture.
If your furniture is too small for the space, you will feel like you need to fix it by adding more pieces, which will clutter up the room.
If your furniture is too large for the space, the room will feel and look overcrowded instead of spacious.
Getting the right scale of furniture is important.
19. Dishes in the sink or on the countertop
So, this one is a bit of a frustrating one because kitchens get used many times a day, and there will always be dirty dishes. We can’t just clean it up once and be done.
But leaving them piled in the sink or on the countertop is just unpleasant.
We need to develop rhythms and routines for looking after dishes. Whether that’s a family team effort or one person takes on the responsibility, is up to you.
But you need to either load the dishwasher as you go, run it when it’s full, and then put things away when they’re clean. Or you need to handwash things as you use them, or at fixed times of the day.
Don’t let your kitchen be a continual clutter pile of dirty dishes!
20. Unmade beds
These days, I don’t always make our bed. And now that our kids are older, I don’t make them do it either. (One does it daily on her own volition though.)
But that’s only because I’m rarely in our room or even near it from when I get up until I’m ready to crawl back into bed at the end of the day again. So I don’t see the mess.
When we lived in our other houses, with the bedrooms either on the main floor or visible from the only bathroom in the house, I used to make the bed all the time because it made me happy to see it all neat and tidy when I walked by.
If you’re finding that your bedroom is looking cluttered regularly, and you’re not making your bed daily, consider adding this to your morning routine and see if it makes a difference.
21. Overfilled shelves, closets, or cabinets
So, the thing with stuff is that we can only keep what we have room for. This is true whether we live in 3000 square feet or 900.
And when I say “what we have room for” I don’t mean what we can cram into every nook, cranny, and shelf!
I mean what we have space for in a proper way.
Overfilled shelves, closets, or cabinets are NOT serving you in your home. They don’t function well, and they add to the stress you feel when you look at them. Clean them out, momma!
22. Stray remotes
Inevitably with the various entertainment equipment we have these days, there are likely several remotes needed to operate it all. And those remotes can become messy looking when they don’t have a home, or they don’t get returned to that home when they’re not in use.
Come up with a place to store your remotes, like a crock, a basket, or a coffee table drawer. And remind everyone to return them there when the tv and other electronics are off.
23. Open shelving used as storage
I’m a huge fan of open shelving. I think it can be beautiful and practical like it is in our kitchen.
But if you treat open shelving as straight-up storage – like if we were to put cans, and cereal boxes on ours instead of white dishes and simple glassware – it will just look horribly messy.
Repeat after me: do not use open shelving as regular storage.
24. Too many plants/uncoordinated plant containers
I’m not just saying this because I have a black thumb when it comes to indoor plants. Too many small plants all over just look cluttered. You’d be better to collect them together in one or two places.
And try to have some sort of cohesive look when it comes to your plant containers. They don’t all have to be identical unless you want them to. But they should coordinate with your decor style and colors, so they don’t just look like chaotic noise.
25. Styling and decorating every single wall
This is one of those things that just about every amateur decorator or homeowner does – they see a blank wall and think it needs filling up with art or decor. But that’s not true!
Some walls are meant to be bare. Blank walls are like the purposeful pauses in music and the rest our over-stimulated eyes so desperately need.
Deliberately choose to leave some walls undecorated.
26. Improperly sized rug
If you’ve been around Home Made Lovely long, you know I’ve talked about this before.
A properly sized area rug makes a huge difference in how a room looks and feels as far as decor goes. But it also helps reduce the visual clutter in a space by pulling everything together and anchoring it.
For the right rug size for your space, check out this Area Rug Size Guide.
27. Multiple accent walls or focal points in one room
Okay, this is one of those maddening things that happens a lot when people decorate. Especially in living rooms with TVs, fireplaces, and accent walls.
There should only be one focal point per room! One!
That’s just proper design. But a singular focal point also helps a space not look cluttered by directing the eye through the room in one direction instead of multiple places at once.
If you’re not sure what your room’s focal point is, we talk about that as part of the space planning lessons of Decorating Uncomplicated.
28. Too many signs
I recently read a comment from someone who had the opinion that signs were not art and was immediately annoyed by the comment. As someone who has a graphic design background, I consider graphic design as a type of design, and as such signs are art.
But, too many signs are not better. Too many signs are clutter.
If you have many signs, consider paring down your collection or rotating through the ones you love and not having them all out on display at once.
People love to collect things. Farmhouse style people especially love collecting rolling pins, cutting/breadboards, transformers (those glass doodads), baskets, and all manner of farmhouse-y things. And that’s fine.
But collections, when they are too large, or too scattered can look like a whole lotta clutter.
If you find your collections are looking more like clutter than a pleasing collection, of things, it may be best for you to simplify and keep ONLY the things that really mean something to you. Stop collecting things, just because you can, or because someone else does who has a different space than you.
30. Uncoordinated color scheme
It’s a fact that eclectic homes look and feel much more cluttered than say a minimalist home.
No, I’m not saying you have to become a minimalist.
But I am saying that if you want to minimize clutter and the overwhelming feelings that go with that, you need to calm your color scheme. At the very least you need to have a coordinated color palette that works together throughout your home so that your colors are pleasing to the eye instead of jarring.
More Decluttering Ideas:
How to Declutter the House: The Complete Guide to Decluttering Your Home
What Not to Do When Decluttering – 7 Things To Avoid + A New Quiz
Quickly Declutter These 10 Clutter Hotspots in 15 Minutes or Less
50 Things You Should “Throw Away” Today + Free Printable Checklist
Yes, yes, and hallelujah! There are so many things to n this list that I am guilty of. I think this will give me that extra push I need to wake up and smell the clutter forming. Thank you! Thank you!
Excellent advice and each one of us are guilty to some degree. I am OCD about tidy – yet don’t always make the bed, and my office is a catch-all (in a huge copper bin) of papers that need sorting/tossing/filing…….I hope people heed your good advice. They don’t realize it, but having a calm living situation brings on so much clarity of thought and peace it is unreal. Almost every single person who has come into our home has stated that it is so serene. That isn’t me doing it, it is the flow and calm of my home. Me personally? I needed it back in the career days, and then I needed it to continue into my older years…..but me personally need it because once a loud crazy cheerleader always a loud crazy cheerleader who NEEDS a serene world, haha. : – D
Thanks for the great advice. Really good post. Your home is gorgeous, too btw. Visiting from over at Thistlewood’s “Thistlekeeping.”