How to organise a living room and tame the clutter

Decluttering a living room needn’t be overwhelming – experts share their top tips for getting the job done easily.

Our living rooms are used daily, so creating a space where everything in its place is important. The living room is where we go to unwind, meaning it should be somewhere that allows us to properly retreat from the world.

In fact, as Jessica Linighan, professional organiser and team lead at Homefulness, warns, a disorganised and chaotic living room could have a real impact on our wellbeing. “A cluttered living room overwhelms our already overloaded brains with too much sensory information,” she explains. “This can cause irritability, increased stress levels and may even make you feel ashamed or embarrassed about your home when guests come round.”

living room with built in storage in alcoves flanking a fireplaceCredit: Sharps

Thankfully, the professionals have shared their top tips for organising a living room with us – including how to deal with a cluttered coffee table, messy wires, and the best ways to utilise storage. The key is to try organising the room section by section.

1. Invest in multifunctional furniture

Multitasking items are great for smaller spaces

Aissa sofaCredit:

Investing in furniture that looks good, is comfortable and has brilliant storage capabilities is a win-win for an organised living room.

“Multipurpose furniture, such as pouffes, ottoman benches, TV units and coffee tables with built-in drawers, are a brilliant way to store items without the need to buy additional pieces of furniture,” says Juliette Thomas, founder and director of Juliettes Interiors. “For this reason, multipurpose pieces work particularly well in organising smaller homes.”

You can also opt for sofas which, like ottoman beds, lift up to reveal hidden storage, or classic designs, such as stacking side tables.

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2. Design zones for the room’s different functions

The whole family will then know where things go

Consider the different purposes your living room serves to help organise the space in the most useful way possible.

Interior designer Nicolene Mausenbaum, owner of Dezyna Interiors, explains, “By understanding the main function of the area, you can easily formulate a plan and arrange your items and the furniture accordingly.”

To properly ‘zone’ your living room, Masenbaum suggests that you “create specific areas for seating, entertainment and reading, allowing for an easy flow of traffic between these areas and bearing in mind where the focal area of your room is. A well-placed rug or two will also help to define different areas.”

3. Maximise wall space for additional storage

Keep it off the floor

In any room, wall space is a prime spot for storing and organising your belongings. Rachal Hutcheson, national retail manager at Sharps, explains, “If space is at a premium in your living room, utilising the wall space can result in making a communal area feel much bigger.”

Mausenbaum agrees: “Maximise your wall space with vertical storage, such as floating shelves; it is also a great way to add a focal point.” If you have alcoves in your living room, they could be the perfect place to tuck in some shelves. Taking this kind of shelving to the ceiling allows you to enjoy as much storage as possible.

If you can’t commit to built-in furniture, try using a wall-ladder bookcase, which will provide you with ample storage without taking up too much floor space.

4. Organise soft furnishings in easy yet stylish ways

Don’t pile throws on the sofa

Blankets and throws are cosy must-haves, but to stop them cluttering up the sofa, it’s important for them to have a place to live. Try popping them into a stylish basket next to your sofa or favourite chair, so that they can be easily pulled out, then put away. 

A wall ladder is another an elegant storage solution for neatly folded throws, adding design and texture to your living space. 

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5. Invest in good cable management

Don’t let wires trail across the floor

Aside from home offices, our living rooms – where TVs, computers and entertainment systems abound – tend to house the largest number of cables. As such, Mausenbaum says, “Consider cable management to avoid a tangled mess dominating the space.

“Use cable organisers or sleeves to arrange wires and hide cabling behind furniture or along walls with trunking (plastic covers) or cord covers,” she suggests. You can also paint these kinds of coverings to help them seamlessly blend in with your walls or floor.

Items like these can be bought from suppliers such as Amazon, Screwfix, and B&Q and can be installed easily.

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6. Keep your coffee table minimal

Cluttered tabletops are a no-no

Pale blue painted coffee table in front of stone fireplaceCredit: Painted Furniture Company

For a living room that always looks neat and tidy, avoid overcrowding your coffee table. “The coffee table is often the centrepiece of the living room – only use it to store frequently used items like remote controls, a few magazines or coasters,” Kate Palmer, creative director of Painted Furniture Company, suggests. “Stacks of unread books and magazines are best kept in a magazine rack or small bookshelf nearby instead.”

Decorative items should be carefully curated too. “While decorative items can enhance the look of the living room, too many of them on the coffee table can create clutter,” Palmer advises. “Select a few meaningful or aesthetically pleasing pieces only. Choose decorative boxes, trays, baskets and bowls to store everything neatly and stylishly.”

7. Decide which items really need to be in this room

Banish toys or work equipment to another space

Red buttoned Sofology sofas in royal blue living roomCredit: Sofology

It’s impossible to have a neat, organised room if yours holds too many unnecessary items. “Some of the things we often see in living rooms just don’t need to be there,” says Linighan.

Decluttering these items is a surefire way to help the room look organised with very little work. “Start by returning items, such as clothing, shoes, electronics and anything else that doesn’t belong in the living room, to a more suitable location within your home,” she says. Coats, for example, should live in hallways or wardrobes, and electronics should be relegated to bedrooms or offices.

“Finally,” Linighan suggests, “look around and consider the decorative items you have on display. If you don’t love them in this room, consider utilising them in another area of your home.” 

8. Be selective with open shelving

Don’t cover every surface

Built-in bookcase in grey living roomCredit: Sharps

Surfaces such as windowsills and side tables are among the first areas the eye is drawn to in a living room. So keep these spaces uncluttered and thoughtfully styled.  

“Be mindful that you don’t overcrowd open shelving with too many items, as it can quickly look messy and overwhelming,” Thomas advises. If it is, it won’t be long before your entire living room feels that way. 

To avoid this, add only two or three items to each shelf. “After this, there are a few ways you can organise your shelves. You could do so by item (such as a shelf for books, a shelf for pictures, a shelf for vases) or mix and match things together to give your shelves depth and points of interest,” she suggests. 

9. Organise books and DVDs by genre

Operate a ‘one in, one out’ policy

Books and DVDs can easily descend into a chaotic mess, so organising these will ensure your entire living room feels more put together. “When it comes to organising your collection, I would usually recommend sorting by genre and then alphabetically by author, for books,” says Gillian Gudgeon, founder of Restore the Calm and APDO member.

“When managing your collection long- term, try to think of ‘one- in, one- out’. I use the bathtub analogy a lot with clients. If you keep filling a bathtub, the water eventually spills all over the floor. The same goes for books and DVDs.”

10. Reset your living room daily

A few minutes a day will save you time in the long run

Alcove shelving in pale grey living roomCredit: Sharps

To keep your living room organised in the long- term, resetting it daily is a great trick. Linighan says, “Before you settle down for the evening, put your living room to rights by spending just five minutes tidying.”

And a nightly reset can be very simple – all you really need to do is pick up any rubbish, return any excess items to their home (such as books to bookcases, laptops to offices, and plates or mugs to the kitchen), and neaten up your sofa by plumping cushions and folding blankets.

“Those few minutes will have a big impact when done consistently,” Linighan says.

Written by Amy Hunt she/her