How to declutter a living room in 4 way-too-easy steps

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Clean, decluttering living room on a pink background
(Image credit: Future)

Whether you’re flying solo or live with a bunch of roommates — it’s likely your living room sees the brunt of clutter. Leftover mail, books, empty glasses and bottles of water, and other miscellaneous objects. If you're not on top of organizing your living room, this space is ripe for messes. 

“I always remind my clients that living rooms are the eyes and souls of the home," says Shantae Duckworth, professional organizer and founder of Shantaeize Your Space. "It’s one of the places where the family gets together. It’s the space that allows everyone to wind down from the realities of life. But when the space is cluttered, it doesn’t allow for that peace and tranquillity to come in. It makes the space uninviting, and most times families don’t want to spend time in those spaces”

Feeling like your own relaxing and entertaining area is feeling weighed down by clutter? Here’s an easy step-by-step guide for decluttering your living room. 

Good to know

Time: 15 to 30 minutes

Difficulty: Easy 

Helpful hints: Create a clutter basket in your living room. This is a spot you can put objects that don't belong there (like mail or your dog's chew toy) and return them to their actual homes at the end of each day. This'll cut down on clutter building up over the week.

Here's what you'll need

How to declutter a living room

Step 1: Throw out items that are actually garbage

Walk through your living room with a garbage bag and remove any surface clutter that needs to be thrown out such as cans, old magazines, mail, and anything else that shouldn’t be there. If there are things that are in the wrong space entirely such as the three-pack of toothpaste you picked up at the drugstore yesterday — put all of those things aside as you clean up. Then store those items where they are supposed to go in other rooms.  

Step 2: Have a vision in place

“You have to envision how you want your living room to function for your family — and this is going to be different for every family, so don’t compare your living room to anyone else’s,” says Duckworth.

The professional organizer suggests asking yourself the following questions. “Is the living room going to be a place that doesn’t have any toys or any projects in the space, or is it gonna be a multi-functional space that has zones established for each person in the household?”

Step 3: Create zones

Duckworth tells me the next step is to create zones for all the items you want to keep.  “If you have small kids that have an excess amount of toys, determine which ones you want to keep in the living room and create a particular zone that the whole family knows is where the children’s toys or to be stored when they are done playing with them.”

Another example of a useful zone is having a designated spot for papers and mail. “Have a zone for that so the whole family knows this is where the mail goes for whoever is checking the mailbox.” 

Lastly, create a zone for throw blankets, especially if everyone likes to sit and get cozy together on the sofa. 

Step 4: Organize using baskets

The final step is to get creative with organizing by using baskets. “Baskets are great decorative pieces that also act as a barrier for visual clutter” explains Duckworth. “You can establish whatever you like to put in these baskets and it’s also a great way to make sure that the children are involved with keeping up with the living room because they know that they can just put things in a designated basket.”

Another reason to stock up on a few extra baskets? “It also makes tidying the living room a quick process,” says Duckworth.

Opt for decorative baskets that enhance your living room while creating a designated space for things that end up becoming a mess if they aren’t properly contained. 


How do I organize my living room with too much stuff?

Start by getting rid of what must be thrown out first by decluttering. For example, empty cans, water bottles, and old mail. Then edit any objects you really don’t need. Do you have multiple copies of the same book? Old magazines you no longer need? Candles that have burned down to the wick? Toss all of these items in the trash. 

Once this type of clutter is eliminated, you can get down to organizing what you want to keep.  

How do you declutter your living room when you're overwhelmed?

The key to avoiding overwhelm is to clean more frequently. Duckworth tells me it's best to have a 15-minute long tidying session at the end of each day. “If the living room is a place where the family gets together to wind down at the end of the day before, everybody retires for the evening, all hands on deck to get the living room back into tip-top shape. You will be surprised what you can get done in such a short amount of time, especially if you establish a routine of doing it often.”

Amanda Lauren

Hi, I’m Amanda Lauren. I’m a design expert and interior stylist who writes for Real Homes, Forbes, Real Simple among other publications. I live in Los Angeles in the historic neighborhood of Hancock Park with my husband, and two dogs, Lulu and Milo. We also have a baby coming in spring 2023. I’m a big believer in finding beautiful things at all price points. There are so many places to find affordable things, you just have to look for them. If you don't find it at first, look harder!