How to declutter a small living room — 8 easy expert tips

Our professional organizers share how to declutter a small living room fast

An image of a tidy small living room with hardwood floors, an olive-green velvet couch, a fluffy cream armchair, a wooden coffee table, and a purple and white wavy rug with natural accents and lighting
(Image credit: @highboyla)

When figuring out how to declutter a small living room, working fast will reduce the stress. And, once you've blasted through this task, your living room will be perfectly neat and ordered and a perfect spot to relax in.

We have eight expert-approved tips to get your compact living room sorted, with our panel of professional organizers diving into decluttering a small living room, including maximizing space, utilizing vertical storage, and making smart furniture choices. 

Thanks to our experienced pro organizers, it’s easier than ever to declutter a living room and make the most of the space you have. 

Here’s how to declutter a small living room

Professional organizer, Shantae Duckworth says, “Living rooms are the eyes and souls of the home. 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 tranquility."

Our experts are ready to dive into organizing a living room.

Shantae Duckworth
Shantae Duckworth

Shantae Duckworth is a professional organizer and founder of Shantaeize Your Space in Seattle, Washington. She is a Member of National Association of Black Professional Organizers, and Member of Black Girls Who Organize Group. She is a public speaker and writer about organization as well. 

1. Remove any rubbish

An image of a living room with a gray couch with a dog asleep on it and shelves above it

(Image credit: @highboyla)

Brenda Scott, professional home organizer, says, “Gather and remove all garbage, recycling and dirty dishes. This may seem obvious, but easy clutter should be tackled first because it allows you to see the real clutter in the space.”

To make the task easier, have a trash sack (such as these tie-top black sacks available from Amazon) in hand as you clear, so you can easily toss rubbish in as you being clearing your small living room.

Brenda Scott
Brenda Scott

Brenda Scott is a trained professional organizer, a senior home safety specialist with Age Safe Canada, has completed the Adaptiv Home Renovation Course with CHBA and the proud owner of Tidy My Space.

2. Clear all surfaces

As we move in and out of rooms, and are busy living our lives, it's easy for our belonging to clutter up surfaces, especially around your small living room. Remove all belongings from coffee tables, windowsills, fireplaces, or any other surfaces and put them away.

Brenda says, “If surfaces are cluttered with an assortment of many small items, including knick knacks, vases, picture frames, plants, candles, it leaves no room for setting a drink or plate down, or entertaining others. 

“Clearing the space will let you breathe and relax without fretting that something will get knocked over, broken or ruined. It also makes cleaning much easier and takes less time.”

If keeping surfaces neat is a struggle, consider investing in a multipurpose organizer, like this two-tier turntable organizer from Amazon, available in four colorways.

3. Evaluate and prioritize

A small living room decorated with plants and a white rug, with a black cat walking in it

(Image credit: @goldenhourabode)

Before removing items from your small living room, evaluate what’s in there and prioritize what you actually need to keep in the space.

Shantae explains, “You have to envision how you want your living room to function for you and your household. Is the living room going to be a place that doesn’t have any toys or personal projects, or is it gonna be a multi-functional space with zones established for each person using it?”

If you're living alone, that will be easier to suit to your preference, but if sharing the space with a partner, child, relatives or friends, take into account their needs and any communal sub-zones, and what is getting in the way of allowing space for all.

Brenda says, “Too many pillows and throws crowd seating and leave no room to sit. What's the point of having a couch where you have to remove pillows and blankets if someone wants to sit down to enjoy your company? They end up on the floor, and become a trip hazard. One simple throw over the arm or back of a chair, and two corner pillows should suffice for decor.”

If you find yourself with excess throws or cushions that you need to store, using these vacuum storage bags such as this 20-pack of assorted sizes from Amazon could offer a smart and damage-free space-saving solution.

4. Decide what to ditch

Choosing what to get rid of when decluttering can be hard. Make the process easier, cleaning expert Karina Toner recommends using the Marie Kondo Method. Karina says, “Apply the KonMari method by asking if each item "sparks joy". If not, consider parting with it.”

She also recommends thinking about frequency of use, adding ,“Keep items you use regularly and consider donating or discarding items that hold no purpose or sentimental value.”

Karina Toner, Operations Manager, Spekless Cleaning
Karina Toner

Karina Toner is the Operations Manager at Washington D.C.-based Spekless Cleaning. 

5. Categorize items

An image of a living room with a black and white accent wall, a beige couch with fun cushions, and a green and cream scalloped edge rug

(Image credit: @lessisboreinteriors)

Karina says, “Categorize belongings into groups such as keep, donate, or discard. This helps streamline the decluttering process.” To make it easier to keep things ordered, consider using storage crates (such as these stackable plastic storage boxes with lids from Amazon) for each pile."

Shantae advises to build on the zones, creating ones for all the items you wish to keep in your small living room. She says, "If you have small kids with an excess amount of toys, determine which ones you want to keep in the living room and create a particular zone the whole family knows the children’s toys are to be stored."

If your living room is where you keep your mail, have a specific spot and dedicated storage box (a rustic wood mail caddy box such as this one from Amazon would work nicely. For the lovers of throw blankets, use a storage ottoman (we love the seven color options on the Langley Street Upholstered Ottoman from Wayfair, or dedicate a space, even if its a corner, or under-sofa space to neatly fold them away at the end of the day.

For life clutter that accumulates through the day or week, pop a dedicated basket in the doorway so you have somewhere to toss any items that don’t belong in your small living room, ready to be put back in their rightful place when you have time (or it's full). Adorable Olli Ella Dollhouse handwoven rattan baskets from Anthropologie come in three colors and are a fun, playful take on storage all can enjoy.

6. Maximize vertical space

If there’s one area where space isn’t often limited, it’s the vertical planes of your home.

Karina says, “Use wall-mounted shelves or floating cabinets to maximize vertical space, keeping the floor clear and creating a sense of openness.”

For rental properties, vertical storage space can be enjoyed with the use of no-drill floating shelves (we like these peel and stick shelves from Amazonwhich hold up to 8 lbs) or by placing freestanding vertical storage units against the wall. 

7. Be smart about storage

A pink living room with a pink couch with throw pillows on and a wall with three framed colorful wall art prints

(Image credit: @lindsey_isla)

Karina says, “Utilize the space under sofas for discreet storage (this woven storage basket from Pottery Barn would fit well under a high rise couch) using low-profile containers or baskets to keep items organized."

Don't forget to check Facebook Marketplace and other low-cost or free second hand online spaces for cheap items, and to avoid buying new if not necessary.

Save your money for the bigger storage solutions worth spending on. “Invest in multi-functional storage furniture and tables to optimize space," Karina adds. "For example, a storage ottoman can serve as both a seat and storage space. 

"Use nested tables (such as this modern circular Kate and Laurel Ulani metal nesting table set of two from Amazon that can be stacked when not in use, providing flexibility and saving space.”

Coffee tables with lift up tops (the Sauder Palladia lift-top coffee table from Target is lovely in the vintage oak finish), or drawers and shelving and other multipurpose furniture with built-in storage are a smart move for decluttering small living rooms.

“Side tables with drawers and shelving are better than a standard four-legged table because of the same reason," says, Brenda. "Hiding things out of sight is a great way to have a clutter free living room. You might not have less stuff but you don't have to see it."

8. Take visual appeal into account

A key aspect of decluttering your home is taking the visual aesthetic into account. 

Karina explains, “Opt for minimalist decor to create a visually uncluttered space. Choose a few statement pieces rather than overwhelming the room with numerous decorations.”

To reduce visual clutter gather all toys, books, remotes into a basket or drawer, container, basket or bin, Knowing where an item's home is can reduce down things being left out randomly.

Shantae adds, “Baskets are a great decorative piece that also acts as a barrier for visual clutter. It’s also a great way to involve your kids with keeping up with the living room, because they know they can just put things in a designated basket. It also makes tidying the living room a quick process.”

Neat and ordered living spaces create joy, so even if you focus on just one area of your living room at a time, the outcome will be a positive one. If, after decluttering a small living room, you’re wondering how else you can enhance the space, delve into the things interior designers never have in small living rooms

Beth Mahoney
Freelance journalist

Hi! I’m Beth Mahoney and I’m a former staff writer at Real Homes. I’ve been a journalist for the national press for the past six years, specializing in commerce and trends-related lifestyle articles, from product reviews and listicles to guides and features. With an eye for pretty things (think: quirky wall prints, scalloped edge furniture, and decadent-looking tableware) but a limited budget, I love nothing more than a bargain buy.