(ARA) - You're feeling like the walls are closing in. You just have too much stuff. If you want to take control of clutter, get a few boxes, one for each room in your home. Start by organizing one room at a time.
Begin this initiative by removing everything on top of your cabinets, tables and in bookcases and place it all in a box, says Keith McCleary, academic director of Interior Design at The Art Institute of York - Pennsylvania. If there are other random accessories in the room, remove them as well. Keep just the basic furnishings. Now sit with the room in its simplest form for awhile.
"In room design, make good decisions about what you choose to put in the room and, often more importantly, in what you choose to leave out," McCleary says. "Simplicity and clean lines make a room feel livable and that's what it's really all about: comfortable living." Think about the kind of focal point you're trying to create. How should you orchestrate this space and show off your special pieces in terms of size, scale, color and texture?
After a day or two has passed, go back to the box and look for items that define your personality, or will be noticed by guests visiting your home. "Ask yourself: when is enough, enough?" says McCleary. "Each piece of furniture in the room can function to complement. Accessories and works of art should contrast."
When you look at your well-designed room, you should see positive elements, as well as appreciate negative space by removing unnecessary pieces that don't add to the design composition.
Interior design students at The Art Institute of York - Pennsylvania are taught to help their clients step back and ask themselves: Is it finished now? You can err when you go shopping and purchase nice pieces for your home, because before long you begin to accumulate too many of those nice things. Much of what you have is stuff you don't need or want. It might be time to share those boxes, which are full of stuff you haven't missed in years, with your local Goodwill.
Sometimes, you might think you have to keep memorabilia or outdated gifts from Aunt Ethel in your home all the time. "Not so," says McCleary. "It's perfectly acceptable to remove those items when you do your box exercise." If auntie is planning a visit, put those old Beanie Babies she gave you decades ago on a shelf in your den, temporarily. She'll be happy for the gesture. When she leaves, feel free to replace them in the box of memories until her next visit.
Complete this exercise in each room, and you'll notice the clutter has disappeared. Now you can recognize how attractive the remaining items are in that same space. This initiative takes determination and focus, but when you're done, your focus can be on the lovely space you've recreated.