Does your home still feel dirty or cluttered after cleaning and tidying? If so, you may be struggling with visual clutter.
I struggled with visual clutter in my home for years, and when I finally learned that my problem was clutter versus dirt, I researched high and low for ways to reduce it so that I could enjoy my home again.
The great part is that visual clutter isn’t difficult to reduce or eliminate altogether. You just have to know what action steps will help you achieve your goals.
In this post, I’m going to explain exactly what visual clutter is, why you want to reduce it, and provide many ways that you can reduce your visual clutter today!
What is visual clutter?
Visual clutter is the everyday things left on countertops and shelves, decor you use all-around your home, knick-knacks in abundance for all to see, unorganized spaces, and even overstuffed drawers.
Visual clutter happens when the visible items you see every day become invisible in the terms of clutter. You believe your home can never become tidy, but in reality, you just need to reduce your visual clutter.
Why do you want to reduce visual clutter?
There are multiple reasons why you need to reduce visual clutter, and the first one is that it reduces anxiety and allows you to rest more. When you feel like your home is clutter-free, it is easier to relax and enjoy your home.
Another reason to reduce visual clutter is to improve your ability to focus. Clutter is distracting, so by removing it, you can focus on spending more time with your family and not have to think of all you need to clean or tidy.
How do you reduce visual clutter?
Reducing your visual clutter is simple in concept. You simply look around the room at everything within it. You look at the wall decor, shelves, baskets, decorative pillows and throws, toys, etc.
Take a mental inventory of all you see and how you feel about each thing. This will help you identify what you could reduce or eliminate.
Some things have become “invisible clutter” and need to be moved around to be seen again. You can do this by removing it from its space and see how you feel without it.
One of the more helpful things is giving everything in your home a home. The more comfortable that home is for that item, the easier it will be to keep your home clutter-free.
Focus on creating negative space where you can, because this breathes life into your home and creates space for you to relax.
What is negative space exactly?
It is the space around an object that allows you to fully see that object before your eyes are drawn to the next thing.
29 Ways to reduce visual clutter
Now that we’ve gone over what visual clutter is, why we should reduce it, and how to reduce it, let’s talk about specific things you can do to reduce your visual clutter.
Not every suggestion is going to apply to you, but the ones that do should be implemented so that you can enjoy a more visually appealing home.
1 // Clear horizontal surfaces of anything unnecessary
This is always going to be my #1 tip for reducing clutter, because it is the most effective in terms of a large return on invested time and effort.
When you clear your countertops of everything that isn’t used every single day, you create a lot of space in your home. It instantly increases the size of your home and reduces clutter.
This means the can opener, blender, extra decor, etc. all need homes that aren’t on the countertops. Things like your microwave and coffee pot can stay, but remove anything that isn’t absolutely necessary for your daily life.
For side tables, desks, night stands, and all other horizontal surfaces, try to limit what you have on them.
I have a plant, a coaster for beverages, and a lamp on my desk and nightstand. Books, magazines, and anything that could easily have a home on these pieces of furniture have a designated home elsewhere.
I’m not saying you have to completely eliminate everything from your countertops, but the more you eliminate, the better it feels.
2 // Keep all paper in one designated pile versus all over the home
For some reason, paper tends to find its way all over the home, but that is easily handled when you assign one place in your home for all papers.
This can be a basket or drawer. It really doesn’t matter what you put your paper in as long as it is gathered in one place that allows you to handle it when necessary and doesn’t have you searching all over the house for it.
I personally keep all of my important papers in my desk drawer until time to process them, then the papers that I have to keep for tax purposes go into a file folder and the rest are recycled.
If you’re interested in a more detailed approach to paperwork, I’ve written a post all about how to organize and declutter it that you can read.
3 // Give cluttered areas a purpose
Do you have spaces in your home that easily become cluttered? Maybe it is a specific spot on the kitchen counters or a drop zone as you enter your home.
If so, giving these areas a specific purpose can help eliminate the clutter.
Before you decide what that purpose should be, first identify why this space is cluttered. Is it an ideal place for a drop zone? Is it because these items don’t have a designated home?
Once you’ve identified why these things accumulate and create clutter, handle them accordingly.
This could mean giving things a designated home and letting your family know where that is. It could also mean creating an organized drop zone for keys and the mail as you come in the door.
There isn’t a right or wrong answer. It simply depends on your needs.
4 // Use larger pieces for home decor vs knick-knacks
One thing I’ve learned over the years is that bigger is better in terms of decor. I used to have knick-knacks on my mantle and around my TV that were honestly just distracting.
When I replaced these items with one or two larger pieces, the room felt more welcoming and relaxing.
Look around your home and see if you have a lot of small bits of home decor and knick-knacks that you could switch for larger decor pieces.
[I’m not talking about collections just yet. That is further down the list.]
5 // Simplify wall decor
Wall decor can easily become “invisible clutter” and make a home feel very busy. Things like gallery walls are quite popular, but distract your eyes to the point that it is difficult to simply relax in your home.
By simplifying your wall decor, you instantly reduce the amount of visual clutter within your home, but there is something else I want to suggest.
Instead of having wall decor everywhere that is possible, choose a statement wall to display your best pieces and allow the other spaces to become negative space.
I know this seems like a total 180 from normal decorating tips, but you’re reading this post because you want to reduce visual clutter, right? So just give it a try. 🙂
Related Post: How to Simplify Your Home in Four Easy Steps
6 // Don’t use word signs
Word signs are another distraction that keeps your mind from relaxing and clutters up a home. If you have a lot of word signs, I suggest removing them for a few days and see how different your home feels.
You see, our mind automatically thinks that when it sees words it has to read them, which isn’t helpful when we want to rest.
If you are someone who is 100% against this tip or wants some way to keep word signs without them creating so much visual clutter, I suggest you use a statement piece or just one per room at the most.
A statement piece ties together a room and one word sign that truly means something to you isn’t going to be a large distraction. However, you want to be mindful, because if you’re still feeling uneasy once you make this change, you will want to remove it.
7 // Use larger pieces of wall decor
I hinted to this in my tip about simplifying your wall decor, because larger pieces make it easier for you to enjoy your home.
It is far easier to look at one large statement piece versus ten small pieces.
8 // Keep plants looking healthy
When you focus on keeping your plants healthy, it is wonderful to look around at them. However, when one leaf starts dying or a plant needs watering, it dwells in your mind until it is done [or at least it does for me].
Be proactive with your plants and they will thank you for it by looking healthy and happy!
9 // Reduce the number of throw pillows and blankets you have on display
Now I love some pretty throw pillows and blankets, but they can easily clutter a space.
If you have several throw pillows out on your couch or bed, remove half of them and see how it feels. If you enjoy the reduced amount of pillows, try removing a few more.
It is nice to have easy access to blankets, but they don’t need to be tossed all-around your space. Fold them up neatly and put them away in a place that is still easy to access like a basket or Cedar Chest.
If you insist on having a blanket out, keep it folded and neatly displayed.
Of course, with both of these, there are no right or wrong things to try. Do what works for you, but be conscious of how many pillows and throws you keep out because they are the quickest and easiest way to create visual clutter.
10 // Have a cohesive color palette for your home
Regardless of the colors you use, your home’s color palette should be cohesive. This allows your home to flow well and each space to feel as peaceful as the next.
Your primary colors should be neutral with pops of accent colors that add a little personality to your home.
If you want a calm environment, using greens and blues in your color palette works best.
However, if you love bright colors, they can work as well! While I don’t suggest bright colors for furniture or wall paint, I do believe wall decor, throw pillows, rugs, etc. are all great options and can be easily swapped out from time to time.
Working with 3-5 colors is best. Any more than that creates visual clutter and confuses your eyes on where to look and determine what it is looking at exactly.
To create a relaxing, calm, and peaceful home, it is also important to limit different patterns, as patterns make a place look busier.
A quick example of this is having plaid bedding, a striped throw pillow, and a modern print throw blanket. On their own, they are great patterns, but putting them all together can easily confuse your eye and keep you from relaxing as you get ready for bed.
11 // Give shelves a purpose and keep them simple
Shelves can easily accumulate more than they should. By giving each shelf in your home a purpose, you cut down on the clutter they can gather.
Creating negative space on shelves is a must when decorating. Do not fill a shelf completely with things or you’ll only add to your visual clutter.
If you have dedicated bookshelves that are home to only books, see if there is a more cohesive way to display them. You could do rainbow order, custom book covers to create a color palette of your choosing, or face them backwards to see the pages versus the spine.
12 // Hide wires and cords
Wires and cords can be a nuisance and distracting. To eliminate visual clutter with your wires and cords, look for creative ways to hide them.
This can include taping them to the back of your desk, getting cord covers for your wall-mounted TV, hiding them under furniture, using a basket, and just about anything else you can think of to avoid seeing them.
13 // Use baskets and trays to organize
Whether you use a tray for your drop zone or baskets in the pantry, there is really only one question I use to reduce visual clutter.
Is this basket/tray clear, calm, or natural?
Let me explain what I mean.
A natural basket or tray is made of natural materials and adds visual interest without being a distraction. This can be a linen/cotton basket, wood basket or tray, or anything that can be found in nature and created.
Baskets and trays that don’t result in a “yes” to this question shouldn’t be used when you’re trying to eliminate visual clutter. Patterns also do not meet this criteria.
14 // Keep shoes organized and easy to put away
Shoes can quickly clutter up an entryway and house. To combat this, you want to create an organizational system that makes it easy to keep shoes tidy.
15 // Have a drop station as you enter your home
If you already drop everything inside of your door as soon as you enter your home, create a drop station for it to reduce visual clutter.
This could be as small as a hook on the wall for your keys and purse or a table that allows you to also drop any mail or paperwork in a basket.
Being organized and reducing visual clutter isn’t always about changing everything. Oftentimes it is about creating a better support system for the things you already do.Erin Tannehill, The Tannehill Homestead
16 // Labels
Labels are an easy distraction that many people don’t realize exist. However, once you do, you want to remove all the labels from everything [speaking from experience].
We are marketed to all the time whether we realize it or not. You can reduce the visual clutter and marketing in your home by removing labels from things in your home and creating better experiences with these products.
For example, I removed the labels from my shampoo and conditioner bottles because they were so busy and distracting. The bottles are a pretty spa green color, so now when I enter my shower, it feels like a spa experience and is very pleasant! [I put a hidden mark on one of the bottles to be able to tell which is which.]
Another thing I want to point out is about pantry labels. There are so many options available and I honestly don’t understand some of them.
The point of removing things from packaging to put into containers is to create a calmer experience in your pantry, so be mindful of the labels you use.
Don’t get some large label that takes up the entire side of the container.
Instead, opt for smaller labels that you can still read. These create a better and less cluttered pantry experience.
17 // Remove or relocate refrigerator art
A refrigerator is a big appliance and if it is covered in papers, magnets, and other things, it creates a lot of visual clutter.
Instead of using the front of the refrigerator, opt for one side of it, or create a command center somewhere else for these things.
18 // Baskets at the bottom of the staircase
If you live in a home that is more than one story, use baskets at the bottom of the stairs for each person in your home. This allows any clutter in the general living area to gather in one place without having to constantly walk up and down the stairs.
For example, if your kid leaves anything in the general living area that needs to go upstairs to their room, you can simply put it in the basket for them to take up when they go upstairs.
This cuts down on a lot of visual clutter and prevents you from making extra trips up and down the stairs.
19 // Get creative with storage
There are many things nowadays that you can do to create storage in your home. Some things are pieces of art that also hide things, and some condense things down into smaller spaces, like vacuum seal bags.
Odds are, if you can imagine it, it may already exist or you can invent it!
20 // Use multipurpose furniture
To get more specific with my last point, use multipurpose furniture to hide things away that don’t need to be seen but are useful and you want quick access to when needed.
Things like an ottoman with storage or a cedar chest are great options because they are functional for seating and storage.
21 // Declutter furniture you aren’t using
Nothing creates visual clutter like extra furniture around your home.
If you have any pieces that aren’t serving a true purpose or you’ve had for so long and just don’t like anymore, declutter them!
This frees up space faster than anything else and also eliminates visual clutter!
22 // Clear the floors
Getting things up off the floor eliminates visual clutter just like clearing off your countertops.
It helps your home feel larger and more organized. It also creates negative space, which we’ve already determined is a great thing.
23 // Collections
Quick disclaimer: I have nothing against collections and am not asking you to declutter them.
If you have a collection on display, it can create visual clutter, especially if it is of small items.
Take a little while to really look at your collection to see if it feels like a treasured collection on display or clutter.
If it feels like you’re looking at clutter consider displaying it in a different way by reducing how many items you have on display to just your absolute favorites or by removing the collection altogether [not necessarily decluttering it, just removing it from being out in the open].
24 // Laundry / Dirty clothes
Nothing is worse than laundry being strown all throughout the house, on the floor, on top of furniture, and anywhere else it isn’t supposed to be.
Having baskets to put dirty clothes is great, but going one step further can really cut down your visual clutter.
This step is to simply gather all the laundry each day and complete one load of laundry. When you adopt this new habit into your daily routine, it instantly reduces visual clutter in your home and makes having clean clothes easy to accomplish.
25 // Too much of something – toys, plants
Believe it or not, you can have too much of something in your home and have it result in visual clutter.
Look around your home and ask yourself if you have too much of something, like toys, plants, clothes, etc.
If you find yourself pointing out something, declutter it and reduce your visual clutter!
Once you declutter it, provide a boundary for that category. For example, you allow for two small baskets of toys in the living room and anything more than that means it needs to be decluttered.
Giving yourself this boundary will help ensure you don’t reaccumulate too many things within that category.
26 // Keep kitchen sink cleaned out
A clean sink creates a clean mind, or so I believe!
Going to bed with a clean kitchen sink is a must in my home, but it is also important to keep it clean throughout the day, too.
27 // Clear out the junk drawer
This really goes for any overstuffed drawer, but focusing specifically on the junk drawer will help you quickly gain a BIG WIN!
In reality, junk drawers are drawers that hold miscellaneous things that are useful but isn’t given a specific purpose. To change that and reduce visual clutter in this drawer, give it purpose.
Pull everything out, toss what isn’t needed, relocate things that already have a home elsewhere, and see what is left. From there, determine the purpose of this drawer.
Is it a place for school supplies, batteries and other tech things, or not needed at all?
I personally don’t have a junk drawer in my home, because each drawer has a specific purpose. It’s been life-changing, to say the least!
28 // Visual clutter in mobile phone
Clutter isn’t just physical things in your home. It also includes your phone.
To remove visual clutter in your phone, declutter apps you no longer use, as well as text messages and photos.
Keep your home screen as clean as possible by only having your phone and message app on it and storing everything else in the menu [Android users] or app library [if you have IOS 14].
If you have IOS 13 or older, group similar apps together to condense how many icons you see on your home screen.
Related Post: Smartphone Detox – It’s Time to Simplify
29 // Declutter digital visual clutter on your computer
Turning on your computer to see a desktop full of icons is just as bad as a cluttered home.
To remove visual clutter from your computer’s desktop, relocate everything except the Recycle Bin. Shortcuts aren’t needed and can be deleted. Documents and photos can be relocated accordingly.
The Taskbar should be clear of anything you do not access each time you get onto your computer. I personally have my documents folder, internet browser, calendar app, calculator, and photo editing app in mine.
30 // Tidy your home daily
One thing I’ve learned is how important it is to make tidying a part of your daily routine.
Consistently tidying your home not only keeps your home tidy, but it also helps you see visual clutter easier.
When clutter is easier to spot, you can declutter these things and easily keep your home visually calm and peaceful.
This doesn’t have to take much of your time either, especially if you’ve already gone through the process of decluttering.
If you haven’t gone through the process of decluttering your entire home, you’ll want to start there and I’ve got the perfect decluttering workbook to help you take action!
If you’re ready to eliminate clutter from your home without all the overwhelm and stress, then you need to check out my workbook, Declutter Your Home!
It walks you through your entire home and even vehicle to help you identify what you use and love and remove the rest.
Now that you know all about visual clutter and how to reduce visual clutter in your home, you can finally create a peaceful home where you can relax without thinking of all the things you need to do.
Remember that you don’t have to do all of these suggestions, but the more you do that are relevant to you, the easier it will be to truly enjoy your home!
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