Happy by Design: Five Clutter Hotspots and how to banish them

Posted: 8th Aug 2018

If you're looking to create a home that both boosts your health and happiness, Victoria Harrison's book, Happy By Design, could provide you with the answers you need

Here, we have a brilliant extract that talks you through the five clutter hotspots in your home - and what you can do to banish them...

1 Bedside tables

In theory, your bedside table would accommodate just a thought-provoking novel, an elegant reading lamp and a glass for water; in reality, it’s probably piled up with an awful lot more than that. Because bedrooms have limited worksurfaces, bedside tables are magnets for clutter; so here’s how to impose a sense of order and calm.

Edit ruthlessly

Visual clutter, reminding you of jobs you need to do, is really unhelpful when you are trying to drift off to sleep. So ask yourself what you actually need by your bed and edit accordingly. I tried this in my own bedroom and ended up removing seven unread books, two magazines, three pairs of earrings, two pairs of sunglasses, several hairbands and a hairbrush. The only items I kept were a reading lamp, one book and a tray for my jewellery. If you find your bedside table magically accumulates clutter, like mine did, try a similar edit and be ruthless.

Create a "pocket tray”

Think about your bedtime routine. If you tend to remove your jewellery or empty your pockets before you climb into bed, get a tray or storage box to corral all of these small items and keep them tidy. Loose change, cufflinks, earrings and keys are all common clutter culprits, so allocate them a box and sweep them into it every evening. This can be one of the items you allow yourself to keep on your bedside table.

Choose a table with storage

With the best will in the world, clutter will accumulate, so pre-empt it by choosing a bedside table with storage drawers or baskets, then do a clean sweep every night and put anything non-essential into a drawer or stash it in a basket and tuck it away under the table.

2 Bathroom worktops

Perfume bottles, toothpaste tubes, empty shampoo bottles…clutter can build up at a mystifyingly rapid rate in a bathroom when several members of the family are using it to get ready first thing in the morning.

These quick tips will help to restore order.

Divide and conquer

Impose order by allocating each member of the family their own drawer or container and keeping only a few items out on the countertop. If you don’t have enough storage space for everyone to have a drawer, colourful boxes or wicker baskets are good alternatives. Sweep all nonessential items into these containers after use and pop the lid on to regain some order.

A colourful box for corralling children’s bath toys is also a good idea if you want to limit the bath-time chaos and avoid stepping on a hard plastic toy with bare feet (you’ll only do it once!).

Group essentials

For those items that are used everyday and need to be kept out on the countertop, such as hand wash, hand lotion and toothbrushes, group them all together on a tray and keep them close to the sink to avoid splashing water all over the countertop when you reach for them. Choose beautiful bottles or containers that you will be happy to look at every day, too; I decant my liquid hand soap into a glass soap dispenser because I’d rather look at that than a plastic bottle, but I realize that might be a step too far for some people.

Tidy towels

Large storage boxes are good for keeping clean towels neatly ordered, and plenty of wall hooks will ensure wet towels don’t endup  on the floor after a shower. Colour-coded towels are useful if you have lots of people using a bathroom – and culprits can be easily identified when damp towels are left on the floor. A simple coloured tab or marker-pen dot on the label are ways to allocate towels if they are all the same colour. If you are really organized, why not take a leaf out of my sister’s book and embroider the name of each family member onto their own set of towels? Instant identification!

3 That kitchen drawer

You know the one – the drawer that’s stuffed with takeout menus, batteries, scissors, pens, paperclips, old receipts and who knows what else. We all have one of these offenders and, actually, we all need one; where else would you file all those random items that don’t belong anywhere else? But the key to keeping on top of it all is to regularly dive in and sort through it.

Take stock

Clear everything out of the drawer and group like with like. Roll up lengths of string neatly together, stack menus in a pile and sort through all those single batteries to see which are charged and which need to be recycled. If there is a more logical place to store something, find it a new home. If there really isn’t anywhere else for it to live, then it can go back in the drawer. But be strict.

Buy a dividing tray

Find a tray or dividing system for the drawer (a cutlery tray is good for this) and allocate a space for each of the different groups of items. Now fill it up section by section. Place all of the essential items that you need to access daily (pens, scissors, string) at the front and move those that are used less often (batteries, menus) to the back.

Banish layers

The tipping point for a messy drawer is usually when several items get layered up on top of each other, because as soon as you start having to sift around to find what you need, looking under papers and behind rolls of string, the whole thing quickly unravels. So be strict with yourself and don’t put anything on top of your newly ordered storage system. If it doesn’t fit into a compartment, then it doesn’t go in the drawer.

4 The hallway floor

Your hallway will need to work extra hard to stay tidy with the amount of daily traffic it has to deal with and the number of items that need to be accessed every day. If you find yourself tripping over shoes, umbrellas or children‘s toys the second you walk through the door, it could be time for a blitz. Here’s how to transform your hallway

Storage, storage, storage

I am obsessed with storage and don’t think you can ever have too much. Hallway storage, in particular, can be really appealing; wall hooks, post trays, umbrella stands and storage benches can totally transform a cluttered hallway and provide a great opportunity to stamp your personality on your home.

Floor space is usually limited, so start with the walls. Peg rails are great for a country-style hall and can be run right along the length of your hallway for maximum coat storage, or choose brightly coloured hooks for a cheery welcome in a contemporary space. Named hooks are good for allocating each member of the family a designated space to hang their coat, and high shelves are good for stashing away items that aren’t needed every day.

Be seasonal

In the height of summer do you need to have wet-weather gear cluttering up the hallway? And, equally, do you need to take up valuable storage space with sandals and beach bags in the winter? Have a seasonal review of your hallway cupboards and remove any items that aren’t required. Store them somewhere else, such as under a guest bed or in the attic, until they are needed again, then swap them over for the new season’s items.

Squeeze in a slim table

Somewhere for keys, mail and your phone is essential in a hallway, if you want to keep these things in one place and avoid dropping them on various tables around the house instead. If you have enough space to squeeze in a slim console table, it will definitely pull its weight. The secret to blissful order is to place a few trays or dishes on top and allocate one for each item that you tend to put down when you walk through the door.

5 Kitchen worktops

The kitchen is another hard-working space that gets a lot of daily traffic, and kitchen worktops in particular can accumulate clutter at an alarming speed. I find that stray pieces of paperwork, such as unpaid bills and receipts, mysteriously migrate to my kitchen worktop – I have no idea how – along with a motley selection of items “on their way to somewhere else”. Here are a few ways to keep surfaces clean-swept and tidy.

Have an in-tray

If letters, bills and homework books tend to migrate to your kitchen worktop, set up a box or tray to keep them tidy and together. A slim tray is better, as a large box will only encourage paperwork to build up, making the problem worse. If you use it as an active in-tray, to be sorted through daily, it will keep everything in one place and prevent individual letters and bills from drifting across the worktop.

Maximize wall storage

Clutter attracts more clutter, so clearing your worktops of anything that is non-essential will allow you a clean slate from which to start. Many items that clutter up kitchen worktops can usually be hung on the wall with a little creative thought. Try hanging utensils from a bar or series of hooks, store spices and herbs on a wall-mounted rack and place vegetables in wall-hung wire containers.

Limit food containers on worktops

It’s nice to have a few everyday essentials out on the worktop, such as a bowl of fruit, but when food containers start to take over the worktop it’s time to be ruthless. Store most food items in cupboards or out of sight and just display one or two items that you like to see every day.

Extract from Happy by Design by Victoria Harrison, published by Aster on 7 June 2018 at £12.99 in hardback (octopusbooks.co.uk)

Illustrations credit: Debbie Powell