Expert Secrets to Cutting Clutter

Four Shortcuts That Make Spring Cleaning a Breeze

Scientific studies confirm it: Mess = stress.

Disorganization on the home front can lead to a range of miseries, from lost keys to insomnia and weight gain, thanks to the stress hormone cortisol. A 2013 survey of 1,000 adults by Huffington Post found that a disorganized home was among the top five stress triggers for Americans. But with today’s hectic schedules, how can you get – and stay – organized at home?


The Farmhouse Craft Room Table in the Magnolia Home Collection is perfect for controlling clutter in the playroom.


Expert organizers point to functional furnishings as one effective remedy, because they can ease the clean-up process and make it simpler to control the chaos of family life.

Furniture designers have looked closely at what we actually do at home and how we clutter up our most frequently used spaces. They have well-informed advice for choosing pieces that work with, not against, how most of us really function at home. The result? Furnishings that actually help save you time and money and make everyday life more comfortable. In the end, your home becomes a refuge from stress, not another cause of it. Here are four home hacks to control clutter and cut down on stress:

1. Don’t try to work around existing furniture that doesn’t function the way you need. Instead, identify your major clutter spots and acquire pieces that conform to your lifestyle. “One of the biggest challenges people face in their home is balancing function with unique design,” says HGTV “Fixer Upper” star Joanna Gaines, who introduced the Magnolia Home furniture collection for Standard Furniture last year. The collection includes pieces Gaines says she designed to bring both organization and unique style to a room. “When you declutter your spaces and let your furniture work for you, it will allow your rooms to feel clean and inspiring,” Gaines said.



Have trouble remembering what you’ve stashed where? The Barrister Lane shelving unit (right) is one of several Sauder offers with a spot for labeling each shelf – particularly handy when using baskets or boxes. With eight cubbies and two lower shelves, this piece sells for about $199. Find a host of ideas on how to use this piece on the Sauder website.


2. Don’t lament skimpy floor space. Simply maximize wall space with vertical storage. Interior designers often advise “building up” to access more storage space, and furniture designers are now doing the same. The right furnishings allow even the smallest rooms to realize their decluttering potential when empty wall space is put to good use. Kids’ rooms often are the smallest in the house, so vertically-oriented storage pieces can be particularly important there. Out-of-season clothes can occupy higher, out-of-reach shelves or drawers, while lower storage contains items needed on a daily basis. (Just be sure pieces taller than 30 inches are anchored to the wall to prevent a tip-over hazard.)

In adult bedrooms, a slender lingerie chest takes up little floor space and packs organizational punch by providing multiple drawers for smaller items. Trendy new floor mirrors can even hide storage capabilities – making it easier to choose accessories while also keeping valuables safe.


According to Done & Done Home, a New York-based firm that helps clients organize their homes, a chaotic bedroom can cause stress and prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep. If that’s the case, this lingerie chest from American Drew’s Southbury collection (left) may not only bring order to the bedroom but sweet dreams to its owner. Hidden jewelry storage on both sides help keep small accessories organized. About $999.


Small, urban living spaces with open floor plans pose dual challenges: minimal square footage and minimal wall space. Height is the key here, as well, although not necessarily against a wall. Étagères – those tall, free-standing, open shelving units – are storage workhorses that have regained popularity in recent years as room dividers for multipurpose spaces.



Although pictured against a wall, these elegant étagères are finished on both sides so they can also serve as a room divider. Whether alone or in a pair as shown, each gold-plated metal frame includes two sets of strategically-placed drawers. The base offers two full-size file drawers, retails for about $3,295 and is part of the Sporty collection from Cynthia Rowley for Hooker.


3. Do choose multi-functional organizing pieces that can move with you to various homes and through the years. As Americans live longer, more active lives, multiple moves have become the norm. Multi-function furniture is a smart purchase that can accompany you through all of life’s stages.

A low, sturdy chest of drawers, for example, might move from a teen bedroom to a dorm where it doubles as an entertainment console, to a first apartment, to the entryway of a larger family home, and eventually back to a downsized bedroom in later years.

Among today’s top multi-function pieces are storage ottomans that provide both extra seating and, with the addition of a serving tray, an extra table surface. These come in all sizes and shapes – from expansive pieces that can seat multiple guests (and store a playroom-full of toys) to petite poufs providing a single seat only but with the storage capacity to quickly conceal a bucketful of family room clutter.



LA-Z-BOY La-Z-Boy offers 44 different styles of ottomans in a variety of sizes and shapes, but the Depot is the granddaddy of them all. The giant lift top is upholstered on both sides and conceals a cavernous storage well. Closed, it seats a crowd. About $999 and available in hundreds of different fabrics and leathers.


For dining and hospitality, freestanding kitchen islands and multi-compartment serving carts are smart, portable alternatives to expensive built-ins. Whether dealing with a tiny galley kitchen or an open floor plan that melds kitchen and family room, these functional, unfixed and flexible pieces provide orderly storage and bonus prep and serving space.



Country singer Trisha Yearwood is hosting her fourth season of “Trisha’s Southern Kitchen” on the Food Network, while her first collection of home furnishings for Klaussner has just arrived in retail stores – including the $999 Miss Yearwood kitchen island. Painted off-white with a stainless steel top, it offers hooks on all four corners, two top drawers and two deep bottom drawers for storage.

For a home office that is flexible, versatile and a go-to space for decluttering, choose a desk with ample storage – including deep drawers for collecting weekly clutter. Popular new designs add storage shelves on the back side of the desk, so it can be positioned in the center of a room rather than against a wall. Desks are ideal clutter-busters, whether they’re in the office, the bedroom or the family room, and many now also offer special storage and recharging docks for electronic devices.



Back door entries and mud rooms are classic clutter-catchers, but the all-in-one pet bed/hall organizer keeps the chaos at bay. In addition to providing a comfortable perch for a pooch, the Entryway Dog Bed offers hooks for collars, leashes and toys, or perhaps coats and umbrellas. The bottom drawer can hold additional pet supplies. The Entryway Dog Bed sells for about $395 and is part of an entire line of pet furniture from Sauder Woodworking.


4. Do view clutter-reducing furniture as an investment in your health, productivity and relationships. If time is money, then time spent searching for important paperwork, your cell phone, your keys, your glasses or any other necessity is costly. What’s more, the stress caused by these frustrating searches, compounded by the stress of living in a cluttered, unorganized environment can exacerbate anxiety and insomnia, which in turn makes us more forgetful, less productive and increasingly unhealthy.

“Everyone is multi-tasking these days. As a result, many of us are working overtime to keep organized,” observes Jackie Hirschhaut, vice president of the American Home Furnishings Alliance. “Carefully selected, multi-function furniture can reduce the stress of managing day-to-day clutter at home, making it easier to stay organized and contributing to a calmer, more relaxing home.”





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