While you can never go wrong falling back on the old adage, a place for everything and everything in its place, it can be tricky to apply to the living room. It's a room we tend to want to look (unrealistically) "magazine worthy," but it's also heavily lived in. The key to making this principle work in the living room is considering what actually takes place in your living room. In other words, what things need a place?
Here are some steps to help you get started.
1) Consider what takes place in your living room. Whether it's the LEGOs that multiply on the coffee table no matter how hard you try to keep them in the kids' room, or the blankets slung over the furniture every night, identify the things that routinely find their way into your living room because of the real-life living that goes on there. Realize that some of these things may deserve a place in the living room, even if in your mind they don't belong there. A storage ottoman with baskets inside is a great solution for a few toys, making it easy to put the toys away (they don't have to be gathered and hauled to another room), but they aren't in plain sight in a room you may want to keep looking "adult."
2) Decide which of those things you're willing to create a home for in your living room. As much as you intend to put your late-night craft supplies back in the bin in the closet, if you constantly wake up to that mess in your living room, consider designating a basket in in the living room for throwing current projects into until the next time you can work on them. Creating a home for the things that actually end up in your living room (and then, of course, putting these things in their home) will give you the best shot at a living room that's free of extra clutter.
3) Create a routine for things that need to be put away elsewhere. For items that end up in the living room that can't be stored there, such as empty popcorn bowls from movie night, create a routine for getting those things where they belong. For instance, clear all dishes from the living room and put them in the sink — every single night. Communicate this to other members of the household and make it a habit you work on together.
4) Make it easy to put things where they belong. Things that belong in the living room still look messy if they aren't put in place. Ensure that things are put away by making it as easy as possible. If the remotes live in a basket that you have to pull out from inside the cabinet, they are much less likely to get put there than if they make their home on a small tray sitting right on top of the coffee table. Similarly, if the blankets belong folded nicely and draped over the corner of the couch, you're much less likely to find them there than if they belong tossed in a decorative basket on the floor.
5) Cleanliness begets cleanliness. I've lost track of how many times I promulgate this line, but it's no less true in the living room than anywhere else. Whereas no one seems to mind leaving a mug in a room that's already messy, an ordered space helps motivates everyone to keep the space tidy and clean. Again, the key with the living room is making sure that everything that ends up there has a place (and maybe it's in the living room), and that that place is easy to access. That way, there's a fighting chance of everything being in its place.
How do you keep the living room clear of clutter?