How Do You Avoid Clutter?

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As a very visual person, I'm often torn between wanting to be surrounded by an array of inspiring decor and simultaneously desiring a serene, un-distracting environment. It's not an easy balance to strike, but one thing's for certain: for either style to work, clutter cannot be a welcome guest. Many moves, some with small children, have absolutely convinced me of the need to form clutter-busting habits. My number one tactic is...

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Saying no! Many well-intentioned friends and family members have generously offered us enough furniture and tchotchkes to furnish a home ten times the size of our current abode. During our first year of marriage we said yes to practically everything, and to say the very least, it was overwhelming.

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With kids, come toys. Lots and lots and lots of toys, and most of them are not the most stylish of items. There is no way, short of being rude, to keep all less than attractive kid-clutter out of the home, but we've found that encouraging friends not to bring gifts to birthday parties to be one easy solution—a simple: "Please, no gifts. Your presence is present enough!" on the invitation often does the trick.

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Be realistic about your storage needs. Try to edit your possessions, sure, but be realistic. If you are a clothes monger, designate as much space possible to your wardrobe. That may mean forgoing the reading chair in your bedroom, and putting another dresser in it's place. If it's paper and files you struggle with, come up with a system. Even if you don't have adequate room for a full-fledge office, you can find ways to work in a filing cabinet as in Summer and Josh's gorgeous living room below.

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What clutter tricks work for your?

(Images: 1: Real Simple, 2: Hotze Eisma, 3: Ohdeedoh: Ashley's Nursery Tour, 4: James Merrell, 5: Apartment Therapy Chicago: Summer and Josh's House Tour)