5 Reasons Your Living Room Feels Messier Than It Is, According to Home Stagers

updated May 28, 2021
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The living room is a popular spot in your home for people to congregate, so it makes total sense if yours is often less than tidy — you do a lot of “living” there, after all. But just because it may be the site of family game nights, parties with friends, and your favorite place to binge Netflix (and popcorn), doesn’t mean it has to always show just how lived-in it really is. 

In fact, you may be making some small mistakes that are actually making your living room look way messier than it really is. The good news is you can turn that around pretty easily.

To find out why your living room may seem perpetually messy, despite constant cleaning, we spoke to professional home stagers to get their best clever hacks that will take your living room from “kind of sloppy” to open house-level neat. Here are some of the living room mishaps you may be falling prey to and how to fix them.

Your furniture is too big.

It’s all about scale. If your furniture is too big for the size of your living room, it can look cluttered. Beatrice de Jong of Opendoor utilizes taller furniture or pieces with pegged legs to help create the illusion of more space. If you have some bulky pieces, she recommends placing them toward the back of the room so they don’t block the view of other pieces.

There’s not enough light.

We naturally associate light, open spaces with neatness and cleanliness. (Ever notice how ads for cleaning products often feature sunny rooms and open windows with the curtains billowing in the breeze?) If your living room is too dark, it might start to feel more like a dank and cramped basement and less like a welcoming gathering space.

To this end, de Jong recommends ensuring you’re not blocking any windows with furniture so as to let in as much sunlight as possible. If your living room is naturally darker and you don’t have a lot of windows, she suggests a large overhead light to brighten up the space.

You’re using too many colors.

If you’re not into the monochromatic look, that’s okay. However, it’s still important to stick with a palette because too much color can overwhelm the eye and make the room feel chaotic and messy.

Marlene Fao of London-based My Mindful Home recommends decorating with no more than three colors. She suggests picking two main colors and a third shade for accessories. If you have an item that you just can’t part with that doesn’t fit your color schema, Fao has a solution: spray paint it!

She also advises that you minimize patterns and too many different color combinations in your soft furnishings.

“For example, when you choose blankets for creating a cozy corner on the sofa, pick one in the same or very similar color as the sofa,” she explains. “I like my blankets in either cream or white, as my sofa is white.”

Every surface has stuff on it.

We tend to get used to our surroundings, so you may not notice that stack of magazines on your coffee table or your unfinished craft project, but guests (and potential buyers when selling your home) definitely will. 

According to Christopher Totaro of Warburg Realty, a good rule of thumb is that 75 percent of flat surfaces like tables should be seen, meaning you could likely stand to edit out some of your tchotchkes, candles, and books throughout your living room. 

“If you’re a collector of baubles, invest in a display case or shelving,” he suggests. “If you have kids or a hobby with lots of stuff, get some bins and boxes. You can even incorporate these into a design element of the space.”

You can also display a small selection and rotate every few months to refresh your decor.

It doubles as your dog’s room.

You spend a lot of time hanging out in your living room, so it makes sense that your furry friends are often right there with you, but unfortunately, their accoutrements can send the wrong message.

Fur-covered pet beds and slobbery chew toys scattered everywhere can make the living room look sloppy, so it’s best to keep these items out of the area, particularly if you’re having guests over or are showing your home to sell, according to Gerard Splendore of Warburg Realty. It goes without saying that the living room should not be where you keep the litter box, either.