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What’s the first space that experts recommend tackling when you declutter your home? If you said the living room, kitchen or foyer, guess again. It’s the bedroom.
“I always start with the bedroom,” says feng shui consultant Andrea Gerasimo of Menomonie, Wisconsin. “It’s your sanctuary.” Gerasimo cites studies showing that what you’re thinking when you nod off affects how you sleep and your mood when you wake up. So if your last mental image is of chaos and clutter, you’re not setting the right stage for quality sleep.
In your bedroom, do you trip over piles of clothing, boxes, shoes and assorted tchotchkes? Are stacks of DVDs careening from your bedroom entertainment center? Or, perhaps you’ve placed your home office—with its tangle of computer and phone lines, file folders, sticky notes and miscellaneous office supplies—in your sleep space.
The good news is that you don’t have to remodel to streamline your bedroom. Rearranging furniture (even better, removing a few items), decluttering and adopting a resolute mindset to keep your space harmonious and clutter-free are simple steps that can make a big difference.
Transform your bedroom from cluttered chaos to serene retreat with these easy organization tips.
1. Furniture: Less is More
Having too many dressers, tables and chairs jammed into a space—no matter how large—makes it feel smaller. And stuff attracts more stuff. As we add more pieces, we tend to fill them, inside and out.
• Invite a friend with a fresh set of eyes over for a streamlining session. Move everything out, then open your mind to new arrangements. Bring in the pieces you love most until the room seems adequately furnished but not overly stuffed; the remaining furniture is probably unnecessary.
• Think about what you can donate, use elsewhere or sell. Candidates for the chopping block may include exercise equipment, a dresser, even your television. Family manager coach Beth Dargis of Holland, Michigan, singles out dressers as occupying too much space in a room. (What’s more, their long, low surfaces invite clutter, she says.) Whenever possible, Dargis recommends replacing a dresser with a highboy, which holds roughly the same number of items but with a smaller footprint.
• While everything is out of the room, consider spiffing up your walls with a fresh coat of no- or low-VOC paint (VOCs are volatile organic compounds that outgas into the air). If you want to change your window treatments to hemp or organic cotton, this is an ideal time. At the very least, give your bedroom a good, thorough cleaning before moving furniture back in.
2. Clothing: The Hidden Culprit
Anytime you declutter a bedroom, you invariably run into a surfeit of clothing, shoes and accessories. This accumulation is the root cause of a number of ills. “People cram in another piece of furniture instead of going through their wardrobes and getting rid of what no longer fits,” says New York interior designer John Loecke, author of the Organizing Idea Book (Taunton, 2006). Many times, Loecke has seen couples introduce substantial armoires to the bedroom to accommodate one person’s wardrobe because the other’s has overtaken the closet.
• First, simply pare down. Set aside half a day (with a decluttering buddy, if you can find one) and go through your wardrobe ruthlessly, donating what no longer fits, what you haven’t worn in a year or two, and what’s outdated. Take everything out of the closet and put it in piles to donate or consign, trying on only the items you aren’t sure about. (In the process, I guarantee you’ll discover at least one “treasure” that you’ll want to reclaim!)
• Once you’ve whittled down your wardrobe, adopt a practice I’ve been following for years. Put two containers in your closet: one for donation, one for consignment. As soon as I wear an item and decide it’s no longer for me, I place it directly into one of the boxes. As soon as one fills, I pop it in my car and drop it off at my charity or resale shop.
• Once you’ve reduced your holdings, you’ll be surprised at the amount of space you’ve freed up. Before you begin to reload, take this moment to sort everything by category—separate all shirts, dresses, pantsuits and tops into categories. Organize shirts and blouses according to color, from light to dark, or by use, such as dress shirts and T-shirts. This system helps you see what you have. (If you still have more than your closet will bear, and if you have a climate-controlled attic or basement space, you can rotate out-of-season items.)
• To further streamline, remove as much as possible from the closet floor. A hanging shoe rack helps get shoes up and in sight. The same goes for ties, belts, scarves and hats. As you organize your wardrobe, it’ll be easier—and obvious—to see what you have and which items to chuck.
3. Streamline Bedding
Sometimes the bed itself—including all the attendant bedding and pillows—can create visual clutter.
• Bed size—like just about everything else in America these days—has become supersized. But do you really need a king-size bed? When you’re shopping for your next bed, consider scaling back and opting for a smaller model—if not a full, then try a queen.
• Also consider streamlining your bedding, says Lisa Quinn, San Francisco-based interior designer and author of $500 Room Makeovers (Clarkson Potter, 2006). Instead of feathering your nest with brightly colored, matched bedding sets, why not go for basic whites or plain pieces in a limited color palette? If you spill red wine on your butterflies-in-flight pillowcases—or if your zebra-print bottom sheet fades more quickly than the flat—you’ll probably have to discard the entire set to achieve harmony. Plain pieces are interchangeable; you can simply make up any loss with a generic replacement. You also can pick up spare linens at thrift shops and consignment stores. “If your bedding is all white,” Quinn says, “it can take so much off your plate!”
• Instead of piling on the pillows, pare down to only those you actually use. It makes for a Zen-like bed, and you don’t have to juggle all the extra “show” pillows when you get into bed at night.
4. No Place for Your (Home) Office
Your bedroom should be a pleasure palace or at least a haven for sleep and retreat—not a place where you pay bills, haggle and hassle.
• If you’ve placed your home office in your bedroom, try to issue an eviction notice. Any place in the house—including the kitchen, dining room or guest room—is better than your bedroom. A friend in Los Angeles converted a garden shed into a home office, giving her physical separation from her house and a discreet space to do her work as a freelance writer. Another enterprising Los Angeles friend (also a writer) bartered five hours a month of her writing and public relations services in exchange for free space in a lawyers’ office. They even threw in use of their copier.
• If you see no other solution than putting your office in the bedroom, choose a place where you can shut the doors, such as a closet or computer armoire. Being able to physically close off your home office will help promote peace of mind and better sleep, which, in turn, will make you more productive when you work
These rituals will improve your bedroom’s serenity quotient.
1. Make your bed every day—preferably when you get up in the morning and before you do anything else.
2. Open your draperies or blinds to let the sun shine in.
3. When you come home at the end of the day, hang your clothes or place them in the laundry basket. Avoid the temptation to drape them on a chair.
4. To avoid bedside clutter, keep just one of everything out: the book you’re reading; one bottle of lotion; one pair of slippers.
5. Finally, scrutinize every new item that you introduce into your bedroom. You can avoid the problem of accumulated clutter by making conscious choices in the first place.