How do you organize a room with too much stuff in? 5 tips to tackle a cluttered space

A disorganized home can make you feel unsatisfied with your space. Luckily these professional organizers are on hand to teach you how to organize a room with too much stuff

A pale pink living room with a white sofa and marble coffee table
(Image credit: Kristy Noble)

When faced with organizing a room with too much stuff, it's common to feel overwhelmed. Unless your interiors are ruthlessly minimalist, you've probably accumulated lots of possessions that distract from your decor and make your home feel cluttered. Our busy lives get in the way of a good tidy up and before you know it, miscellaneous piles have found their way into every corner of your home. 

A cluttered home doesn't necessarily mean you're a hoarder (although most of us are guilty of holding onto unwanted things for too long). Functional, social spaces in the home, such as the living room, can become depositories for all those items and objects you're not sure what to do with. In a family home, these areas can become especially disorganized as 'stuff' amalgamates, from piles of books to scattered toys and random accessories - none of which work with your overall design. 

To organize a whole room, you're going to need more than your basic closet organization ideas, but the longer you put off the job of decluttering, the more time you have for extra stuff to accumulate. As hard is it might be, you need to start somewhere. There are plenty of ways to organize your home but if you're not sure where to begin, here are five tips from experts in organizing and decluttering.

Lilith headshot for bio
Lilith Hudson

Lilith is an expert at following news and trends across the world of interior design. A strong believe that a tidy home is a happy one, she's committed to helping readers organize their spaces through sharing practical tips and guides. For this piece she asked professional organizers their advice on how to declutter a room with too much stuff. 

1. Declutter methodically

Eclectic living room with two sofas and an alcove, decorated with wall art

(Image credit: Simon Brown)

Before you begin to organize a room, you need a game plan. Diving straight in and tackling the entire room in one go is only going to make the job more difficult as you'll end up surrounded by mess that will only make you feel more overwhelmed. 

'Don’t jump in without understanding why you are decluttering or what you’re trying to achieve,' says Sue Spencer from professional decluttering service, A Life More Organized. 'Having a goal in mind gets you motivated, guides your decision making and keeps you going.'

According to Sue, you should start small with something that is relatively easy to declutter before gradually moving on to the more difficult things. It's a good idea to section off parts of the room one by one. Start with practical shelving ideas and focus on making them aesthetically pleasing to help keep you motivated.

Alternatively, you can follow the KonMari method and organize by category, rather than location. 'I like to start with clothes (just like Marie Kondo),' says Sue. 'Empty everything out so you can see exactly what you have and how many similar items there are - that way you’ll feel confident in the decisions you make about what to discard, as you’ll know that you still have items you need for different occasions.'

Remember to take breaks and clear out as you go to prevent clutter building up behind you. Sue recommends keeping  sentimental items until last when your declutter decision making is honed. This way you won't risk being distracted by old photographs and nostalgic memories during the process.

2. Throw out unwanted or unused items

Hallway with tiled floor, white walls, carpeted staircase and shelving displaying books and ornaments.

(Image credit: Future)

Throwing out stuff is hard. We can all become attached to items, including those we don't use or appreciate much, but getting rid of unnecessary items is a vital part of how to organize a living room, bedroom or any space in your home if you want to embrace a stylish home.

'Rather than looking for things to discard, make positive decisions about what you want to keep - the things that spark joy,' Sue advises. 'Choosing items that you love, or that help you to live your life in the way you want to will help you create a home filled with things you love.' 

Prioritizing these items will make it easier to throw out the stuff you don't need. 'The items you don't use tend to be things that you don’t love or automatically reach for, so, naturally, these become the things you should let go of.'

As Holly Bly from Organize with Holly points out, this allows you to reserve your decision-making energy. 'Anything you don't need, use or love just goes,' she says. An unnecessary lamp that you never switch on is an easy option, as is a vase you've never put flowers in that doesn't fit with your decor.'

Other items however are harder to part with. Although we find it difficult to throw away gifts from family and friends, Holly says we shouldn't beat ourselves up over it. 'Gifts are given to show affection, kindness, support or appreciation in the moment, but not to guilt you into storing unwanted items for the long haul,' she explains. 'It's the good intention that's important.'

3. Make use of storage

Not everything we own has to be on display. Storing items in boxes or cupboard help to make a room look more decluttered, but your ethos shouldn't be a case of 'out of sight, out of mind'. Make sure your designated storage spaces are just as organized as those on display. 

'Store similar things together and avoid scattered storage,' says Sue. 'That way you’ll know where to find things when you need them and (more importantly) it will be easy to pop things back in once you’ve used them.'

Clear containers or storage draws are a great way to keep items in a cupboard together so you can easily see them. Another great storage hack is labeling draws or boxes not only so you (and others) know where to find things, but to help you stick to a more organized plan. 'Keep things where you’d automatically look for them rather than reinvent the wheel,' explains Sue. 'Your storage system has to make sense and work for you and your family.' 

Use stylish storage ideas such as wooden chests to store cushions and throws in your living room, or use baskets for your cleaning products under the sink. Neatly organizing these spaces will not only make you feel more satisfied, but a stylish solution will integrate into your decor. 

A grey bedroom with a pile of book in the corner

(Image credit: Malcolm Menzies)

4. Follow the 20/20 rule

If you find it hard to stick to an organization routine, there are some clever tricks to help you stay focussed on the job at hand. 

'The 20/20 rule of decluttering can be really effective for dealing with the little things that accumulate in your home such as random pens, coffee mugs or old makeup,' explains Holly. 'The guiding principle is that if you can replace it for $20 or less in 20 minutes or less, it can go.'  

When it comes to organizing your home, the 20/20 rule is an especially useful way to justify saying goodbye to stuff you don't need. As Holly adds: 'Often, people need reassurance or confirmation that it's ok to get rid of something. In this case, the 20/20 rule acts as the support or answer that produces forward motion and progress!'

5. Don't forget an exit plan 

It's important to consider how you'll discard of the things you don't want before you begin organizing. Without an action plan in place, it will be harder to be strategic in deciding what you can and can't lose. 

'Have three piles as you work - keep / discard / unsure,' says Sue. Have designated places for those things you do decide to get rid off. Create a pile for charity donations, a pile for quality items you want to sell, one for recycling and finally one for the skip. 'Working out how you are going to move your discarded items out of your home means you can enjoy that extra space you’ve created straight away,' says Sue.

Now you can sit back, relax, and enjoy your newly organized space. You'll probably find yourself far calmer and more content than you were when all those belongings were in under your roof. As the saying goes - tidy home, tidy mind.

Lilith Hudson
News Editor

Lilith Hudson is the News Editor at Livingetc, and an expert at decoding trends and reporting on them as they happen. Writing news, features, and explainers for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration you need in your home. Lilith discovered a love for lifestyle journalism during her BA in English and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham where she spent more time writing for her student magazine than she did studying. After graduating, she decided to take things a step further and now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London, with previous experience at the Saturday Times Magazine, Evening Standard, DJ Mag, and The Simple Things Magazine. At weekends you'll find her renovating a tiny one-up, one-down annex next to her Dad's holiday cottage in the Derbyshire dales where she applies all the latest design ideas she's picked up through the week.