5 Layout and Decorating Mistakes That Are Making Your Living Room Feel Way More Cluttered

Does your living room feel like it’s becoming overwhelmed by ‘stuff’? Here's how to stop this from happening

beige living room with corner sofa and cream curtains
(Image credit: Wendy Smit Interiors)

There’s no denying that living rooms are one of the most used and important areas of any home, and if it's where you go to try to relax and unwind, you want a space that feels calm and uncluttered. But, because living rooms are often one of the largest rooms and they're used for so many different reasons, they can end up being a place where things collect — whether that's decor, or the trappings of your everyday family life.

If you’re lacking in living room storage then this accumulation of stuff can quickly make it look and feel cluttered. However, it's not always just a case of a quick tidy up to remedy an overwhelmed living space — sometimes it's in how you've designed a room, too.

We spoke to designers and decluttering experts to get to grips with the most common mistakes we make and how to fix them when it comes to living room organization.

1. Having "too much" furniture

Dark blue-black painted living room with white armchairs, black wood coffee table and orange curved sofa

(Image credit: Brian Wetzel. Design by Far Studio)

A common mistake when it comes to designing living rooms is trying to fit too many large, bulky furniture pieces into one space. It can very easily make your living room feel overcrowded and cluttered, so start by editing down what you have in your space. 'One of the main goals of a small space is to create an open and bright feeling with flow,' Ben Soreff, Professional Organizer at H2H Organizing says. 'I suggest removing excess furniture from the living room’.

While you might be looking for functionality from lots of furniture, it needs to be a careful tradeoff for how busy your living space looks, and there are ways to get the best of both worlds.

2. Opting for open shelving

neutral living room with beige sofa and rug

(Image credit: Anna Design)

Open shelving has become a staple in a lot of people’s homes and for good reason. When they are curated properly, they are a stylish and welcoming feature — however, the scales can very easily tip the other way.

Emily Moss, founder of Emily Moss Designs explains that ‘open shelving without strategic design can often end up cluttered and full of knick knacks, distracting from the space’.

Anna Vasiltsova’s solution would be to ‘incorporate smart storage solutions. Built-in shelving, cabinets and storage baskets can help keep the living room tidy’.

The same goes for displaying your living room TV, too. ‘Entertainment centres that have see through or open shelves can also cause visual clutter,' Emily adds. 'I always suggest opting for entertainment centers with drawers or closed sliding doors’.

3. Lacking multi-functional furniture 

Modern Living room coffee table ideas with ottoman

(Image credit: James Merrell)

Choosing lots of individual pieces of furniture that serve little function may be where you are going wrong. It’s a good idea to try and pick out multi-functional items that can tick more than one box.

Katelyn De Spain, owner of Makehouse Design Studio says you should ‘whenever possible, opt for dual function furniture such as a storage ottoman, or a large woven basket with a lid, for a clever way to hide blankets or shoes’.

‘Choose pieces proportional to the size of the room and consider multi-functional items such as nesting tables,' Anna Vasiltsova, founder of Anna Design LA suggests.

This eliminates the need to have lots of individual storage solutions which can then inevitably make your living room look and feel cluttered.

4. Making a coffee table a dumping ground

beige living room with grey armchair and large crittal window

(Image credit: Lance Gerber. Design credit: Joshua Smith)

Living rooms are one of the most used areas in the home, therefore they can easily become a dumping ground for clothes, keys, excess soft furnishings and more. Making sure everything has a specific home can prevent you from making this mistake.

‘Allowing your coffee table to be a dumping zone is a common mistake’, explains Emily. ‘Coffee tables can often collect little items around the house from pens and paper to computers, cords, snacks and everything in between! Keeping it clear or just having one or two small coffee table decor pieces on it will keep your living room feeling great and decluttered’.

Katelyn goes on to say ‘surfaces in a room – coffee tables, side tables, even the floor can quickly become clutter magnets for not just magazines and books, but too-small décor items. These will instantly make your space feel unorganized and kill any calm vibes’.

5. Poor furniture arrangement 

Small living room with green walls and blue corner sofa

(Image credit: Natalia Miyar)

It’s not just the furniture you decide to display in your living room that’s important but the configuration of your furniture is key.

Anna says ‘the mistake is arranging furniture in a way that disrupts the natural flow of the room that can make it feel cramped and cluttered’.

'Consider the flow of the room when arranging furniture,' Anna advises. 'Ensure there are clear pathways and that even a small living room layout facilitates easy movement and conversation. Sometimes, less furniture can actually make the room feel more functional and spacious’.

Figuring out how to streamline your living room can be one of the most transformative things you can do for your space, and as this advice shows, it doesn't really require buying new things, either.

Take a step back and take count of your furniture, layout and decor — spending time re-arranging the layout, or taking out decor and putting it back in, may just be more effective than a full living room makeover is for your space.

Becca Cullum-Green
Freelance writer

Becca Cullum-Green is a freelance interiors content creator and stylist. She fell in love with interiors when she landed her first job as an editorial assistant at a leading UK homes magazine fresh out of university. You can find her renovating her 19th-century cottage in the Suffolk countryside, consciously trying not to paint every wall with Farrow and Ball’s ‘Pitch Black’. Her signature style is a mix of modern design with traditional characteristics. She has previously worked for House Beautiful, Grand Designs, Good Housekeeping, Red, Good Homes and more.