By David Wulff, AIA

Take the pain out of cleaning up by creating places to quickly and easily stash your stuff.

Don’t worry. I’m not going to tell you to throw out your stuff or give it away. And I’m not going to give you advice on how to part with it. Instead, I’m going to give you design tips on how to get it out of sight, quickly and easily. The trick to living without clutter is to make it super easy for you and your family to clean up fast. Follow these tips, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly your home can go from chaotic to calm in no time.

Closed storage. Everyone likes the look of open shelving when everything is lined up just so, but the truth is, it’s not always practical to keep everything in perfect order. Closed storage can look just as great, when it’s well thought out. If you have lots of stuff, stay away from open shelving whenever you can, and conceal your stuff behind doors and drawers.

Kitchen. Keep your counters clear. Dedicate a space for small appliances that’s easy for you to access. Pullout shelves make it easy to store heavier appliances, like blenders and coffee makers.
If you don’t have the luxury of space for a dedicated appliance cabinet, consider creating an appliance nook or an appliance garage on your counter to tuck them out of the way and out of sight.

Bathroom. The same rules apply for the bathroom as for the kitchen. Keep your counters clear of stuff. Use a vanity with drawers. Don’t even consider a pedestal sink or a vanity with doors if you tend to be a hoarder. Get the most convenient, easy-to-use storage with drawers. (The drawers can even be organized).

And don’t stop at vanity storage. Maximize your storage by using your mirror as a medicine cabinet as well. If you don’t like the feel of a bulky medicine cabinet at your sink, recess it into the wall. This can often create even deeper storage.

 Living room. Even if you try to keep stuff out of the living room, it will eventually migrate back to your more commonly used spaces. Build or buy storage (at least 24 inches deep) with large doors and deep drawers. It’s all about the ease of throwing stuff in there quickly.

Garage. If your house is designed to be accessed from the garage, this is a great idea for keeping more stuff from entering the house. Invest in a well-constructed storage unit to make the most of this space.

Basement. This is another area that doesn’t always need closed storage, especially if it’s a space dedicated to storage. Stock up on budget racks and store everything you don’t want to part with but don’t actually use. If you apply the Pareto principle, you probably use only 20 percent of your stuff. So that means you can store the other 80 percent.

If you want to use your basement as living space, then use the closed-storage method to hide that other 80 percent of your stuff.

Final tip. If you are working on decluttering, don’t let the state of the inside of your cabinets or drawers deter you from clearing the stuff out of your living space. Once you get a sense of what it’s like to live without clutter all around you, the urge to organize your closets and drawers will come. The first step to clutter-free living is to get the stuff out of sight.

David H. Wulff, AIA is an architect in Lake Lure.