What types of furniture help with clutter?
September 13, 2007 6:41 PM   Subscribe

Are there furniture options that will help declutter a house?

My wife and I seem to constantly battle clutter at our house. Books, DVD's, CD's, papers, and "stuff" all seem to pile up. Additionally our house is older and doesn't have much closet space so blankets, coats, and other things have no place to go either. Neither of us are particularly messy people, we just don't seem to have any options for storing it all.

What we're wanting is to find reasonably priced, functional pieces of furniture that will help with this. It would be nice to find pieces that hide the things we want hidden and show off the things we want to show off (this won't be the same piece obviously).

We've looked online at the obvious places like Ikea and Crate and Barrel and have found a couple of promising things but they don't have stores near where we live so we'll have to pay high shipping costs. (Which we'd be willing to do if necessary)

Are there other places we might look? What furniture solutions have others used to help with their struggle? (Specific pieces of furniture, stores that sell nice pieces or general descriptions of types of pieces are welcome.)
posted by cptspalding to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Storage shelves in the basement, couches and beds with low hanging fabric under which you can place plastic bins filled with stuff. My house looks like a library with all the books and shelves, and with deep shelves you can put books behind books on the shelves. I haven't solved that problem yet and I am not giving up the books. Storage units are an option, but the price is steep. Hiding stuff under things, having chests for coffee tables and other inconspicuous storage options seem the most aesthetically pleasing. Book chairs (the ones with shelves built in) and the like just look too dorky, at least for our decor.
posted by caddis at 6:58 PM on September 13, 2007

Storage ottomans are pretty cool.

If you aren't attached to your CD cases, buying a single CD binder and tossing the jewel cases saves a TON of space. You can do the same for DVDs too, but I can't bring myself to be that space-efficient.
posted by gatorae at 7:08 PM on September 13, 2007

The Victorian predecessor of built-in closets was the armoire. The modern version most often seems to be designed to house a gigantic TV, but they also have storage for other stuff - not well proportioned for storing clothes but maybe it would work for your other items. They look right in an old house, as well.
posted by Quietgal at 7:29 PM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

Roll out shelving rocks. We have a tiny house, and have a huge amount of stuff packed into our bathroom vanity. We had it built with shelves that roll out on slides, so we can pack it deep.
posted by intermod at 7:34 PM on September 13, 2007

and to maximize your under-bed space don't forget about bed risers!
posted by noloveforned at 7:37 PM on September 13, 2007

Noted re. Ikea/distance, but. Their Expedit is a @$*! to put together and typical mediocre Ikea quality, but. It's cheap, it holds a tonne, and you can get wicker baskets that fit the cubbies (and/or plastic ones) and display what you like, hide what you don't. The shelves are just the right size for an awful lot of "stuff."
posted by kmennie at 8:30 PM on September 13, 2007

Couple the above with one or more of these and you can get an awful lot of stuff in a small amount of floor space. The Expedit is, indeed, challenging to put together, but you only have to do that once - just be patient.
posted by dg at 8:51 PM on September 13, 2007

We had cluttered bookshelves in our family room. We got Ikea shelving with doors on the bottom halves, and we leave our nice, organized book collection on top while putting the messy, cluttered papers and junk underneath, behind the doors. It looks much, much neater, even when it isn't.
posted by Doohickie at 8:53 PM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

The trouble with ikea and other ready made units is they don't maximise use of space. At the very least, what about the space above them? I had a builder install fitted shelves and cupboards that reached from floor to ceiling. Simple painted mdf. Run the skirting board and ceiling cornice round the front of them and they look like part of the house.
posted by londongeezer at 11:19 PM on September 13, 2007

My favorite clutter-hider is a set of three nested sea-grass baskets with lids (very large, large, and medium). I stacked them against the wall in an empty nook like a big tiered cake. I keep rarely used things inside the boxes, and on top I have an unframed painting that just leans against the wall. It's actually functional AND good at displaying a thing or two. I got all 3 at either TJ Maxx or Home Goods for about $40 total. They're not exactly "furniture" but they look nicer than yet another bookshelf.
posted by gatorae at 12:20 AM on September 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

I am far from being a fan of Ikea, but I recently bought the Expedit TV unit to house our new LCD TV and assorted knick knacks & junk, and minigoshling & I adore it.
Putting it together was a bit of a mental and physical challenge, and we kept running out of floorspace so had to improvise a bit, but we got it together in a couple of hours with remarkably little swearing and frustration.
For the first few weeks we had it, we'd often randomly remark to each other how much better it (and the shiny new LCD TV) made our lounge room look. I'm seriously considering getting one for my bedroom as well.

I also have a rather large coffee table that is like a big trunk. Sorry, it's a bit difficult to describe. It's square, and has two folding lids on opposite sides. One side is a full depth trunk, and the other side is a half depth trunk with a draw underneath. The draw is particularly useful for sweeping my paperwork into when I'm sick of looking at it.
posted by goshling at 1:02 AM on September 14, 2007

We just moved into 1,000 sqft, so I can sympathize with your plight. The first thing that we did was took a good hard look at the storage space that we do have and decided whether or not we were making good use of it. Could there be a storage basket hanging under that shelf? Could we add a hook or two to the inside of the closet door? Had we edited out all of the things that we didn't need or want to hang onto?

From there, here are some things that I would suggest (you mentioned your house is older, so I've gone with a classic look. Ikea can be great, but it can also ruin the vibe of a great old house depending on your style):

Reclaimed Railroad Tie Cubes at Viva Terra

Corner Entry Storage from Pottery Barn

An Awesome Storage Bed from Patrick Keesey Though maybe a bit too New York for your house?

This one's in Japanese, but the idea is great.

Finally, this might be the most expensive chair in the world, but it's ingenious! The rest of the site also has some interesting storage ideas.

Like the poster above, all of our CDs are in photo album-like storage rather than out in the open.

Symmetry and multiples can also help to make a house look visually organized.

And, I don't know whether or not it's a realistic option for your circumstances, but think about making your stair risers into drawers. I've seen pictures online and they seem really useful.

All the best!
posted by B-squared at 7:14 AM on September 14, 2007

You don't say what your budget is like, or how many cubic feet of storage you'd need, but I'm a proponent of replacing freestanding storage furniture with built-in. If you can dedicate a whole wall to storage, you reduce the visual clutter created by having multiple pieces of furniture jutting into the room, and get maximum use of the storage space.

In our bedroom, my wife and I had a contractor build huge plywood cabinet carcasses that completely cover one 12' wall; a cabinet maker then built face frames and doors for the boxes. We filled the interior with Elfa (the closet system from Container Store). This gives us 24 sqft of storage that we're using very efficiently, and the Elfa is easy to reconfigure as needed. We also consolidated three bookcases into one big built-in—really lightens a room's appearance. If you prowl through my flickr stream, you'll see pics.

Ikea does sell some cabinets that let you approximate this effect, although their quality probably isn't as good, and their shipping charges are so high they might not be competitive. Worth getting an estimate from a local guy.

Also recommend replacing your CD jewelboxes with sleeves, and putting the sleeved CDs in boxes. If you really want to go crazy, rip all your music and stash the CDs in low-demand storage.
posted by adamrice at 7:41 AM on September 14, 2007

Response by poster: The recommendations about the difficulties putting together the IKEA Expedit are interesting. What makes it difficult to put together, the number of cubby-holes that you have to deal with or the size?

B-Squared -- loved the link to VivaTerra's cubes-Thx.
posted by cptspalding at 9:02 AM on September 14, 2007

I recently assembled an Expedit bookcase (the 73"x73" one) and it wasn't hard until it was time to fit the last side on (which is actually the top, if you're following the instructions). Everything's held together with those little wooden pegs, and it is hard to get everything to line up just right (particularly if some of the horizontal boards are just slightly bowed, as a couple of mine were). The boards are heavy, and it is definitely a two-person job.
posted by candyland at 10:14 AM on September 14, 2007

I await the responses to this question myself as we have the same problem. The clutter just GROWS and no one but me seems to care, so I grumble and get cranky while they all wonder why.

Bookshelves and such are fine, but what about "where to put all the crap that isn't fit to be an full-on display"-type storage furniture? Most of what I struggle with is not excess stuff that can be nicely shelved and presented to all and sundry. It's random crap that has no home.

Getting ready to check all of B-squared's links now...
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 10:36 AM on September 14, 2007

The size & weight of the Expedit definitely added to the trickiness factor. It's assembled lying flat, and we had to keep moving other furniture out of the way, and then lift it up when it's done (I did some improvising though.)
The pieces weren't labeled particularly clearly so identifying which bits were needed for each step was a bit of a puzzle. As mentioned above, I have the TV unit, which is the same size as the bookshelf, just with one large TV cubby hole in the middle, with rectangular shelves, all surrounded by the rest of the cubby holes. Not sure if that makes it more or less complicated than the bookshelf? I'm guessing more, due to more pieces of differing sizes.

Have you assembled Ikea furniture before? It was an interesting surprise to me to discover that the instruction manual contains diagrams only - no words, so I had to study it a bit to get my head round it. We identified some pieces by counting the number of holes indicated on the diagrams.
The most irritating part was getting the long bits to match up with all the little wooden pegs, and having the ones you've just done come undone as you try to fit the ones at the opposite end. Of course, there were all sorts of little bits & pieces left over when I'd finished. (Maybe some sort of bracket to attach it to a wall?)
posted by goshling at 9:45 AM on September 15, 2007

The recommendations about the difficulties putting together the IKEA Expedit are interesting. What makes it difficult to put together, the number of cubby-holes that you have to deal with or the size?
It's because you have to get so many pieces lined up perfectly and all at once to get it together - not difficult per se, but fiddly and frustrating. The unit is also quite heavy, adding to the need for two people to assemble it. Ikea provide various brackets to fix many of their units to the wall - that's probably what the left-over bits are.
posted by dg at 3:52 PM on September 16, 2007

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