by Susan McCarthy
Don’t have enough time to declutter your entire living room? Go for a quick win and clear the coffee table to make a visible difference in the room.
Have you ever thought that you need to wait until you can block off several hours before you try to declutter your living room? The knickknacks, books, DVDs, hobby stuff that’s made its way into the room, and other sundry items that you keep meaning to put away. But who wants to block off half a day to deal with such a mind-numbing task?
Enter the Quick Decluttering Win.
Just like it sounds, a quick win is a task that can be completed in less than an hour while leaving you with not only a more organized space but a sense of accomplishment to boot. Now while you could clean out a drawer or a few or a cabinet in that time once you shut that drawer or door you can’t see your results.
A Quick Decluttering Win should be visible. The perfect spot in the living room to clear for a fast feeling of accomplishment is the coffee table.
Why Bother to Organize a Coffee Table?
The coffee table might seem like a rather small space to layer with such importance. But remember, this is the space where most, if not all, of the chairs in your room are centered around. Even if it’s just you and the familia hanging out and watching television, the coffee table is THERE.
And while starting with the coffee table might not seem like a big deal, once you have the chance to appreciate this clear space, you might just feel the motivation to declutter a space near the table…and so on. Sure, it might not happen in an afternoon, but little bit by little bit, you’ll declutter and organize the room.
All by carrying out step one – the coffee table.
Clear the Coffee Table Clutter
Before you grab the trash bags, take a moment to consider what you want on the coffee table. Would you be happiest if it was bare? Do you want a decorative knickknack or a seasonal centerpiece here?
When you decide what you want on the coffee table, you’re also clarifying what doesn’t belong here. Then, when you go to leave something on this table in the future (or, you know, tomorrow), your subconscious will give you a subtle nudge, “that doesn’t belong there.”
If you notice your significant other leaves a lot of stuff on the coffee table, you’ll want to bring them into the decision-making process. As an example, a few years back, my husband had invited a couple to the house. It was there first time visiting us. I was cleaning the house and putting away things like the cat’s brush and my crochet (which get used often enough that they never get put away).
I then noticed my husband pulling out books and staging them on the coffee table. My idea of getting ready for company was to put things away. The hubby saw this same event as a reason to put things out on display.
This isn’t the same as leaving things on the coffee table because no one is putting them away. Have a conversation about what intentionally stays on the surface of the coffee table.
You might want to skip this step of clarifying what belongs in a space. I don’t blame you. I’d do this all the time. And then the clutter would come back. I started to notice that the spaces that stayed uncluttered would be those that I’d defined their purpose. “This belongs; that doesn’t.”
This doesn’t mean that you can’t set a mug on the table while you sit on the couch enjoying a chapter of the book you’re reading. But when you stand up, you’ll know to put the mug and your book where you want them instead of leaving them on the coffee table.
Clearing the Coffee Table
Now that you know what belongs here and how you want to use this space, take everything off. Should you take off the stuff on the shelf under the top surface? It depends upon how much stuff you have and if you have enough time to move all this stuff to where it belongs. When in doubt, just clear the flat surface.
Clean the table and the items you’ve decided to return here (if anything). You’ve now organized your coffee table. Ta da!
But wait, there is more to this task. If you removed a bunch of stuff, you may want to put it all into a box or an empty laundry basket. Now walk this bin around the house and put items where they belong (or where you’ve decided you want them to belong).
This is your chance to toss things in the trash or recycling bins or pop something into your “to donate” box.
What if you go to move something to a spot where there’s no space for it? If it’s an area you’ve yet to declutter, then leave the item close but don’t fuss about doing this perfectly. You could mark this location as the next Little Space to declutter.
Or you could put away the item you’ve brought to this spot, either rearranging other items or getting rid of something so to fit in the item that you’ve decided belongs.
Organize the Coffee Table
If you choose to place a few items on the table, one thing that can bring them together is a tray or mat. Not only does this connect the items, but it can create a “this is my dance space; that is your dance space” defining line.
This also means to beware of baskets and bowls that can become collectors of pens, coins, paperclips, mail, and any other small items that come anywhere near this container. If you have something on the table that’s already used as a catch-all, chances are that no matter how many times you empty it, it will get filled up again and again.
You might need to do away with this type of item on the coffee table unless you’re okay with collecting small items.
Keep Your Coffee Table Clean Forever
Ah, here’s the tricky part, keeping the clutter off your coffee table. If you live with others, tell them what belongs here. This isn’t the time for accusations and nitpicking (which will cause the other person to tune you out).
Instead, focus on the desired result. “The only thing that belongs on the coffee table is the jar of seashells that we collect from our vacations. Everything else should get cleared away when we leave the room for the day."
Then, make a point to clear off this space at the end of every day. You might be thinking that this is an inconvenient step. However, it is much easier to pick up a couple of items at the end of the day than to wait until the end of the week or month and find yourself facing a dozen or more.
It will take seconds to tidy each day, but the larger benefit is seeing a central feature in your living room staying clear (giving you the motivation to move onto the next space).
Quick Decluttering Win – the Coffee Table
Hi, I'm Susan
I'm a former teacher who became a professional organizer (and not because I'm a natural-born neatnik). I live with my husband and fluffy cat on a river in Massachusetts. I crochet, make handmade cards, and love reading young adult novels. Learn more about my decluttering journey here.