This week's challenge is all about organizing living room and family room areas of your home.
Typically, this is one of the first rooms both guests and family members see when they walk through your home's door, so it makes sense to work on it the week after we did the entryway organization challenge.
These rooms (or room, if you only have one, not both) are also typically a challenge since all family members do a lot of "living" in them, with lots of different activities and stuff placed in there.
Are you new here? The Organizing Living Room & Family Room Challenge is part of the 52 Weeks To An Organized Home Challenge. (Click the link to learn how to join us for free for future and past challenges if you aren't already a regular reader).
With those two major issues to consider -- the multiple uses the room has, as well as its public nature -- let's get to work this week making the area organized and enjoyable for family to use it, as well as for entertaining guests.
Before jumping into the steps for the challenge I want to point out that you may need to go through the steps twice, one for your living room and one for your family room, if you happen to have both rooms. From now on I will be referring to it as a singular room, since you should only tackle one room at a time.
If you've got a formal living room that just sits there most of the time, collecting dust and waiting for formal entertaining though, I would encourage you to make use of this space in a different way and really enjoy it.
My personal opinion (and its fine if you don't believe the same thing) is that formal living rooms are a thing of the past. Instead, every room in your home, especially one as centrally located as a living room, should serve some practical function and people should get enjoyment out of it on a regular basis.
The first step in the Organizing Living Room & Family Room Challenge is to seriously think about the function and purpose, or more likely functions and purposes, plural, of this room in your home.
Many activities most likely occur in it, and its probably the busiest room in your home after your kitchen. (Recall we also thought long and hard about what functions the kitchen served, when working on the several week long Kitchen Organization Challenge.)
Each family is unique, so you need to think through the functions of your room inidvidually, but here are some common functions and purposes of the living or family room to get you thinking about it:
When making this list make sure to consult with all of your family members, to see how they use the room or think it should be used. You don't want to forget anything, and you may also be surprised that your ideas don't match. You've got to come to an agreement about what activities should be done where in your home so conflict doesn't crop up.
Understand that there is practically only so much room in your family or living room for various functions. Most rooms cannot handle too many functions, and this means you've got to prioritize what activities will go on in here, and which will get moved to a different area of the home.
If you think you've got too many functions for the room, I encourage you to read all of the steps below before proceeding further, since you will get a better sense for organizing your family room and living room areas, and how many things you can actually fit in there before making a final decision.
The next step in the Organizing Living Room & Family Room Challenge is to declutter the room, and then make sure that the only things left in the room are those which serve the functions you've decided upon above.
Often your living and family rooms become a dumping ground for all kinds of stuff that don't otherwise have a home, since that is the last place people used the items. However, if those items don't actually belong there they need to be moved out and put elsewhere in the home where they belong (or making a new home for them).
I realize that is often easier said than done, especially if other rooms are also cluttered and disorganized. Hopefully, as you move through each of the challenges, making progress in more and more rooms, this is getting easier and easier for you though!
Your goal should be to keep the flat surfaces in your living room clear, or at least mostly clear, and to try to create a wide open are of floor space where many different activities can take place.
In addition, often you'll realize that you want to rearrange furniture you've got in these rooms, or even move some of it out completely. Before doing any major lifting, however, read on to step 3 to make sure you set up the room for the best functionality, and in my opinion that means setting it up with various activity centers.
The most important step in the Organizing Living Room & Family Room Challenge, at least for enjoying the room on an everyday basis, is to set up centers or stations that reflect all the functions and activities which go on in this room.
I know, the last time you thought about centers may have been in kindergarten, but really it works in your home too. Basically, you are making sure that you have all the right things, in a convenient place, for the activities you think should occur in your family or living room.
Here are some examples of various common "centers" you can have in your living or family room and what things should be in them, to give you an idea of what I'm talking about. Make sure your centers are unique to your family's needs and desires.
The most important things you need for this center is a place for everyone to sit, positioned in a way that everyone can look at each other while they talk.
This space can, of course, be used for both family and guests. You may also want to have a plan for how to add or rearrange furniture temporarily for when you have a larger gathering than typical in your home.
This same center may also be part of the center for watching TV, or listening to music, or reading (read about all of these below), so you may need to consider multiple functions at once when deciding how to arrange everything.
For reading, you need a good comfy place to sit (as mentioned above), plus good light and access to reading material.
You may not want all your books, magazines and newspapers to "live" in the living or family room all the time, but you may want to have a table or other storage box (such as the Rubbermaid Bento Box shown to the left) where you could place the book you're currently reading through, or a spot for a few of the latest magazines or newspapers.
I already touched, above, on the need for good seating for this center, but obviously you want to have everything necessary that goes along with these entertainment activities in a central place, close together for convenience.
This may mean having your CDs and DVDs organized (we'll tackle this task in more detail in Week #27 of the challenge), and close to your TV and entertainment center.
Further, for those families who play video games having a gaming center (such as the one shown on the right) which holds all necessary games, controllers, cables, etc. is very helpful.
Finally, if you're a parent you're most likely very familiar with being overrun by toys in your living or family room. I know I am sometimes -- but it doesn't have to be this way.
Kids need a place to play with toys and games (preferably a wide open area) in a central location, which often happens to be the family room, so they can spend time with their family or be supervised while parents do other tasks or relax. That doesn't mean your family room should be overrun with toys though -- instead, focus on keeping only a small amount of items here (such as in a toy organizer to the left), and perhaps rotate toys to keep kids interest in them.
I've discussed how to organize toys and games in more detail in week #46 of the Challenge.
As you can see, the key to organizing living room and family room areas is to go back through your list above, from Step 1, of the functions and purposes of each room, and make sure that you have a center for each function on your list set up in the room.
Don't be alarmed, however, that there is not enough room for a separate center for each activity. Fortunately, many of these activities use the same types of space, and centers can serve more than one function, or overlap in functionality.
The key is to get creative to fit in what you find most important into the space you have available.
When making your centers and stations in your living or family room, it is often necessary to get creative with how to arrange and organize things, and figure out how to store the items you need in the room.
That's why the fourth step in the Organizing Living Room & Family Room Challenge is to consider what storage solutions you'll use in these rooms. Here are some ideas you can consider for your own home:
It is helpful to have the family and living room furniture also double as a way to store items, since this enables you to do more than one thing in the same space.
To that end you can replace a coffee table with just a flat surface on it with one containing drawers (such as the one to the right), or replace it completely with another piece of furniture such as a blanket chest.
Similarly, you can use storage ottomans that you can use as seats and foot rests and simultaneously store things in.
Finally, consider sofa tables, which are long narrow tables that you place behind a sofa (with storage drawers or shelves incorporated into them, if possible) to have a flat surface to place items on, such as books, food and drinks when entertaining, or other items on.
Here are some additional examples of furniture which doubles as storage units below:
With so many different types of activities taking place in your living or family room, keeping like items together, or those that are all used for the same activities in the same space, can keep things organized and ready for use when needed.
One of the most essential is a basket or other container, such as the one shown on the left, to corral all remote controls together. I guarantee that designating a special space and container for your controls will save you so much time in looking for the remotes that seem to get carried all over the house, and also get lost in the couch cushions.
Similarly, other small baskets or totes can be used to hold current magazines or newspapers, the current crafting item you are working on while watching TV, or a small amount of toys for children to play with.
Finally, don't forget to use wall space in your family or living room when working on the Organizing Living Room & Family Room Challenge.
Storing things on the wall, such as the example to the right of the wall mounted entertainment center, can save lots of room since there is no use of floor space which can then be put to better use.
For example, the most obvious thing to now use wall space for is to mount your TV, now that flat screens are much more common and popular than they've ever been.
Once you've completed the other steps in the Organizing Living Room & Family Room Challenge, and gotten the rooms organized and ready for use, there is still one more thing left to do -- create a habit for daily pickup of the room.
As I mentioned before, the living room and/or family room are often the most used rooms in the house, beside the kitchen. Therefore, with all these activities going on in such a public location, you've got to take actions to keep it neat and organized on a daily basis.
In fact, depending on how much time you and your family spend at home, you may even want to develop a routine for pick up of this room even more often, such as two or three times a day.
For example, in my home when my children are home in the summer (like now) we pick up the family room before lunch, before dinner and again before bed. None of these pick up breaks, on their own, take too long but they keep things looking good all day long while still allowing the kids to play to their hearts content in there.
Developing a similar routine for your home, that fits your unique needs, can keep this area company ready most of the time while still allowing everyone to enjoy themselves in there at the same time.
I would love to know how this week's Organizing Living Room & Family Room Challenge is going. You can tell me your progress or give me more ideas for how you've organized these areas of your home in the comments below.
I also love before and after pictures of your family and living rooms, and would love to see some of yours. Submit your pictures (up to four per submission) and blog posts and get featured in the Creative Storage Solutions Hall of Fame. You've worked hard to get organized, so now here's your chance to show off!
We're working on our homes slowly, one area at a time, so don't get too distracted from the Organizing Living Room & Family Room Challenge this week. However, I know some of you love to know what's coming next, so I'll tell you. Next week we'll be working on organizing the dining room and also quickly revisiting the kitchen eating area.
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