Experts Agree; This is Why Your House Looks Cluttered

There are obvious signs of clutter, like overflowing kitchen cabinets, a closet bursting at the seams, and piles of paper stacked on every flat surface. Then, there are the no-so-obvious sources that are harder for the average person to spot.

To find out what we might be missing, we asked professional organizers and interior designers to weigh in on what causes visual clutter.

Here’s what they had to say.

Experts Agree; This is Why Your House Looks Cluttered

Leaving Items Out on the Kitchen Counter

According to Lauren Saltman, a professional organizer from Living. Simplified., leaving items on the kitchen counter can make a home look cluttered. 

Lauren recommends a one-in, one-out strategy. “Keeping the shopping under control and following the one-in, one-out rule. This means that if you buy a new dress, a dress in your closet should be donated. If you buy a new cookbook, one that you have but don’t use often should leave the home. This way, you’ll maintain a certain number of items throughout your home and the clutter won’t build up again over time.”

When you keep the belongings in your home at a manageable level, putting them away will be easier, keeping your counters free of excess stuff.

Unmade Beds 

When most of us think of clutter, we think of overflowing belongings or a crowded home. But sometimes, messiness can also add to the look of clutter.

“Making the bed is a simple yet impactful task that sets the tone for the entire room. A neatly made bed not only enhances the visual appeal of the bedroom but also creates a sense of order, influencing the perception of cleanliness throughout the space,” says Karina Toner, operations manager at Spekless Cleaning

If you want to make your home appear more tidy, spend an extra few minutes each morning making your bed.

Packed Horizontal Surfaces 

Visual clutter occurs when every flat surface in the home is packed to the gill. Lukas Berezowiec of No Triangle Studio offers design advice that focuses largely on keeping a place decluttered. 

He advises, “Simply clearing horizontal surfaces sparks immediate airiness…think shelf tops, tables, sills. We then edit room peripheries, removing redundant decorative items (and this is key…) that are not actively enjoyed. This creates cleaner sightlines while honoring only cherished pieces, not just the ‘occasional’ ironic or trendy meaningless ornament.”

Open Shelving

Certified Professional Organizer and owner of Sara Jane Organizing, Sara Bereika, notes that while open shelving can work for some, it’s not always practical. “When items on open shelves are carefully curated and coordinated, they can look beautiful. However, if the items become overstuffed and messy, it’s best to store them in cabinets with doors. Having items behind closed doors can create a sense of organization and tranquility in a home by giving the eyes a chance to rest.”

Excess Family Photos

While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to display your family photos for all visitors to see, too many can lead to a cluttered-looking home — especially when they take up all the table space in a room. Katie McCaffrey, principal of McCaffrey Design Group, proposes practical solutions for managing the number of family photos in a house. “I recommend sticking to a small group of photos, such as three. Make sure the frames are the same finish and mix the orientation: one portrait, one landscape, one square.” 

For those with larger photo collections, she advises, “ If you want to have a larger collection of photos on display, consider creating a gallery wall of photos in a casual space such as a family room, office or den- follow the same rules on matching frame and photo printed finish and have a professional help you with hanging.”

Storing Items on the Floor

Storing items on the floor, like rows full of shoes, is convenient, but according to Texas-based Professional Organizer Reba Bassett of Revelation Organizing, it’s also a source of visual clutter. “The most impactful step a person can take if they want their home to look less messy/cluttered is to remove items off the floor, especially along the walls.”

She continues, “ There’s a reason my realtor and stager colleagues recommend removing all items on closet floors as it makes the closet appear bigger. When we can see the lines and structure of the wall and floor, we feel the space is bigger and more organized; it’s a more pleasant and peaceful aesthetic.”