Spring Cleaning Week: the living room, kitchen, and outdoor spaces

Days two through five, and some of day ten of my e-book are devoted to overhauling the more “public” areas of the home — the living room, kitchen, and outdoor spaces.

These are some of the most important spots in a home, because they’re seen and used by most everybody. From your children, to guests, to those late nights watching a movie with your spouse, you want a comfortable living space for most any situation. That’s why it’s hard to keep them decluttered and simple, with only those things you truly love.

Using the three-step process of decluttering, cleaning, and organizing, the hopeful result is a refreshed common area in the home that the whole family will enjoy.  It’s an important part of your Spring Cleaning Week.

Here are a few tips for each of these important areas.

Living Room

Photo by Wonderlane

•  Take the time to “assign” a few objectives for this general purpose space. Is this a media haven for your family?  Do you like to entertain guests here?  Let the space function properly, and don’t have extra stuff you don’t really use here.

•  Make this a place the whole family would enjoy. Perhaps you can bring in everyone’s books here, as a central library (that’s what we’ve done).  Or you can have games, puzzles, or craft supplies here, so that your family pursues these activities together.

• Keep things as contained as possible. If you have a lot of one thing, such as DVDs, keep them better organized in drawers or containers — left out on shelves, and they’ll get disheveled and look cluttered.

• Remove all your knickknacks during the decluttering phase, and then only bring back the ones you love. Do it gradually.  You might discover a more pared-down look you love, and you can get rid of the rest.  (This makes surfaces easier to clean, too.)


Photo by Barb McMahon

•  It may seem obvious, but store items near where you use them most.  Keep cooking utensils by the stove.  House dishes and glassware near the dishwasher or refrigerator.  And keep napkins and silverware somewhere central, where someone can set the table without disturbing the cook.

•  Arrange your pantry so that your most often-used ingredients are at eye level. Keep snacks higher, so that the family is less tempted to graze between meals.

Honestly question the purpose of every item in your kitchen. This room is Gadget Central, and we really don’t need more than the basic tools.  Awhile back, Aimee shared a great comprehensive list of the most essential tools for any kitchen — use this as a starting point.

•  Keep counters as clear as possible — think of them as a cooking tool. Any gadget left on the surface is taking away valuable counter space, one of the most useful cooking tools around.

Think outside the box when it comes to storage containers. Aimee wrote a great article about good ideas for kitchen storage on Simple Bites.

Outdoor Spaces

front porch
Photo by Teresa Morgan

• What does the front entry of your home say about what goes on inside?  If it’s too difficult to maintain a landscaped entry, then stick to a potted plant that thrives in your local environment.

• Give your front entry an easy refresher with a new welcome mat. They work wonders.

• If being outside is a priority in your family, then make some space to spend time together outdoors.  It doesn’t need to be large — when we lived overseas, all we had was a simple dining table and chairs on our balcony, but we used it near daily.    Do what you can to create a simple family space to relax outside.

• Keep like things with like. Use sealed plastic containers to store outdoor toys, barbeque tools, and gardening supplies.  Even simple laundry baskets work well, and you can usually find these cheaply at thrift stores.

• Don’t underestimate lighting, which adds a festive ambience. Wind white Christmas lights around your deck, your table umbrella, or your awning for an instant, year-round face lift.  Candles add tons of ambience as well.

I look forward to hearing about your progress, so feel free to link to your posts!  Tomorrow, we’ll discuss the second part of the three-step process:  non-toxic cleaning.

What are your tips for overhauling the living room, kitchen, or outdoor spaces?

top photo source
Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

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  1. Good timing with this one! I’m cleaning the LR this week and if the weather holds out then we’ll start tackling the yard this weekend. We really need to get some good lighting out there!
    .-= The Nagging Wife´s last blog ..The Intro – aka: The correct answer is… =-.

  2. Honestly, I’ve never thought about decorating the Living Room based on it’s purpose and what we mainly use it for (slaps forehead). I just put “living room” stuff in there – because it’s a “living room.”

    Sheesh. Captain Obvious.

    Thanks for the tip. We’re still in the process of decorating our LR and getting our furniture for it. I really think this will help us to choose and make decisions more easily.
    .-= Kat @ Inspired To Action´s last blog ..GIVEAWAY! – Motivation Monday: Why Mothers Need To Retreat =-.

  3. Since we live in a smaller home I keep organized by utilizing multi-purpose furniture and items. In our living room we have some storage ottomans that house our kids toys. In our dining room our buffet table is home to our kids art supplies and some office supplies. This helps us keep from aquiring more furniture and it helps us have a home for everything.
    .-= April Emery´s last blog ..Mamma’s Bag Of Tricks :: Quiet Time Bins =-.

  4. These tips couldn’t come at a better time! My family just started an 80 day project to “write our own life” and first up is wiping the slate clean – literally, by cleaning, minimizing and decluttering.

    Thanks for the tips!

  5. This is perfect timing for me. Now if it would only warm up a little so I could throw all the windows open and get some fresh air in the place!

    (..and thanks for the link,Tsh!)
    .-= Aimee @ Simple Bites´s last blog ..Snacking and Your Child: Finding the Healthy Balance =-.

  6. I’ve been spring cleaning for a couple of weeks now and I am Worn Out! Whew! It’s a lot of work…but totally worth it! Tomorrow is the last day and I’m tackling the perimeter of the house, including outdoor areas, so this post is very timely. My step by step by step play can be found here… http://www.idreamofclean.net/category/spring-cleaning/
    .-= iDreamofClean´s last blog ..Spring Cleaning: Kitchen (Part 6) =-.

  7. We are in the middle of a move so I’m using your tips in my packing strategies. I have three piles, trash, give-away and pack. It was hard at the beginning because I’m tempted to throw everything in a box, thinking I’ll deal with it later. But I just don’t want to bring clutter to my new environment, even I found that some things from our past which I thought I would cherish forever I no longer need.
    The great news is that everyone is on board. My husband and my son realized that the less “stuff” we bring, the less time it’ll take to unpack and start enjoying our new home.
    .-= Fabiola´s last blog ..Support our fundraising efforts, apoyanos a recaudar fondos para la Marcha por los Bebes =-.

    • What great advice! My husband and I might be making a move soon which would be the perfect time to do some much needed decluttering. It’s amazing all the stuff that accumulates even though we rarely buy anything besides food and litter for the cats. Though the most amazing thing is that most of the stuff we have came from just 2 rooms (his and mine in our respective apartments in college) and has somehow multiplied like bunnies to fill a 4 bedroom house.
      .-= Jen´s last blog ..Lots of Stuff Going on in the Garden! =-.

  8. These are great tips I’m in the home stretch of Spring Cleaning . I just finished the livingroom yesterday and I’m working on the kitchen today. I’m with you on the gadgets my counter is cluttered with them. I want to have a clear space to work on.
    .-= Rana´s last blog ..Post it Note Tuesday =-.

  9. While the outside and family living spaces in my home are pretty organized as I declutter these areas constantly, my kitchen tends to be a disaster hidden by drawer fronts and doors. I don’t know why it is so hard for my family and I to keep things organized. But, your tips are so simple. And the gadgets…it has gotten OUT OF CONTROL. Who needs an Icecream and Bread maker? I’ve had each for several years, and have maybe used them 1-2 times. They need to go!
    I can’t wait to get started!!!
    .-= Amanda G.´s last blog ..Introduction to Routines =-.

  10. Oh, spring cleaning! This year my loving husband has been helping me with the decluttering phase and wow– what a difference another set of eyes (and muscle) can make! Our basement looks twice the size it did last week.
    Thanks for all the tips and keeping us on track!

  11. Great post! I’ve been thinking lately about how much stuff we have and how much of it should probably find a new home elsewhere (i.e. far away from our house!) I’ve never really considered using concealed storage for things like movies and CDs, because DH always has had them displayed in those tower things you can buy (which I think are a tacky remnant from his college roommate.) We were considering getting DVD “book shelves” to house our movie and CD collection, but out-of-sight storage would be much better. Does anyone have any suggestions for ascetically pleasing DVD and CD storage on a budget?
    .-= Jen´s last blog ..Lots of Stuff Going on in the Garden! =-.

  12. I don’t know if I’ve ever commented here before…but I LOVE your posts!

    I’ll be linking. 🙂
    .-= Aunt LoLo´s last blog ..Dear Jamie Oliver: For A Successful Food Revolution, You MUST… =-.

  13. Love these tips.. We will be moving soon and I will be ordering in your eBook to help me get settled in ASAP. 🙂 Thanks a bunch for sharing these and walking us through a real overhaul!
    Blessings and best wishes.
    .-= prerna´s last blog ..Making Meals for Toddlers Fun and Enjoyable =-.

  14. My hubby has been on the job hunt for a few months, and we planned to do a major decluttering before we moved away for his work. He just got hired in our same city, though, so we don’t have to move after all! (yay!) But we are going to pretend we are moving anyway – he’s going to take a week off work, we will line up childcare help, and we’ll attack our home with a vengeance! Decluttering room by room, space by space. These tips will help a lot! Thanks, Tsh! 🙂
    .-= Katie ~ Simple Organic´s last blog ..BPA: What It Is, Where It Is, What to Do =-.

  15. Terrific list! I’m so enjoying (yes, I said “enjoying”) Spring Cleaning along with your e-book …. love taking everything out and then getting that little thrill of putting LESS back in after downsizing! 🙂

    Good tips for the outdoors – our entryway is kind of neglected and vacant … I think I’m inspired to do a little outdoor cleaning and decorating, too!

    Happy Spring cleaning!
    .-= Kara´s last blog ..Weekend Showcase: Link Love =-.

  16. This is a great list! I love what you say about the knick knacks. I just did this in my bedroom because I had somehow accumulated tons of stuff and everything looked so very cluttered. It’s amazing how different a room looks when you remove every ounce of the clutter and start new. I actually had fun when I put things back a little bit at a time and moved them around until things looked neat and organized. I actually got rid of a ton of stuff and felt good about it.
    .-= Tina @ Ride On Toys´s last blog ..Power Wheels Toys – Everything You Ever Wanted To Know =-.

  17. My “to do” list keeps getting longer and longer…! It’s all good stuff though. Thank you for giving me some great ideas and opening my eyes to “unbeautiful” things that I’ve just been walking past blindly on a daily basis.
    .-= mamaTAVE´s last blog ..Spring Cleaning Week: Public Spaces =-.

  18. I just hate cluttered homes. Thank fully most people aren’t so picky as me, I guess that’s why I do so well. 🙂
    .-= Bracknell Cleaning´s last blog .. =-.

  19. Thanks for a lot of good ideas. There are a lot of things that I have never thought about. Think I have too try clean up in all my knickknacks.

  20. Great advice…Only I keep my dishes, glasses, trivets and serving pieces in my china cabinet in the dining room, so that they are closer to the table. (This also frees up cupboard space in my kitchen.)

  21. I had read your blog it is very informative and nice.i got a lot of information about cleaning.Thanks for sharing this nice blog.
    house cleaning

  22. Outdoor areas are very good additions in a home. It somewhat influences the general appearance of the house and is an extension of the home where the dwellers can temporarily escape but it’s still within the property. Be it a railed deck, a porch or a humble patio, the comfort it provides is what’s essential.

  23. It is very necessary that we regularly clean our outdoor spaces. These tips that you have shared in doing so are indeed very helpful to a lot of homeowners. Thanks for sharing.

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