Declutter your home tips

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As shelter in place persists, our homes endure the tough task of juggling space for classrooms, offices, cafeterias, gyms and more. No matter the size of your home, there’s one space that should function as a retreat from the constant, hectic buzz — the bedroom. (But if it can’t, we have a solution for that too!)

We asked five interior designers to share their secrets for arranging these restful escapes and any impactful tips that can be applied to any given space, whether you’re starting from scratch or simply in need of a refresh. Either way, you’ll find what you need towards achieving a calming sleep environment fit for recharging at the end of the day.

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Photo by Karyn Millet, courtesy of Raili Clasen

1. Make a plan

“When it comes to bedrooms, I think it’s important to think about how you want the space to feel first, then aesthetics second,” says ETC.etera stylist and creative director, Jake Rodehuth-Harrison. “Since the bedroom is the last thing we see at night, and the first thing we see in the morning, it’s important to consider what comfort we crave.”

Whether you prefer light, airy and minimal spaces, or a dark, moody and cavernous experience, think about what you really need to relax at night and feel good in the morning.

For designer Alexis Garrett, it all starts with a super soft, comfortable mattress. “If you aren’t ready to invest in a new one, consider a less expensive but thick and plush memory foam pillow top, she says.”

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Photo by Lisa Romerein, courtesy of Raili Clasen

2. Control your color palette

“I think a big part of creating a successful bedroom color palette is keeping it monochromatic,” says Rodehuth-Harrison. “A lack of contrast means a lack of tension, so it will naturally feel less hectic.” Early in the pandemic, he repainted his bedroom’s ceiling in “Not so Delicate” by Backdrop Paint, a smokey lavender that changes throughout the day with the lighting.

“It truly makes me smile every morning,” he says. “As a rule, I think dustier tones are always a nice choice for bedrooms as they feel a bit more calm and muted than their brighter, primary counterparts.” He adds that white paint is always a nice idea, but make sure it’s got some warmth to it.

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Photo by Madie McKay for Alexis Garrett

3. Keep a clear head

Another tip for keeping the peace in the bedroom, keep your bedside table clutter to a minimum.

“The less you can have on your bedside table the better,” Garrett says. “I have my book and a pencil, and that’s it.” (She charges the phone outside her bedroom.) For those who like to linger in bed, she suggests a candle, water carafe and glass, or a mini tea-service, such as a small plug-in tea kettle with a cup, saucer and a few tea bags. “For those who have the space, consider a real splurge like a Nespresso,” she says.

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4. Don’t settle for one light source

Clara Jung of Banner Day Interiors says that when it comes to the bedroom, we often think of layering fabric and textures. But implementing layered light is important too and, she says, “I think it’s a game changer.”

For starters, overhead lights should be controlled by dimmer switches whenever possible. (If you can’t install a dimmer, adding task lighting is especially important). To create ambient lighting next to the bed for reading, she prefers to free up bedside table space by utilizing sconces. Sconces are wall mounted light fixtures, which can be hardwired by an electrician or purchased with a cord that can be plugged directly into the wall.

If you like to wake up to natural light, skip the blackout window treatment and consider a color spectrum light bulb. These smart lights mimic the sun’s progression to help you fall asleep by gradually dimming, or turning on slowly to help you wake naturally.

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Photo by Madie Mckay for Alexis Garrett

5. Work from bed (WFB)? Think in layers

Designer Raili Clasen says working from home has changed the way people use their bedrooms. “These days people aren’t just going to their bedroom to sleep anymore,” she says. “They are waking up and doing an hour’s worth of work in their bed.”

If the bed needs to be a comfy place to pop open your laptop for an email deep-dive, she suggests doubling down with a good stack of pillows for back support, and keeping a basket at the foot of the bed to store them. If your WFB routine goes beyond checking email, you may want to consider a laptop tray.

We also like Garret’s “keep everything washable” tip, which she implements because her young boys love jumping on their parent’s bed, also works for those who WFB. Garrett tops her duvet with a simple coverlet or cotton quilt and also takes the extra step to utilize pillow liners to help minimize allergies.

“If my kids are coming in to watch television, or [if I want] to escape, I love having that extra layer to pull over without having to get in the bed,” says Garrett.

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Carol Vaziri for Decorist

6. Create a special place for productivity

If a tidy bedroom isn’t enough to keep your mind from wandering, Natalie Tiller, Decorist designer, suggests an inexpensive accordion screen, which can be stowed against the wall or under the bed. “I always prefer upholstered folding screens, which have better acoustics.” An upholstered screen can help absorb sound, which will makes it easier for participants to hear one another.

Another way to divvy up space is to use ceiling mounted curtains. “You can draw them open or keep them closed if you don’t want to see your office anymore because it makes you anxious. They can also look really, really nice and complement your space as well.”

If your space allows, add a cabinet to conceal printers and work materials but for bedrooms-slash-work areas that feel cluttered, Tiller suggests relocating the dresser to the closet, or reorganizing the closet and eschewing the dresser all together.

Finally, if possible, place desks near windows with natural light and run an air purifier, which may help curb fatigue. For a visual lift, don’t skimp on a little greenery. “I have plants in my quote unquote office,” says Tiller. “Having that connection to nature is also important.”

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Photo by Lisa Romerein, courtesy of Raili Clasen

7. Make your furniture have meaning

Minimal furnishings in bedrooms can translate to less visual clutter and less dust. Don’t let the allure of minimalism trick you into getting a table that doesn’t have storage, though!

“Side tables are getting bigger,” Clasen says. Her clients are requesting more drawer and or cabinet space to stash work-related items. Addressing storage needs up front will also prevent the surfaces from getting cluttered with pens, notebooks and cords.

There are other ways to keep furnishing minimal too, like skipping the ever-tempting upholstered chair. “I love the idea of a couple of stools at the end of the bed. Chairs just end up being places you throw your clothes on.”

But Clasen’s absolute favorite bedroom accessory for setting the tone for a goodnight’s sleep? A softer than a cloud rug.

“I love a big yummy shag plush rug in the bedroom because that’s the last thing your feet touch at night before you get into bed,” she says.

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Reid Rolls for Decorist

8. Use your space as designed!

Tiller uses her bedroom as an office, and while she admits she has no problem “checking out mentally” at the end of the day, it’s all because she has established morning and evening rituals for a clean slate. No matter how organized or restful your space is, if you don’t use it the way you planned, it’s not going to work for you.

“Make sure you clean off your bed and organize,” she says, which helps prevent an unmade bed or last night’s pajamas from becoming distracting. At the end of the work day, close your computer and push in your chair to signal that you’re leaving the office.

“Make sure you keep [your bedroom] clean too,” she says. “Every weekend, I have a full cleaning day when I just buckle down and clean the floor, wipe the window sills. I do it every Sunday and that resets me for the week.”

Chantal Lamers is the Home Editor at Greatist, covering everything from design trends to D.I.Y. and zero waste topics. Find her tips on homesteading (and chicken wrangling) in the suburbs on Instagram.

Marie Kondo, Japanese lifestyle expert and best-selling author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, has won global recognition for leading the charge on decluttering, developing the KonMari Method to help others tidy up their homes and change their lives from the inside out.

Kondo, whose philosophy centers around the idea that your possessions should spark joy, has now partnered with retail brand Cuyana to launch a mini capsule collection. It makes a lot of sense—Cuyana’s ethos of having “fewer, better things” aligns well with Kondo’s views—and the resulting collaboration is a darling collection of three leather cases: a mini square box, a mini circle box, and a mini long box.  

Inspired by Japanese bento boxes, the Cuyana x Marie Kondo capsule collection is intuitively designed for travel. The three leather boxes fit neatly into the Cuyana jewelry case, and come in a variety of subdued colors.

Inspired by Japanese bento boxes, the Cuyana x Marie Kondo capsule collection is intuitively designed for travel. The three leather boxes fit neatly into the Cuyana jewelry case, and come in a variety of subdued colors.

We sat down with Kondo in Song Tea & Ceramics in San Francisco to talk about her groundbreaking KonMari Method, the power of tidying up, and her new collection with Cuyana. Dwell also hosted a dinner to celebrate its launch—check out the video interview above, and keep scrolling for interview outtakes and photos below!

Dwell: Tell me about the origins of the KonMari Method. How did it all begin? Where did you learn your methods, and how have you adapted or refined them?

Kondo: I became interested in tidying when I was 5 years old. I gathered as much information on tidying as I could, repeatedly practiced the principles I read about, and spent my whole adolescence researching and studying the subject of tidying. 

In my early years, there was a time when I thought that tidying was about “discarding” what I infrequently used or no longer wanted. However, this way of thinking made me feel as though I had to throw away an item regularly. I became somewhat fixated on this—so much so that one day, in high school, I fainted from the build-up of stress. When I woke up after having fainted, I realized that the most important thing about tidying is not deciding what to discard but, rather, deciding what to keep. In that moment, my tidying practice became focused on identifying the things that “spark joy,” and the core of the KonMari Method was born.

I realized that the most important thing about tidying is not deciding what to discard but, rather, deciding what to keep.

—Marie Kondo

When did you realize that your approach might have much larger appeal—to your family and friends, your community, and even globally?

I began seriously researching the topic of tidying when I was 15 years old. At the same time, I started tidying up my friends’ rooms as a hobby. When I became a college student, I had more chances to visit the homes of my friends who were now living alone. Each time I went, I would tidy their spaces. This began a rumor among my friends that when I came to visit their homes, it became dramatically tidy. The word of mouth spread to a wide circle of friends of friends, and people I didn’t know started asking me if I could tidy their homes for a fee. 

When I was 19, I began my profession as an organizing consultant and gained clients as people began to share the positive effects my tidying method had on their lives. By word of mouth, I continued to get more and more referrals for clients. After a while, the waitlist for my session grew to six months, and I started getting requests from individuals to write a book about my tidying sessions. That’s when I decided to publish. But it was only after the book was published that I realized that the approach might have a larger appeal beyond my community and clientele. 

Here at Dwell, we’re staunch believers that your environment has a bearing on your life and mental state. What is it about a tidy home that brings clarity and calmness to you? 

One benefit of of living in a tidy environment would be the confidence you gain in yourself. When you’ve tidied up and live in a space that sparks joy for you, a space filled with items that you treasure, it improves your self-image. You’re able to see yourself as someone well-suited to that lovely, clean room. That’s one very significant effect of tidying up. So, I think being able to ascertain that you’re doing well just by being in a clean room is the most effective thing.

For people who are just starting to organize their lives, do you have favorite tips that you offer them?

Firstly, tidying up tends to be a very solitary activity, so my recommendation is to try telling a friend, or announcing that you’ve begun the tidying process. You can either try telling someone, or make a pact with your friends to tidy up together—I think they’re both great ideas. Of course, the tidying itself is something you undertake alone, but announcing beforehand that you’re going through the process makes it much easier to maintain your motivation. There’s actually a KonMari app, which you can use to communicate with other people and enjoy yourself while tidying, which is another thing I’d suggest.

Dwell and Cuyana hosted an intimate dinner to celebrate the organizing master's new mini capsule collection.

Dwell and Cuyana hosted an intimate dinner to celebrate the organizing master’s new mini capsule collection.

One of the key components of the KonMari Method is ensuring that what you own sparks joy. But what if it’s not black and white? What are some ways to figure out what you actually feel towards something?

Firstly, this idea of “choosing the things which spark joy for you” means selecting the items that make you happy when holding. So, my recommendation is to first be sure to take each and every item in hand. This is extremely important. You have to actually hold the item in hand to be able to feel whether it is something that sparks joy for you. If, for example, when you touch an item your body grows warmer or feels suddenly uplifted, that’s something that sparks joy for you. Conversely, if you touch an object and your body feels heavier somehow, it’s very likely that item is not one that brings you joy. Thus, you have to try touching each and every item. 

The gradual repetition of this process will sharpen your sensitivity, so I recommend beginning from items that are easy for you to choose amongst in order to hone your ability to “joy check.”

Marie Kondo gives a speech at dinner with Cuyana and Dwell.

Marie Kondo gives a speech at dinner with Cuyana and Dwell.

Minimalism as a lifestyle seems to be gaining steam. Why do you think that’s happening as part of the zeitgeist?

Many people are becoming tired about having too many possessions, including SNS. With the arrival of the modern era of mass production, people came to possess much more physical items than before. This, of course, made our lives easier and more convenient, but as a result, many people began to own a lot of things—sometimes even more than necessary. Possessions were supposed to make us happy, but too much time is wasted thinking about how to manage them. I believe that people are seeking for the original purpose of possessing things.

Cuyana cofounder and CXO Shilpa Shah, lifestyle expert Marie Kondo, Cuyana cofounder and CEO Karla Gallardo, and Dwell founder and CEO Lara Deam pose for a photo after dinner.

Cuyana cofounder and CXO Shilpa Shah, lifestyle expert Marie Kondo, Cuyana cofounder and CEO Karla Gallardo, and Dwell founder and CEO Lara Deam pose for a photo after dinner.

Is keeping tidy and organizing a lifelong learning process? For example, are you finding new ways to declutter? 

I think that learning to tidy can be done in one go. The KonMari Method is a simple, step-by-step approach to decluttering your home. To keep a home that sparks joy, however, is a lifelong process. For me, my life changed completely after becoming a mother. When I lived alone, I surrounded myself with things that sparked joy for me and dedicated a lot of time to my hobbies such as yoga, meditation, and reading. After becoming a mother, however, what sparks joy for me now is spending time with my family by reading picture books to my children or tidying together. Since our sense of joy changes as we go through different stages in life, I think it is important to check in once in a while to see what sparks joy for you at the moment—this is a lifelong process.

For more information about Cuyana x Marie Kondo, visit the website.