One Quick, Easy Way To Reduce Visual Clutter In Your Home
how to redesign the visual elements of your daily routines
I read Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up on Christmas Day of 2014, just before it hit its peak as a pop culture phenomenon with a Netflix spinoff and dozens of imitators. I found the book simple, readable, and incredibly generous with its advice. Many of Kondo’s tips felt like I was getting permission to do something I’d always known I needed to do, or like an explanation for how to do something I’d never been able to figure out before.
Kondo’s book is also subtle, packed full of wisdom that doesn’t translate neatly into a listicle. It’s about the shame and self-recrimination that we bring to our tidying efforts, and how letting go of that anxiety makes it easier, not harder, to tend to our own living spaces. It’s more like therapy than organization, presenting a worldview rather than a list of strategies to follow.
But once you’ve acquired that worldview, once you’ve gotten on the Konmari Train, you ask yourself: now what? What do I do? Her book walks readers through a complete overhaul of our lives, going through literally every object that we own, sorting by category, eliminating anything that doesn’t spark joy, and rethinking our storage, display, and organizational systems.
It’s a lot, for sure! And I’ll admit, I didn’t do everything she suggested. I picked through her book’s advice just like I’d pick through my closet, selecting things that served me and discarding ones that didn’t.
This is how I stumbled upon one of my favorite Konmari tips, one that hasn’t gotten much attention in all the conversations about “30 books” and the definition of minimalism. It’s incredibly easy to implement, and it’ll significantly change the visual landscape of your home.
Are you ready? Here’s the tip: Stop keeping things in their original packaging, or remove the labels from the packaging entirely.
Labels Create Visual Clutter
As anyone who wants to do more to tidy and organize their home knows, clutter is the enemy. It's not just unsightly, it's stressful! Being somewhere that looks, or feels, cluttered prevents our brains from relaxing or focusing, causes anxiety, and can drive us to procrastination.
When we think of clutter, we often think of actual objects - piles of items, individual things we need to get rid of or put away. But an object itself can be cluttered, if it triggers the same sense of visual overwhelm that a cluttered room does. Most things come with labels and packaging covered in text and advertisements designed to get our attention in stores and stand out among shelves of nearly identical objects.
That means that when we put those visually cluttered things in our homes - cereal boxes on the kitchen counter, soap pumps on the bathroom sink - we subject our eyes and brains to clutter even if everything is in its rightful place. We fill our homes with visual elements that we didn't choose, and which were intended to capture our eyes and distract our minds.
Worst of all, some of the biggest sources of visual clutter are things we find ourselves staring at most frequently during our daily routines. As you stand at the bathroom sink to brush your teeth and complete your skincare routine, what are you looking at? While you're cooking in the kitchen, what are you surrounded by? Visual clutter in a closet or drawer is one thing, but when it comes to the areas of our home that contribute most to our visual experience, it's best to keep them as tidy as possible.
Removing Labels Is Simple & Easy
One simple way to get rid of the visual clutter carried in on packaging is to just rip it off! You can peel the stickers off things like soap bottles and remove clear plastic bags of cereal from their boxes, instantly reducing the visual clutter of their packaging.
Sometimes, adhesive labels leave behind an icky, sticky gunk that doesn't do much to create a sleek, clean atmosphere in your home. A quick swipe with Goo Gone will do the trick, or you could use a home remedy like cooking oil, vinegar, or even mayonnaise.
Decanting Lets You Design Your Home
You can take it one step further by decanting various products into new containers that better fit the aesthetic you prefer. (Decanting, by the way, is just a fancy term for pouring.)
This does cost a bit of money - you need to buy new containers - but it doesn't have to be expensive. I often find great options at my local dollar store, including food storage and soap dispensers. Amazon, Target, and other go-to shopping spots also have perfect solutions for decanting. And, of course, there's always the beloved Container Store, which even has a partnership with Marie Kondo. If you want to get really into decanting, I also recommend investing in some funnels to make things easier.
If you want to splurge, you can select gorgeous containers that fit perfectly with your design. Blur the line between "storage" and "display" by choosing pieces that are pleasant to look at, and enhance your experience of your home. Check out handmade ceramic soap dispensers on Etsy, stoneware canisters from West Elm, and even storage options inspired by modern art!
Some things come with visual clutter that's nearly impossible to remove - take toothpaste tubes, for instance, or cans of soup that might look shiny and sleek without their labels, but become useless mysteries once stripped.
In those cases, do what you can to remove the visual clutter of those labels from your sight. I keep my toothpaste in a bamboo cup, nestled next to my toothbrush. That way, it's accessible and easy to grab, but it's aggressive label is hidden behind plain wood that fits my bathroom's design much better.
The same principle works for things like soup cans - keeping them in their own bin or basket in your pantry lets you scan your pantry and see lovely, hand-selected items rather than a cacophony of packaging.
Try It Today!
I'll admit, I was initially skeptical of this tip at first. I didn't think I was taking psychic damage from the bottles lined up on my bathroom counter, and I'd managed to live my whole life with a kitchen full of foods in their original packages.
But when I tried it, first in my shower, it truly did turn out to be life changing. The simple act of moving my body wash, shampoo, and conditioner into clear containers made my morning shower feel so much more tidy, elegant, and restorative. I felt so much better when my field of vision was less cluttered, and I started doing the same thing everywhere else.
Try it yourself. Peel the sticker off the soap dispenser, pour your rice or pasta into glass jars, and see how you feel. You might be amazed at how much space clears up inside your mind once you've reduced that little bit of visual clutter.