Naturally messy? Here are 6 tips on how to keep neat and tidy

Being messy doesn’t have to mean you’re destined to live in a state of chaos

3D rendering, Couch with cushions and floor lamp. Getty Images
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Wouldn’t it be lovely if your living space could look like something from a home interiors magazine? They’re always so neat and tidy, so perfectly styled, but the truth is most of us fall far short of that level of perfection unless we have important guests coming round. For people who are ­naturally messy, achieving anything close to a show home can seem impossible.

Thankfully, being messy doesn't have to mean you're destined to live in a state of chaos. There are plenty of design tricks you can use to either help make sure your home stays clutter-free, or at the very least distracts the eye so the mess is less noticeable. Here are just a few examples...

Declutter, declutter, declutter

Even the tidiest person will struggle to keep an excessively full home clean. You don't have to become a complete minimalist to have a neat living space, but you do have to ensure that you don't have more possessions than you do space. Otherwise, you're fighting a losing battle, constantly shuffling one thing out of the way to make room for another.

Marie Kondo's KonMari method is a good place to start when it comes to decluttering. Her process takes you through your entire home in a regimented order, starting with clothes and ending with nostalgic items, such as photos and diaries, things that are hard to part with. The KonMari technique won't necessitate getting rid of everything you own, only those things that don't "spark joy". With less in your home, it will be harder to be messy.

Woman with the shoes in the hand and Woman's shoes in the rack. Getty Images
The KonMari technique won’t necessitate getting rid of everything you own, only those things that don’t “spark joy”. Getty

Nail that storage system

Kondo also has some great ideas for storage, with her key principle being that everything in your home should have its own place. Even inside a drawer, she'll advise having a number of small boxes to divide items. Similar to how you might have a cutlery tray for dividing spoons, knives and forks in the kitchen, you could also have dividers to separate ties, socks and underwear in an accessories drawer in your bedroom.

Elsewhere, open shelving and clear, flat surfaces are danger zones for messy people, inviting you to put stuff down in an arbitrary fashion until an inevitable avalanche ensues. If you need to store things in these areas, choose attractive but functional storage boxes, trays and other containers to keep your possessions in an orderly fashion. Make sure that each has only one function and label it so you don’t forget what it is. With your system in place, tidying up should become super-simple and therefore not a chore you put off until you’re living in disarray.

A white chest of drawers. Getty Images
Group items in drawers with dividers. Getty Images

Choose low-maintenance decor throughout

The smallest thing can make a room look messy, even if you've tidied away all that clutter only moments ago. Wrinkled sofa cushions, textiles that shed fluff, fingerprints on glass or metallic surfaces, rugs that have slipped into an uneven position – staying on top of these high-maintenance items can be too much for a naturally messy person to handle. So try to fill your room with furniture and accessories that will make your job easier.

Also, remember that the more pieces of furniture you have in a room, the more cluttered it will look and the more work you’ll have to do to keep it all tidy. Choosing built-in furniture is much more effective, allowing you to find a place for everything without having to have excessive numbers of bureaus and dressers all over the place.

Target the junk traps

There are a few classic areas where junk collects, even in the neatest of homes. Hallways get cluttered with bags and shoes that are discarded when you arrive home. Stairs can often sprout piles as we pop things down "to take upstairs later" and then forget about them when we're trudging up to bed. Paperwork also has a nasty habit of covering spare surfaces until the problem is big enough to prompt us to take action.

Cushions and toy guitar under steps at home. Getty Images
Beware of areas where piles of clutter collect, such as under the stairs. Getty

You probably recognise that one or more of these issues is something you face – in which case nip it in the bud. Hang hooks in the hallway and invest in a shoe stand so bags and footwear can be neatly stowed with no effort. Put a pretty – and easy to carry – basket on the stairs so that clutter is contained while it's there and can then be moved to its rightful place easily. And put an "in-tray" somewhere central so that paperwork is also contained and ordered for when you're ready to either file or action it.

Get the kids involved

Children can really scupper your efforts to stay mess-free. Let’s face it, the majority of them are untidy and quite often have to be bribed to clean up. But if you can make the process fun, you’ve already won half the battle. Colourful storage systems with easy-to-understand labels will make packing away their toys at the end of the day much less of a chore.

Depending on their age, you may even be able to get them to help you create a suitable storage system, picking out furniture or accessories so they have a sense of ownership. This should make them willing to accept their role in keeping their spaces in order.

Style your house tidy

Although no one is suggesting you get rid of everything decorative that you own, accessories can create a cluttered feel. Naturally messy people struggle to keep everything in its place and – perhaps more importantly – dusted. So, go back to Kondo's method and get rid of anything that doesn't spark joy. With what's left, think about how you can curate them into impactful groupings, which will give your room a much more styled feel. For example, instead of having small vases and knick-knacks scattered around, group them together on a decorative tray or, better yet, under a Victorian-­style cloche to save dusting. Equally, a printer's tray is great for small items.

This idea of curation goes beyond accessories, too. In the kitchen, if you place your tea, coffee and sugar containers on a suitable tray, you’ll not only make it look better but you’ll be able to move it around more easily when cleaning.

You may not be able to change your innate nature, but by putting in a little thought and effort now, you can set up systems that will help you stay tidy despite yourself.