It is Week 4 of the Less Mess Challenge! This week we will be decluttering and organizing the living room and dining room. Living rooms and dining rooms really vary by family and house, so whatever it is you’ve got or how many you’ve got, try to tackle them this week!

For this week's less mess challenge, we'll be focusing on decluttering and organizing the living room and dining room. Love your home again!
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Living Rooms & Dining Rooms

Living rooms or family rooms are often multi-purpose spaces—where you watch movies, practice instruments, play games, read books, and host guests. They’re hard-working spaces that need to be comfortable, clean, and functional.

Living rooms should be clean, calm, and comfortable.
Photo: McCoy Artwork

Dining rooms, in many homes, are the places where items get stacked on the table until they’re ready to be dealt with—at least in my home!

Dining rooms may not get used as often as living rooms do, but they should still be neat and tidy so you can easily find what you need or host a dinner without having to spend a few hours cleaning it up first.

Add a formal living room to that and you may have a lot on your list.

Before diving in, evaluate your spaces. How do they feel? How do you want them to feel? Remember, your home has to work for you. If you have a formal living or dining room that rarely gets used, think of other ways you can use that space.

In our home, there are rooms intended for both a formal living and dining room. We didn’t want to use those rooms in that way, so we moved our dining room to where the formal living room was and created a playroom and homework station in the former dining room.

Homework station details
Read about our Homework Station here.

If both spaces are too much for you to tackle in a week, do a quick declutter in each space by clearing the surfaces and tidying the shelves.

If You Only Have 30 Minutes: Quick Declutter

Want a printable checklist? Find that here.

If you only have a few minutes…

  • Reset the space and clear as many surfaces as you can.
  • Tables often collect old cups, magazines, toys, half-finished project, cell phones, and other random flotsam and jetsam.
  • Return all items to their proper location within your home.
  • Fold any blankets left out on the couch and straighten pillows.
  • Quickly evaluate books or knickknacks you’ve got on any shelves—add ones you’ll never read or no longer love to the donate bin.

Folding blankets and tucking them away instantly makes a living room feel cleaner.
Photo: McCoy Artwork

Clearing surfaces and putting away blankets will instantly make your space feel better. We store our blankets in small ottomans that double as extra seating when we have guests.

If You Have an Hour: Declutter & Surface Clean

If you’ve got an hour

  • Clear the surfaces, as stated above, but also dust or wax them.
  • Evaluate your mantle and any shelves you have. Take items down, dust, and return only what you love. Some items can likely be donated or put in a box of décor that you can mix up with other décor in other spaces in your home.
Do you love what you're displaying in your living room? If not, let it go!
Photo Credit: McCoy Artwork

Related Post: How to Reduce Visual Clutter

  • Clear your dining room table.
  • Vacuum the floors in the living room and dining room.

If You Have a Few Hours: Declutter, Deep Clean & Organize

The Living Room:

  • Clear all your shelves, if you have them. Dust them off. Put nothing back without looking through it and deciding whether you’d like to keep it. Be realistic about what you’ll use and what you won’t.
  • Books & Magazines: Get rid of those you’ve had for over a year and haven’t read. Get rid of any you’ve read and won’t read again. Local preschools and senior centers are often grateful for magazines.
Declutter and organize the living room by going through books and deciding what to keep.
Photo: McCoy Artwork

Related Post: Decluttering Books

  • Picture frames: Less is more. Pick a few of your favorites and put away the rest. You can rotate them out periodically or add them to other places around the house. While your shelf may seem empty without them at first, you’ll get used to the open space and will appreciate how much easier it is to dust.
  • Games: If you keep games in your living room, choose just a few favorites to keep out. Consider repackaging games into zipper bags and hiding them in a basket.

Related Post: Game Box Organization

Related Post: Board Game Storage without a Box

  • Devices: If you keep devices in the living room, consider getting a charging station to keep them all in one convenient spot.
Add a hidden charging station in your living room

Related Post: Hidden Charging Station

  • Blankets: Blankets are so warm and cozy—there’s no better place for them than the living room, but don’t go overboard. One blanket per person is probably plenty for your family. Extras can go in bedrooms or be donated to local shelters.
  • Pet toys: As with your children, your pets probably have more toys than they need. Find a bin or basket to keep the toys in—if you don’t already have one—and only put the items your pet really loves in it.
  • Candles and other décor: Do I need to keep saying it? Minimize what you’ve got out. Keep only what you love.

The Dining Room

  • Table: Clear off the table and dust it.
  • Buffet / Hutch / China Cabinet: Go through all drawers and shelves. Evaluate the items within, keeping only what you love and need.
    • Do you need all those tablecloths?
    • Surely you won’t use those stained placemats.
    • Can we let go of the half-burnt birthday candles?
    • Do you really need that box of 40 tea lights?
    • You have HOW MANY cake cutters?
  • Liquor Cabinet: If you’ve got a liquor cabinet or other alcohol items in your dining room, let go of those you don’t like.
Don't forget to declutter that liquor cabinet while you're tidying the dining room.

Related Post: Decluttering & Storing Alcohol and Liquor

  • China: If you love your China, use it! If you have old China, you don’t love or use, look it up at to see if they’re purchasing it back for a good price. Here are some other ways to upcycle China.

A Note on Saving Items for Special Events & “Someday”

When I was younger, I had quite the sticker collection. I’d get a sheet of stickers I loved and put it in a binder, waiting for the perfect time and place to use it. After all, once those stickers were stuck to something, I could never use them again!

Guess what happened?

I grew up and gave all my unused stickers away. I was so busy waiting for someday, I never enjoyed them.

Many times we think everyday life isn’t special enough for the stickers or the fancy china, but what will ever be special enough?

If you have China you love, use it. If it breaks, at least it got broken doing what it was meant to. Bring it out for birthdays, good report cards, Sunday dinners… whatever.

It’s not doing ANYONE any good sitting in a cabinet protected for someday.

Clean your Spaces

Clean: Dust, wax, or polish all furniture. Dust Baseboards and windowsills, wash windows and curtains. Wipe down light fixtures and switches. Vacuum floors, couches, and chairs.

Organizing the Living Room for Children

Does your family do EVERYTHING, including play, in the living room? As always, less is more. Here are some ways you can balance the space for adults and kids:

  • Cabinets with doors that close hide toys in plain sight.
  • Toss big toys in baskets that match your style instead of brightly colored plastics
  • Look for furniture that doubles as storage – such as ottomans for lids
  • Grab a bench with baskets (generally intended for mudrooms) but store toys instead of shoes.
  • Consider toy rotation so fewer toys are out at a time.

Remember, the phase of large plastic toys in the living room is fairly short. While it can really mess with the aesthetics of a space, you’ll reclaim your room soon enough. Just try to be patient and take it as it comes.

Decluttering & Organizing the Living Room & Dining Room

Decluttering and organizing dining rooms and living rooms may be a ton of work for you this week, or they may not be much work at all. Do what you can to clear your space.

It’s easier to relax and spend time together as a family when your space is minimal and tidy.

The less you have, the less you have to clean!

Next Up: Playroom & Toys

Last Week: Mudroom & Coat Closet

Return to the Less Mess Challenge

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