Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Weekend

Order in the House

by Gabrielle Fagan

Clutter messes with relationships as well as homes, according to a new survey. Clear that junk with some simple storage solutions, says Gabrielle Fagan.

Affairs might shatter relationships but household clutter, it seems, comes a pretty close second, not to mention the havoc it wreaks on decor, too.

On average, 32 rows a year are caused by couples bickering over rooms being overloaded with possessions, according to research by Big Yellow Self Storage, which also reveals that one in 10 actually split over the issue.

In desperation, a typical couple reluctantly throw away around £240-worth of possessions they'd rather keep in the first year of living together, with men ditching sports equipment and women dumping sentimental items.

"Inviting someone to live with you can feel a bit like being invaded by someone else's belongings, and this can result in subconscious 'space guarding', where you use your possessions to mark out your territory," says relationship psychologist Anjula Mutanda. "Any perceived violation of this by your partner can cause tensions - instead, try to negotiate as much as possible on what stays and goes, and be prepared to compromise."

Alternatively, avoid losing sports tackle, cuddlies or - worse - love, by following a room-by-room storage plan devised by the experts ...

Smart Entrance

Cluttered halls are a pretty good clue that the rest of the house isn't well organised, so tackle this area first. It will also make a good first impression on visitors, especially key if they're potential house-buyers.

"Nothing's guaranteed to put me in a bad mood more than opening the front door of my house to be greeted by a tangle of school bags, boots and discarded coats left by my sons," says Alison Cork, founder of online interiors company, Alison At Home.

"A large trunk's proved the ideal hiding place. They just have to lift the lid and drop, and it makes a useful seat."

CLUTTER SOLUTIONS: Instead of bulky wardrobes, display clothes on rails and a dressmaker's dummy, advises Cork. "It's easy to see outfits at a glance, and clothes add colour and character to a room. Cheap metal loo-roll holders make brilliant jewellery holders, and put all beauty products on a tray so you can just lift it up to clean the shelf underneath or transport the lot to the bathroom."

CLUTTER KIT: Wall Mounted Plate Rack, £95, and Shoe Storage Bench With Drawer, £295, Alison At Home. Follow Cork's example with a hall trunk, such as a Road Crew Coffee Trunk, £323, Hampshire Furniture. Compact Metal Storage Trunks, £89 each, Idyll Home, could hide a multitude of clutter sins.

An Orderly Retreat

Create order out of chaos with a well-organised living area where everything has a place, and avoid rows triggered by stumbling over scattered toys and corners clogged with possessions.

"Gone are the days of storing items behind closed doors, as the trend for open shelving is quickly becoming a favourite. This style makes spaces feel more homely," says Claire Hornby, creative stylist at Barker & Stonehouse.

"Exposed display works especially well if you want to highlight striking collections as a focal point, and it has the added advantage that you will quickly notice if surfaces are becoming over-crowded."

CLUTTER SOLUTIONS: Glass bookcases and shelves are a popular choice, particularly for modern spaces that demand a sleek, streamlined aesthetic, says Hornby.

"Shelving designs are moving away from conventional straight-lined surfaces towards curved shapes," she says. "A smart mix of glass and integrated lighting on shelving is a strong trend, while reclaimed woods and metal finishes are still a favoured choice."

CLUTTER KIT: A Blu Dot Dang Two And Two AV Unit, £2,199, Heal's, may be oddly named but is a masterpiece of design. If that blows the budget, Ikea's Besta TV bench, with drawers in Tofta gloss white, is a snip at £194.

Coffee tables are like magnets for clutter, but there's ample hideaway room in sleek white Carree Coffee Table, £400, Go Modern, which combines drawers and open storage. Tesco's Oslo storage range is excellent value, and an Oslo 2 Drawer Tall Storage Unit is only £169.

Recipe for Order

Kitchens are the hub of the home, so every inch of space needs to be used to maximum effect.

"We seem to cram more and more in our kitchens nowadays, as people generally have more crockery thanks to the advent of dishwashers, and that coupled with the growth of hi-tech gadgets, from coffee makers to juicers, means storage is key," says Tony McCarthy from kitchen specialists, Crown Imperial.

"Tall larder storage, slim, mid-height cupboards to fill an awkward space between a wall and the units, and deep pan drawers can solve a lot of problems."

CLUTTER SOLUTIONS: Drawer dividers ensure contents don't descend into chaos, advises McCarthy. "Baskets in cupboards and wall-mounted racks also work well."

CLUTTER KIT: Crown Imperial's Spaceworks collection includes a tall integrated pull-out larder with five baskets from £1,210, and a 150mm mid-height pull-out unit, from £281.

A kitchen which can be hidden in a cupboard may sound too good to be true, but Rational have created exactly that. The German company's Vision stand-alone compact kitchen starts from £3,000, excluding appliances. A Seletti Suburbia Wall Storage Unit, £269, Vale Interiors, packed with compartments and a pinboard, could be a perfect repository for lists, reminders, photos and pencils.

Calm and Clean

Bathrooms pictured in glossy magazines always seem to have acres of room and stunning views, but the reality for most of us is probably that they're the smallest room in the house, and overflow with toiletries and towels.

"A common mistake is to incorporate storage solutions which make a room feel more cramped, rather than enhancing space," says Sarah Holey, marketing manager for bathroom specialists, Laufen.

"Think about how you use the bathroom and which areas attract the most mess, so that you specifically target those with suitable cupboards."

CLUTTER SOLUTIONS: Wall-hung storage and freestanding pieces can make a room feel bigger by exposing more floor, suggests Holey. "Modular furniture allows for even greater flexibility and can be mixed and matched to suit storage requirements. Make clearing away easy with a good size laundry basket with a lid."

CLUTTER KIT: Two drawers plus a side cupboard make a Palace Vanity Unit, from £1,326, Laufen, an outright storage winner.

Online company STORE (A Place For Everything) is awash with clever solutions, such as a Slimline Bamboo Storage Cabinet, £99, and my favourite - a Shaker Style Under Sink Unit, £59, which can simply be slotted in to disguise a pedestal.


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