legs sticking out of clutter

What makes a house a home? It’s a simple fact of life that home is where the heart is, but a home is also a place where a lot of other things accumulate over time that you just don’t need. When we first move into a house, it’s like a blank canvas. As the years tick by, it can become less of the classical masterpiece we once visualized and more akin to something spawned from the brush of Jackson Pollock. Questionable interior design trends, rash purchases, and busy lifestyles can all lead to the day when we wake up on a giant lobster-shaped water bed in a house full of things we don’t need and don’t really like, wondering where it all went wrong.

Never fear, help is at hand. It’s time to get rid of the skeletons in the closet, throw away the toys in the attic, and purge like you mean it. Our handy guide to things your home doesn’t need will allow your house to breathe again, let its spirit soar, and give the place you call home a new lease of life.

White Walls

Room

According to Design Sponge, the all-white aesthetic has been trending in interior design for some time. White walls project an airy, bright, and minimalist theme that looks great in glossy magazines and is capable of invoking fierce jealously on Instagram. White walls are also appealing because they are possible on a strict budget and are a simple fix for even the laziest DIY aficionado. Yet according to interior designer Maria Killam, the white wall craze is built upon a myth propagated by Photoshop filters and artificial lightning.

On her website post, "4 Reasons Your White Walls Look Bad," the internationally renowned color expert explains that she regards the color white as a classic "snob" and a mistake for most homes. Killam explains that white walls will, "only reflect the quality and quantity of light that’s available," and will not, "make your house suddenly look sunny if it’s not." The flip side of that particular coin is that white walls will reflect whatever the dominant color is outside of your window. In other words, an orange building will taint your walls with a peach glow, or an abundance of foliage will curse them with a green tint. Killam warns that we expect an awful lot from white, but it merely reflects color, and as such your walls will never look as bright and light as you hoped. In such circumstances, isn’t it best to ditch the white and introduce some color into your home?

Air Fresheners

Scent

Nobody wants their home to smell like a swamp in peak summer. But according to Considerable.com, those strategically-placed sweet-smelling air fresheners that waft scents around your home and intoxicate your senses with the aroma of roses in summer or a sea breeze in spring could be putting you at risk of serious health issues. University Professor Anne Steinemann has extensively researched fragrant household products and their health implications. Her findings have been published in the journal Building and Environment (via Science Direct) and it makes for disturbing reading. She found that at least 25 percent of air freshener ingredients are classified as hazardous or toxic. Although in the short-term, adverse effects from air fresheners may present themselves in the form of migraines and breathing difficulties, Steinemann points out that, "Ultimately your risk depends on exposure. You don’t have to have symptoms. Just because it doesn’t kill you, it doesn’t mean it’s not harming you. Some effects are not immediately obvious."

A home by its very nature can be subject to a host of unpleasant aromas. Bathroom odors, pets, cooking, and everyday life can all conspire to create the sort of lingering stench that needs instant neutralization. If you dump your air fresheners, what could serve as their less-toxic replacement? According to Fancy Pants Homes, Potpourri, baking soda, indoor herb gardens, and fragrant flowers are all perfect alternatives. Failing that, you could always keep a pot of strong coffee on the boil.

Carpets And Shower Curtains

Bathroom

Once upon a time carpets and shower curtains were standard fittings for many homes, but that day is over. If your home still contains carpeted floors and a plastic curtain hanging around like an embarrassed guest who has outstayed their welcome, you may want to usher in the winds of change. The shower may be the place where you wash away all the stresses and ills of modern life, but if you have an old and weathered shower curtain, in addition to being an eyesore, it could also be the breeding ground for all sorts of bacteria and mold, according to Dr. Jeffrey Brown (via Cleveland Clinic). Yet the doctor did add that unless you have a suppressed immune system, you shouldn’t let worrying about your shower curtain "keep you up at night." The same may not apply to old carpets.

Carpets may offer comfort and a unique aesthetic to a home, but they’re also a haven for dirt, dust, pollutants, pet dander, particle pollution, mold spores, and pesticides (via lung.org). Carpets are notoriously difficult to clean and can be detrimental to your health, especially if you have young children who spend a lot of time on the floor. There’s also another viable incentive for getting rid of carpets and shower curtains. According to The Spruce, hardwood flooring is generally considered superior to carpet and will give your home better real estate value. Likewise, investing in a glass-enclosed shower will pump up the value of your property when it’s time to sell.

Overstuffed Closets

Screaming Woman

Barack Obama told Vanity Fair in 2012, "You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make." Einstein and Steve Jobs were singing from the same hymn sheet and Mark Zuckerberg feels the same way. If you’ve got an overstuffed closet, there’s simply no way you’ll ever be a physics genius, president, or the guy who invented Facebook. According to Business Insider, having to decide what outfit to wear every day can quickly lead to what psychologists call decision fatigue. Psychologist Roy F. Baumeister explains that the more energy you expend on trivial decisions, the less brain power reserves you’ll have for the ones that count.

Yet it gets worse. Overstuffed closets not only dumb you down, but they’re also bad feng shui. According to Love To Know, a closet filled with clutter can impact just as negatively on chi energy flow as a room full of junk. Chi energy struggles to get past all those outdated outfits and discarded shoes in your closet and stagnates. This prevents new chi from entering your house even if the rest of your home adheres to a perfect feng shui design. Overstuffed closets are wrong on so many levels. So perhaps it’s time to make like Eminem and clean out yours?

Picture Walls

Picture frames

Everyone loves to be surrounded by pictures of their nearest and dearest, by exotic landscapes and oil paintings of treasured kittens — but you need to be careful not to overdo it on the picture wall front, or your house will end up looking cluttered and kind of directionless. Walls and pictures go together like bacon and eggs and can add a certain mood and aesthetic to any room, but you’ve got to be careful to strike the right balance. According to Wall Art Crush, not every wall needs a picture, and there are definite instances when less is more.

Blank walls can give off a stark, unforgiving, and frosty vibe. They also may be devoid of personality and expression, but don’t let that fool you into thinking every available inch of wall space must be covered with a picture. Such foolishness leads to the dreaded picture wall, which doesn’t so much suggest personality as it does clutter and chaos. Picture walls can be intimidating and their lack of order can be just as devoid of creativity as a blank wall. If you’ve got a picture wall, perhaps it’s time to lessen the load and remove a few of them. Each picture should complement one another, and the collective effect should be one of balance and harmony. Remember, a picture speaks a thousand words, but too many of them in the same place will render you speechless — and not in a good way.

Knick Knacks

Stacked shelves

Whilst empty shelves and cupboard tops may suggest a lack of personality, a terrible abundance of tat and trinkets is little more than an eyesore and a magnet for dust. It’s time to say feng shui and cleanse. According to Mind Body Green, our surroundings greatly influence our energy. Alongside dirty windows, overstuffed closets, under-the-bed storage, and blocked doors, dusty objects are a big no-no when it comes to generating a flow of positive and healthy energy within your home. As ornaments gather dust in forgotten corners, the good energy stagnates. So why not donate a few of those exotic glass mushrooms you purchased on a whim to charity and let the healing begin?

Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has had a huge influence on people decluttering their homes. Kondo (via Stylist) advises to only keep the things that spark joy and always think along the lines of what you can throw away instead of what you should keep. Kondo believes we think far too much about the process of throwing stuff out because we imbue our possessions with personal neuroses. Perhaps it’s time to confront the cat ornament that has always secretly given you the creeps and firmly say, "Enough’s enough. It’s time for you to leave!" Once you get your house in order, you’ll feel a lot more empowered and in control. And as a nice little bonus, you’ll spend a lot less time polishing.

Pillow Talk

Pile of pillows

A sparse selection of pillows can be comfortable. But just like too many cooks can spoil the broth, too many pillows can turn a thing of beauty into a thing of great ugliness. Pillow selection is a fine art, so it’s time to get creative. According to interior designer Kristina Wolf, you can definitely have too many pillows. She warns that if you can’t lie or sit down on your couch or bed without removing pillow after pillow, your furniture may be suffering from what she terms "grandusthrowpillowitis." Wolf warns that too many pillows will lead to embarrassing situations where your guests are too afraid to sit down for fear of upsetting your carefully constructed pillow architecture.

So how many pillows is too many? Wolf advises that any more than three to six is excessive and impractical. She’s a fan of having a couple of extra throw pillows on the bed for a spot of reading, crafting, or TV-watching, but believes three is always the magic number. Wolf explained, "Three is sort of like a magical design number. This is why you often see throw pillows or couch accent pillows in sets of three. On a bed, you may have two that sit side-by-side with the third, extra smaller pillow that sits right in front — centered along the crack made by the first two." Pillows can be both functional and frivolous, but as Wolf warns, you should always keep your accent pillow population on a short leash — or chaos beckons.

Artificial Vegetation

Indoor greenhouse

Let’s be honest: fake flowers and plants in the home are convenient. They’re zero maintenance and add a splash of color to any setting. Yet according to Decoholic, fake plants and flowers are bad for feng shui and the environment. Natural plants consist of the natural elements of wood, water, and earth, and as such are ideal for adding balance to your home’s feng shui. Certain plants can even be used to focus on specific aspects of feng shui like luck and prosperity. But artificial vegetation has none of these properties — since they’re fake and superficial — and can even throw your home’s natural energies out of whack. The Spruce explains that green plants bring freshness, health, and vitality to our homes, but artificial plants are synthetic and are usually made out of plastic, and all they tend to bring is environmental concerns.

According to Sunset, fake plants are typically not recyclable and certainly not suitable for compost, so they always end up in landfills. Not only that, but even their manufacture can cause environmental pollutants. Fake plants aren’t any cheaper than the real deal and there is a growing consensus that they look kind of tacky. What’s more, you can’t give your friend a cutting from a fake plant, they don’t grow and change over time, and they won’t give your home that elusive but highly-sought-after natural vibe. Perhaps it’s time to keep it real and go green.

Rows and Rows of Books

Loads of books

Everyone loves a well-stocked bookshelf, but in the streamlined and minimalist age of the Kindle, do you need all that extra space taken up by dead trees? The Los Angeles Times reports that, according to Marie Kondo, "books can be clutter," and we should all be turning the page and thinking carefully about what to keep on the shelf and what to chuck in the book bucket. According to the "KonMari method," books that "don’t spark joy" are clutter, and will eat away at your peace of mind and your house’s natural balance. Although Kondo is not suggesting you go on a book-burning rampage, she does advise bookworms to carefully select and keep the books they value most and donate those they’ll never read again to someone who will.

Of course, with the rising popularity of Zoom meetings, everyone knows how sitting in front of an extensive bookcase with a few carefully-selected titles jostling for attention can enhance your reputation. But in the final analysis, there’s probably a lot of literary fat weighing down those shelves which should and could be trimmed. According to The Simplicity Habit, your identity is not found in the books you keep, and letting the book go doesn’t mean the wisdom and knowledge within its pages won’t stay with you. However, if being ruthless with your book collection fills you with a paralyzing dread, it’s probably best to lose yourself in a good novel and leave the heavy lifting for another day.

Fluffy Toilet Wear

Pink toilet cover

Fluffy toilet seat covers and bathroom rugs were all the rage in the 1970s (via Daily Mail) but a 2018 survey named them as the biggest interior design crime of the past 50 years. Lavatorial ornamentation battled against some stiff competition in the form of stuffed animals, and floral ‘chintz’ furniture to claim the title.

Fuzzy toilet décor is not just fashionably offensive, but according to The Spruce they’re also quite unhygienic and just another item you’ll have to spend time washing. Speaking to the Daily Mail, British Institute of Interior Design President Daniel Hopwood said, "I don’t think anyone has any doubt that toilet rugs are not a great idea — for one, they are a breeding ground for germs. I’d be surprised if there are many people out there who’ve actually got one of these, but then again, some people love to be nostalgic with their style." As we all know, you can never underestimate the influence of nostalgia or love of all things retro. So if you’re still dressing up your toilet in fetching shades of pink and blue knitwear, it’s probably best to reconsider a more minimalist approach.