You don’t have to spend a lot of time and money to freshen up your home this year. Dawn Thomas with After Five Designs is here to help with a few useful tips.  


The best way to begin the New Year, along with resolutions and new commitments, is to de-clutter and organize your living space. A well-organized home is easier to clean and when filled with meaningful pieces. It reflects the personalities of everyone in your home and creates a welcoming environment to live and entertain. Take one room at a time, open all the doors and cabinets and pretend you are seeing those spaces for the first time.

1.  Edit.

The Family Room/Den is usually the place everyone gathers, and therefore, it gathers clutter.

Remove all the accessories and unnecessary items and put them in another room and begin with a blank slate.  Does the furniture arrangement identify the main focal point of the room (usually the TV or fireplace)?

Always build seating around those areas.  Items seen each day sometimes become common, so consider switching art from room to room to give new appreciation to that special piece.

Put accessories back if they are meaningful or tell a story.  We often start with temporary accessories just to fill spaces, but this is the time to retire or donate them.

Remember: Older or passed-down items are only needed if they remind you of a special journey in your life, not someone else’s.  Editing is a wonderful tool and it is free.

2.  What To Display

Properly displaying your beloved accessories and treasures is a way to honor items you have chosen to keep.  Group similar or related items together to create a story.  A gold tray with your Wolfe bird collection on a table is stunning and your favorite vase put on an acrylic stand gives it new importance. Consider display boxes and pedestals for those special items.

3.  Painting.

Painting is one of the least expensive and most impressive ways to freshen a room.  Always buy a small amount to begin and test the color in the room first. Be sure to evaluate color in daylight and at nighttime.  If the room is a high traffic area, make sure the paint can be wiped clean to remove fingerprints, crayons and scuff marks.

4.  Kitchens  

The kitchen is the “heart of the home,” but doesn’t need to be a showcase of appliances. Put away seldom used machines and clear the counters. This is a work place that needs to be functional, clean and beautiful. Store your fresh fruit in a bowl that is neutral but coordinates with your color scheme.  Marshall’s and TJ Maxx have great inexpensive kitchen items, but remember only bring new items into the space that are necessary and lovely.

Use the same concept of editing for the kitchen drawers that contain old, seldom-used or worn kitchen tools.  Buy clear bins for these drawers and place frequently used tools together by size.  Throw away all plastic cups and food storage containers that don’t match or have odd sizes.

5.  Toys.   

Children’s toys can be quite overwhelming.  Take a day to go through all toys and remove those that are no longer being enjoyed or are damaged, worn and dirty.

Use a large basket to corral the favorite toys at the end of playtime and put other toys in easily accessible bins within easy reach of the little ones.  School art can be placed in folders/portfolios with only the currant “masterpiece” on display.

6.  Books and Magazines

Books and magazines reflect the personality of the homeowner, but no home should be overrun with reading material. Neat stacks of current magazines are often used on coffee or side tables. If a particular article is needed for future reference simple tear it out and file it and the rest of the magazine can be thrown out or recycled.

Beautiful art books can be used in every room stacked from tallest to shortest and the spines all straight and pulled together.  Decorative items can benefit from being displayed on top of a small stack of books either on a table or in a bookshelf.

7.  Closets  

The quickest way to organize a closet is to hang clothing on matching hangers.  Not only does it look better but it instantly gives more space because clothes are hung neat and uniformly.

Hanging items by color can sometimes be eye opening that maybe you don’t need 25 black jackets, for example, and is a good way to weed out ill fitting and never worn items.  Shoes should be kept together as pairs in shoe boxes or simple shoe racks.  Even a pretty basket at the back door can serve as a storage spot for the shoes you wear to walk the dog or pick up the newspaper that don’t make it back to the closet.

8.  Frames  

Changing a frame or how a picture/photo is framed can instantly refresh a room.  Most art should be matted with neutral mats since colored mats detract from the art itself.  It is more pleasing to the eye if frames are kept in the same color family throughout.  Whether your taste is gold gilded or modern black/white and contemporary the frames should kept the same color way in line with your décor.

9.  Keep like items together 

Is the wrapping paper, tissue and ribbon in one place? Can you find all placemats and napkins together? Are pens, paper and notepads within easy reach and when you need them? Even medicine cabinets and spice racks benefit from this mantra.   This one simple theory can keep your home in order for years to come.

10.  Upkeep.

Once you’ve finished your room-to-room de-clutter, step back and appreciate your accomplishment and make a commitment to keep it fresh and clutter-free.

You will begin to feel differently about your home and enjoy it more because you have begun a life of balance and beauty in your surroundings.  Josh Becker, author of “Simplify,” says, “Don’t let perfect become the enemy of better.” Once a week,  take ten minutes to go back through each room and make sure you are maintaining a refreshed a clutter-free environment.