Week 8 – Living and Family Rooms

It’s Week 8 of the 2024 Clever Girl Organizing Challenge! We’re in the home stretch but we still have important work to do!

We’re heading back to the common spaces in the home. You might have different versions of these spaces – living room, family room, TV room, den, sitting room — whatever space you/your family spends “hang out” or entertaining time in, since we all have slightly different homes and live in them differently. We’re looking around at the collections and the clutter that are out in those common areas. Whether your stuff has function (even if that function is just “decor”) or they’re surfing without a home, you’ll go through this week addresses what you’re keeping and why you’re keeping it. 

Collections, whether you think you’re actively growing them or you don’t, are groups of items that have come together, grouped together with purpose. Or not grouped together, but thematic around the home, spread out. Knicknacks, artwork, books, magazines, DVDs, CDs, framed photos, board games, even house plants… they can all be collections that grow over a long period of time. But they take up space and they can be clutter if there’s too much for you to find what you’re looking for. This week, we’re going to put some of these collections on a diet 😉 

The best collections are curated to contain what you LOVE, USE, and NEED. Curating lets you analyze what you have and why you have it, and identify the items that aren’t as important or valuable as the rest. Find those items and se them free! 

ALSO, take a step back and really look at these rooms… pretend you’re visiting your home as a stranger for the first time. What do you see? How does it make you feel? How do you WANT to feel, and is that different? If you’re craving an airier, simpler feel, how is your stuff getting in the way of that?

Don’t forget the guidelines I’d love for you to keep in mind before you start your work:

1) Have the tools you need before you get started — trash bags, recycling, donate box, and “goes somewhere else” box (so you can set things aside and keep going, not be tempted to return things to a different space while you’re working). This week could also use a SHRED box or bag. 

2) Keep taking those BEFORE and AFTER photos, either for your own ability to see your progress, to to share your accomplishments and encourage others in the Facebook Group. 

PS – don’t forget to review the Products and Solutions pages for some inspiration!


While, in general, I want you to tidy up/declutter these spaces and get things back to their homes if they have them (like, the dirty socks on the floor next to the arm chair? Yeah, let’s deal with those), this week is a little more intentional with the analysis and decision making about things that, well, maybe you just don’t pay attention to anymore as they surround you. 

This week, we’re talking about collections of stuff that probably started with function — supplies for hobbies, interests, entertainment, education, things that bring you joy, etc. But now, they may not play that role in your life or your family’s life in the same way, and they take up space. Maybe you’ve outgrown the interest or the items themselves, but since they have dedicated space, you’ve let them stay (or haven’t given them real thought). Maybe you’ve found new interests that come with their own equipment and that space would be way more valuable these days. Whatever your story, there is likely a collection or two or 10 that need attention.

What are some example categories that fit here: 

  • Knicknacks
  • Books (Link to an old Challenge post about editing book collections)
  • CDs/Cassettes/Albums
  • DVDs/VHS
  • Magazines
  • Video Games 
  • Family Games/Puzzles (not *specifically* talking about the kids playroom here)
  • Candles/Flowers/Decorative displays
  • Unique collections on display (dolls, ships, spoons, antique cameras, teacups, family heirlooms, crystal containers, sports memorabilia, etc.)
  • Framed Photos or mementoes
  • Artwork (hanging or surface/shelving – from fine art to the LEGO pirate ship and the handpainted pottery from that birthday party)
  • Electronic equipment (video, stereo, gaming, etc.)
  • Decorative Pillows and blankets
  • Accent Furniture (tables, lamps, etc.) 

And I’m probably not naming the one that is in YOUR home that you know needs some pruning, if not outright eviction.  


1) Clean out and Edit several categories or spaces – Prioritize the spaces that feel the most overwhelming and the ones you *know* deserve a real edit. Do one category at a time. Make sure you have the space to work AND the space to set aside things that aren’t going back in the same space (time for a relo?) or aren’t staying with you at all. Start one shelf at a time, one drawer at a time. Pace yourself!  

2) Wipe Down or wash out surfaces as necessary – These spots can get dusty, so just stay on top of giving it a nice wipe down or whatever the space needs. 

3) Consider the Organization of Keepers – Where things go doesn’t have to be where things have been! Are there different ways to set up your system that better serve who you are today? Is your prime real estate — what really needs to live on a desktop or counter or on a bulletin board for easy/immediate access? 

4) Create Exits for what’s going – This week is probably going to generate more in the donate, giveaway, tech recycle, or sell space. Keep an eye on those #exitstrategy options!


Can’t quite take on this week’s full assignment? You might not have the time, energy, or need. That’s okay! Try to set up at least two 30-minute sessions where you can focus on a critical area in this space or category. Set a timer, stay focused, and see what you can accomplish in less time than it would take to watch a sitcom! 


  • Address everything that’s on a flat surface

  • Focus on editing at least one category of collection in this space

  • Reduce your decor items by 10%


If you’re a Returning Challenger, or if your a First timer looking to go deeper: If you’re ready for a deeper exploration, think about a few different areas maybe you haven’t explored before: 


  • The call to action this week for Returners who have already tackled their collections in the past is to really check for Clutter Blindness. Go back to basics — take pictures and analyze the photos. What are you seeing in the photos that you don’t even see anymore when you’re in these spaces? What clutter surrounds you that you don’t find “in the way”, but at the same time, wouldn’t buy or create in your space today if you had the opportunity? 


    What we keep and what we grow in these rooms often build up over years. YEARS. And in some cases, though we’ve stopped adding to them, the collections have built up and we’ve then preserved them, made space for them, and give them a spot of either honor or valuable real estate, even if they’re not an active part of who we are today. But why? I’m going to talk about 3 contributors here (though there are others, I’m sure!).

    1) Sometimes, it is about OUR IDENTITY. 

    When I see people with extensive collections of books, music, movies, etc., I can tell that there has been great sport and pride in what they’ve gathered over time, that sometimes the hunt for the item is more thrilling than the item itself, or maybe they look at the complete set of what they own and think “I am proud to share with others my accomplishment of collection” here. They may say, “We listen to these CDs and Albums” or “We watch these movies“, or “I reread books sometimes“, and those may be true statements, or those may be lies we tell ourselves. But that is actually less important to them than the idea of “We’ve built this collection and I have a sense of accomplishment for doing so.” The collection and the successful building of it is tied to personal identity. Even if they only occasionally listen to a CD or once in a while watch a movie, and they’re not really listening to ALL the CDs or watching ALL the movies or rereading ALL the books, the collection takes up space in their life, physically and emotionally. Individual items become “friends” and beloved, as a set you’d never dream to break up.  

    And that can be shattering to challenge. So unless there is some REAL reason to challenge it, like you are moving to a place that just won’t handle the size and girth of a collection, it likely stays, untouched. Identity, Unchallenged. 

    But what if you also do that “look around” like I suggested, and ask yourself how the space as a whole makes you FEEL or how you WANT to feel, and you find yourself coming up with an answer that gives you some cognitive dissonance? “I wish we had more room in this space” or “It always looks like it needs to be cleaned because everything collects so much dust and I hate that” or whatever your disappointment it is — you start to have your values come into conflict. And this can be a scary place, and an easy one to avoid. 

    So, this week, we might be dipping our toe in inviting reflection on Values in Conflict — what’s been important to you in the past and why vs what’s important to you NOW and why, and… where does that mean some difficult choices?  

    2) Items were GIFTS, and I should keep them, right? 
    When someone learns we enjoy a category or collect things, we become instantly easier to buy gifts for. “Oh! Kathy loves sea turtles, and I just saw this cute sea turtle and it made me think of her so I am buying it and giving it to her!” Or, “It’s Kathy’s birthday and she loves a good book about organizing; I’ll get her that.” And then we have collections of items we haven’t selected for ourselves, and maybe never would, but, here we are. AND in comes the guilt. We’ve talked about guilt a few times and this one is no different: We can love the person without keeping the thing to prove it. Let’s keep trying that on for size as we find ourselves in that storm of emotion as we’re trying to improve our space to our own dreams, not to the dreams of others. 

    3) Speaking of dreams of others, the collection isn’t *mine* it’s my spouse’s/child’s/etc.
    The thing about the Living Room spaces / Common areas is that it is probably shared space — for how we live, how we spend our time together, and what we keep in it and display throughout it. YOU might be toooootally over your child’s LEGO kit collection on display or your partner’s glory-day memorabilia on display from an athletic victory 40 years ago. How do you negotiate “COMMON” and “But that’s not what I would pick out if I had total say on this space? 

    I don’t have an answer for you; my point here is about highlighting a “Why is this so hard” touchpoint. But if this *is* you, recognize that there may be more here than just “i don’t like the look of those trophies” that is getting in your way of appreciating life in this space. Sometimes, it’s not about the stuff. Check in with yourself to see if that’s afoot here. (PS — maybe someone else in the house has an opinion about YOUR stuff too? Oops.)

    Remember: You’re here because you made a choice to bring your head, heart, and body all in the same direction: to let go of things and have smoother systems in your home. If it was easy, you’d be done by now.

    This one can be an emotional week… but it’s also helping us warm up to next week: MEMORABILIA. Make this week count in terms of really looking around at what we’re surrounding ourselves with and why.

    Happy Organizing!

    Kathy (aka Clever Girl)

    WEDNESDAY, FEB 28th – 7:00pm Eastern


    Week 1 – Jan 8: Kitchen: Food – Pantry, Fridge, and Freezer
    Week 2 – Jan 15: Kitchen/Dining: What we use to prep, cook, serve, eat, store & clean! 
    Week 3 – Jan 22: Bath and Bed: Medicines, Toiletries, Cosmetics, Personal Items, etc. 
    Week 4 – Jan 29: BREAK – take a break, catch up, or sneak ahead
    Week 5 – Feb 5: Clothes, shoes, accessories
    Week 6 – Feb 12: Home Office/Papers 
    Week 7 – Feb 19: BREAK – take a break, catch up, or sneak ahead
    Week 8 – Feb 26: Living / Family Room spaces
    Week 9 – Mar 4: Memorabilia
    Week 10 – Mar 11: Hobbies / Arts and Crafts / Sporting Goods 
    Week 11 – Mar 18: Kid stuff / Holiday Decor / Pet stuff / Other Clutter Traps!