Elegant Simplicity, an interior design business based on Camano Island, help declutter, organize and remodel homes around Western Washington. (Melissa Kilner)

Elegant Simplicity, an interior design business based on Camano Island, help declutter, organize and remodel homes around Western Washington. (Melissa Kilner)

Want a home that’s a joy to live in? Keep it (elegantly) simple

Decluttering is essential for comfortable interior spaces, say design experts John and Sherri Monte of Camano Island.

Be honest: When was the last time that extra piece of furniture in the living room made you happy?

It might be a cute shelf, a fancy coffee table or a dresser displaying a family heirloom. It could also be clutter.

So what’s the problem with that? Well, a few things, say John and Sherri Monte, founders of Elegant Simplicity on Camano Island. The husband-and-wife team has decluttered, reorganized and remodeled homes from Camano to Bellevue since 2009.

Clutter can cause stress, embarrassment and disorder, they say. It also wastes time, energy and money keeping all that at bay.

“Life is complicated, and with that comes a lot of stuff,” Sherri Monte said. “If you can identify clutter, you can create an exit strategy.”

The idea goes beyond furniture.

Shoes piled up at the door, paperwork stuffed in a cabinet and misplaced recycling bins can be just as detrimental as a useless shelf, said Sherri Monte.

“We don’t tend think of our home as a place of indulgence,” she said. “It becomes four walls where we drop things, as opposed to a place where we can come home and decompress.”

They say the goal is to return to a clean home, so you can find the time and space to indulge in the fruits of life. The exercise of organizing can shine a light on what’s important in a home.

The trick, John Monte said, is right there in their company name: finding elegance through simplicity.

“For us, it’s always been about helping others,” he said.

Sherri Monte added: “That way they get more of the important things: friends, family and enjoying life.”

The Montes believe a less crowded space gives it more room to grow. (Melissa Kilner)

The Montes believe a less crowded space gives it more room to grow. (Melissa Kilner)

Fixing the clutter problem starts with three questions: 1. Do you use it? 2. Do you love it? 3. Do you need it?

If the answer is no to any of the above, that thing is more than likely clutter.

“It comes back to how you’re going to use and live in your home,” John Monte said.

John, 29, and, Sherri, 38, call their process “focus-driven reorganization.” Homeowners can narrow down how they want to use a particular space by thinking about it in terms of activity zones.

“It creates an optical illusion where function is there and all the things you need are there,” John Monte said. “But, aesthetically, it feels calming, soothing and relaxing.”

John and Sherri Monte, a husband-and-wife team who founded Elegant Simplicity in 2009, focus on optimizing each room for functionality, rather than excess. (Melissa Kilner)

John and Sherri Monte, a husband-and-wife team who founded Elegant Simplicity in 2009, focus on optimizing each room for functionality, rather than excess. (Melissa Kilner)

The following are some of the Montes’ tips for organizing and decluttering:

Start fresh. Take everything out of the kitchen pantry, bedroom closet or dresser drawers, then focus on how to best use the space. Prioritize what is needed and what isn’t, rather than thinking about what to toss out.

Leave room to grow. Don’t fill your shelves, your cabinets or drawers to the brim. More breathing room means less clutter. The added bonus: more flexibility.

Keep it simple. Avoid tackling everything all at once, or it will feel like chaos. Declutter one room — or one specific area of a room — at a time. Once the space feels like it has clarity, move onto the next.

Plan and systemize. Start by evaluating your routines and how you use different areas of the home. A better understanding of daily habits — such as where you fold clothes, drop a stack of mail or store the recycling — will help design a system that keeps a home clutter free.

Let it breathe. Recognize how you’re interacting with — or fighting with — a particular space. This will lead to better furniture layout, a more welcoming environment and more comfortable living.

Less is more. An overcrowded space with tons of decor and accessories isn’t ideal. When accessorizing, think of subtle ways to make loved ones feel welcome. Don’t overdo things for the sake of having more.

Find more tips about organizing and decluttering at www.elegantsi.com.

Evan Thompson: 425-339-3427, ethompson@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @ByEvanThompson.

The cost of clutter

Constant stress

Wasted time looking for things

Paying for extra storage

Embarrassment

Buying duplicates for lost items

Late fees on bills and taxes

Lost tickets and gift certificates

Missed opportunities

Family tension

The benefits of being organized

Better energy and mental clarity

More time and space

Higher self-esteem

Money savings

Increased productivity and efficiency

Freedom to pursue your goals

Household harmony

Source: Elegant Simplicity

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