The Living Room Tips You Need to Hear: Family Edition

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Get your living room ship shape for the holidays

The holidays are just around the corner and that means visiting friends and family (and them visiting us). And I just want to put it out there that even as the family-friendly interior decorator that I am, I still have a twinge of panic when I invite people over. What will they think? Will they notice how lovingly our cat has left his marks of approval on our sofa? Will they spot the corner of toys I hurriedly tried to tidy away? Can I pass as an adult?

And the answer is, well....complicated. But I've got some no-brainer tips to help you navigate your emotions straight through to an enjoyable visit for everyone. Because let's face it, you love your friends and family and it feels fantastic to host them.

The living room: decide your storage style

The key to living room organization is storage. There are tons of choices, baskets, tubs,'s endless. But the thing you have to keep in mind is that you want them to be the same. Sure, there's a place for a cute mismatched basket or two, but that will draw the eye TO that item, so make sure it has things you want focused on. For the majority, pick identical storage. It'll look visually appealing and have the added bonus of stacking well.

 Photo by Patrick Perkins  Have little ones? Yeah, put the plants up higher. But you knew that ;)

Photo by Patrick Perkins

Have little ones? Yeah, put the plants up higher. But you knew that ;)

The living room: get the family on board

This part takes a bit of time. It might work once or twice if you say, "Hurry! Aunt Marge is coming, let's see who can get the Lego put away fastest!". But the novelty will wear off and you'll be stuck on your hands and knees tidying.

Instead, work it into the routine. At the end of the night, or before you go for an outing, get the kiddos to clean up. And again. And again. There will probably be moaning. But the more they get the hang of cleaning up small messes, the easier it will be. Because c'mon. Facing a huge pile of things to put away isn't appealing to anyone.

I'm not above using a bribe in this situation. Whether it's something small immediately or a sticker chart of some kind, it's one way to get a not-so-fun habit to be routine.

Oh, ahem, this also applies to you and your partner too ;)

 Photo by Josh Applegate

Photo by Josh Applegate

The living room: secret storage

This one might seem a bit wacky, but you'll be glad you have this trick up your sleeve. Get large storage of some sort. An ottoman with storage inside. One of those travel trunks. I have a large wicker hamper. Basically, choose something that fits in well with your decor and doesn't stand out too much. 

Then comes the magic. Leave it empty. I know, I know! It's tempting to fill it. But you'll be so glad to have it when Aunt Marge is literally pulling into the driveway and there's no time for niceties. Gather up what you can; put it in your storage and put the lid on it. Sit on the top if you have to.

The living room: tray time

Trays are a favorite trick of mine. The most random collection of stuff can look artfully curated when it's put on a tray. It looks intentional.

Aside from that, you can easily clear the table/ottoman/surface by simply picking up the tray and all its goodies and placing it somewhere else.

Speaking of ottomans, trays are fantastic to put on top of coffee table ottomans or any soft coffee table stand in. It allows you to confidently put down your drink without worrying about spillage. And, again, take the tray elsewhere and you've got additional seating when you need it.

 Photo by Drew Coffman

Photo by Drew Coffman

The living room: special occasion fluff

One of my favorite ways to quickly spruce up your room is to add fluff. By that I mean throw pillows, throws, things that you want to snuggle up with. The holiday season is a great time to pick up a few fresh ones. If they're a little bit, well, unwashable, keep them stored away until you need them. And then put them right back out of the reach of sticky fingers or upended tea mugs.

The living room: show your stuff

Despite all the talk about organization above, a living room is where you....well, live. And as beautiful as glossy catalogs are they aren't realistic for families. Frankly, they're boring.

Make sure your living room shows plenty of who you are. Pictures on the walls, the coil pot that junior made in art class, the blanket that your mom crocheted....these are the things that make your home you. And they deserve to be celebrated.

 Photo by Chance Anderson

Photo by Chance Anderson

The living room: you

At the end of the day, visitors are there to see you. They most likely won't even notice the things you're worried about. And if they do? If there's no way to cover up the ginormous marker swath across the sofa? Give yourself grace. Your friends and loved ones love you. They love you because you're real. And not perfect. So put up your feet and enjoy your home with them.