Here are some rules I try to stick by that help things to not feel cluttered in our space:
1. Only keep what your family needs. For example, I don't allow myself to have "two" of most things. Rather than lots of choices, I value quality and simplicity. So instead of using all different colored and sized plates, I have eight white large plates, eight small white plates, eight white bowls, and twelve multipurpose clear glass mugs (for cool drinks and coffee/hot tea). The kids get three plates each and some little tumblers like these for snacks. They each have two drink cups with lids. These are all easily accessible and fit into one cabinet. I got sick of all of the cups and plates falling all over me as I used to have to hunt for them. And hint: I made sure the cabinet that all of my commonly-used dishes are in is right above the dishwasher for easily unloading.
2. We all have clutter, some of us just hide it better than others! I have little kids and that means little pieces, tons of 'stuff,' and frequent messes. When I look around my house, it stresses me out to see all the pieces laying everywhere. I have things arranged so that we utilize six different baskets in the living room where we keep a lot of the kid's toys. There really isn't a rhyme or reason to the baskets, they are just there so I can quickly have all of the toys picked up and put away out of sight when I need them to be. Same goes for closets. I go through periods where my closets are very neat. Right now at the end of summer, they really need a good reorganizing. But for the time being- out of sight out of mind. I close that closet door and the mess temporarily disappears. We function so much better when closets are tidy, but when you're in survival mode, just closing the door works too.
3. Less is More. This applies to possessions, furniture, and decorations. I like to decorate with things we actually use- I have pretty pots because I hang them on a pot rack, and that's one of the only 'decorations' in the kitchen. I let Evie's leather moccasins sit on the dresser because I think they're beautiful. I hung up a floppy summer hat on her wall because it's cute AND it is easily accessible when she needs to wear it. We don't have a whole lot laying around. My mind is more at ease when things are simple. Also, SO much easier to clean and keep clean. I can go around and tidy my whole house in about 15 minutes. That's not a deep clean, but it looks neat for guests in about 15 minutes. I really value that!
4. Yard sale and Thrift. I can keep less laying around because I know if I really need to replace something or buy an item, I can get it for relatively cheap second hand. I would say on average I save 90% off store prices by buying gently used items. Some of my favorite yard sale and thrift finds have been things like kitchen wares (I got a vintage food mill this summer because I enjoy canning and making tomato sauce), kids clothes (those beautiful baby moccasins- those were a yard sale find), toys (the Noah's Ark boat pictured below), baskets for storage, and furniture.
5. Stay bright, light, and cheery. No dark colors on walls, heavy window coverings, or bad lighting. To me, small spaces are best served with quality light fixtures and lots of windows. I've made the mistake of going bold and dark in the house when we first moved in, and eventually changed over to either off white or this light light gray color for every room. Makes everything flow nicely.
These are pictures of my house on Saturday afternoon during nap time. This is pretty typically the way it looks when the kids aren't up and playing.