I Tried “Knolling” to Organize My Home — Here’s How It Went

Kitchen utensils.
Credit: Laura Wheatman Hill Credit: Laura Wheatman Hill

My home is highly functional and often disorganized, due to my life as a single parent to two children with ADHD and my own neurodivergence to sift through. That’s why I’m always looking for new organizational systems that can make my life easier. When I recently heard about “knolling,” an organizing system for artists, I decided it might be worth a try.

Although I am by no means an “artist,” knolling still seemed to intrigue me. My house, a suburban, contemporary home built in 1979, has a certain art to it. High ceilings partially lined with warm wood and big, white gallery walls frequently get compliments from visitors, including some visual artists. But the artistry ends there, for the most part.

Children's toys.
Credit: Laura Wheatman Hill Credit: Laura Wheatman Hill

What Is Knolling?

The purpose of knolling is to streamline workflow by creating visually appealing, simple collections of things by arranging them at right angles. It was coined by sculptor Andrew Kromelow in 1987 as a way he organized his tools. Kromelow worked as a janitor in Frank Gehry’s furniture studio, which was affiliated with Knoll Furniture. Artist Tom Sachs, who also worked in Gehry’s studio, popularized the organizational concept in 1989. Now, the term has taken off again on TikTok with #knolling showing off hundreds of videos of people applying this concept in their homes.

How to Use Knolling to Organize Your Home

Many people “knoll” their tools in drawers to better organize the space. It is deeply satisfying to open a drawer and have everything laid out for you — each with its own perfectly sized spot. If a tool is missing, you know immediately because the gap is obvious.

To knoll, you first need to identify and remove items no longer in use, group all the remaining items by category, and organize the objects at right angles, sometimes called “squaring” so they lie in a visually appealing, artistic grid.

Drawer with a variety of images.
Credit: Laura Wheatman Hill Credit: Laura Wheatman Hill

How I Tried It

The reality is that although I initially thought knolling was intriguing and worth pursuing, it was hard to achieve for my particular home and lifestyle. I’ve embraced Cluttercore, a slightly maximalist design strategy for people who like visual stimuli. My bookshelves are organized but packed with non-color-coordinated books and knickknacks, many of which seem random but are precious. My kids’ toys are in doom boxes throughout our home, as are power cords, art supplies, and tools. Can I knoll it? Sure. Will it stay that way? Probably not.

I had some fun artistically arranging the appliance drawer in the kitchen, the bookshelf keepsakes, a doom box of toys, and some artwork by my children. I took everything out of its receptacle, laid it all out on the surface, identified items I wouldn’t include, removed anything I wasn’t using, and then laid them out piece by piece at right angles.

Drawer with a variety of images.
Credit: Laura Wheatman Hill Credit: Laura Wheatman Hill

I found it satisfying to find pieces the right size to fill in the grid without making a new section. But, at times I would eliminate pieces I did use because they didn’t fit my design. I also went looking for items when I had a gap. This doesn’t seem like the correct way to prioritize only using items you need in the squaring phase — more of a way to make the square square. I’m not patient or skilled enough to only use what I need and make it fit a perfectly balanced square.

When it came time to put the objects away, back into their jumble they went. Is there a world (maybe when my kids are older?) where I can knoll to my heart’s content? Probably. But I doubt my particular heart will be content knolling. 

The truth is seeing the right angles didn’t bring me peace. Rather, the obsession with perfection reminds me of all the concrete and immaterial things in my life that are askew, like all the photos hanging in my living room or my time management. So bring on the Cluttercore.