Zoom or take a few steps forward, when taking a photo.
In previous posts, I've talked about the "camera to face" or "simply outstretch arms" syndromes, when taking pictures. This issue is a symptom of those other elements. When you hold the camera up, you snap the photo without any adjustment other than making sure your subject is in the frame.
The result is that usually you have a person or people, surrounded by all sorts of clutter or too much background.
The strongest photos have a clear subject. All items within the picture must support that; otherwise they detract from that. One of the best ways to cure this? Take a few steps in, or zoom in on your subject. It's really that simple, but I'm often surprised at how people just don't do it.
Consider the two photos in this post. In the photo above, you see a part of my daughter's feet, you see some computer cords in the top right, you see the full toy car on her left. There is a lot going on, and your eye pops around from thing to thing. Notice how the keyboard and the car are about the same size, and given the angle, even almost look like her size! This makes it difficult to know what the main subject is. Of course, we all know it's the person, but the photo does not support that in a clear way.
In the photo below, I zoomed in slightly closer. Notice how I mostly eliminated the cord, and cut off the other toys. There is still enough of the keyboard to show what she's doing, but the whole thing isn't necessary. The toy car also isn't necessary so it's also cut off. The focus is now brought to her. A slight vignette, or darkening of the edges, also helps draw the eye to her. See how this makes a difference?
Now, being the perfectionist that I am, ideally I would have gotten up and physically moved the cord right out of the frame (but I was relaxing on the couch and also didn't want to lose the moment). I liked the car because it gives a bit of her play context, but I didn't need to see all of it.
A slight zoom can do wonders to really help your subject stand out. All it takes is a twist of a lens, a step or 2 forward, or a press of a button on a point and shoot camera. Give it a try and see how your own photos improve!