EDITOR’S NOTE: Want to get a head start on an organized New Year? Check out these expert tips from several of my professional organizer colleagues around the country. There’s even one from me on how to decide where to start when embarking on a whole-home organizing project. This article is being published, by permission, from the creators of Porch.com.
Get a head start on an organized New Year!
Does the beginning of every new year bring the intention of cleaning out your closets? You might be feeling a little overwhelmed by the thought of dealing with the influx of material goods that comes with the holidays.
The pandemic taught us a great deal: being together and having experiences are more important than any material possession we could possess. Yet, despite this, many people took advantage of the “void” that social distancing had created by shopping online for more items.
Now is the perfect time to take stock of your possessions and purge what you don’t need. However, you shouldn’t allow your possessions to prevent you from having the home and life you desire.
Are you interested in starting the new year with a little less clutter? Check out these useful tips from expert home organizers.
Get the benefits of starting a new year organized and clutter-free
Starting the New Year with a clutter-free, clear, and organized space increases the possibilities of a happier and healthier year.
Your physical space has a significant impact on your mental and emotional well-being. When your home is clutter-free, you feel more relaxed, happy and life is easier. An organized home promotes healthier living, including eating and sleeping better. In addition, you’ll have more time to spend with friends and family and to enjoy hobbies or those projects you’ve been meaning to get to!
Here are some tips from ASPO Certified Home Organizers.
Starting the new year clutter-free can be genuinely life-changing. If your new years’ resolution includes adopting a positive outlook or slowing down your pace of life, decluttering is the place to start. By clearing out your physical surroundings, you clear out your mental space and make room to breathe in new ideas or simply enjoy where you are at. You are gifting yourself a resting place which is what a home should be.
Annie Allen, Professional Organizer in Soquel, CA
Having a clutter-free and organized home will help improve your life because you know where everything is. Your productivity increases by giving you the needed room and space to do more, and it can definitely save you money. Knowing what you have, cuts down on duplicates or overbuying.
Andre Richardson, Professional Organizer in Hampton, VA.
Clutter can cause stress, anxiety, and sometimes depression. Starting the new year clutter-free will help you stay motivated and help you achieve the long and short-term goals you set for the New Year and have peace of mind.
Rekita Brown, Professional Organizer in Jacksonville, FL
Starting the New Year clutter-free will allow you to focus on more important things.
– ASPO Certified Home Organizers
Why it’s important to start the new year clutter-free and organized
Starting the year clutter-free allows you to live your best life throughout the year. During the last year, you may have purchased too much stuff, paper may have become overwhelming, and you may have lost track of our planner. Many feelings come into play with too much clutter, and you may have experienced sadness, hopelessness, or being weighed down. Decluttering is the best path to empower you and help you accomplish your daily tasks and yearlong goals. To move forward, it’s best to release what is not loved, used, or needed. If you are bogged down with paper, learn what you need to keep and shred the rest. Upgrade your planner and make the choice to enter all dates and details as soon as you know these. Most importantly, know that you can make this change right now, and the impact will be remarkable.
-Ellen Delap, Certified Professional Organizer, and owner of Professional-Organizer.com
5 Tips for a clutter-free Christmas (next year).
- Give experiences, not stuff. If you give experiences (like a spa visit, a lunch out, a trip to a public garden) to your loved ones, you’ll eventually start receiving them in return. That cuts down on clutter in your home and theirs. It can be challenging to part with gifts, even if you don’t love the item, so adjusting your gift-giving practices is a great first step.
- Donate the holiday decorations that don’t put a smile on your face. As you’re decorating your home and tree for Christmas, set aside those items you’re not using or loving. It’s the perfect time to donate them and reduce clutter. When you take down your decorations, it’ll be easier to store them, and you’ll know your collection includes only those things that make you happy.
- Reuse last year’s leftover Christmas cards.If you habit of hanging onto the holiday cards you didn’t use because you bought more cards than you sent out, I encourage you to reuse those rather than buying new ones. It would be the rare person who remembered they’d seen that card before. By doing this, you’re not only cutting down on clutter; you’re staving off future clutter.
- Discard the Christmas cards you’re sent.When you take down your Christmas decorations, I give you permission to go ahead and let go of the cards you were sent. I can almost guarantee you that the people who sent you the cards won’t be offended. However, if you hang on to all the cards you receive every year, you can create a real clutter problem. (Believe me, I’ve seen it.)
- Pare down your gift list.If there are people on your gift list who have been there forever, perhaps you could reach out to them and suggest not exchanging gifts. Or making a charitable donation rather than giving stuff. The fewer items you bring into the house at holiday time, the less clutter you’ll have.
-Janine Adams, CPO® owner of Peace of Mind Organizing
Resolutions for a clutter-free 2022
How does one begin? Here are some steps to help jump-start the process.
Step #1: Start Small
One of the biggest mistakes is taking on the entire task at once. After an initial burst of energy, many people poop out and never finish the project. Instead, do it in steps. Organize one room at a time, one section at a time. Spread it out over manageable steps, but keep to a set schedule –mark the time off in your calendar.
Step #2: Keep it Simple
The best organizing systems are simple to maintain. Don’t try to design a filing system that takes more than a few minutes a day to uphold. When organizing your closet, don’t get caught up in organizing by color, size, and season, or you’ll spend a lot of time trying to keep a system that takes too much effort and will not last.
Step #3: Be Disciplined about Maintaining Your System
Set aside at least ten minutes each day to ensure your home or office remains clutter-free. It’s much easier to do ten minutes a day than try to set aside an entire hour at the end of each week. Once you get into the habit (after two weeks or so), it will come naturally and effortlessly.
Step #4: Keep the Ultimate Goal in Mind
Getting and staying organized requires some commitment, but the payoff is enormous. Your stress level will be reduced, you’ll feel better and more comfortable in your home, you’ll feel eager to have guests over more frequently, and you may even save money. I’ve had many clients repeatedly buy the same item over and over simply because they had given up on trying to find it amidst the clutter!
-Betsy Fein, President at Clutterbusters
Five easy hacks that’ll keep your home clutter-free in the new year
- Get rid of items that are broken or no longer used.This is important at the beginning of the year, especially if new computers or other electronics were holiday gifts. Immediately recycle or donate old laptops and electronics that don’t work or are outdated.
- Make decisions. If you don’t, the piles will collect around you. When my clients don’t know what to do with the papers in their home offices, they stash them on shelves, drawers or let the piles multiply. Instead, ask yourself, “do I need this” and “can I get another copy.” These questions will help you make decisions regarding what to keep. Those documents can then be filed in an appropriate location to be quickly retrieved.
- Don’t forget about the digital clutter. You’ll also want to keep your computer clutter-free so you can quickly find documents. If you’re looking at a sea of documents, folders, and shortcuts on your desktop, systematically declutter and organize the documents and delete shortcuts that aren’t needed. Schedule time quarterly to maintain it.
- Process the mail. Depending on the amount of mail you receive, this may be a daily or weekly task. In either case, designate one spot near your front door to collect the mail. Weed out the catalogs and junk mail before dropping the mail in its assigned basket or tray. This way, only items that require your attention will collect.
- Unpack those cartons. With the popularity of online shopping comes the daily delivery of boxes. Get into the habit of unpacking the contents of each box, putting them away in their designated home, and discarding the cartons. Making this part of your daily routine will minimize the clutter.
-Stephanie Shalofsky, Certified Virtual Professional Organizer from The Organizing Zone
Stop buying these for a clutter-free New Year!
You don’t need to buy things to get organized! Getting organized is about making room for items you love, not buying more things to store things that you aren’t even enjoying.
For the love of God, don’t buy any more plastic bins! Most households already have too many plastic containers in various sizes and colors, see-through and not, with lids and without. The world does not need one more plastic bin. Putting things in bins does not make you an organized person. They are seductively cheap and easy to carry home, but too many bins just make your home look like a warehouse store.
Don’t buy new things when you are already throwing away similar items. For instance, we buy plastic for dog and cat poop bags. Instead, watch how many plastic bags are already passing through your hands, including grocery store bags, cereal box liners, produce packaging, bread bags, toy packaging, and so many others.
But what will you store things in if you don’t buy plastic bins? If your goal is to live in a clutter-free home, avoid buying more things than your home can hold AND stop buying more things than you can use in a month. That includes buying just enough food, clothes, toys, office supplies, holiday decorations, and other consumable goods. Put your food in your cabinets, your clothes in your dressers and closets, your toys on a shelf. When you’ve got more than you can manage, reduce your load until everything fits. The SORT and Succeed system can help you get and stay organized with five simple steps to save time, space, and money.
-Darla DeMorrow is a Certified Professional Organizer® and owner of HeartWork Organizing
Tips to get your kids to declutter their toys for the Holidays
Are your kids’ new and existing toys taking over your home? When the stress from toy clutter takes away from the fun, it’s time to teach your children how to pare down their collection and tidy mindfully.
With your help, here are five steps to help your children get their toys in order:
1. Do an inventory check. Ask them to bring out ALL of their toys. Seeing how much they have will help them recognize they already have more than enough. Next, sort toys by type (soft toys, plastic toys, games, puzzles, etc.) before making any decisions.
2. Edit each group of toys by ranking which ones they love to play with most. Compare similar toys to reduce. Remove broken or less played with toys. Be sure to ask questions that allow your children to express what they love about the ones they’re keeping and why they are letting go of others.
3. Teaching them to be grateful for their previously enjoyed toys, then involve your children in responsibly donating, giving away, or discarding/recycling properly will give them a sense of closure.
4. With the remaining toys they’re keeping, decide the best locations to store them properly for easy access and put them back. Practice being respectful of the amount of space they have. If there’s not enough room, they may need to rearrange or edit some more.
5. Repeating this process every few months will educate you and your children on which toys they genuinely enjoy. Regular editing and mindful purchases will prevent future clutter from accumulating.
-Ann Dooley, Professional Organizer and founder of Simple Joy with Ann
How to have a clutter-free gift giving experience
I listen to the holiday gift-buying commercials. Television and radio ads encourage us to buy things that people will LOVE, and then the ads change, reminding consumers that since they didn’t get the gift they really wanted, they can exchange it for something they’ll love! No one, it seems, wins at this game of gift-giving/receiving.
In my world, as a Professional Organizer, I walk into many crowded spaces filled with things my client no longer uses or needs or desires. Many of them tell me that some of the clutter comes from those gifts they’ve never needed, but guilt kept the gift trapped in their home!
There’s a solution to this marketing/consumerist problem, and now’s the time to think about gifting that doesn’t cause clutter!
So with a grateful heart, I offer a few tips for gifts for the holidays: gifts that don’t create clutter:
- Take people you love to dinner or cook for them. Cook something you know the person likes to eat or take them out to one of their favorite restaurants or dessert spots. Some of the best memories are shared with loved ones at the table.
- Help a friend de-clutter their closet. Start by emptying the space you want to organize and create three piles: toss, donate, and keep.
- Or – for a friend with a lot of clutter, consider a Professional Organizer gift certificate. Visit Napo.net to find someone in your area.
- “Experience Gifts” create lasting memories and are often more enjoyable and fulfilling than any material object. Whether it’s a tour of the city, a hot air balloon ride, or a trip to the spa, your loved one will be happy to be spending time with you enjoying the experience.
- Charitable Gifts are perfect gifts for someone who has everything or immensely supports a charitable cause. Consider making a donation in the person’s name; be sure it is a cause that is important to the person, not just to you. Find ways to donate to environmental, children’s, health research, and many other organizations online. Research the fund on Charity Navigator, so you know you’re making a wise choice.
-Regina F. Lark, Ph.D. from A Clear Path
When should I start decluttering?
We have more clutter than we know what to do with. Too many things distract us, create stress, and rob us of our time and self-purpose. It’s never a bad time to start decluttering, so start now! You’ll feel more confident to entertain family and friends in a clutter-free home. You’ll also become happier and more productive in all you do by creating lasting change and balance in your life.
At Sacred Space Organizing, we always recommend starting with clothes. This is because most of us have more clothes than we could possibly wear. It’s easy to let things go when you focus on what you want to keep rather than getting rid of. It’s a paradigm shift that can be extended to all other areas of your life.
Once you start discarding items you no longer use, you’ll be content with who you are and what you have. Surround yourself with things and people you love, and you’ll find your worldly desires decrease. Not only that, but by discarding items that no longer serve us, we can pass them on to those who truly need them, especially at this time of year.
Getting organized can be an overwhelming process. Don’t feel bad if you need extra support along the way. We would love to help you with the process and have worked with clients from all over the nation through our Virtual Organizing sessions. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a local organizer if you need a hands-on approach. You can do this!
-Erin Neumann Professional Organizer and owner of Sacred Space Organizing
Your end-of-year declutter checklist
As a Professional Organizer for 4 years, I have helped people in many different situations. Most of them use one word consistently: “overwhelmed” If you can relate, I hope you’ll read on to see my decluttering tips:
- Declutter Your Schedule- Why is my home so organized? It’s simple because I enjoy organizing, which means I do it often. I have a habit of looking at my spaces to see how I can improve them. If you make a habit of organizing and decluttering, you will be amazed at the results. We have two options: Organize now, or organize later… and later is ALWAYS more challenging. Declutter your schedule so you can find time to get your spaces in order (and keep them in order).
- Declutter Distractions- If you want more time to declutter and organize, you’ll want to minimize distractions. One reward of organizing is saving time. Clients often say, “I’ve been looking for that,” or “I just bought another one of those” because they couldn’t find it or didn’t even know they already owned it. Time spent looking for lost items is not only frustrating but fruitless. Organizing is an investment of time now to save even more time later.
- Declutter in Bits- One of the reasons my clients feel overwhelmed is because the project is “too much.” They want to organize their whole garage, but instead of focusing on ONE shelf or ONE drawer… they focus on the daunting task of the entire space. Give yourself the chance to feel some satisfaction by completing one little area at a time. If you’re familiar with Dave Ramsey’s debt snowball, it’s the same concept. Knock out the smallest project first, and celebrate your accomplishment. From there, you can continue to knock out more small projects, and over time it will add up to MAJOR results.
-Charissa, Professional Organizer owner of Grace To Organize
Ideas for storing your Christmas decor after the Holidays to avoid clutter
Did you overlook some decorations when you were decorating your tree this year? Were there falling apart homemade decorations from last decade that stayed in the storage container? If you own decorations you don’t love anymore and haven’t used in the last two years; it’s time to think about letting them go. Instead, make space for the decorations you love to display by decluttering those you don’t enjoy using anymore.
My hot tip for storing tinsel and string decorations is keeping them in a snap-lock bag, so they don’t get tangled. Next, consider keeping your baubles in shoe boxes so you can stack them with a large storage container without breaking anything. Finally, keep all your Christmas decorations in sealed containers that can live at the top of a wardrobe or in the garage, so it’s easy to find them next year.
-Amy Revell Professional Organiser and Declutter Coach from The Art of Decluttering
Tips to get kids involved in end-of-year decluttering
We can start with what the answer isn’t:
- Throwing things away without their knowledge.
Kids pay more attention if they easily understand and are entertained – as do we adults! Explain to them the point of this. Lighten the mood, so they remain engaged. Tips for doing that:
- Get everyone on board. Hold a family meeting to discuss why you are decluttering rather than singling out the kids. Is it to move more freely, keep things healthy, find things faster, share your abundance? Have everyone say what they think is a benefit of this and what they’ll do (ex: let go of broken items, clothes not liked it or don’t fit, stuff not often used) and when (ex: by 4 pm today…then we’ll go together to donate them!).
- Appeal to their heart. Point out how infrequently they wear or play with something and how they have so many other things they do love and use. Talk about how those things that they’d be giving away could warm, entertain, or help another child.
- Make it fun. Put on the music they like. (Not the TV –you’ll lose them!) Allow them to “toss” non-breakables to a “bye-bye!” pile across the room. Take a funny photo of them in a shirt that they have far outgrown. Midway through, serve snacks they like. Keep it light and bright, and pressure-free.
- Relate. While they work on their things, work on your own, show them the things you are parting with and explain why.
- Be realistic. They will not do it at the same speed or with the same decision-making ability that you would do it. If you see them getting distracted or bored, help them out with a little encouragement and a reminder of the goals you all set.
- Show gratitude. Thank them for their help. Ensure they know their efforts are appreciated and what they are doing matters.
-Nancy Meck, Professional Organizer from Meck Organizing
What room should I start with?
“Help! My home is so cluttered. I want to get organized, but it’s so overwhelming. Where should I start?”
As a veteran professional organizer, move manager, and organizing coach, I’ve heard this from hundreds of people.
At LET’S MAKE ROOM, we specialize in “big pain” projects. Yet, what’s really painful differs depending upon your specific circumstance.
When a client tells me they don’t know where to start, I ask: “Which area of your home is causing you the most stress now?”
It could be your overstuffed guest room, which until now has been used as the “catchall storage area,” but, yikes, family is expected for the Holidays!
Maybe it’s your cluttered kitchen, every surface covered with sippy cups, half-eaten bulk foods, and a host of rarely used kitchen tools. Making a meal is challenging enough. Cleaning those counters is nearly impossible.
Are you running a business from home? You’re great at what you do, but how can you do it if your home office looks like it was hit by a tornado? If you can’t be productive and stay on top of your most important tasks and projects, this could be your priority.
Maybe you are selling your home, but your packed garage, the last bastion of delayed decisions, needs to be cleared out of all those empty boxes, old clothes, empty paint cans, hundreds of tools, random bits of hardware, and who knows what else?
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your home’s clutter, my simple tip is this:
Start with the room or storage area, which, if organized, would make your day-to-day life easier and give you the most peace of mind.
Getting organized should never be your goal if you don’t have a reason to do it. Instead, think about what you would be able to do if ________ room were tidy and organized just the way you imagine. How would that make you feel?
Listen to yourself, and you’ll know where to start.
-Lis McKinley, Certified Professional Organizer® and owner of Let’s Make Room
Top 3 tips to keep an organized home year-round?
These are my 3 favorite decluttering tips because they are so simple and easy to do all year round.
1) Keep on top of those items that can clutter up the home with this simple idea. Keep a bag in a cupboard or the car boot for charity donations. Drop them in the bag when you spot things around your home that you no longer use or love. Drop it off at your local charity shop and start again when it’s full.
2) Make it super easy to identify the clothes you no longer wear. Turn hangers around in your wardrobe so that they face the wrong way. As you wear an item of clothing and return it to the closet, face the hanger the correct way round. It’ll soon become obvious which items you love to wear and those you never wear. Sell or donate those items you haven’t worn at the end of the season.
3) Use the one in, one out rule. When you make a new purchase or bring an item into your home, use this as a prompt to review and remove something that you no longer need or love. This works really well in the wardrobe as an old coat can make way for your new season’s purchase, worn jeans create space for a new pair. This is a great way to create space for new items and unwanted things cluttering up your home.
-Laura Williams, Founder & Professional Organiser at OrganisedWell
Options for disposing of items
When it comes to disposing of items no longer wanted or needed, I suggest donating first and foremost. A quick and community-minded way is to post items on a local Nextdoor, Buy Nothing, or FreeCycle page. Post photos and a short description, and neighbors can pick up the item at a designated time and location. It skips the middle man resale shop and instantly gets in the hands of someone who will use it. If those aren’t available locally, bagging and boxing up your unwanted wares and dropping them off at any local charity, resale shop, or thrift store is next best. It still ensures those items will be used and loved again and not end up in a landfill. For any specialty item, try a quick online search or ask locals on social media for resources for a donation. For example, if there’s a tabletop loom in your basement, find out if there’s a weaving school, art school, or university nearby that would be happy for the donation.
Finally, pull out anything recyclable after sifting through whatever is left in the discard pile. Filling the trash can will hopefully be the last resort. Not only does this mean newspapers and cans, but likely other items, too. Electronics, ink cartridges, light bulbs, and batteries may be recycled at the local hardware store. Glasses and prescriptions may be accepted at the pharmacy. Scrap and precious metal can be sold by weight. Depending on what you have and your time frame for clearing out, these can all be great options.
-Amy Trager, CPO® from Amytrager.com
How do you declutter when you want to keep everything?
When we work with clients to do a thorough purge, they can more clearly realize the excess. When coaching through the process, we ask questions like, “when was the last time you used this?” to help them grapple with these sometimes difficult decisions. It also helps to pull things out of drawers and cabinets. So much can hide in spaces we don’t see. It’s important to be very sensitive to the needs of people who are holding on to things. There is a great deal of sentimental attachment, so a non-judgmental, empathic coach will help push through some of those hard places. We encourage our clients to take pictures of larger objects and write stories about what they mean so that future generations can appreciate them. Younger people don’t have the same sentimental attachments, but a written family story can carry on for generations, and it doesn’t take up storage space when it can be digital.
When space is limited, hanging on to things can become a real problem. Making use of every inch of storage space is critical. Using dividers, drawer organizers, adjustable shelving, proper containers, and labels can bring plenty of chaos to order.
-Monica Friel from Chaos to Order
How to start decluttering in 3 Steps
Step 1 – Strategize Your Space
Planning is the first step in organizing. Capture your thoughts, ideas, and solutions for each room in your home. Next, assess the causes of the disorder to achieve lasting change.
Some questions to ask:
- What do you call this space?
- What activities do you do in this space?
- Do you have all the items you need to support those activities?
- What does the finished space look like to you?
- What is your vision of “organized?”
Step 2 – Prioritize Your Belongings
Empty the room you are decluttering and group like items together in bins or boxes.
- Relocate or let go of anything that doesn’t pertain to the room’s activities, function, and purpose.
- Reduce and let go of what doesn’t serve a purpose in your life anymore.
- Tip – if an item makes you feel mad, bad, or sad, you don’t need it in your life.
- Return the things you are keeping to the space and place the frequently used items for easy access.
Step 3 – Practice Living Clutter-free
To keep your home decluttered, practice these easy habits:
- Don’t wait to decide where something belongs; choose immediately and put it there.
- If you take it out, put it back.
- Don’t put it down; put it away.
- Open and sort your mail daily.
- Buy containers only when you know what will go in them.
- Set a limit on how many of something you will keep
- Set a limit on the amount of space you allocate to a collection.
- Organizing is not a one-time “clean sweep” event. Create and follow a maintenance plan for all the areas of your home. You can do all the grouping, reducing, and organizing you want, but you can easily backslide if you don’t learn the skills and build new habits.
-Anne Blumer, CPO, CVPO from SolutionsForYou, Inc.
How to reduce clutter in your bedroom
It is easy for bedrooms to become the collection spot for all sorts of items—piles form. When you declutter the bedroom, start with your clothing. Hang up clothing in a closet or on a rack. Place other clothing in a dresser or on shelves. Have a place to put dirty laundry. Keep the clothing you like wearing, the ones you get compliments on when you wear it, and that suits your lifestyle. Donate the rest. Next clear out the floor of your closet. Keep only the items that should be in the bedroom. The other items need to find new homes. This will create space for shoes, luggage, or accessories. If you need to store sheets in the bedroom, try using the shelf in your closet. Fold the 2 sheets and pillowcase and slide them inside the other pillowcase. You have a nice contained set of sheets that are easy to store. Recycle sheets with stains and holes. Donate sheets you don’t use that are the wrong size and mismatched. Cosmetics can also pile up on bedroom surfaces.
Use a container to store the cosmetics and make them look attractive. Check expiry dates, remove expired items and products you no longer use. Try to relocate some of the cosmetics to the bathroom. Jewelry is another area to consider. There are nice trays that can fit in drawers, boxes to sit on a dresser, and wall-mounted cabinets to store the jewelry you use frequently. Go through your jewelry and make sure you still love it; it is not broken and clean. Donate or sell jewelry that you no longer wear, fads that have come and gone, and jewelry that doesn’t fit. The nightstands in a bedroom tend to collect clutter. Frequently clear off the surface and declutter the drawers. Decide what is important to have handy. Do you need a book, tissues, medication, charging station, or water bottle? In most cases, the bedroom is used for relaxing and sleeping. Find new places for all the items that don’t belong and create a tranquil space.
-Julie Stobbe from Mind Over Clutter
It is entirely possible to live in a home that is free of clutter. You’ll be well on your way if you follow these helpful tips.
Our home is nothing more than a mirror image of ourselves.
A brilliant window that peeks into the most intimate corners of our soul, protecting the most beautiful memories from our past, and creating space for every nook and cranny of our lives to be filled with laughter and love
Regardless of where you’re starting from, there’s nothing that can’t be accomplished to create a clutter-free home and life for yourself. With each piece of physical clutter you clear away this year, you’ll make room for more love, laughter, and energy to come into your life.