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How to Declutter Your Home: Expert Organizers Share Their Tips

By: Kristin Bugden

Kristin Bugden is a New Jersey-based mom and communications consultant. She loves to write, take barre classes and believes in a good reality television binge-watching session. Here, she explores the art of decluttering.

There’s no doubt that organizing expert Marie Kondo and her Netflix series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,has launched a wave of people looking to declutter their homes and become more at peace in their space. And with spring cleaning season right around the corner, we thought it would be great to chat with some professional organizers about how to get started when decluttering might get a bit overwhelming:

Get Decluttering on Your To-Do List

Have you ever felt a little uneasy in an area that seems to be littered with stuff everywhere? There’s a reason for it. “Current research shows that clutter compromises our perception of home and even our feelings of life satisfaction. While possessions accumulate naturally, and at first seem harmless, excessive clutter can negatively impact our sense of well-being, contribute to unhealthy eating, make us function less efficiently, and in general, contribute to poor mental health,” says Dr. Julie Pike, a licensed psychologist and anxiety disorder specialist, who regularly appears on Sirius Radio’s Doctor Radio and was on TLC’s Hoarding: Buried Alive for four years. This seems like good enough reason for us to start getting things in order!

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Decluttering Your Home: Where to Start

It can seem overwhelming in terms of where to begin when it comes to decluttering. Our experts suggest starting with the area that really seems to be bugging you to do something about it. “You should start with the area that is causing you the most pain! You’ll feel the most benefit and satisfaction from improving that area, and it will give you the energy to move on to other areas when time allows,” says Sharon Lowenheim, Certified Professional Organizer in N.Y.C. and founder of Organizing Goddess. “I always suggest starting with the area that bothers you most – that pile of papers, your dresser drawers, your kids’ toys, or whatever it is. That way you can conquer it and gain momentum for moving from there out. Always keep the goals small so they’re attainable and not overwhelming,” adds Tova Weinstock, a Professional Organizer based in N.Y.C. and founder of Tidy Tova.

how to declutter your home

Letting Go of Possessions

There’s no doubt that it can be hard and even emotionally draining to figure out what possessions we should let go of when decluttering our space. Erika Burfield, a Professional Organizer in Wilmington and founder of Erika B. Solutions echoes that sentiment. She explains, “This can be the hardest part! I always recommend keeping the necessary, the wanted, and the sentimental. The rest can go. And a quick note on tossing or donating: if someone gave it to you secondhand and you’d keep it, then donate it. If not, toss or recycle.” Lowenheim also gave Lively some great advice, saying, “Ask yourself if you use it or love it. If the answer is neither, then you should get rid of it. If you still don’t have clarity, ask yourself whether this item is contributing to the life you are living today, or if it was purchased to support an earlier part of your life. Things come into our lives all the time, but they have no exit strategy.” 

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How to Stay Motivated

It’s easy to stop halfway through an organizing project for a variety of reasons, so staying motivated is essential to finishing it through. Our experts agree one of the key ways to do so is by starting small and keeping goals realistic. “Reward yourself for a job well done. Keep the goals small and attainable so you can feel accomplished. If you feel like walking away, think about the reward of considering a task complete and the mental clarity that comes from that,” says Weinstock. “People get discouraged because they try to take on too much at once. You should set very small goals. Work on a particular area rather than taking on the whole room.  Work on one shelf instead of the whole closet. I tell my clients to set a timer for 15 minutes and work on a small spot. When the timer goes off, if you still have the energy to continue, set it for another 15 minutes,” adds Lowenheim.

Words of Wisdom

Finally, our experts shared some great motivating words to help you get in the decluttering mindset. “People often hold onto things that make them feel bad, such as clothes that no longer fit, artifacts from a relationship that ended badly, papers from a job from which you were fired. It brings us down to see those things every day. Clear them out of your life and surround yourself with things that make you happy,” says Lowenheim. “A decluttered space leads to a decluttered mind! Organization can reduce stress and anxiety and even promote better sleep and eating!” adds Burfield. Happy cleaning!