5 Dos and Don'ts of Clearing Clutter

Getting started with anything new is the hardest part. Here are a few tips that we’ve found helpful in avoiding burnout, avoidance and overwhelm as we tackle the clutterin our spaces (and the kids’ spaces!)


(Courtesy of Washington DC’s organizing and de-cluttering guru Nicole Anzia)

1. Organize first, buy second

Don’t go out and buy a ton of storage systems and supplies before you sort through your home. All of those pretty bins, boxes and baskets can feel like the solution, but they won’t do you any good unless they fit into your space and hold what you need them to hold. 

CLEAN FIRST, assess what containers you need from there and then buy a few bins to start. You can always add later but you don’t want a bunch of empty containers cluttering up your home while you figure out how you might use them. 

2. Don’t bite off more than you can chew

Don’t set aside an ENTIRE day to organize our WHOLE house. You’ll likely get frustrated and talk yourself out of it all together. It’s much better to spend a few hours – 2 or 3 –each day for a week or so on one project or space. This way you’ll feel motivated to do more, not feel burned out by the process. 

3. Complete each task – completely

Of course you’ll need to sort things into categories (toss, recycle, donate, storage), but here’s the most important part: once you’ve decided where something’s going to go – take it there. Never keep bags for charity or boxes for friends in your home to deliver later. DO IT NOW. Finish the task, complete the process. Take the bags and boxes out to the trash or recycling immediately. If you’re donating something or giving something to a friend or family member, put the items in your car and make arrangements for dropping them off. After you’ve put in the work to get it all ready – SEAL THE DEAL! 

4. Rome wasn’t built in a day

Don’t think that once you’ve organized your space – you’re done. You’ll feel like a failure when you have to clean it up again in a month (especially if you have kids!) It’s important to note that there’s no autopilot here. There will be regular upkeep (like, daily if you have kids) but just be glad that the new system is FAR more efficient than the old one. 

5. Good enough is ENOUGH

Very few people have closets and drawers that resemble those in magazines and movies. Trust me! I’ve been in a lot of houses and apartments and even after we’ve totally reorganized a space it still doesn’t look like an ad for The Container Store. It looks great and works properly, but it’s a space that’s used by an actual human – not a space that was carefully staged by a team of stylists for a non-existent resident. You’ll ultimately be disappointed if perfection is your goal. The goal is to set up a space that works well for your needs. THAT’S SUCCESS. 


The KonMari method really helped us get a jump-start on decluttering – the process outlined by Marie Kondo in her best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. 

The approach is simple – go through everything in your house one category at a time and ask yourself, “Does this spark joy? Does this bring me joy?” – If not, then it has to go!

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