Goals to get organized make repeat appearances on New Year’s resolution lists every year. But, a commitment to tidying up and getting an organization process in place bears even more significance in 2021 as people have been spending more time than ever before hunkered down at home. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, our homes are pulling double (and triple) duty as they serve as offices, homeschooling headquarters and gyms.
The secret to achieving a clutter-free home, Boulder’s top organizers tell us, is recognizing it isn’t a one-time process. Having systems in place throughout your home, though, will help you “get much closer to your clutter-free nirvana,” says Colette Y. Roy with Room to Room Organizing.
Here, we’ve asked some of Boulder’s top professional organizers for their best tips to help you reach your organizational goals in 2021 and beyond.
1. Come up with a method that works for you
You’ve probably seen a beautifully curated Instagram feed or Pinterest board that features a closet with matching rattan baskets, a curated wardrobe in a coordinating color scheme and wooden hangers immaculately spaced an inch apart. Don’t let this intimidate you, though.
“A lot of my clients feel pressure to do things a certain way because they’ve been told that’s how it “should” be, or that’s what they see on Instagram or Pinterest, or that’s what worked for their friend,” says Christina DesAuguste, owner and organizer with The Organizing Company, which focuses on residential organizing and is offering online courses and coaching programs for people looking for a more DIY approach. “But the truth is: there’s no one system or organizing style (or basket or container) that works for everyone.”
While we can all benefit from some core elements in the method we use to get organized, the end result should be customized to you, your needs, your preferences, and your space.”
“So let pretty pictures inspire you, but don’t let them convince you that your space has to look the same in order for it to be organized and beautiful,” DesAuguste says.
2. Start small
When you start tackling your organization goals, don’t begin with mementos, says Christine Summerfield, a Boulder professional organizer.
“This category can be the hardest as it takes more time to pour over memories,” she says.
Instead, start small with something like a kitchen drawer, your purse, or a glove compartment in the car.
This way, you’ll build your decluttering and organizing muscles and gain some momentum.
“Notice how you feel in that new space,” she says. “Celebrate the feelings of calm and clarity that can come with more intention.”
3. Set up a drop zone
The quickest way for a home to feel cramped and overwhelmed is by having random piles scattered about, says Roy. She suggests creating a designated drawer, basket or cube for each family member to store miscellaneous items. Her tip: Place a basic six cube organizer near the entry point of the home and once a week everyone has to empty their cube into their personal space.
4. Remember the ‘80-20 Rule’ in Your Closet
We tend to wear 20 percent of our clothes 80 percent of the time, Summerfield says. Keep this in mind as you edit your closet, and be ruthless, she says. It gets easier, especially when you realize that getting dressed can be easy and fun.
“When I open my closet door and see only the clothes I love, I feel a sense of calm and order,” Summerfield says. “There’s no more decision fatigue in deciding what to wear.”
But, of course, organizing isn’t a one-time process. Do regular purges, perhaps with each season, Summerfield says.
As you go through your wardrobe, ask yourself questions like:
- “How often do I wear this?”
- “Does this still fit me?”
- “Does this need repair?”
- “Did someone give it to me as a gift, but it isn’t my style?”
- “Does it represent who I am today?”
5. Have a sorting system in your closet
“The core of organization is categorization,” DesAuguste says.
When you sort items by type or use, there’s logic for where to find what you’re looking for.
If you have your closet sorted in categories that make sense to you, not only will it already look better, but it will function well, she explains.
“Now that you can easily see how much of each category you have, you can let go of what you don’t love or need, and figure out the best storage solutions for your needs,” she says.
Some common closet categories are: Sleeveless tops, short sleeve tops, long sleeve tops, sweaters and cardigans, blazers and jackets, skirts, dresses, pants and jeans, DesAuguste says. For men it’s similar, but many men also need a subsection for dress shirts within their long sleeve section.
6. Consider separate closets
If you are sharing a closet with your partner and have a guest bedroom, consider one of you claiming that guest bedroom closet as your own, Roy says. “I’m a big believer in separate spaces within relationships to support autonomy and peaceful boundaries,” she says. Her forthcoming book “Clutter and Couples” comes out this year and dives deeper into this concept.
7. Start with your spices as you tackle your pantry
The scenario: You’ve got 4 nearly full jars of the same spice in your pantry. This happens because small jars of spices get crammed in cabinets and jam up in the back, and instead of playing a game of hide-and-seek with sage, you end up buying more of the spice. To tackle this, take out all of your spice jars, Summerfield suggests. Go through them, tossing expired ones and combining duplicates. Then, lay them out horizontally in drawers (either on a slanted wire rack or simply flat on the drawer) with the labels displayed. To take this to the next level, you can organize them alphabetically, she says.
8. Set up a donation box
In addition to doing regular purges, keep a large cardboard box in your garage labeled “Donate,” suggests Summerfield. As soon as it fills up, take it to a thrift store that benefits a charity you support.
9. Do a ‘year in review’ with your kids
Kids outgrow their clothes every year and their interests and hobbies change as they get older, which can pose some organizational challenges, points out Summerfield. She suggests doing regular purges with your kids. A good time is at the end of a school year in May or June, and treat it like a review of the year. Line up boxes or bags to donate, sell, repair, trash or recycle. Think of a charity that can make use of them and bring your kids with you to donate. “They will feel a greater sense of purpose and connection to the community they live in,” she says.
You can also get your kids in the habit of organizing by helping them set up an empty box in their closet labeled “Too Small” so they can toss those clothes in the bin when they outgrow them.
A final thought
As you get ready to tackle an organization project, we’ll leave you with a final thought for inspiration.
Summerfield, who generously shared some of her favorite organization tips with us, is a former kindergarten teacher. Every day when she was teaching, the classroom toys came out to play and would be scattered around the room. Her students would work together to put the toys away when it was time. There were several categories for the collective belongings: Soft toys, wood toys, dress-up clothes, books, crayons.
The children in her class didn’t use the word “category,” but rather the word “home,” asking “Where does this bunny live?” or “Where does this cape live?” Summerfield says.
“There seemed to be a sense of calm and security knowing that everything indeed did have a home,” Summerfield says. “Somehow, this brought a deeper sense of connection and care for our things.”