The 7 Commandments of Decluttering, According to a Pro Organizer

published Jun 13, 2021
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It’s time. You’re finally ready to tackle that chore that you’ve been putting off for some time now: decluttering. Don’t fret, though. It doesn’t have to be a daunting task. 

Joey Clark, pro organizer, stylist, and owner of Kin Boutique in Philadelphia, offered Apartment Therapy 7 tips to always keep in mind when decluttering. Read them, remember them, and get to work on making your home a more functional space. 

“Piles, piles, piles”

Often, you don’t realize how much stuff you have until it’s all out in front of you. When you’re trying to declutter a specific area, sorting things into piles will help you see what you have and, in turn, what you don’t need. “It’s also important because you can then visualize the space you are trying to declutter and decide how you want to put it back together,” says Clark.

So how to you separate those piles? Clark suggests categorize each item into “keep,” “donate,” and “maybe” piles. The keep piles are the things you can’t live without. If you’re decluttering your closet, this will also be every day staples or investments in your wardrobe. “Once you’re done with your keep and donate piles, clear a small section in your closet or a drawer in your bedroom for the things that end up in the “maybe” pile that for some reason or another, you can’t let go of,” says Clark. “Make sure it’s a small space. Keep it concise. The point is too declutter, not move a bunch of stuff from one area to another.”

“Keep it real with yourself.”

The first step towards decluttering your life (both physically and metaphorically) is to try and be frank. If you don’t think you can do that (it’s hard!), ask a friend or family member to help. “I always say that we can all be in a bit of denial over keeping certain things, and sometimes you just have to let go to make space for something better,” says Clark. “Vow to be completely honest with yourself, even if it makes you feel uncomfortable. And if at all possible, enlist an extra set of eyes that you trust to give you an unbiased opinion of things you might be on the fence about.”

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

“Change your mindset.”

It’s easy to form emotional attachments to items that we don’t use. If you find yourself being a culprit of this, Clark recommends trying to change your mindset. “If you’re not using something and it’s in good shape, you have the opportunity to donate it to someone else who will enjoy the item just as much as you did, if not more,” she says. “It will make you feel better about letting it go.”

“If you don’t use it… let it go.”

That pair of shoes still in the box? That top you had to have that’s still hanging in your closet with the tag on it? Brush off the dust and let it go. “Repeat after me: You are not going to use it in the future,” says Clark. “This goes for the crazy, useless things we all ordered at the start of the pandemic.”

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

“Invest in some home storage organizers.”

For the things that you can’t seem to let go of — maybe they have sentimental value like old magazines, photo books, or old letters — don’t just shove them into random drawers and closets. “Invest in some home storage organizers and find a proper space for them,” Clark says. “Baskets are great, as are boxes that can be slid under your bed or stacked on shelves in your closets. Hooks and wall hangers are also wonderful for things that you need (dog leashes, hats, etc.) but don’t necessarily have a specific spot for.”

“Everything has a place.”

That should be your end goal when it comes to decluttering. “Everything that lands in your ‘keep’ piles should have a spot in your home,” says Clark. “They are the final pieces to the puzzle that is decluttering, and everything should fit perfectly together in the end.”

“Trust the process.”

Don’t try and declutter your entire home at once. It is a long process, and you should try to take it one step and one season at a time. “We have spent so much time in our homes; you will just end up overwhelming yourself,” says Clark. “Just go day-by-day, space by space. You want your home to make you feel calm and at peace, so after months of being inside-try and pinpoint specific cluttered areas that are bothering you and work on them little by little. If you try and do your entire house at once, you are just going to find yourself stuck in an even bigger mess and even more stressed. In the pandemic, it’s important to protect your energy.”