6 New Decluttering Tips These Pro Organizers Learned During the Pandemic

published May 5, 2021
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Oh, so many changes have come about in the past year. And after having to live, play, work, and in some cases, learn, all under one roof, one of the most significant transformations is how people reside in their homes. 

Life in lockdown has brought to light the importance of functionality — what’s working at home and what isn’t — and has made everyone more aware of how they use their spaces. And especially more aware of all the stuff being stored in those spaces, too. You’re not alone if you took on a decluttering project this year — even the pros themselves took the same opportunity to reassess.

I reached out to professional organizers to see what the pandemic has taught them about decluttering. Here are six tips they’ve taken to heart in the past year.

Declutter with a long-term point of view.

Joey Clark, stylist, closet organizer, and owner of Kin Boutique

Clark hasn’t changed much in her decluttering and organizing method since the start of the pandemic. Instead, she’s added an extra layer to her thought process. “It’s tough, but we have to try and visualize the things that we used frequently during the ‘before’ times, even if we haven’t used them during the past year,” Clark says. “It’s important to stay objective, you don’t want to be too hasty and toss something you might need down the line when things return to ‘normal’ just because you’re home all the time and sick of looking at it. However, if it’s something that you haven’t touched since before last March, it is probably taking up space in your home and it’s time for it to go!”

Declutter with a financial mindset.

Michelle Hansen, organizing expert and owner of Practical Perfection

Organizing expert, and owner of Practical Perfection, Hansen, touched on the difficulty of decluttering when items have memories attached. She’s found value in changing her perspective about the item and thinking in terms of dollar value: “If you look at your home (or even that pile of junk you can’t seem to part with) and think to yourself, ‘that used to be my money,’ it can really help you put things into perspective,” she says. You can sell the things you declutter to try and reclaim some of that financial value, even setting a financial goal for your decluttering project, like paying down a debt. But the value of shifting your mindset goes beyond your weekend project, according to Hansen: “This can help you be more particular with what items you buy in the future as well.”

Consider decluttering part of your self-care routine.

Pia Thompson, home organizer and owner of Sweet Digs

Thompson believes that decluttering your home is self-care. “As a result, I am consistently focused on how personal growth, based on authenticity and joy, drives a tidy space,” she says. “That perspective connects so well with lockdown. Being at home is the ideal space to self-reflect on both your life and the things you own.” Thompson suggests first deciding how you want to spend your time when things have opened up, then mindfully curate the things you own to support that lifestyle. “Now is really the time to focus on joy and a space that supports a life you love,” she says.

Spend more time thinking about your intentions.

Katrina Green, home organizer and owner of Badass Home Life

During the pandemic, Green started offering Virtual Organizing services. While working with clients, she noticed during the decluttering process that she really honed in on being more intentional with the items they decide to keep. “Because they were at home the majority of the time, people were far more in tune to wanting their space tidy,” says Green. “They were more comfortable getting rid of clutter since they can really feel the impact of it in their mental health when things are messy. I had the same strategy from before where the first part of the organizing process is decluttering and dissecting the root cause of why they are disorganized, but this year, that part was really amplified and had more importance than any of the other parts of my process.”

Your needs can change quickly, so focus on what’s most important.

Vaishali Sahni decluttering expert and owner of Tiny and Tidy

Don’t be too rigid about the targets of your decluttering efforts. Life can change quickly and your plan should change with it.  Sahni found herself decluttering two new areas during the pandemic: her spices and her pajamas. “During the pandemic, I’ve had a lot more time to cook,” she says. “In order to make cooking faster and easier, I took the time to organize my spice drawer. I purged expired spices and the ones I never use. I then transferred them to bamboo jars and applied customized labels.” Sahni took a similar approach to her loungewear: “Just because we’re at home, doesn’t mean that we should be wearing clothing that doesn’t make us feel good,” she says. “I limit what I decide to keep in my capsule wardrobe and I make sure that I love every piece, including my pajamas.”

Keep a function-first mindset.

Caroline Solomon, home organizer and founder of NEATLY

Spending so much more time at home forced Solomon to be even more mindful of what she brings into her space. “More stuff means more clutter, which can be a strain on your eyes, space, and mind,” she says. “It’s forced me to be more deliberate with my online purchases. Am I really going to use that neck massager more than once? If the answer is ‘no,’ then delete it from your cart.” Solomon also encourages people to re-think the possible uses of a given object. “Shift your mindset from ‘declutter’ to ‘repurpose’,” she says. “Since donation sites and thrift stores have been mostly inaccessible during the pandemic, I’ve encouraged my clients to reimagine their ‘donate’ items as being ‘repurposable.’” For instance, she says, instead of giving food storage containers the boot, you could consider repurposing them as storage containers in the pantry, bathroom, or inside miscellaneous drawers. And t-shirts that once would have been donated can take on a new life as cleaning rags. As Soloman says: “Not everything has to go!”