These 6 Design Pros Share the Biggest ‘Don’ts’ of Organizing Your Home

updated Jan 22, 2021
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Professional organizers offer a wealth of home decluttering advice that can turn even the messiest of spaces into ordered and tidy homes. The professional organizers in this post are no different! So far this month they’ve revealed the items you should get rid of ASAP and shared simple everyday tasks that help them stay tidy. Below, these six professionals divulge what they consider to be the biggest “dos” and “don’ts” of organizing your home.

Don’t hesitate to set boundaries with friends and family

“Don’t hesitate to say no to friends and family who want to give you things you don’t have use for. Normalize asking  people if they have use for things before giving them away,” says Shamika of Maximizing Tiny. She shared her super organized home in a house tour earlier this month, a 750-square-foot rental apartment full of brilliant hidden storage. She has some advice that you should do, though. “Do declutter frequently. Make a practice of taking inventory of your belongings on a regular basis. Some like to have a one in one out rule. Join your local ‘Buy Nothing’ group on Facebook to proactively find homes for things you no longer have use for. Do use your vertical space to store things you don’t need access to daily on top of kitchen cabinets or on top of wardrobes. And use hidden storage to store things that aren’t the prettiest and can’t be put in baskets, or behind the sofa, under beds, and inside cabinets and closets.”

Don’t immediately aim for a Pinterest-worthy space

“Rather, do create simple systems that you can start making into habits and work your way up to getting more organized. Organization is a journey and you will keep being more organized as you go,” explains Katrina of Badass Homelife. She shared how she conquers clutter with minimalism, sustainability, and DIYs in the home she lives in with her husband and their two dogs.

“Also, don’t overwhelm yourself by tackling a huge project all at once. Instead, do divide the space into increments. Start from one side and work your way to the other. Use the center of the room to sort items, whether they’re going to be kept or donated. Once you have your donate pile, make sure to remove them from the room as soon as you can so you can immediately feel the energy change; you’ll physically see the amount of items gone from the room.”

Don’t buy containers, baskets, boxes, etc., before you actually organize the space.

“Purchases should be the last thing that you do,” explains Faith Roberson, who shared a tour of her 512-square-foot studio apartment earlier this month. “Don’t try to organize a space without decluttering first; decluttering should be the first thing that you do. Don’t try to declutter relying solely on what ‘sparks joy’; it is a great question but it is not the only question.” So what does Faith suggest you do when trying to organize? “Do practice self-talk affirmations; a little encouragement goes along way. Do take the time to set an intention for the space that you’re working on. Do take measurements before you make any organizing purchases. And do take the time to map out how you and your family use the space and organize accordingly.”

Credit: Rashmi Patel

Don’t feel the need to tackle all organizing projects in one day.

“Start small, whether that’s a drawer or a small pantry,” instructs Rashmi of Rush Me Home(Look for a full house tour of Rashmi’s home on Apartment Therapy later this month.). She also suggests that you work in one area and space at a time, otherwise you could get overwhelmed. And she also recommends not buying anything before you actually start. “You have to declutter first and see what you are working with.” When it comes to what to do, she also has direction to share. “Do declutter first, throw out what is not needed, and then buy what you need and organize. Pick and schedule a space you want to organize and just focus on that one space. And don’t feel overwhelmed during the declutter phase; it will look worse before it gets better!”

Don’t keep anything in your home that makes you feel badly about yourself.

“Yes, that includes clothes that are too small if you don’t intend to lose weight soon. They stare at you and taunt you and remind you that you are not where you want to be. Ain’t nothing better than shopping for new clothes that spark all the joy after you have lost weight!” begins Pia of Sweet Digs(Look for a full house tour of Pia’s home on Apartment Therapy later this month.) “And don’t keep things because someone else wants you to. This is YOUR home. It should be your paradise, fill you up, and bring you peace. Keeping something, then stuffing it in a closet or the back of a drawer and not using it for its intended purpose is not honoring the person who gave it to you that you might think it is. If you don’t love it, send it off to be donated or give it away so it can be in the hands of someone who will. Giving it away is not a statement about your relationship with the giver. If someone loves you they will also want you to love yourself.”

Pia’s biggest organizing dos are very practical: “Buy and use drawer organizers. They are a game changer. Have a home for everything and I mean everything! Be super intentional about what you bring into your home. And learn how to fold your clothing so you can fit it vertically in your drawer. You not only save space but you can also see everything!”

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

Don’t try to organize clutter.

 Vaishali Sahni, of Tiny and Tidy (Apartment Therapy toured her Toronto condo packed with organizing ideas last year), has very straightforward advice. “Don’t try to sell the stuff that you don’t want, just donate it. Do break it down into small tasks so that you don’t get overwhelmed. Do declutter before you start organizing. And do categorize, contain, and label,” she recommends.

These interview responses were edited for length and clarity.

You can find great home tours and even greater organizing advice from this year’s fresh crop of inspiration (and catch up on last year’s professional organizer house tours) all on this one page: Professional Organizer Home Advice.