A Professional Organizer Shares the Biggest Decluttering “Don’ts”

updated Jan 3, 2020
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Rachel Rosenthal is the mother of identical twins, a busy entrepreneur, and an expert in home organizing. (Image credit: Courtesy of Rachel Rosenthal)

Name: Rachel Rosenthal and Jon Cowan, Ellie and Marin (age 11, identical twins), and Poppy (sheepadoodle puppy)
Location: Bethesda, Maryland
Size: 3500 square feet
Years lived in: 3 years, owned

Marie Kondo isn’t the only one with good home organizing advice. Rachel Rosenthal is the mother of identical twins, a busy entrepreneur, and an expert in home organizing. But she also wants to make it clear that the end game to decluttering isn’t necessarily an Instagram-worthy closet. “Getting organized is a way of life, and a realistic one at that, not a one time event that leads to a Pinterest-perfect world (unless you really want that!),” she writes on her website.

The large house she shares with her family in Maryland is certainly a living example of her organizing philosophies, but it’s also a fun, vibrant home of a young family, with surprising twists of color and design mixed in with smart clutter-taming ideas.

So what does Rachel say are some of the important things to remember when embarking on a home organizing journey? “Start small, have a partner there with you, make it as fun as possible,” she says. She also recommends actually scheduling in time on your calendar for organizing. When it comes to maximizing the space of your home—no matter its size—be sure you look to all surfaces for possible storage opportunities (like the backs of doors). Also work vertical space in your home as much as you can. If you need to make any purchases related to home organizing, Rachel suggests measuring for products and making a list before heading to the store. And she says not to forget about looks: “Bring in your aesthetic when thinking about what products to add to your home for organizing.”

Rachel’s biggest organizing and decluttering “don’ts”

  • Don’t try to organize and/or declutter alone or all in one day
  • Don’t organize by space but organize by category
  • Don’t organize to make things Pinterest perfect, organize based on how you/your family functions
  • Don’t choose items that work well enough because those will eventually be items that you don’t want or need

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Transitional: Modern with a twist of traditional

Inspiration: California homes, clean aesthetic

Proudest DIY: I am not a big DIY’er but I added wall decals to both my girls’ rooms as well as their art space.

Biggest Indulgence: All of the art on our walls.

Best Advice: Make sure that all items in your home are functional for you and your current lifestyle. Versatility is key and I have had many pieces of furniture move with me throughout the past several years. You don’t have to sacrifice style for storage.


La Paloma Grey — Benjamin Moore, majority of the house

Console Table — West Elm
Bins — Container Store

Chairs — Cb2
Light — Ferguson Showroom

Rolling carts — Schoolhouse Electric
Desks — West Elm
Chairs — CB2
Bins — The Container Store
Rugs — Wayfair

Wallpaper — Schumacher
Towel — Turkish Tea

Rug — Timothy Paul
Bed — Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams
Nightstands — Organic Modernism
Bedding — Timothy Paul

Bins — The Container Store, Petit Pehr
Bookshelves — West Elm
Wall Decals — Urban Walls

Pillows — Etsy
Bins — The Container Store

Desk — Blu Dot
Lamp — West Elm
Art — Minted

Carts — West Elm
Bins — The Container Store
Rug — Joss and Main

Thanks, Rachel!

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