Okay, so you've binged the Marie Kondo Netflix series, and you've realised you own way, way too much shit. You've double-tapped basically every Insta on The Home Edit's feed and you've listlessly scrolled through all the bins on The Container Store's site, wondering how everything looks so freaking chic. You hate everything you own, and it hates you back. It doesn't spark joy. Nothing sparks joy. Joy is missing and presumed dead, curled up under the pile of jeans and tops that also definitely do not spark joy.
Hi, guys: It might be time to bring in the professionals.
Recently, while planning a move from a small apartment in a city to an adult-size house in a suburb, I decided it was time to splurge on actual organizing experts and pay them actual money to help me set up my new home in a way that makes sense, instead of my usual MO: start strong, never finish, wander endlessly amongst the piles.
I needed someone who would get the job done with the confidence and clearheadedness to make decisions I could not—like, should I throw away decades-old ticket stubs? (The answer, dear friends, lies below.)
Hiring organisers wasn't cheap, but I have no regrets. My pantry shelves are labeled and I have a beautiful bathroom drawer devoted to skincare. But more importantly, I know where things are and have pared down my possessions to the stuff I actually use. You're welcome, Goodwill shoppers![instagram]https://www.instagram.com/p/BuuyIqmhD7t/[/instagram]
To get started, I visited the site for the National Association of Productivity and Organising Professionals to get matched with an organiser, spoke with my gal on the phone to learn about her methods, priorities, and perks (hello, Container Store discount!) and put time on the calendar so she could work her magic.
Then she taught me a thing or two—okay, like one million things—about how to actually declutter. Here’s what I learned from working with the tidiest person I’ve ever met.
It’s true: You have to purge before doing literally anything else.
Amanda Wiss, owner of Urban Clarity, whose Brooklyn-based organising team I used for my odyssey, says that while it might be tempting to skip this step, you absolutely shouldn't.
"Sometimes people want to start with the organizing and 'let's make pretty bins!' But then you're organising things that aren't going to stay," she says. "If you don't declutter first, there's usually just too much volume." Translation: You’ve got too much crap, bb!
But when you do get to the "pretty bins" phase...
Live and die by the “like with like” rule.
During our lovely little purge, my organiser and I systematically walked through my apartment and pulled out all the stuff—all those playbills, shot glasses, novelty sunglasses, high school drama club T-shirts, everything. Is that dried spice expired? Gone. Has that can of coconut milk been in that cabinet, untouched, since I first moved into this place? Into the garbage. But when I got to the memorabilia and clothing, things started getting ugly-cry-kind-of-tough for me. This is when she taught me the "like with like" rule, a simple concept that should have been obvious, but literally changed how I put my whats-its away. The rule: keep stuff with the stuff that it's like.
For example, when I found out that I had apparently saved every single plane and movie ticket I've ever touched (oops), I decided to hold onto the paper stub from my first date with my now-husband (Johnny Depp's "Public Enemies," trash movie) and the boarding pass that took me to my freshman year of college (go Terriers, I guess). Then I trashed the rest. The keepers went into a box together. Sweaters now hang out with other sweaters. Cords with cords. The effect is two-fold: You can see the array of what you have and use it, stopping you from accidentally, say, buying a striped shirt that's 95 percent identical to the other striped shirt you already own, and you can pare down those duplicates you've acquired by accident. Hot take: The five black eyeliners I have will suffice!
Pretending you’re def, 100 percent, totally gonna use that one thing all the time is not helpful.
When the purge is over and it's organise-o-clock, be honest about your actual habits and needs. If you only bake once a year, for example, maybe your cake pans don't need to be at eye level—a higher shelf might work, saving prime real estate for the shit you actually use (why hello, wine glasses).
Don’t compare your home to Insta (seriously, just don’t).
You may drool over insanely gorgeous organisation porn on IG (cough The Home Edit), but THE founders Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin say to copycat with caution: "Instead of focusing on an Instagram photo for inspiration, it's important that a system truly fits your lifestyle and needs,” they told Cosmopolitan in an email. "For instance, if you have kids and a full-time job, you might not want to come home from the grocery store and empty everything into glass or plastic jars.” (Yeah, def don’t have time for that.) “Instead, it might make sense to integrate baskets for general categories like ‘dinner,’ rather than a jar for each type of pasta."
So, while you may have double-tapped Khloe Kardashian's beautifully arranged cookie jars (her awe-inspiring pantry was a THE project), own the fact that you prob won't spend 20 minutes every other day rearranging cookies and that maybe this lewk isn't for you.[instagram]https://www.instagram.com/p/Bxn87i9BZHR/[/instagram]
Spoiler: You gotta maintain that ish.
I was surprised to realise that my organisational system and I were now in a long-term relationship. Now, every time I unload groceries, I have to commit to putting them away within the pantry system I set up, and clothes need to go in their designated drawers, not, like, strewn around the room. Weird.
But as The Home Edit founders told me: “For continuing success, it's important for people to designate some time every few weeks for a quick edit and purge what they no longer need." Cool cool cool.
Now that I'm my own professional organiser, I feel 100 percent more equipped to make changes that might fit my needs as they come up (looking at you, winter-summer clothing rotation!).