Eight Tips for Conquering Clutter and Reclaiming Your Space
Whether decluttering and organizing your home are on your New Year’s resolution list or not, it is undeniable that tackling these tasks can dramatically improve your outlook on and quality of life. For many of us, however, it can be hard to know where to start, how to avoid burnout, and how to maintain results. Lauren Malone, professional organizer and owner of Optimistic Organizing, understands these obstacles and has made it her mission to help people overcome them. Malone’s business, which she started in early 2020, was borne of a lifelong talent for—and interest in—organizing.
“Organizing has always been a passion of mine,” she said. “I’ve always enjoyed organizing in my own home and helping friends and family. As I saw others creating businesses and being able to put that skill out in the community, it really struck a chord for me. I saw an opportunity to help more people with something that comes easily to me.”
Malone offers free consultations for prospective clients, and she also helped Lynchburg Living compile a list of eight tips to help our readers approach organization with not only an informed plan, but also with optimism.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
If the mere thought of organizing unnerves you, consider reaching out for help, either from a professional like Malone or from a friend.
“I think a lot of people feel stuck and overwhelmed,” noted Malone. “They may feel like they just cannot seem to get a hold of their space. I want to be able to come into someone’s space and immediately let them know that they don’t need to apologize or feel hopeless. I want to empower people and let them know that they’re not alone.”
Optimistic Organizing offers a wide range of services including decluttering, downsizing, unpacking, and organization of individual spaces or throughout the home. Clients can decide whether they want to work with Malone or have her complete tasks independently.
If you would prefer to reach out to a friend for help, Malone recommends doing a swap.
“If you’re not able to hire a professional, consider swapping with a friend,” she said.” Say, ‘I’ll come help you with your closet, and then you can come help me with mine!’ If you both have kids, the kids can play together while you work!”
Try to keep a positive mindset
For most of us, decluttering and organization are fairly intense undertakings that can stir up tough emotions like guilt and shame. It is no easy feat to overcome these feelings, but being intentional about celebrating small victories, listening to music, audiobooks, or podcasts while you work, and embracing the inevitability of imperfection can help. The goal, as Malone puts it, is to achieve
“a hopeful and confident outlook on life and organization.”
Establish what brings you joy and what weighs you down
Speaking of emotions, it is vital to sit with them when decluttering to figure out which possessions truly enrich your life and which possessions are kept only out of a sense of obligation or emotional attachment.
“Some people can get really emotionally attached to items, especially items that belonged to family members or that were given to them as gifts,” remarked Malone. “Sometimes they get so attached to those items that they continue to fill their space to the point that they don’t have room for things that truly bring them joy. When you walk into a room, you should be able to see things that make you happy.”
Remember that there is value in space
Of course, when you walk into a room, you should also be able to have space to breathe and function. When you strive for a balance between stuff and space, you are much more likely to appreciate the things you own and to find your home harmonious.
“I like to remind my clients that there is value in having space to breathe and move in,” Malone noted. “A lot of people think that acquiring more things is going to help them, but often it can really hold them back.”
Start with the space that causes you the most stress
Starting with the space that vexes you the most will likely provide you with a confidence boost and a sense of accomplishment that will make smaller tasks that much easier to complete.
“I ask people which space is driving them the craziest,” said Malone. “A lot of times it’s the kitchen because the kitchen is the hub of a home. Sometimes, though, I might think we need to tackle a certain space first but the client wants to prioritize a different space first. Whatever is going to bring them the most relief and the best sense of accomplishment is where we start.”
When in doubt, start with storage
If you are overwhelmed by the state of the majority of your home, Malone recommends starting with your storage spaces.
“If you’re dealing with an excessive amount of clutter throughout your home, start with storage rooms so you can start with a space that likely contains items that aren’t being used regularly and should theoretically be easier to get rid of,” she remarked. “Remember to keep tabs on things that you put away in storage and make sure that you’re only doing this with things that you will actually use later. Items that aren’t serving you outside a box won’t serve you any better packed away in a box.”
Once you commit to organizing a particular space, don’t leave it until it’s done
One of the most important—and most challenging—parts of decluttering is committing to a single task and seeing it through to completion before moving on to a different task. Stepping away from one space to put even a single item elsewhere will almost inevitably lead to further deviation from your original goal.
“My recommendation for most people is to focus on one room or one space,” noted Malone. “Do not let yourself leave that space. A lot of times people will pull an item out and say, ‘Oh, this goes in my basement,’ and then they will walk down to the basement. Then, suddenly, they are in the basement working on something else, and then they are in the kitchen making a snack. I recommend having a bag or basket for items that don’t belong in the particular space you’re organizing. Put the items in that container, and then once you’ve finished that particular space, you can put those items where they go.”
Use the S-P-A-C-E strategy
Lastly, Malone recommends using the “S-P-A-C-E” strategy, which was created by organization expert and author Julie Morgenstern. After emptying and cleaning a space, take the following steps:
S: Sort the items into categories.
P: Purge any items that you don’t need or that don’t belong in that space.
A: Assign homes to items.
C: Contain the items. For this step, Malone stresses the importance of labels, saying: “A big complaint I get from a lot of people is along the lines of, ‘I know how to stay organized, but the rest of my family doesn’t keep it that way!’ Labeling things goes a long way because it is human nature to put things where you know they are supposed to go.”
E: Evaluate each space at least once a year to maintain results.
For more information about Optimistic Organizing, visit www.optimisticorganizing.com.