How to declutter your home, according to professional organizers

By | January 9, 2020

Everyone resolves to be more organized in the new year, but let’s face it: old habits die hard.

For those that are already backsliding in their 2020 quests to be as systematic and minimalist as Marie Kondo, fret not: It’s easy to outsource the clutter of your nightmares.

To help conquer common tendencies of excess, we tapped five experts who have seen it all, from jam-packed under-sink storage in bathrooms to the bulging doors of overstuffed walk-in closets.

They all share one superpower, and that’s the ability to visualize order and strategize what to keep — all while maximizing even the tiniest of spaces.

Spare bedroom

Horderly Home Organizing

Sometimes it’s easy to get organized, but harder to keep spaces looking pristine. Horderly — a national service that specializes in decluttering, organizing and unpacking — has a primary rule its dozens of staffers stand by: one in, one out.

“Our clients are really thinking before they purchase something,” explains Jamie Hord, who runs Horderly with her husband Fillip. Hord encourages clients to be intentional with their purchases: “Do they love it enough to let go of anything they currently own in order to give this item a new home?”

If organizing isn’t intuitive, you’re not alone. “Organization is something that affects everyone, from all aspects of life, and yet, it isn’t always second nature,” says Hord. “When organizing for the first time, tackle one small space at a time, and make sure to pull every single item out. Absolutely nothing should be left in that space, and then all items should be sorted into categories.”

Using this approach, Hord and her team were able to bring order to a huge pile of shoes and fashion accessories that took over a spare bedroom for one client in Midtown East (above).

“They had upgraded and had a spare bedroom and wanted to display their sneaker collection,” Hord says. “So we made their shoe wall dreams come true.”

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Cost: $ 110/hour, which goes down to $ 100/hour after 30 hours are used.

Playroom / living room

Wendy Silberstein of The Aesthetic Organizer
Stanley Silberstein

The hardest part might be knowing when to call in the organizing pros. “When a person has decided that she/he deserves a more productive lifestyle within their home, it is time to bring in a professional,” says Wendy Silberstein, owner and president of The Aesthetic Organizer.

For a recent project, Silberstein took the toy clutter out of a main living room and transformed an underutilized space for a busy Manhattan family into a dedicated play room for the family’s two young daughters. “It was a huge success as they became the “go-to” destination for playdates! Additionally, the living room became an aesthetically pleasing space where the parents were able to entertain without tripping over toys.”

Cost: $ 125/hour, with a one-hour consultation fee of $ 75 that can be applied toward any project.

Kitchen cabinets

Done & Done Home

Two areas that are common mess magnets are the kitchen and pantry. “Almost always people call us in for the pantry and kitchen because it just isn’t working the way they envisioned it would work,” explains Ann Lightfoot, co-founder of Done & Done Home.

According to Lightfoot, a move to the suburbs — and more space — often results in even more disorganization of food and kitchen supplies. “Many people in the tristate area are former New Yorkers, so when they left the city they figured they left their clutter problems behind because they’d have so much more space,” says Lightfoot. It doesn’t exactly work like that: “Stuff tends to fill up the space you have. It just keeps coming and coming until, finally, the space doesn’t function well. This mom called us in because her pantry was a disaster and food kept getting lost and then repurchased and she felt she was wasting time and money on groceries and shopping.”

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For this project — at Bobbi Brown’s Montclair, New Jersey, home — Lightfoot and her team removed all items from the pantry, discarding expired foods. Then, they created an easy-to-follow system to group similar products together, and researched organizing products, like bins and baskets, for the space.

“We also put cans on the stadium-seating type of riser so ones in the back don’t get lost. Finally, we make labels for all the bins and put everything back in a way that makes sense so the client will be able to follow the system easily,” says Lightfoot.

Cost: $ 175/hour per organizer with a seven-hour minimum commitment.

Dresser drawers

Lisa Tselebidis

For those ready to dive in the deep end and enlist the spirit of popular Japanese organizer Marie Kondo — whose KonMari philosophy centers on discarding all items that don’t “spark joy” and arranging them in your home so they can all be seen easily (like folding clothes on their sides in drawers) — there are experts for that, too.

New York City-based Lisa Tselebidis, a KonMari-certified consultant, previously worked in fashion before turning to organizing as a career. She specializes in whole-home projects; each room is tackled and transformed. Clutter can take many forms, she adds.

“Visual clutter is a thing,” explains Tselebidis. “You might want to remove labels from bottles and containers. By doing that, you can remove the ‘noise’ these labels can create in your home. Your home might be tidy, but it might still feel cluttered if you have a lot of items with written information on them.”

Cost: After a free initial call, fees range from $ 500 to $ 1,000 per session.

Laundry room / storage closet

Sorted by Anna
Sorted by Anna

“No one’s life or home is Pinterest perfect,” says Anna Bauer, founder of Sorted by Anna. She encourages city dwellers, or anyone with limited space, to consider how less is more when it comes to products that live behind cabinet doors. “If you can’t see it, you will likely forget you own it!”

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During one recent project, Bauer did more than just tidy up and organize one Brooklyn family’s existing laundry space. “Given its size, they wanted to create a space and systems to hold snacks, cleaning, laundry and seasonal items as well as their shoes,” she says. To do this, Bauer reworked the entire interior configuration. “The previous shelving had limitations and could not house all of the items the family wanted to store in the space,” she adds. “Once we edited and grouped like with like, I then took measurements and designed an Elfa system from the Container Store that utilized the entire space and would better fit their needs and what they truly used daily.” The new layout is a game-changer, and has helped the family in their decluttering goals.

For one recent Upper West Side project, Bauer was tasked with bringing order to toiletries and makeup items in a client’s master bath — and making the most of that awkward space under city sinks infiltrated by a pesky central pipe. “Most of her daily items were thrown in, making it hard for her to find what she needed quickly and resulted in wasted time or rebuying items she already owned,” says Bauer, who began the job by editing down the toiletries and tossing products that were expired.

“We then grouped things in a way that made sense for her lifestyle and daily use. Based on that new system, I then took measurements and purchased solutions that would work for her and fit the space precisely.”

Consider a lazy Susan, Bauer adds, which “can be used in almost every space in your home and makes hard-to-reach corners, cabinets or under bathroom/kitchen sinks more accessible.”

Cost: $ 100/hour, two-hour minimum required. Flat rates offered for clients who are relocating.

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