Make Spring 2022 the Time to Declutter Your Life

February 20, 2022|In SD Blog|By Danine Alati

All the online stress shopping and purchasing of unnecessary stuff (air fryer, anyone?) has finally caught up with you after two years of being stuck at home trying to avoid the COVID-19 pandemic. Now it’s time to sort through the clutter and organize your home. Think of it as pre-spring cleaning or a way to leave the past in the past and seize 2022 with a fresh perspective. “At the most basic level, organization equals calm,” notes professional organizer and design expert Shira Gill in her book Minimalista. “When you walk into your home after a long day and everything is thoughtfully organized and well set up, you can relax and decompress immediately.” But how do you get to this point of decluttering to create tranquil interiors? The following designers and organizing pros share with Studio Designer some strategies and tips that can help you to get your home—and, as a result, your life— feeling and looking more organized.

Establish a Plan

A well-organized pantry has all contents put away in uniform containers to create a cohesive look. | Photo: Vivian Johnson

Gill swears by a five-step process to streamline your belongings, which she outlines in her book: First, clarify where you are and where you want to be. Then, edit by subtracting the items that don’t serve your vision or goals. Next, organize each space by type and usage, so it will be easy to find what you need when you need it. After that, elevate your organized space with some easy styling hacks. Finally, maintain your space makeover by implementing some simple habit shifts.

The key to getting started is to first do some self-evaluation (clarify) and decide how you want a space to look and feel and what you need to access frequently; then figure out how to pare down (edit). “Do not underestimate the power of a good editing session. Too much clutter is the enemy of a well-organized space,” Gill stresses, “so do your best to keep only what you actually use, need, and love. As you edit, make sure to be realistic and consider both the [amount of space you have] and your current lifestyle.”

One in, one out

Amy Studebaker's peg system organizes plates, saucers, and bowls in drawers, allowing for more space in overhead cabinets. | Photo: Amy Studebaker

Gill’s whole philosophy is to avoid excess, not to deprive yourself. “It’s about having the perfect amount. … More specifically, the exact right number of something for you,” she says in the intro to her book. Building on this idea of eliminating excess, Studio Designer client Amy Studebaker, owner and principal designer at Amy Studebaker Design, advocates for buying only for your daily needs. “Instead of buying 12-plus plates expecting to use them for dinner parties all the time, buy only what you expect to use on a day-to-day basis,” she says. “Establishing a one-in and one-out rule will definitely cut down on the clutter.”

Gill advocates for keeping a basket storing donations as they arise so that every time you buy a new item, a similar item will be donated. “Keep in mind: Paring down the volume of what you own is the easiest way to instantly create more space,” she says. “Instead of heading out to buy more stuff, start by simply reducing volume so you have less to store, clean, organize, and maintain.”

Jessica Litman, founder, CEO, and creative director of The Organized Mama, echoes a similar sentiment. “Don’t buy anything until you declutter what you currently have,” she says. “It will motivate you to do small declutter sessions daily so you can feel confident in any new things you bring into your home.”

A place for everything, everything in its place

Use matching under-furniture baskets to put items away. | Photo: The Organized Mama

But what’s a way to deal with the stuff you have that you want to keep? How can you keep it organized in a nicely designed home? “My definition of clutter is something you don’t use or have a designated spot for in your home,” notes Litman. “So if you use it, it isn’t clutter. It just needs a spot to be stored.” Studebaker agrees: “Make sure everything has a dedicated place. Every cup, bed linen, plate, etc., should have an exact place in your home, otherwise, things will start to get cluttered pretty quickly.”

Gill simplifies the organizing process into two basic steps:

  1. Group similar items together in categories (like with like)
  2. Store each category in one specific designated home

She elaborates with a few pro tips: Once you group similar items, evaluate how often you use them before designating their home–things you need at your fingertips require an easy-access location whereas lesser-used items can be stored at the top of the closet shelf. And create specific homes for items that are commonly misplaced, plus commit to always returning them to their rightful place. For example, place keys in a decorative dish on the entry table, your phone on a wireless charger in the kitchen, and umbrellas on hooks in the coat closet. Find decor items that will tastefully help you to create organization within your interior design scheme.

Litman advises, “If you notice piles of papers on the counter, create something in your design plans where paper can be stored. Shoes taking over? Try creating cubbies for them instead of piles near the door.”

She adds, “Be thoughtful about what should go in which location. When you design for beautiful spaces, the amount of clutter piling up drastically reduces.”

Don’t put it down, put it away

Maintaining a consistent palette and returning all items to their rightful homes helps create a streamlined look throughout your home. | Photo: from Minimalista; Photo Credit: Zoe Ching

“Good design depends just as much on what you subtract as what you add,” Gill explains in a section of her book about how to elevate your space. “Clear cluttered shelves and countertops. Donate unwanted furniture …. Remove excess art or decor for a clean slate. Stripping away the excess is one of the single most impactful things you can do to transform your space–a free, instant upgrade.”

Additionally, Gill notes a few simple tweaks that can instantly enhance your interiors and make spaces feel more organized: Streamline your storage to matching bins or baskets to create a uniform look. Maintain a consistent color scheme to make the design aesthetic feel more cohesive. If once you clear out items, your space feels too sparse, warm it up by layering cozy textures, accent rugs, or decorative pills–of course, in a consistent palette. And when deciding on a palette, neutrals always afford a clean, classic, timeless look.

Less is More

In this same vein, Studebaker offers a tip for creating space on kitchen counters by adding what she calls “decorative-containing items.” She suggests, “Place a beautiful silver tray to hold oils, spices, and salt and pepper grinders. Consider taking a pretty champagne bucket that you rarely use and placing all of your cooking utensils in it” to free up extra cabinet and drawer space.

Studebaker also recommends creating storage with existing pieces of furniture as a crafty space-saving technique. “Place baskets with lids under your cocktail table to store items that you would like to keep within reach, but don’t want sitting out,” she recommends. And she calls bamboo drawer organizers life-savers because “they keep everything organized without compromising on a beautiful aesthetic.”

Another super-valuable tip: “Get in the habit of deciding what to do with an item before you set it down,” Litman says, insisting that indecision tends to be the cause of clutter in homes. “You aren’t sure if an item is necessary so you leave it somewhere to decide later. Items continue to pile based on your indecision, and it gets overwhelming. … Pick up an item and decide if you need it or not. Don’t give yourself any other option.”

Change Your Behavior

Establish the practice of grouping like items together. | Photo: The Organized Mama

To combat clutter from accumulating in the future, it’s necessary to be proactive. “Establish daily habits that will keep you clean and organized,” Studebaker advises. “Open and sort the mail as soon as it comes. Keep clothing in a closet, hamper, or drawer—not left out. Designate a special place for important items.”

Likewise, Litman says, “Incorporate organizing habits into your everyday life. Whether it’s tidying up your kitchen immediately after dinner or straightening up your office at the end of your workday, the only way to prevent clutter from accumulating is to consistently practice organizing habits. … It’s also important to organize your space in a way that works for you. So, think about how you use the space and the things in the space, then organize everything based on that knowledge.”

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FEATURED IMAGE: Photo by Vivian Johnson