Lots of people – friends, acquaintances, people I meet at parties – often ask me what I think about the latest organizing craze. Right now it’s Marie Kondo and her “Tidying Up”, but it’s also been Swedish Death Cleaning (wow, so 2017!), or Feng Shui, or any number of methods that have been presented and marketed over the years to help us all deal with the stuff that accumulates and causes us undue amounts of stress. And I usually reply that I think most any idea or concept that inspires people to live more intentionally, simply, and with more comfort, is a good thing. All of the catch phrases and acronyms that different experts use are really variations on the same theme.

professional organizer advice clean closetBut I also know that sometimes you can feel guilt or frustration when an organizing guru’s advice doesn’t “take” for you. Maybe the ideas didn’t resonate or even turned you off. Everybody is talking about how great (fill in the blank) is, but somehow you feel left out of the trend. Is there something wrong just because you don’t want to cull and arrange your books in ROYGBIV order?

On the other hand, perhaps you did buy the latest organizing book or watched YouTube videos, and you got excited about what you saw. Great – motivation is terrific! But when you tested the systems out, you got overwhelmed, or lost interest and quit, or decluttered and reorganized a whole room only to backslide within six weeks. Maybe family members weren’t cooperative. Perhaps the disorganization comes from something more profound, like ADHD, hoarding, or trauma – and a book or show just isn’t going to go far enough.

Is it all pointless, then, to try out some of these methods? There are SO many ways to approach organization, how can you figure out what works best for you and your family? I suggest starting by checking in with your instincts, because you have them and they’re probably more on target than you think. Survey your home as if you are visiting it for the first time – literally, walk up to the front door and step in as if you’re a neighbor bringing cookies or a repair person checking on the air conditioning.

Walk through the spaces, and make a list of what you notice, what feels right, what stresses you out (and if that’s everything, take a deep breath and remember Rome wasn’t built in a day). If you don’t know where to start, just start somewhere. If color-coding isn’t your thing, don’t worry about it. If folding clothing a certain way makes you feel more relaxed, go for it!

We all have our personalities and quirks, but it pretty much comes down to the same basic set of rules:

  • Arrange items so you can find what you need, when you need it.
  • Make decisions about designated homes for belongings when they are not in use.
  • The more you have, the more you have to manage. Let go of what doesn’t serve.

I understand that it may not seem that simple at first, and it takes some experimentation – trial and error is ok because you’ll learn from both. Whatever system or method you ultimately choose should be tailored to your taste, lifestyle, comfort, and stage of life (an organized home with small children is entirely different from an organized home with empty-nesters). If you think you’d like to get professional organizer advice to support you in the process, be sure to do some research and take a little time to learn something about them. The following questions are a good start:

  • How long have you been organizing?
  • What kinds of clients or projects do you enjoy the most?
  • What’s your background? Have you taken any training?
  • Do you belong to an industry organization? The National Association of Productivity and Organizing professionals and the Institute for Challenging Disorganization are the two main ones and both have directories you can search.
  • Are you certified? Organizers don’t have to be, but those who are show a strong level of commitment to learning best practices, refining their skills, and ethical standards.

Check out their online reviews and website, and/or ask for references. I would argue that having someone come into your home to work with your stuff is as intimate a process as going to your doctor. In addition to professionalism, you want someone you can develop a rapport with.

So, take some of that mom pressure off – it’s ok to buck a trend. Whatever way you choose to up your organizing game, know that the only “best” method is the one that works specifically for you.


sara-skillenSara Skillen, CPO® is the owner of SkillSet Organizing, a professional organizing, productivity, and coaching business serving the Greater Nashville, TN area. Her mission is to help overwhelmed people from all walks of life manage their stuff, their time, and their tasks. A former educator and paralegal, Sara has always been intrigued by the ways surroundings can affect our work, wellbeing, and productivity, and as a result was inspired to found her company in 2012. Sara is a Certified Professional Organizer®, an Evernote Certified Consultant, and a graduate of the Coach Approach for Organizers Foundation Training Program. She loves hanging out with her husband and two teenagers, travel, books, theatre, and her labs Lucy and Ringo. Learn more about her at https://www.skillsetorganizing.com/.