My Mom is a Professional Home Organizer, This is What She Taught Me

Shannon Quinn - October 14, 2022
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Be sure to schedule in time for your organizer, or your own cleaning. Credit: Shutterstock

Schedule Time to Declutter

A lot of people struggle to clean and organize on their own. That’s one of the major reasons why they hire professional organizers like my mom. By hiring someone, they’re forced to schedule a time for this person to come over and help them. But here’s the thing- You could totally do that on your own. Write it down on your calendar or planner. Block out an entire day for decluttering. No excuses! 

Whether your calendar is digital or on paper, schedule time for organizing. Credit: Shutterstock

Just like anything else in life, once you schedule out the time, it becomes a lot easier. This needs to become a new habit in your life. Starting new habits isn’t easy. But if you get serious about blocking out some time, you can make progress. For most people, this is going to happen on the weekends. You might even have some luck trying to recruit friends and family to help you. (via The Simply Organized Home)

Make sure boxes are easy to get in and out of storage. Credit: Shutterstock

Make Items Easy to Get In and Out of Storage

One of the biggest things my mom stresses with her clients is to make sure your items are easy to get in and out of storage. You don’t want anything that you need to dig back for, or have boxes hiding behind each other. Once things are too difficult to reach, you might as well say “goodbye” to those things forever, because they’re going to get lost. Or, you’ll end up buying more new items instead of using what you already have. This only makes storage worse, because now you have twice or three times as many things than you actually need.

These baskets are easy to pull off the shelf without an issue. Credit: Shutterstock

Make sure your items are side-by-side, and that it’s easy to see the labels for everything. All of your items should be within arm’s reach, or easily accessible with a step stool. Once you make your items easy to access, you’ll find that you actually spend less money. This works out for food in your pantry, holiday items, clothing, and pretty much anything you can think of. (via Better Homes and Gardens)

Trying to work like an organizer can be daunting. Don’t be down on yourself. Credit: Shutterstock

Mental Health Tip: Don’t Be Down on Yourself

Something my mom hears all the time is her clients putting themselves down when they’re in the process of cleaning. They say things like, “I’m so embarrassed.” and “I can’t believe I let things get that bad.” Stop right now! Professional organizers like my mom are not there to judge you. They are there to meet you where you’re at, no matter how messy your house may be. Trust me, they’ve seen everything. Chances are that if you’re reading an article like this, you’re probably not as bad as some of the hoarding clients professionals have dealt with.

Cleaning is hard. Don’t worry too much about it. Credit: Shutterstock

If you’re trying to clean on your own, you shouldn’t judge yourself too harshly, either. Remember that everybody needs to start somewhere. It took time for your house to get messy, so it will take time for it to get clean. Try to encourage yourself, or seek encouragement from friends and family who will help you get your home organized again. (via Healthy Place)

A lot of parents feel tempted to hold on to all of their children’s artwork. Credit: Shutterstock

Don’t Hold On to Sentimental Clutter

Earlier on this list, I mentioned that my mom always helps people create a box for their sentimental items. A lot of the time, though, sentimental items are so big, they can’t fit in a box. It could be furniture or a chandelier that you inherited from your parents or grandparents. Even if it doesn’t fit in with the style of your home, or you don’t have room for it, you might still be holding on to clutter for sentimental reasons. It’s much better to take photographs of these items, and then give them away to someone else who would actually need them in their own home.

Keep your photos organized so it doesn’t end up like clutter. Credit: Shutterstock

We understand that this is easier said than done. A friend of the family has tons of furniture in her house, and she refuses to get rid of anything, because they were pieces she inherited from family. She has a big house that could look beautiful, if she just let go of her clutter. But no matter how often my mom tries to convince her, she won’t let go. (via The Spruce)

Top time from a pro organizer: label everything! Credit: Shutterstock

Put a Label on Everything

My mom can never stress this enough to her clients: Label, label, label. Put a label on everything. This helps you keep things organized, and it reminds you where things go. It’s especially useful in your kitchen pantry if you’re using containers of any kind. I highly recommend buying a label maker. 

Buy a label maker to feel like a real professional organizer. Credit: Shutterstock

Another place where it’s absolutely vital to label boxes is when you put things away in storage like your attic or basement. And don’t just say “Christmas Decorations” on 5 different boxes. Get into some details. You might want to get a little note card and write down a list of what’s inside the box. For example, one box might say “outdoor lights and animatronics”, while another says “ornaments.” Here at Home Addict, we already have a list on Smart Organization Hacks for Seasonal Items(via Home Addict)

Teach your kids how to clean with you during your organization. Credit: Shutterstock

Get the Kids Involved 

Your kids model everything you do. They look at your behaviors, and end up copying it themselves. So if they grow up in a messy home, it’s likely that they’ll grow up to be messy adults. When you start your organizing journey, make sure your kids get involved, too… Especially when it comes to picking up their toys! They should be learning how to clean up after themselves, first and foremost. If they’re old enough, make sure they know how to run the dishwasher, washing machine, and other chores they can do around the house to help you keep the place organized. This helps them grow up into responsible adults.

Teach your kids to put away their toys. Credit: Shutterstock

Obviously, my mom got me involved with organizing from an early age. She would even bring me to some of her client’s homes after I got off the school bus. I loved seeing her hard work pay off, and I understood how important it is to keep organized. In turn, I ended up being a pretty organized adult. Obviously, I’m a writer, not an organizer. But these skills still help me keep my freelancing business on track. (via NBC News)

Make sure your drawers and closet have space for new clothes to be added. Credit: Shutterstock

Always Save Space for New Items to Come Into Your Life

Earlier on this list, I already talked about how my mom recommends cleaning out your closet every three months. One of the major reasons for doing this is that you need to keep some space in your closet and drawers for new items to come into your life. How are you supposed to fit new clothes if your space is already filled to the brim? This is just asking for clutter and mess to start piling up. 

This garage is so clean, it has plenty of space for new items to come in. Credit: Shutterstock

This rule also applies outside of your closet. Your bookshelves, pantry, and garage should all contain extra space for new items, too. A lot of people end up renting a storage unit when they run out of space in their new home. But in reality, this ends up being a huge waste of money. After enough time has passed, you’re paying so much money for this storage unit, it’s more than what those items are worth. Eventually, a lot of people stop paying the rent on their storage, and all of their items go up for auction. According to Simply Self Storage, 155,000 storage units are auctioned off each year. That’s a lot of people who are holding onto things unnecessarily! (via Quora)

It takes a lot of work to sell on eBay. Credit: Shutterstock

Don’t Make the eBay Excuse

When my mom goes to meet with clients, something she hears all the time is that they want to keep things because they eventually want to sell them on eBay or Facebook Marketplace. This is understandable, especially if you have something that’s worth a lot of money. However, once you start making that excuse, it snowballs into a mountain of clutter. And, unfortunately, a lot of people don’t realize that just because something is listed on eBay for a lot of money, that doesn’t mean it’s worth that much. You should always check the “sold” listings for a more accurate estimate on your items. Even if you potentially miss out on making some money, it’s usually better to have a clean and organized house. 

Selling on eBay is easy. But most a pro organizer will tell you it’s not worth it. Credit: Shutterstock

A friend of mine was a big fan of a podcast called “Scavenger Life.” After listening to stories of this couple selling on eBay full time, she decided to try it too. But what she quickly realized is that you need to accumulate a lot of stuff to make it work. Even if something is valuable, it can take a long time to sell. Eventually, she realized that she valued a clean home and her space more than the little money she could make online. Professionals like “Scavenger Life” literally have big barns and storage facilities full of stuff, and they do this for a living. So they don’t mind if it takes years to sell something. But do you have that kind of time? Most people don’t. (via Money Crashers)

Every organizer will tell you that it get messier before it gets cleaner. Credit: Shutterstock

Put it All Out There

Before you start organizing your belongings, you need to pull everything out and put it all in one pace to see what you have. If you have ever seen the TV show “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo”, you might already be familiar with this concept. At first, this can be overwhelming. And it definitely makes a huge mess. But sometimes, things need to get worse before they get better. 

It feels stressful to pull everything out, but it’s worth it in the end. Credit: Shutterstock

For example, you might want to pull all of the clothes out of your closet or drawers and put them all on your bed. It’s going to create a mountain of clothing. But if you want to go to sleep that night, you’re basically forced to get yourself through the huge pile. This might take a couple hours to get done, but trust me, it’s so worth it. I still do this with my own clothes every three months, which is what my mom recommends. (via Marie Kondo)

This junk drawer is dirty and disorganized. An organizer would tell you to clean it up. Credit: Shutterstock

Yes, It’s Okay to Have a Junk Drawer

A lot of people assume that when you work with a professional organizer, they’re going to encourage you to find a place for absolutely everything. In reality, there are going to be some miscellaneous items that don’t really have a home. So yes, it’s okay to have one junk drawer. But you just need to make sure it doesn’t get out of control. Even though it’s “junk”, it can still be cleaned and organized.

Notice how this junk drawer is organized with small boxes. Credit: Shutterstock

If you already have a junk drawer, I encourage you to take it out and go through the items one by one. You’ll find that a lot of those items can be thrown away. Or you might even have two or three of the same item. (Scissors are a common double-item for some reason.) Consider getting plastic drawer inserts to help organize everything even more. This way, even though it’s a junk drawer, you’ll be able to see everything all at once and find what you need quickly. (via Angi

Every organizer will tell you that hanging trumps folding. Credit: Shutterstock

Hanging is Better Than Folding

Whenever possible, you should hang your clothes instead of folding them. When you hang clothes in a closet, you can fit so many more pieces compared to folding them in a drawer. On top of that, it’s so easy for a drawer to get messy when you reach in to look for something. Another benefit to hanging is that your clothes won’t get as wrinkly. It makes it a lot easier for you to steam press something, too.

Marie Kondo, a professional organizer, has her own folding style to save space. Credit: Shutterstock

Obviously, not everyone has the option to hang things up. Your closet might be tiny, or in some cases, you might not have a closet at all. If you don’t have a closet, you might want to consider buying a rolling clothing rack. These can be found at stores like Target and Walmart. Of course, these take up space, so it could potentially make your room feel more cramped. Make sure you have the space for it, and try to find a creative storage solution for your clothes. (via The Laundress

Every pro organizer measures a space before they buy storage boxes. Credit: Shutterstock

Measure Your Space Before You Put Away Storage

A rookie mistake a lot of people make when they try to organize without professional help is that they forget to measure their space. You might be ready to go out and buy a lot of plastic storage bins. But do you really have the space for it? Before you get started, get some measuring tape and see how much space your attic, basement, or shelving actually has. Then, bring the measuring tape to the store with you. Calculate how many boxes can fit into your designated space, or shelving. This sounds simple enough, but it’s actually so important.

Measure your boxes before you put them away in your storage area. Credit: Shutterstock

A few years ago, I was helping one of my friends move into a new house. Instead of packing everything in cardboard boxes, she bought plastic storage bins to bring everything to the house. But once we got there, the square footage of the home was tiny. They started piling the storage bins into the living room, and they literally reached the ceiling, because it was so low. Even if she stacked the boxes inside of one another, there was still so little room for the storage boxes in her house. It actually ended up being a big waste of money for her. So always think ahead, measure, and be prepared. (via Move)

You don’t need to act like a professional organizer. Just start with baby steps. Credit: Shutterstock

It’s Okay to Take Baby Steps

When you watch TV shows like “Hoarders”, you see professional organizers come in and completely clear out someone’s home until it’s practically empty. This prospect seems terrifying and overwhelming for a lot of clients, especially when they have trouble letting go. In reality, it’s okay to take baby steps. If you ever hire a professional organizer, they will meet you where you are at. No one is there to force you to throw everything away. They’re just there to help you get more organized and live a better life. When you see a house cleared on Hoarders, it’s usually because they were holding onto literal trash that needed to be thrown away.

It’s okay to take baby steps when you start becoming a home organizer. Credit: Shutterstock

On “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo”, she recommends going just one category at a time. For example, you might start off with just clothing. Next, you can move onto paper. Then move onto holiday items, etc. It’s time consuming to actually organize your house. So of course, you need to go slowly. Not everyone has the time for organizing projects, either. As long as you are making baby steps towards your goal, you’re doing great. (via LifeHack)

These drawer inserts can be used in any room of the house. Credit: Shutterstock

Get Creative With Your Storage Solutions

Not everything has to be stored in clear plastic bins. You can get creative with some of your storage, and mix and match items. For example, you can use a Lazy Susan that’s meant for the kitchen and put one in your closet instead. Glass canisters that normally go in the kitchen can be used in the laundry room to store detergent. Rolling carts can be used in literally any room in the house. The list goes on and on. 

Mix and match organizational containers. Credit: Shutterstock

As a professional organizer, my mom was always getting creative. Obviously, everyone’s house or apartment is going to be different from the next. So she needed to think on her toes and figure out how she was going to make something work. If you’re trying to organize on your own, and you’re not sure where to start, I recommend watching shows like “The Home Edit” and “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo” on Netflix. Pinterest also has tons of great ideas. There is inspiration out there for everyone. You just need to go out and find it!  (via Better Homes and Gardens)

Every organizer will tell you to go shopping for plastic totes. Credit: Shutterstock

Don’t Use Cardboard Boxes

A lot of people store their belongings in cardboard boxes. After all, they’re cheap, or even free if you’re recycling from an Amazon Prime order. The only problem is that these cardboard boxes aren’t meant to last forever. Cockroaches and moths actually love cardboard. Mice have also been known to gnaw through boxes. Cardboard is also more of a fire hazard. 

Plastic boxes come in all shapes and sizes. Credit: Shutterstock

My mom met with one client who stored everything in cardboard boxes in their basement. Then, one day, a hurricane came by, and it completely flooded the basement. You can guess what happened. Everything inside of those boxes got ruined. They needed help salvaging what was left. They ended up buying plastic bins and a shelving system that would keep the boxes off of the floor, in case it ever flooded again in the future. (via Stor-It)

If you collect hotel toiletries, many of them may be expired. Credit: Shutterstock

Examine Your Toiletries

Most people are familiar with the concept of expired food. But did you know that toiletries and makeup expire too? One of the most common things my mom helps her clients throw away is expired toiletries. You can easily do this on your own by going through your bathroom closet and shower. Sometimes, a bottle won’t have an expiration date on it. But hopefully you can remember when you bought that item. You can Google search how long these products are good for, and judge accordingly. 

Makeup expires after a few months, so always check the dates. Credit: Shutterstock

This is why it’s sometimes not a good idea to buy those “jumbo” sized products from places like Costco or Sam’s Club. Sure, it might seem like you’re saving money. But unless you have a huge family that’s using up products quickly, you might actually be putting yourself in a situation where you have expired products. (via Clean My Space)

Teach your kids to get into good cleaning habits. Credit: Shutterstock

Get Into Good Habits to Keep Your Home Clean

So, you’ve decided to hire a professional organizer, or do a project on your own. Congratulations! Now what? How do you plan on keeping your house clean? It all comes down to forming good habits. There are a lot of habits you need to get into to keep your home clean. For example, you can clean up after yourself while you’re cooking. Put away things right away after you’re done using them. Stop procrastinating. 

Hopefully your partner is also willing to change their habits to keep your home clean. Credit: Shutterstock

If at all possible, you should try to teach these new habits to your family, too. It’s almost impossible to keep a house clean if you’re the only family member who is willing to pull their own weight. It may be difficult to convince your partner or your kids to help, but you can try to make it fun, rather than a chore. Good luck to everyone, and I hope these tips helped. (via Southern Living)

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