Every day we work with our clients to create homes that elevate and enhance their lives. We design spaces with intention - to restore, nourish, inspire, and enjoy the rituals of daily life. Intentional living doesn’t mean effortless though, it takes dedication to keep a home organized and clutter free. Our lives are constantly evolving and temptation is everywhere - new products, new trends, paperwork, and hobbies, not to mention non-stop inspiration from social media, magazines, and catalogs. It’s easy to accumulate too many things and organizing an entire house can be overwhelming, so we asked our favorite professional organizer, Mindy Risenmay, for her top tips and advice.

what is your philosophy on "things"? Do you think the majority of us have too much stuff? If so, why do you think this is?

MINDY: I think in our society, we believe we need to have the biggest and best of everything.  We tend to accumulate a lot of "stuff" we don't really need and we’re constantly adding to what we already have. At the same time, many people have difficulty letting go of things. Whether it holds sentimental value, or we may find use for it sometime, or we think it may come back in style, we hold onto things. This creates a tremendous accumulation of clutter that we can't manage, it is easy become overwhelmed.  

How do you help people emotionally detach from their things if they know have too much, but they still feel like they need to keep it all?

It is hard to give things away if you are emotionally attached. I love the KonMari approach about only keeping items that spark joy in your life. Marie Kondo is an organizing expert who recommends holding each item and asking yourself if it brings you happiness ... do you get a rush of emotion when you look at it? Does it spark joy? This is the first step in learning how to detach yourself from things that may not need to be in your life anymore and actually seeking joy from letting things go.

Do you think every space in a home should be organized and clutter free?

It is difficult to have every space in your home completely organized all of the time, but it is important to have systems set up so things do not get out of control. My system for paperwork is a basket on my desk at home. It is filled with labeled folders for everything from bills to pay, to coupons, to a "To Do" folder. When I get mail, or my kids bring home important papers, I file them right away into their separate folders. If I do not have time to take care of the filing at that moment, I can put all the papers in the basket and file everything later. It is so easy for paperwork to pile up and papers to get misplaced, but with a system it is easy to keep up. I believe there should be a system and a place for everything in your home.

How do you "train" people to stay organized after you work with them?

I work with my clients to set up systems that work individually for their own lives. There's not one system that works for everyone as everyone's lives are different and unique, so each system has to accommodate how they live. Once that system is in place and they are comfortable with how and why it is set up that way, it tends to be easy to maintain.

After you organize and declutter your space, you need to carefully consider any new purchases and think about where it will go before you bring it into your home. Let go of any duplicate items and things that no longer serve you.

Do you think organization is something you are born understanding or is it a skill that is developed?

I have always been naturally passionate about organization and I’ve had constant “on the job” training. I have also studied different approaches and systems and have a variety of ways to help my clients. I believe for some people it comes naturally, but for others, it is a skill that can be developed. I have 5 children - some are natural organizers,  they like their space clean and organized at all times, I have others that do not mind living in chaos. Many people get overwhelmed with the thought of getting started because they’re not sure where to begin. But once you take the first step, everything else will fall into place.

What are the benefits of decluttering and organizing your space?

When you are in a room filled with clutter, it is hard to have a clear mind, free from frustration. An organized space boosts creativity and positivity. Living and working in an environment that is neat, clean, and organized helps the brain to be free from distractions and you can focus on your job at hand.   

“After a space is decluttered your stress level is lower, anxiety is decreased, and your concentration will be improved. you’ll boost your mood, you’ll sleep better, and you'll find more time to do what you want to do.”

Physically, people often feel like a weight has been lifted off their shoulders after we declutter and organize their space. You will feel physically lighter because excess stuff can literally weigh you down. It is easy to shut the door on the stuff hidden behind it, but it doesn't make the problem go away.  It will still be there waiting for you, giving you an uncomfortable, weighed down feeling. Tackling that mess behind the door, or that room you've been ignoring, can bring a joy and lightness to your day that you've been craving.

Does anyone ever miss things after they have done a big purge?  

Not in my experience. For example, I recently took a few carloads of items to donate to a charity. Afterward, I couldn't even remember what I had taken. When you see the same things every day sitting in your closet or in your drawer, you may think one day it will be useful, but that day likely will never come. Once you get rid of an item, you tend to discover there was never a need for it and you don't miss it at all.

Is it a good idea for our design clients to do a big organizing project before they remodel or redecorate their home?

I suggest getting rid of anything you do not need or have an emotional attachment to before you remodel or redecorate. If there is a pile of stuff that needs to be decluttered prior to the move or project, why not tackle it now? Why pay for storage and spend time and money moving things around that likely won’t work in your newly designed space? It is so much better to give yourself room for the things that you really need and love. Simplifying your life now will give you more freedom and opportunity that will only serve to help as you move into your new, beautiful space.

you’ve definitely convinced us to declutter and get organized. What is the best way to get started?

You should start with the spaces in your home that bother you the most. These spaces are usually the ones you see and use the most, like kitchens, closets, and landing zones. Start with one space at a time and then move on to the next. It is very overwhelming if you think of your entire house all at once. Start with a drawer and then move on to a cabinet, one by one. After a small space in your home is organized, move on to the next space. I recommend doing one space per week over a few months. Organizing can be very draining physically and emotionally, so it is a good idea to spread it out. Do not think of it as a big project, but rather a self-improvement process that will help you feel less stress, less anxiety, and a greater sense of accomplishment.  

Do you have a system people can use to determine what to keep on hand, toss, store?  

Again, the KonMari approach, which is based on the feelings each item evokes as you consider it. You can also organize by creating piles like,  "keep", "sell", "donate", and "trash."

What are your top tips/take aways for people who are reading this? what are some of your favorite resources?

You can get inspired to get started by reading blogs, books, and websites. One of my favorite books is "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying up: The Japanese Art of Organizing and Decluttering" by Marie Kondo. She also has tips on her website and blog.  I also like the book, 'The Complete Book of Home Organization" by Toni Hammersley and her blog. I also love to browse on Pinterest for inspiring ideas for home organization.

Kristen Thomas