Clutter Happens

My closet _____________________________________________________:

A:  Is tidy, well-categorized, and has homemade labels. Dare I say, beautiful?

B:  Has some semblance of order; however, I own more blankets than a hotel. 

C:  Makes me assume a “defensive” position. If opened, something will fall on me. 

Regardless of your answer, everyone battles with clutter. Even professional organizers have organizational challenges. But as a professional organizer, I understand what causes clutter and have strategies to deal with it. 



The short answer…life. People have so many sticks in the fire; they’re just trying to keep the house from burning down. Life continues to throw new opportunities (or obstacles) our way and something has to give. 


As I write this, laundry sits on my couch, unfolded. Its time slot has been usurped: New things disrupt our rhythms and we fall behind. We already have work, kids, relationships, pets, plus the barrage of daily mail, email and texts. No wonder women feel pulled in a hundred different directions.


Ok, you get it. There are endless causes of clutter. But you can tame the beast in six easy-to-follow steps that will get you closer to being organized.

  1. Pick where you’ll start. Give yourself two to three hours of undistracted work time. No kids, no phone. Prepare three sorting tubs labeled TRASH, DONATE and MOVE.
  2. Identify how your space is used. Doing this gives it boundaries. You wouldn’t put Legos in your toolbox, would you? Boundaries highlight which items belong, or don’t belong, in a space, allowing you to de-clutter accordingly.  
  3. Move the big stuff, then work in zones. Many of my clients are paralyzed because they don’t know where to begin. First, identify large items that won’t be stored in the room and relocate them. Then, break the room into zones. A zone might be a closet, nook, desktop or other small space. De-clutter one zone at a time, moving clockwise to the next one. Repeat until all zones are completed. 
  4. Do not leave the space you’re organizing. The innocent act of moving “one item” to another room leads the best of us down a spiral of bunny trails. Save your time and energy for the job at hand.
  5. Be honest with yourself. Do you really want that coffee mug your girlfriend gave you? How about the jeans you loved, but no longer fit? Let someone else enjoy them! Make space for things that truly add value to your life.
  6. Keep the momentum going. When deciding if something should stay or go, make a decision within 15 seconds. Otherwise, set it aside. I call these “simmer” items. After you’ve de-cluttered everything else, come back to these items. Decision-making is easier when everything else has been dealt with.



Now that you’ve de-cluttered, the fun begins…shopping. It’s time to pick up some attractive containers to store those remaining items. Rochester businesses offer plenty of appealing storage options. 

Randy and Ann Collins co-own Churn Dash Antiques inside Collins Feed and Seed. Ann says, “We have baskets, cubbies…wooden boxes and crates…crockery bowls.” 

Dwell Local also has unique storage options, including trays, bowls, coat hooks, and picnic baskets. They specialize in repurposed and vintage items, along with items produced by local artisans. Both are goldmines for beautiful organizing supplies.


No matter what your closets look like, know that you are not alone. We all battle with clutter. So, if you are feeling up to it, I have a challenge for you. Within the next month, schedule two hours of de-cluttering. That’s it. Then reward yourself by going to one of these fun Rochester shops, and get yourself some unique storage containers.

Sara Lohse is owner and professional organizer at The Rescued Room,