The New Year’s Resolutions 11 Professional Organizers Are Making for 2020
Even the pros have messy fridges, overflowing closets, and way too many pictures on their phones. Here's how they plan to streamline their lives in the new year.
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Strategize, simplify, and streamline
“My motto is, ‘If you keep too much, you can’t find what’s truly important,'” says Monica Friel, the CEO (chief executive organizer) at Chaos to Order. The problem a lot of people have is that they don’t understand your stuff owns you as much as you own it—you have to pay to take care of it, mentally and financially. This is where professional organizers come in. They can help you decide what’s really important to you, how to organize it to best suit your lifestyle, and how to get rid of everything else, giving you a clean slate for the new year, Friel says. To get you on the right path, we asked the pros to share their best tips, like these 26 secrets professional organizers won’t tell you for free, and to share their own personal resolutions for 2020.
“I’m going to group chores into batch tasks”
Organizing is so much easier when you have a plan to tackle tasks rather than just jumping into whatever project presents itself. So this year, Sherri Monte, a professional organizer and the owner of Elegant Simplicity, has decided to group her organizing projects into “batch tasks.” For instance, instead of doing laundry all throughout the week, she does it all at the same time on the same day, catching up on a favorite TV show while she folds. “I actually schedule time on my calendar for decluttering and organizing specific tasks,” she says. “This allows me to be more present with my family while still having an organized home.” Along with this idea, try these 50 organizing tips you’ll wish you knew all along.
“I commit to decluttering my calendar”
Time clutter is as real as physical clutter, and your schedule needs to be cleaned out just like your closet does, says Liz Jenkins, a certified professional organizer and the owner of A Fresh Space. “This year, I will go through my regular engagements and reduce them to free up time to work on some projects that are important to me,” she says. “I’ve realized that some work and personal commitments are no longer as relevant as they once were, so I can let those go in favor of doing something new—like yoga once a week. There are only so many hours in a week, and I’ve learned that in order to bring something new in, you need to let something go.” This is definitely one of those things you’ll wish you could go back and tell your younger self if you could.
“I will organize all my phone pics”
We’re taking more pictures than ever, but how many do you actually take the time to go back and look at? Often, they’re posted to social media, and those precious memories are promptly forgotten. That’s why it’s so important to have an organization system for your digital photos, says Susan Rosenbaum, a professional digital photo organizer and the owner of Photo Overflow. “To stay on top of my pictures, each Sunday I will review my smartphone photos and screenshots. Then I will delete the images that I don’t want and back up the rest to an external hard drive,” she explains. “Lastly, I will ‘favorite’ any I’d like to be kept on my phone and delete the rest from my phone.” You can also have pictures you treasure printed in books. But before you take your next photo, make sure you know these genius tricks to take postcard-perfect pictures on your smartphone.
“I’m going to focus on living more sustainably”
The health of the planet is an important concern these days, and how you organize your stuff can really impact how big your “footprint” is, says Devin VonderHaar, a professional organizer who owns the Modern Minimalist. (Clutter can also be a major source of stress at home.) “One of my biggest goals for 2020 is living more sustainably,” she says. To do this, she’s resolved to make three changes: Only buy clothing second hand, limit disposable plastics to one bottle per month, and switch to products, including home goods and food, that offer zero-waste options.
“I will stop impulse buying”
Who hasn’t gone into a store or onto Amazon only to end up buying at least three things that weren’t on your list? Impulse buying is a real problem—both for your wallet and for home clutter—according to Amy Bloomer, a professional organizer at Let Your Space Bloom. “In 2020, to reduce clutter, I resolve to be more mindful of what purchases I bring into my home,” she says. “When shopping online, I will follow the rule to leave items in my cart for at least 24 hours before purchasing. I will also refrain from using the ‘subscribe & save’ feature on Amazon to avoid the buildup of unnecessary items. The savings are not worth the resulting clutter in my home.” Here are more personal finance tips you were never taught—but need to know.
“I’m going to donate unused items once a month”
Too many people go through the work of decluttering with the intention of donating the unused items, only to end up with the donation bags taking up space in their garage instead of their closet. So this year, Bloomer is committing to making sure her things really get donated. “I have placed a donation bin at the bottom of my front hall closet to make it quick and easy to collect items that I come across during my daily routine,” she says. Then once a month, she can take the items to a local charity. Here’s where to donate every type of thing from old work clothes to used coats.
“I’m doing ‘no-spend’ January”
Fact: The fewer things you buy, the fewer things you have to clean up and organize. To help do this, Lisa Dooley, an organizing coach and the author of More Space. More Time. More Joy!, has decided to try a money fast. “I’m going to make a moratorium on buying anything that is not fresh food,” she says. “No getting sucked into buying extra canned goods, no purchasing ‘great deals’ on health and beauty items, and no after-Christmas shopping ‘bargains.'” Of course, this also helps you save money. For more inspiration in that regard, check out this story of one woman who stopped buying three things and saved $5,000.
“I’ll practice saying ‘no’ more often”
We all get so many requests to help and do and join and attend, but to stay organized (and sane), you have to be selective about what you agree to, Dooley says. “My rule is: ‘If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no.’ By being intentional and selective, I’ll have more time for what I am passionate about,” she explains. “In 2020, I resolve to remember that I need to say a kind ‘no, thanks’ to anything that does not align with my purpose and goals and does not lead me to serve with joy.” Worried about disappointing people? Here’s how to say no without feeling like everyone will hate you.
“I’m preparing to move into a tiny house”
The “tiny house” trend has grown very popular in recent years, thanks to its emphasis on living simply and avoiding reckless consumerism. “I am planning on living in a house [that] if not tiny is at least much smaller in a few years, so my resolution this year is to downsize to prepare for that move,” says Marty Basher, a home organization professional with Modular Closets. To do this, he will make a list of the things he absolutely needs and uses consistently. “I plan on doing this by making note of what I use the most in a month, and then packing away whatever I haven’t used. If it’s still not needed within another few months, I’ll get rid of it for good,” he explains. Here are clever storage hacks from people who live in tiny houses.
“I will digitally declutter all my devices”
Clutter you can see right in front of you is begging to be organized, but digital clutter—unused apps, old photos, music or podcast downloads, subscriptions you no longer need, old files—can take up just as much space in your life without you even realizing it. So this year, Luis Perez, a professional organizer with 5miles and the founder of Remoov, is going to clear out all his digital clutter. “I’m going to go through and delete rarely used applications, which can take up a lot of your storage space and slow down your computer,” he says. “I will also create clearly marked digital folders, organize the apps and files I need into them, and then move anything else to a cloud service.”
“I’m getting approved for TSA PreCheck to simplify my travel”
Travel is a way of life for many people, and being organized is essential to doing it with as little pain and inconvenience as possible. “This year, I resolve to get the Real ID and TSA PreCheck,” says Jenkins. “To do this, I will gather all related documents, including ordering a new copy of our marriage certificate that went missing during one of our moves, and submit all of it within a month.” Make sure you know the difference between chores you should do and these chores that are a waste of time.
“I’m going to keep my fridge organized and waste-free”
Of all the organizing you need to do, cleaning out your fridge is probably close to the bottom of your list. After all, there’s not much fun in sniffing old containers of milk and trying to recognize the leftovers under a layer of mold. But it’s so important to keep a clean refrigerator and not just for sanitary reasons, says professional organizer Sonja Meehan, owner of the Simply Thriving Organization. “In 2020, I resolve to reduce the amount of food my family wastes,” she says. “We will take our compostable food scraps to our city’s collection site, I will take inventory of what is in our fridge before planning our meals for the week, and I will put an ‘Eat Me’ bin in our fridge for things that should be used soon.” Don’t miss this definitive guide on how often you should clean everything.
“I will go through all my holiday decorations”
Decorating for all the different holidays can be fun and festive, but storing things you only use for a few weeks out of the year can be a pain. That’s why Friel has decided that 2020 is the year she’s going to pare down her decor. “I will give a thorough weed-out to the boxes I have for each holiday and cut them in half,” she says. “As I pull out the boxes filled with decorations, I will eliminate all but the most important and very special keepsakes and artwork.” For whatever makes the cut, don’t miss these 8 clever ways to store those holiday decorations.
“I’m going to do a month-long organizing challenge”
What better way to start the new year than with a clean, clutter-free home? “I am going to kick-start 2020 by doing a whole-house decluttering session,” says Elsa Elbert, owner of Composed Living. “I’ll use my 30 Days to Clutter-Free Living guide, which provides one easy-to-accomplish task each day, for 30 days.” Next, learn the secrets of people who always have a clean home.