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20 Things Professional Organizers Would Never Do in Their Own Homes

Professional organizers reveal some unexpected things they never do when keeping their own homes neat and tidy.

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Never doing these things means less mess

Clutter-busting habits make all the difference between a messy home and a tidy one. So the first thing a professional organizer does is find a place for every single thing—then keep it there. This doesn’t mean purchasing sets of matching bins or decanting all your pantry foods into clear glass containers with hand-printed labels. FYI—these are the Container Store items professional organizers actually buy, and pretty pantry decanters aren’t one of them. Rule of thumb, if an organizational system (like decanting) actually increases the time and effort you’ll have to spend spend keeping things tidy, ditch it. Read on for more things professional organizers never do:

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They don’t always alphabetize

Instead of assuming you must always alphabetize for easy access, try storing things by frequency of use. For example, those nesting mixing bowls that you frequently reach for should be kept on a low shelf and that crystal vase that you break out every Valentine’s Day should go higher up. This goes for smaller things like spices, too. “I never alphabetize my spices, because I don’t use allspice as often as I use thyme.” explains workplace productivity expert Susie Hayman.

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They don’t mix dissimilar things

Speaking of spices, Vicki Norris, organizing expert and “life reclaimist” of Restoring Order tells us she never comingles sweet and savory spices on the same shelf. Why? Because “on a bleary-eyed morning, no one wants to accidentally put chili powder in their oatmeal instead of cinnamon!” You won’t know how you lived without these 41 kitchen organizing ideas.

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They don’t hang onto donations

To avoid letting unused things pile up, Tamah Vega of Tamah Vega Design has a rule we can all get on board with, “Never go without a donation bag in the house ready for items you no longer need.” This way the minute you decide you’re ready to donate the item, you can have it ready to go. Consider adding these 10 bizarre things you didn’t know you could donate to the bag.

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They don’t leave computer files unnamed

After downloading a file, Andrew Mellen, author of Unstuff Your Life! immediately renames it and saves it in the appropriate folder. This way you avoid wasting time trying to remember its name or where to look for it next time you need it. Read on for additional tips to organize your computer desktop.

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They don’t let the mail pile up

“I deal with it all as soon as I get it,” explains Jessica Dolan, owner of Room to Breathe. She sorts, tosses, and shreds junk mail, then immediately deals with whatever remains. You can also eliminate junk mail before it even gets to you; learn how you can make your mailbox a junk-free zone.

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They don’t forget to run errands

Move items—like those books to return to the library or returns you are taking back to the store—from house to your car trunk immediately, shares Amy Trager, certified professional organizer. “If they’re already in my car, I’m more likely to get them taken care of,” she says. Keep car clutter to a minimum too and you’ll always have room to store. Don’t miss these 15 things you should never leave in the car.

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They don’t keep the old version

Once you have made a decision to replace an item, let the original go, suggests Birdie with Birdie Brennan Custom Closets & Organizing, LLC. Her rule, “never keep something that you have replaced.” That’s especially true for tech items you’ve upgraded—here’s how to recycle or donate your outdated devices.

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They don’t bunch up bags

Instead of storing reusable bags in the house, Sheryl Hadley, president of Organization & Relocation, puts them right back in her car after every use. This way you won’t forget them when you go to the store and you won’t have a messy pile of bags cluttering up your mudroom. Win win.

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They don’t unload purses halfway

When you switch purses, empty the current one out completely, Vega advises. Otherwise, you might lose track of your favorite lipstick—or that license or credit card that never made it back into your wallet. While you’re at it, remove these 12 items you should never carry in your purse.

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They don’t use the chair as a closet

“I never leave clothes lying or draped on the floor, chair, bed, or treadmill,” says Betsy Fein, president of Clutterbusters. They can get wrinkled, coated in pet hair, or simply forgotten about when not stored properly. If you need space to hang gently used clothes for another wearing, try installing a few hooks on the back of your closet door. In fact, not having a place to store “worn once, not dirty clothes” is one of the 12 biggest closet organizing mistakes.

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They don’t clutter the nightstand

Keep your bedroom clutter-free for a good night’s sleep. “I never clutter a nightstand because it’s next to where I sleep, and I need peaceful surroundings to get the best night’s rest,” says Ellen Delap, a certified professional organizer. Discover more morning habits of highly organized people.

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They don’t shop for organizing products first

When you’re preparing to organize an area of your home, don’t make purchase organizing products the first thing you do, says Jodi Granok, professional organizer and owner of Organizing Magic, LLC. Shop for an organizing solution only after you’ve edited down and know how many and what size containers you need—or whether you already have one you can re-use. These are the 17 most popular organizers from the Container Store.

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They don’t just buy more bins

“Never purchase a new organizing bin just because the current one is full,” says Colleen Ashe, certified professional organizer and chief expert organizer at Ashe Organizing Solutions, Ltd. Make space in the current container by paring down what’s inside.

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They don’t overcrowd

One thing most of us don’t need help with is acquiring more stuff, so leave room for that eventuality. “Leave some room to grow in your cabinets, bins, drawers, and shelves,” suggests Granok. Otherwise, you’ll outgrow your storage containers, find yourself storing stuff in random spots, and you’ll never be able to find things when you need them.

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They don’t forget to plan for storage

“I never buy anything unless I know where it’s going to live in my home,” says Standolyn Robertson, certified professional organizer and owner of Things in Place. This goes for everything from that new juicer you want to that sweater you’ve been eyeing. This rule of thumb will help you “buy one, let go of one” and avoid the problem of having something new and nowhere to store it.

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They don’t forget to label

“Never put unlabeled cables in a drawer or box,” says Sharon Lowenheim, a certified professional organizer. You’ll have no idea what devices they belong to when you come across them later.

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They don’t make a mess in the pantry

If you buy in bulk, take the individual items out of the giant bag. “Never leave bulk items, such as protein bars and snack foods, in large packages,” advises Laura Leist, author of Eliminate Chaos: The 10-Step Process to Organize Your Home & Life. She places often-used items into bins in the pantry for easy access. That said, these are the things you should never buy in bulk.

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They don’t let dishes linger

One sure way to get your day off to a bad start is to wake up to a pile of dirty dishes in the morning, says Gayle Goddard, certified professional organizer and owner of The Clutter Fairy, LLC. Deal with the dishes before you go to bed, because “a spotless sink sets the tone for your house—and your day,” she says.

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They don’t keep out of date things

Don’t keep things that are past their prime; it could be unsafe to use them. This includes expired food, expired home goods, like batteries, and expired personal care items, says John Trosko, founder of Los Angeles based OrganizingLA. This goes for expired medications, too. Find out the safest ways to get rid of leftover medication.

Women's clothing in the drawers of the wardrobe. Underwear, T-shirts and socks in the closet. Vertical storage.Kostikova Natalia/Shutterstock

They don’t skip the dividers

Never toss things in a drawer without dividers. “By using dividers you’ll know what and how many you have,” says Kathi Burns, certified professional organizer of Add Space To Your Life. “This also saves you from going overboard buying excess items you already own but cannot find.” The dividers don’t have to fancy—upcycled shoe boxes will do the trick. Next, read on for the 26 secrets professional organizers won’t tell you for free.

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