8 Ways to Think Like a Professional Organizer When Decluttering Your Home

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Sometimes you really ​are​ born to do something. Take Julie Naylon. She spent her childhood organizing toys more than playing with them, but she just thought, ​That's what people do.​ After working as a Hollywood assistant, she realized that it's ​not​ what people do — and they could use her help. "I didn't realize it was a skill," Naylon says, of organizing. "People were telling me I was a genius, and I thought everyone just knew how to do it."

And so, in 2008, she started No Wire Hangers, and has been organizing professionally ever since.

Here, Naylon shares how she works.

Don’t Buy Anything … Yet

"You have to do the hard work first. Shopping is the last thing we do. What do we need? Where is it going? When I first started, one of my clients got one of those big giant dumpsters for her front yard. We threw nothing in it.

"There are so many different places to donate, with the Internet and Facebook. There are Buy Nothing groups. Next Door. It's a great way to get stuff that you need or get rid of stuff you don't."

Not Everything Needs a Label

"I don't view organization as, you put something in a box and add a label and you're organized. There's more thought that goes into it.

"Everything in your home should have a ​place​."

You Don't Have to Throw Everything Out

"I try to think of all the possibilities of why you might need something. I throw out a lot of ideas. Do you really need this? How easy is it to replace? Is it taking up valuable space?

"And just figuring out, too, what else you can do. How about taking a photograph of this shirt? Is there a picture of you in it? My big question is always, ​What is the future of this item​? Is it going to sit in a box? Can we put it to use?"

Prepare Yourself

"It depends on the person, but I think a lot of potential clients don't realize how physically and emotionally exhausting this process can be. There are so many decisions. There are so many memories."

Work in Three-Hour Bursts

"It's a minimum of three. You can't get too much done in less than three. I'm usually making a big mess, and I want to make sure I'm not leaving the client with a big mess."

Pick a Category

"​Start with books, and just stick to books. Or say, I'm going to do all the paperwork — and nothing else. That's a good way for people to tackle organization on their own to keep it simple."

Declutter First

"People always worry about placement — where are things going to go? But you have to do all the decluttering first to see what you have."

Adjust Your Expectations

"The before-and-after might not be super dramatic, but you don't know all the work that went into it. It's about setting up the systems. That doesn't always come across visually. It's more dramatic for the client — they can really feel the difference."


Laura Lambert is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor who covers lifestyle, design, and women's health.

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