7 Organizing Rules Professionals Always Follow

Our homes are our sanctuaries. They’re the place we return to at the end of each day to feel most relaxed and at ease, and as cliché as it may sound, a clear space promotes a clear mind.

Whether you live in a studio apartment or a four-bedroom house, organizing is the best way to keep your space soothing and serene. To help you get started on your summer clear-out session, we spoke to three professional organizers to find out their golden rules of organization.

Meet the Expert

  • Ben Soreff, professional organizer and owner of H2H Organizing in Connecticut.
  • Reba Bassett, NAPO-certified professional organizer and owner of Revelation Organizing in Austin, Texas.
  • Amélie Saint-Jacques, KonMari consultant and owner of Amelie Organizes, based in San Antonio, Texas.

Be Kind to Yourself

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All of our experts agree on this first and most important rule of the organizing process. Showing yourself kindness through decluttering and reorganization is key in staying motivated, and setting systems that will last.

“Be kind and gracious to yourself,” Revelation Organizing’s Reba Bassett says. “Remind yourself that the tidiness of your space is not a reflection of your success as a person. Give yourself grace as you move through organizing your home, and remember to take breaks and celebrate wins along the way.” 

“Effective organizing isn’t about stuff, it’s about time,” owner of H2H Organizing Ben Soreff adds. “You are not a mess. You’re just busy, and may not have a systematic philosophy and method for dealing with clutter yet.”

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Review From a Positive Perspective

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“The most important step is the review,” Soreff says. “This is not about throwing things out— we want to focus on what we are keeping, and how often we use it.”

“Once you have your quantity, you can decide on the best storage solution and the best place in your space for it to live,” he adds.

Shifting your organizing mindset from focusing on what to get rid of to discovering and celebrating your must-have items (and making sure they are front and center and ready to use from now on) can make letting go of unnecessary clutter and extra pieces feel a little less stressful.

“Best, Favorite, Necessary”

Getty Images/Liudmila Chernetska

Bassett’s favorite golden rule of organizing is also her go-to catchphrase: “Best, favorite, necessary”.

“No magical organizational tool or container will make your space bigger; you have to do that on your own by getting rid of things,” she says. “As you go through the multiple versions of your items, only keep things that fall into one of these three categories: best, favorite, and necessary.”

For example, if you have an overflowing drawer full of pajamas—and some hole-filled shirts haven’t seen the light of day since high school— keep the set in the best condition, your favorite set (or sentimental band t-shirt), and a necessary set of short and long pajamas for year-round comfort. The rest can be donated or upcycled.

One In, One Out

The Spruce / Sarah Lee

This childhood rule many of us heard when asking our parents for the newest item to add to a toy collection is a great one to carry into our own homes— especially for small space dwellers looking to make the most of a limited closet capacity.

“The ‘one in, one out’ rule is perfect for those having trouble with space constraints or overbuying,” Bassett says. “When you buy a new item of clothing, a new pair of shoes, or a mug, you must remove an old item in its place. This is a great maintenance strategy for keeping spaces organized over time.”

Get Rid of the “Just In Case”

The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

It’s great to feel well-prepared for overnight guests, vacations, and last-minute visits from family and friends (who may be keeping an eye out for the set of cheese knives they bought you last holiday season), but over-preparing and keeping items on hand for every possible scenario can actually lead to more stress and clutter in the long-term.

“If you don’t love it and aren’t using it, ask yourself why you are keeping it,” owner of Amelie Organizes and KonMari consultant Amélie Saint-Jacques advises. “Don’t keep something out of guilt just because it was a gift, or ‘just in case’—especially if it is easily replaceable, or it can be borrowed or rented in a pinch.”

Make Your Own Rules

Casa Watkins Living

While our organizers each have a broad set of rules they follow when working with clients, they are also mindful that each individual home and family has its own set of needs, and that the “best” method varies from person to person. Remember this is true for you, too—and experiment with organizing hacks, viral techniques, and repurposing products to find what makes the most sense in your space.

“You don’t have to store things ‘the typical’ way,” Saint-Jacques says. “For example, you can take a wooden rack meant for cookware and use it to organize purses instead, and you can hang t-shirts instead of folding them. There aren’t any set rules—the most important thing is to have a system that is functional for you.”

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