Fall Home Refresh: Conquer Clutter One Step at a Time

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Jennifer Anvari and Christy Simon, co-founders and co-owners of Haven Home Solutions, an interior decorating and home organization company serving clients in the D.C. metro area and nationwide. Photo by Ben Stone

Clutter makes me crazy. Even if I don’t have to look at it all day, just knowing that the basement shelves are a disaster drives me to distraction. Of course I want to get them organized, but even if I get motivated to do it, it’s very possible I’ll become overwhelmed and quit in the middle. Since I’m pretty sure lots of you feel similarly, we spoke with Jennifer Anvari and Christy Simon of Haven Home Solutions in Haymarket about how to set yourself up for decluttering success no matter what space you need to tackle.

When a client asks how to get started organizing their home, what are your top suggestions?

For some clients, it’s best to start with what’s easy. Areas like a linen closet or a bathroom cabinet tend to be contained, free of emotional attachment, and can be completed within an hour or two.

For other clients, paying attention to how their home is making them feel is important. In that case, we help them identify which area of their home is bringing them the most stress and frustration. By starting with the area that is most discouraging, they can feel a sense of accomplishment. That helps them get excited about tackling additional spaces.

Is there a particular process to use when cleaning out and decluttering?

Whether you are organizing one category in your home (all the books, for instance) or a space (closet, desk, living room, kitchen), the steps remain the same.

Pull everything out, and relocate it into a different space.
Sort the items into categories (paper, toys, books, clothes, etc.). Now you can see how much you have in each category.
Go through the category, verifying what you want to keep, and what you want to send to donation, trash, or recycling.
Organize what’s left. Decide what needs to return to the space you’re working on, and what should go somewhere else in your home. Think through how you use the items, and purchase storage bins as needed for what you know you want to keep.
Finish the job. Always make sure any space you organize is clean and tidy so you know it’s done.

What’s the best way to declutter a large, overwhelming space?
Our first step is to set up a separate area away from the room we’re organizing, where our client can spread out and make decisions. We call this a staging area. It’s much easier to sort and make decisions away from the overwhelming space.
Next, we set our client up in the staging area with one organizer who helps them talk through their possessions, troubleshoot decisions, and keeps the workflow moving. The second organizer works in the room that’s causing the client stress, pulling items out a few at a time for the client to consider, and replacing items the client decides to keep. At the end of our session, we leave the client with a freshly tidied and organized space that’s stress free.

Among those clients who like to do things themselves, what are some projects you wish they’d leave to the pros?

We often work with clients who have spent hours trying to organize their homes without making progress. Using a professional organizer right from the start can help by breaking down a large project into smaller pieces, prioritizing the sub-projects, and helping you learn the skills you need to tackle each subsequent project efficiently on your own.

As strange as it may seem, it can be really useful to work with a professional on very personal projects, like memorabilia, or an inheritance or estate. When you’re working on projects that have a lot of emotion attached, an empathetic and compassionate organizing team can help you process meaningful items, and gain enough distance and perspective to make difficult decisions more efficiently.

What are some of the positives that come from living with less stuff?

Less to clean, less to tidy, less to think about, and maintain. The things we own carry emotional and psychological weight—they take up more than just physical space in our lives.

For additional information, visit HavenHomeSolutions.com, email Haven@HavenHomeSolutions.com, or call 571-306-1570.

Susan McCorkindale
About Susan McCorkindale 19 Articles
Susan McCorkindale is a mom, autism and mental health advocate, and the editor of Haymarket Lifestyle and Gainesville Lifestyle magazines. She is also the author of two books, "Confessions of a Counterfeit Farm Girl" and "500 Acres and No Place to Hide, More Confessions of a Counterfeit Farm Girl". When not editing, writing, or reading, she enjoys painting furniture and sampling new Chardonnays. Just not at the same time.

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