Decluttering Your Home: Tips from a Pro Organizer

Time Several Hours

Budget $ $$$

Skill Level

WORDS BY Gillian Grefe

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Published on May 11, 2020

“Organization came so naturally to me that it didn’t feel like it could be an actual business at first,” explains Shauna Yule Brasseur, founder of home organizing, decluttering, and design service Lovely Life Home

Before her passion became a full-time business, Shauna taught English in Austria, owned a cafe in San Francisco, and spent nearly two decades in the publishing industry in New York City. All that experience helps bring practicality and goal-setting to her professional organizer tips. 

“I combine the rigor of managing projects in a corporate environment with the home space to ensure people can accomplish the project they want to,” Shauna says. “The trick with people who are challenged with organization is helping them get to the finish line.” Many find the thought of decluttering alone to be scary or stressful, but Shauna wants it to be “100 percent joyful.”

Shauna Yule Brasseur

“We are deeply affected by the spaces around us. Every day. All the time. You walk into a restaurant and feel happy or energized (or not), into a new friend’s home and feel instantly warm and welcome,” Shauna says. “Of course, we want to have this feeling in our own homes.”

But many of us feel the opposite. Walking into our homes, we feel heavy in the space and the things we hold onto. It could be the overstuffed junk drawer, or shelves overflowing with knick knacks and books you always mean to look through. Letting clutter sit and take up space has long term effects on our wellness, Shauna reasons.

“For us, it’s hard to feel calm when you know there’s a job undone out there. That feeling of incompleteness hangs over you, and will weigh you down.”

Home should feel comfortable, offers Shauna, not overwhelming. She sees this most commonly in clients with children. “Research shows kids feel calmer in spaces with fewer things,” she explains. “When kids have too much, they simply don’t know what to love… The same principle goes for adults, too. Having a curated, small number of things you really care about is so much better than a lot of things you don’t care about.” 

Organizing and decluttering a home can take time (and several weekends of sorting through things), but you can kick start the process with small projects today, says Shauna. Take 20 minutes and try these quick fixes

  • Organize your kitchen utensil drawer
  • Take all your winter items out of the coat closet and put them in seasonal storage 
  • Organize cookbooks by color or size 
  • Collect your baking supplies and group them into one bin so they’re easier to find when you need them 
  • Use clear magazine holders to store loose paper—anything from copy paper and coloring books to construction paper and file folders
  • Group bottles of vinegar and oil together on a lazy susan so nothing gets lost, in the back of cabinets or drawers

These “lifts” can lead to a little sense of accomplishment, building up your confidence to tackle those larger, unruly projects like the attic or guest closet.

In this time when we’re at home now more than ever, you can start tackling home clutter in larger spaces. “I’d start with your kitchen, family room, and if you’re working from home, wherever you’re doing that,” suggests Shauna.

The immediate goal is to make those rooms feel calmer by cutting down on the amount of “stuff” you have. Get started with 20 minutes, a timer, and a trash bag. 

“Set the timer on your phone for 20 minutes and put anything in the donation bag that you don’t really use or love. If you feel good, keep going after the timer goes off. If you’re done, start again tomorrow.”

With her clients, Shauna finds the kitchen to be the biggest hotspot for clutter and disorder. “Most of what’s creating a sense of unease in that space is having more than you really need or use. Everyone has a favorite wooden spoon and a favorite spatula. So if you have a favorite wooden spoon, why would you have 8 more? Pare it down, simplify it.”

After cutting down on clutter, you can start to conquer both the organization and design in a room. Shauna takes her professional organization a step beyond Marie Kondo—rooms shouldn’t just be organized, it should look good too. 

“If a space looks really lovely and beautiful when you’re done, you’re more likely to keep it that way,” recommends Shauna. That could mean adding a faux succulent to your tidied linen closet, that gives you a sense of joy each time you put something away. Staying organized shouldn’t feel like work, find ways to treat yourself in the process. Display a small bunch of flowers or easy to care for houseplant on your cleaned kitchen island or light a favorite candle every morning as you make your bed and tidy your bedroom.   

Make it a goal to organize not only efficiently, but pleasing to your design style. Hang clothes with matching hangers (Shauna swears by these), and organize by clothing style and color. Not only will it look good, it’ll keep you from buying the same things over and over.  

Spending a weekend decluttering and organizing your home can transform the way you feel in it. But, reverting back to old habits and accumulating junk will bring back that feeling of “weight” faster than you think.

Once everything has its proper place, make it a goal to “go to zero” every night, says Shauna. Put dishes away, wipe down the coffee table, and return throws or pillows back to their place. “I know you’re tired and the days can feel long, but waking up to a clutter-free house can change the way you feel.”

Even with tons of time at home, it can be hard to kick start these processes, but once we start paring things down, there’s a new lightness in the room. “It is magic,” swears Shauna.

Shauna Yule Brasseur is the founder of Lovely Life Home, a home organizing and design business based in Hingham, Massachusetts. Please follow her on Instagram  if you’d like a little organizing inspiration in your feed

Words by Emma Diehl