The Dish On Decluttering

Organization is kind of like weight loss. Once you get your space organized, you suddenly feel lighter, like you have more energy for other stuff. But if you don’t have a plan to keep the weight off— or to keep things organized— it’s easy to backslide. I may be an obsessive cleaner by nature, but I still need a plan to keep things on track. Clea and Joanna, my ladies from the Home Edit, have spent countless hours helping me develop step- by- step strategies and systems for streamlining and organizing my home, which I am now going to share with you!

Photography: Amy Neusinger 

Photography: Amy Neusinger 


Start by making a room- by- room list of every single area in your house that needs to be organized. The first room on your list might be “Master Bedroom,” and then under the room itself, list each unique area in the room that needs to be addressed. For example: dresser, nightstand drawers, walk- in closet, armoire, linen chest. This way, you will feel less overwhelmed by the idea of having to tackle the entire room at once, and you can break down what you tackle by specific task. Once you’ve made a room- by- room list of everything in your house that needs to be organized, group your tasks for each room in one of four columns. Here’s an example with the bedroom:

Master Bedroom:

Small tasks: 

  • Nightstand
  • Linen Closet

Big Tasks:

  • Armoire

Medium Tasks:

  • Dresser drawers
  • Shoe Racks 

Family Tasks:

  • Walk-in-closet

If you plan to declutter the whole house, more power to you! Make a separate list like this for each room and part of the house. The larger tasks might require a weekend to complete, but for the smaller tasks on your list, set aside twenty to thirty minutes of free time for each. The best part about making lists is that when you finish a task, you get to cross it off and feel oh so gratified. You know exactly what I’m talking about, people! That’s why you need to put even the smallest of tasks on your list.

You also want to highlight or put an asterisk next to the rooms or tasks that are a big priority in your household. For example, you might be able to put off cleaning out the garage, but if you can’t find anything to wear, then your master bedroom closet requires attention, stat! Another thing to keep in mind if organizing is truly a struggle for you: Don’t begin with the hardest tasks first, such as sorting out sentimental items. Start with small tasks instead so that you will see progress more quickly. Those small victories will give you the motivation to move on to your bigger tasks that require more emotional or physical muscle.


Once you’ve made your lists, choose the area and task to start with. Let’s say you choose organizing your kitchen drawers and cabinets. Open every drawer and cabinet, pull out every plate, bowl, glass, mug, and utensil, and lay them all out on the counter. You’ve got to do this, because how else will you know if you have two identical whisks? By pulling everything out and seeing it all together, you will be able to see what you can get rid of, and you can come up with new ways of using things. For example, when everything is laid out together, you might realize that a set of place mats you have go well with a particular set of dishes or that a ceramic water pitcher you never use would work well as a vase.

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Photography: Gia Canali 

Photography: Gia Canali 

With every item that you pull out, ask yourself three questions: (1) Do I love it? (2) Do I really need it? (3) Have I used it in the past year? Honestly— that’s it. If you love it— you need it. If it’s the only pair of kitchen scissors you have, then of course you need it. And if you haven’t used it in the past year, then maybe you don’t really love it or need it. If you can’t answer yes to at least one of these three questions, get rid of it.


Once you’ve pulled everything out and edited out what you don’t need, start to create categories by grouping like items together. In the kitchen, for example, your categories might be “Bakeware,” “Serveware,” “Fancy Dishes,” “Everyday Dishes,” and so on. Also, think about access— what you use on a daily basis versus what you use less often. Think about safety, too, if you have little ones, and where and how you’d like to store pieces that aren’t kid- friendly. When items are stored by category, it saves on time looking for things.


Each of the categories you come up with should then have a designated “home” in whatever room you are organizing. If we continue with organizing our kitchen cabinets and drawers, we’ll want to create one designated home or shelf for adult glasses and a separate home for kids’ cups. Store everyday utensils in one drawer and good silverware in another. You get the idea. The goal is that when you take something out, you know right where it goes back. And not just you— but everyone else in your home too.



Constant maintenance is key to keeping things orderly. Don’t be lazy. If you take it out, put it back where it belongs. It’s that simple. Don’t let dirty (or clean) dishes pile up. Deal with things right away. Do the dishes directly after a meal. Unload the dishwasher as soon as dishes are clean.

The Holding Tank

If you simply cannot decide whether to keep or toss an item, put it in a “Holding Tank” storage container and hide it away in your attic or basement. If in six months to a year you haven’t needed any of those stored items, then you know what to do! Ditch ’em! If an item was sorely missed, welcome it back. The same goes for your “Sentimental Bin.” Keep those items that you never use but can’t seem to part with in a separate bin in your storage area and reassess them at a later date.