‘Tis the season for spring cleaning, yet, if you’re like most people, you don’t even know where to begin. Busy work schedules coupled with an influx of extremely distracting warmer weather that’s begging you to forgo your to-do list often leads to putting off tidying up until the last minute — or never at all. While you can embrace the Wabi Sabi lifestyle, or imperfection, what you’re really doing by letting stuff pile up in your home is making your life more difficult, according to interior design experts. Here are the home organizing mistakes they most often see clients make and what you should do instead to avoid a cluttered home.
Mistake: You haven’t taken your daily routine into consideration
Your living space is there for the purpose of, well, living in it. That means it should be functional and make sense for the kind of lifestyle you lead. “Try paying attention to how you move around your space for a few days — where you drop things when you walk in the door, whether you put away toiletries after using them, etc.,” says Jennifer Wallenstein, Los Angeles-based interior designer with Homepolish. “Take the time to really think about what would make your life easier next time you are shopping instead of making a knee-jerk purchase that you think might help because it looks great in a store.”
Mistake: You’re afraid of letting things go
Whether it’s a stack of birthday cards from friends and family that you’ve been collecting for the last 20 years or a figurine of the Eiffel Tower your sister bought you while she was studying abroad, some things — even sentimental ones — have their time and place. Holding onto them way past their expiration date only leads to clutter as you collect more and more of these items (which you will). “There is a certain amount of freedom about not being a slave to your stuff,” says Jeanie Engelbach, a New York City-based professional organizer and interior stylist. If you’re feeling stuck and unable to make decisions, she suggests asking a friend, impartial family member or a professional organizer for help. “These people shouldn’t have the emotional attachment you do and will be able to objectively help you,” she explains.
Mistake: You fall for pretty much anything on sale
Unless you’ve been waiting to purchase something you need (not want) until it was discounted, Aileen Del Cid, Los Angeles-based interior designer and founder of FrillSpace, suggests steering clear of sales. “Do not fall victim to the shiny sales no matter how tempting they may be,” she says. “Buying items because they are discounted or because we ‘might’ use it in the future is not a wise choice and will only create clutter.” Instead, she recommends only shopping during a sale if it is an item you absolutely need at the present time.
Mistake: You overdo it on storage space
Sure, storage space can seriously come in handy, especially if you live in an apartment, and it is an important tool for organization. However, there is such a thing as too much storage space. “Having copious amounts of shelves, storage boxes, and overflowing cabinets can quickly cause a room to feel cluttered and claustrophobic,” explains Niki Cheng, owner of Calligaris NYC,Camerich NY and M Collection. To prevent over-storing, she recommends staying honest about what items you actually need and which can be trashed.
Mistake: You don’t have enough storage space
As we mentioned, storage is important, so if you’re in a bind for hideaway space in your home, you might need to create more of it. Cheng suggests looking to your walls. “Adding floating shelves to a wall is a great way to store photographs, books, and other pieces of décor, functional or for design, and not need to worry about taking up more space in a home,” she says. “Having your items on a wall display will also keep you neat and organized as everyone who enters that room will see those shelves.”
Mistake: You don’t know how to say “no”
It’s nice when friends and family offer to give you hand-me-down kids’ clothes and old antique furniture when they’re downsizing, but all of this is only going to create clutter in your home. That is unless you seriously need it. Learning to say no is empowering. “Create some boundaries with what you’ll accept and know that you will continually have to enforce but eventually your request will be heard and adhered,” says Engelbach. “It may be an uncomfortable conversation, but you won’t be crowded out of your home because you were too nice to say ‘no, thank you.’”
Mistake: You shove things into drawers, bags, and closets
If this sounds like your go-to method of tidying up, you’re really only digging yourself in a deeper hole of clutter. “The best clutter-busting rule you can implement is to give every one of your items a permanent home,” says Shara Koplowitz, high-end organizer in Los Angeles. “By defining exactly where something goes and returning it to this place after you use it, you should always know where to find what you’re looking for and it makes it so much simpler to clean up.”
Mistake: Not opening mail immediately
When you just got home after a busy day, the last thing you probably want to do is sit there and read through your mail, most of which is probably bills. But think about how much more exhausting it will be to have to rummage through a week’s worth of mail once you’ve put it off and it’s piled up. “For those who are adverse to opening mail, I recommend setting up every recurring bill as paperless and implementing auto debit, so payments are never missed because you didn’t open your mail,” says Engelbach. “If you live in an apartment building, open the mail and remove all external envelopes and packaging before going home, only bringing what is absolutely necessary into the apartment.”
Mistake: You think every wall needs something
“If there is a blank wall, clients tend to fill it up with furniture or art, but this takes away from the carefully thought out vignettes you already designed,” says Larisa Barton, interior designer with Homepolish. “Also, it does not give the eye a visual break between spacesv—vsometimes a blank wall can be that palette cleanser between your living and dining area.” Bottom line: Don’t be afraid of a naked wall!
Mistake: Not cleaning out your closet at least once a year
If you’re the kind of person who only cleans out their closet and drawers when it’s time to move to a new apartment or home, it’s time to step things up. “Sometimes you fall in love with something that you haven’t worn in a while, and a well-organized closet makes getting dressed easy, fun, and fast,” says Engelbach. “I usually clean out my closet at least twice a year and separate items into the following categories: what’s staying, what will be given away to friends, what can be sold, and what can be donated.”