You should make time for organizing upkeep each week.
Decluttering a messy home can be a daunting task. What should you throw out? What should you keep? Where do you even begin to clean?
Although it may seem logical to try and organize your home on a room-by-room basis, experts have found that this is not the best way to maintain a clean space.
Organization is a holistic process, and it's all about looking at your lifestyle— and that differs for every person. To come up with more general guidelines that are applicable to everyone, regardless of what type of home someone is living in, Business Insider spoke with professional organizers Laura Cattano, Jeffrey Phillip, and Jill Pollack.
1. Trust your gut
Cattano's starting point when it comes to cleaning is doing a whole sweep of the apartment or home and throwing stuff away by listening to your first instinct.
"There is no thinking when editing," she said. "When going through a home with a client, in our first sweep, there's already at least five items they know they're going to get rid of."
Once we throw away the easiest things to get rid of, our minds will reshuffle when we move on to the harder-to-throw-away items, she said.
2. Edit according to your lifestyle
People tend to hold on to things for sentimental value, or because those things used to define them — like an sorority sweater or a bread maker you got as a wedding present. According to Pollack, you need to stop thinking in those terms if you want to reduce clutter.
"It's really about taking inventory of your life: where you were, where you are, and where you want to go," she said. "Define yourself and define your life."
If something no longer serves where you are currently in life, toss it. Pollack also said that everything should have a place where it can be stored. If you don't store it anywhere or find that you can't find a place for it, it automatically becomes clutter, and you need to reevaluate if it serves any purpose.
3. Get rid of the guilt
Pollack said to stop beating yourself up over wanting to toss things that have memories attached to them. If you don't use it, don't be afraid to get rid of it.
"Some people feel bad throwing things out, but I'll use this analogy: If you go to a dinner party that serves beets and you don't eat beets, are you going to start eating beets because it's rude to the hostess? No," Pollack said.
4. Avoid gimmicky organizers
According to Pollack, one of the biggest mistakes people make is buying books and organizers they never end up using. (Think about that trendy diet book you've never opened, or that two-tier acrylic tower that only holds different types of herbs. Have you ever actually used them?)
"I strongly recommend people avoid products that are more of a gimmick or have extreme specificity for their use," Philip said. "Sometimes these types of organizing products can overcomplicate a situation and make things harder rather than easier."
The last thing you want is for something you bought to organize your home to become clutter itself.
5. Make organization a habit
How do you make sure you keep your home looking clean after a major purge?
"The best way to maintain your organization is through regular maintenance," Phillip said. "It's simply about daily, weekly, monthly and/or annual maintenance keep your organizational systems in place. Taking the time at the end of a day or week to tidy up and get things back in order is imperative to keep your organization working for you."
He suggested getting into the habit of scheduling cleaning times on your calendar if you find time slipping away from you.
6. Don't bring clutter into the home
Have you ever bought a makeup gift set just so you can get the free travel-sized products that come with it, only to find yourself never using it? Or have you ever bought something online to reach a certain minimum to get free shipping?
According to Phillip, the easiest way to keep your home clean is by stopping clutter at the source. "Be cognizant of, or curate, the items you bring into your home so they are things you truly use and love," he said.
He also suggested reviewing and editing your belongings regularly, or at the very least, every season.