21 Things a Professional Organizer Would Never Have in Her Own Home

We’ve purged, consolidated and donated. But for some reason our closets, pantries and medicine cabinets runneth over with…stuff. In our quest to become the minimalist neat-freaks we know we can be, we asked New York City-based professional organizer Laura Cattano what exactly we’re doing wrong. With a “living better with less” philosophy, here’re the 21 things Cattano says we should nix from our homes.

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Unless you’re using it for only one or two jackets—let’s face it: you’re not—they become overloaded. Coats, hats and bags become hard to find and it winds up looking like a jumbled mess. Hooks, on the other hand, are your friend.

Recycle the keys you have no hope of identifying and label the remaining ones with a sticker or nifty label maker.

Most people don’t have enough paper to fill an entire cabinet. Archival paperwork, like past tax returns, can be stored out of the way on a top shelf in a closet. Leave your current year’s paperwork in a smaller tote or desktop file. Yeah, it’s that simple.

Leave open shelving for things you want to see: decorative accessories, books, candles, etc. Think about closed storage for things you don’t need every person who steps foot in your house knowing about you—what meds you’re taking, what self-help book you’re reading, etc.

Cords are a professional organizer’s worst enemy. No one wants to see them, but we still gotta watch TV. Solution? Closed cabinets. They can hide cords while keeping your games and DVDS organized in easy-to-access drawers.

If you can’t take out the recycling and trash every day, at least have a closed container.

We love print as much as the next gal, but thanks to the World Wide Web, you don’t need a gazillion subscriptions to know what’s going on. If you haven’t read the 47 issues of The New Yorker you’ve been stashing under your coffee table, you probably never will. Recycle and start fresh.

It’s good to have an extra universal USB around, but ditch the tangle of that 2005 RAZR phone charger.

Things like toilet paper are great to buy in bulk because you go through it quickly. But if you buy a case of something that’s going to take you a year to go through, it’s a waste of your storage space. Plus, the stuff goes bad before you can use it.

There’s one in every kitchen. Take all of your Tupperware out, match it up and recycle any rogue pieces.

Unless you’re planning on going back, you’re not going to crack these open any time soon. (And not to make you feel old, but they’re probably outdated.)

Do we really have to look at this every day?

Speaking of Tupperware, it can turn smelly, stained and worn—it’s not meant to last forever. Recycle and get a fresh set.

Use it or lose it. Lots of this stuff actually turns bad. (Think: bacteria. Think: acne.)

It’s the first thing you put on to start your day; it should look and feel great.

Dust and dust mites tend to build up in bedding, especially pillows, even if they’re cleaned regularly. It’s best to wash your pillows a few times a year—if not more—and replace completely every four years. Please, please, please don’t keep them for guests. Why would you have your guests sleep on old, dirty bedding?

Do you really need something to tell you how to use your toaster? Toss it. (Psst. It’s probably available online anyway.)

Once you set aside clothes/items to donate, do the revolutionary thing and donate it. Don’t save it for a big run.

They’re all just so…ugly. Instead, consider using non-bathroom designed products, like the glass from a candle (cleaned out, of course), a small beautiful vase or an etched metal lassi cup.

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It’s a little thing, but it goes a long way: Matching hangers not only reduce visual clutter; they hold your clothing at the same level, allowing you to see what you have. Caveat: Different garments require different hangers—wood for coats, padded canvas for blouses, wood clip-on for pants/skirts. Did you notice the term “dry cleaner hangers” was not included?

The bedroom should be your sanctuary. You should go to sleep and wake up in as peaceful a place as possible. So don’t crowd it with bags and boxes of things to sell/donate/fix/return. Keep your things to do in the entry of your home so you can grab it as you’re leaving the house. Voilà. You’re a neat freak.

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