The Art of De-Cluttering

By Lauren Aitken

Hoarders take note: there is hope. In case you’ve missed the buzz, two years ago when Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo published her guide to de-cluttering your home, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, it sold millions of copies and counting. Her revolutionary KonMari Method, went from helping her Japanese clients – she has a three-month waiting list – transform their messy domains into serene sanctuaries, from Tokyo to Topeka.

Called “a kind of Zen nanny” by the New York Times, and “a fairy godmother for socks” by the Wall Street Journal, Kondo became obsessed (not too strong a word) with organizing when she was a wee lass. We could go on about her brilliant solutions to household clutter, but we advise you to buy her book. Meanwhile, here are some tips from some of our Hamptons neighbors on organizing your domain.

Avoid Overwhelm
New York personal organizer, workshop leader and author of Let’s Get Organized, Meryl Starr, has organized the lives of clients nationwide including influencers in real estate, finance, entertainment and fashion. “Good organization shouldn’t be a trade secret.”
• To avoid overwhelm, focus on one small place at a time and set a timer for 15 minutes. When it goes off you’re done. Work only when you’re energy is high.
• Discard duplicates. You don’t need two garlic presses.
• Clothing. If you don’t feel great in it you’re never going to wear it, no matter how much it cost.
• Closet. Visualize what you’d like it to look like then set that as a goal. She finds it satisfying to have clothes arranged from light to dark.
• Keep only what you love. In the kitchen, keep only what’s useful.
Seven-Year Rule
Sylvia Clark is a retired foundation executive who currently manages the Sag Harbor, New York and Canada homes she shares with her husband. “When in doubt throw it out.”
• Use your basement as part of the house and not a dumping ground. Build deep shelves and a cedar closet, and put to use old dressers for storage. Don’t have open shelves with everything exposed. “Closed doors make the whole house feel calmer.”
“I allocate X amount of space for any single item: one shelf for audio books, one drawer for underwear, one plastic bin for batteries. That way you can find something when you want it.” When those spaces are full, she starts dumping.
• Mementos, she admits, are “hard to get rid of,” but she has limited their old photos and such to one bin, which “will probably sit there till we’re dead.”
• Place a time limit. She allows things to sit for seven years before tossing. So those boxes marked “2010” are ready to be pitched. “If I didn’t look at it in seven years, I didn’t need it.”

Letting Go
Doreen Petrillo is the housekeeper at Gurney’s Inn and proprietor of Doreen’s Organizing in East Hampton (631-907-4010). A whiz at downsizing, she gives free estimates. “Everything in the right place gives you a sense of balance.”
• Kitchen drawer process. Take everything out of your drawers and only put back gadgets as you use them. This way you discover what you actually use and what you don’t (that avocado scooper, perchance?)
• Open mail over the trashcan so you can discard loose papers before they pile up. Separate paperwork with dividers into “what’s urgent and what can wait.”
• When buying something let something else go. “If you buy a new lamp don’t put the old lamp in the basement. Donate it.”

Get Hooked
Debra Geller is an East Hampton interior and construction designer. She believes that beyond function things must look pretty. “It’s not a show house, you live there.”
• Use glass apothecary jars for Q-tips and cotton balls.
• Organize clothes “like with like” (i.e. short sleeves together). Colors are a subcategory within, but she advises to only take on that challenge “if you can stay with it.”
• Review your closet every six months and purge what you haven’t worn in two years (unless it’s “really special”). Check expiration dates on medicine. “Don’t let it take up prime real estate.”
• Place hooks and shelves behind cabinet and closet doors where you can store things like a blow dryer. “Command makes great hooks.”
• Use cutlery dividers in bathrooms to separate floss, nail clippers, comb. Use a separate one for makeup “with places for standups.”
• Get expandable valet rod (hangs perpendicular to closet pole) on which to plan outfits.
• If you keep shoes in their boxes, put a picture of the shoes on front of box.

Mudroom Maintenance
Susanne Kelley, is an award-winning Sag Harbor interior designer, who believes that “when our home is in harmony our spirits are lifted.”
• Her go-to containers are magazine files instead of filing cabinets, which take up too much room and aren’t as attractive. They come in many materials and colors to match your décor and make “everything look neat and tidy.” Kelley’s office shelf contains several, all white, in which she stores wallpaper samples, fabric swatches, and the like.
• She’s a huge fan of Pottery Barn’s Gabrielle organizing system, which she employs in garages, offices, laundry rooms, and pantries. The many components from peg rails to hanging baskets “can be configured to meet specific needs.” In mudrooms, for instance, baskets contain suntan lotions and other items “to grab while running out the door.”