"You Are Not Your Mess" | Playroom Declutter With Professional Organizer Kim Mazewski
Updated: Jul 28
I might need it again...
I paid good money for it...
It was a gift...
It has always been in the family...
I'm saving it for someone...
I remember when...
All excuses I gave Kim Mazewski, occupational therapist and professional organizer with Consciously Cleared and Contained, as reasons for why I was hesitant to part with the jumble of toys, books, and furniture that was congesting our playroom. Another excuse for why I had not tackled this project sooner? Overwhelm. It was so nice call in an impartial professional who could guide me through the process, hold me accountable, and show me a better way. Kim provided ruthless objectively and gentle guidance in equal measure during my family's playroom declutter-- exactly what my kids and I needed to start letting the STUFF go. The result? A FUN and functional playroom we can all enjoy.
In the following conversation, Kim and I discuss nesting and decluttering the home with postpartum in mind, curating an organized playroom for ease of play and maintenance, saying "No Thank You" to well-meaning relatives and friends who offer us things we do not need or want and her unique occupational therapist's perspective on organization.
Let’s start with introductions. Can you tell us a little about yourself and what you do?
Hi, I’m Kim Mazewski, and I’m a professional organizer and the owner of Consciously
Cleared and Contained, which is a local, woman- and queer-owned home decluttering and organization small business, serving New Castle County, DE.
I am a true city lover and moved here—to everyone’s surprise—from Philly because I
fell in love with my now-bride of five years. And what a whirlwind it’s been. We crammed
three international vacations into a year and a half (Spain, New Zealand, and Germany).
We had a baby during the pandemic who just turned 3.
I made a deeply privileged choice to stay at home with my little one, leaving my position as a full-time occupational therapist after over ten years. I still dabble in rehab per diem because I love it too much to let go. Now I’m taking on entrepreneurship and really digging deep into what I love most: helping people get unstuck and find freedom from clutter and enjoy an organized flow into their homes and everyday routines.
How did you come to be a professional organizer? Have you always been passionate
I’ve been building toward this my whole life. When I was a kid, my sister and I found this
article in one of our mom’s magazines, titled something like “10 Things to Do to Spruce
Up Your Room” and so we would not just play house, but play “10 things.” We’d take
turns tidying/organizing each other’s rooms, or we would work together to move around
furniture and reorganize our room. You can say we were passionate! And all these
years later, we still are and it’s a major lifestyle bond we share. I’m really drawn to
images of light, and you’ll see that on my website and social media.
Your Mom must have loved that!
Yes, any mom would. I would like to add that for most of my life I’ve typically leaned toward minimalism. In 2016 had a devastating breakup that landed me in a months-long depression. I stumbled upon Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” and it changed me. Picture me pushing one of those little rickety carts—overflowing with items from my home that no longer sparked joy--down East Passyunk Ave almost a mile each way to Philly AIDS Thrift multiple times a day a few times a week. Each trip left me feeling a little lighter, a little more free, a little more whole.
I know that thrift store! It is one of my favorites from my younger years-- I have friends who lived a couple blocks away and would make a point to go whenever I would visit.
It's a good one. Ultimately, I cleared out the space I lived in. I breathed into the emptiness with hope, I let it be spacious for a while because I wanted room to grow, to thrive. I needed to let go, there had been so much I’d been clinging to. The openness, the decluttered and easy-to-tidy home suddenly felt like my tranquil oasis. I could close my door and be safe there, in all my emotions and my dreams and fears. I was instantly able to recognize how much my mental health flourishes in intentionally minimal spaces. And the research backs that up 100%. Numerous studies confirm that especially in women, cluttered, messy homes raise cortisol levels, decrease focus and productivity, and heighten anxiety and feelings of overwhelm.
I feel that way personally about clutter. It is one of the reasons I am so appreciative of the work you did with us in our playroom. I couldn't relax enough to watch a movie surrounded by all of that chaos, but now it takes 2 minutes to tidy! I'm not anxious in that space anymore!
Yay! This path to professional organizing also looked like me moving friends all over the city and helping them declutter as we packed. Rearranging and reorganizing spaces (with
permission!) in friends’ and families’ homes. Devouring every home organizing show or
book as soon as it was released. The dream really began as a whisper to my good
friend, “maybe some day I could do this, for real.” After several years of this, I formed my LLC in March 2023 and I’m really doing the damn thing! (Cheers!!)
What is an occupational therapist and how does your experience in occupational
therapy play into your role as a professional organizer/cleaner?
The question first is, what is an occupation? The American Occupational Therapy
Association (AOTA) defines occupations as “the activities that people do every day to
give their life meaning and purpose. Occupations can be done alone or with family
members and friends. Occupations can be done at home, at work or school, and in the
community.... Occupations help to shape identities and influence overall health and wellbeing."
I graduated from Thomas Jefferson University with my master’s of science in OT in
2010 and have worked with all types of people who have barriers to accomplishing what
they want or need to do, for any reason (a stroke, fall, recovery from surgery,
exacerbation of illness, mental health, etc). It’s a deep dive of client factors, the
environment, and an activity analysis. Why is it hard for this person to …? What’s
getting in the way of this person’s ability to / enjoyment of…? OT looks at making client-
centered interventions that may include physical, cognitive, psychosocial, emotional,
spiritual, cultural, environmental, relational tweaks and changes.
I use this nonjudgmental and holistic lens when I am invited into a home to assess
the mess. It’s a field that complements organizing so perfectly because to understand
someone’s goals, you need to thoroughly comprehend where they are currently, where
they used to be, where they want to be, but also the overlapping and fluid dynamics of
the environment, including the others in the space, the activities (or, occupations, if you will) that occur there. It is not the same for each person—that’s why it’s such an intimate and personalized process.
When we have major shifts in any of these areas—whether good or bad—it disrupts our
sense of self and can look like systems, storage solutions, and good habits at home
slipping into oblivion. This happens to all of us at times, some more than others. Our
home needs a daily reset and wow, if we go a weekend or more without it, things get
My OT skillset breaks down an activity and the environment into small, manageable bites. Someone might say “My kitchen is a nightmare. It’s like an episode of Hoarders.” No, girl, it’s not. It’s functional! You cook here, your family eats here, life happens here. Pictures on Instagram or Pinterest of these gorgeous, perfectly contained pantries and cabinets can be so daunting and you have no idea how to get from where it is at to Pinterest perfect. So, let’s start with…what’s the shopping routine? How do you know what you need to buy, what you’re low on, what you’re out of? What does coming home with groceries look like—who puts them away, when, how? We have to look at the whole picture and also the tiny details that make it YOURS.
In your experience, what are the most common barriers individuals face when
attempting to get organized-- how do you assist your clients in overcoming these
Without a doubt, shame is the #1 barrier.
I feel the shame deeply.
It is also probably the reason more people don’t reach out sooner. When you feel overwhelmed by your clutter, it’s easy to create a shaming narrative in your head that hoes something like: “I’m a total mess, I’m a disaster. I can’t even do the simplest things. I’m the worst mom/ partner /homeowner etc.” But it’s all a lie. You are NOT your mess. You are NOT your clutter. You are NOT failing or a bad person. But damn, that voice can be deafening and isolating. Shame thrives on silence and secrecy. It does not survive being talked about, inviting someone in. It’s shattered by empathy.
And what I can say for having been on both sides of clutter, it is so, so, so, so, so
common, and you are not alone. And ultimately just like me, and just like all of us, you
too are just a person who is doing the best they can and it’s OK to need help
sometimes. I’m here to validate your struggle, because it’s real, and you don’t have to
hide or try to find a way out of the mess by yourself. Asking for help is brave and we can
get you to the other side of this, together.
Another common barrier is overcomplicating the process, which looks like being unable
to even start because “get my house in order” is a totally complex overgeneralized goal.
This is where intention comes in.
Other barriers: Getting excited about the wrong things and the fear of letting go. I hear a lot of “what if I need this one day?” regarding items in a dusty box, buried in the basement that you haven’t seen/used in 10+ years.
What is the first step to organizing your life?
When you make that incredible (life-changing!) choice to organize your home, don’t use it as an excuse to run to Home Goods and buy alllllllllll the bins. The truth is I’m a bin/container lover and so I really do get it. But, step one is always decluttering. You must first take inventory of what you already have. If you’re reading this, I’m here to tell you, frankly: you have too much stuff. We all do. Especially as parents, especially as women, especially as consumers and target audiences of expert marketers. A popular phrase in our industry is “you can have either the stuff or the space, not both.” The whole process starts with letting go. Don’t buy the bins first! And if you literally didn’t “need it” during a pandemic lockdown when it seemed like the world was ending, you won’t ever need it, it’s OK to let go.
Please share some client success stories with us!
I find beauty in the small wins--the simple everyday victories mean the most.
Carving out a play space for the toddler in mom’s craft room by building a special corner fort with pillows and comforts and watching him climb in and out, squealing with delight, bringing in his blankey and a book.
The mom who’s nicknamed her daughter “The Pantry Police” because she at 6years old, she takes a lot of passion in maintaining the space, and most especially letting her mom know when her favorite easy-to-reach snacks are low.
The wife whose bedroom was cluttered with papers, a part of life that seriously stressed her out, and changing the routine by working with her and her husband to keep this anxiety-inducing work out of the tranquil bedroom she was curating.
The mom who LOVES shopping and a wild amount of clothes we uncovered still had tags on them…creating a personalized system for her to sort the incoming clothes/accessories.
Receiving reviews and messages MONTHS after our last session from someone raving about how the space is STILL tidy and easy to maintain, and how much calmer and in control they feel in their space.
I feel very strongly that there are so many things in this world, that there is no need (for me personally) to buy anything new. With the exception of underwear and socks for my family, most of our clothing is second-hand. If I find that if our coffee maker needs replacing, or my daughter has suddenly outgrown all of her shorts just in time for summer, the Goodwill or Salvation Army is my go-to. And while this conscious decision on my part to buy used goods is helpful to the environment and to the organizations I choose to patronize, the flip side is that I purchase items
opportunistically rather than with intention. My household clutter is proof!
What are some ways that we can be intentional with the items that we bring into the home?
1. Think about its worth/value: Parenting instantly shifts priorities. Is this new toy
worth x number of hours of work outside the home/away from my family? Is this
new thing worth the cost of less space? Finding/changing batteries to keep
operating? Stress of missing pieces, stepping on small pieces, littlest one
potentially trying to eat small pieces? How does this specific item bring value to
my child’s everyday experience? How is this different from what we already
have? How might this be played with in a way that encourages imagination and
creativity? And then it helps to think about stuff versus creating family memories
together. Would I rather spend the money on this toy or take my little one to the
2. Being intentional means slowing down. Slowing all the way down, even pausing,
which is really an act of resistance in this Amazon-need-it-now-no-problem world
we live in. My wife and I switched from just randomly purchasing any items we
needed from Amazon the moment we thought of it, to adding to a collective cart
that we revisited on a designated checkout day. It takes the sense of urgency out
of it. And being so thoughtful before literally clicking BUY NOW: Do we actually
need this? Where’s it going to live in my home—is there space? Who will take
care of it? Can it wait?
3. Things go on sale All. The. Time. Baby/kid items are available on Buy Nothing or
on your neighbor’s curb for free, as hand me downs from family/friends usually
for free, on Marketplace or consignment stores for much less than retail value.
We are constantly having babies and being consumers of items that babies
outgrow quickly. Can you trust that if you need something, the universe will
provide? If you were able to find the secondhand high chair for next to nothing at
a garage sale when you had your first child years ago, can you trust that when
you’re pregnant you will find another quality high chair for also a very low cost?
4. Pay attention to marketing tricks that are designed to appeal to your impulses.
Take the painfully long line at Home Goods, every single time of day, every day
of the week, you know that line that’s literally filled with everything anyone could
ever possibly want or need for themselves, their home, or that their sister or mother
in law might like, etc. They’re counting on you to be impulsive. You get that dopamine rush and they get your hard-earned cash. Sales is all about manipulating you into thinking you actually do need it. Is it opportunistic for YOU, or for the seller? Also read the fine print. For example when you see 10 cans of beans for $10, sometimes you can actually just buy 1 for $1. Get an accountability buddy and send them a video of you in the tempting space and make an out-loud commitment that you will successfully make it through this line without buying anything extra. Keep your blinders on, distract yourself, make conversation with someone in line; it’s an act of resistance to JUST SAY NO to
5. Beware of comparisons. The “Keeping up with the Joneses.” Social media can
be so hard when you see moms who look like they have all the time in the world
to curate (and maintain!) these perfect spaces for their kids. But just like you, this
is staged, this is “the best moment of a reset when actually my kids are still in
bed.” This is a mom quickly swiping a table filled with clutter off so there’s nothing
behind her kid holding up a new piece of art. We have to show each other the
real, the messy, too. I love having playdates at other kids’ homes because they
often have a lot more stuff and different stuff from what we have. This gives little
honey a chance to explore, learn, grow, try new things, etc., without clogging up
my own small home. My wife and I are very carefully modeling how to buy only
what you love, how to take care of your things so they last, and how to let go and
give it a second life with a younger child or a neighbor in need.
6. Literally practice saying no. Intentionally practice with sibling or a friend, put
yourself in low-risk scenarios that involve saying no or setting a boundary, get
firm on what’s OK and not OK for you AND for your family. Saying no does not
mean you’re rude, selfish, a bitch, etc. Saying no means listening to yourself and
putting you and your family’s needs first.
7. A fun way to challenge yourself (and I definitely recommend doing it as
community on social media or with a trusted friend) is to commit to a no-buy or
low-buy month (or year!). Doing so forces you to--
STOP (interrupt your mindless shopping)
DROP (put down the wallet)
ROLL (keep it moving, walk away from the seemingly glamorous/must-have item
and roll with your values of spending less, consuming less, and indulging less).
If you do it for a long enough time, it gives you really invaluable feedback into
what causes you to want to buy, what are your go-to splurges, and ultimately how
can you let that go/satisfy that need in a different way that’s more aligned with
your goals/priorities? Conscious consumerism.
8. Remember your kids are watching. Watch out that opportunistic shopping doesn’t
become a double standard—how come Mom can make an impulse buy for
something and I can’t have my video game?
Balancing the desire for minimalism with sentimental attachments can be challenging, especially when it comes to children's artwork or keepsakes. How do you approach this aspect of minimalism in your own family? What tips do you have for the rest of us?
This feels like an important spot to pause and remind you that I do have only one child,
and I can imagine how with more children the home can quickly become inundated. My
little honey loves making art. I encourage open ended art with no right/wrong way to do
it, no lines to fill in. One of his grandmothers makes very specific crafts with him at each
holiday as gifts for family members. When he’s creating with me, I love to ask questions,
comment on his focus or perseverance, talk about what I’m seeing (thicker lines and
thinner lines, dots, straight versus wavy, color contrasts etc). I am mindful to be very
grateful and proud in front of him, but then take it an extra step and when my wife
comes home, “Babe, oh my gosh, check out this really gorgeous painting he made
today, look at this, wow, right??” And we ooooohhhh and aaaaaahhhh over it together in
front of him/with him. We ask if he wants us to take a picture to send to the
grandparents or if there’s anyone he’d like to give this to. We like to use a magnet to
stick it on the fridge for a few days, then it goes into recycling. I have one sketch called
“Rainbow” that for some reason I just loved that I’ve framed in his play area.
There’s a helpful quote, “if everything is special, nothing is special.” When the art is a
gift to you, the most meaningful moment is in the receipt of it. How excited you are, how
proud you are, how you show and express your appreciation for the thoughtfulness and
creativity of your little one.
This is not a cut-and-dry “save them all, save none, save x # of them.” Watch out for imposing hurtful or shameful narratives onto yourself if you don’t want to save 290,384,903,285,092,830 papers of small doodles. I want to add that gently (and with gratitude) placing your child’s art into the recycling bin does NOT mean that you are not sentimental, that you are heartless, that you don’t care, that you’re disrespecting your
little artist. My advice is to save the best, save your favorites, save the ones that are actually meaningful to you.
lean them on a shelf for display
file them based on year
put them in a clear paper holder to preserve and stick into a binder
rotate them based on seasons/design
share them with other family members or even older neighbors (we love to visit our homebound neighbor and the company means SO MUCH to her)
give them as gifts
use them as wrapping paper, or cut them up into gift tags
They sell multiple options for displaying art informally or even more museum-like, including some with storage options. Do a quick search for “kid’s art frames with storage” to see if it may work for you.
If you have an inability to let go in this area, or if your kid insists you keep everything,
commit to a bin or container. Label it, describe it to them. But let the container be the
bad guy. Once it’s filled, then you have to sit down together and go through everything
to make room for more art/more creations. Use developmentally appropriate language,
such as “We don’t have enough room for any more, so we need to make space by
letting some of this go. What is your absolute favorite? What are some of your best
pieces, in your opinion? This is one of my favorites, so I definitely want to keep this.
What do you think?” Involve them in the process, give them control. We can say
“goodbye art,” as we recycle it, or “thank you for the memory” to honor it as it goes. This
is where we let our kids know that they are not their stuff, they are not these lines on a
paper. They are a person who creates, there will be more creations, and this all comes
from within. The memory is inside you, not in a physical object.
There is a delicate balance that needs to be struck between respecting a gift giver’s intentions and generosity while maintaining a home environment that aligns with your own family’s values and needs.
Do you have any tips for how to set boundaries with well meaning family members with regards to gifts?
In our family, we try to stay ahead of it with Amazon lists that I regularly update with
items we actually need or we think he may love. Or, my mom who loves bargain hunting
does well when I say, “Hey mom, keep an eye out for xyz for us,” and she will often find
it and then have fun sharing the story of how she talked the seller down and got it for a
I think the breaking point for me was when my then-8-month-old was having a bad
allergic reaction, we are on our way to the hospital as my mom pulls up with a carload of
stuff including a trampoline, a Black & Decker tool table, the Ikea play kitchen, a
bunch of toys, etc. OK seriously, though, my house is SMALL. We legit don’t have room
to store this. It was a huge stress to come home from the hospital to an entire first floor
filled with toys he won’t use for the next 6-12 months.
I literally worked on this in therapy. It’s so important to set up clear boundaries. And then
revisit them. And keep your response simple and grateful. “That was nice of you to think
of us; we don’t have room for that if you’d like to keep it at your house.” or “We aren’t
bringing in any more dolls until x dolls go to donation; thank you!” My therapist had me
write my mom a thank-you note when she gave him one present for Easter that we’d
asked for, instead of a dozen little junky things. Thank you for respecting our family’s
boundaries. Recognize when they’re trying to respect your wishes. And also be flexible
because “grandparent privilege” is legit.
Establishing and enforcing boundaries is something I really need to work on!
In addition to gifts, it can be very difficult to say “Thanks, but No” to the giant box of baby gear or garbage bag of clothes that are often offered up when a pregnancy announcement is made. How can expectant parents establish boundaries with their family and friends with regard to hand-me-downs?
Think of it with reversed roles. You’ve clung to these boxes of baby clothes because you
feel guilty and can’t get rid of them, and then you find out someone you love is having a
baby. (Insert loud truck noises…Beep beep beep dump them into their lap.) Do you
want this person to feel that same guilt/can’t get rid of feeling? Do you want them to feel
stuck/burdened by your “generosity”?
It can be helpful to be proactive, “We’ve received a lot of hand me downs already; we
could still use some pajamas in size 3-6 months or a swimsuit in newborn size.” Or, “we
still have plenty of leftover baby items from our first child; please check with us before
bringing over any hand me downs.”
Also know it comes from a good place, right? People have, so they want to give. It’s
helpful to inventory what you already do have and maybe come up with specific items
you may need or that would be nice to have. If someone can check off an item for you,
that helps them feel good because they’re contributing.
The intentionality of a gift happens at the moment the gift giver sees something and
thinks of you, and also again when they hand it to you and see you react with gratitude.
It’s not a legally binding gift that you’re forced to keep against your best interests, your
family’s wishes, etc. It’s OK to let it go; re-gift; donate.
Release GUILT CLUTTER. You don’t deserve to cling to that, you wouldn’t want anyone
you love to feel trapped by it, it’s really OK to let it go.
What does an organized playroom look like to you?
Happy, engaged playing
Zones (this is where we do gross motor, here’s arts and crafts, this is the dress up/imagination area)
Easy to see what you’re looking for (clear bins NOT overly packed, at eye-to-waist level)
No trunks or huge bins that can’t be easily and quickly perused
Not visually overwhelming
Space for freedom of movement
Open play activities/toys
Attention to avoid overstimulation (loud toys, plastic/flashy toys, too much on the walls, too many options to play with)
The benefits to your children (and subsequently YOU) are less clutter, more
independent play, easy to reset/tidy, decreased stress, and that kids know where
everything goes since it has an obvious home.
What should parents prioritize or consider when it comes to designing a functional
nursery? How can they be adaptable after the baby comes?
Likely the more Instagram-worthy your nursery is, the less functional it is. And also, the
truth is you just never know. What if you need to have an unexpected c-section and
recovery was harder than with prior deliveries? What if this baby couldn’t latch, nursing
was a struggle, and you opted instead to formula feed or pump? Your minimal glider
with Breast Friend pillow and the beautiful view of outside might become filled with
pump/bottle parts, handwritten notes tracking your progress, nipple creams, snacks, etc.
We are trained by comparisons, social media, TV/movies, marketers, etc to believe we
need so much. It triggers a lot of anxiety of not enough/scarcity. We want the best for
our babies and marketing experts feed into that. Newborns need very, very little. The
nursery needs to work for YOU, and any co-parent, extended family member, or caregiver who’s helping in the space. And realistically in no time you’ll be changing diapers everywhere and baby will be napping all over the home-- you adapt. It’s helpful to keep everyday items in the best real estate (easy to see, retrieve without bending or overextending), and backstock diapers, wipes, etc close by so you don’t have to go down 2 flights of stairs for a new box of essentials.
How can expectant parents declutter and prep their homes before nesting kicks in and with postpartum in mind?
Do a thorough whole-house declutter. Room by room, shelf by cabinet by drawer by
pile. Be ruthless! (Or hire a professional to really help you knock it out!) When you own
less, you have less to take care of, and cleaning/tidying is much quicker/easier. That’s
what you want postpartum. Make room, make space. Have openness. Think about
potential yes spaces for when they start rolling around, crawling, tottering. The less stuff
that’s there will only make it easier for them to safely explore and learn.
It’s helpful to think about zones, and how you can care for baby in each area of home.
You don’t want to be changing a diaper on the couch and have to pause mid-way to go
upstairs to get the wipes. You don’t want to be feeding the baby and suddenly are so
thirsty yourself but the kitchen is downstairs and you don’t have a water bottle with you.
You need to plan ahead to take care of yourself AND make the everyday routines
simple. Think about your plans for sleep…will baby be in the bedroom with you? How
can furniture be rearranged, stations for care set up, and sleep conditions be improved
(maybe you need blackout curtains or a sound machine)?
Think about your village, your VIPs. Who can you count on to bring you a warm meal
after baby comes? Who’s a friend who will come over and just do few loads of laundry
and all the dishes without judgment/complaint? People WANT to help and support, they
just need jobs, the more concrete the better.
Get comfortable saying what you need, and also saying no. When we brought our
newborn home in summer of 2020, literally no one came over because covid. It was
kind of glorious in a way and we didn’t have to battle grandparents knocking down the
door or well-intentioned friends coming over. I made friends with a neighbor who had a
baby a couple of weeks after we did, and we’d check in with each other if one of us was
doing a Target run. I picked up formula for her and another time asked her bring over a
box of tissues the first time our baby was sick—HARD.
Lastly, it’s critical to have plans in place to help you recognize and treat postpartum
depression and anxiety BEFORE. You need a doctor you can trust. If you see a
lactation consultant, many times they will do a prenatal consult to get you on their radar
and also be able to follow you through delivery and postpartum and they can also help
What are some realistic, everyday strategies to maintain the home during the
postpartum period when you’re sleep deprived, attached to a little one, and in survival
Know that this is a magical AND exhausting time that will pass. You WILL sleep a full
night again. You WILL shower and get yourself together and feel good in your body
again. You WILL have regulated emotions and balance and time for self-care again.
This is an incredibly hard time that you can and will endure, and baby’s love and
adorableness will help see you through. And if you do have postpartum depression or
anxiety, you are not alone, it’s treatable, and you deserve help.
Respect and accept that this is a season of life where the most important thing is taking care of a newborn and doing the best you can to keep yourself healthy and well—the house is NOT a priority right now. Hopefully you’ve done a thorough decluttering and have systems in place for the postpartum period to simplify your everyday life.
Delegate wherever you can—give partner, family member who’s staying to help out, or older kids jobs to relieve some of your load
We were huge fans of the meal train (there’s a website you can have people sign up Mealtrain.com), asking friends and family to drop off warm balanced meals and/or send cards for restaurants/uber eats/grubhub and/or freezingmeals ahead of time
Use disposable plates/cutlery
If your budget allows (or add these to your baby registry—it’s better than so much of the fluff we are told we need:
Pay bills ahead of time
Treat yourself to a full-service laundry company that picks up/drops off your clothes
As a mother of four, I sometimes reminisce on the time when it was just me, my partner, and my eldest daughter-- my house was so clean back then! How might one maintain a minimalist, clutter-free lifestyle with more than one child?
The reminiscing you’re describing is my life right now, so I can empathize with how dreamy it is and how maintainable. (Remind yourself that it wasn’t perfect every day and you’re only human after all.)
This house belongs to everyone in the family. Each of us who lives here is responsible for taking care of our home.
Really important to have fewer toys out. Rotate if needed, based on current
interests/pursuits. It’s not their fault if they can’t manage a playroom that’s filled to the
brim with toys—it’s too much for them and guess what, they’re overwhelmed too. There
are studies that show that kids focus better with fewer toys in their visual field and with
less stimulation you’ll see better behavior.
Designate a play area and know that those boundaries are firm. Let’s say you have a
clear container for all the dinosaurs; in general if kids can easily find the one they want
without digging/shuffling/dumping, that’s the goal. However as more dinos enter (and
none leave), once the container is too full, it’s time for an edit. You’re not the mean mom
making the dinos go, the container is the bad guy here. There’s simply not enough
As parents, or as the tidier person of the home, we can implement a “put away bin.”
Imagine doing a quick sweep of each room and filling the bin with anything out of place.
Watch to see what happens. Does your youngest notice in 5 minutes or 5 days that the
toy microphone is missing? Let them find it in the bin and put it away.
The "put away bin" is a good one. This is often my suggestion for decluttering before an in-home photography session. A deep clean of every room in the home is rarely required, but the rooms I work in need to be tidied up a bit. I recommend families clear flat surfaces of clutter and stick the miscellany into a laundry hamper in the corner of the room.
What are some manageable everyday routines that we can do to prevent clutter buildup in the high traffic areas of our home? How do we get everyone else on board with these new routines?
Mail—before it even comes in the house—do a quick sort for important items then open letters/bills and discard envelopes, put any junk in the recycling bin. With regards to junk mail: contact stores and ask them to stop sending catalogs, switch to online banking, etc.
“Put away bins” (see the last question)
Drop spots—set up designated drop spots with intention—“clutter is postponed decisions” so throw it into a pretty bin where you can deal with it later
Have a few personalized daily tasks/chores that are nonnegotiable for each family member.
Dishes right in the sink/soaked/rinsed or right into the dishwasher. In our current season of life, we run the dishwasher nightly after dinner, even if it’s not full, and empty it first thing in the a.m. This works for us.
Laundry—share/do altogether in one load if able (tricky if one needs special detergent)
Delegate child care so that when you get home from a Target run or the grocery store, one partner is with the kids as the other puts everything away into its place. Or if that’s not an option, have the children help with opening/homing of everything or let them do a solo activity while you do.
Never leave a room empty handed. When you get up to refill your coffee, take that bottle with you to the sink.
Code: stuff on the bottom of the stairs is only there for you to take up next time you head up
Give developmentally appropriate chores/responsibilities to each kid—a visual chart is so important to kids because they crave structure (yes, even in the summer) and it’s an easy checklist
Make “Cleanup” part of naptime/bedtime routines—if they’re too young to contribute, you do it very intentionally showing them and naming what you are doing, “this stuffed animal goes back in bed” or “this truck goes into the garage”
How do you suggest families deal with different versions of clean? My partner’s clutter is not nearly as aesthetic as mine-- ha!-- and my eleven year old’s idea of a clean room is very different from my own! What are some do and don’ts with regards to clashing
This question is so common. Let me start by saying what NOT to do.
Never purge their items without their knowing consent.
Never sneak shared things out of the house hoping they won’t notice.
Never speak disparagingly about them publicly “oh my god, he’s such a slob. His stuff is always all over the place.” That’s rude and not helpful in any way.
Learn from my own mistake and when you reorganize something in your home, take an extra moment to alert the family, especially your partner or anyone who would be looking for it. NO ONE likes the feeling of not knowing where something is, especially your own things in your own home.
Compromise—meet in the middle. Lead with respect, this is your favorite person after all. These are your tiny humans and your family.
I’m reminded of “I” statements, “when you leave your tools here on the kitchen counter, I feel anxious and want to move them, but I don’t know exactly where they go.” Own the problem. This is a ME problem. Maybe your partner isn’t bothered by tools on the counter. But they can help with a solution because who wants their spouse to feel anxious? Maybe they agree to move items by the end of each day so you know that the clutter is temporary. Maybe the partner is OK with you putting a pretty basket where the tools land so they’re at least hidden away in something pretty. Maybe your partner is fine with you putting the tools in the shed but right by the door so they can be properly sorted/rehomed at another time. Talk it out. What works for both of you?
Maybe one person loves a tidy closet and the other throws clothes everywhere and it’s
a mess. Ideally you each have your own closet and close the doors so the tidy closet
lover isn’t stressed by the mess. When that’s not an option, what’s the compromise? If
you share a space, can there be an agreement that there’s nothing on the floor? I’ve
had clients hire me to do just their dresser/closet because at least they can control that
space and make it exactly how they want.
As a family, look around the house for hotspots of piles or mess. What’s happening that
this is a dump spot? How can you resolve this together? A common place families see
clutter is the entryway. Having a spot for each family member to put their backpack,
shoes, purse, keys etc. gives each person accountability.
It’s also about adjusting expectations. It’s not fair to think your kids should be as clean
as you are. In some cases, they may be overwhelmed by how much stuff is in their
room and while they may be resistant to decluttering or moving some toys out
temporarily, they will very likely be thankful for the space/ease of tidying. Also, kids need
quick and easy solutions for putting toys away, so maybe the current system is not
Communications—family meetings. Involve everyone especially kids so we all feel
heard. “Ok it’s time to decorate for this holiday. We know we will be getting a lot of gifts
and new things, so as we are unpacking the bins, let’s each think of one or two items
we can donate so there’s room for more later. Oldest child, can you please use this
sharpie to write DONATE, middle child, can you tape the sign to this cardboard box,
little child, can you help put an item in the box? Partner, can you carry it to the car?”
I am married to a mechanic and I love the idea of a pretty tool basket. I am going to implementing that one right away!
How does our organization affect our mental health? How can getting (and staying)
organized positively affect our lives?
It’s important to me to declutter the stigma of depression, anxiety, mental illness. I talk
openly about my struggles and also very specifically about how it relates to my
parenting, my ability to manage a home, my partnership, my self-care. The correlation is
undeniable, and I’ve been on both sides of it.
Let's do this exercise: Be still, look around the room right now, and take a deep breath. Do you feel calm and clear in your space? Or is what your are feeling more like…overwhelm, panic, irritability, hopelessness? If you are in the later camp-- YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Clutter creates increased cortisol levels (stress). Cortisol can literally cause structural changes to our brain, creating long-term sensitivity to stress. So over time, we become aggressively more sensitive to stress.
Clutter causes our brains to shift into multitasking mode–which thwarts focus. Juggling your thoughts significantly increases the amount of time taken to complete tasks and decreases productivity and efficiency.
Visual clutter is distracting; it competes for your brain resources, prevents focus, and limits processing power. People with ADD or ADHD often find clutter mentally debilitating.
Our environment affects our energy and vice versa. The psychological effects of clutter can cause apathy in response to the overwhelm which can lead to feelings of defeat presenting as numbing behaviors (overeating, binge watching TV or video games, excessive spending, etc).
According to the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, noisy, crowded homes lacking routines decrease children’s ability to regulate emotions and behavior and provide children with opportunities to act out.
Cluttered environments increase the rate of insomnia, which leads to poor hormone regulation. Clutter itself is often the catalyst to anxiety or depression. Having items or collections of things in your home that evoke stress, anger, and sadness can perpetuate the depression or anxiety.
Tidy homes are typically socially viewed as an indication of “having it together”. Cluttered environments can result in feelings of low self-worth and disorganized homes are linked to depression.
The shame and inadequacy associated with a cluttered environment often leads to isolation and lowered confidence.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Yes, I want people to know that I lead with integrity. Decluttering and organizing your home is a vulnerable process and it’s really quite intimate. Trust is paramount.
I’m big on consent. Nothing leaves your home without your informed awareness. And communication is very important to me. I need to trust that my client is comfortable enough to say, “Hey, you are pushing too hard on this,” or “My yes on this is firm, let’s move on.”
The process can be, at times, rapid and fast paced, and know that I’m always
attempting to gauge where you’re at mentally, emotionally, physically. What’s a pain
point? I am happy to pause or stop if you need to express some heaviness. I’ve had
multiple clients tear up—it is an emotional process, that’s not lost on me.
I consider empathy one of my superpowers. I actively listen, I ask lots of questions.
On each organizing session, at no added charge, I take a carload of donations away,
which shows you instant progress on the space. I work hard to avoid mindlessly filling
trash for the landfill as best I can. I love learning new recycling tricks, I love donating to
meaningful charities in our community that help our neighbors in need.
I stay on top of current trends in design, decluttering, and organization by taking
courses, reading books and magazines, engaging with mentors and colleagues in the
field, and listening to podcasts/watching relevant shows. Also it’s fun for me to do so. I
keep a growth mindset.
As a mama and as an OT, I like to think I work well with all types of kids, all ages, all
personalities. I am not surprised by, but thankful for how much the kids of clients want to
be a part of the process. I love finding even the smallest tasks to engage them. I’ve
been called dramatic, but I prefer theatrical—I like to make kids laugh with my funny
expressions, my gasps, my wide eyes.
Home organization is not one-size-fits-all. It isn’t meaningful or long-lasting if I do the
same exact thing in every home. You are unique, so is your stuff, your routines, your
I identify as a minimalist and I’m happy to talk with you about that all day and night
because it’s been one of the best lifestyle changes I’ve ever made, AND I am aware it’s
not for everyone and as an organizer, I’m here to meet you where you are now, not
preach and try to convert you to be someone you’re not. Zero judgment! To quote
Snoop Dogg’s Doggyland kids’ songs: “if everybody was just all the same It’d be so
boring, tiresome, and loud.” Plus, I wouldn’t have this job!
can people get in touch with you?
On my website:
And on Facebook consciouslyclearedandcontained
And Via Email: