First there was Marie Kondo, who asked us to only keep things that sparked joy. Then came The Home Edit’s Clea and Joanna, who made arranging our books by color and shopping our pantries officially a thing. So what’s next? Get ready to organize from the inside out.
In 2021, we predict the whole industry is going deeper. Decluttering your home will become a mental exercise as much as a physical one. Because, if we’re being honest, it’s just not realistic to have every single item in your house spark joy (do nail clippers make anyone giddy?), and not all bookshelves can be Instagram-worthy. But that doesn’t mean your home isn’t put-together.
Tidying up your house will require more than cute containers and under-the-bed storage—it’ll involve a holistic look at your life. Faith Roberson, a New York City–based organizer, sees firsthand how emotional the process of purging can be, so two years into the job, she got her certification as a life coach, too. “We’re not the type of organizers who come in, you leave, and we do everything,” she says. “It’s important that the client is part of the process. We like to call it soul work.”
An appointment with Roberson can get full of feelings—fast. “I always tell clients that their stuff is a compass, and it guides them to places within themselves that need acceptance, healing, support, compassion, and forgiveness,” she says. “Once people reconcile with themselves, then it’s easier for them to look at an object and be like, ‘Okay, this is what it is,’ as opposed to ‘This is what it represents.’” For instance, an old concert ticket stub might not be taking up much physical space in your room, but if it was from a show you saw with your ex, it could be taking up residence in your mind, and so it might be time to let it go.
The same idea applies to clothing, says Kelci Nienhuis, founder of Get Taylored, a closet styling service in New York City. In her evaluations with clients, she asks lots of questions about why certain garments hold meaning. “I can be super-sentimental, so I get it, but you need to get really honest with yourself; do you actually have the space to keep said item? Next, evaluate the likelihood that you’ll ever wear the piece,” she says. If both answers are yes, Nienhuis says you can hold onto it—but cap your keepers at five.
And when it is time to let something go, she suggests taking a photo of it or journaling about why it was special to you before you part ways. “Remember that bringing something to a consignment shop or donating it doesn’t have to be sad,” she says. “Think about how the piece will make someone else feel.”
Jeni Aron, another New York City–based organizer who’s currently studying psychology to become a licensed therapist, also sees the connection between people’s homes and their mental health. “Your communication with your home is going to translate to other relationships in your life,” she says. “If you’re scattered and can’t keep track of your keys and your wallet, or you don’t know where your favorite sweater is, that kind of anxiety level is going to carry outside your space, too.”
Full transparency: Doing the work internally might produce a different result than what you’re used to seeing online, where color-coded junk drawers and decanted dry goods dominate. “It’s all about creating a space that’s comfortable and that’s not preventing you from doing what you want to do in life,” says Aron. “And that can look different for everyone. It isn’t all going to be about a rainbow bookshelf.”
So don’t worry if you haven’t labeled your spices with cursive script stickers. “Let me tell you, it is not about the Instagram,” says Roberson. “Organization has become about staging, which steers people away from a space that’s authentic.” Instead, she says, it’s all about creating a functional space that also feels good. And that’s something that, for better or worse, can’t be captured in a social media post.