Saturday, June 25, 2022
HomeHealthCassandra Aarssen of Clutterbug on Finding Your Organizing Style

Cassandra Aarssen of Clutterbug on Finding Your Organizing Style


Child: Welcome to my Mommy’s podcast.

 

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Katie: Hello, and welcome to the “Wellness Mama” podcast. I’m Katie from wellnessmama.com and wellnesse.com. That’s wellness with an E on the end. And this episode is all about organization and how to do it if you’ve tried before and it’s never stuck. I am here with Cassandra Aarssen, who is the creator of ClutterBug, which is a philosophy and a community dedicated to helping people discover their unique organizing style. She’s helped hundreds of thousands of families from all over the world to declutter and organize their homes with her proven systems. And she has advice and support through her website and YouTube channel. She also has a show called “Hot Mess House” on HGTV that you can check out and watch.

 

And I love this episode because, in a very short amount of time, she gave a ton of really practical tips, including things on basic organizing philosophy, how figuring out what your organizing style is will actually help your systems stick and not just you organizing and then three weeks later it’s unorganized again. What to do when partners have different organizing styles, or children have different organizing styles. A lot of tips for helping kids come onboard with organizing, the reason she doesn’t recommend things like toy boxes, which I found surprising. Her organizing systems for pantries, closets, paperwork, all the really big areas. What guilty clutter is and how to handle it, and so much more. Really fascinating episode, and definitely relates to mental wellness. I think you’ll enjoy this one, so let’s join Cassandra. Cassandra, welcome, and thanks for being here.

 

Cassandra: Thanks so much for having me.

 

Katie: Well, I know this is a topic that’s gonna resonate a lot with the audience because almost everyone listening is a mom. And so organization is a huge topic for all of our lives. But before we jump into something you are definitely an expert on, I have a note on my show notes that you’ve had it sounds like lots of lifetimes and many career paths, including one as starting your own business as a birthday clown. And I just have to hear a little bit more about that story.

 

Cassandra: Yeah, more than anything, I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, but I had to earn a living. So I tried every, I mean, if there was a side hustle, I tried it. And I can make balloon animals. And I love face painting. So one of my many, many failed careers was I bought a clown costume, I put ads out that I was a birthday clown. I went to a few birthdays. Man, I’m not good at being a clown at children’s parties. But I sold the clown costume. And I’m really good at making balloon animals. So I think like, as a mom, we do what we got to do in order to make our dreams come true. And I just kept trying and failing until I found something that clicked.

 

Katie: I love that. And I have a lot of respect for that. I think, you know, some of the successful people talk about that the path to any success is often through a lot of other failures. And we learned so much through all of those things. So they’re not really failures at all, they’re really cool lessons. And I’m sure like that’s now you have this skill that’s probably great with your kids.

 

Cassandra: Yeah, I think they’re tired of it. But it’s great when I go to other people’s birthday parties I pull it out, like, “Look what I can do.”

 

Katie: Yeah, that’s awesome. Well, it seems like you have truly like, found your purpose and calling now with the organization side because I’ve seen your work and it’s awesome. I was so excited to know I was gonna chat with you today. And I think let’s start broad and just kind of I wanna hear your kind of philosophy of organization. There are so many different styles out there and I know like as someone who doesn’t feel like I’m naturally that way at all, it seems overwhelming to even start. So what’s the philosophy?

 

Cassandra: Yeah, so the Clutterbug Philosophy is that organization isn’t one-size-fits-all. And everybody has a unique way that they naturally organize. And when you know your natural style, you can actually set up systems that stay organized for good, because it’s just as easy to put it away as it is to put something down. And that really came from… I am not a naturally organized person, I’m a recovering super slob. I’m still not a naturally organized person, even though I’ve been doing this for a living for 10 years. But I think that’s the magic of it is you can have an organized house that stays tidy all the time without being a typically organized person.

 

And so I discovered that I organized in a less organized approach. I call it a macro approach about 10 years ago and it just grew from there. Working with clients, I discovered there was more than one way to organize, I never thought this would be a business. And then I just woke up one day and realized, hey, I’m actually earning money doing this incredible hobby that I’m passionate about. And I think that’s my biggest blessing for sure.

 

Katie: That is encouraging to hear because like I said, I don’t consider myself naturally organized. I have friends who just, it seems to come naturally to them and their house is always spotless. And I have six kids who are great at actually picking up after themselves, but which is that many people in the house, it’s never quite my definition of spotless. But I know you’ve talked about…you have a TED Talk even about the different organizing styles. And this was really helpful for me to understand like, “Okay, I was trying to be a part of this that I’m actually not, and then there’s a way to work within my natural tendencies that’s so much easier.” So can you walk us through kind of what organizing styles are?

 

Cassandra: Yeah, absolutely. So it really breaks down to how you naturally sort and how you naturally store your things. And so really naturally organized people like to sort in lots of categories, they like to have lots of tiny details when they’re sorting. And other people need fast, easy, simple, broad categories.

 

And so I love asking the question if you wanna know if you’re a detailed person, or if you are a more laid-back organizer, you have to ask yourself, would I rather take the time to put something away every time properly so I can find it fast? Or do I need to put something away really fast? I don’t mind taking the time to look through a bin to find what I need. So do you need to put it away fast? Or do you really wanna find it fast? And people say both. Listen, no, it’s one or the other. Are you a detailed person? Or are you a more laid-back big category person? And for me, I’m a big category person. And that’s why I was failing for so long. I was trying to copy other people’s styles.

 

And so the other side of that is if you are a hidden organizer, so you prefer your everyday things out of sight, or if you’re a visual organizer. And visual organizers, it’s out of sight out of mind. So they wanna see their important everyday things, which is why they’re subconsciously leaving them out. And so this combination of detailed versus non-detailed and visual versus hidden makes up your organizing style.

 

And when you know this about yourself in those areas you’re struggling, you can say, “Okay, I’m coming in the house, I’m dropping my keys on the kitchen counter. I’m dropping the mail on the kitchen counter. I should take it up to the office and put these things in the folder but I’m not.” Why? Because you’re probably visual, and you need fast easy systems. So hang some hooks and the paper organizer right on the wall above where you naturally pile. It’s about creating simple real solutions for the way you naturally organize in your home.

 

Katie: Yeah, that helped me so much to realize like I like things put away so I’m not a visual one. Like I don’t want the clutter out, I want things put away. And I’m more big picture. And I think for a long time I was trying to do like the minute detail organizing and like, oh, every drawer should have a million little containers and everything should be perfectly sorted at all times. And then I was going nuts because I wasn’t keeping up with those systems.

 

Cassandra: Exactly. And this definitely grew organically, because when I first started getting organized, I thought I was a genius. I thought people are detailed or non-detailed. And so when I started helping clients, I said, “Listen, if this doesn’t work for you, call me and I’ll come back and organize it for free.” And then people called me and I had to go back and organize for free. And then I had to realize like, “Okay, why does it work for Susan, and not for Kelly, what’s going on here?”

 

And it was really out of necessity that I discovered the four styles and I gave them bug names because I have always called myself a clutter bug, I’m kind of a hot mess disaster. And so my business was called Clutterbug. And so when I discovered these four styles to help people set up systems, so they didn’t call me to come back, I gave each of them a bug name that corresponds with the style.

 

Katie: Which I love and not certainly to like discount any system because I think there’s always wisdom in every system but like I tried the Marie Kondo approach for a long time. And I think she has a lot of wisdom and a lot of parts of her approach. But I realized like I’m not the same style of organizer as her. And I’m just not gonna fold my socks, like I’m never gonna do that ever. And so like that’s not going to work.

 

Cassandra: We might have the same style. I also would never fold anything that anyone’s not gonna see me in. Love that.

 

Katie: Well, I wanna start in a minute go into the like the basic steps of this and talk kind of more systems. But before we do, I also wanna bring up, this might be a thing that relates to other people listening as well. So I think I’m more of the, like I said, big picture, hidden, like less detail-oriented. What about if someone who has a partner who is the opposite? So I married like someone who came from a German-Sicilian background and know everything must be color coordinated, and facing the same direction, and socks should be folded. Any advice for like partner differences when you are living in the same house?

 

Cassandra: Yes, I do. I call it the Golden Clutterbug rule. And so when you’re combining styles, you are a Ladybug. That’s the style that you are. So big, broad laid-back categories, but everything hidden out of sight. And if your husband likes things out of sight, but really detailed, he’s what I call a Cricket. And so the nice thing is you both kind of prefer things out of sight but he wants super details.

 

The Golden Clutterbug rule is we always default to the laid-back and the visual organizer. So you win in this case. So bigger categories, slap some labels on baskets, toss things in, at least it’s going to get put away. At least it’s organized, you know where things are, yes, he’s gonna have to spend a few minutes digging through but this only pertains to shared things. So he can get really detailed with his own things, his bathroom products, if he deals with paperwork, he can go full cricket, full cricket with those things.

 

But the things you share as a family need to be way more laid-back so that everyone, especially children, can keep it up. Most children are what I call a butterfly. And a butterfly is a visual organizer that needs fast, easy, simple solutions. And you can see that children are butterflies because they love to line up all their toys on their bed, all their stuffed animals, or line up all their toys where they can see them. And if you take a toy and you hide it out of sight, a child will forget that they even own that toy. So we need to set up really visual systems for kids, not toy boxes, visual systems with picture labels, and have it fast. So clean up is just tossing them back into sorted containers.

 

Katie: That’s a great tip. And I feel like that advice of like default to whichever one’s easier for the whole family, that is a metaphor that seems to apply to so many other areas of relationships as well. But especially with the kids because I’ve been very big on the kids being active participants in the community of our home and actively contributing to meals and cleaning. And that makes it less overwhelming for them too which makes them more willing to want to do it without there being any kind of friction there. So I love that tip.

 

So okay, if someone is recognizing maybe some in their patterns and some of the things you’re saying. And realizing maybe especially, it’s a great time, you know, after coming out of the holidays, we’ve all been at home, we’re like, “Oh, my gosh, I’ve got to organize.” What are some of the first basic steps? Because I also know it’s overwhelming when I’ve had those days where I’m like, “I’m organizing the entire house today.” And that never tends to work out well. So what are some of the first basic steps?

 

Cassandra: The first basic step to getting organized, nobody wants to hear, but the truth is, you can’t organize excess. You can’t buy your way out of a messy house because the fundamental underlying issue is always too much stuff. So the first thing we do is just declutter. And I like following declutter. I love Marie Kondo. I think her method works so well for so many people. But it’s really mood-based, isn’t it? What brings you joy? Some days, everything brings me joy. And some days, nothing brings me joy. And the last thing I wanna do is declutter without logic. I don’t wanna declutter with feelings. I want clear, concise rules.

 

So the rules are, have I used this in the last year? And if I didn’t own this, would I buy it again? And do I actually like this item? So if the answer to all three of these is yes, we keep it. If the answer to two of these is yes, we keep it, we only let go of things if the answer is no to all three. So we don’t have to worry about making a mistake. We don’t have to be anxious about getting rid of something that we love. It’s really clear and there’s no emotion involved.

 

Katie: That is super helpful. And that’s a good point. I think it’s great that she makes people think about like, if something brings them happiness and joy. But that’s not the only factor that’s involved. So I love that you have a multi-pronged approach.

 

Cassandra: Yeah, sometimes my potato masher doesn’t bring me joy, but I still need it when I’m mashing potatoes. But you know what works about the Marie Kondo approach is taking the stuff out of its natural environment. And that is something I recommend, you don’t have to make a huge mess and empty every book you own and put it in a pile in the living room. But just, if you’re going through your closet, take out the shirt of your closet and hold it up out of the closet and ask yourself, have I worn this in the last year? If I didn’t own this would I buy it again? And does this look good on me? If you’re just looking at the closet as a whole, you’re gonna wanna keep everything, but take a second to take one piece at a time out and make a decision. If you keep it put it back in. If you’re like, “Actually, I feel terrible about my body in this,” you throw it in a pile to donate.

 

Katie: Yeah, and that’s…it seems like a great metric for kids as well, especially as they get older, because I’ve learned like little ones will wear pretty much anything comfortable. But as they get older, they wanna have more independence in their clothing choices. And often like I would buy clothes that they didn’t really wanna wear, and they would just sit in their closet. So that seems like a great process to do with older kids as well. And like teach them kind of that early on. So they don’t get kind of to that point as adults where they have so many clothes and feel bad about getting rid of them, but don’t really want them and that whole like vicious circle.

 

Cassandra: I love that you said that, because the truth is, I think teaching children to declutter is a core life skill. And it’s something we should teach very young, that we can’t keep everything. When we get a new toy, we gift one old toy to somebody else. Because it’s heartbreaking the number of clients I deal with that are adults, that are petrified to get rid of paper, things that don’t fit them, everything, it feels wrong to declutter. So I think as a parent, it’s really important that we teach our children we’re not supposed to keep everything, we go through different phases. It feels good to let go and to donate and give to others. And if we can teach them young, they’re never going to struggle with clutter in a messy house when they’re older. And I think that’s one of the best tools we can equip our children with.

 

So really young, a quick tip for helping kids to declutter, is you know your kids and what they play with and what they don’t. So if you gather some of the things you don’t think they play with and put them in a bin. And then ask the kids, “We’re gonna let these go, do you wanna pick two or three of these things to keep?” Then they get to pick what stays…because trying to take a toy from a child is tears and drama. But you can teach them it is a positive thing they get to choose what they keep instead of let go. And then just praise that the things that are going and just say, “You’re really gonna make some other children really happy,” so it feels good to let go.

 

Katie: That is a great parenting tip. And this might be more of a therapy question than an organizing question. But I feel like what you just said before that, also really resonates and probably did with a lot of people of a lot of us have these days where we feel bad letting go of stuff, especially depending on how we were raised. Or we feel guilty getting rid of a gift even if we’ve never used it or we feel like we should hold on to stuff because of an emotional attachment. How do you help people with that? Because I feel like that’s something that maybe is pretty common.

 

Cassandra: It’s very common. Yeah, we call that guilty clutter. And I find the thing that’s most effective is just, especially if it’s a parent, to say, “Do you really wanna pass this guilt down to your children?” Because this is what we do, we are given great grandmother’s china and your mom receives it, and then she gives it to you. Nobody wants the china, okay. And then, but you feel obligated to keep it. It’s in a box in your basement collecting dust or in a china cabinet that you’re cursing every day you’re looking at it. And then you’re going to pass that down to your children to have that burden.

 

And so this is about putting boundaries on yourself, and your home. And standing up for yourself and saying, “I know that you gave this to me, or you bought this for me, or whatever, but I don’t want this in my home.” And that’s okay. It’s okay to say no, especially as women, why is this hard for us to stand up for ourselves? But that’s what this is, it’s putting boundaries in our home in our life and being really good examples, and teaching our children it’s okay to put boundaries up too.

 

Katie: Beautifully said. Before we move on from this topic, any other tips for kids at various ages? I agree with you completely, like starting young with anything is awesome. And I’m a huge fan of like, very active education, and explaining things to kids, I think they understand so much more than we often give them credit for. But any tips for various developmental stages along the way to help them really like cement those skills?

 

Cassandra: Yes, so I love organizing toys. And for me, I mean, we’ve ditched our dressers in the bedroom. And even in toy rooms, I always go for cube shelving. Because cube shelving gives you a 13 by 13 space for each toy category that’s the perfect amount. It’s the perfect amount for Barbies, for cars, for building blocks. And so going with a cube shelving and making sure that you label the front gives children a limit too. And you start by saying, “You can play with one bin at a time, and you have to clean that bin up before you get another bin.” And then they can move to two bins and three bins.

 

And before you know it, kids are in the habit of picking up after themselves because it’s a manageable amount. Every bin is clear what’s inside so they don’t have to dump to find the toy that they want, which often happens with toy boxes, right? They dump everything out looking for what they need. But you’re also putting a limit on what they can keep in each of those categories. And we all need that, we need limits in life of what we can keep in our home.

 

Katie: That’s another great tip. I’m making notes for the show notes for you guys listening. So if people are starting this process, what should they do when they get overwhelmed?

 

Cassandra: Yeah, my biggest piece of advice is five minutes matters. I think we get stuck in this all-or-nothing cycle that we’re looking at our house, it feels overwhelming. We’re like, “Oh, my gosh, I’ll have to get a babysitter and take the whole weekend, or wait till I get a week off work, or wait until I have the time, money, resources to do it all at the same time.” But five minutes is really the key. Grab a bag and set a timer for 5 minutes and hunt for 10 things that you can donate today. Do one junk drawer and organize it. Organize one dresser drawer.

 

This is how not only we tackle our entire house without making a bigger mess, but also we build a habit of house management, right? Because it’s never-ending. We’ll always have to declutter, we’ll always have to tidy. And I know for myself, this was not like something I was born doing. I would let it go and then spend an entire weekend cleaning my house like a madwoman because someone was coming over or because I couldn’t take it anymore. And breaking that cycle started with five minutes at a time and embracing good enough. I don’t have to organize the entire closet, I can just let 10 items go today.

 

Katie: I love that. And it’s encouraging to hear that you are not naturally born like this either, and now you’ve like helped so many people become more natural at these processes. So it’s very, very encouraging to know there’s hope. And I know that you organize for clients as well. And I wish we could all just like hire you and have you come in our homes. But I’m curious what challenges you run into when you’re organizing for other people, like do you hit some of these roadblocks that they don’t want to get rid of stuff? Or like what are those challenges?

 

Cassandra: Yeah, that’s always the biggest challenge is the decluttering part and it’s never about the stuff. It’s always more. It’s more than that. And so my biggest challenge is discovering the why because if I can figure out why someone’s struggling whether it’s they’ve had a loss as a child. They had a fire, maybe they have financial instability now or before, or their parents had financial instability or it’s the guilt, or it’s the fear of being wasteful, which a lot of people have, especially in this day and age.

 

The thought of putting things in a landfill can be crippling, but when we discover the why we can really unpack it then with logic and reason, and help overcome the anxiety that comes with it. So that, I mean, it seems a lot like counseling and that is very weird to say. But yeah, it’s the biggest and most important step is really understanding why it’s hard to let go. And everybody has a different reason.

 

Katie: Yeah, that’s a great point, and unpacking it. I feel like that’s true in the health world that I navigate a lot as well. It’s like, it’s very seldom about the what, and very much more often about the why. And even I’ve talked about like, the mindset side being so much more important than I realized, like, what we eat matters, but that underlying emotional, why is often really driving the what. And when we don’t address that we’re fighting our subconscious and our natural tendencies and that is a huge drain on natural resources in our brain. And we will eventually, like, lose that battle, because you can’t battle that for so long.

 

Cassandra: Yeah, we’re such bullies to ourselves, aren’t we sometimes? And a lot of people have this core belief that they’re just bad at organizing, or they’re just messy, or they’re lazy. And that core belief stops them from trying because they’re so afraid to fail. And they’re looking for evidence everywhere to support that they’re messy, and they’re lazy, and why bother, it’s just gonna get messy again. And it’s stopping them from really having the confidence to just try.

 

And so confidence building with clients is a big, big part of my job. Everybody wants a plan, they’re like, “Just do it for me, give me the roadmap.” And I’m like, “No, you got to trust yourself. Nobody knows your home and your family better than you do. You should be the person to design your organizing system, not me. My job is just to come in and hold a mirror and show you all the things you’re great at, and all the things you already know.” And I really trust people’s body language about what they want to keep and what they don’t. As soon as I hold something up, and someone sort of makes a face or they hesitate, whether they like it, I know they don’t. And I know it can go. And so I show them that so they can eventually trust their own body language and trust their own decision-making.

 

Katie: And from that, it seems like this would have rollover into lots of areas of our life besides just our home. So, I mean, you do this hands-on all the time. But how do you see this organizational system and making this part of your routine affect other areas of life as well?

 

Cassandra: I mean, I say life-changing a lot, but listen, getting your house under control is legit life-changing. Your home is the foundation for your entire life. When your home feels effortless, and in control, and calm, your finances will improve, your relationships will improve, your self-confidence improves. Every aspect of my life, like dominoes, started to fall into place as soon as I got my home under control. And just the opposite is also true when your house is chaotic, and stressful, and messy, and you feel like you’re on a hamster wheel and you never have any time to catch up on anything, how could you possibly get control of your health, and your finances, and your relationships when your home, your environment feels so hectic?

 

Katie: Yeah, that’s a great point. And I’ve definitely felt that as a mom before too, it’s like when there’s clutter around me, then I feel cluttered inside and like that stress kind of rolls over. Whereas when you walk into like, a really organized space or like a beautifully designed space, it’s like a mental deep breath, where you’re just like, “Okay, now I have bandwidth to handle these other things as well.”

 

This episode is sponsored by JuneShine – a better-for-you alcohol made with only real, organic ingredients and unlike other alcoholic beverages, they are transparent about every ingredient they put in their products. I love how light and refreshing it tastes without the bloat of other alcohols like beer. It’s naturally fizzy and fermented, and I’ve found that even friends who aren’t big Kombucha fans love the flavor and fizz of JuneShine. Each can is only 3 grams of sugar, low-carb, full of probiotics AND they come in creative and delicious flavor combos like their new Prickly Pear Margarita, which is delicious and enjoyable.  Best of all, it doesn’t leave you with that I’m-too-full-after-drinking feeling and gives you a lighter, brighter buzz.  JuneShine is sustainably produced, they are 100% carbon neutral, they donate 1% of all sales to environmental nonprofits, their Brewery is powered by 100% renewable solar and they plant trees for all those used to make their 6-pack boxes. I get this stuff delivered straight to my doorstep now that JuneShine has nationwide shipping.  We’ve worked out a special offer for our listeners. Receive 20% off plus Free Shipping site wide. I recommend trying one of their best selling variety packs, it’s a great way to try all of their delicious flavors. Go to JUNESHINE.com/WELLNESSMAMA or use code WELLNESSMAMA at checkout to claim this deal. JuneShine can also be found in over 10,000 stores across the country, including Whole Foods, Safeway, Kroger and Publix.

 

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Do you feel like the system’s crossed over as well? Like as people learn to put these five-minute breaks in place to like organize their house, they start applying that to other areas where they can save time. Or they can be like, “Oh, I can do that with cooking as well, I can like, batch this or I can pre-organize this or.”

 

Cassandra: Yeah, absolutely. So zoning is a big part of organization. If you’re going in your kitchen, I really want my clients to think critically about where they stand when they bake? We should keep your baking supplies close to there. We should walk the least amount possible to put the dishes away, so let’s store them close to the dishwasher. And when you start thinking about your home in ways of time management really, and practicality, and function, I feel like it changes something in your brain. And you start looking at everything in a way of how can I work smarter, not harder? Because we spend a lot of time managing the mess. And we spend a lot of time just running on the hamster wheel of life not really going anywhere. And taking these practices of making our house more efficient and not worrying so much about it being beautiful, but more functional can really translate to every area of our life.

 

Katie: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve said before like as moms I don’t think it’s everything we actually have to get done that stresses us out. It’s knowing all the stuff that we have to get done, especially if there’s not systems. So like I have pretty elaborate systems for food planning, and for supplements, and for all those areas of life because I know if they’re open loops, they’re gonna stress me out. And if I already know when laundry is gonna happen, then it’s not gonna stress me out because it’s planned. And to feel like putting those things in place does give you so much more mental bandwidth. Also, I know we’ve talked about the styles and how there’s a lot of individualization here. But I’m curious if there’s also kind of commonalities or general best organizing tips and tricks that people can use when they’re getting started.

 

Cassandra: Yeah, I mean, obviously, everybody, I’m gonna say, I know should start with decluttering. Nobody wants to hear this, everybody thinks organizing means I’m gonna come in and I’m gonna create more space. This is the biggest myth. And so we all start with decluttering. And then we start setting up the organizing system, so no matter what your organizing style is, with the things you touch the most. And I think your kitchen counters are a really good indicator of this. If you have backpacks, and purses, and keys, and phones, and paper, that’s a place you need to start. And instead of just hiding these or shoving these away when you finally clean the kitchen, how can you create homes for these things right close to where you naturally pile them?

 

It might look like you clear out drawers of your kitchen island and dedicate those to bills that need to be paid. Or you hang a paper organizer on the wall, or you have a phone charging station right there on your counter. It isn’t about what it looks like. It’s about working with how you naturally put things down in your home. And your clutter is a really good indication of where you should set up homes because you’re naturally putting things there anyways.

 

Katie: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I’m thinking of that in terms of my kitchen right now and I’m gonna go home and move around some drawers for sure. I’m also curious if there’s some surprising things you do or don’t do as an organizing expert because I also think if people are like now like, “Oh, I’m gonna hire an organizing expert.” They might have false expectations of what that’s gonna look like. So as an organizing expert who’s done this a lot, what are some things you do and don’t do?

 

Cassandra: Unfortunately, I don’t make your space bigger. Unfortunately, everybody thinks this is like, “I know I have 10 pounds of stuff, but an organizer will fit it into a 5-pound bag.” That is not true. The other thing I don’t do is stack things Jenga style if that isn’t your… So we look at the home. And it is a beautiful example, that everything’s in rainbow colors, and everything’s super-stacked and absolutely gorgeous. I don’t organize clients based on what it looks like. I organize for a client based on how they naturally put things away. Because here’s the thing, you’re not gonna buy your food in colors. And so color coordinating your things is not realistic, right?

 

It’s gorgeous in some aspects but we have to think practicality first. So I’m not gonna make your space bigger. And I’m not gonna worry. It is going to be beautiful, I promise, but that isn’t my first goal. My first and primary goal is that your life is easier, that you don’t have to come home from work and clean your house. That you don’t have to clear off your kitchen table before you can eat dinner at it. That you no longer have to be scared when somebody rings your doorbell and it’s a friend and they’re stopping in for a visit because your house is a mess. This is what organization is really about. It’s about creating a home that’s effortless to keep tidy.

 

Katie: Yeah, that definitely sounds like a better plan. And I would love to kind of sort of rapid-fire, go through some areas that I feel like are especially problem spots for a lot of women and moms. So I know for me like the pantry is a big one with having six kids and just having…like I have so many ingredients because we cook all meals from scratch, we almost never eat out. So there just is, like to your point, there’s a lot of things in there, and I can’t make the space bigger. Are there any like general pantry organizing tips that help that workflow of the kitchen?

 

Cassandra: Yeah, first of all, I would challenge you not to keep everything in the pantry. And I know that really goes against what you’re thinking. But if you stand in a certain space in your kitchen to bake, I would challenge you to move the baking supplies out and keep those above where you stand. And also kids lunch-making snacks and things like that, have those separate from your pantry items and maybe create a cabinet low in your kitchen that’s just for your children. It has their plates, it has their glasses, it has their cutlery, and it has their lunch-making snacks. Everything doesn’t have to be kept in the pantry in order for it to be functional.

 

I think it’s important too to take pre-packaged things out of boxes and put them in baskets. So you can really take advantage of that vertical space. So you can fit a lot of pre-packaged snacks, pasta, rice in a basket and it takes up the same floor space or the same shelf space, but you can pack a lot more in it because you’re going higher with a basket. Do I think that you should, knowing that you are Ladybug, decant your nuts and your…? No. Because you’re not gonna come home from the grocery store and you’re tired and decant your quinoa, you’re gonna throw the package in your pantry.

 

And so that’s just not you. But so why would you feel guilty for not doing that? Don’t decant, except if it’s flour, sugar, baking, you know, the baking-type things, that’s a decantable. The other things, if it’s not you, don’t, just have a basket labeled grains and toss them in there and move on with your life. Take some pressure off yourself, and you’re gonna stay more organized.

 

Katie: Yeah, that definitely feels like a better solution for me. What about things like paperwork and mail? I feel like this is another area of major clutter for a lot of people. And you mentioned like a lot of it gets lost in the kitchen for people sometimes, but any tips for creating a system that helps that not get backlogged?

 

Cassandra: Yeah, so there are…it’s called the five sort method for paper. And it’s critical that you sort your paper into five separate categories, and that you don’t mix them up. And so the first category is action. These are mail, the mail that comes in, the bills that you have to pay. Anything important that you have to deal with that week goes into your action folder. Then you want one for short-term. These are bills that you have paid, maybe monthly statements. You really don’t need to keep these, you can shred them. But maybe you might use them for tax purposes, or maybe you just feel more comfortable keeping it. So we keep those in short-term, and then we shred them all at tax time. Anything we don’t use, we shred.

 

Then we have long-term. These are contracts, and taxes, and your mortgage papers, and your documentation. Most people keep those in a filing cabinet. But again, we don’t wanna mix them with short-term, or else you’re gonna end up with a year’s worth of paper. You have to have a reference system, I just use a basket. This is where receipts go, coupons, flyers, things that, “Oh, I have this card for a painter, I might wanna hire him or something.” It goes into your reference basket, so you know where everything is but it’s not getting mixed up with bills that need to be paid or important papers.

 

And last, we have a spot for memory. And for me, this again is a basket. You’re catching on a theme here, I have a lot of baskets. But this is when my kids come home from school with artwork, or report cards, or photos, or if I’m in the newspaper, or I’m in “HGTV Magazine” this month. This is really exciting. I toss it all into my memory bin. And then one time a year, I sort that into each family member’s individual memory files.

 

Katie: Awesome. I’m taking notes. Okay, and we talked a little bit about closet already. But any other tips related to clothing because that seems like the other big area of clutter.

 

Cassandra: I would recommend that you ditch the dresser for kids. Kids just don’t fold, they don’t. And even if you fold and then you slide them in the basket and say, “Put away your clothes,” they’re gonna rumple them in a rumpled mess afterwards. So what I did with my kids and a lot of my clients is we ditch the dresser and instead, we opted for a cube system with cloth or a plastic bin so they can toss like a basketball to put the clothes away.

 

I still hang anything that I don’t want to wrinkle but pajamas, socks, underwear, a lot of jogging pants, things like that, shorts, bathing suits just get tossed into a bin. It’s easy for kids to maintain. They’re gonna rummage anyways, it saves you some sanity. And you can fit four times as many clothes in a cube system like the one behind me. I don’t know if anyone can see this, they might not. But I love the Kallax system from IKEA. And it gives you display space above too for things like Lego, or toys, or anything like that. So, you’re really maximizing your floor space, but you’re also maximizing organization for the way that kids think and naturally manage their things.

 

Katie: Awesome. And as we get close to the end of our time, a few other kind of rapid-fire questions. The first being, if there is a book or a number of books that have had a profound impact on your life, and if so, what they are and why it could be organizing-related or not.

 

Cassandra: So Peter Walsh’s “It’s All Too Much.” Peter Walsh is the first book, organizing book I ever read. And he is my hero and the reason I started organizing in the first place, so I definitely recommend everything by Peter Walsh, the king of organization. But the self-help book that had the biggest impact on my life was “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. I have just never read a book on creating new habits that had a bigger impact than that. I am not a schedule person. I am not a person that follows a lot of rules in life. So the idea that I could change and create new habits by doing simple, microscopic, little things in my day was incredible. And I definitely recommend everybody reads “Atomic Habits” by James Clear.

 

Katie: That is a great one, I will link to that in the show notes, people can find it. And any advice that you would wanna leave, also could be organizing-related or not organizing-related.

 

Cassandra: I really wanna just urge people to remind themselves that it’s progress over perfection. I think being a perfectionist stops people from having a tidy home. And I know that sounds counterintuitive, but almost all the clients I work with that really struggle, it comes down to they’re perfectionists. They’re not confident in themselves to make a decision, whether it’s an organizing system, or what to let go, or what new habit to create. So when in doubt, they do nothing. And they wait and they kick the can down the road.

 

And so just reminding yourself that five minutes matters. Doing a little bit of something is better than doing it perfect tomorrow is so important for overcoming perfectionism, which sounds like it should be an amazing thing. But in reality, it can really cause a lot of procrastination and a lot of self-hate, if I’m being honest.

 

Katie: Yeah, unfortunately, and that’s great advice. Thank you so much for that. And I know you have so much work beyond what we can cover in the scope of one podcast. So where can people find you and keep learning?

 

Cassandra: So you can find me at clutterbug.com. And you can take the free quiz there to discover your organizing style. I don’t ask for your email, I won’t harass you. So I really recommend checking that out. You can also watch my free organizing tutorials on YouTube again that’s Clutterbug, just search Clutterbug on YouTube. And I have four books available anywhere books are sold as well.

 

Katie: And I will link to all those in the show notes at wellnessmama.fm for all of you guys listening on the go, so you can find it all in one place. This has been super fun. Like, I said, this I know is an area of deficiency for me currently. I definitely took a lot of notes today and I love that, I feel like every answer was so concise, and practical, and applicable, and helpful. So I feel like in a short episode we knocked out so, so much applicable stuff and I’m gonna keep learning from you. I hope that people listening will as well. Thank you so much for your time.

 

Cassandra: Thank you so much.

 

Katie; And thanks as always, to all of you listening for sharing your most valuable resources, your time, your energy, and your attention with us today. We’re both so grateful that you did, and I hope that you’ll join me again on the next episode of “The Wellness Mama Podcast.”

 

If you’re enjoying these interviews, would you please take two minutes to leave a rating or review on iTunes for me? Doing this helps more people to find the podcast, which means even more moms and families could benefit from the information. I really appreciate your time, and thanks as always for listening.



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