How to Organize and Clean Out A House if You Don’t Know Where to Start
Whether you're looking to clean out clutter before a big move or help a relative pare down decades' worth of stuff, there are many resources at your disposal (no pun intended). Depending on the amount of stuff and the severity (a strong but often-appropriate word) of the situation, you can access countless free and low-cost resources or work with any one of a variety of professionals whose mission it is to help you live a lighter life with less stuff.
Please note - If you'd like specific recommendations for any of these types of professionals, please feel free to reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I prefer not to share the names of my resources in public forums but am happy to share them once I have a better picture of what you're looking for.
For people who just want to simplify and organize a few target areas:
If you live a mostly low-clutter lifestyle but still have a few areas that drive you crazy, you might want to consider a book or online resource that can help you clear the space around you for a more tranquil lifestyle. Some of my favorites include:
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: This book, recently written by Marie Kondo, made minimal living all the rage. It also made me interested in organizing my sock drawer.
Anything by Julie Morgenstern: Ms. Morgenstern was the grand dame of organizing, even before it was cool. My mom gave me one of her books when she realized I was a bit of a mess post-college and it did help me look at the reasons why I have trouble organizing and paring down.
Lots of Instagram Accounts: If pictures are your thing, there are a lot of social media accounts that might inspire you to clean out your junk drawer, neaten your pantry or organize your closet by color. A few of my favorites include @thehomeedit, @horderly and @neatmethod.
For people who want hands-on assistance for a larger space, like a garage, basement, toy room or closet:
This is where a professional organizer can really help. They often work on a project-based or hourly rate, and their fees can range anywhere from about $25 an hour to $100 an hour and up. Some specialize in certain areas or activities - like toys, crafts or closets, and others simply ask what you need and how quickly you need it done and get to work. Some carry certifications; others simply have a natural knack for looking at piles of stuff and making it neater and more organized.
I'm happy to provide you with a few names to help, but you can also research local professionals at the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals website at the "Find a Pro" section of their website: https://www.napo.net/#
For people who need more help - removing and disposing of lots of stuff in basements, attics, garages, etc.
Sometimes you just have a lot of stuff and don't know what to do with it all, but know that you absolutely can't keep it. Even if you do organize it, you're left with a bunch of belongings and clutter that no one in your family wants anymore.
In these types of situations, it's often best to call a local charity organization, to see if they can send someone out to determine what you can donate, and what needs to be thrown away.
In other cases, especially if you have art, furniture, collectibles or rugs that might still have some monetary value, you can consider an estate sale. There are many companies local to Morris County that will arrange, manage and promote them for you and work out a way to share the proceeds from the sale with you.
Finally, there's the option of hiring a junk hauler who will clean almost everything out. I work with these guys (they're usually men) often, and they can remove just about any type of refuse from your home quickly and without judgment. Often, in the emotional time right before the sale of a home or the death of a loved one, this is just what you need.
Again, if you have any questions about how to approach any of these situations, or need recommendations for professionals to help, please feel free to reach out to me. I often work with friends and clients for months or years before they decide to make a move, and would be happy to serve as a resource for you.
Meg Mullin is a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker in Madison, NJ. She struggles with too much stuff in her own home but is really good at helping clients wrangle their own clutter. Please feel free to contact her at email@example.com or 973-845-8375 if you'd like specific resource recommendations, or help with anything home- or move-related.