7 Tips for Starting 2021 Off on the Right Foot, According to Professional Organizers

updated Dec 22, 2020
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Credit: Lula Poggi

There’s something about the fresh start of the new year that brings a sense of motivation. If you’re anything like me, all those chores and house projects you’ve been putting off suddenly feel more doable (and necessary) with the turn of a calendar page. If you’ve been meaning to organize your kitchen — and implement some new habits that support a tidy home — make sure to take advantage of your newfound inspiration and use the new year as a kickstart.

To help you get even more motivated and inspired, I chatted with Ashley Murphy and Marissa Hagmeyer, co-founders of the luxury home-organizing company NEAT Method. Here are their best, game-changing suggestions for starting 2021 on the right foot.

1. Create daily, weekly, and monthly goals.

Organizing your space isn’t a one-and-done kind of project. The goal is to actually keep things neat, which won’t just make your space look better, but also help it function more effectively. So with the start of the new year, make sure you adopt a mindset that keeps you motivated over time.

Hagmeyer suggests taking time each morning to sit, reflect, and create a list of ongoing goals you’ll revisit daily. Grab your favorite notebook and pen, and ask yourself: How do you want your space to feel, and what daily, weekly, and monthly steps would it take to get there?

2. Don’t try to do it all at once.

Tackling your entire kitchen in one fell swoop probably feels overwhelming — and because organization is more of a lifestyle than a task, it makes more sense to break things up. After all, if you burn out by doing too much, you might not finish and won’t keep on top of it going forward. Murphy suggests starting out with “quick wins” that’ll give you stamina for future projects, like organizing your food storage containers (make sure all bottoms have a top!), your junk drawer (toss those expired coupons), and your pantry (say goodbye to anything that’s expired).

Credit: Joe Lingeman

3. Start decanting (and labeling).

Decanting in jars or other dedicated containers is a super-smart (and aesthetically pleasing!) way to keep your pantry organized. Consider saving space by ditching the boxes and replacing them with clear, labeled decanters of your choice.

4. Choose days of the week for chores, and set reminders.

Off the top of your head, what are your most dreaded kitchen jobs? Whether you hate scrubbing down the inside of your microwave or you can’t motivate yourself to organize your spices, create a routine. 

Hagmeyer suggests choosing one day of the week or month to tackle some of your least-favorite chores, then setting reminders on your phone. “We find that by making these a little more planned out, somehow they are a little less overwhelming,” she says.

Credit: Andrea Monzo for Apartment Therapy

5. Create a “chore area” you want to use.

Cleaning does not top the list of “Fun Activities” for many people. But if you get your cleaning supplies more organized, you might enjoy it a little more. And you’ll definitely save some much-needed storage space. This can be as simple as labeling canisters with your go-to cleaning supplies, or setting up a cleaning caddy to carry around with you, or getting your under-sink area under control.

6. Be realistic about cookbooks and kitchen gadgets.

Many of us resort to the internet for recipe inspiration these days. If you have cookbooks that you have not cracked open in a long time (or ever!), and they are taking up prime real estate in your kitchen or pantry, Murphy suggests keeping your favorites and donating the rest. The same goes for any kitchen tools or gadgets you don’t envision yourself using in the new year. Hello, new open cabinet or shelf!

7. Start a donation bin.

One of the best ways to keep your kitchen (and your entire home) uncluttered? Start a habit of donating what you don’t want or need on at least a monthly basis. The key here is to create a designated spot for donation items, so that you can put them aside as you come across them. “This can mean placing a bin labeled ‘Donate’ in the closet by the front door or in your garage,” Hagmayer says. “Once the box is full, take the contents to your local donation center.”