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How to keep your Boston-area home organized longterm

Expert organizer Kathy Vines on how to overcome the real challenge to being home so much due to coronavirus

A hand on a stack of closed binders with sticky notes protruding, all of them on a desk next to an open laptop. Shutterstock

Many, if not most, Boston-area residents are staying home a lot more due to the novel coronavirus. This is creating challenges as far as organizing residential spaces to accommodate working from home—and oftentimes alongside partners and children.

What once worked when most people were out of the house, apartment, or condo for most of the day no longer works.

So Curbed Boston is putting the same set of questions to local experts in organizing. Next up is Kathy Vines, a certified professional organizer and the founder and owner of Clever Girl Organizing, a seven-year-old firm based in Melrose.


Top two or three tips for getting organized quickly?

Vines over email: Don’t try to go big and then fail. Start small—a shelf, a drawer, a counter—and seek to organize one spot at a time by finding homes for things and putting them away. Resist the urge to shift it to other spaces; that’s not organizing.

Get a basket and walk around your space. What belongs in another room that can be put away? A Clutter Relocation Effort can go a long way to alleviating the problem in community rooms like kitchens and living rooms.

What’s the hardest habit for clients to break?

While anyone can get organized, it’s harder work to stay organized. Maintenance is the important part of keeping up with your systems, and habits can make or break that.

If you’re the kind of person who migrates to putting things in a “dumping ground” spot, and you know this eventually leads to an overwhelming pile, break that cycle now. Instead of falling into the instinct of “I’ll just leave this here for now and deal with it later,” go the extra distance to “this has a home and I’m putting it away.” Take “later” out of your habit vocabulary!

A couple of organizational essentials for any home office right now?

One of the best organizing essentials right now for a home office is a small collection of pens or highlighters or whatever tool you use every day. One of the values of keeping it to the small and critical collection means it allows you to have a larger and clearer workspace.

One trade secret (or a hint) for decluttering fast?

The first thing I like to do in an overwhelming space is just to focus on finding things that are trash or recycling, and remove them. Carrying around a bag and just gathering items that can go first allows you to block out all the other items that need decision-making energy, and helps you make progress out of the gate!