In the world of Stasia Cymes, “declutter” is the No. 1 New Year’s resolution year after year.
That’s because Cymes is the locally based decluttering consultant who has assisted hundreds of clients overwhelmed by the question of how to limit, reduce or organize their personal possessions. Some were combining households, others were downsizing, and still others just wanted to be able to find their car keys so they could get to work in the morning.
Cymes, who recently published her first book (“Clear the Clutter”), says she learned strategies for keeping a tidy and organized home when she worked as a professional nanny and household manager for 14 years in Seattle.
“If there were a boot camp for being a professional organizer,” she said, “that would be it.”
After her “tour of duty” was complete, she decided to move to New Orleans.
“I sold everything I had and got on the road with a 5-by-8 trailer and two cats,” she said. “As soon as I got here, I felt like I had come home.”
Clients have contacted Cymes for assistance when they needed to declutter because of an upcoming event at home, when they couldn’t open their own front door because of boxes, and when they couldn’t find something important. Sometimes she hears from them after the loss of a parent.
“They’ll tell me, ‘My mom died and left me a mess to deal with,’ or ‘I don’t want to leave everything to my kids because they’ll just throw it all away,' ” she said. “Either way, it can be incredibly emotional.”
That’s precisely the reason to work with a compassionate but objective third party, she said, someone who helps you decide what stays and what goes, someone who doesn’t have a horse in the race.
“You don’t want someone decluttering with you who challenges every decision and says things like ‘But you always said you wanted me to have that,’” she explained.
Before-and-after photographs demonstrate what Cymes and a client can achieve in a three-hour session ($300). But first, there's a phone consultation.
“That’s the only way of determining if we can work together,” she said. “It’s how I can tell if they’re really ready to start letting go.”
FIVE TIPS FOR DECLUTTERING
1. Donate. Donate. Donate. Because everyone has so much stuff, odds are good that there is plenty that has hardly been used and some things that may have been bought but never used. Arrange for a nonprofit to pick up these items, or schedule pickups online.
2. Sell it. Whatever it is, there’s likely a market for it somewhere. Cellphone cameras and sites like Craigslist and eBay make it easy to snap a quick pic and post it.
3. Dream big/start small. Do one thing first, something you know you can do, like cleaning out and organizing the sock drawer. Because socks are nonemotional items (for all but the snappiest dressers), it’s simple to match up and “downsize” the rest. (HINT: after a year, that missing sock won’t turn up.)
4. Create a "landing strip." Everyone needs a landing strip at the front door — an area that is kept free of clutter where you can put your keys and purse and briefcase when you come home every evening. Keys are easy to find when you know where they are.
5. Be real. If someone gave you an ugly sweater last Christmas, don't wear it in front of them just to be nice, because that will encourage them to give you another ugly sweater.