Many industries have their own special terms and jargon, while some phrases are universal, like: “push the envelope” or “think outside of the box.” These colloquialisms have been widely used in the business world and beyond.

Professional organizers have our own commonly used phrases that align with our goal of helping people live their best lives – liberated from overwhelm, clutter and overaccumulation of possessions. Here are some common phrases and techniques we use with our clients, decoded just for you:


  1. “Things will look worse before they look better”: Yep! Organizing is a process and sometimes your spaces will look a bit worse before they look better. As you are going through your things, it may feel (and look) a bit like organized chaos. Some may see a mess, but we see sorted piles ready to be donated, tossed, recycled, stored, etc. It’s a system… trust the process! 
  1. “Like with like”: Whether you are organizing your pajama drawer or your kitchen utensils, always start by sorting the contents and putting similar items together. Cue the catchy song from “Sesame Street” and ask yourself: “Which one of these doesn’t belong?” Once you see what you have – and how many you have – you can begin to select your favorites and say goodbye to the excess.
  1. “First pass”: As you make decisions, if you are not quite sure about an item, keep it and circle back later. This might seem counterintuitive to paring down your belongings, but when you are overwhelmed and making several choices in short order, it’s okay to say: “I don’t know” and set the item aside to be considered in another round. Keep up the momentum and don’t let yourself get stuck.
  1. “Turn the tables”: This is something I frequently do when sorting clothing with clients. Have you ever uttered the following?
  • “I never really liked X, but I bought it on sale.”
  • “I bought every color of X, but never wear purple, orange or Kelly green.”
  • “I never liked the fit, the texture, the length, etc.”
  • “Those shoes kill my feet, are too high, too small, too big, etc.”
  • “It was never ‘right’ after the first wash.”

After saying one or more of the previous phrases, clients will still ask: “Should I keep this?”

*Record scratch*

Say what? Did you just hear all the reasons you will never reach for this piece of clothing or accessory again? Think back to what you said and then ditch what you will never use. Make room for the things you love most. Fun fact – did you know that most of us only wear 20 percent or our clothing, 80 percent of the time?

  1. “The real estate market is HOT, HOT, HOT”: Everyone has prime real estate in his or her homes. Those prime spots are often the best of the best cabinets, drawers and counter spaces – where things you need and use often should be stored and displayed for easy access. On the flip side, things that are not touched or used as often should be assigned to less prime areas, such as storage spaces like high shelves, attics, crawl spaces, etc. By assigning prime real estate to your favorite, necessary and most-loved items, you will create a happier and more efficient home for you and your loved ones.

For professional organizers, the phrases and concepts above are tried and true. We are passionate about helping our clients curate personal and functional spaces and these terms help us – and them – stay on track.

A fun fact you may not know about professional organizers: We are meticulous about the interiors of our cars, or at least the ones I’ve met! I think most of us believe our own spaces are reflections of our work. Does a messy car mean a messy professional organizer? Not necessarily… look at my list above.

Sometimes when we help our clients, our cars fill up with donations and other items that need to be removed from their homes. We also juggle multiple clients and multiple donation drops at times, so if you see a professional organizer with a messy car, give us some grace. When the clutter piles up, we trust the process and realize that things will look worse before they look better. Sound familiar?