Skip To Content

    This Professional Organizer Says Her Method Works If You Couldn't Connect With Netflix's "Tidying Up With Marie Kondo"

    "A lot of times it's much more complicated emotions than simply, 'Does this spark joy?'"

    Tracy McCubbin is a professional decluttering expert who has been showing people how to take a deeper dive into getting organized for 12 years.

    BuzzFeed spoke with Tracy to understand more about her approach to becoming clutter-free. "I'm the child of a hoarder, so I grew up my whole life watching my dad struggle with his relationship to his stuff. I understand the emotional impact of belongings and I know that it isn't always easy," she said.

    So Tracy recognized these emotional attachments people had to their possessions and developed a different approach to decluttering. She found seven emotional "clutter blocks" — as she calls them in her book — that prevent people from getting rid of their stuff in order to become more organized. "I've found that all of us have at least one of these 'clutter blocks,' but some of us have more than one," she said.

    Tracy added that "clutter blocks" can also change as events happen in our lives, for example becoming a parent or dealing with death.

    So, what are these seven 'clutter blocks'?!

    NBC

    Clutter Block Number One:

    Krista Torres / BuzzFeed

    "It is stuff that tells you your best days are behind you. I see parents stuck in this clutter block a lot, like keeping things their kids made. Other people might do this with things like clothes that don't fit them anymore. They think, 'Oh maybe if I lose weight or change my diet, I'll fit back into it," said Tracy.

    Clutter Block Number Two:

    Krista Torres / BuzzFeed

    "These are my shoppers and folks that are trying to stave off loneliness by creating the busy work of shopping. These are the people who garner their self-worth on how much they have or how much they buy. And with shipping being so easy, it's a reward system. You order something off Amazon and then the next day you open the door and there's a present waiting for you. So people are getting trained to shop and have that be a part of their identity."

    Clutter Block Number Three:

    Krista Torres / BuzzFeed

    "These are things like not opening your mail and not dealing with paperwork – letting things stack up and pushing them to the side. This is not accepting the role of being a grown-up and it leads to clutter."

    Clutter Block Number Four:

    Krista Torres / BuzzFeed

    "This happens when you buy things for the sport you think you should be playing or the hobby you think you should be doing. For instance, you think you should be a crafter, so you go out and buy everything you need to start crafting, only to realize you don't like to craft at all. But, you can't let go 'cause you fantasize that someday you will be that person who likes to craft."

    Clutter Block Number Five:

    Krista Torres / BuzzFeed

    "So these are all the beautiful things that you love and you say 'brings you joy,' but you don't use them. If you're not using things, like nice china or wearing a nice outfit, to me, that says you don't think you're worth your good stuff."

    Clutter Block Number Six:

    Krista Torres / BuzzFeed

    "This is inheritance. It's people who have passed away in your life and have passed things onto you. I'm seeing this so much now with millennials, like their grandparents passed away and they don't have big houses or they live at home, but still feel this obligation to keep it even though they're never going to use it."

    Clutter Block Number Seven:

    Krista Torres / BuzzFeed

    "You paid a lot of money for it, so you can't possibly let it go. This is a big wormhole for people to fall down – buying something expensive that they don't use, but feeling guilty for getting rid of it because they spent so much on it."

    Tracy said before you start the process of acknowledging which clutter block(s) you fall into, it's important to have a vision for why you want to declutter. "A lot of times people who are cluttered have heard their whole lives that they're messy, so there is a lot of shame around it. Take the shame out of it and focus on what you want."

    Then, in order to maintain clutter-free space, you have to be consistent in putting things away. "We tend to be weekend warriors about getting decluttered and then we do it and forget that it takes upkeep. You use things from day to day, but then you have to put them back. It takes daily upkeep."

    MTV

    Tracy said if you can't organize a room in your house in twenty minutes or less, the clutter has the upper hand. "People also need to really be mindful about how much stuff they are bringing into their home," she added.

    Ending tips and advice from Tracy:

    – "For people who like to buy new clothes, start practicing 'one in one out.' If you buy a new top, get rid of one you don't wear that much. But, I also invite those people to ask themselves if there is something they're avoiding by spending their time shopping. Shopping is an activity that you get a dopamine hit from, so you're scoring that deal or getting that cute top. I would say that there's usually something else going on in those cases."

    – "Utilize the adjustable shelves in your cabinets!"

    – "One mistake people make is that they go out and buy all the bins and containers before they start decluttering. In those cases, they just end up with bins and bins of stuff they didn't get rid of or sort through."

    – "When you add a child into your life, you increase your possessions by at least 30%. So cut back on the toys and teach your kids to put things where they're supposed to go. It makes it so much more fun for kids to know exactly where to go to get something. And parents need to know that this is not being anal. If you go to preschool, that's how it's done there."

    – "You don't have to have a special method of folding! I fold my T-shirts just like they fold them at the Gap. I tried the KonMari (Marie Kondo's trademarked folding method) and it looks adorable, but it's not what I want to spend my time doing."

    – "Lastly, there really is no prescribed way to declutter. I'm not a minimalist and I'm not telling you to be a minimalist; I'm not telling you to throw everything away. Another way I differ from Marie Kondo is that I do want you to enjoy your home, but I also want you to use your home as a tool. It should be a place where you can rest and restore and get yourself out the door in a great way at the beginning of every day. I want your home to be functional for you."

    Cheers to having a clutter-free 2020!

    Want awesome DIY tips in your inbox three times a week? Sign up for the BuzzFeed DIY newsletter!

    Newsletter signup form