Your home is working harder than ever these days: Chances are, it’s simultaneously operating as an office, a daycare, a yoga studio, a coffee shop, a movie theater, and a cooking school, just to name a few.

Keeping these multifunctioning spaces neat may feel nearly impossible at the moment, so we asked expert organizer Samantha Tobia to share her simple approach to creating a tidy home that stays that way.

“In the end, it’s not about having picture-perfect pantries and color-coded closets. That’s not why organization is important,” says the owner of Demessify, a local home-organization and interiors styling company. “What ends up mattering more is that your home supports you fully in your daily life.”

5280 Home: Why is organization so important in a home?
Samantha Tobia: A good home should take care of you. It should support you in achieving your goals—whether those look like staying healthy, improving your artistic skills, growing spiritually, having friends over for dinner more often, or just being able to relax and binge-watch Netflix without having to straddle a pile of laundry on the sofa. If your physical space isn’t aligned with these personal aspirations, it’s going to be challenging to achieve them.

Photo courtesy of Demessify

Organizing an entire home sounds overwhelming. Where should we begin?
For most people, I prefer to go room-by-room with them and tackle the decision-making step-by-step, layer-by-layer, with a series of questions:

  1. What is in this room that can leave your house and never come back in again? Whether it’s donations, papers to be shredded, expired food to be tossed, things to return to the store or to friends who lent them to you, things to list for sale, items to put on the curb on extra-trash pick-up day, etc. Make these decisions first and place them in a pile.
  2. What are the general categories of the things that are left in this room? Group similar items (for example, home utility items, craft items, mementos and photographs, holiday decorations, etc.) together in designated piles. The piles don’t need to look cute or organized at this point. We are just grouping “like with like” throughout the room.
  3. How do I want to organize what’s left so that it makes life easier and makes me happier? Now you’ve made the decisions about what can leave the room and house forever. You’ve grouped similar items together. All that’s left is to actually organize. This can be as simple as grouping all holiday decorations into bins and putting them on the same shelf, then doing the same with old photos and keepsakes. Maybe, if you’re working in the kitchen, it means deciding how often you want to use different categories of items. (For example, if you only bake once a year, put all baking items on the very top shelf of the pantry, but if you blend a smoothie every day, make sure your blender and protein powder are easily accessible). Then, add labels, whether it’s with a label maker or masking tape and a Sharpie.

How about staying organized after the initial motivation fades? Can you share some advice for keeping a home clutter-free?
Staying organized requires that you set up the right systems throughout your home, and hold yourself accountable for maintaining those systems. For some people, this is as easy as having a “take action” basket in their entryway, and scheduling regular times to put things in the basket back in their proper homes, or take action on them (repair the broken toy, send out the care package, return the shirt that doesn’t fit, etc.). For others, it means scheduling bimonthly sweeps through the house when they bag and box up all donations.

Photo courtesy of Demessify

When does it make sense to call a pro for help?
If you are dreading doing this work on your own, make the investment in your well-being and hire a professional organizer, especially if you have ADHD, are a verbal processor, or know that you won’t hold yourself accountable on your own. Take your time finding the pro organizer that’s right for you—the same way you would take your time to find the best therapist or coach for you. Or at least pour yourself a glass of wine and play some fun music in the background before diving in.

Any final pieces of advice?
Go easy on yourself: Your house is probably not as messy as you think. Nobody’s house is picture-perfect 100 percent of the time. Don’t get hung up on how things “should” be organized or stored. This is your house! If you are tight on space and like fashion more than cooking and want to keep your shoes in the oven, Carrie Bradshaw–style, be my guest!