STYLE Savvy: Decluttering with STYLE

One of my goals for this summer is getting rid of stuff we don’t need and/or no longer want. Inspired in part by my daughter’s relentless pursuit of clear space when she came home from college, and in part by the fact that I actually like doing this stuff, it’s one of the things on my to-do list that I look forward to tackling.
In part, this means digging into drawers and closets, tasks that lend themselves well to the STYLE steps.
  • Start with successes. One look inside a drawer that’s working reveals the key elements:
    • It’s lined with something pretty (wrapping paper, shelf paper, shelf liner). This is by no means an organizational necessity, but it creates a foundation that motivates me to keep things neat.
    • I can see everything without having to dig through the drawer OR it contains neatly stacked items.
    • Everything in the drawer belongs there and is something I use.
  • Take small steps. When it comes to closets, tackling just one area or setting a timer can help keep me from becoming overwhelmed. As for drawers, clearing one drawer at a time meets the small-steps requirement.
  • Yes, it has a home! If a drawer or space is in good shape, it contains only things that belong there. If this isn’t the case, I need to go through the drawer or area item by item. Stuff that goes back goes in one pile and everything else gets put into piles depending on where it needs to go instead (toss, donate, repair, etc.). Once the drawer is empty, it’s time to make it look pretty and decide whether or not it needs to be subdivided before everything goes back in. In the case of closets, once an area has been cleared, I need to decide whether or not it needs to be subdivided before everything goes back, and, if so, which containers I need to use.
  • Let it go! Once I’ve created my piles, this is easy. Pick each pile up and toss it or box it up.
  • Easy upkeep. Once I’m finished, the area I worked on should meet the criteria in the first step (Start with Successes). This means I’ve chosen containers and locations that make it as easy to put things where they belong as it is to simply drop them somewhere else. Mission accomplished? Next drawer!
Right now, most of the drawers in my dining room, which have been neglected for a while, need an overhaul, but the clothes closet in my bedroom needs little attention because I tackled that two summers ago and did an update last fall. What’s really exciting about this process is finding an area that needs very little attention because it’s already working!
That’s when I know I’ve been organizing by STYLE.
Copyright 2017 Lisa Hess

About Author

Lisa Lawmaster Hess has contributed articles to local, national and online publications, and blogs at The Porch Swing Chronicles, The Susquehanna Writers and here at She is the author of two non-fiction books (Acting Assertively and Diverse Divorce) and two novels, Casting the First Stone and Chasing a Second Chance. A retired elementary school counselor, Lisa is a lecturer in psychology at York College and enjoys singing with the contemporary choir at her church.


  1. I couldn’t agree more with the pretty liners. I think if something looks nice, then you’ll want to keep it looking nice.

  2. Question – I’m about to transition to a system that will not have many drawers. Any suggestions for using bookshelves for storage of things that were formerly in drawers?

    • My daughter swears by those decorative book boxes (like these ) or flip-top boxes along the same line. She has quite a few of them that she uses in her dorm. They look pretty on open shelves, and some are even big enough that you could put a drawer divider inside to keep your paper clips out of the Scotch tape. This would be a convenient spot to keep your spare chargers, cables and adapters, too.

  3. Great question, Lisa! Subdivide! The containers you choose should match your styles, and will vary depending on what you’re putting in them. I’m an I need to see it person, so I like clear containers or, if you want to keep the contents a bit more private, color-coded containers or bins with open tops. Pretty boxes also work, and they come in sizes that work for everything from paper clips to heavy sweaters. If you want bins with lids, many of these can be labeled so what’s out of sight isn’t also out of mind.

    I hope this helps! Let me know if you have follow-up questions. I love brainstorming solutions!!

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