0 Comments | Mar 04, 2015

Use the Buddy System for Organizing Success

I remember the first time I had de-cluttering help. My roommate Megan and I looked at each other’s closet organization. When I doubtfully held up a silver paisley polyester jacket worthy of Prince, Megan said, “Who shot the couch?” Megan defended a silk blouse of hers with, “My mother gave me this.” I replied, “Yeah, it looks like something your mother would give you.” We had some great laughs and gave each other the reality check we both needed to let go. Organizing using the buddy system works.

Who can be your buddy?


Recently, I was staring into my pantry closet (which, in my condo, is also my garage-attic-basement). That closet is my organizational Achilles’ heel. I turned to my boyfriend Jeff and said, “I know there’s probably stuff in here I can get rid of.” But this time, something different happened. Jeff was there to help by saying, “Yep, you don’t need that,” “Why do you have this?” and “Get rid of it,” and suddenly letting go became easy. A pile quickly formed, and I haven’t missed what left that night. That experience inspired me to explain why it’s great to have support in de-cluttering.

“Body Doubling”: I often use this industry term. It describes the phenomenon of the organizer simply being present to support you in your process while holding a trash bag open, and sometimes not doing much more than that. Particularly for those with ADD, a Body Double

  • makes it easier to keep going,
  • helps you stay focused,
  • is someone to bounce decisions off,
  • and keeps the boredom at bay.
  • Body Double=Organizing Buddy.

Reality Check: But most important, as Jeff reminded me, an organizing buddy helps keep it real. They give you permission to let go. They help you see your own excuses for holding on, and let you know when you’re second guessing yourself-because you end up verbalizing these thoughts to your buddy, and you must actually decide in the moment instead of postponing decisions. And all clutter is a result of postponing decisions and second guessing ourselves. Those thoughts bounce around in our heads even we’re not really aware of it, but your buddy’s presence changes that.


Rules for Being the Buddy: Don’t judge. Don’t pressure. Don’t get sarcastic (unless sarcastic humor is welcome). ESPECIALLY if you’re helping a spouse or family member; otherwise it can turn into a power struggle. Your simple presence, and your help bagging stuff or making a donation list, is enough support for the de-clutterer to stay motivated and make good choices. It’s okay to keep it real (“I haven’t seen you use/wear/play with this in five years”. “You have 7 of these.” “This is broken/worn out/obsolete.”) But be kind, and be patient.

Be a nice organizer buddy!

Don’t Go It Alone: If you don’t want to hire a Denver-Boulder professional organizer/clutter expert like me, enlist a friend to support you, or agree to trade help like I did with my old roomie Megan.