Out with the old: A fresh start for the High Holidays

Professional organizers offer tips for decluttering around the High Holidays.

Organization image

As the new year begins, many people feel weighed down by belongings taking over their homes. But at this "time to start fresh and bring the new you into the new year," said professional organizer Jessica Litman, known professionally as The Organized Mama, "with the new you comes time to let go of some physical items that can be weighing you down."

A cleaning project like this may seem monumental, but Litman and other professionals have great tips for getting a fresh start in your home for the new year, and doing some mitzvot along the way.

The process, said Brooke Milton, an organizer known as the Duchess of Declutter, begins with a walk through your home. An appraising walk can help determine which areas are most in need of organizing. She recommends beginning in the kitchen, "where people congregate and use every day," and tend to be congested with small appliances, spice jars, canned and boxed food, and more.

Twenty to 30 minutes is a good starting time for decluttering--small steps like finding and taking out expired food in the kitchen, checking the back of closets and drawers for extra products you didn't know you had, and sorting toys by age-appropriateness for your children can make a huge dent in the cleanliness of your home. Cleaning at Rosh Hashanah, added organizer Deena Fischer, can offer prime opportunities for donating winter items like hats and coats. "Start your new year with a mitzvah!"

Fischer advises using cleaning time as a time to catch up on podcasts and using them to mark the time. She also advises setting small goals around the time of the holidays that you can ease into all year long, beginning with these smaller cleaning sessions.

After tackling the easier projects, it's time to look deeper. "Most clutter is emotional attachment to an object," said Litman, who advised thinking of each item as a choice of what you want to bring into the new year. If the item isn't something with special purpose, it's time to donate it or throw it away. Once you've narrowed down which items you're keeping, it's time to sort the items and find a place where they make sense.

If the process sounds intimidating to do alone, Lisa Joy Rosing, an organizer known as Joy of Downsizing, advises finding a friend, family member, or professional consultant to help you stay on track. "It's not just the heavy lifting" of organizing that can be hard, she said--these people can help with the "really tough decisions on what to keep, discard, and sell" when you're emotionally attached to the items.

She advises using the High Holidays as a springboard for the rest of the year, using the idea of new year's resolutions to create a long-term plan and intermediate goals for the upcoming weeks and months. 

Although "everybody has too much stuff," said Rosing, she and the other organizers are confident that you can create a home environment with less stress and more peace for the year to come.


Bonus Advice 

Looking for more tips from our organizers? Here's some advice to help your de-cluttering process go smoothly!

"If you buy something new, something old goes out!" - Brooke Milton, Duchess of Declutter

"Commit to going through your mail regularly, sign up for everything paperless, and consider using an app such as paperkarma to take you off all those mailing lists." - Deena Fischer

"The trick to storing items is to find containers that can hold your items, not the other way around." - Jessica Litman, The Organized Mama

"When looking at a wardrobe, think about going on a two-week cruise for each season. That helps you figure out how much you have that you don't need." - Lisa Joy Rosing, Joy of Downsizing

AdvertisementJUF Identity ad
Connect with us

Sign up for our weekly newsletter featuring issues and events in the Jewish world.