After visiting a few hundred homes to help my clients get organized I have noticed that some categories of items are a problem for almost everyone.

The first items on that list are journals, vases, and shopping bags. Read on to see if anything sounds familiar and consider saying “bye bye” to these common causes of clutter.


We buy them, receive them as gifts, get them as free giveaways, and so on. They come in all shapes and sizes and some are so beautiful that you are almost afraid to write in them.

Journaling is a great way to harness creativity, record personal history, get your thoughts down on paper, and so on. Many of my clients have the best intentions of journaling regularly and then life gets in the way and there is little or no time left for writing.

The result is that I usually find numerous partially used journals and diaries throughout the home or office that someone started and forgot about.

If this is the case for you, I suggest you take a reality check. Are you still interested in journaling? Are you going to make time for it in your schedule?

These days a lot of people are typing their thoughts and feelings into blogs or social media posts and the like. If you are using your computer to keep a journal nix the paper ones.

If you are committed to writing in the journal, use the same book until it is full and then get a new one when needed. Look through all the different types of journals and diaries you have collected and select the one(s) that will best fit your needs according to size and style. Giveaway, donate or sell the rest so someone might put them to good use.

When it comes to storage options, select the most logical place where it is easily accessible when you want to write. Would you write in your bed? Put it in the nightstand or in a basket near the bedside with a nice pen so you are ready to go when the mood strikes.


I am sure everyone is happy to receive a beautiful floral arrangement. But what do you do when the flowers die? The most common thing is to clean the free vase and add it to the ever-growing assortment of mismatched holders. I try to nip the problem in the bud by deciding whether I will keep the vase when I first receive the flowers.

I suggest you take a moment to think about how often you have fresh flowers at home. Is it one arrangement at a time or several? In my experience, when you need a vase you use of the two that you love and all the other ones are just collecting dust and wasting space. The only reason to keep a few extras around is to give away as gifts or if you are using multiple centerpieces for events or holidays.

Take a few minutes to collect all the vases that you have and pick the best ones that you will use in the future. Store them together so that you know what you have. The rest can be donated or sold.

Shopping Bags

Bag collections are often an overflowing problem in the houses I have visited. People save a variety of plastic & paper bags from the supermarket, shopping bags from the mall, reusable bags, and tote bags in case they are ever needed.

The thing is that bags come free with virtually every purchase you bring into your home and are often giveaways at stores and events, not to mention the ones that you purchase. That means large amounts of bags are coming in and few are going out. The result is that they pile up, make a mess, and waste valuable space.

I suggest that you take a few minutes to ask yourself: What do I typically use these bags for? How many do I need each week or month? Once you know the answers, the smartest plan is to save what you need and keep in mind that more bags are always on the way the next time you go shopping.

An easy organizing solution is to create a set amount of space where these items will fit so when that space is full you stop collecting. Either take one of the strong bags and fill it with the remaining bags or buy a specific organizer to keep the items together. I like the “Simplehuman Stainless Steel Grocery Bag Holder” ($10) from The Container Store that holds at least 30 standard grocery bags and hangs inside a cabinet door.

In an online search, I found homemade bag organizers made from fabric, tissue boxes and even repurposed laundry bins with large holes to pull the bags out. Regardless of what you use, once the allotted space is full that is the signal that you have enough. Anytime the bag area gets out of hand take a few minutes to pick the best and dump the rest!

Either trash the extra bags or recycle when possible. Paper bags are recyclable but plastic bags are not so the only place you can take them is back to the store (if the store has a bag collection bin). I also try to curb the problem beforehand by combining more items into the same bag at the register or taking my own re-usable bags that are larger, sturdier, and washable if needed.

These few simple suggestions are just a stepping stone to leading a more organized, less cluttered life which always leads to less stress.


Tatiana is a Miami-based Pro Organizer who appears on Lifetime’s “Designing Spaces” each month. Call  305.502.6391 or visit for appointments.