This Professional Organizer's Simple Decluttering Tip is the Best Way to Measure Progress and See Visible Results

Expert organizers love using this easy but effective trick to track their clients' progress - here's why you should make it the first step in any new decluttering project

A living room with built in shelves
(Image credit: Purple Backyard)

Decluttering and organizing are rarely simple tasks - for most of us, it's quite the opposite. We all need a reliable strategy and plan of action before we even begin to get underway but, even after toiling away for hours at your most cluttered and disorganized areas of the home, it can be difficult to notice any progress.

Sometimes it helps to have a few expert-approved decluttering tricks up your sleeve and, to help you see visible results for ultimate satisfaction, we've found a nifty idea courtesy of professional organizer Di Ter Avest, author of Organize Yourself Healthy and owner of Di is Organized. It's probably one of the most simple tips in the decluttering handbook and yet, also one of the most effective - so much so that we think you should make it the first step before you start decluttering. Here's what you need to know.

Itching to know what this trick involves? All you need at your disposal is your phone (or a camera, if you're old school). Di's most reliable decluttering step that she uses with every client is simply taking a photo of the room or area both before and after starting the work to have a point of comparison to measure progress. It's the sort of decluttering tip everyone can do, but the difference it can make to your morale and sense of satisfaction is untold.

Baltimore-based organizer Di Ter Avest discusses the idea in her new book Organize Yourself Healthy, available at Amazon, and we caught up with her to find out more about the idea and why she recommends it. 'A photo is a reference point for how the space looked before you started,' she says. 'This visual record can be valuable when you want to compare the before and after states. It allows our clients to see their progress and appreciate the transformation instead of just focusing on what they might have purged.'

The before photo can also act as a reference point to help her clients decide how to tackle a space and what to get rid of. 'When faced with a cluttered space, it can be challenging to decide where to start and what items to keep or discard,' Di explains. 'By taking a photo, you create a snapshot of the entire area. This can help us plan and make more informed decisions about what to keep, donate, or discard.'

Of course, taking pictures before and after your task means there's also a visual record of your achievements, something which can be a huge morale boost when hopes are dwindling or you're in need of some encouragement. 'For example, some of my clients like to keep the visual reminder of the cluttered space in the "before" photo to remind them of where they were and the stage they don't want to go back to,' Di adds. 'That simple image is a motivation to stay focused on their decluttering or organizing goals.'

scandi kitchen with white tiles on the backsplash

(Image credit: A New Day)

'At the same time, they use the after photos, which also serve as a memory aid, helping them recall how the space was organized and where specific items were located, making it easy to maintain the spaces on their own,' she goes on to explain. 'This method can be beneficial if you need to find something later or if you want to recreate a particular organizational setup.'

You don't need to keep your progress shots to yourself, either. Take pride in your achievements and show friends and family, and if you're so inclined, why not post them on social media, too? There's such a buzz around Pinterest-worthy levels of organization across the likes of Instagram, and the far-reaching kudos is sure to be a satisfying pat on the back. As Di points out: 'Sharing before and after photos online can be a great way to showcase your achievements and get feedback or encouragement from others.'

Planning to shake up your space, organize your home, and cut the clutter in 2024? Use this simple yet effective trick before you begin and it's bound to motivate you throughout all your future pursuits!

Lilith Hudson
News Editor

Lilith Hudson is the News Editor at Livingetc, and an expert at decoding trends and reporting on them as they happen. Writing news, features, and explainers for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration you need in your home. Lilith discovered a love for lifestyle journalism during her BA in English and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham where she spent more time writing for her student magazine than she did studying. After graduating, she decided to take things a step further and now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London, with previous experience at the Saturday Times Magazine, Evening Standard, DJ Mag, and The Simple Things Magazine. At weekends you'll find her renovating a tiny one-up, one-down annex next to her Dad's holiday cottage in the Derbyshire dales where she applies all the latest design ideas she's picked up through the week.