We all want to be organized. So we sweep out the detritus of our lives and find a home for what remains. And then in a week, our spaces look pretty similar to how they started.
Discouraging, isn’t it? But what if it wasn’t that you failed, but rather, you weren’t following a system that works for you? That’s where Clutterbug comes in.
Cassandra Aarssen came up with the Clutterbug concept about six years ago, and it has taken the world by storm. Pinterest tells us they've seen searches increase by five times vs this time last year. So what’s different about her method?
“I didn't even know that it was something at all until somebody else pointed it out to me,” Aarssen says. “Most people, when you think of organization, it looks a lot like the home edit. It is really detailed filing cabinets, everything put in little jars, and I could not maintain that. And so I felt like, I guess I'm just not an organized person.”
It is at this point that many of us would go back to our old, unorganized ways. For Aarssen, a light bulb clicked on. “I realized that you can have a more laid-back, relaxed macro approach. So instead of using a file for electricity and one for gas and one for credit card statements, I just have “2021 bills” and they all go into there. It's still organization. It just isn't detailed organization. I copy that for my whole system.”
The Clutterbug Quiz
That realization quickly turned into Clutterbug. You can take a quiz to find out your personality “bug” on her official site.
How the Clutterbug Quiz Works
First, there are two types of organizers: Macro and micro. Micros would rather take a few seconds putting things just so and fewer seconds finding an item when they need it. Macros would rather save time on the front end, grouping like items in one place but not necessarily neatly, and spend a few seconds digging through the groups to find what they need. An example is a micro folding all of their shirts and placing them in a dresser drawer neatly. A macro groups those shirts together, but they toss them in a bin and dig for the one they want later.
Second, you determine whether you are a hidden or a visual organizer. Hidden organizers want surfaces as clean as possible, with belongings tucked out of sight. Visual organizers want all of their favorite things out in the open where they can see them at all times.
What Clutterbug Are You?
Take those four personalities and, based on the combination of your answers to Aarssen’s questions, you have your bug:
You love visual simplicity as well as organizational simplicity (macro solutions). You want all your items stored away behind closed doors, but you need fast and easy systems or you tend to just shove things anywhere. If something is hard to put away properly, you probably won’t.
You love visual abundance and organizational simplicity (macro solutions). You need to see everyday used items, but you also need fast and easy systems in order to put your items away. You tend to leave your things out wherever you used them last.
You love visual abundance along with organizational abundance (micro solutions). You prefer to see your everyday used items and you need really functional storage or you tend to pile items until you can put them away “properly”. Bees are very visual and tend to be perfectionists.
You love visual simplicity and organizational abundance (micro solutions). You prefer your everyday used items hidden out of sight, but you do tend to pile items until you can put them away properly. You are a classic organizer in every way.
The Clutterbug Revolution
Aarssen’s ideas struck a chord with thousands of people. Her Instagram account has 90,000 followers; her Facebook page, around 160,000; her Pinterest page, about 41,000; her Clutterbug YouTube channel, nearly 500,000. Here’s what a couple of her fans had to say about her influence:
“I love that she recognizes and supports the ability to be organized without the requirement of being a minimalist or getting rid of the things you love. Our things just need a home.” —Lyssa Marie
“While I was packing up to move to a new home, I realized I was packing stuff that held no meaning in my life. It was just stuff—weighing me and my car down. So, I donated half of it and moved into my new home lighter and only with items that were meaningful to me. That was 5 years ago—I’ve never looked back.” —Andrea Lightfoot
HGTV Show, 'Hot Mess House'
Her red-hot revolution caught the eye of HGTV, and the network gave her a show, “Hot Mess House,” which will debut Summer 2021. The premise of the show is that Aarssen and her co-host, designer/builder Wendell Holland, help families make sense of their extremely cluttered space.
How Cassandra Aarssen Got Her Start
Having this show is a dream come true for Aarssen, because an organization reality show is what sparked her metamorphosis from someone who couldn’t keep her home tidy to an organizing juggernaut.
“I was running a home day care and watching TLC and a show came on called “Clean Sweep” with Peter Walsh,” she says. “His words hit me like a ton of bricks. And I realized I was trying to organize stuff I wasn't even using. A big part of why I was failing was because I just had excess. So I started doing his method, which is decluttering first. I think that's where I was going so wrong and why a lot of people are failing is because they think of decluttering as tidying or cleaning up or sorting things into piles. The first step is always just removing things from your home.
“I took that same approach through my whole house, and it was life-changing. My finances improved, my relationship improved, my confidence improved,” Aarssen says. “So I started helping friends and family and through word-of-mouth clients. And then I started sharing it on YouTube because I was so excited. I feel like this really went full circle because now I have the ability to help people the way Peter Walsh helped me. People who are sitting on their couch, feeling defeated, feeling like they're just naturally messy.”
Motivating Other Organizers
Her push to help others extends beyond her social media feeds and new show. Aarssen also created a unique certification to give those who want to make organizing their livelihood the credibility and confidence needed to make it a career.
“I knew how to organize for other people, but I still felt like I needed to be certified or something or go to school in order to feel like I could charge people for my services,” she says. “And it took me years to save the money to become a certified professional organizer. When I finally paid the money for it, I realized I was just paying for a piece of paper. There was no governing body.”
So she created a piece of paper with some power.
“I created an online course and worked with an affiliation program and trademarked the term Certified Organizational Specialist,” Aarssen says. “I have over 5,000 students who have trained with me to become certified organizational specialists and create their own businesses helping people get organized.” The best part? Her course is a fraction of what she paid for her piece of paper.
Even with all she has learned about organization, Aarseen still has a tough time in one area.
“My biggest issue is craft supplies. And that's because that's something that I call identity clutter,” she said. “Everybody has identity clutter. If they see themselves as fashionistas, clothing is hard to get rid of. For someone who loves to read and they consider themselves well-read and well-educated, books are really hard to get rid of. And any time you have identity clutter, it's hard to let go.”
As Aarssen says, emphatically, “Clutter ruins lives. You don't know it when you're in it. You don't realize the difference until you're out.”
For thousands upon thousands of people, the way out is on the wings of their own personal brand of Clutterbug.