Clear out the clutter and help others to boot

By: Charity Meier | Metro | Published May 5, 2023

 These photos show a pantry before and after being organized by Kara Desmond and her staff at Utterly Uncluttered. 

These photos show a pantry before and after being organized by Kara Desmond and her staff at Utterly Uncluttered. 

Photos provided by Kara Desmond


METRO DETROIT — Spring has sprung, and it’s now time to clean out the garage or the basement, or perhaps revamp the kitchen or redecorate the bedroom.

However, many look at such tasks with dread or anxiety and are unsure where to begin.   

“I think that it’s a good idea to start in a room that really bothers you on a day-to-day basis,” said Kara Desmond, owner of Utterly Uncluttered. “So if the first room that you see when you walk in the door is cluttered and messy and makes your cortisol spike, I think that might be a good place to start, because it is something that affects you every day.”

According to Desmond, the time necessary for a project depends on the individual and the task. She said that when she is organizing a house for a client, it generally takes several hours to get through a room.

“Most people don’t have that time available. So, therefore, nothing tends to get done because they are strapped for time,” said Desmond. “So, if all you feel you can contribute is five minutes and that is what you can wrap your head around, I think that five minutes is better than nothing, and sometimes that’s really all it takes to start to feel the motivation of getting started, and then magically time just starts to appear after that, because once you’ve started moving and working on it, you tend to keep going.”

She advises taking a couple of deep breaths to calm your heart rate when you enter a disorganized room and then do one thing at a time.

“A lot of times, it feels so much more overwhelming than it actually is,” Desmond said.

To get started cleaning and organizing your home, Desmond recommends setting aside a block of time to work on a specific task. It could be anything from five minutes to a couple of hours or more.

“Set a timer for you to work on something and see how much you can get done in that period of time,” Desmond said. “If you do five minutes a day, you will make progress, but it will be slow. But if you want to get it done, you need to set aside, generally, depending on the room, at least a full day.”

To begin, Desmond said she likes to remove everything from the room. If that requires too much space, she recommends tackling the room in sections. After the room or section is emptied, sort items into categories. Desmond said this allows you to see how much you have of each item and to pare down what you don’t need.

She said the next step is to find drawer space for each category. For small spaces, she said the best solution is to maximize vertical space in any way possible, such as adding shelving units, tall cabinets or stacking bins.

“I think it’s best to empty out cabinets and drawers entirely and then reorganize them,” Desmond said.

When cleaning, have a garbage bag for trash, a box for items to be discarded and a box for items that don’t belong in that particular room. The latter allows a person to focus on the task rather than run around the house putting things in their designated spots, Desmond said. After the project is done, take the box and put the items where they belong.

Items in good condition that you do not want can be donated or sold at a garage sale. Desmond said she recommends donating items to a local charity.

“But I only recommend garage sales if you’re the type of person that has the time to commit to doing so,” she said.

For those unsure where to donate items, the Macomb County Habitat for Humanity ReStore, which has locations in Shelby Township and Warren, recently stated that it is in need of donations.

“There’s a humongous need for appliances, obviously,” said Erica Bartels, COO of Macomb County Habitat for Humanity. “We don’t typically take dishwashers, but refrigerators, washers, dryers, stoves, all of those have become a lot harder to come by.”

The organization also needs gently used furniture, especially bedroom sets and kitchen tables and chairs. Pots and pans and home-building supplies are other items in demand. The store does not accept clothing, bedding, curtains or mattresses.

Habitat for Humanity helps low-income individuals who have jobs in order to improve their credit scores and get to a point where they can afford a mortgage. Bartels said the ReStore supports Habitat’s mission because a lot of donors give Habitat money to build homes but don’t give money to operate. The ReStore helps to pay for employee salaries, trucks, overhead and more.

“We are always here and willing to pick up items,” said Bartels. She said they tend to get more donations in the spring thanks to spring cleaning and then again during the holidays.

After disposing of unneeded and unwanted items, Desmond said to organize the items being kept. One of the best tools for organizing, Desmond said, is labels.

“Really the goal is to clear out the stuff that doesn’t belong and to create categories for homes for your items, so when new stuff comes in, you know where it is supposed to go,” Desmond said.

When buying storage items such as bins and baskets, Desmond advises to measure the space first to make sure the items will fit.

For those who would rather hire a company to organize their homes, companies such as Utterly Uncluttered, which services Oakland County, not only declutter and organize, but they also can shop for materials and supplies to fit their clients’ homes or use materials and supplies that their clients already own.

When selecting a company, find someone whose style you like, Desmond said, as they all offer similar services and generally comparable rates. Although she does not state her prices online, she said that organization companies generally charge somewhere between $50 and $150 per organizer per hour. She said she generally sends two to three organizers to a home at a time.

Desmond, 33, a married mother of one, founded her company in 2019 after she realized that she enjoys creating organization and that doing so is very marketable. She said she started by organizing for family and friends, and the business expanded from there.

“I love helping other people and feeling like everything I do daily has a purpose,” said Desmond.

Today, Desmond has six employees and services four to five clients per week.

“It’s a very common need, so there are all varying levels of clutter. Just because somebody doesn’t have a lot of clutter doesn’t mean they are not looking for an organizing service,” Desmond said. “There’s the element to it where we help people go through their belongings and figure out what to keep and what to get rid of, and there’s also that element of taking a space to the next level and making it look really beautifully organized. So there are all varying levels of need, and it all just really depends on what someone is looking for help with.”

For more information on services provided by Utterly Uncluttered, visit or call Desmond at (248) 218-0088. To donate to the Macomb Habitat for Humanity ReStore, call (586) 263-1540, ext. 110, or email Habitat will pick up donations free of charge, but donations to help cover gas costs are always welcome.