Sunday, September 26News That Matters

Decluttering for a Renovation

But I am nearly out of time, and have to make speedy decisions about, say, the melon scooper that I didn’t even know I owned until I dug through this drawer. And the extra apple slicer. For some inexplicable reason we own two — but maybe one will break, so do we keep the spare? And how many cookie cutters does one family actually need?

I called up Faith Roberson, a Manhattan home organizer. Before Ms. Roberson began organizing New Yorkers’ homes, she prepared their meals as a personal chef. She also renovated her own kitchen in Queens in October. Even this professional organizer discovered that she had too much stuff. “I was just confronted with all the things that ever existed in my kitchen,” she said. “I didn’t realize it until I brought it out into my living room. It was too much.”

Ms. Roberson met me at my house recently to talk about her process, and how homeowners should approach clearing out the stuff that stays so long they no longer can see that it’s even there. (I’m talking about you, melon scooper!)

I was anxious about what she would say about the truffle shaver or the excessive number of cookie cutters. But she was not particularly interested in either. Instead, to my surprise, she headed for my dining room, stopping in front of a tall shelf that is part display case for family photographs and knickknacks, part bookshelf. I try to limit the books to cookbooks and cooking magazines, seeing the shelf as an extension of the kitchen, but inevitably more serious reads end up there too.

Ms. Roberson informed me that “Capital” by Thomas Piketty and “The Art of War” don’t exactly set the mood for a fabulous dinner party. As for the cookbooks, they deserve a space in the new kitchen, or maybe they belong in the donation pile. Make better use of my dining room storage, and my kitchen will fall into place.

“The most important thing is function,” she said. “The second thing is authenticity, and maybe even authenticity goes before function. How are you moving in the space?”

The idea behind this reorganizing principle is to break the home down into zones. If the place mats always go on the dining table, what are they doing in the kitchen? They belong instead in the dining room buffet cabinet.