One Good Thing: A YouTube decluttering channel that made my sister and me quit screaming at each other

By Athena Frost

A person sitting on the floor of their house surrounded by organized clutter.
If you need a nudge to clean your home, this YouTube channel can help.
Getty Images

Before the pandemic, I visited my sister at the house we own together and decluttered her things until we filled an entire dumpster. Afterward, I nearly called her a hoarder. Suffice to say, we do not conform to the same interpretation of what it means to have a “clean” home. When we were children, my sister and I shared the same bedroom. While she had thin skin, I had no tact. It was not the best recipe for constructive communication.

Today, our arguments about cleaning are multiplied by the house we now share. Sister, don’t leave your friend’s broken-down car in the garage. Sister, don’t eat food in your bedroom. Sister, you cannot do your sewing on our grandmother’s antique dining room table! At one point, she literally ran away to another state and then another country. That should tell you what a pain I can be. To this point, when I was an office assistant, I sent a 300-word email to the office explaining why toilet paper should be replaced with the tissue laying over, not under (I still believe this, and those who feel otherwise I loathe with the power of a thousand suns). How could my sister and I get to a place where neither of us would lose our minds? That is where The Organized Soprano comes in.

The Organized Soprano is a YouTube channel from the mind of Kay Patterson, a professional organizer and professional vocalist from the Boston area. Her videos came into my life from the unlikeliest source — my sister, who suggested I try the channel out. When she told me this, I metaphorically rolled my eyes. It was hard for me to believe that my sister would ever learn to be neat. I had been trying to “help” her for literally my entire life. Plus, how could I possibly have something to learn about organization? My bookshelf has held everything from How the Queen Cleans Everything to The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but it turned out that even I had something to learn from Patterson. Folks, if you do one thing, watch “How I Use Command Hooks to Organize My Small Home.” Not only does she present so many useful and unique ways to make your space more livable, but it was in this video that I saw her put drawers under her kitchen sink. Drawers! This is a whole new level of organization.

Also, she’s just ... so ... nice. It’s easy to be negative; to bash someone’s organization hack or to judge someone’s cluttered mess. It’s simple and a bit tawdry to say such things. Trust me, I do it all the time. Patterson’s solutions come in 10-minute tidbits, for those who are less interested in reading entire decluttering books. There are a plethora of playlists that offer you tips and tricks for organizing, whether it is a video discussing what clutter even means to product reviews that let you know if that new silicone dishwashing glove is worth the buy. Plus, her adorable dog Clover guest stars in every video. Patterson does not have commandments or rules. She nudges you in the right direction instead of pushing you there.

When Patterson is organizing her pantry or closet or office, it feels like the emotional equivalent of curling up in your favorite comfy chair on a rainy day. Everything she instructs is communicated in her melodic voice, pushing away any anxiety that comes with decluttering a closet that you haven’t seen the floor of in years. Instead of telling her viewers to get rid of all the clothes that they actually hate, she tells us that every outfit in your closet should be your favorite. And, she’s right. The only things in your closet should be those you truly enjoy.

I began to notice during calls with my sister that when she would enter the house, she would pause to place her purse on its designated hook, her shoes on their designated shelf, and her coat on its designated hanger. TOS best practice No. 1: Establish a home for all your belongings. Now, I may have yelled, cried, and begged my sister to do this too many times over the years, but she has finally found someone who could suggest this in a friendly and approachable manner. While cleaning a cluttered house can cause as much anxiety as the clutter itself, Patterson is able to create peace in her process. Finally, my sister has someone who can show her how to truly declutter without judgment. That person was never going to be me, but I am so grateful to Patterson for making it happen.

The test came when I arrived home for a whole week this summer. I imagined the worst-case scenario so I wouldn’t blow a gasket when I entered. I think we both were holding our breath. I’m not going to tell you that I was satisfied with the cleanliness of our home, and we did declutter her bedroom while I was there. The difference was that we could speak on the same level in a common parlance. Her various hobbies were already arranged in one location. Her clothes were no longer enough to dress a small town. This time, there were no dumpsters to fill. As we decluttered her room, it seemed like she was getting lighter. Instead of us falling into old habits of anger and blame, we were laughing more as the week progressed. I dare say my sister was as excited as I was to declutter, clean, and organize.

Whether you and your partner are of different cleaning minds or if sitting in your cluttered home during the pandemic has caused anxiety, The Organized Soprano can help you get your home to its best self. She was able to show my sister how to declutter in a way that is approachable and rational — something I haven’t been able to do in my 30-odd years as her sibling. You don’t have to arrange your kitchen in rainbow order or empty your entire purse every time you come home (IYKYK). Patterson streamlines all those tidbits she’s picked up and shows you what does and does not work in easily digestible videos under 15 minutes. And remember, there is always a place where you and your partner can come to an agreement. My sister and I have always agreed that toilet paper should, of course, go over.

The Organized Soprano videos are available on YouTube. For more recommendations from the world of culture, check out the One Good Thing archives.