difference between decluttering and organizing

The words ‘decluttering’ and ‘organizing’ are sometimes used interchangeably. However, they are two very different processes so I want to talk about the difference between decluttering and organizing.

Declutter FIRST

When you have a goal of creating an organized space, it can be very tempting to drive straight to your closest Container Store. However, I plead that you refrain and start with decluttering first. First, you need to figure out what clutter is in your home.

Decluttering=getting rid of unnecessary, unused, unloved items

Decluttering involves paring down your items by eliminating the excess. After decluttering, everything remaining should be items you use and love. There are various methods for decluttering your home. Select the best fit for you and your home.

Overwhelmed by what remains? Go through and do another round of decluttering before moving on to organizing. If you get stuck, refer back to your goals and vision for the space.

Organize SECOND

Organizing=creating a simple system of storage containers only for items that you need, use, and love

The organizing comes second, otherwise, you are organizing too many things and it is much less likely to be functional or sustainable long term.

The secret to organizing well is having less to organize. 

You don’t buy the containers to fill them. That would be backward. Storage is designed to help you functionally organize what you already own.

Storage containers can be any combination of boxes, bins, baskets, jars, etc that will work with what you have. Before going to purchase any storage containers, look around the house to see what you already own.

Many of us who have too much stuff also have too many things to hold our stuff. Maybe you won’t need to buy anything new to organize.

Function first

Don’t be blinded by the beauty of storage containers. Think through the function of storage container options. You need a system that will be simple and functional. Pretty will just get annoying if it doesn’t fit or function properly. Low maintenance is key for creating a sustainable system.

Pretty baskets and containers aren’t everything and this is coming from someone who loves that kind of stuff!

Each storage container needs to have a distinct purpose and function.

When talking about organizing, not super flashy…making a system that will function well for you and be sustainable (less stuff=more sustainable)

Still stuck?

Think about hiring a professional organizer if you are continually getting stuck as you declutter and organize.  If that isn’t in your budget, find a friend who will walk alongside you and keep you encouraged.

To reiterate, decluttering is going through your things and getting rid of items you don’t want or use. The decluttering process needs to be completed before organizing begins.

Organizing is creating a user-friendly system to store items. Remember to choose function first.

The system that will be easiest to maintain will be one with fewer items, which is why the decluttering piece is so important.

I hope that clears up the difference between decluttering and organizing. Both are important aspects of simplifying your house, but I, of course, would argue the emphasis is on the decluttering part.

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  1. I posted on my FB wall the other day a brilliant business idea for someone. If they’re good at selling things on FB marketplaces, they should offer to come into people’s homes and sell their stuff and keep a cut of it. I think it’s a brilliant way to help people declutter – wish someone would come here and help me do it! πŸ˜€

    1. Great idea, Kathy! I have done this for some of my clients. Most people don’t want to take the time to do the selling part as it can be such a hassle. The challenge for me is not filling up my own garage with client’s items I am trying to sell πŸ˜‰

  2. This is a really important distinction! I have to reel myself in when I want to buy organizers before I’ve decluttered. More often than not I realize I don’t need to buy anything after all!

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