We were recently asked if there is a difference between organizing and decluttering. Our answer is yes!
Organizing is often mistaken for decluttering. In fact, organizing and clutter clearing are two very distinct practices.
To achieve a clutter-free home there are three phases:
1. Clearing Clutter: deciding what to keep and what to let go of
2. Organizing: finding a place or “home” within your home for the things you choose to keep
3. Homekeeping: the maintenance and habit of putting the things you have chosen to keep away in their designated place
It is essential that you finish decluttering before you begin organizing! If you organize before you clear, you will waste your time, energy, and money.
Clutter, by its nature, cannot be organized.
If an item is no longer useful or loved, no matter how or where it is placed, it will still be clutter.
We have seen time and time again that people only waste time and energy trying to organize clutter. Once you have decluttered your home, you are left only with the things you love and use and often little to no organization is required. A clutter-free drawer is inherently organized and usually won’t need additional organization. Clutter-free files may not need to be alphabetized. A clutter-free pantry doesn’t necessarily require labels.
If you organize before your clear, you will also likely waste your money. Before you declutter, you may look at all of your things and think you need to purchase containers, baskets, file holders, labels, dividers and so forth. You may even think you need new furniture to house your stuff, a storage unit, or even a new house! But rarely is this the case—more often than not you will require less. It is more likely you will have created space in your existing containers, bookshelves, closets and drawers. Often you will have empty bins and baskets that no longer serve a purpose. The containers themselves become clutter.
When a cluttered closet is organized with bins, baskets and labels the results are similar to a crash diet: short lived.
On the surface, the closet may look magazine worthy and clutter-free, but underneath it will still be cluttered and will not stay organized. It is also likely your joy will be fleeting. The newness of the boxes and baskets will wear off. Studies show that when we purchase something we get a temporary spike in happiness, but then our happiness level quickly returns to where we were before we made the purchase.
To create sustainable change and lasting happiness we need to clear the clutter first.
Clearing clutter is a practice and through this practice you will having a new consciousness about your day to day living. The new way of living and being in your home will create lasting results.
After you have finished decluttering, then you can consider containers and other storage items. But these items must be held to the same standard as everything else in your home—is it loved and useful? If you are someone who truly loves baskets, bins and labels, then by all means go for it! A beautifully organized closet can bring lots of joy to our daily routines.
You will be more inspired to get in the habit of putting things ways when you are faced with a beautiful space. Just keep in mind that when you purchase storage items, you are bringing more things into your home—more things that collect dust, cost money, and require our time and attention. So before you buy, consider that a clutter-free space, occupied only with the things we have determined are loved and useful, can be beautiful in its own right. There is beauty in simplicity and functionality.