Declutter Before You Organize

Are you looking forward to getting more organized this year? Have you already begun stalking The Container Store and Ikea looking for the perfect bin, basket, or sleek storage system to organize your stuff once and for all? Do you find yourself spending hours on Pinterest drooling over hundreds of organizational wonders? Stop right now. Have you decluttered yet? Put down that new catalog that promises to help you with all of your organizing needs. Stop yourself from putting that cute little wicker basket in your shopping cart. Just walk away. Trying to organize before you declutter is like putting the cart before the horse. Instead, you need to declutter before you organize. Here are six good reasons why you should.

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Declutter Before You Organize

  • Containers hide stuff, they don’t actually help to reduce your clutter. Organizing only moves stuff around. Sure, you could take a storage bin, throw a bunch of items inside and shove it in a closet. Your space would appear decluttered, but you’d still have clutter in your home, lurking in the closet. If your ultimate goal is to have less stuff in your home, you simply must declutter your space before you can effectively organize it.


  • You waste time and money on containers that you don’t need. You will have more time to dedicate to the decluttering process if you aren’t browsing catalogs, stores, and websites. In addition, you will have more money if you wait until you are finished decluttering before you purchase storage systems. Why? Because you’ll have less stuff to organize. Your true organizing needs will not be apparent until you have reduced your clutter. You may discover you don’t need to purchase quite so many bins or that you already have some (newly) empty ones at home.

“A simple life is not seeing how little we can get by with—that’s poverty—but how efficiently we can put first things first. . . . When you’re clear about your purpose and your priorities, you can painlessly discard whatever does not support these, whether it’s clutter in your cabinets or commitments on your calendar.”-Victoria Moran


  • You will be tempted to fill those expensive containers with stuff you don’t even want. By purchasing storage systems before you have reduced your clutter, you may be inclined to fill them unnecessarily. This may cause you to keep items you would have otherwise discarded, simply because you have somewhere to put it. Most people (myself included) are not happy with empty storage containers. They feel the need to fill them. If you can’t find enough stuff around your house to fill them, you may be tempted to (gasp) purchase more stuff to put in the empty space. Save yourself the trouble and purchase storage solutions after you’ve decluttered and know which items you will be keeping.


  • Organizing systems do not ‘make’ you an organized person. Much like buying a scale does not cause you to lose weight. I know, I’ve tried it. Eventually, you’ll have to put in the work needed to declutter your home. I love to organize. I love it so much, I once organized my sons’ legos by color! They didn’t have a small collection, either. We’re talking, thousands of legos, which they had collected for over a decade. Instead of paring down their collection, I thought it would be a great idea to spend hours sorting each lego according to color into one of ten containers. This was at the height of my clutter-driven insanity. Eventually, I reduced their lego collection to two containers which fit neatly under their bed. Everyone was happy; the boys got to keep some (a lot of) legos, and I got my organizing ‘fix’.

“It is desirable that a man live in all respects so simply and preparedly that if an enemy take the town… he can walk out the gate empty-handed and without anxiety.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Declutter Before you Organize

  • Decluttering and Organizing are ongoing processes. Chances are, you will not be able to declutter and organize your entire home in one go. I know in my home, it’s an ongoing process. Stuff is constantly coming in and going out. There’s no way you can know your future organizational needs until you know both the space and the amount of stuff you have to deal with. Before we purchased our home, I started buying furniture, decor and organizing systems for it. Once we moved in, I realized nothing fit the way I wanted it to. I had miscalculated the space we would have in our home and also the amount of stuff we actually had. As a result, I ended up getting rid of almost everything I had purchased and replacing it with the correct stuff over time. Now, we have just a fraction of what we started with and everything fits like it’s supposed to.


  • Marie Kondo recommends it. You don’t have to take my word for it. Marie Kondo, tidying expert and bestselling author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, says so. In her book, Marie says to declutter then organize what’s left. She takes it a step further and suggests you save any boxes, containers and organizational items until the end of your decluttering ‘marathon’ so you can shop your own home for storage solutions. I have done this. In fact, I have organized my bathroom cabinets with boxes I had lying around; and have eliminated the need to purchase more storage bins.

“Store items from the same category in one spot. If you are living with a family, sort by person first, then by category, and finally by type of material. If you follow this order, storage will be much simpler.”
Marie Kondō, Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up

Take the time and put in the work needed to declutter your home once and for all. Then you can treat yourself to some organizing solutions if you need to. Check out my Pinterest page for some decluttering and organizing inspiration!

Don't undo your progress before you start. Declutter before you organize.

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About Cheryl Lemily

A wife, mom of 3 boys & 2 dogs. A minimalist raising a minimalist(ish) family. Living a small, slow, simple life. Helping others declutter & simplify.

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