Inside: You’ve tried decluttering and organization, but nothing seems to work. Read this post for the most common mistake people make when getting organized.

Doesn’t it feel like some people were born with the organization gene? I had a friend in high school who was so organized, each of her hundred-plus barrettes had a neat and orderly home on one of the countless ribbons draping around her mirror.

I was shocked. My teenage bedroom had so much junk the only floor you saw was a narrow pathway from the door to the bed.

I don’t think I’m the only one who lacks the organization gene.

It’s hard to walk into a store nowadays without practically tripping over an organizational system. Manufacturers and retailers realize that we as a society struggle with stuff, and they are quick to provide solutions.

One quick search online returned organizers for jewelry, kitchen utensils, and toilet paper. 🧻 

But if you’ve clicked on this post, you probably have had lukewarm success at best when it comes to decluttering and organization.

Related: Learn how to declutter your life and your home with 5 tactical tips.

The mistake most people make about decluttering and organization

Time after time, I hear the frustrated exclamation, “I need to get organized!”

I get it. You’re overwhelmed by the mess. You think if you could simply get some organization up in here, you’d be set for life.

Systems are important. They help us commit things to habit so we don’t have to remember every single thing.

Imagine if you had no system for brushing your teeth, putting clothes on, or reaching for a desperately needed cup of coffee. It would be chaos, right?

So, I understand when someone says they need systems of organization to get their life in order.

I understand. But I disagree.

The difference between decluttering and organization

If you find yourself kneedeep in a pile of clutter, you may be tempted to run out to the store and buy all of their organizers.

Let me tell you some cold hard truth most people are missing:

You don’t need more organization. You need less stuff.

This is an obvious answer but most of us miss it, especially when we’re overwhelmed and don’t know the next step.

It’s easy to go out and buy a whole bunch of stuff.

It’s hard to go through years or decades of stuff and decide what to do about Every. Single. Item. 

Related: How to simplify your home by decluttering.

Ugh, I’ve been there. I’ve gotten rid of “half the house” several times. I’ve decluttered only to find myself facing more clutter a few months later.

But you know what? Little by little, the storm started to clear and I started to see my floor again. And tops of tables!

I started to see so many empty tables, I realized I didn’t need them anymore. And I got rid of a couple. Then a couple more. Which led to more and more glorious, open space in my home.

Gradually, we uncovered room: Room to play. Room to build forts. Room to move the couch close to the TV for a movie marathon.

You can’t organize clutter.

If you have tried to organize your stuff and haven’t had much luck, here’s why:

You can’t organize clutter.

The bad news is you’ll have to get rid of stuff. There’s no way around it. If you want a home that feels peaceful and functions for your life, you’ll need to get rid of stuff.

Get rid of the stuff that reminds you of the things you haven’t yet done — the craft project you wanted to do, the countless books you never read, or that thing you meant to fix.

If it keeps you from living your desired life, it has to go. Plain and simple.

You know what the good news is? It means you — yes you! — can have a beautiful home you love. You don’t have to be born with the organization gene.

Throw out all the guilt of the past organization sessions that didn’t stick.

Move past your failed organization attempts and move towards something that works: decluttering.

Related: Learn where to start decluttering when you’re overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.

When is organization useful?

Okay, so there are instances when organization is helpful. Once you clear out the clutter — the things that are broken or never get used — you can move onto organizing the remaining items.

But you want to know a secret? We have yet to buy an organization system.

Because we got rid of the excess and kept only what we love and need, our stuff has room to breathe. And because our closets and cabinets aren’t stuffed to the brim, we do not need something to contain all the stuff.

For small items, we repurpose old boxes. Big items stand on their own. Our “organizational systems” are pretty basic because it’s all we need.

When I feel the urge to go out and buy something to help keep things organized, I ask myself if there is anything we’re no longer using. There always is.

Read more: Here’s a quick list of the habits of people who always have a clean home.

You can do this!

I know what it feels like to have friends apologize for the “mess” when you visit…and you shamefully think “I’d love to live in their version of a messy house!”

You are not the only person overwhelmed by clutter and stuff. I believe no matter your situation, you can clear the excess and make room for the life you want to live.

And girl…it is SO. WORTH. IT!

It’s a long, hard journey. But slowly, you’ll see progress and that progress will fuel you to keep going.

Take the first step and start today!

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2 Comments on Decluttering and organization: The most common mistake

    • Yay, Melinda! Life transitions can come with a lot of clutter. If you’re starting to see the light, you’re doing a great job!

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