I’ve always been a neat and orderly person — even as a child.
I kept my room clean and organized without any parental prodding because I wanted it neat and organized for myself.
I instinctively decluttered when things felt too “full” for my liking — but for the most part, I kept as much as I wanted in my room — as long as it was neatly organized and had a “home” (even if I didn’t necessarily need or use it).
Then I went to college and my eyes were opened to the real world! 😂
One of my college acquaintances owned more clothing than anyone I’d ever known… probably 3 times more!
She had a huge closet with various organizers, rod extenders, cubbies, etc. along with multiple dressers, under-bed storage units, decorative wall organizers to hold shoes and accessories, and a free-standing armoire — all filled to the brim.
And… it was all immaculately organized.
Color-coded and organized by type, sleeve length, fabric weight, season, and style.
She knew where every item of clothing was (or if it went missing) and she took great care to keep her massive collection neat and organized all the time.
In a way, it was a work of art.
If I had a smartphone back then, I would have shared pictures!
Over the years since college, I’ve often used this situation as a reminder that just because something is organized, doesn’t mean it’s necessary or a good use of my resources.
No one person could have worn even half the clothing she had… not to mention ALL the time, effort, energy, space, and money this gal used to maintain her extremely full and extremely organized closet.
That was the first time I realized how complicated, time-consuming, and expensive organizing could be!
Of course, it doesn’t have to be complicated, time-consuming, or expensive… in fact, I argue that it SHOULDN’T be any of those things.
Up until that point in my life, I had always assumed that as long as I was organized, as long as I had a place to store everything I owned, and as long as I put everything back in its place each day, my home and my life would be simplified.
However, I didn’t consider the huge amount of time, effort, space, and money I would potentially need to maintain that level of organization… or the fact that the amount of time, effort, space, and money needed was directly tied to the amount of stuff I had to organize.
I finally realized the difference between decluttering and organizing!
Yes, I could organize hundreds and thousands of items I don’t use, need, want, or love. The space will likely look very nice and I’d honestly have a lot of fun doing it… but an organized system with hundreds (or thousands) of items will require considerably more care and maintenance to stay looking nice and functioning properly than a system with fewer items.
I could declutter the things I don’t use, need, want, or love, organize what’s left, and enjoy loads of extra space, time, and energy to use however I desire.
I know which option I’d choose!
As I’ve mentioned before, I am NOT a “minimalist”. I love my farmhouse decorations, I probably have a few too many kitchen gadgets, and our array of toys, crafts, books, and games is more than I care to count.
And yes, I like to keep things organized.
However, as I clean and organize each week, I also declutter the things we no longer need, use, want, or love.
By completely removing these items from our home, I save time, energy, and space cleaning around them or re-organizing them for the umpteenth time.
RELATED READING: Evaluating The True Cost of Our Stuff
Consider the difference between “organizing” and “decluttering”…
Organizing requires continual effort for each item; decluttering is a once-and-done thing.
Organizing looks nice and provides a sense of accomplishment RIGHT NOW, but decluttering offers long-term results that are much more sustainable (especially for busy moms and grandmas!)
If you have time, grab a box or a paper bag and walk through your home right now. Fill them with items you’ve been re-organizing but should actually declutter (donations or trash).
Put another bag in your closet or laundry room and, as you go through your weekly cleaning routines, ask yourself if certain items should be permanently removed from your home.
Stop organizing the things you don’t need, use, want, or love — declutter them instead!
It’s a great habit to create — one that has the potential to transform your home.
If you can only spare 5 extra minutes today, find 5 things to declutter from your home.
RELATED READING: How to declutter 100 items from your home today!
Eventually, you will notice less clutter around you… and less time, effort, and energy required to take care of your home. You might even end up with an empty drawer or two!
In my own experience, decluttering has been far more beneficial for simple living than obsessively re-organizing stuff I don’t need.
I’ve saved hundreds of hours, thousands of dollars, and a whole bunch of stress-induced grey hairs as a result (no grey hairs… yet!)
Stop wasting money on cute containers and time on reorganizing. Instead, declutter the things you no longer need, use, want, or love… the organization part will be so much easier.