The Difference Between Purging and Organizing

posted by Andrea | 04/19/2019

When I was in college, I had a friend who owned more clothing than anyone I’d ever known… probably 3 times more clothing than anyone I’d ever known! 

She had a huge closet full of clothing, multiple dresser drawers filled with clothing and accessories, under-bed storage for more clothes, AND a free-standing armoire filled with clothes. 

It was all immaculately organized. 

Color coded, by type, by length, by weight, by season, by style, etc. etc. 

She knew where every item of clothing was (and if it was missing) and she took great care to keep her massive amounts of clothing extremely neat and organized all the time. 

If I had a smart phone back then, I most certainly would have taken pictures! 

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Over the years, I have thought about this friend’s insane amount of clothing several times — and I’ve used it as motivation to purge on a regular basis. 

When I saw how many clothes this person had and how much time, effort, energy, and money she spent keeping it all organized, I realized for the first time that being organized isn’t necessarily the most important factor in simple living. 

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 it’s place each day, my home and my life would be simplified. 

However, I didn’t factor in the huge amount of time, effort, space, and even money I would potentially need to KEEP things organized… or the fact that the amount of time, effort, space, and money I would need was exponentially tied to the amount of stuff I had to organize. 

I recognized the big difference between PURGING and ORGANIZING! 

We can organize hundreds and thousands of items we don’t actually use, need, want or love — the items will LOOK nice, but they will require continual care and maintenance to stay looking nice and functioning properly. 

OR… we can purge the things we don’t actually use, need, want or love and enjoy considerably more space, time, and energy to use in whatever way we desire. 

 

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 thrift store toys is more than I care to count.

HOWEVER, I am an advocate for removing anything and everything from our home that we don’t need, use, want, or love — and I do this regularly (often daily!)

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My encouragement for YOU today (and all week long) is to look for things to purge all around you — in your home, your office, your garage, your car, your purse or wallet, etc.

Keep a box or bag in the bottom of every closet, put an empty grocery bag in your car, start a pile in the garage, fill up your trash can and recycling bin. 

PURGE the things you don’t need, use, want, or love without taking the time to organize anything. 

After a few weeks (or months) of regular purging, you will have considerably LESS to organize — making that process much less time-consuming and overwhelming. 

Even if you only have 5 extra minutes today (and I know you can all find 5 minutes), look for 5 things to purge from your home and set them aside in a designated spot (or trash them). Continue to add to this pile each day and each week (taking the items to the thrift store as necessary). 

NOTE: Read this if you need a bit more purging motivation

Eventually, you will notice a difference in the amount of clutter in your home… and the amount of time, effort, and energy required to take care of the things in your home. 

In my own experience, I have found that continual purging is far more beneficial for simple living than meticulously organizing an array of things I don’t even need, use, want or love. 

Give it a try… don’t spend any time or energy worrying about the best way to organize your stuff. Instead, simply focus on purging the things you no longer need, use, want or love! 

Who knows… by the time you’re finished purging, you might not have anything left to organize! 

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17 comments

  1. Karla

    04/21/2019

    Love this! I get rid of things on a regular basis. I hate, hate, hate the time it takes to keep things organized. Way easier to just own less! Unfortunately, my family loves to “rescue” things, so my purging mostly has to be done with great amounts of stealth. πŸ˜‰

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  2. Jennifer

    04/20/2019

    I have been doing this for awhile…trying to get rid of items we just don’t use or need (or items my four kids leave around the house consistently and seem to serve no purpose…) I am constantly purging hand-me-downs people keep bestowing upon us. I just asked my husband to get rid of some clothing and shoes because he has a lot of items! I keep hoping little by little we can pare down what we own.

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    Andrea Reply:

    it’s always a work in progress with little kids around!

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  3. Mary Ann

    04/20/2019

    A number of years ago, I suddenly had the epiphany that if I had too much stuff to fit the space then I needed to get rid of things. Up to that point, I truly believed that with better organization everything could fit. I also kept a lot of things other people thought I should keep even if I had no use for them anymore. We lived in less than 1000 sq.ft. at the time–obviously not room for everything.

    It was so freeing–I didin’t need to spend more time organizing. I needed to only keep what fit the space. Dana White calls it the container theory–your home is a container, your shelf is a container, your drawer is a container and only so much will fit in each space.

    I took a trunk full of donations to the thrift store on Thursday and already have another load ready to go! I’m on a roll. Haha

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    Andrea Reply:

    yeah, I’ve had similar thoughts over the years — like “as long as it’s organized, I can have lots of stuff” but I’m at a point right now where I just want LESS stuff to organize!
    Way to go on your purging!

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  4. Summer

    04/19/2019

    I have been purging continually, and did the year end purge of all spaces but our garage. Funny thing though… As I keep emptying drawers, closets, and spaces, my husband seems to think it’s for him to start storing things there!!!!! Nooooooo! The first few times I was frustrated, now I just bring it too him and ask him to put it with like items please.

    He has done a great job of purging this last year too and is making strides to a more organized life, while getting rid of things he doesn’t need, want, love or use. Slowly but surely he is getting it and I am leading by example.

    Thanks Andrea for so many great tips! Happy Easter!

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    Andrea Reply:

    oh no — glad your hubby is making progress and no longer putting his stuff in your nice clean spaces!! Happy Easter to you too!

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  5. Michele

    04/19/2019

    Just brought a bag of clothes and accessories to the consignment shop and made $36just stuff I never wore or used. You can’t even tell I purged anything, I have way too many clothes! Too many choices makes me anxious. I’m striving for simplicity and your blog is excellent inspiration so thank you

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    Andrea Reply:

    every little bit helps — truly! Don’t get discouraged because you still have more to purge!

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  6. Debra Martin

    04/19/2019

    It could be that she actually enjoyed the process…like it was a hobby. I have more clothes than I need, too…and I worry about it sometimes, but now I am treating it like it they are more of a hobby, I enjoy spending time care for them, organizing them, etc. So I just accept that that is ok. I don’t usually like to have a lot of things. Every thing else in our house has a different set of rules, though. Purge, not organize! Good article, as always, Andrea!

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    Andrea Reply:

    yes, that could be. It was just shocking to me how much time, energy, and money she spent just maintaining her clothing. I’m not a clothing person, so it’s hard for my to fathom as it seems wasteful on so many levels! But you’re probably right about it being a hobby!

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  7. Dawn

    04/19/2019

    Yes! I don’t think people realize that there is a difference between the two and purging will help you stay organized without so much work. I love to get rid of stuff and what helps me is when I have to keep moving stuff to get to something, then I know it’s too full! Definitely time to purge that area!

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    Andrea Reply:

    yup, there’s a BIG difference. Both are necessary in many ways, but purging should always come first!

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  8. Chris

    04/19/2019

    My husband is like your friend, except for the huge fact that he is unorganized and I can’t keep up with the clothes, because he has so much and we don’t have a very good (or large enough) storage system. It is very frustrating and hard for me. However, I have decided this year to get rid of 1,000 things of my own and home type items, out of our home. I want to organize my own things first before I talk to him. Get my side of the closet looking nice. I’ve been purging lots of books, for example. I am about to item 377 out of 1,000, so I’m hoping I meet my goal.

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    Sarah Reply:

    Good luck, Chris!
    My hubs likes to keep all his papers. I used to stress over it badly. Now, after 15 years, I finally got a bit smarter, and just started filling up boxes and putting them all in a certain spot for him. That way I don’t get rid of something he needs/wants.
    And I just focus, like you are, on purging my own stuff. Simplifying and downsizing the rest of the home, while helping to make sure his stuff he wants to keep simply stays organized.
    I wish you the best, you’re a third of the way there!

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    Andrea Reply:

    great plan Sarah. That’s actually exactly what I tell others in your situation to do too — model good habits (which you are doing) and designate a spot for their things so you can’t be accused of throwing something important away (which you are also doing!) yay!

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    Andrea Reply:

    oh no! Sounds like you are on the right track of modeling good behavior and developing good habits for yourself first (way to go with the 377 items wow!). I hope your hubby notices your new purging ways and decides to join in!

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