Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom ~ Organizing to Declutter



Can organizing help you declutter? The tidier your stuff is, the more you can pack into a small space, that’s for sure. But we all know that’s not the same as decluttering! Nonetheless, organizing can help you declutter in a number of useful ways:

When you gather together like-with-like to organize it, it’s easy to see and find your duplicate (triplicate!) items. You can either give one of them away or have a use it up challenge, whichever is appropriate.

  • When you decide that all your books must fit on the bookshelf in the traditional up and down style, then you must declutter all the books that you cannot fit onto the shelves. If you decide to display some sentimental trinkets (that you love, find beautiful, hold dear, etc.) on your bookshelves as well, then you’ll have to reduce your books further.
  • The same can be said for your linen closet, food pantry, or wardrobe  If you decide that everything must fit in that space, you’ll declutter until it does fit.
  • While organizing your items, it’s a good time to consider their placement. Do rarely needed coats really need to be in the front door closet? Maybe that’s a better space for pool bags, towels, and extra sunblock (something I think you almost cannot have too much of because you never want to run out  – at least not if you’re as fair as my family). If you never wear belts, why do you have a special holder for them on the door of your closet? Are your most frequently used kitchen spoons in a convenient location, or is the plastic wrap that you hardly ever use holding court in the easiest to reach drawer?

To me, organizing doesn’t mean buying a whole bunch of boxes and clever “solutions” so that I can jam more stuff into each square inch of space. It means culling and cultivating my collection (of clothes, jewelry, books, kitchen utensils  gardening tools) so that everything is useful, easy-to-location, in good working order, and appropriate for my lifestyle. Is there anything you could organize today?

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter something made from paper.

Eco Tip for the Day

Instead of giving lots of sugar laden, foil wrapped Easter treats do what I did. Only buy ten little eggs attach $1 or $2 coins to them and arrange a Riddle Easter Hunt. Hide each egg with its coin separately with a riddle attached leading to the next egg. You can also skip the chocolate eggs altogether and just hide the money with the riddle. I used to recycle those plastic eggs year after year and hide the money and riddle inside them. It is fun to watch the kids trying to figure out the riddles, making them harder and harder each year.

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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  1. Yesterday, my mom, daughter, and I orgainized (re-organized?) the living room and office (seperate rooms). In order for the living room to be organized the way my mom wanted it (and she gets full say in this because it is where she spends most of her free time), we had to declutter it first. This included figuring out what to do with for stereos, where to put her sewing stuff, etc. Lots of small things were decluttered (tossed or loaded in the car to be given away). Her sewing table and chest of drawers went into the office (which is really a multi-purpose room). That’s why the office ended up being decluttered and organized.

    We aren’t completely finished because we still need to sort the closet in the office and clear out a corner by the living room fireplace (piled with kindling). We also decluttered and organized the cabinet under the kitchen sink.

    We got sweaty and oh so dusty but mom beams brightly everytime she sees the living room. The house has a cleaner smell and a more open feel to it just from getting rid of stuff and placing what was left in better configurations. I felt very accomplished (and sore) last night. Best feels ever. 🙂

  2. I could not find my slip of paper with the mini-missions for this week. I usually print out only the 6 missions for the week and put it on my nightstand so I can look at it each morning. Then I can use it for home and work that day. Well, my bedroom/sewing room has bags and boxes on the floor that I am decluttering a little at the time. This morning, I woke up early today and tackled the bag I drag back and forth to the library that is crowded with lists of books I want to read, pages I printed out of book websites, my library history and a variety of other papers. Tossed a lot of paper and put the ones I wanted to keep in a plastic folder and made room on the bookshelf for it. The bag will be reused now for grocery shopping and one more bag off the floor. I was glad to see your post and that the declutter item today was paper. I have actually decluttered just what the mini-mission was. I’m usually a day or two behind in the missions but felt good that I was on track. Perhaps this bodes well for the rest of the week.

    • Hi Maggie why not keep all these lists digitally and not only save you paper clutter but save the paper for the sake of the environment. You could keep the mini mission list on your cell phone so it is portable for taking to work. You could create a spreadsheet or a simple word document to store the other info so it is easy to find and refer to.

      • Colleen – I kept printing out your posts and stacking them on the table. I have become a paper hoarder. Sad. 🙁

  3. Cindy, this is really good. One of the things that used to bug me about being called an organizer was that I felt it was a wrong title for what I did. I was a “decluttering specialist” in my mind. Yes, I was going to help the client organize things but only AFTER a major decluttering.

  4. Cindy you make some very good points about the organising/decluttering situation. Years ago when I started de-cluttering on a regular basis – and before I got wise and stopped bringing more than we needed into the house 🙂 – I followed the plan set out by Julie Morgenstern who used to be on Oprah. She was an organisational expert but her advice was to do exactly as you say: Sort, Purge, Assign, Containerise and Equalise (or something like that which meant keep on top of the situation). So the containers are not the first things to get but rather the last – and hopefully you won’t need too many. As we know now there is nothing like the joy that comes from de-cluttering empty containers 🙂

  5. I forgot to tell you all. Today the two 6-drawer Ikea units, some buttons my mother had been holding onto, and the little bits in that drawer unit in the shed left. Our handyman/friend came and got them.

  6. I agree 100% about the organizing/decluttering connection. Not only for th reasons you have here. When a place is organized it is so much easier to have pride in it’s function, and with that pride comes a natural desire to keep it looking and functioning it’s best (so why would you want to keep more junk there?).

    The very very best system (for me) to keep clutter down is getting it organized – with the ideal and most logical space restriction – and maintaining that perfect harmony with a one-in/one-out rule. It really makes me consider VERY carefully before bringing something home… I have to be prepared to let a comparable item go! So the potential new thing must work better, look better or be of better quality than what I already have. Clothes, shoes, kitchen supplies and tools are perfect examples of that delicate balance!

    The funny thing is, the space restriction ends up being no restriction at all. Eventually I like the space in between the stuff so much that I insist that the self imposed space restriction be not crammed full, or even only 1/2 full in some cases! Then I truly feel that each item that reamains is given the best respect and best ease of access. It just feels so good to not have to DIG or search for things. Thats a feeling I didn’t appreciate while in my “accumulation phase”.

    • Creative Me, I like your statement “The funny thing is, the space restriction ends up being no restriction at all.” I think this is what we all find. The more we declutter and the better we put things away in a organized manner the more we realize that we like things to feel spacious as opposed to crowded.

  7. My 10 year old Audra would like me to mention that this post was HER idea, not mine. Thanks Audra.

  8. Great post today. It is so important to know what you have by organizing it. It saves money by knowing what you have and once the excess is decluttered you can find things so much easier which saves time. Knowing what you have and having a designated place for those things, so helpful. I do not like spending hours looking for something that I know that I have but can’t find or buying an item because I can’t locate something. That is just one of the many reasons to organize and from that declutter the excess.

  9. I’ve always been extremely organised, but that is nothing to do with the amount of pointless crap I own. Being a “storer” is my problem. I loved to buy cabinets and boxes and tubs and racks, and almost everything was neatly organised and easy to get at. That is probably why I was able to accumulate far more than anybody in my situation should need. If I’d been disorganised this problem may have reared its head before now.

    My goal when we move back into our house (we are out temporarily for repairs) is to cut down on the amount of storage we have, so that we’ve got more clear floor space and I have less ability to squirrel things away. Keeping the clutter in plain sight is the only way I’ll really tackle it.

    • Oh I feel your pain! I am the same way! People are in awe of how organized I am with young children in the home. Everything is on shelves or in cabinets…organized, but there is just too much of it! I have decluttered, and yet there is still too much! I have to watch it!

    • That can be the trouble with JUST being organized – you can get int twice as much stuff as you need.

      Angela – If you’re organized with young children at home, my hats off to you! That’s when the wheels came off my organizational bus!

  10. Cindy, this is great and a very logical way of looking at clutter. I need to designate spaces a little better, especially books! I like to keep them in many areas of the house (not so bad), but still, there is overflow. Thank you!

  11. Yes! I would love to see you do a post about how you have refrained from recluttering your hidden areas. I remember you wrote that was where your clutter was, and that is where mine is. I have gotten to the point where I no longer hide things away because I simply can’t stand clutter anymore. I have a new baby in the house, and so have been ruthless with what I can see and did clear out some hidden areas well to make room for baby clothes and the few baby things so I don’t have to look at them all day. I am being careful to get rid of things instead of storing them away too, but I want to be done with the hidden clutter once and for all!

    and Colleen I LOVE the egg idea! We do coins in eggs due to dairy allergies, but I love your idea for the riddles!! A treasure hunt!

    • Hi Angela! i am working on eliminating storage places. the bigger the place you have to store stuff, the more you store, as you well know. I know we have to store some stuff (papers, clothes, tools), but how much of it do we really need? As you declutter, consider decluttering your storage units, whatever they are. It will make a big difference in your home. Best of luck! 😉

  12. “Declutter something made from paper.” I found two issues of The Nest magazine to declutter for Wednesday’s mini mission. I also recycled last week’s grocery sale ads and a few expired coupons. While I was in grad school I didn’t have time to read my magazine subscriptions so I held on to those issues. Now I’m finally reading them and decluttering them when I’m done.

  13. I used to think organising was important. That it was going to lead to a distraction free, focused life. How wrong I was.

    But I do agree with your idea. Organising and attacking decluttering with objects grouped can be very helpful. We have converted our sun-room into an ‘I don’t know’ room, with everything packed into boxes and shelves, mostly grouped into similar items. This is the room full of stuff we are slowly decluttering from our lives.

    Thanks for your thoughts