Organizing vs. Decluttering

(ENG only) In my latest video “What I wish I knew before minimalism”, amongst other things, I talk about how I wish I knew the difference between decluttering and organizing. I remember how I used to feel frustrated quite regularly when noticing that what I thought was the ultimate organizing hack or solution wasn’t working, again. I used to be quite obsessed with organization videos on Youtube, always on the hunt for whatever inspiration or budget friendly solution that could help me manage my stuff without becoming crazy or letting the clutter and chaos sneak in again. Unfortunately this almost never worked. The results of my organizational efforts made me proud of my work and happy at first, but never in the long term as they revealed themselves being not functional. And there I was, again looking for another organizing hack that could come to my rescue. Not to mention the various boxes, pouches, bins, baskets etc. that I was trying to use in the attempt of reaching my goal. 

One of the things that minimalism taught me is that there is no point in organizing stuff that shouldn’t be there in the first place. In other words, organizing makes sense if a) we are fully aware of the things that we own and are trying to arrange and b) we are sure that what we are organizing is indeed something that we really like, use and/or need. 

It’s no surprise that the more storage space we have available, the more are the items we tend to put into it. And more stuff requires more storage space, so no matter how bigger the closet, the drawer, the shelf, the cabinet, the cupboard etc. is, there never seems to be enough space in there. Minimalism over time made me reconsider what my idea of “essential” is. It’s really a matter of holding onto the things that serve a purpose so we can let go of what doesn’t. So I came to realize that in the past I wasn’t organizing my stuff in a bad or not functional way: I simply had too much of it! I kept on trying to fit into a limited space stuff that I didn’t even know was there in the first place or I wasn’t happy or excited about keeping but thought I had to. “I’ll keep these books even if I’ve never read them because I’ve spent money on them already and one day I might want to read them, who knows? – I’m keeping this purse that I am not crazy about because it was a gift and it’s not nice to get rid of gifts even though it’s clear that I do no use it – I can’t get rid of these text books and papers from high school and uni, I might need to use them again for future reference – my bathroom cabinet is quite full, I wonder why… I know I don’t use all of these products, but maybe I’ll need them someday – I’ll keep this cable even if I don’t really remember what this is for because maybe I’ll figure it out eventually and it will be a shame not having it handy when I’ll need it” and so on. 

I’m not saying that organizing is bad, not at all. I love being organized as much as possible. I don’t like mess, it distracts me and makes me feel uncomfortable and confused. “A clear space equals a clear mind” is something I truly believe in. But a good purge is absolutely essential when trying to organize a space that we struggle keeping tidy. If you have a specific area in your living space or in your work space that causes you some trouble because it’s messy and disorganized, then it is about time that you face the problem. Here are some simple tips for you:

  • Take everything out. As overwhelming as it might seem in some cases, if you don’t take everything out and have an exact idea of how much you are dealing with (clothes, papers, books, bathroom products etc.), you won’t solve the problem. A successful decluttering starts from and depends on this first step. Also, taking everything out will encourage you to deal with it and not give up quickly and easily. 
  • Go through every single item. Make sure not to leave anything behind. 
  • Make a true evaluation. Two very simple questions will help you with ANYTHING: 1) do I really use it? 2) Do I love it? Things that you haven’t been using in 1 or even 2 years won’t most likely be used ever again. And if it’s something that you don’t love, well… you gave yourself an answer already. We don’t deserve to keep items that don’t make us feel good out of guilt, shame or other unpleasant feelings. 
  • Divide everything in three piles: yes, no, maybe. Take your time but sort through everything. If you’re in doubt wether keeping or not keeping something, create a “maybe” pile, give yourself a deadline to decide and put what belongs to that pile out of sight. If by the deadline you still haven’t been reaching for those items, it’s clear that they do not serve any purpose for you and you can let them go. 
  • Organize, arrange, store. Once you’re really left with the things that you like use and need, you can put them back where they belong. There is no right or wrong of way of doing things, but just make sure to organize them according to your personal needs. And considering that you just got rid of what doesn’t really serve a purpose, you’ll have plenty of space for what does. 

So this post, my dear readers, wants to be a gentle reminder. To be more conscious about what you own. To invite you to go through your stuff and make sure that you have things that serve a purpose for you, whatever that purpose is, before buying some more or complaining because you don’t have enough space, because nobody deserves to feel distracted and uncomfortable in their own space. To organize your stuff once you have fully assessed that you are organizing things that you really want or need to keep, and not eventual what ifs, reminders of your waste of money or stuff that gives you bad feelings. To encourage you to keep your spaces as tidy and functional as possible, regardless of what type of lifestyle you have, because it makes a world of a difference. To use what you already own and appreciate it more. 

I hope this posts will help you if you’re stuck in a little organizing rut. 



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