Organized Does Not Mean Storage Boxes

Wednesdays are simplicity days at SimpleProductivity blog.

Photo by taberandrew

An acquaintance of mine was eager to talk. It could have been out of a sitcom: a woman walks into a house, laden with bags. She announces: “I’m going to get organized. Look at all the containers I bought!”


All that pretty containers will get you is a bunch of clutter stored in pretty containers.

I don’t agree with Flylady on everything (see Why Flylady Didn’t Work for Me), but this one I do: you can’t organize clutter. Putting clutter in boxes just gets it out of sight. It may not be visible, but somewhere in your mind it will be weighing you down.

Getting organized is one of the top resolutions people make every year. And every year, people fail at this, because they are trying to organize what they have, rather than getting rid of the stuff they don’t need.

Organization is simply applying the rule: Everything has a place, and everything in its place.”

I will be re-organizing this year, and I have already started. But the difference is that I am decluttering first.

But Where Do I Start To Declutter?

I like a gut-level approach. I know when things bug me. So I decide I’m going to spend some time decluttering – I will usually take a look around the room I am in and figure out what bothers me most. For instance, I was in my bedroom recently and decided that my top dresser drawer really bugged me. This has turned into a junk drawer of sorts, so I spent some time clearing it out.

You can also do a systematic approach, where you cycle through the rooms and areas of your house and regularly declutter them.

How To Declutter

There are many ways to declutter, but the method I prefer is the pile/basket method. Here are the steps:

  1. Get some containers or set aside space for piles. You are going to need four: keep, give away, throw away, put away. I like using boxes or baskets for the give away and put away. I usually have a trash bag for the throw away, and I just put the keep to the side, for it will go back in where it came from.
  2. Pull everything out. The key to making decluttering work is not to tackle too big of an area. You need enough space to pull everything out of the area you are going to declutter.
  3. Sort. Go through the pile and put it in one of the four categories. If you can’t decide right away on something, put it in the put away pile.
  4. Put the keep items back. Clean out the space and neatly put the keep pile back in place.
  5. Remove the garbage. Take the garbage out of the house.
  6. Remove the give away. Put the give away in a place where you will get rid of it in the next three days.
  7. Put away the rest. Here’s the key to successful decluttering. You have to have a space for everything. And you have to tell yourself you can’t dump your stuff in an area you’ve already decluttered. (Otherwise you run the risk of just moving piles around the house). If something ended up in the put away pile because you didn’t know what to do with it, think seriously why you can’t get rid of it. If you are still very attached to something that serves no purpose in your life, put it away, out of sight for a while. You’ll get back to it.

Once everything is decluttered, you’re going to find you don’t need all those storage containers. And things will be organized!

Photo by taberandrew


  1. says

    Great post, something that a lot of people don’t get. Hiding clutter is not simplifying things… every time you open the closet, all that clutter will be weighing on you again.

    On the flip side, I do have a spot where all the miscellaneous stuff goes, which I guess could be called a “junk drawer”.

    • LJ says

      I don’t have anything against junk drawers as a concept. I feel you have to have a place to put miscellaneous stuff that is useful. My problem is that I have too many junk drawers. All over the place! :) My goal is to get down to two miscellaneous storage areas: one in the kitchen and one in our office. Other than that, I really want to find a place for everything.