By Susan McCarthy
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Everyday Practice: After the thought, "I should buy some storage for this stuff," see if you can declutter three items. If you can, that may be a sign that you need to declutter before you organize the items.
I was teaching a decluttering class a few weeks ago and one of the participants asked if it was possible to have organized clutter. And the answer is – oh, yeah.
You’ll notice in January that a lot of stores will advertise “solutions” to get organized, one of those perennial New Year’s resolutions. The solutions will involve bins, rolling carts, plastic drawers, freestanding cabinets, and other handy items.
The idea is that you’ll tuck stuff into these containers so that you’re looking at streamline containers instead of scattered craft supplies, extra clothing, piles of paper, toys, jewelry, sports equipment, cleaning supplies, shoes, and so on.
Although the idea of reducing visual clutter is a good one, if you’re storing things that you don’t use and have no specific plan to use in the future, then you’re organizing clutter.
So, What Is Clutter?
Basically, clutter is anything that’s out of place. So, some of the clutter in your home may be stuff that needs to be put away. If you aren’t sure where something belongs, then your solution will be finding a dedicated ‘home’ for those things.
Items that you don’t use and have no plans to use are also out of place because the items don’t belong in your home.
The Hazards of Organized Clutter
For years, I followed my parents’ habit of buying boxes, bins, shelving units, over-the-door pocket organizers and other tools meant to organize all the stuff I tried to fit into my room. The stuff was “organized” in that similar items were grouped together, and I knew where things belonged. But there was too much.
To pull anything out of its box meant I had to rearrange boxes to get to the correct one (of course, always the one on the bottom of the pile). I was forever dedicating my evenings to organizing because I had too much stuff and touching anything caused the fragile balance to shift toward chaos.
I was organized and yet surrounded by clutter. I could reconfigure my piles of stuff, but the piles were still there.
Before You Buy Another Organizing Tool ...
The containers, tools, and gadgets meant to organize you will only work after you’ve decluttered. Organizing things that you don’t need will only waste your time and money. Intentionally moving things into bins so they are out of sight also puts them out of mind. On one level, you’re telling yourself the items are unimportant; on another level you’re making them important by investing money on storing these unnecessary things.
I’m not saying that all organizing tools are useless. Without the six-drawer organizing cart I keep my cardmaking supplies in, I’d make a big mess every time I made cards. This organizer is useful because I use the stuff in it. If I stop making cards, the cart and all it contains would be clutter.
I think decluttering is much more difficult than organizing because decluttering involves getting rid of things you’ve owned, sometimes for decades. Decluttering involves admitting that something you’ve devoted space in your home to isn’t important.
Hiding, I mean organizing, no, I mean hiding, things in colorful plastic totes saves you from making those decisions.
Make the decision to declutter. Push through the thoughts and feelings that tell you that holding onto something you don’t like and don’t use would be for the best. My eBook, Decadent Decluttering, can help you create a clutter-free home by sorting through the groups of stuff throughout your home.
Organized clutter is still clutter.
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Susan, chief (and only) organized squirrel at A Less Cluttered Life, loves learning and sharing information about organizing, productivity, and habits. She also likes reading young adult novels, crocheting, and spending time with her cat and husband in their riverside home in Massachusetts.