The real difference between organizing and decluttering

Have you ever tidied or organized an area in your home and felt that immense satisfaction from it? Standing back, admiring the end result of your hard work. BUT having to redo it again a few weeks or months down the line? Can you relate? If so… Keep on reading, because I will share the difference between organizing and decluttering and also why organizing (by itself) doesn’t work.

Watch my YouTube video: The real difference between organizing and decluttering

The meaning

Let’s first look at the different meanings of the two words:

  • Organize: (verb) to arrange systematically
  • Declutter: (verb) to remove unnecessary items from (an untidy or overcrowded place)

In essence, decluttering means getting rid of stuff (to sell, donate, recycle or throw it in the trash). And it is not packing it away in a container or other area of your house.


The similarities

The one thing both of these actions have in common is the immediate sense of achievement, which is a tidy space (and that is exactly what all of us secretly crave!). But organizing can also fool you, because clutter is still clutter, even when it’s organized.

You see, I know the roller coaster ride of organizing all too well. Because I have spent endless hours and money on getting my desired outcome, and the ecstatic high that follows afterward. But unfortunately also the low a few weeks or months later, when the entire process has to be repeated over… and over… and over again. Not only is it frustrating, but also seriously demotivating!

That is the real difference between organizing and decluttering. Organizing only really works when you do a proper declutter and get rid of the unnecessary stuff in your house. And that way, also getting off the vicious cycle of endless organizing.


Why declutter?

  • To get rid of the excess in your household, and thereby allowing the items you love the most to shine,
  • To have less stuff to take care of. Have you ever looked at how much time and money you spend on caring for all the items in your house?
  • Organizing becomes easier when there is less stuff and it’s easier to maintain it and keeping it tidy, because everything has its place.
  • Assess every item you own, and decide if it is something you want to hold onto… Which leads me to the next point…

Questions to ask yourself when decluttering:

  • Do I absolutely love this item?
  • If I had to see this in the shop again, would I buy it again?
  • Do I use it? Like REALLY use it?
  • When was the last time I did? (If you can’t remember, that might be a sign from the ‘Decluttering gods’… hahaha)
  • If you have duplicates, how many of the same thing do you really need?
  • Do I want to take care of it? (Cleaning, dusting, washing, mending, moving… Only to name a few.)
  • Why am I holding onto it? Is it for my own personal reasons, or is it because of guilt, sentiment, etc?
  • And then a personal favourite – If I had to move overseas, would I take it with me, or not?

Then organize…

So, this is where the real difference comes in. You’ve probably heard people saying, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. And that also applies to organizing after a big declutter. So, here are some tips:

  1. Assess your pre-declutter area and figure out which parts weren’t working for you and do it differently. E.g. if you used to fold and stack your clothes on top of each other, fold them to stand upright (konmari method) and also avoiding heaps of clothing falling over.
  2. It’s best to see everything at a glance when you open a cupboard door or drawer. E.g. shoes packed on a shelf, so you can see what is there, and also items in a pantry (nothing should be hidden behind or underneath another item, because that’s the easiest way to forget about it).
  3. Group similar items together, because there is nothing more frustrating than  looking for an item in three possible places in a house!
  4. Have a designated space for everything in your house – and put each item away in its rightful place after using it.

Related: My biggest decluttering struggles and how you can avoid it


The real difference between organizing and decluttering is equally important as understanding how they work together in order to achieve your desired outcome. Which is a tidier home, which is more peaceful and relaxing to everyone. Your home should be a place you escape to, and not escape from.

If you found this useful, share it with a friend who might still be on the “Organizing roller coaster”. And tell me… How will you change your approach to decluttering and organizing?

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