Organizing vs. Decluttering

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I’m sure you’ve heard the terms organizing, decluttering, and maybe even tidying. These terms are becoming more and more mainstream, with shows on Netflix and books on the best-seller lists. But what do these words mean? What’s the difference between them? Why are they important? Decluttering and organizing are different, but they often go hand in hand.

Let’s jump in.

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The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up is a great guide to decluttering.

Decluttering is removing unnecessary items, aka clutter, from a space. How do you know if an item is, in fact, “clutter”? Clutter is anything you don’t need, you don’t love, or doesn’t serve a purpose. A space needs decluttering when there’s too much stuff — when that drawer won’t close nicely, when you don’t have an empty surface to work, when you can’t find what you’re looking for, when your closet is too full to function. Once you identify clutter, you’ll never NOT see it.

You may be familiar with Marie Kondo, a Japanese organizing consultant who kind of took over the world with her book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, published in 2014. When Kondo says “Tidying” she is, in fact, referring to decluttering. Same with Margareta Magnussen in her The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning.


The Home Edit focuses on organizing in amazing and beautiful ways.

Organizing refers to arranging items intentionally, placing items in an orderly manner. When organizing, you want to sort items and place like items together. For instance, having all your spices together in a drawer is an example of an organized space. You can stop there, or you can order the spices alphabetically or group them by how you use them. There’s no one right way to organize, it’s what makes sense for you.

Recently, The Home Edit, a pair of professional organizers with 1.5 million followers, has had an organizing show air on Netflix. That, besides their two books, The Home Edit and The Home Edit Life, has pushed home organization into the spotlight (read my thoughts about the show here). While the pair discuss decluttering, the show primarily focuses on organizing — containing items in bins and arranging them in spaces.

So How are they Connected?

If you’d like to simplify your life and get your home in order, you probably think you need to get organized—and you might be right — but I’m willing to bet you’d also benefit from some decluttering.

Most Americans have too much stuff.

If you have an item you don’t need, that doesn’t make you happy when you look at it, that clogs up your space, it’s clutter — let it go. Once you declutter and seeing the changes in your space, it will get easier and easier to let things go. A bonus is that it will be easier to organize, t0o, which has a ton of benefits.

You can declutter without organizing, but you don’t want to organize without first decluttering — don’t waste your time organizing clutter.

Both decluttering and organizing can have a big impact on your space and your lifestyle. They can overwhelm when you’re just getting started, but you’ll get better and better as you go and the results will be totally worth it.

If you’re very overwhelmed, aimless, or just don’t know where to begin, hire a professional organizer, a quick google or Facebook search can help you find one in your area, or many organizers offer virtual organizing services.

2 thoughts on “Organizing vs. Decluttering”

  1. Thank you so much😄. Do, my frustration was normal 😉. I love your sensibility and real life advice. I am in the process of ordering the planner you recommend. Do you have a code to let them know I received the product info from you? Thanks so much :).

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