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Why Declutter Instead of Organise if You’re Struggling With Stuff

Why Declutter Instead of Organise if You’re Struggling With Stuff

Why declutter instead of organise? In this article we explore the difference between decluttering and organisation and, if you’re struggling with stuff, why you need to declutter first and only then organise what you’re keeping.


If your home and life feels a bit out of control and you’re struggling to keep up, you might be planning on getting a little organised and sorting things out.

Yet, decluttering feels final and scary, right? Much better to be organised than face the dreaded declutter monster?

It’s very common for us to think that if only we could get a little more organised then our home and life would be plain sailing. No wasted time, no losing things, no forgetting we had something before we go out and buy another. Certainly no more lost paperwork or emails.

Yup, getting organised could avoid a lot of stress and frustration.

Well, whilst that may be true, it’s also worth thinking about whether organisation is the key to an easier, simpler life or whether there’s scope to do something far more impactful – by clearing your clutter.

In this article we explore why it’s better to declutter instead of organise, the benefits of both, and sometimes why organisation on its own just won’t work.


Decluttering is hugely popular right now and there are some wonderful benefits to be had by decluttering your home and owning less stuff.

Some of the benefits that I’ve found in my own life are:

  1. We have more space – there’s more physical space because my home isn’t cluttered. There’s no excess furniture, ornaments on the shelves, piles of paperwork on the table surfaces and the garage is no longer used as a random dumping ground for stuff I don’t want in the house!
  2. I’m calmer – my time isn’t spent clearing and tidying up. When I do have free time, I can use it to do things that I want to do, instead of catching up on household chores and laundry.
  3. It’s easier to find things – everything has a place (a home). I know where things are, I lose things less often and I’m much more efficient and productive as a result.

There are many other benefits of decluttering your home and life.

My home is more inviting for guests, it’s a more relaxing environment to unwind at the end of the day (my introvert, HSP personality finds this so important) and I have more time to spend on other things in life, rather than managing my home.


Organisation is the key to being effective and productive. Whether it’s in the workplace or the inside of your fridge at home, organisation can help keep the stuff in our lives easy to find, easy to manage and in our control.

You can find what you’re looking for, find it easily and quickly.

  • You can see what you have at a glance and can avoid buying unnecessary duplicates or extras.
  • You can reach for your choice of clothes each morning without rummaging at the back of your messy closet.
  • You can lay your hands on that important insurance document without spending hours sifting through piles of paper.
  • You can find needle and thread to sew a button back on, or a new light bulb, or your child’s school permission form right when you need them.

Organisation, together with systems, routines and habits, can help our brains, home and life run more smoothly – from emails to toys, DIY tools to medicines.


For those who haven’t yet discovered the benefits of decluttering, it’s a common question to ask – why declutter when organising one’s stuff could do instead?

  • Why should we declutter when we can just order, store and organise our belongings better?
  • Surely organising in itself will make the home neater and tidier?
  • Won’t we still be able to find things?
  • Isn’t it better to keep our stuff and just store it properly rather than throwing things out and potentially wasting our money, time and energy?

Organisation is vital and I’m a self-confessed neat freak so organisation is something that I love to talk about. And, I’m not for a moment suggesting that you won’t benefit from getting a bit more organised with your stuff!

However, there are some definite downsides to only organising what you have, instead of decluttering.

Why declutter instead of organise


Here are some of the pitfalls of organising instead of decluttering. Maybe you recognise some of them in your own home?

1. A waste of time

Just organising your belongings will still mean that you have to spend time looking after them – moving, tidying, cleaning and storing them. This is a waste of your time when you could be using that time for more of what matters.

2. A waste of energy

You will still have the same number of possessions and probably even more storage to manage as well. If you organise your stuff, the chances are that you’ll have more shelves, tables, cupboards and boxes to put it all in. That means more dusting and cleaning of not only your belongings, but those storage units too! This is a waste of your energy.

3. More stress

You’re also more likely to get stressed when your lovely new storage solutions aren’t doing the job you intended for them:

  • Will they magically mean that your kids or partner know to put stuff away in them?
  • Will it mean they take care of the stuff any better?
  • Will it encourage you to be neater and tidier if basically you find it difficult staying neat and tidy? Probably not! In fact, it may just make you feel worse about yourself for not being able to use your useful, lovely storage. Who needs stress and negativity like that?

4. A waste of money

Storage solutions don’t always have to cost money. You could probably shop your home and make do with what you have available.

However, retailers are great at tempting us into all manner of things which will supposedly make our lives simple and easy – including storage solutions – which can come at a financial cost. Yet, if you had less stuff to store then you wouldn’t need so many storage solutions!

5. More frustration

In my experience it could just cause you more angst and frustration because the storage and organisation you’ve spent time, energy and (maybe) money putting in place, isn’t working. I know this from first-hand experience in my own home. However well-meaning, the more elaborate and complex my storage system is, the less my family will use it!

6. More clutter

There are so many storage options, ranging from boxes to complete shelving units. However pretty or useful they might appear to be at first glance, it’s easy to clutter up our homes just with these, let alone the items we’re actually trying to store!

Why declutter instead of organise


In my own experience, there are three very important reasons why it’s better to declutter instead of organise your stuff. Decluttering has some profound benefits that just aren’t available to you if you only organise your home.

1. Less stuff to look after

Perhaps the most obvious benefit, by decluttering your home and removing the items that you no longer need, want or use, the biggest difference will be that you’ll have so much less stuff to clean, tidy and look after!

That means keeping on top of your home will be easier and quicker. With some simple household routines in place, your home will run smoothly with minimum effort from you.

Putting it simply, decluttering means you have less stuff. If you only organise what you have (rather than decluttering first) it means you have the SAME AMOUNT of stuff to look after but you ALSO have to spend even more time making sure it stays organised as well!

To put it another way, what you’ll end up with is organised clutter, but it’s still clutter all the same!

2. Reduces stress levels

The other reason why decluttering has an added benefit over just organising what you have, is that there’s scientific evidence to suggest a relationship between clutter and stress levels. You can read more about the research but by reducing the clutter in your home, your stress levels could go down.

Clutter costs us in so many ways. It’s not just the financial, the time or the energy implications, there are some emotional and psychological benefits that a clearer, calmer, uncluttered home can give you.

The benefits of a decluttered home include less distraction, lower anxiety, more focus, clarity, calmness and a more relaxing, supportive space (particularly if you struggle with ill health and other challenges).

In the words of Peter Walsh, “Your home should be the antidote to stress, not the cause of it.”

There is psychology behind decluttering and it’s the reason why clearing clutter makes us feel good. That’s why I encourage you to declutter rather than just organise!

3. Less stuff does not require organisation

Again, an obvious statement but if you have less stuff, there is just less to organise. More than that, this is vital (and liberating) if you do struggle with organisation.

Decluttering is great for messy people. It’s also helpful for those with ADHD, with physical and mental health problems, for those who struggle with reading and writing and who might find setting up elaborate filing and organisation systems difficult.

Decluttering is equally great for busy parents who don’t have time to organise their lives and just wing it from day to day.

It’s also good for those who struggle with dipping motivation and energy levels.

‘Organising’ our stuff can feel overwhelming, complicated, judgemental, unrealistic, onerous, boring and stressful.

That’s not to say decluttering is easy but organisation on top of decluttering adds an extra layer of complexity. If you find decluttering difficult, perhaps you’ll find maintaining organised clutter pretty difficult too!

Your home should be the antidote to stress - Peter Walsh quote


Perhaps the perfect solution to simplify your home (and your life!) could be a combination of both decluttering and organisation.

  1. Declutter the stuff that you don’t need, don’t want and doesn’t add meaningful value to your home and life.
  2. Remove this stuff from your home first so you’re only left with the things that you actually want, then find a way to organise and store what you’re keeping.

Whether it’s paperwork, art and craft supplies, clothes, cooking utensils, tools, books – it’s definitely easier to find what you’re looking for and enjoy making the most of them when things are stored properly. Our homes look and function better when they’re as neat and tidy as we can make them.

There’s a caveat when I say ‘as neat and tidy as we can make them’ because I also realise that how we ‘measure’ neat and tidy looks different to everyone.

For different reasons, some of us find it tough to create and keep a neat and tidy home and your success with this is not a measure of your motivation levels or standards.

Sometimes managing our homes has to take second place to managing the challenges of life. This is again where decluttering can help enormously.

And, if you find that you run out of storage space, maybe it’s time to declutter again!


I’d love to hear your thoughts on decluttering and organisation. Have you tried organising without decluttering and, if so, how did you find it? Do you find decluttering and/or organising difficult? Do you have any tips to share that might help others. Has decluttering helped you in ways that just organising your stuff would not have done?

Leave a comment below if you have any thoughts to share!


Here are some more articles and resources to help you declutter and organise your home and life.

  • 25 Ways to Be More Organised at Home and in Life – Good time management is a great way of supporting a simple and intentional lifestyle. Check out this post for 25 ways to be more organised in your home and life to help you maximise your time and what you do with it.
  • Types of Clutter and How to Deal With Them – Struggling with clutter? Let’s look at the different types of clutter in our homes and lives and how to deal with them.
  • Hidden Clutter Spots and How To Deal With Them – Creating a decluttered and simplified home can take time and effort. However, it can be frustrating when, even after decluttering, there still seems to be stuff to clutter our homes. In this article we look at some common hidden clutter spots and how to deal with them.
  • How to Declutter When You Feel Overwhelmed – Decluttering our homes can be tough. Getting rid of our stuff can be hard, physically and emotionally but particularly if we have a lot of clutter, not much time and don’t know how and where to start. If you feel overwhelmed by your stuff, here are some tips on how to declutter when you feel overwhelmed.


If you enjoyed this article and would like to explore decluttering for yourself, here are some suggestions on how you might get started.

  • Download your free copy of my 19-page Declutter Starter Kit. It will walk you through the first steps of clearing your clutter in your home, heart, schedule and mind.
  • Try these simple but effective high impact decluttering strategies to declutter your home with maximum impact and minimum effort.
  • Explore these tips on where to start decluttering so you don’t waste time and energy making lots of false starts. Even though the way in which you declutter is highly personal, there are some decluttering tips and tricks that it’s worth getting to know first.
  • If decluttering feels too complicated or time-consuming, try these tips for slow decluttering and making decluttering part of your everyday life. This is a good way to clear your clutter if you struggle with the emotional and physical requirements of decluttering.


Sunday 24th of September 2023

As someone with ADHD, I agree that decluttering can be challenging, but not decluttering makes the organizing much MORE challenging! My current goal with decluttering is simply to get my possession down to a level where everything can be put away - no storage bins in the bedroom, no clean pans on the stovetop because they don't fit in the cupboard, no boxes of unsorted papers looking at me accusingly. Decluttering is the first step to making the rest of my life much easier.

Thanks for these tips, Antonia. :-)

Balance Through Simplicity

Sunday 24th of September 2023

Hi Laura, you're very welcome and thank you for reminding us that decluttering isn't just to make the home clean and tidy - it can support us through other challenges too!


Saturday 29th of February 2020

Oh, I just wish that after decluttering I wouldn't go and buy same things, because so often happened that later I needed the things i had thrown!

Balance Through Simplicity

Sunday 1st of March 2020

Yes, that's always a possibility but I just like to think that overall I feel better when I have less stuff. For me I definitely got 'better' at decluttering the right things as time went by! It's a good point though, thank you!