The order of the universe
Let’s be upfront. You declutter first, organise second. You can probably scroll through my Insta feed and count how many times I have said this (too many?) and yet, it’s one of the main reasons I see humans get stuck when it comes to wanting to create more flow and a calmer energy in their homes.
And creating that calmer, more organised flow is important as we spend A LOT of time at home. Whether it’s sleeping, eating, pottering, crafting, Netflixing, cleaning, or raising the next generation. Stress causes all sorts of nasty things, so looking for ways to reduce it in our homes is 100% a worthwhile task.
You can’t organise a space that has no space
You know when you’ve been flying through a game of Tetris, but you start to get that creeping feeling that it’s about to end soon as the blocks get higher and higher? And it’s getting real hard to try and squish all the coloured bricks in?
The same goes for your stuff.
It’s all fine, until it’s really not fine anymore. If you try to organise before decluttering, you are essentially trying to win a game of Tetris that is already over. There is nowhere to move anything. You are basically taking blocks and putting them in another space, which you then have to take the item that previously lived there and now have to move elsewhere. And so, you end up in a cycle of shifting things around with the same end result: a cluttered space that is sending you clear signals to just start over.
Organising is not simply shifting items around. Declutter first.
Decluttering is the ebb, organisation is the flow
Decluttering your space is the hard part. It’s dirty. Physical. Eye-rolling-ly boring at times. Clench-fisting-ly frustrating at points. Tears brimming from the eyes at the sheer volumes of stuff that never seems to end. And the shame of why you allowed yourself to get here in the first place.
Decluttering is the ebb of the process. And here’s the best part: it’s not rocket science. Sure, it’s boring and just hard to make constant decisions, but you do see the work developing before your eyes. And nobody’s life is in danger if you throw out a toy or even a wedding dress. As you declutter, one pile of who-knows-what has now become 5 little mounds that display your proactive decisions. Bin, recycle, donate, give back to mum, etc. Decluttering is a process where you have your proof of effort. It can be hard to move through the volume of stuff, but you are rewarded with instant changes, even if they are small at the start.
And rest assured, it always gets WAY messier before it gets cleaner!
Once you have removed the items you no longer love or use (clutter), you now have an accurate version of what you want to own and you can start planning what needs to go where. You are free to move categories around as you like. Socks, undies and swimmers may best fit into one drawer, whereas big, fluffy jumpers take up one all on their own. You may also find areas that are now empty can be repurposed for a new category of items.
After doing the hard yards of decluttering, you will have an appreciation as to why you own what you own. You won’t be stopping and wondering if you really need all 50 swatches of fabric, or wondering how on earth you ended up with 11 pairs of scissors. It will feel easy creating a home for each category and knowing that it all intentionally belongs under your roof.
Organisation is easiest when you know what you have
Once you are fresh out of going through all the stuff you have, you will quickly see the size of the categories of stuff you own.
Because there will be more free space post-decluttering (and it doesn’t have to be rooms that are completely empty, it can be as simple as a shelf!), moving your stuff around to find the best flow for the space will be easier as it is not only filled with the stuff you love, but you are also clear on where everything is located.
At its heart, organisation is creating systems that think for you. A tub with a label “Cleaning Products” is a simple system that the whole family can get on board with. Same for a linen cupboard with sheet labels on the shelves, so even your best mate can locate the single bedsheet.
It’s about creating systems that work harder than you do. And to create effective systems for your stuff, it requires an intimate knowledge of everything you own. After decluttering, you will see that having the snow gear in 4 different areas of the house may be why it’s so annoying to find all the bits and pieces when packing for the holidays. Or having a basket in each bedroom labelled ‘electrical’ is so you can easily find chargers, cameras, and remotes means you don’t have to answer the same question on repeat: “where is….?”
Technically you CAN organise first, but read this first
For some people who are totally across the stuff they own, it may make sense to just dive into the organisation step and do a spot of decluttering as you go.
However, from my experience, decluttering is a process of not simply chucking out trash, but reassessing why you own what you own. Life moves in phases, and some of those phases are part of age progression, whilst some are brought upon by rapid change whether we wanted it or not. Decluttering is a great way to audit your stuff and although it sounds overly simple, sometimes getting rid of 2 pairs of shoes means that you don’t have to invest in new shoe storage. Or moving that one big, floofy winter coat to another closet means you aren’t fighting to see your wardrobe every morning. It can be the small changes that add up to create more flow.
My last point for decluttering before diving into the organisation process, is that we so often want the end result first without embracing the effort required beforehand.
Those amazing pictures or organised spaces you see on Instagram are the result of careful planning, measuring and assessing how the space works. Okay, maybe those images are a snapshot of time that aren’t really real, but we all have that one friend who has the dream house and pantry we all want.
To get there, you need to know what you own (declutter) and take time to plan the result (organise). It’s not a copy-and-paste job but rather asking what bugs you about the space and what would reduce the stress/chaos in your home? This will result in a space that not only looks good, but works for you home.
Ask the questions about your home that require you to dig a little deeper and think a little longer, but only you can answer.
Declutter first. Organise second. It’s an order that works.
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