Remove and Sort

Today I want to touch base on the second step of the PROCESS. That would be REMOVE.

What does this mean exactly? Trust me the easiest and fastest way to tackle any project is to empty the space you are trying to organize and do your sort/purge from ideally a different room altogether or, if you have to, the middle of the room you are organizing. The important thing is to get things off shelves, out of drawers, off tabetops, off the floor, out of closets, etc..


Removing items from where they have previously been stored will give you a fresh perspective on the space you want organized. It will enable you to re-evaluate how you want the space to look. You can’t do this when it is cluttered up with stuff. It is also tough to rearrange furniture when the clutter still exists in the space. Get it out! Has your furniture always been in the exact same spot? Don’t be afraid to try something new and change things up a little or a lot. Start with a clean slate and get creative. (Obviously big furniture pieces aren’t always practical to move, please use your discretion).

{There are no right or wrong answers here.  It’s what works for you!}

Look around your home:  is it clear what your interests are?  Can you detect a theme or pattern to your decor?  Or is there so much crammed into the space that it is hard to tell what’s going on?

It may be the case that you have grown so accustomed to your clutter that you don’t even notice it.  It’s amazing what we tolerate.  Imagine if you were to start with a blank slate.  What would you do?  I think what is so dramatic about the organizing shows on TV is how they completely empty a space and then very carefully put back only those items that have value, serve a purpose, and are loved.  Imagine–a space full of things that you adore.

Excerpt from the book Clutter’s Dirty Secret by Alison Roberts

Doing your sort/purge outside of the space also lets you objectively look at each item and determine whether or not you want to keep it. Often if this step happens in the space being organized people will keep something just because they have the room for it. While there isn’t anything wrong with this, if it isn’t something you have any intention of using or love don’t keep it just because. Get rid of it!  I’ll have a lot more to say about purging coming up in future posts.

Sort items into piles and there are many different ways to do this. Grad yourself some boxes and label them ~ donate, toss, sell, keep, re-locate. The purpose here is to organize “like with like”. All similar items together. This way it will become clear to you what you own in abundance that maybe you didn’t even realize because it was scattered all over the place before. One lonely little box of envelopes doesn’t look like much but when you match it up with the other 50 boxes you have well all of a sudden it is clear there is a problem.

The sort process will result in many piles around you, don’t stop to deal with them until your sort is complete.  Then tackle each pile one by one.  Your goal is to only bring back into your space what you truly want to keep and use. Don’t bring it back in to think about later.  We’re going to deal with it before it goes back into the space.

Stay true to the purpose of your space as outlined in your plan!!

Sidenote:  You may be tempted to rush right out and buy containers and baskets and all sorts of other organizing goodies.  It’s not time yet.  That wonderful part of the process follows the purging.  It doesn’t come before.  Be patient.  Remember it’s one step at a time 🙂

Please visit,, one of our fabulous sponsors for this organizing challenge. There you’ll find hundreds of articles and tips to give you fresh, easy ideas on how to rid clutter from every part of your life.

Filed under: Organizational Challenge, Organizing


32 Responses to Remove and Sort

  1. 1
    Devon says

    AGH! I have to be patient…I want to shop for bins! lol

    • 1.1
      Laura says

      LOL, oh no you don’t. That’s like jumping into the pool before we put our bathing suit on. We’ll only sink to the bottom if we don’t shed the extra layers first!

  2. 2
    Tobey says

    Oh I am so purging and as much as I’d like to keep all my kids artwork and things that they’ve made me, I know that that isn’t reasonable so I’m purging, and purging, and purging. I wish I could purge the cat right out of my way!

  3. 3
    Melissa says

    Three trash bags of junk gone so far! 🙂 It feels so good!

    • 3.1
      Laura says

      Wow you are on a roll, woohoo!

  4. 4
    Joyce @ Keeping Up With The Moys says

    I’m working on one area at a time, and finishing it up to completion before moving on. This step is a little tough for me because I clean a bit at a time when I can…or when the kids let me. There’s no way I can clear out an entire area because the baby will get into everything, although I wish I could do it this way because it would be so much simpler. Any tips?

    • 4.1
      MommyNeedsCake says

      I have the same problem so I’m sorting into some old storage bins I have sitting around so they can be closed up and set aside until I can finally finish it all. I used to sort into paper bags – then my son discovered the joy of dumping so I needed to find a sealed solution. Obviously it doesn’t work with larger items like furniture, but for the small stuff this has worked well for me.

      • Laura says

        Great idea to use storage bins for your sort if needed. That way you can sort through one storage bin at a time and you won’t have to worry about the kids getting into it.

        • Laura says

          Yes boxes are great!

  5. 5
    Krista S. says

    Thank you once again for addressing what I needed to know. I wanted to do this (but in sections so as not to over take the rest of the house). Everyone kept saying no don’t do it, but I couldn’t see how I could make sense of all the stuff unless I had a blank slate to work. Now that you’ve given me permission it feels like a weight lifted off me and I think I’ll actually be able to do this. We’re going to start with the closet since without that clear there is no place to put a lot of the stuff that is taking up space all over the room.
    I do admit I’m thinking about baskets and bins, but have only web-shopped for ideas 🙂 and I have a mental list of a few I know I’ll need, will do no buying yet though!
    Thanks again! 🙂

  6. 6
    Susanne says

    “Don’t bring it back in to think about later”. Yup, that’s me. Working on that. I think removing it out of the space to sort is totally going to be a big key to any sorts that I do.

  7. 7
    Jane says

    The stuff I’ve gathered for charity, I immediately put in my car so I will need to drop it off. That way it isn’t sitting in my closet or wherever waiting for me to retrieve it back….just in case.

    • 7.1
      Laura says

      Yes a most excellent idea!!

  8. 8
    Bente says

    I’m so excited to do this. I’m working on my laundry room which is a DISASTER!!! I’ve taken the before picture, and working on clearing it out. I love the idea of working with a clean slate. We are going to be remodeling the laundry room later in the year, so this will give me an idea of what I want/need. Any ideas on what do to with big stuff (ie the treadmill) that needs to be moved out of the room, but there is no where else to put it yet?

    • 8.1
      Laura says

      Big stuff like that Bente may have to stay in the space. Mainly what is important to clear is all the clutter/stuff randomly around the room in drawers, closets, desks, dressers, etc.

  9. 9
    Petula says

    I have to work a little differently given that my house is so small and I have three young children who are extremely mischevious (especially the youngest!). So instead of removing everything from the space I am working by section. I’m doing most of my desk today (keep fingers crossed). I have been working from my living room because of the cold in here and I needed to get more sunlight (or light in general), but I’m working in the office today so it’s easier to incorporate my challenge tasks with what I am doing. I’ve already processed quite a large stack of papers, threw a lot away and filed some. One stack at a time! 🙂 I removed a gigantic stack from the desk to clear my workspace and I already feel better.

    Now all I have to do is remember the stack that I moved. LOL… Then it’s on to the next section. I also think I have a superb idea on how to rearrange the furniture. I don’t think my oldest will be too happy about it, but we all have to sacrifice in the name of clutter-free, stress-free and organized!

  10. 10
    julie says

    My husband and I have been trying, trying to declutter. He keeps buying storage bins and I keep telling him we need to just get serious about getting rid of stuff first. I can’t seem to convince him that storage containers aren’t the answer. He just sees the stuff and wants to contain it!

    • 10.1
      Laura says

      Hi Julie, you are right! As much fun as storage containers are, they aren’t the answer until AFTER the purge happens. No point in organizing more than you have too and the more you get rid of the less you have to find homes for!

  11. 11
    Sneets says

    Okay Laura! You got me on this one! I used to faithfully watch shows like “Take this House and Sell It”on tv, and not once did it enter my head (even though I watched it done) to remove everything from the room! Wow! Lighbulb! But I can’t do that, as I have no empty spaces to do the sort! So, I will have to work in sections. I have a whole house that needs decluttering, but I am doing it one room at a time.
    I am not a blogger, but I am trying my best to keep up with your suggestions! Thanks!

  12. 12
    meeSha says

    I love this post!! It’s hard for me to do this step all at once, so I’m going to have to take it one chunk at a time. I’m going to try to start tonight – purging would be ideal, since it’s garbage night =) it will be all gone by tomorrow morning. No digging into the trash bin! eew!!

    I think my best bet is to start at one corner of the room and work my way around. Noting where I left off. KEEP FOCUSED. And start again later. Have fun everyone!!

  13. 13
    Stacy says

    i am going to start in my laundry room aka pantry aka untility room tonight. will take pictures in a few later and update with my blog site

  14. 14
    Danni R says

    I will have pictures posted tonight also….this is hard to get started but really great to have a lot of people to work with 🙂

  15. 15
    Wanda says

    Ugh…I didn’t see this soon enough! While I did purge 4 bags of crap today I also spent some cash on decorating items – spray paint for my shelves and some decorative storage boxes to hold craft supplies, sewing items, office supplies, etc. My daughter came up and we worked on a plan of action as well as an overall room theme…can’t wait to get the room done! I am sooo excited about it.

  16. 16
    Angie (Fumbling Toward Family) says

    Thanks for the tips! I used your advice on a very small scale to organize my kitchen’s dishes cabinet – and it worked! REMOVE everything. Decide on the purpose of the space (even if it’s just one cabinet). Then put back only what fits.

    Simple, but effective! Thank you!

  17. 17
    Becky L says

    I’m starting to purge tomorrow in the family room that’s really my computer desk, desk and sewing machine area. Computer desk will get worked on first. Looking forward to less mess but not the process to do it. Thanks for your help. It makes sense. Have a good weekend!

  18. 18
    Rana says

    I’m in the middle of the purge. I dumped the toys in the middle of the playroom floor and went through all the broken toys and toys the kids don’t play with anymore. Then I put all of the stuffed animals in a row and told the kids we only have room for a certain amount in the basket so pick what you love them most and the rest we are giving away. We did a good job and they were fairly willing to give up some bears they don’t play with anymore. Today I’m on to the craft supplies to sort out what we use and don’t use.

  19. 19
    Sharon says

    I was frozen with what to declutter. I knew it would be something small and manageable. After I read the thing about 50 boxes of envelopes I knew. For some reason I have envelopes everywhere. Sometimes when I need one I take one from a set of thank you notes. Of course, when I need the envelope for the Thank you notes- always short. I have a 5 drawer plastic storage container that I will start going through today!

  20. 20
    Nony (A Slob Comes Clean) says

    Thanks for this. I never would have thought to actually remove everything to another place. Sometimes when I try to organize a space it feels like I made a bigger mess when I just spread everything out.

  21. 21
    Petula says

    I loved your feature on 5 Minutes for Mom. Fab pic too!

  22. 22
    Joyce says

    Hey! Just found you and I’m already hooked! This is what I need this summer. We are home schoolers. I will be teaching 3 grades next year with a toddler running around! I need to get a grasp on our school supplies., now! LOL!
    The idea of taking everything out of the space is brilliant! I keep so much bc I still have space…..never thought of doing my sorting away from the area so I am not tempted!
    Thanks, Laura!


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