6 Reasons You Need to Declutter (Before You Organize)

The following is a guest post from regular contributor, Emily at So Damn Domestic.

6 Reasons You Need to Declutter (before you organize!)

You’re here because you love organizing.

I mean, who reads blogs about being an organizing “junkie”? (People like us, that’s who.)

I could give you tips about how to organize the produce in your fridge by color or how to sort your clothes by season, type, sleeve length, and hue… ideas for bookshelf arrangements combining the rainbow method with the Dewey Decimal system, or show you pictures of all the shiny, clean, bright, colorful garage storage systems you dream of every night.

But you’ve got Pinterest for that.

So today, I’m going to share my best organizing tip with you.


Maybe it’s not as glamorous as organizing, but it’s a necessary precursor, if you ask me.

So let’s dig in.

6 Reasons You Need to Declutter (Before You Organize):

1. Decluttering will free-up organizing solutions you already own.

As I wildly decluttered my home in 2014, reducing our household belongings by 30% (by total weight), I ended up with stacks and stacks of empty storage totes, clear plastic shoeboxes, baskets, and dividing trays.

I kept them all in one area, and any time I finished decluttering a category, I was able to “shop” in my own stuff for the organizing tools I needed.

2. Decluttering first will save you time when you organize.

Why spend hours or days researching (and constructing) the best systems and tools for holding your stuff, when by decluttering first, the answer is usually simple, obvious, and elegant?

When you’re left with only the things you love, use, and need, a lot of times it’ll “tell you” what to do with it, naturally.

3. Decluttering saves you money.

(and frees up money for pretty or fancy organizing or storage tools if you really want them).

It’s counterintuitive that getting rid of stuff is a money-saving endeavor. After all, you paid good money for that stuff! And it might be perfectly good and worth something still… but yes, even if you donate all of the stuff and don’t sell one thing, it’ll save you money in the long run.


By opening your eyes to what you actually need and want, versus what just looks pretty or potentially useful in the store.

You’ll buy less.

You’ll buy more carefully.

And over time, you’ll save buckets of money on the things NOT purchased.

4. Decluttering will create time for organizing.

The sayings like, “It gets worse before it gets better,” can apply when it comes to home projects. I know you know the feeling of being surrounded by piles of stuff you’ve emptied from your desk, your closet, or wherever… and the satisfaction you feel when, hours later, you put it all back in a way that’s better than before.

BUT, a lot of times those projects also involve ignoring other things that need to be done, and somewhere in the back of your mind, feeling a little guilty about it.

But when you declutter first, there’s less TO do, and doing it is faster. Cleaning the house is a breeze, the kitchen helps you cook instead of getting in the way, and when you have less STUFF to manage, you have more TIME for what you’d like to be doing – and that includes organizing.

(And also includes things like spending time with people you love, going on adventures, working on hobbies, and whatever else you wish you had more time for.)

5. Significantly decluttering an area or category of items makes organizing unnecessary.

Yes, you have to organize your pens when you have 14 different kinds for different purposes, with different tip thicknesses for different projects. (I’m kind of in that category. I love pens.)

But if you only have your five favorite pens? No organizing “solution” is necessary. Put those suckers in a cup or a pouch, and you’re good to go.

Pens are just an example though… this applies to everything in your home.

6. Decluttering before you organize will leave space for the things you truly love.

Imagine you have a bookshelf that’s crammed with books. You could organize them in such a way that you could find any book within five seconds, if asked. Sorting by fiction and non-fiction, by the author’s last name, by topic, and so on… it would be effective, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Your bookshelf would become more useful that way!

But, if you declutter the books first, you might find yourself left with half of what you started with, or even a third. Once you get rid of books easily obtained at the library, books you never intend to re-read, books you’ve kept for “reference” purposes (but have never referred to), and anything you don’t love, your bookshelf can hold more than just books.

You could display a photo of your favorite grandparents beside a small stack of your very favorite vintage childhood books.

You’ll finally have a spot for the little Buddha you brought home from China, beside your travel photo albums.

Whatever it is that you love but haven’t yet displayed or don’t get to enjoy regularly? It now has a place to shine, when you clear the clutter.

Ready to declutter now?

I’m hosting a 30-day Clutter-Free Countdown every month to help you declutter. Sign up to get the free workbook, checklists, printables, and guidance when the next round begins. I’ll see you then!

Click Here to Join the Challenge


Emily Chapelle headshot

Emily Chapelle offers motivating guidance to busy women who are ready to make changes that last. Why? So they can spend more time on the things and people that really matter. She shares home organizing tips, decluttering your life, time-management for homemakers, and other homemaking topics at So Damn Domestic.

Filed under: Clutter Control, Emily, Guest Bloggers, Purging


7 Responses to 6 Reasons You Need to Declutter (Before You Organize)

  1. 1
    Noel says

    That is nice, Emily. Today I removed two chairs from around our dining table (moved them to a different area, as we still need them once in awhile for guest). My house continues to “tell me” what to remove. Hope to see you soon in the other group, KonMari on!

    • 1.1
      Emily @ SoDamnDomestic says

      Thanks Noel. 🙂 I think I requested to join a while ago but was never approved.

  2. 2
    Guilherme says

    Organization is a constant battle for me.
    I started not decluttering 15 min per day so my apartment doesn’t look like a mess (but not too organized neither).

    I think the real battle is not to get things out of order in the first place, or at least to minimize it. Otherwise I think people like me will be forever caught in the “decluttering trap”.

    • 2.1
      Emily @ SoDamnDomestic says

      Decluttering sometimes feels like it will be forever… and at 15 minutes a day (depending on your “incoming stuff” habits especially) it actually might be. Sometimes buckling down and doing a huge amount of decluttering in a short amount of time can give a lot more benefit than “slow and steady.”

      And having “everything in its place” still won’t help much if “everything” is still too much… more than what you want/love/use/need. Does that make sense?

      Decluttering does need to be first.

  3. 3
    Minita says

    My. Sentiments. Exactly.
    While reading your post I felt like I was talking to myself, thank you for reassuring my belief in the amazing power of decluttering, I’m a strong believer and practitioner of it.

  4. 4
    Courtney says

    You bring up so many great points. Decluttering is always my first step to any project. As you said, it opens doors for organizing solutions that you might of forget about, and saves time and money! Thank you for sharing!

  5. 5
    Meredith from Penelope Loves Lists says

    Yes! Yes! *Raises hands! *Cheers!

    I can’t tell you how many people ask me how to organize a certain space and I keep saying “get rid of 40% of what you have first.”

    And I loved the “Cups” parody. Perfection.


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