I broke my own organizing rule and here’s what happened

Hey friends, so I made a very rookie mistake the other day. You see my closet has been driving me batty for quite some time now. I just felt it wasn’t working for me but with the busyness of the holidays I didn’t take the time to pinpoint why. Instead I was just annoyed and frustrated every time I walked into my closet. Clothes started piling up and I got lazy about putting things away.

So when January rolled around, and I found myself walking around Walmart checking out the shelves of organizing totes that come out at this time of the year, I got a little excited. Okay maybe a lot excited. All of a sudden the organizing possibilities were blinding me, I couldn’t think straight, and all the smart organizing advice I’ve ever given to others no longer applied to me. I’m a professional after all, I know what I’m doing! My eyes landed on this set of three drawers and just like that I had no doubt that the only thing my closet was lacking was a set of drawers. Of course, why didn’t I think of it sooner!

The #1 organizing rule that should never ever be broken

It all made sense now. I had a shelf in my closet with an area not being used. If I just added some drawers to this space, all would be right with the world. Right!? So I bought that three drawer set, hauled it home, took one drawer off so it would fit onto the shelf in my closet and got to work.

I knew there were a few things I could let go of and started throwing those things out onto the bed. I then tried everything on remembering as I went why some things never got worn. Too tight, a little baggy, a gaping front, an uncomfortable fabric, the list went on and on as I tossed and tossed and tossed. The pile on the bed just kept getting taller and taller.

Once I started, there was no stopping me. I got on a roll and the more I purged, the more ruthless I was. If it annoyed me, it went. Before I knew it, I had purged 65 pieces of clothing! Whoa, what? Where did all that come from? I looked at it all and realized that most of it I hadn’t worn in quite some time. No wonder I was fed up with my closet. I was spending way too long in the morning trying to find the pieces that I really did love in one very overstuffed closet.

clothes purge Jan 2018

I managed to part with:

  • 6 cardigans
  • 13 sweaters
  • 1 dress
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 14 pairs of pants
  • 26 shirts
  • 3 purses
  • 1 pair of slippers

As I stood looking at my newly purged closet, it became perfectly clear that I didn’t need a new set of drawers to organize my closet. I’d gotten rid of so much that my closet no longer felt stuffed. Even though I had the space for the drawers, it just was no longer necessary.

I didn’t need to crowd my closet with more things, I just needed to get RID of some things. I had broken the first rule of organizing and the first step in my organizing PROCESS.

Never ever buy organizing bins, baskets or containers until AFTER you do a thorough purge.

The #1 Organizing Rule that should never ever be broken at I'm an Organizing Junkie blog

When I first put that set of drawers in my closet I could have easily filled them up. I might even have temporarily solved my problem. However my annoyance with my closet, and how it was functioning, would have come back pretty quick. You know why? Because I would have only masked the problem, not fixed it. No matter how I “contained” it, it still would have been an overstuffed closet. Only now some of that stuff would be hiding behind some pretty drawers.

Without purging first, I wouldn’t have fixed the frustrating problem of trying to find the things I love amongst all the things I didn’t. I knew this and still let the a shiny new container suck me. The pull is so hard to fight against, trust me, I know!

My clothes purge pile 2018

My new set of drawers went back to Walmart and I put that $20 back in my pocket. So save yourself some money the next time you feel annoyed with a space and do a PURGE first. Then when that’s done you can organize what’s left. You may still need to purchase some organizing containers but your space will function so much better when you aren’t using those containers to just organize clutter.

It may seem easier to bypass the purge but you will never truly get yourself organized unless you do the purge first.

So take some time today and go purge something!! You’ll be so glad you did and I’m super happy that I’m $20 richer, whoot!

See also:

11 Rules for Getting a Clothes Purge Done (plus free printable)

11 Rules for Getting a Clothes Purge Done

See also:

How to Make Weekly Household Purges Happen

How to Make Weekly Household Purges Happen


Filed under: Containerizing, Organizing Basics, Purging


32 Responses to I broke my own organizing rule and here’s what happened

  1. 1
    Suzanne says

    Well done Laura! I love that feeling of getting ride of stuff that I don’t use.

  2. 2
    Seana Turner says

    Great rule! I tell clients that the shopping can be a bit of a reward for the de-cluttering. It is always fun to stroll through the organizing section of The Container Store (or any store), but buying before assessing your true need often backfires. Way to go on the major purge!

  3. 3
    Barbi K. says

    Good job! Great feeling! Wonderful way to start off the year, now I got to get started on my closet!

  4. 4
    Katie V says

    Oh wow. I really, really need to do this, but haven’t had the time or energy. I think you just inspired me to get to it. I just find out I’ve been breaking the first rule for MONTHS. I keep buying bins and totes to organize and get nowhere. Thank you!!!

    • 4.1
      Laura Wittmann says

      Yay, so glad I could help! Let me know how the purging goes 🙂

    • 4.2
      Lisa Gomolka says

      Omg I’m right there with you!! I do the exact same thing! I just don’t have the energy yet I continue to buy these stupid containers at the dollar store and then I end up with more crap! Help!!! I think I will go purge my office/closet/everything room! Lol!

      • Laura Wittmann says

        It’s crazy right?! But we all do it because it’s hard not too lol.

  5. 5
    Donna says

    I know where you are coming from. My husband’s closet needed to be organized. I have done it many, many times and yet he manages to clutter it back up within days of cleaning it. When he gets an item out and if he doesn’t like it, he wads it up in a ball and shoves it back in the corner. A couple of months ago he was saying he needed more socks and underwear. He would insist that I wash his clothes every 3 to 4 days as he was out of clean clothes. I did break the rule and bought totes that would house his clothing. I took everything off the shelves and started putting everything in the labeled clear totes. I found 68 pairs of socks and over 30 underwear, not to mention all the insulated underwear he said he didn’t have. We have been married for over 34 years and this is the longest his closet has remained organized. I even took before and after pictures. I should have done it years ago. Those totes saved me money and my sanity. I guess I won’t be buying socks for a long time!

    • 5.1
      Laura Wittmann says

      Oh that’s too funny! Yes I’m definitely not knocking containers, they are especially important for setting boundaries and limits for sure. So glad you found a system that worked for you all!!

  6. 6
    Bec says

    Laura, love it and can SO relate! Im in the process of decluttering and then organising my entire house. So hearing that Im not alone in breaking the rules every now and then gives me faith that this is not my never ending story!! Tackled the bathroom and laundry & cupboards today (how did I end up with 8 makeup bags!? ????) Feels good already ????

    • 6.1
      Laura Wittmann says

      Yep happens to all of us. Way to go girl!!

  7. 7
    Susan says

    I’ve come across this in my inbox at the perfect time. I was just going to order some organisation containers to sort out and separate a crate full of cleaning supplies – have I checked through them to see which I need to keep and which may be old and just needing to be got rid of? I’m sure you can guess the answer is no!
    I’m on it now though…

    • 7.1
      Laura Wittmann says

      Woohoo, way to go Susan! So glad I could help 🙂

  8. 8
    Patti says

    Laura, this is the single best organizing advice I have ever read!!
    I have bought the organizing containers and pretty floral boxes. I just added to the clutter and the stuff I put inside these containers rarely ever saw the light of day again.
    You are right, the real problem and the solution is getting rid of so much stuff!!
    Thank you.

    • 8.1
      Laura Wittmann says

      What a lovely comment, thank you for your kind words!!

  9. 9
    Pat Genier says

    I am in the process of decluttering. My answer had always been storage containers, then realized that was part of the problem. I have a Vision Board, and on it is a card saying, “Storage is not the answer to clutter”….so true!

  10. 10
    Laura Lindsey says

    My rule is when I buy something I have to part with something. Only thing that is crazy is sportswear. Everything else is manageable. Now that my job is more casual I have my dress clothes in back of closest.

  11. 11
    Donna Kitch says

    I have another rule that has helped me. Never look in the donation bag. I was ashamed of how much money I had spent. I found that I had 10 pair of black pants!

  12. 12
    Sinea says

    Oh Laura you are so right! Organizers just add to the clutter if you don’t purge first. Thanks for the great reminder 🙂

  13. 13
    Maria Peters says

    I can so relate to this! I went on a bin binge when I decided to organize my pantry, and ended up with bins I couldn’t use which, also had to find a home! ????? I agree the purge must come first! Lesson learned!

    • 13.1
      Laura Wittmann says

      Hey Maria!! Even though it’s so tempting, we must resist the urge! 🙂

  14. 14
    MaryP says

    We moved twice in one year! At our ages really tough. I was brutal in getting rid of stuff. Very freeing. Kept small family items. Everything that wouldn’t be used in pur small space went. Last event is another go round with my Christmas totes.

  15. 15
    Cynthia says

    When I run out of hangers I know I need to purge. My closet is pretty organized most of the time because I don’t binz shop.
    I have found my look or style and I only buy when things are worn out or stained.

  16. 16
    Verena says

    oh my….I feel inspired again to purge….thank you….I REALLY need to do it!!!!

  17. 17
    Jenny Parker says

    I so get everything you said! I just did that too, but I have a question for you, do you find that you save too much stuff in bags that’s meant for good will, other people, etc, just becaue you don’t want to throw it away?

    • 17.1
      Laura Wittmann says

      I purge so often now that once I have my mind made up I’m good to let it go. Trick is to get it out of your house as fast as possible. That’s also why I’m not a huge fan of saving things for a garage sale. Get it out now before you change your mind lol.

  18. 18
    Clara says

    I’ve been wanting to purge my whole house, and no time and keep buying containers and organisers, I am so overwhelmed and depress…..

  19. 19
    Jacque says

    Nice to know I’m not alone. I got in the decluttering craze mid-January. Walking thru Walmart, I saw, & bought, the EXACT same 3-drawer container…certain it would be helpful. As I cleaned out, I found NOTHING I could use it for. I’ve gotten better about not buying too soon and even carry a small measuring tape in my purse, to make sure the bins will fit before buying.


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