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You spend hours organising the toys, placing them in newly bought bins that are bound to keep things in their places but within a couple of days your hard work unravels into the chaos it was before. Papers keep piling up and clothes end up where they don’t belong.

The question is why does this happen? The immediate answer is, you didn’t declutter and put systems into place to keep it that way!

Is it really possible to organise without decluttering? There are areas where they overlap but they are definitely not one and the same. In my opinion, it is possible, but decluttering is much more rewarding and has a lasting effect. This is why so often people are left overwhelmed and disheartened because they believe they have tidied up and organised, but before they know it they live in the chaos that they had before, because they haven’t made the conscious commitment to live with less and to declutter. Yet before we get into an argument about that, let’s look at the difference.



When you organise your possessions you sort, group, and arrange all of them in such a way that it is easy to retrieve them. You can easily straighten out a cupboard in a couple of hours, by putting like with like, colour coding, containerising. Folding items carefully and stacking them neatly, giving you the “aha” moment every time you open your cupboards. Papers are sorted into categories, filed in files or folders and arranged neatly on shelves. This an organiser can do without you being around.

Organising without decluttering is temporary because we just have and keep too much stuff!

I have to smile every time I see large container stores stating, ”organise your life”, almost as though buying containers will do it all for you. I do not claim that containers do not make life easier when organising your space, it will make access to the stuff you keep easier in some cases, but really organise your life, only you can do.


When you declutter you remove unnecessary items from an untidy or overcrowded place. Whether you donate, sell or toss them, they are gone for good. It is a very emotional process as you need to let go of items you paid money for, you were given, you feel you might need again and won’t find it. Here the assistance from an objective person like a friend or Professional organiser can be of great benefit to nudge you in the right direction.  You need to touch every single item and make a decision, if you love it enough to allow it a space in your home or office, if it is useful or beautiful, or as Marie Kondo says, “Spark joy”, keep it.

Decluttering is permanent, you remove all the unnecessary items, you are left with less stuff freeing up physical and mental space, making your home more comfortable and easier to manage. What you keep in your space is what you love and what you use. No need to clean, maintain and tidy the stuff you no longer need, it’s gone! Most of us function better with less, with clear lines and space.

Once you have decluttered, you see what you have and can plan how to organise your possessions. Create systems to help you to easily access and put away your stuff in the future.

So where does the cleaning come in?

There is a vast difference between a professional organiser and a cleaner. A domestic cleans the surface areas, puts stuff back where she finds it and unfortunately if she doesn’t know where to put things, it gets shoved into cupboards, drawers and containers where they don’t belong, causing chaos again.

Having a clean house doesn’t mean that it and your life is organised.

How to get a lasting effect for your organising efforts?

  • Decide why it is important to you to change the way you live now. Is your home in such a mess that you no longer want to receive guests or do you spend every free moment tidying up after everyone else?
  • Be realistic don’t bite off more than you can chew. The house has taken time to become the way it is and won’t be fixed in a couple of hours. Clear out one shelf, one drawer at a time.
  • Declutter first then organise. Be decisive. The fewer possessions you have the less time you’ll need to organise.
  • Get the buy in from everyone involved, set the example. It’s no use you expecting the kids to put their clothes into the laundry basket and you don’t.
  • Manage your domestics and au-pairs. If you don’t tell them what you expect of them, why things are kept in a certain place and follow up, things will dissolve into a mess again.
  • Create logical systems – this is the part of the process where organising tools come to play; new furniture, extra shelves, files, containers, hooks and drawer dividers are installed. Each individual is different in the way that they live and work. This is where one needs to think out of the box, to be creative and implement systems that save you time and money, in that you have everything in its place and a place for everything.
  • Create good habits to align with the change that you want. A habit is an action that you perform without realising it, but feel uncomfortable when you don’t do it.  It serves no purpose you tidying up, but nothing is ever returned to the place where it belongs. Dishes are left lying around, clothes are pulled out of the closet if you can’t find what you are looking for and the expectation that someone else will tidy up after you is one of the major problems.
  • Complete every action, e.g. when you prepare food, cook or eat, washing up and packing everything away is part of the activity. Leave the space neat and tidy as it was when you started.
  • Turn these habits into routines that become part of who you and the people around you are to enable you to have an organised home or office.
  • Don’t buy containers before you know what needs to be containerised and measure up the space where you want to place the containers to avoid unnecessary expense.
  • Do not rent storage for your overflow. What you don’t see, you don’t need.
  • Good is enough – Accept the fact that there are people living in the space and occasional tweaking will be necessary. Don’t declutter so much that your house is an empty space with no feeling and people cannot live in it as you overreact every time things go wrong.

Maintain the order that you have created and stop accumulating new possessions. Follow the one in one out principle

This is not a one time deal, once you have bought into living with less and being organised, it needs to become part of your life. Constant maintenance and management of your space will be necessary to remain on top of things to keep a tidy home.

Wishing you patience whilst organising and decluttering your space and if you don’t get it done, book a session in the new year to get the assistance that you need. A professional organiser will declutter with you, clean the cupboards and the containers that are used and then implement systems, containerise your possessions into the areas where they will be housed for their most effective use.

Heidi Meyer

Professional Organiser