Decluttering & Organizing Fundamentals: A Manifesto

To me the goal of organizing is to create a functional and beautiful space that allows its occupants and guests alike to focus on what is most important. These are the ten tenets I follow to achieve this ideal.

  1. Declutter first, organize second: Don’t waste time organizing things you don’t need and buying products you won’t end up using. First step is a thorough decluttering.

  2. Declutter by category: This way you can take inventory of everything you have including possible duplicates and excess. Start with general categories like clothing, kitchen or bathroom and then get more granular from there. All sweaters, all socks, all utensils, all food storage containers, etc.

  3. Store like with like: Resist the impulse to spread items of the same type throughout the house and instead aim to store all your books in one bookcase, all your extra bedding in one closet, all your paperwork in one filing cabinet. It’s easier to keep track of what you have this way and will put some checks on consumption habits.

  4. Respect the limitations of your space: My rule of thumb is that the contents of any container should not exceed 80% full. No one wants drawers that are so crammed full of of stuff that they are hard to open. Plus it’s easier on the eyes and calmer on the brain.

  5. Most used most accessible, least used least accessible: Pretty simple. Store things you use often in easy to access places such as eye-level shelves. Things you rarely use can be stored on upper shelves or towards the back of closets. Ideally, you can pare your belongings down so that most everything is stored in easily accessible places. Under bed storage should be a last resort.

  6. Donate or sell the stuff you don’t use or love: Take the time to find a new home for the items you decide to let go of either through donating to a charity, giving away to a friend or resale. However, be aware that the world is generally not lacking in used stuff especially not clothing. Only 20% of the used clothing Americans donate is sold in the U.S., most is shipped overseas to developing countries where is wreaks havoc on local economies. Leading us to the next rule.

  7. Buy less and focus on quality: Try your best to purchase the best quality clothing and home goods that you will use for years to come. Even better, buy used.

  8. Shop your house for organization tools: Before going out to purchase new bins and tools, see what containers you already have that can be repurposed. I try to use products made from non-plastic, natural materials whenever it makes sense. Better for the earth and usually better looking to boot.

  9. Everything has a home: Every item you own should have a specific place where it belongs. Habits and routines such as doing a quick sweep before bed to return everything to its proper place make it easier to maintain your newly organized space and to find what you need when you need it

  10. Focus on the things you love: Let the objects that mean the most to you take center stage. Organizing should be functional, the goal being to create a relaxing and inviting home rather than one that is obsessively ordered and sterile.