Wow…these are some of my favorite words (and things to do!) I think I’m going to like this post.

Speaking of this post, what’s it really all about? Well, I thought it would be fun to explore these three words and see what we all think they mean. See I’ve been pondering this lately. Are organizing and decluttering the same thing? And if not, what is the difference between the two. And then, I saw this from Tiffany, a fellow professional organizer, in response to my interview with Julie Morgenstern. Tiffany said she “found it interesting that she (Julie) defines organizing and decluttering as two different things.”

I have to agree with Tiffany…and also with Julie. I think that decluttering and organizing are two different things, but I’ve never yet organized a space that didn’t also need to be decluttered. Perhaps it’s a regional thing. Julie lives in New York City where space is more at a premium than here in the Midwest where garages and attics (clutter breading grounds) are very common.

So here are my thoughts on these three lovely words—declutter, organize and store. (And of course I share this because I’d love to know yours. In your mind are organizing and decluttering the same thing, different things, or a subset of the same process?)

To me, the process of decluttering is to eliminate clutter. Brilliant, right? So what is clutter? Well, here’s how I defined it in Quick and Simple Clutter control.

In my mind, clutter is all about intention. When clutter is present, our intention for our stuff is out of whack with reality. If we intend for our desk to be neat and tidy, and yet it is covered with papers that don’t really belong there, we have clutter. If we intend for our rooms to have breathing room, and yet we have them crammed to the gills with stuff, we have clutter. If we intend to get a project done, and it isn’t done; it is clutter. If we aren’t sure why the light bulbs are stored under the bathroom sink, they are placed in the bathroom unintentionally, and therefore they feel like clutter! If our most cherished possessions, like photos and memorabilia are crammed into a cardboard box in the basement, we have clutter.

This is why a space that feels cozy and warm to one person, can feel cluttered and chaotic to another. It is all about intention.

In a nutshell, my definition of clutter is unintentional stuff. The result of living in a way that is out of whack with your intentions, or living with clutter, is stress.

So decluttering is about getting back into our comfort zones. It’s about becoming intentional about what stuff is in our homes (those things we use, need and love) and also becoming intentional about what things belong where in our homes.

Which leads me to the next term—organize.  In my mind, the process of organizing includes decluttering as a very important step in the process—eliminating things we no longer use, need or love, or getting things back to where they belong. In most of the spaces I have organized, my own home and clients’ homes, there was always an opportunity to rethink what items belong in the space and which things don’t. In other words, there was always an opportunity to declutter. Once that decision-making is done, then the items that remain are organized. This involves grouping together like things and placing them within the space in a way that makes them easy to use, see and put away.

So what is storage? Storage is the thing that contains the stuff we organized. (Pardon all the technical jargon.) Storage can be bookcases, shelves, bins, boxes, baskets, and of course buckets, to name just a few. And in my mind, figuring out the best storage solution or system is an important part of the organizing process.

What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Care ;)?

Have a great weekend! My Mom is coming to town, so I’ll catch up with you all next week!

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Aby Garvey is a creative organizing expert and simplify 101’s founder. She has created 14 online organizing classes, which she has been teaching since 2007, helping thousands of people around the world get organized. Aby loves to help people create positive change in their lives through her online classes and organizing eBooks.

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