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The Secret to Getting Organized

by | Dec 30, 2014 | feature, Organization

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The Secret to Getting Organized

Recently my daughter and I went through my laundry room linen closet and removed everything we didn’t need or use anymore. I was amazed (and mortified!) by how much stuff was in there just taking up space! We got rid of about six garbage bags of miscellaneous old flat lifeless pillows and grungy old linens! Yikes! Why in the world was I keeping all that stuff?

But the other surprise was how many usable things we had, when I thought I was probably in need of new linens! I bought a few new pillows and a couple of new blankets for extra guests to use over the holidays, but we already had way more sheets and pillowcases than I realized. I just couldn’t tell what we had because our closet was too stuffed!

Here’s the real secret to getting organized:

When we feel overwhelmed and think we need to get better organized, usually what we really need to do first is declutter.

The less we have, the easier it is to find what we need.

The less we have, the less time we will spend maintaining and cleaning things.

The less we have, the less money we will spend buying new things we don’t need that will end up cluttering up our closets and cabinets even more.

The less we have, the more we will enjoy what we do have.

The less we have, the less “organizing” we actually have to do.

So while it’s probably the least fun part of organizing and the most stressful, decluttering is really the most rewarding and important step of all.

The Secret to Getting Organized

Ready to get started? Find my Decluttering Calendar and simple tips to get started!

Be sure to check out my books on organizing!

The Secret to Getting Organized

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The Secret to Getting Organized

Make Room for What You Love {Your Essential Guide to Organizing and Simplifying}. Order Make Room for What You Love at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

What types of clutter most overwhelms you in your home?


  1. Lisa

    I love organizing and digging out after Christmas at the beginning of January. It just makes me feel refreshed. I was teased today in the stores by all the bins and baskets for organizing but then that would be more stuff…

  2. Kim Schuman

    I have a real small craft room that drives me crazy!

  3. Dawn @ My Home Sweet Home

    My most overwhelming clutter is off season and outgrown kids’ clothes that somehow make it into our bedroom. Also paperwork that I don’t organize well.

  4. Kimberly Montgomery

    I can really identify with the “power of de-cluttering”. My husband I recently downsized from a house (4 BR) to a 1 BR apartment. He and I have consciously been trying to “reduce our footprint”. We had spent several months (before we decided to sell) donating items that we don’t use or can’t wear…we both really agree with you: The less you have the easier it is to find what you have. Hard to believe that I still have more stuff to go through and donate.

  5. Robyn

    I always feel better after a linen closet cleaning and even more happy when the bags I’m getting rid of go to the animal shelter! Animal shelters can always use bedding and towels.

  6. Jessica Adam

    I totally agree! For me, the biggest clutter feeder is all that stuff that kids accumulate. Drawings, papers, notes they wrote you, trinkets, etc. one thing I’m doing this year is taking photos of artwork and making each kid a photo book….then I’m THROWING THEM AWAY. I’ll keep the most important pieces, but the rest will be gone!

    • Michele

      Try to keep 1 or 2 pieces from each school year. Set aside a box for each child & save until they have kids or are “older”. My aunt did this for me, mom tossed everything. @ 40 this was such a special gift from my aunt. If I had children I would have shared my box opening with them!


    I feel weird throwing away old pillows, blanket s, comforters etc. In the regular trash. Can they be recycled someplace? I really don’t want to bring big queen size stuff to the animal shelter.

    • Laura

      Our men’s shelter welcomes old pillows, blankets, sheets, towels and even (kinda gross…but better than filling the dump) discarded undergarments and socks!!! They also appreciate travel packs of toothbrushes =0)

    • Celeste

      Many larger or well known donation sites (such as salvation army or goodwill) will recycle those linen items that are not in good enough condition to resell. A local charity near our small town that has a thrift store to raise money has an empty trailer out back where they place clothes, shoes, purses and other linens to sell to a textile recycling company when the trailer is full.

  8. Lisa

    paper! it’s the worst.

  9. Chris

    For me it is paper stuff. I always seem to accumulate so much of it. It’s always so freeing to finally clean it up and throw out the old papers.

  10. Lenora

    Boxes of papers

  11. sandyc

    Perfect timing for me in every way. Didn’t realize my Christmas gift to myself was the acquisition of a great knotty pine TV armoire and my brilliant brother in Missouri gifted me with the plans, instruction and guidance to retrofit the cabinet so that all my computer equipment, two printers and all neatly coiled cable are now finally behind closed doors on top and I have several drawers and room for storage on the bottom. Next step is to ditch my 10-year-old professional office furniture with cherry tops and clunky putty bases with modesty panels for white and light table/desks with no junky storage underneath since I have an open office. Have identified all available storage nooks so my New Year’s and weekend activity will be gathering together, sorting, eliminating and rehousing a lot of stuff. I’ll be thinking of you, Melissa, while I’m doing the job but also I’ll be thanking you for your always warm and lighthearted inspiration. Happy New Year!

    • Carolyn

      That sounds wonderful!

  12. kc obrien

    Hi Melissa! I had written on your instagram the other night and came over tonight to view some of your blog;) I love this post and it’s funny because I’m reading a great book right now called “Essentialism” and it’s about just that, less is more! totally agree:) Hope you and your daughter have a bright new year – best wishes!

  13. Joan

    Paper. Definitely paper. It multiplies in the dark. My goal is more order…..a lot more order in this area.

  14. Joan

    By the way, people at the animal shelters will cut up queen sized linens, blankets, etc. into appropriate sized pieces for those dear animals to use.

  15. eileen marie


  16. Kelsey

    It’s the paper clutter that gets me! School handouts, classroom papers, mail, bills, receipts, cards….ack! It piles in so quickly! Good news is that we decided this is the time to really get the garage organized. Today was day 1. Empty, sort, sweep, begin building shelves. We are on the right track! You post was right on with the declutter theory.

  17. Stacie

    I am completely overwhelmed by children’s toy clutter. I have three small boys, so there are little “things” everywhere, and half the time I can’t tell if they actually go with a toy or are broken and can be tossed or what. I’m trying to just get rid of a lot of this junk now while the kids are distracted by new Christmas toys (most of which were Legos, which also drive me insane but at least I can tell what they are and where they go!).

    • Deana

      Stacie- I feel your pain. Legos are the arch enemy in my house too!

      • Leesha

        My friend keeps her lego on a big sheet inside a box, when the kids want the lego they pull the sheet out (by the corners to make sure it does not spill everywhere) and the rules are the lego stays on the sheet, then to pack up she picks up the corners and puts the whole lot back in the box, no little lego bits on the floor, seems to have worked for her for years. HTH :)

  18. Colleen

    I’ve been de-cluttering for weeks. We are planning on selling our sweet, charming, fully renovated home, which I’m broken hearted about. In this process, I’ve duscovered that I’ve had a hard time parting with my daughter’s artwork, and elementary schoolwork. She will leave for college next fall, and I’m already mourning the loss of her childhood, and my full time parenting. This has been so very hard, but necessary.

    • Wendy H

      I was the same way. I laid out all the art work and took pictures of it and now I put them in a photo album along with any other items I’ve collected over the years. The only thing I saved was some special cards they made me I keep them in a special box

      • Carol S.

        What a great idea about the pictures! Wendy I’m going to do that with some things that have been hanging around! Colleen, I know how you feel…..for some reason moving on leaves me with a great sense of loss. It will pass, and soon you’ll be excited about the new house and the new things ahead of you. Best of luck to you.

        If I may offer another suggestion: I have scores of old family photographs (going back to the 1800s), as well as tons of digital photos that are very meaningful to me. I’m going to scan the physical photos (which will allow me to color-correct and restore the very old ones in Photoshop before they fade away), then put everything on CD or DVD for storage, in case my computer goes wonky. Also, I’ll duplicate these and store in a separate location (like work), just in case. The other thing–scan all your important papers, like birth certificate, bank info, credit cards, house deed, car title, insurance policies, passport–all the things that may be hard (or even just annoying) to replace–then store the originals in a safe deposit box.

  19. J.Lee

    Paper and electronic device/wire clutter- only my husband’s things, mainly. Most of my things are sorted but he’d prefer to save everything.

  20. Wendy H

    Just before the winter I tackled my basement. We want to refinish this area so I said to my husband we must clean it first & I need your help. A lot of it was his stuff and I didn’t want to throw anything out that he may have wanted to keep. Well, after weeks of asking I put ” clean basement” on his schedule for a Saturday so he had no more excuses! It got a little over whelming at times with all the piles, but in the end I can now find everything I needed for the winter. And now it makes it so much easier to start the ” mud room project”

  21. Terry

    I just decluttered our small linen closet to make room for new towels and surprisingly removed three trash bags full: one for Goodwill, one for trash, and one for the tub of rags my husband keeps in the garage.

    The clutter that most overwhelms me is PAPER. This past year it really seems to have gotten out of control.

    Happy New Year!

  22. Deana

    My kids toys overwhelm me. We don’t have a designated playroom. When I mention to them we should donate some of their old toys to kids who don’t have toys they freak out. But yet I could go & take some away and they prob wouldn’t notice. Legos are my arch enemy!

  23. Laura

    For me – it’s everybody’s “memories”…scrapbooks, photo albums, photos in boxes, keepsakes….from our children, us, and both sets of parents!!! What to do with all these “treasures”….just overwhelms me and leaves no room for new memories!

  24. Kris

    ALL the clutter bothers me! I’m holding out to do a massive declutter until the spring for a garage sale during our village wide garage sale weekend. I am doing mini decluttering this week though. Things I don’t want to bother with at the garage sale. So many toys to go through!
    I have to wonder how much actually goes out on the floor at thrift stores this time of year. I wonder how much goes in a dumpster.

  25. Marilyn

    Mail and catalogs are the worst clutter, it ends up on the kitchen table and just sits. (I told my husband that all I wanted for Christmas was for him to clear off the table.) I tried organizing the mail with trays hidden in one of the kitchen cabinets. I guess I need to declutter them!

  26. Colleen Long

    We have 2 bedrooms that have become “store rooms”. Not to mention our basement AND my closet.
    It is SO overwhelming that I don’t even know where to begin.
    Any suggestions would be most helpful….

  27. Susan Wilson

    Hi! I so enjoy your blog and just had to post. When I saw the title of this post, The Secret to Being Organized, immediately this mantra popped into my mind: I can’t organize clutter.
    Hope your day goes well. Keep up the good work.

  28. Shannon

    Missed this yesterday and just commented on today’s post but honestly – its kitchy home decor stuff that I see working so well in other people’s homes. I rush out to get the “in” thing and realize its not me/my family/my home and into the “decor” closet it goes……womp-womp. That and stuff other people give me that again doesn’t fit “us.” Making a huge effort this year to cull all that and find our signatures so that I’m freed up to explore life.

  29. Denise Smith

    When I was about 35 or so, my mother gave me a big brown envelope filled with a sampling of my schoolwork and artwork. It was about the time that my first child was starting school, and it meant the world to me. There was a slightly yellowed piece of handwriting paper where I had practiced learning to write my name in the first grade. I don’t think a photograph of that would have been quite the same. I’m not one to save a lot of sentimental stuff, but I made similar envelopes for my two children and I think they’ll be thrilled one day to receive them.

  30. Judy

    I enjoy decluttering and getting rid of stuff that takes up space. It always makes me feel so accomplished when I can cart off a ton of stuff and have room to see what I do have!

  31. Sheila S

    Weighing in late here but I’ve got to call out paper as my nemesis. Totally out of control.

  32. Jo Scott

    My daughters used to say I make lists just to get the pleasure of crossing things off!
    So, yesterday I made a list for every room, closet, bath and porch and I am going to purge and organize and cross off.
    Husband, consider this your notification.

  33. Tricia

    I have trouble organizing my garage. To much stuff to go through. I don’t know where to start.

  34. Tara Myers

    Your input is always great. I’ve marked down 2 of your books to buy. I may have already given my Crystaljewelryby Tara [email protected] but figured this didn’t fall into my jewelry category. I desperately need to declutter my home & I think you may be my answer. Thanks for sharing all of your great advice :)

  35. Colleen Long

    I did not read that post…



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