Organization versus Clutter


I read this quote a few weeks ago and it resonated with me. And now I can’t find it, nor do I know who first said it, but I’ll share the notion here.

It’s not an organization problem, it’s a stuff problem.

Or in other words, it’s not that you aren’t organized, it’s that you have too much useless stuff that you should probably get rid of.

I know minimalism is trendy, and there are true minimalist people, and then those who are borderline minimalist, and then those who are like “but 34 tubes of lipstick IS MINIMAL compared to my usual 76”.

When Justin and I had our roof redone, and through a series of very poorly thought out events when our roofers thought it would be wise to remove the shingles on a 80% chance of thunderstorm day which led to our entire attic getting flooded and then in the end they also charged us for things they lied about doing and in general it was a rather frustration experience and I learned that I really, deeply hate being taken advantage of. . .  we cleaned out the attic. We had to in order to get the floor fixed so we moved everything in our attic right into my office. I had 1 narrow walkway to navigate in my office for about 2 weeks or so, then we moved it all back in. And MAN DID WE PURGE. Like, why did we move so much junk over from the townhouse?!

Anyway, that kick started this feeling of being bogged down by the volume of stuff here that I don’t care about. And I repeatedly become exasperated at the fact that I’m just not organized and I can’t keep up with everything I need to keep organized around the house, but I actually don’t think that’s the problem.

I think it’s a stuff problem. And a buying problem, if I’m being really honest. When I get in the mood to redecorate, off to Target I go. And truly, I could probably rig something up pretty similar with items I already have if I took a minute to shop around my house a bit first. And if I had less stuff, and only focused on items that were important to me, or significant in some way, then it wouldn’t feel so suffocating to peek into that hall closet, and look through the baskets in the command center.

I’m not a big resolution person, but I really want to be more mindful about what I buy for my home this year. My office is one specific area that gets out of hand with a quickness.

It’s not set up in an ideal way, but that’s something I can work around, and it’s also a holding place for products I need to try, or projects I’m working on that need a little more attention. It’s not unusual to see a few different vignettes set up of products I need to shoot that I’m just waiting for the right light for. So I leave them on the floor until my next work day.

Justin is a pile-maker, like I am, but he applies value to so many more things than I do. Like, very insiginficant things in my mind may sometimes mean a lot to him. I tread those waters carefully as I don’t want to downplay his feelings, but I also want to help him feel good about his “places” in the house too.

I’ve already tackled a few closets this year, and even created an organizing space in a high-traffic area of our house that you’ll see soon. It feels good to make even small changes, and I hope I can stay on top of it this year!

Excited about getting organized for 2017? Check out my organized office closet and my favorite 2017 calendars to help you stay on top of your schedule!

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Comments (56)

  1. Rachele says
    Posted January 31, 2017

    If I’m being totally honest, your post hit me a couple ways.

    Way one…YES YES YES!!! You’re right on. I’ve been purging and it feels so good.

    Way two…it really helped me verbalize why my angst towards bloggers, or should I say influencers, grows on a daily basis.

    Most bloggers got famous by showcasing the things that they know how to do. Usually on a budget. It was such a pleasure to learn to do more with less. So refreshing from magazines that just advertised me to death.

    Then the companies’ marketing teams got a hold of most of you, and now it’s all about stuff. Click here, buy this. Look at what I have….don’t you want it too?

    So while I totally feel you in this post, I kinda feel like it is in direct conflict with how you’ve rebranded.

    I say this with peace and love.

    • Kate says
      Posted January 31, 2017

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I still feel like I’m sharing my knowledge of things in the beauty realm, but will fully admit after 5 years of hair tutorials and makeup tutorials, the “how to” content has slowed down. I don’t want to just regurgitate existing content, and there’s only so many ways to pull your hair up 🙂
      My sharing items I have is always as a means to help ( hey, this is a great t-shirt! or this product helped my skin with ___ problem ). While I choose what content to put on the site, the reader must choose how to receive it. My enthusiasm about a certain product is never intended to be pushy or “salesy” — it’s purely enthusiasm!
      Again, thanks for your thoughts. I hear a lot of comments like this that are extremely hateful and unfair, so I’m grateful that you were respectful!

      • Karly says
        Posted January 31, 2017

        I have to agree in so many ways!!!!! Your right on! No other words needed. LOL! 🙂

    • Sarah O says
      Posted January 31, 2017

      I agree with you, which is why Kate is the only blogger I follow. It is all too much look at me! Be more like me! Ugh

  2. Posted January 31, 2017

    I’m feeling the same way in my house. For so long I was able to put things in places, but more things kept coming in and the places or “piles” were just getting out of hand because we just have too much stuff. Part of my desire to simplify things this year is trying to get my house paired down as well. We have an office that we just throw everything in when we don’t know what to do with it and a closet full of bins that we never unpacked from when we moved in three years ago. So, I’ve purged some and need to do more but even the little I’ve done has been gratifying. I’ve also tried to be a lot more intentional in my purchases and not to just buy things on a whim, like I’m known for.

  3. Mara says
    Posted January 31, 2017

    Way to go!!

  4. Candice says
    Posted January 31, 2017

    I have done so much clean outs and oraganising for this year just got rid of so many old things

    Candice | Beauty Candy Loves

  5. Brittney says
    Posted January 31, 2017

    This was such a transparent post 🙂 I commend you for being so open to your readers and for setting an example that we can look at our own lives and consider patterns or habits that we could tweak to make our daily routine more life giving. Have a great work week Kate!

  6. Sophie says
    Posted January 31, 2017

    I tackled my room this past weekend. It felt great to clean it out.

  7. Kristen says
    Posted January 31, 2017

    We moved a little over a year ago. Our former house we had been in for 20 years! So we did a major purge! It started with the sale of our house. The realtor staged it and so I had to pack up all my “things” that were decorating our home. Needless to say my family loved how clean the house was with so much less stuff. It was so true and such a huge eye opener for me. Now in our current home Im much more aware of what I keep or put out. Simple is clean and if I want to buy new things cause of course theres those target or home goods shopping trips that you cant resist its time to donate or give away! I never want to go back to having to much stuff!!!

  8. Judy Johnson says
    Posted January 31, 2017

    I am in the process of decluttering our home of the stuff we have collected for almost 35 years. We redid our son’s bathroom, added new wood floors and restrained the old woods floors and finished our six months of construction with re-carpeting the whole house!

    There has been stuff everywhere! And most of it was in a drawer, cabinet, desk or closet!!! I am just now getting the last few items that made their way to the basement during our construction back to where they belong. WHEW!

    My goal this year is to use what I have. As I have organized my stufff better at the beginning of the year, I am amazed that I have enough shower gel, lotions, night cream, nail polishes and candles to definitely see the ball drop in 2018!

    And finding other rooms in the house to repurpose old family photos, whimsical signs and all those candles I need to use has made me appreciate my home and what I already have so much more!

    So here is to a year of decluttering my house so it can reflect how peaceful I feel inside!

    Thanks for your blog. Have a wonderful day!!

  9. Melissa G says
    Posted January 31, 2017

    Honestly, the majority of the time, it’s not organization vs stuff, but organization AND stuff. So many people don’t just have too much stuff, they are disorganized!! Keeping things just to keep them is probably the biggest problem!

    I do also feel most you tubers are “looking to make a buck” when they post items. And although they don’t say “hey you need to go buy this”…well, actually some of them do…they get money from affiliate links, etc. I have, without a doubt, accumulated much more stuff since I started following you tubers/bloggers daily. That’s my own fault. I am very organized, so it’s not a problem on that front, but too much money spent when it maybe could have gone to something more productive. I’ve turned my focus on YouTube to the ones who DO something I can learn from instead of the ones that PRESENT something I end up wanting to buy!

  10. Lauren says
    Posted January 31, 2017

    I’m working on decluttering my house too! I had the same that that the reason I can’t keep things organized around my home is simply because we have too much stuff. And it’s so true, esp with two small kids. I’ve already donated two loads of things we don’t use. Definitely one of my goals this year is to bring less stuff into my home and to keep getting rid of things we don’t use!

  11. riley says
    Posted January 31, 2017

    You are growing up. 🙂

  12. Sydni says
    Posted January 31, 2017

    You should read The Life‑Changing Magic of Tidying Up – the principles are very similar to what you’ve just said. I think it would help you stay motivated to only buy & keep what you love! (I feel SO much better about my home & possessions since doing it!)

  13. Susan says
    Posted January 31, 2017

    I have been moving toward a “minimal” lifestyle for the last year or so. I don’t think I will ever get to the crazy minimalist stage…but purging is like a drug high for me! Once the stuff has actually left my house (instead of just being put in a corner waiting to be donated), I just feel so much lighter!

    The hardest part right now is that I have a few plastic tubs full of “containers” that I don’t want to get rid of until I’ve purged completely. Because those containers may come in handy for some of the things I’ve chosen to keep, and rather than go out and spend MORE money on something I already own. So it will be a good day when I can get to the point of getting rid of all of those as well!

  14. Courtney B says
    Posted January 31, 2017

    Yes! I relate to this so much! I’m always complaining that our house is too small with too little closet space but the truth is, it’s my fault all the closets are so full!
    I’m making more of a conscious effort this year to think about my purchases and decide my motives for buying. Am I purchasing because I love it and can’t life without it? Or am I purchasing because it’s on sale and I feel I need to take advantage of the deal?
    It’s nice to know I’m not alone.

    • Natalie says
      Posted January 31, 2017

      I can soooo relate to this! We do live in a small home, ( 2 bedrooms, 1 1/2 bath, and a tiiiiny closet in each bedroom) but it is up to me to decide what stays and what goes. Instead of getting frustrated and grouchy with my husband and boys I have just started packing up boxes of toys that aren’t played with and selling them on Facebook. No one has missed a single thing.

  15. Jodi White says
    Posted January 31, 2017

    The eye-opener for us was having to deal with mountains of STUFF when my mother-in-law passed away. It hit us that so many of the things we hold onto are basically just sitting in a closet waiting for our daughters to have to deal with. We haven’t finished our purging yet, but we now view the stuff (that we don’t actually use) as a burden and not treasured items. And, while I don’t agree with finding joy in things, I do like the Marie Kondo books on tidying.

    • Jodi White says
      Posted January 31, 2017

      I should clarify I don’t think our joy should come from things, not that I don’t find it at all. 🙂

  16. Mia says
    Posted January 31, 2017

    Yay for declutter and organization! That is also a goal for my husband and I – he’s like Justin and assigns emotional attachment to lots of different things around the house! Good guy that he is though, he humored me with cleaning out our closets and came with me to the homeless shelter where were were able to donate over 100 lbs of winter clothing. It was such an uplifting experience for him, he’s now fully onboard! Rest of the house – here we come!! 😉

  17. Mary says
    Posted January 31, 2017

    This might seem unrelated, but something that has really curbed my spending is budgeting everything single thing I will spend money on at the beginning of the month. When my husband first brought this up I thought it was impossible (and limiting to me free spending. Ha!!). So basically we forecast everything we are spending money on at the beginning of the month and if something comes up within the month that isn’t urgent, I put on my list for the next month. When the next month comes I review my list, and sometimes end up deleting things that really weren’t necessary or could be moved to the following month. It’s been so impactful in many ways, including saving :).

    • Michelle says
      Posted November 2, 2017

      Excellent idea. My husband will retire soon so good advice!

  18. Jessica says
    Posted January 31, 2017

    This was spot on! I have always had clutter, too many clothes, too much makeup, unnecessary kitchen utensils etc and it causes me complete anxiety. I need to just close my eyes and pitch it but instead of diving in head first I make excuses and don’t do it and just go shopping instead! Lately it’s for bins to organize! I’m not a hoarder or anything but “stuff” causes way too much stress. 😏

  19. Posted January 31, 2017

    We have been trying to de-clutter as much as possible and realized we have so much STUFF! Definitely time to get organized after reading this!

  20. Amanda Good says
    Posted January 31, 2017

    It’s a fact, more stuff makes me feel unhappy and guilty. I take more time to tidy up and put away = less time for fun and quality family time. I’m clearing my drawers and cupboards for our village jumble sale in a few weeks; time for someone else to enjoy it😀

  21. Posted January 31, 2017

    One of my resolutions for this new year was to reorganize everything and get rid of all the things that i don’t use. I think sometimes this really gets over board and it really does not take a lot of time to reorganize everything. there must be a will and your post today really gave me some push top begin 🙂

  22. Christina says
    Posted January 31, 2017

    I so appreciated this post!!! i love when you open yourself up and let us see a little more into who you are, personal growth, etc.

    I am pretty minimal and selective with not only what i allow into my home as far as home decor, beauty products, etc… but also for my children… i limit the amount of stuff they have (gifts from others, toys we buy) and it helps keep me sane. I try to emphasize to family that we would rather receive a zoo membership as a birthday gift than a huge box of legos.

    for me anyway, life with less stuff seems to hold more meaning.

  23. Kim says
    Posted January 31, 2017

    This is so true! I moved a couple weeks ago and we got rid/donated SO MUCH STUFF! You don’t even realize how much you have sometimes

    Kim .. LAYERS!

  24. Lauren S says
    Posted January 31, 2017

    Ugh, girl I hear you! Some days I want to walk around the house and throw EVERYTHING out.

  25. Tara Edwards says
    Posted January 31, 2017

    Kate, you have to read this book: “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. She is a little extreme but she walks you through getting rid of things that do not bring you JOY. It really opened up my eyes and I went from having my clothes in every room of my house, to moving all my clothing items (except coats) to my room. Let me know if you read it! I didn’t follow ALL of her steps, so I am staring to see myself rebound to lots of stuff. However, I plan to re-read this and apply it to my life again.

  26. Lauren says
    Posted January 31, 2017

    KonMari! Seriously I just listened to the audio book of Marie Kondo’s first book and while some things I rolled my eyes at when I actually applied her thinking while I sorted through stuff it really worked and helped me release all the things, and helped me say no to buying stuff at the store!

  27. Emily says
    Posted January 31, 2017

    Love this post! I can totally relate. Over the last year I’ve done a lot of reading on minimalism (including watching the documentary by the Minimalists – check it out!) as I often feel like I’m drowning in “stuff” that I’m holding on to for no real reason at all. I would really like to embrace the concept of minimalism, within reason. I think it can be widely defined and applied differently from person to person but the general concept of less is more, I couldn’t agree more with. This year for gifts, I’m focusing experiences for friends and family members (and with them if possible!) as opposed to a tangible gift that they don’t need or have a big want for. I love reading your blog. Thanks so much for sharing!

  28. Shawn says
    Posted January 31, 2017

    Great post, Kate! My question usually is, “what do I do with this ‘stuff’? Or where do I donate it?” I sometimes want to start posting “take this for free” on my social media, because I can’t stand throwing things away. I also have a hard time believing that second hand stores really benefit from all my purged junk. I am a bit of a control freak in the fact that “yes I will get rid of that but I want it to be put to the best use with someone else!” Can any one else relate?

    • Angela says
      Posted January 31, 2017

      Yes and YES!!! My sister was cleaning out her new home and decided one day to just call 1-800-JUNK to pick up the random stuff she had lying around, including an old sofa, old mini blinds since she had custom shades installed, old papers, computers, artwork from college, etc. She was so concerned about where it went that it never found a place. She didn’t feel comfortable having strangers in her home or in front of her home to buy her old stuff. Her stuff was holding her hostage. Just let it go, you will feel better! It doesn’t matter where it ends up.

  29. Angela says
    Posted January 31, 2017

    Hi! I’m wondering if you are starting to feel more like this with the addition of your two boys. I say this because I have two small kiddos, my son is three and my daughter will be one next month and I recently feel so panicky when it comes to the status of my home. It seems like stuff is everywhere, although I feel very minimalist compared to everyone else. The problem starts with the excessive gifting from friends and family, the innocent target runs, and the just generally feeling like you must have xyz for your home. Like for example, your friend gifts you two boxes of clothes for the kids (yay hand me downs, but really do you need it), or the curtains for your dining room, but do you even really like curtains? This happens all the time and since everyone is so busy working and taking care of their kids, and just simply living, you don’t have time to deal with the influx of stuff. I wish it would stop already. My suggestion is take one day at time and deal with anything that comes in. And just say no.

    One of my coworkers brought me a few magazines to read a few months ago, and I said, thank you but I subscribe to an online magazine and don’t have time to read anything else. It seemed kind of abrupt but I knew I had to say something or I’d be getting them all the time.

    So good luck to you and may the force be with you! : )

    • riley says
      Posted February 1, 2017

      There is no reason for some else’s junk to become YOUR problem. Learn to say, “Thanks but no”. When they give you stuff like that, they’re actually being very clever: it’s out of their hair, and they didn’t have to feel guilty about having thrown something in the trash. Instead, they’ve moved their trash to your house.

      • riley says
        Posted February 1, 2017

        I forgot to add that I’ve never liked the term “gifted or gifting”. They’ve not given you a gift. All they’ve really done is dump their trash onto you.

        • riley says
          Posted February 1, 2017

          If you ever notice, whenever you read that something has been “gifted”–it’s always something that someone already had (that they don’t want any more) that is being dumped on someone else.

          • Angela says
            Posted February 2, 2017

            Completely agree 100%!!!!

  30. Meagan says
    Posted January 31, 2017

    When we moved houses last year, we purged three pick-up trucks full…and that was just to the dump, never mind things we donated. It made me feel ill that we had that much stuff laying around that was taking up precious physical and mental space in our home and lives. The KonMari method saved my sanity and I rave about it to anyone that will listen. We are getting our basement finished and we have to purge again and I’m SO PUMPED!! We’ve been much much better in the new place about repurposing things and there’s a sense of accomplishment and resourcefulness that comes from saving money and reusing decor.

    As Oprah said in “What I Know For Sure”, spending and accumulating less makes rooms for more meaningful purchases and acquisitions. SO. TRUE.

  31. Laura says
    Posted January 31, 2017

    We (my husband and I) are two months in on a “no buying” year. Only groceries, toiletries and the essentials. No clothes, house decor, kitchen utensils, and we are LOVING it. It feels so great to say “we will buy that next year.” We have taken many loads to the thrift store and sold items on craigslist and eBay. It feels good to not spend the evening online shopping, reading reviews on Amazon, or organizing our junk. instead we read together or play cards. We have one 18 month old son and after watching him play for a while, I have realized he doesn’t need any toys. Boxes, pillows, rubber bands are some of his faves.

    I will say that this has totally changed the blogs that I read. Post showcasing clothes, home decor aren’t super helpful to our goals. If I see that it’s a “favorite things”, “gift guide” or a sponsored post, I stop reading…and move over to you-tube and type in “minimalist” and watch a video to encourage and re-focus.

    I do love your hair and make up tutorials, so I still check yours regularly:) Excited to see more people are moving towards less.

    • Karen MIles says
      Posted January 31, 2017

      What is an 18 month old doing with rubber bands?!!! Eeek!!

  32. Jennifer says
    Posted January 31, 2017

    I feel EXACTLY the same way. I’ve already made some clothing donations and I’m stockpiling all unwanted items in the basement until we have a yard sale this spring. I cannot wait for that! Best of luck to you!

  33. Kelly says
    Posted January 31, 2017

    Oh my goodness – so true!! I’m moving to a new apartment in a few weeks and while I HATE packing, I’m really looking forward to having to go through ALL my stuff, physically touching everything, and getting rid of some clutter!!

  34. JaNae says
    Posted January 31, 2017

    Check out nourishing She has a challenge…declutter 2017 items in 2017. Such a great challenge and a supportive group on Facebook. I joined it thinking I already purge a lot of stuff, but we are up to 1000 items already! And, my mind feels a lot less cluttered because I’m living with a lot more open space, in drawers, cupboards, closets, kid areas, etc. Great articles on the website as well!!

  35. Katie says
    Posted January 31, 2017

    This resonates with me so much, Kate. I’m just so sick of ‘stuff’. Why do I need so much? What void am I trying to fill? It’s just stuff! Honestly though, I think part of the feeling comes from the constant clutter that is… toddler toys. Unavoidable at best! Someday we will miss these cluttered days!

  36. MJ says
    Posted January 31, 2017

    Yes! I feel the same way. I’ve been decluttering and making a conscious effort not to bring in more stuff! I am not buying any new clothes until April 1. I have enough and will work with what I have (time for creativity!).

  37. Elizabeth says
    Posted January 31, 2017

    Sometimes a buying problem is a budget problem… having a budget (and making it right-sized) can really be freeing!

  38. Yana says
    Posted February 1, 2017

    Hi Kate,

    I have a question, maybe you can make a blog or video about it.

    It is about make-up expiring, I have read that eye makeup should be replaced every few months, especially mascara, and face makeup and lipstick within 12 months.

    I have to say, I do not have a lot of make-up, I have my favorites, which I use almost every day. But I do have some special occasion make-up, which I use maybe 3-5 times a year. They have been laying around for a while.

    What is your view on this, especially because you have quite a collection, do you buy everything new every year?

  39. Susan Jeffries says
    Posted February 1, 2017

    We recently moved to a smaller home and I have been decluttering for months. I am super organized and my husband is not. It has been a process but I feel so much better about our spaces. I would love to see more organization posts and tips!

  40. Posted February 2, 2017

    I recently read ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ by Marie Kondo (it’s a very easy/quick read that you could get through in a day or two!) because we are moving in just a few weeks and I knew I didn’t want to have to move stuff that we just DIDN’T need! And let me tell you, it really was life changing. We purged our entire house in a day (crazy, I know) and got rid of l o a d s of stuff. It truly makes life lighter and easier and happier in the sense that like you said, the feeling of being bogged down my STUFF disappears. It all starts with picking up each object and asking yourself, “does this bring me joy?” — a simple question, but you’ll be amazed at the instant gut reaction you get of either a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ and how quickly and easily it helps you see what you do and don’t need. Highly recommend!!!

  41. Kirsten says
    Posted February 3, 2017

    I am feeling exactly the same way! I am less likely to make impulse purchases when I can see exactly what I have. I am almost addicted to this process of purging out house/belongings. Keep us posted on how it is going 🙂

  42. Elizabeth says
    Posted November 1, 2017

    Love this! I read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo and it had a similar theme–surround yourself with things you truly love, and have a place for all of your things. While I didn’t subscribe to some spiritual elements of the book, the concepts were helpful!

  43. Judi Spears says
    Posted November 1, 2017

    My husband and I downsized 2 years ago. We sold our bigger house to my daughter and her family and we bought their small house and remodeled. We simply do not have extra room. When one new piece come she in; an old piece has Ron say goodbye! Hard for me as a collector of all things, but it has made me focus on just the things I love, and try not to be too attached to my possessions. Still adjusting. ❤️

  44. Deb says
    Posted November 1, 2017

    An ongoing battle but I know my stress level goes down as my organizational skills go up!