For most of my life—at least as far back as I can remember—I’ve had a gift and a passion for organization. From a very young age, I could quickly take a room full of clutter and bring order and structure to it. I could consolidate and rearrange various items to take up far less space and create logical storage placements that made so much more sense than the rooms prior chaotic state.
However, since I was so young and my organizing “clients” consisted solely of my tween friend’s bedrooms and various room in my parent’s house, I was almost never able to purge. I could organize, prioritize, rearrange, regroup, and reorganize to my little heart’s content… but that was usually the extent of my projects.
Fast-forward 10 years and my fresh-out-of-college self had my own business doing none other than organizing people’s homes and lives. It was my dream job… and although it started slowly, I was elated to be doing the one thing I loved doing more than almost anything else in the whole world!
As my client base grew, I quickly realized that repeat clients were becoming the bulk of my working hours. On one hand, this was a great indication that my clients like me and felt my services were worth the price they paid. However, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I might be doing something wrong because their lovely organized spaces were always crazy and chaotic again when I returned (sometimes only a month later).
My clients told me they wanted a simpler, more organized home and life—and that’s what I gave them, at least for a couple weeks until things became disorganized again.
It was great business for me to have those repeat clients, but still so frustrating at the same time. Certainly it couldn’t be that difficult for them to put things back when they got them out… could it?
Then it hit me!
ORGANIZING is very different than SIMPLIFYING.
ORGANIZING is a temporary fix while SIMPLIFYING is a completely different way of doing life.
Organizing is MOVING things around.
- It’s consolidating items to take up less space.
- It’s storing excess stuff in more appropriate ways.
- It’s carefully aligning schedules and baskets and bins so everything fits into our homes and lives.
Simplifying is REMOVING anything we don’t need, use, want or love.
- It’s paring down and purging.
- It’s living with less excess.
- It’s being willing to say ‘no’ and limiting what we bring into our homes and lives.
What I was doing for my tween friends, in my parent’s house, and for my organizing clients was organizing. I was consolidating, creating order out of chaos, maximizing storage, and making everything look nice and neat.
However, since most of them didn’t allow me to actually purge any of their things, it didn’t take long before all their stuff was out of the baskets and bins and cabinets and closets… and cluttering up their living spaces once again.
Don’t me wrong, I love a good organizing project more than most, and in my opinion, organization is necessary to achieve a simpler home and life. However, organizing is not the only answer.
A simplified life requires more than just putting our unused items in nicely labeled bins “just in case” we want them some day. It requires more than having a space for everything. And it requires more than a weekend-long, one-time-and-done project.
A simple life requires intentional, ongoing, and continual maintenance.
- What if… instead of storing those unused Christmas decorations in nice, matching, labeled bins, we donate them and only store the decorations we actually use?
- What if… instead of reorganizing years and years of baby clothes and accessories in color-coded bins by gender and size, we give them to a friend who could use them now?
- What if… instead of reshelving kids’ toys for the 15th time today, we purge the stuff they don’t play with anymore and be done with it for good?
- What if… instead of trying on 5 outfits we don’t love, only to revert back to our favorite jeans and sweater…. again, we purge the clothing we don’t feel great wearing and free up valuable space in our closets?
Simplifying isn’t so easy when you think about it those terms. After all, it’s more fun to buy a few more decorative bins to store our stuff than it is to purge our stuff or give it away! However, I think you’ll find that the results of simple living will far outlast the results of a quick organizing project.
The next time you’re tempted to buy another storage bin or install another storage shelf… stop! Then think about how much better it will feel to purge a few things instead of adding more stuff to your home and life.
Although it might take a small amount of extra effort up-front, you’ll reap the rewards of a simpler life as you’ll spend less time and energy moving and storing that unneeded, unwanted, unused, and unloved stuff.
Note from Mandi: I love this post from Andrea so much because I distinctly remember the moment I had this lightbulb moment myself. Like Andrea, I had been known for my organizing skills since I was a kid and for being able to fit more stuff in the same space with careful rearranging and organizing. We were moving for the 5th time in our 5 year marriage (into our current home) and expecting our third daughter when I suddenly realized that the number of small appliances lining my kitchen cabinets and laundry room shelves weren’t simplifying my life but complicating it.
That began my first purging session, and as I packed boxes, I also filled our van with stuff to donate to the Salvation Army. Several loads later and our stuff felt much more manageable, but that was just the first of many purging sessions. I still find myself purging regularly as we realize that we still haven’t used various items, toys and clothes have been outgrown, homeschool curriculum isn’t working for us, or we’ve made a bad purchase.
ACTIVITIES & QUESTIONS
Where have you been focusing on organizing where it may be time to simplify instead? Make a list of 3-4 areas you’d like to declutter or purge this month.