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Which is superior – organizing or decluttering?

(Editorial) Decluttering and organizing are often mistaken as synonymous, but one has more benefits than the other.

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organized decluttered

Organizing and decluttering are not the same thing

As a teen, I spent endless time organizing my glorious closet. Long sleeved tops went on the upper left, short sleeved tops on the upper right, and so forth, all in ROYGBIV order. It felt good to open that bad boy and be greeted with precision, and even a good smell (I may have also kept cedar sachets hidden in the back). Over the years, however, my clothing collection grew and my system still existed, but the beauty was lost as more and more was crammed into the closet.

When I moved into my first college dorm, I was greeted by a tiny closet with maybe three feet of hanging space, and a set of three drawers. It was a shock, but I selected my favorite outfits, boxed the rest in clear containers under my bunk, and moved on. My ROYGBIV obsession continued, and everything was organized by type. It was beautiful, despite the small space.

In those moments of making choices, I learned first hand at age 17 the power of decluttering, and of letting go. Organizing makes you feel productive, but it’s a short term fix to a long term problem, and most people waste an enormous amount of time moving knickknacks from point A to point B and back.

The verdict:

What you learn when you are forced to downsize is that decluttering is a permanent way to organize. You can go through your closet and be as ROYGBIV-y as you want, but if it’s crammed to the brim with items you’ll never wear, organizing is a temporary fix, and as soon as you process your next load of laundry, the organization systems immediately begin to break down.

If you’re addicted to organizing, consider decluttering. If you hate organizing, consider decluttering and minimizing your footprint. Do you have a desk drawer filled with everything from Sharpies to gum to old promotional bottle openers? Dump it all out and start over again, but instead of putting a band aid on it and making it all organized and pretty, part ways with what you don’t need. Declutter.

Living a minimalist life isn’t for everyone, and most normal adults can’t live with only three feet of hanging space in a closet, but decluttering saves you time down the road from having to organize and put a band aid on your environment just to keep yourself sane.

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Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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