What NOT to do When You’re Up to Your Eyeballs in Clutter


Oh so often the biggest hurdle my clients have to overcome is the fear of making the wrong decision or doing things incorrectly. They get so concerned with doing things the “right way” that they end up doing nothing.  I always tell them that there is no specific “right way” or “wrong way” to do things, but this may be the teensiest bit false.

If you have a significant amount of clutter, there is one really popular piece of organizing advice that you should NEVER follow:

Pulling everything out before sorting.

In reality, this is about as helpful as a group of bears road-tripping to Kansas, and rumor has it they’re drunk on elderberry martinis.

Not too helpful, is it Sunshines?

The vast majority of articles out there will tell you that to get organized you need to pull everything out, sort like with like and then put it back in a system that makes sense, right? That’s delightful if you’ve: A) not got much to deal with, B) have a solid amount of focus, and C) have a whoooole bunch o’ time on your hands.

However, my guess is that if you’re reading this article that most likely isn’t the case.

If you’re looking at a big, hot mess then you probably don’t have much, if any free space, do you? When we’re working with a giant heap of clutter, the first priority is to clear space. Pulling everything out works directly against this priority.

Time and time again I see new clients that have taken well-meaning advice from organizing articles/organized friends and just pulled everything out. They were overwhelmed to begin with and this step just pushed all that overwhelm and anxiety over the top. It’s generally at this point that they either called me for the first time or said “screw it” and shoved everything back from whence it came.

Suck city my friends.

(Disclaimer – I made this mistake more than once when I was a new organizer…and yes, it still haunts me. If I did this to you, please call me so I can apologize!!)

So if all the popular organizing articles say the first step is to pull everything out, but I’m saying that’s a big fat mistake, what’s a cluttered dear to do?

  1. Pick a problem room. Choose a small area in that room to work on and move systematically around the room from that point.
  2. Remove the trash and everything you don’t want. This creates the space you need to see what you really have.
  3. Get the things that are leaving OUT OF THE HOUSE!
  4. THEN…sort like with like, so on and so forth.

Remember, as always, to only work one area at a time and one room at a time.  Don’t move on to the next room until the one you’re currently working in is finished. This will help you see progress and prevent the process from becoming too overwhelming.

If you’re working with a giant, hot mess, I guarantee you that there’s a bit – if not a massive amount – of things you don’t need. Get all of that out of the way and create the space for you to see clearly what you do have. From there, it will be easier to carry on with the business of sorting like with like and then creating organizational systems that make sense for you.

Photo Credit: lolainsydney via Compfight cc



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4 Replies to “What NOT to do When You’re Up to Your Eyeballs in Clutter”

  1. Leigh Ann Levy

    Hey Melinda!

    Great article. I facebook messaged you regarding your services. I like your style and can’t wait to work with you on some permanent decluttering. 🙂

    1. Melinda Massie

      Thanks Leigh Ann! I got your message and replied about an hour ago. I look forward to working with you!!

  2. Lehua

    Hey Melinda!

    Fantastic point… as a newbie organizer… I’ve actually made this mistake a few times already. I’m so glad you wrote this because I had realized something was inefficient with my process but couldn’t figure out exactly what it was. Thanks for the inspiration!


    1. Melinda Massie

      Thanks for your comment, Lehua! And you’re welcome. 😀 I’ll admit that in my first year or so of business, I made this mistake a few times and really jacked up one house. I still feel bad about that one. However now, when I’m on the cusp of does everything need to be pulled out or not, I’ll ask the client if they’re game for it or not.

      The irony is that just yesterday I started making a GIANT mess and emptying 6+ boxes of paperwork…but on purpose. The client has the clear space and willingness to live for a few days of organized chaos while we deal with everything in one fell swoop.

      Best of luck to you and your business!!

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