3 Organizing “Rules” I Want You to Break by @MelindaMassie


by Melinda Massie | Featured Contributor

It’s the beginning of the year and that means one thing – TONS of information on how to get organized. I’m not about to knock this. I’ve written some of those pieces myself. If ditching your clutter and getting organized is a goal, I whole-heartedly support you.

I don’t, however, support all the information flying around out there.

Some so-called advice will actually be sales pitches. (I’m looking at you beautiful home goods catalog that shall go un-named!) Others will offer solid advice. Then there will be the “rules” that are so restrictive that they become oppressive.

In organizing, we have universal truths that apply to everyone.

  • Keep only what you need, use and love.
  • Every single item in your home has a place where it “lives.”
  • Put things back when you’re done.

These basic tenets apply regardless of the size of your home, whether you rent or own, and whether you put Payless or Prada on your freshly pedicured tootsies.

Then there are the “rules” that are so rigid and unrealistic that you’d rather give in to the hot, buttery mess of clutter.

You may have heard them before:

  • One in, one out.
  • Touch it once.
  • If you haven’t worn/used it in “X” months then it goes away.

Today I encourage you to break these rules. From here on out, can we can agree that they don’t exist?

It can be our conspiratorial agreement.

In their place, I’ll show you a realistic way.

One in, one out. 

This one makes me crazy. It says that for every item you buy, you must get rid of something. This doesn’t actually address the clutter. You may need to toss two, five, or twenty things for each new item. Perhaps it’s best to stop shopping all together.

The organized home contains only what is needed, used and absolutely j’adored. Each item has a place where it lives. By this token, what’s purchased is needed, used, j’adored and has a place where it will go. Therefore it’s ridiculous to arbitrarily toss something just because a rule told you to.

Instead, spend 5-15 minutes every day removing things you don’t need. Pick an area, set a timer and go. When the clutter is gone, spend that time putting things back where they belong. Through the process you may find that you already have what you need and don’t have to purchase something after all.

Touch it Once

This “rule” says to only ever touch something once. When you touch something, take whatever action is needed immediately. What I see most often happens as a result of this “rule” is that you hurriedly, messily shove things in their place instead of waiting to take five minutes at the end of the day to do it neatly. Or you bounce around tasks instead of grouping like tasks together which is much more efficient. When you come across something that needs action taken, it is perfectly OK and preferable to line it up into your schedule so you can properly attend to it.

Just make sure you actually tend to it instead of putting it off forever.

If you haven’t worn/used it in X months then get rid of it.

I see this one everywhere. Since everything in our house is something we need, use and love – it is right? – there isn’t need for time limits. You may have a little black dress that fits and looks fabulous but isn’t often worn. I would never ask you to toss a fabulous LBD just because you haven’t had the occasion in however many months.  A not-so-fabulous LBD? Absolutely! But never a fabulous one.

Instead of going by last time used to determine if something will stay, look to the future. Ask yourself if you will use this item again. If so, when? Specifically. If you can’t answer that question then you can let the item go.

Unsure on which clothes can take up valuable real estate in your closet? Here are my clothing guidelines.

There is also a pro-active flip-side to this rule that I prefer: give items you’re unsure of a deadline. Mark them with an expiration date. If it hasn’t been used/worn by the expiration then you can toss it guilt free.

Ridiculously rigid organizing “rules” put too much pressure on us. We then get overwhelmed, pull back and do nothing. That sure as hell won’t help you reach your organizing goals. Instead, think of organizing as a daily habit to cultivate just like eating healthy and working out. A little bit every day will soon result in real progress.Slow and steady wins this race!

What organizing rules do you live by? Which ones stress you out?

Photo Credit: Little Thoughts via Compfight cc


Professional Organizer – Melinda Massie of Organizing with a Side of Fabulous – Ft. Worth, TX

Headshot - croppedOften called a healer, therapist of stuff and the organizing ninja, Melinda Massie is the owner of Organizing with a Side of Fabulous in Fort Worth, TX. If your home is a hot mess then she’ll help you take control over the clutter so you can make your home fabulous. Combining her sensible, no-fuss organizing philosophies with a vivacious personality and healthy dose of “redhead,” she makes getting organized suck less. As a former professional ballroom dancer and event planner, she also brings in some sparkle and entertainment to the process.

Melinda was named Best Personal Organizer 2011 by Fort Worth, Texas Magazine and Most Glamorous Home-Based Business in the 2011 StartupNation Home-Based 100. Her tips have been seen in Woman’s Day, SHAPE and many other local and national publications.

In her free time, Melinda enjoys yoga, cooking and eating indulgent food and believes that champagne is meant for the everyday.

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6 Replies to “3 Organizing “Rules” I Want You to Break by @MelindaMassie”

  1. tamar kummel

    Thank you! I like your alternate versions. My favorite thing is to have (or attend) a clothing/stuff swap, hopefully every 6 months. A ton of women get together and bring all their unused clothes and things (even makeup we didn’t like, or furniture, shoes, purses, etc) and swap it out. Everything not chosen goes to charity at the end of the day. It makes it SO much easier to go through stuff in your closet because 1)I bring 3 bags, but leave with at least 1 brand new outfit I love (and has been approved by a room full of friends) for FREE. 2) it’s easy to get rid of stuff when you actually know who’s wearing it now. Sometimes it’s hard to get rid of that dress that you love, but doesn’t really fit correctly. But when you see that dress on your friend, looking WAY more fabulous than you ever did…it’s easy to get rid of it. So that’s my rule I love. Have a clothing/stuff swap every 6 months and have a great girls’ night!

    1. Melinda Massie

      What a FUN idea!!! When I had a bigger closet I used to buy clothes more often. Whenever I’d clean it out I would usually drop off the bags at a girlfriend’s house for her to go through and then pass off or donate. Your idea sounds much more fun though and it’s all to the same purpose – fabulous, uncluttered closets full of clothes we LOVE.

      I understand what you mean about it being easier to let go of something when you see it looking better on a friend. Quite some time ago, a friend of mine had this fantastic skirt. She liked it a lot but rarely wore it so gave it to me. I got so many compliments the first time that I wore it that she said to me, “I’m glad I gave it to you. It was obviously meant to be with you because I never got mad props wearing it.”

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. Phyllis Nichols

    I don’t mind the one in – one out rule so much (i use that one with books) but you’re spot on with the others. It’s overwhelming to think about all that sorting and tracking especially when it’s clothing.

    1. Melinda Massie

      One in, one out has it’s place. It’s perfect and necessary when you’re at max capacity in a contained area like a bookshelf. However if you have a lot of clutter, it doesn’t address it at all.

      Glad you enjoyed my article and thanks for your comment!

  3. Bruce Sallan (@BruceSallan)

    You’ve been talking to my wife, haven’t you!?

    I used to be so well-organized. I knew a woman who had the most organized closet I ever saw. VERY FULL, but every pair of expensive shoes was in its own shoe box, labeled and described.

    She went on to say that if she hadn’t worn something in the past year, she gave it away.

    I have jeans from high school…

    1. Melinda Massie

      LOL! I haven’t…I promise!!

      Letting go of what you haven’t worn is the difference between a very full closet and a closet gone horribly awry.

      So I think the million dollar question is…can you still or do you still wear the blue jeans from high school??? Or are you hanging on to those for sentimental reasons. If they’re not creating clutter, then it’s OK…sort of. Though if it’s for sentimental reasons then you should do something with those to better honor the memory. Otherwise, perhaps it’s time to think about letting it go??? 😀

      Thanks for your comment and let me know how it goes!

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