Less, but better: How to adopt an organizer's mindset for 2024

Professional home organizer Sarah Dunn shares her best tips for a more intentional approach to gifting and everyday life

three image hero with nursery, kitchen, living room
(Image credit: Future PLC / Davenport)

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are in the not-so-distant past which means the holiday season is here. For some, the holidays conjure up feelings of warmth, delicious meals and quality time with loved ones. For many others, the holidays invoke a feeling of frenzy.

In an effort to keep up with the Joneses or by way of strategic marketing from brands, we may feel the pull to overspend or purchase things we (or our loved ones) don’t really want or need.

And as someone who gets paid to help people with home organizing and getting rid of their clutter, I’d strongly encourage you to reconsider unnecessary spending. While this advice may come too late for some, a couple of the busiest shopping days of the year are still ahead of us. With that in mind, I’d like to introduce you to an organizer’s mindset for the holiday season extending into 2024: less, but better.

How to adopt an organizer's mindset for 2024

A number of years ago in my family, we made the shift from buying each person multiple gifts during the holidays, to buying one quality item per person, and only if we’re confident they will actually want what we’re buying them. For my dad, I either get him one nice piece of clothing that I know he wouldn’t buy for himself, or preferably, an experience that he and his girlfriend can enjoy.

christmas presents

(Image credit: Future)

Note the impact of 'less is more'

A 'less is more' mindset has a huge impact on your well-being and physical spaces. This shift has minimized our stress around the holidays, reduced our overspending significantly, and spreads the holiday joy throughout the year. Just the other day I heard from my dad’s girlfriend who said they were enjoying the remainder of the restaurant gift card I gave them last Christmas. They got two date nights out of it and I got a sweet update from them. Win-win!

Now, I recognize you may face some resistance when getting the whole family on board with this idea. But trust me, after a year or two, everyone will begin to value the experiences over items, and enjoy their clutter-free spaces too.

Encourage kids to declutter

Extend the principle 'less, but better' beyond the holidays – once the dust from the holidays has settled, consider decluttering your home. If you have kids who have accumulated more gifts than any one household should have, now might be a great time to teach them about the one-in-one-out rule or 'mailbox decluttering'.

Children aren't great at imposing limits themselves, so this is where you can help them learn about boundaries. Children often learn best through example. In the same way we wouldn’t want our children to over-indulge in five pieces of cake, we want to teach them the reasoning behind why establishing boundaries is key for our well-being.

When working with our kids to declutter their belongings, the key is to empower them with choice. Let’s say they have an excess of stuffed animals. Rather than threatening to get rid of all of them while they’re at school, get them to participate by empowering them to choose their favorite seven.

For Christmas or their birthday, instead of asking for their physical wish-list, have them brainstorm a few activities they would enjoy doing as a way to celebrate. It could be their favorite artist’s concert, day making pottery, a trip to the zoo or a theme park, or getting manicures with mom. Then choose one or two of these activities as a way to celebrate with them. They will begin to appreciate the quality time and teach them to cherish experiences over things.

Learn to view possessions as noise

Bespoke blue cabinetry, wooden ladder, decorated with books, plants and ornaments

(Image credit: Sims Hilditch)

It's important that we begin to look at the things in our house as noise. Everything we own and hold on to commands our attention at some point, whether we realize it or not.

That unfinished craft project you’ve been holding on to for months becomes a constant reminder of your never-ending to-do list. (From one ex-aspiring crafter to the next, I get it. For longer than I should have, I held on to empty wine bottles, convinced that one day I was going to slice them in half and turn them into candles. Every time I saw the bag of bottles sitting in the garage, it was another thing for me to re-add to my surmounting list of unfinished projects. One day I came to my senses, parted with the bottles, and I haven't looked back.) 

Recognize when it’s time to cut your losses with these unfinished projects with the understanding that the freed-up headspace is more valuable than the joy of finishing that project. That’s what Etsy's for anyhow, right?

All-in-One Declutter Planner | $3.92 at Etsy

All-in-One Declutter Planner | $3.92 at Etsy
This printable decluttering planner is all you need to help tackle your home's mess without missing a step. It is perfect for both keeping on top of your belongings and starting off on your first big clearout.


Where should I start when decluttering?

Remember: our houses should be filled with things that we love and that get used. We don't want our houses to become storage units.

With this in mind, it might be too overwhelming or daunting to think about decluttering your entire house. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Spend an afternoon carving out one peaceful area somewhere in your home.

This could be as simple as clearing your nightstand or aiming for a clutter-free desk. Keep an intention in mind while you work on decluttering: for example, better sleep or being more focused next time you sit down to work. Maybe you want to carve out a cozy corner of your home so you can get back into the habit of reading again. 

Creating even one simplified space might just be the inspiration you need to keep chipping away at the rest of your home. Each positive step contributes to a life of intention and fulfillment.

As we enter 2024, let the principles of 'less but better' guide not only our approach to the holidays and other celebrations but also our day-to-day lives. By adopting an organizer’s mindset, we are choosing an intentional lifestyle: one that prioritizes experiences over physical possessions and quality over quantity. 

Let this be a journey of simplicity, mindfulness, and the true essence of what makes life meaningful.

Sarah Dunn

I love transforming disorder into a functional space. What is most inspiring, though, is the transformation I see in my clients. They tell me they are sleeping better, have more respect for themselves, and are performing better at work. All because of simple changes in their physical environment. I embarked on this journey a few years ago, helping friends declutter and organize their spaces. It was a revelation—realizing that a simple change in one's physical environment can lead to a profound personal transformation. Hooked by this discovery, I founded Ready Set Organize with the goal of not just transforming spaces but minds as well. Over the years, we’ve worked with hundreds of clients and our San Diego-based team has grown to more than 10 organizers. These experiences have reinforced my belief in the power of a well-organized life.