I organize people's homes for a living – these are 5 truths no one tells you about decluttering

I reveal some of the common misconceptions about decluttering that I hear all the time

Three beige and white hued interior schemes
(Image credit: Future / Kate Marker / Little Greene)

Clutter is anything that doesn’t belong in a space, and decluttering your home is one of the most important things you can do to dramatically improve its appearance and function.  

As a professional organizer, I’ve also heard a lot of incorrect information. So, I want to take a moment to dispel and debunk some common misconceptions about decluttering and set you up for a successful decluttering session.

Below, I share five truths about decluttering that no one tells you and how to use them to your advantage. 

1. Organizing is more important than decluttering

Green wall, notepads, tea tray, grey cushions

(Image credit: Future / Damian Russell)

Decluttering and home organizing go hand-in-hand. It’s hard to do one without at least a bit of the other. While organizing gets most of the glory in home transformations, decluttering is the most important part.  

If you organize a space without decluttering, you will organize items you don’t even need or want. You will buy storage containers to store items that should have been donated, and your spaces will be full, so you will need to reorganize those spaces more often.

Conversely, if you declutter thoroughly, you’ll need to find homes for your belongings, but you will likely not have to buy any storage containers, and keeping your spaces organized will be very simple.

My top tip: See how much you can discard and find things to do with the items you are decluttering instead of buying organizing products as a solution. You may even be able to reuse items instead of throwing them out.

2. Decluttering is a singular project to tackle

farmhouse style entryway with wooden beams and staircase

(Image credit: Kate Marker)

Decluttering is often discussed as a singular project, but the reality is that having a decluttered home requires constant maintenance.

Think about all the things that come into your home daily: mail, school projects, gifts, food, retail purchases, etc. Clothes wear out, pantry items go uneaten, and gadgets break. We constantly use and touch items that will eventually be discarded for one reason or another, and if we don’t discard those items, they become clutter.

My top tip: The key to keeping a decluttered home is to create systems to manage your stuff. You may need a system for mail, school papers, outgrown kids’ clothes, seasonal clothes, groceries, work projects, etc. Create systems for the items that accumulate in your home so that decluttering fits seamlessly into your life rather than being a massive project.

3. There are rules for what items you should have in your home.

Decluttering to do list

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Before I was an organizer, I loved searching the Internet for decluttering checklists and “rules” on what I should keep. I was young and figuring out what having a home and a growing family should look like. What I didn’t realize, and now teach others, is that we are the only ones who can decide what items we need in our homes.

No checklist or guide can tell you how many sheets, place settings, shoes, jeans, or books you need in your home. It’s much more satisfying to fill your home with items that support your lifestyle. The belongings will naturally fall into place if you create a home that fuels your passions.

My top tip: Create a bespoke weekly organizing schedule or to-do list tailored to your own home and family. This will help you track what you need to clean and organize, leading to less clutter and chaos. 

4. You will be left with too little after decluttering

blue living room shelving and couch

(Image credit: Future PLC / Paul Raeside)

It can be scary to get rid of all the things you do not need, use, or like. I’ve helped clients purge half of their belongings in some cases! It’s natural to have feelings of scarcity when decluttering.

But something unique happens when you dig deep and focus on the prized possessions left after decluttering. You are surrounded by things you love and cherish, which leads to feelings of gratitude and abundance. 

My top tip: Instead of looking around your home and seeing many things that don’t matter, you look around and see the things that have meaning and purpose. You’ll likely realize that you’ve had everything you need all along. 

You should also learn how to declutter sentimental items when it feels hard to let go to avoid decluttering regret.

5. Decluttering is just about 'getting rid of stuff'

pretty pattern double bedroom countryside

(Image credit: Rachael Smith)

My favorite thing about decluttering with clients is seeing how getting rid of belongings affects other aspects of their lives. When you realize how wonderful it is to be surrounded by only the things you love in your home, you’ll start to notice other aspects of your life that are cluttered. 

You may declutter your calendar of obligations you no longer enjoy. You may declutter relationships that bring you down. If you previously enjoyed shopping, you’ll likely take up new hobbies. Decluttering begins with the “stuff” but goes deeper than physical objects.

My top tip: Once you've conquered decluttering your home room-by-room, consider 2-3 other areas of your life that could benefit from reflection and a good 'declutter'.

I hope clearing up these misconceptions has motivated you to take action in your home. You will be amazed at what decluttering can do for your home and how that energy seeps into other aspects of your life.

Caroline Roberts
Contributing expert

Caroline Roberts, a certified KonMari Consultant and professional organizer, founded the organizing agency The Simplified Island in 2019. Caroline believes being organized goes much deeper than pretty bins and can be life-changing. She recognized her organizing and streamlining skills were unique as she ran her marketing agency, Coastal Connections Marketing, and raised her two sons.