How to Organize a Cluttered House in 4 Essential Steps

Did you decide to ‘get organized’ this year? Maybe you went out and bought a ton of organizing products? And even though you stashed your stuff in them, your house still feels messy? Maybe the piles grew back within just a few days?

Let’s talk about how to organize a cluttered house the BEST way in 4 basic steps. I’ll walk you through the process and show you that even though there’s more to it than buying lots of pretty containers, organizing a cluttered house doesn’t have to be overwhelming. 

This post, along with the rest of my declutter tips, will help you work past some of your misconceptions about organizing and finally TAKE ACTION to create a clutter-free, peaceful space you will love.

organized white shelves with white overlay and text how to organize a cluttered house

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What You Need to Know About How to Organize a Cluttered House

First, we need to talk about this: If your house is extremely cluttered, you cannot organize and simplify your home in a day or a weekend. 

But that’s okay! The object is to work through this process in a way that means you can maintain the results. That involves getting your mind in the right place and understanding that YOU CAN DO THIS.

Second, it’s important to know that in my opinion, decluttering and organizing are completely different things. But they are both vital to having an organized home. 

People often lump it all together as ‘organizing.’ However, I’m going to explain why you should do these separate steps in the right order to have the best chance of success.

Personally, I declutter everything I possibly can just so I don’t have to work very hard at organizing.

Because here’s the thing…

‘Organizing’ without decluttering is just shuffling clutter. You could easily sort and store all of your belongings and end up with an ‘organized’ house that still frustrates the crap out of you.

Another issue is that sorting and arranging clutter before getting rid of anything is prolonging the process… often so long that nothing ever gets discarded. 

This is the danger of ‘staging areas.’

You find yourself surrounded by piles of ‘sorted’ stuff. However, when the time comes that you decide you should let things go, you can’t remember what you have. So you end up sorting everything again. It’s a vicious cycle.

Is that what you really want?

Let’s talk about the straightforward way to finally get your house organized.

4 Steps for Organizing a Cluttered House

I know there are many organizing styles, but since this a post on my blog, I’m going to walk you through what I think is the best method for overwhelmed overthinkers for how to declutter and organize your home.

If you’ve been frustrated by your efforts in the past, keep an open mind and give these steps a try.

1. Break the Cycle

Stop bringing stuff into your home! It doesn’t matter if you pay for it or if someone gives it to you. If it doesn’t have an immediate and distinct purpose, you don’t need it!

This includes buying ‘organizing’ products. Just wait. There will come a time for the ‘buying’ part of the organizing process… or maybe not. You may already have everything you need for organizing and just don’t know it yet!

Take yourself off FB deals, garage sale, and swap groups. 

Unsubscribe from marketing emails from stores and deals sites.

Stop browsing ebay, Amazon, and other online retailers.

Never visit stores ‘just to look.’ Shopping is no longer a recreational activity.

Stopping the flow of stuff and working through more ways to break the clutter cycle is a crucial step for long-term success. It can also be the most difficult. But from personal experience, I absolutely KNOW you can do this!

Still feeling intimidated by your stuff? Here are 3 things to do when you’re overwhelmed by clutter. They will help you get motivated to tackle the next step.

pink background with text but first declutter

2. Declutter, Declutter, Declutter

You canNOT organize clutter. Somewhere inside, you know it’s true. 

But at the same time, it’s likely you want to skip this step because you know it’s HARD. Plus, sorting everything into brand new, pretty matching containers FEELS like you’re accomplishing something.

*sigh* Repeat after me: ‘You canNOT organize clutter.’ This is your new mantra. 

Decluttering may be the step that takes the longest. And it is hard. But it’s also extremely rewarding once you get going and your mind shifts from fear of loss to finding joy in letting go. 

Plus, a good decluttering will automatically make your home look more organized! Once the spaces are cleared, it’s so much easier to see what you have to work with and how much easier everyday life can be.

It can take a while to develop your decluttering mindset, but putting in the work to do so will absolutely change your life.

My favorite way to clear out the extra stuff is the slow declutter method. It gives you time to work through your feelings about decluttering and realize that you really CAN do this… and do it well.

But if you’re in a hurry and desperate, you can try my quick S.P.R.I.N.T. decluttering method

3. Organize What’s Left

Now it’s time to do some real organizing.

Think about how the spaces in your home and the stuff within need to work together. 

Just like when you were decluttering, start small.  

Gather your empty bins and storage containers and put them to use. Try some of these cheap ways to organize your home.

Contain your ‘stuff’ for each area of your home, keeping like things together. Live with it for a while, see if it works, and then adjust as necessary. 

Also, you may find as you go through this process that you gradually declutter even more. This will make it even easier to stay organized later.

Finding holes in your organizing needs? NOW is when you can buy the ‘pretty’ organizing products.

messy desk that needs to be decluttered and organized

4. Create Organizational Systems

Going forward, you need to maintain the hard work you’ve done. 

Getting your paperwork organized isn’t going to do you any good if you don’t use a system to keep it that way. Pretty soon you’ll find yourself buried under piles of papers again… and more frustrated than ever.

It’s not just the sorting and container-izing that makes an organized home. It’s creating workable habits to keep it that way which will mean ultimate success.

Two big hurdles for many people are clothing and papers. I’ve got some tips to help you turn these problem areas into organized spaces in the posts How to Organize a Small Master Closet and Paper Organizing Tools + Recommendations.

How to Organize When You Have Too Much Stuff

So how does this actually work in the real world?

Sure, it’s easy for me to lay the steps out and say ‘do this.’ But what if your home is monumentally cluttered and you can’t even picture where to begin?

I always recommend you start with the space that is either the easiest or the space that will have the biggest positive impact on your daily life. 

Still can’t decide? Then this is exactly where to start decluttering your home.

Remember, when you have a lot of stuff, this usually isn’t a quick process. 

Don’t try to do your entire home at once.

Start with one room at a time. If that’s too much, think even smaller… one bookshelf, the pantry shelves, a bathroom vanity, the table by your front door… ONE place is all it takes to get you rolling toward success.

Work through the process. Learn as you go. And learn to LET go.

How to Make the Decluttered Space Look Organized 

Learn to love empty space. This is more difficult than you might expect. But if you find yourself faced with an empty space — counter, shelf, etc. — don’t rush to fill it with an unnecessary storage container or decoration.

Implement a daily 10-minute tidy. This one habit can make all the difference when it comes to maintaining the look of your newly-organized home.

Use matching containers for storage. If you can afford to purchase new organizing supplies, buy things that match. Visually, it’s more pleasing and ‘organized-looking’ than a dozen different containers that do the same job.

What if you don’t have money to purchase new organizing supplies?

1. Continue to declutter.
I promise, the more you get rid of, the more organized your home will look. As a bonus, the less stuff you have, the fewer things you need to buy to organize those belongings!

2. Do a little DIY.
Simple things like spray paint and thinking outside the box can do wonders. For some ideas, check out these 26 Cute and Thrifty DIY Storage Solutions and these 13 Easy DIY Storage Ideas That’ll Organize Your Entire Home.

3. Have patience.
Set a savings goal to buy what you really want. Use some of the tips from this ‘little money’ post to meet your goal sooner than you might expect. In the meantime, practice your organizational routines. That way, when you purchase your new organizers, you’ll put them to the best use. 

white shelves with various organized storage containers

More Decluttering and Organizing Resources

Need some quick wins as you get started with decluttering? Grab this list of 62 things you can declutter immediately and never miss.

Check out my Amazon shop for my organizing product picks.

This post will help you rethink some of the roadblocks that are stopping you from seeing full decluttering success: 4 Mindset Shifts to Help Clear Your Cluttered House

Cluttered Mess to Organized Success

Even if you’re standing in the midst of chaos and clutter as you read this post for the first time, I’m here to tell you that it is absolutely possible to gain control. 

Once you commit to following these steps for how to organize a cluttered house, you’re halfway to making it happen!

Also, as you maintain an organized home, you will find it easier to do deeper clutter-clearing every few months. 

It’s kind of like peeling back layers. Get the top, thickest layer removed first. Once you’re used to maintaining the results of that effort, you can go for the next layer. 

Eventually, you will feel like an organized person, and your home will reflect that.

You’ve got this!

Did you enjoy this post? Know someone else who might like it? Please take a moment to share on Pinterest, Facebook, or your favorite social media… (Click the sharing buttons at the bottom of the post.) Thank you!

messy desk with text overlay how to organize when you have too much stuff

8 thoughts on “How to Organize a Cluttered House in 4 Essential Steps”

  1. Hi Julie! What a wonderful post with so many great tips for organizing our homes. It can be an overwhelming process and you’ve broken it down into great steps! Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Great article. As an organization enthusiast myself, I loved this article. You shared some really great tips. It is so true that one cannot organize without first purging. Pinned & tweeted if buttons are available. Thank you for sharing at #OMHGWW. See you next week.

  3. We buy so much stuff in this country! I see it in my own business of repurposing home decor and furniture. And so much of it ends up in the landfill! Agh! Thanks for sharing your tips – I especially like the tip of our shopping habits – just stop shopping! Have a great week!

  4. i love that i ran into you just now at Richella’s … i just put up a ‘Less is More’ post this evening. i hope you’ll come by and lend us some of your expertise!

    great stuff and super resources!

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