Stop Buying Containers for Your Clutter

Not all storage bins are evil, but not all of them are necessary, either. Learn why you should NOT purchase bins, boxes, or organizing systems BEFORE you start to declutter.

Welcome to the first It’s All Clutter blog of 2021. I’m so excited to support you on your decluttering and home organizing journey this year!

We’re kicking off 2021 by discussing the critical differences between decluttering, organizing, and containing your clutter. In this blog, you’ll learn the correct order to work in when you’re decluttering, and why I never, ever, EVER!! recommend purchasing organizing bins or systems before getting rid of your clutter.

The Big Box industry spends lots of money on advertisements to make you believe that in order to be organized, you must purchase organizing products. It makes you feel like you need this perfect bin, or you need to purchase this amazing organizing system for your house. It will magically help you organize a specific space in your house, right?!


Let me tell you the hard truth: Organization cannot happen in your house until you declutter, first.

This means the correct order to work is:

  1. Declutter: In a specific area, take all of the stuff, go through each item, get rid of what doesn’t fit in your space, what you no longer love, and what is no longer relevant in your life (find a place to donate, give it away, or toss it).

  2. Organize: Put all like items together in one single spot.

  3. Contain: Only after you’ve decluttered and organized, and only if you absolutely must, you can contain these items. THIS would be the time to purchase a box or a bin that you love, that you have room for, and that is appropriate for these items.

The problem I see often is that people tend to skip right to the last step of the decluttering process and they purchase these bins and containers, first. It might look like: “I’m going to declutter my bedroom this weekend so I need to go buy some storage bins.”

When you’re decluttering, if you’re bringing stuff into your house, i.e. new bins and storage containers — even if it’s in the name of home organization, you’re merely adding to the volume of things in your home that you’re actively trying to decrease. You’re adding to your clutter. You’re standing in your own way. Buying bins and organizing products first makes this whole process a lot harder on you.

The end goal is to be comfortable living within your space. So if you’re doing an awesome job decluttering, and you’re living within the storage space of your house, the organization actually becomes less critical and less important… which means containing your stuff after you’ve organized becomes even less relevant!

Let’s work through an example. If you declutter all of your winter hats, scarves, and gloves down to your one favorite pair, the one that you wear all the time — you won't need to worry so much about organizing these items because there’s only one scarf, one hat, and one pair of gloves.

The need for organization decreases with the less stuff that you have.

Organizing enables you to see everything you have in one category, all at once. If you declutter really well, you’ll know exactly what you have and where it is because it’s no longer hiding behind other stuff.

The further you go with your decluttering, the easier organization is. Decluttering unlocks the key to success with organization. You don’t have to buy anything to unlock that key. You have to get rid of stuff. It’s the exact opposite of what advertisers tell us over and over and over again.

Now, I’m not completely opposed to buying boxes and bins. But I see this mistake all the time, the purchasing of so many boxes and bins before decluttering that is only adding to our overwhelm. Because we’re organizing such a large quantity of stuff, it’s never going to stay organized because that means we’re still living outside of the storage space in our home.

For those who have a brain for math — this is a math equation that just doesn’t make any sense! 3x does not fit into x. So if you have 3x stuff, but x storage space, then it’s just not going to work.

So before you go out and spend money to bring more stuff into your house, consider dramatically reducing what you already have, first. You might have to declutter once, and then again, and then a third time; but the more you declutter, the easier it is to organize your stuff.

Bonus tip! You probably already have a lot of boxes and bins in your house. Once you start to declutter, you will most likely free up some of those boxes and bins so you’ll already have them ready when you get to the end of your decluttering process!

Remember the order: declutter, then organize, then contain — but only if absolutely necessary. Resist the urge to bring new bins into your house first because it will only make decluttering more complicated.

If you need support with decluttering and home organization in 2021, please join Clutter Foundations. There is a whole community in the Prioritize Your Sanity group who are just beautiful and giving people, and they’re ready to support you!

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