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Prioritize, Don't Organize - Minimalist at Home
A Simple Approach to Living With Less

Prioritize, Don’t Organize

“Action expresses priorities.” –  Mahatma Gandhi

Are you tired of living in a crowded house surrounded by cluttered rooms? Do you feel like all you ever do is clean up the messes over and over again and run around town with a hectic schedule? It’s time to get organized, right? Wrong. Although your first instinct is to start with getting organized, that’s actually not your first step.

Your first step is to prioritize. That’s right; you need to prioritize your life. Once you sit down and decide what your priorities are, it makes it so much easier to decide what needs to be taken away. Ask yourself what’s really important to you. The principle of prioritizing first can be applied to everything from your clutter to your time.

Minimalism is a tangible way of prioritizing your life. Some would refer to minimalism as a social movement while others define it as a lifestyle choice. While it means different things to different people, most would agree that minimalism is purposely focusing on the things that matter and letting go of the rest.

Prioritize, Don’t Organize Your Clutter

When you get ready to declutter your first closet, drawer, or toy box remember to prioritize first. Take a moment to really look at the items in front of you. Then start by pulling out the most important items.

Toys. If it’s a toy box, start by pulling out the toys you know your children really love. Pick out the ones they play with a lot. As you start pulling out the best toys to save you’ll naturally be left with the toys that aren’t a priority to them anymore. They might be broken or they might even be brand new. The bottom line is if they aren’t being played with, then they aren’t worth keeping.

Clothes. The same principle applies to your closets and your clothes. First, pull out the items you wear the most. If you have two or more of something and you naturally choose one over the other, then the first choice is your priority. If you’re like me you find that you wear the same clothes over and over again because those are the clothes you feel good in, that are comfortable, and you feel like you look your best when you’re wearing them. While it may not be practical for most of us to go down to a limited wardrobe of five shirts and two pairs of jeans, there is almost certainly a large number of clothes that we’re hanging onto that almost never see the light of day.

Clutter. When you’re ready to attack the junk drawers, your books, your kitchen gadgets, and the rest of your clutter remember to prioritize first. Don’t keep something just because it cost a lot of money. Don’t keep something just because you got it as a gift. Don’t keep something just because you might need it someday. If you aren’t using it now, then chances are you don’t really need it. Hanging onto things for the “maybe some days” will simply choke out the enjoyment of your today.

Prioritize, Don’t Organize Your Time

Don’t kid yourself that by trying to organize and coordinate your family’s schedule that you are making more time for things. Giant wall calendars, Day Timers, and even iCal on your iPhone won’t help you gain more time to spend with your family. Only by first prioritizing your time, will you be able to see what can be cut out of your overly scheduled life.

Be honest with yourself, I’m sure there are things that you can eliminate because it’s true for all of us. There’s always something we agreed to that we knew wasn’t a good idea. We knew we were sacrificing time spent with our family because of it and we kicked ourselves as soon as we signed up for that extra “something.” We always seem to be in search of more time. Time is our most important form of currency. It’s all about how we choose to spend it. Make your priorities now and make conscious decisions about how to remove the other distractions.

A Place for Organization

There is a place for organization. I’m not advocating that you abandon all sense of order and keeping everything in its place. I just like to drive home the point that you shouldn’t start with organizing things before you prioritize them. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that if you put your clutter into cute color coordinated boxes that you’re organizing your life. If something isn’t a priority then it isn’t worth keeping. If something isn’t worth keeping, then it’s simply not worth organizing.


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photo by Smicko

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  1. I have been working on this for a while now, and I am so glad that I found your blog so that I can stay motivated! Living on a modest income, it is so tempting to hang on to things “just in case”, because if we ever do need it we might not be able to repurchase it. I am happy to report that I am over that, and I am getting rid of unneeded items by the van-full. I have been sharing with friends, family, the battered women’s shelter, and a formerly homeless single mother that needed household supplies.

    My house thanks me, and surprisingly, my husband does too!

    • Faith Janes says

      That is so great! Congratulations on your progress. Doesn’t it feel great to get rid of a bunch of things all at once? My husband wasn’t too sure about it all initially but once he started seeing the results he’s my biggest cheerleader now. I’m glad you’re finding that to be true as well.

  2. Karen (scotland) says

    I am SO very guilty of doing this. I enjoy tidying and organising (I’m a librarian so I guess it’s in my nature!)
    However, in the last year, I’ve really felt like all I ever do is tidy and move things to the “ideal” place in the house – especially the kids’ stuff, my clothing and in the kitchen.

    I think that’s why I feel drawn to minimalism as it seems to offer a solution to this time-wasting and your post today reminds me that I can do this with my time too. The nursery teacher asked me last term to take over the library for the nursery on a voluntary basis (just to be clear that I’m not a lazy slacker: I have four kids under 6, the youngest being 6 months, and my husband is at sea half the year). I hedged around but this has made me determined to go in and tell her this isn’t something I can do just yet. When my third child starts nursery in January, I intend to fully enjoy my last baby – I want that to be my priority.

    Thanks for another good post,
    Karen (Scotland)

    • Faith Janes says

      Good for you, Karen! Our time is so precious. It’s especially noticeable when we watch how fast our little ones grow up. There will always be more opportunities to volunteer but even though it may sound selfish to some people, family time has to come first.

  3. Another great post, Faith. Excellent advice here. It’s so true: now that I have fewer possessions I have more clarity on what my priorities are. Health and family are at the top of the list.

  4. This is a very helpful way to look at things. I have been purging my clothes and my books, I need to move on to other categories, such as jewelry (I have a pretty big collection of costume jewelry!) plus my kitchen and laundry room. Prioritzing instead of organizing will help me as I work in these areas!

  5. Great reminder! I’ve just recently subscribed to your blog. Thanks for sharing your journey.

  6. I have a hard time with some of this–especially getting rid of things that were received as gifts. I also fall into the trap of thinking I will use it/need it someday. Sometimes it’s even true–my breadmaker. But many times it is not.

  7. abracadabra says

    But I am with nopinkhere, I think I have gotten rid of a breakmaker twice (second was picked up at a yard sale!) and regretted it both times. But I have to admit, those instances are rarer than would justify my hanging onto things (ugly oil lamp with no oil, broken can opener so I could use the parts, etc. — and it breeds!!)

  8. Faith Janes says

    Things with legitimate use isn’t really the problem. It’s the things that we hang onto “just because.”

    I wrote a post called “Overcoming the Sentimental Sabotage of Clutter” that you might find useful too. http://www.minimalistmoms.com/overcoming-the-sentimental-sabotage-of-clutter/

  9. Love this post: prioritising has to come before organising. Otherwise, being more organised doesn’t help anything, you’ll still have as much stuff as you did before you started! And, as you said, a whole load of cute colour-coordinated boxes to add to your collection, too!


  1. Prioritize, Don't Organize | Minimalist Moms | Declutter My House says:

    […] Full reference (Copyright acknowledge) This entry was posted in Declutter Kids Toys on the Web. Bookmark the permalink. ← Organizing Your Office In Three Easy Steps | Declutter BeFree! […]

  2. […] Prioritize, don’t organize. I have found that picking out the things I know I want to keep first, makes it obvious what I need to throw out. If something isn’t worth keeping, then it’s simply not worth organizing. If I wouldn’t buy the item again, then more than likely I don’t like it enough to hang onto it now. […]

  3. […] Decide where the room contents will go during the process. You may want to pick a spot out of the way for any boxes or piles of clothes to go until you have a chance to prioritize them. […]

  4. […] for a how to guide? I love this post Prioritize, Don’t Organize by Faith at Minimalist Moms. If you’re feeling overwhelmed give it a read. Looking for […]

  5. […] to rise above them. We have the choice to settle for the easy choices or dig in our heels and make choices that take us a step closer to where we want to […]

  6. […] Decide where the room contents will go during the process. You may want to pick a spot out of the way for any boxes or piles of clothes to go until you have a chance to prioritize them. […]

  7. […] can’t organize clutter. It just won’t work. I don’t care how many plastic bins, crates, or boxes you […]

  8. […] Prioritize, don’t organize. I have found that picking out the things I know I want to keep first, makes it obvious what I need to throw out. If something isn’t worth keeping, then it’s simply not worth organizing. If I wouldn’t buy the item again, then more than likely I don’t like it enough to hang onto it now. […]

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