How to clear your clutter and get organized

If you weren’t taught clutter clearing and organizing while growing up, figuring out how to do it can feel daunting. But it’s a modern-day skill that everyone needs to learn.

Organized woman

‘Wow, I bet your shelves and drawers at home are beautifully organized’, I said to the supermarket cashier who was packing groceries into my bags. She had sorted according to category, stacked heavier items at the bottom and more fragile things on top, and expertly fitted the items to maximize the use of space. It was a work of art.

‘Yes’, she said, with a broad smile. ‘I’m very organized at home.’

Learned behaviour

Curious to know more, I asked her if she had a natural flair for this or had she learned the skill from a parent while growing up.

‘My father taught me’, she said. ‘He made organizing things into a game that we would play together. It’s held me in good stead all my life.’

As her mesmerizingly proficient packing continued, we discussed how sad it is that these days many children grow up without being taught these skills. This can happen because of the style of parenting, where the child has everything done for them. Or perhaps the parents are too busy. Or maybe they lack organizing skills themselves because they were never taught them when they were young.

‘It really needs to be taught in schools,’ I said.

Walking to my car with my bags, I reflected on an apartment I once shared in my twenties with a friend. Within a few days of moving in, he had turned his room into utter chaos, with stuff strewn all over the place. Then one day he took me to visit his parents’ home and I completely understood. He had created a miniature replica of the home he had been brought up in. His parents lived in an extreme state of chronic disorganization, and that was all he knew. Needless to say, we didn’t continue sharing the apartment for very long. Our two lifestyles weren’t compatible.

People have more belongings these days

Most westerners have far more personal belongings than previous generations ever had, and we need to learn how to manage them in the spaces we occupy so that they don’t overwhelm us.

A few years ago, I visited the home in Yorkshire, England, that I grew up in. I walked up the driveway,  knocked on the door, introduced myself to the current owner, told him I had once lived there, and asked if I could possibly take a look around. It had been 50 years since my family had moved out and I was astonished at the difference.

We had owned things that many of our neighbours didn’t yet have, such as a washing machine, a small black and white TV and a telephone. But they easily fitted into the space, with plenty of room to spare and no sense of overcrowding.

By contrast, the house was now bursting at the seams with all the belongings of the people currently living there. We had been a family of five and they were a family of five. But they had all the accessories of modern life such as computer equipment, tablets, a large flat-screen TV, a sound system, and shelves bulging with books, magazines and videos. Decorative items hung on every wall and personal things covered every available surface. There was hardly any room to move in there.

And that was just the ground floor. The upper floor was so cluttered that they were too ashamed to let me look at that.

How to clear your clutter and become more organized

Many people tell me they want to clear their clutter and organize their home but they feel too tired or overwhelmed to do it. The first thing I do is to reassure them that they are not the only ones in this situation. The people who take my online courses often comment what a relief it is to know that others face the same challenge.

Clutter clearing and organizing your home is not rocket science. But it can be utterly daunting if you’ve never learned how to do it. Where do you start? How do you do it? How you do keep going until the job is done? How do you stop mess and clutter from building up again?

The trick is to begin small and gradually build what I call your clutter clearing “muscle”. Start with small, clearly defined areas of your home that contain items you don’t feel much emotional attachment to, and get a series of successes before moving on to other areas.

Related article
How to build your clutter clearing “muscle”

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Copyright © Karen Kingston 2019


Clutter clearing help
I wrote my Clear your Clutter with Feng Shui book to give people deeper insights into why clutter accumulates and how to let it go. But if you’re the kind of person who needs a more interactive approach, with the opportunity to ask me questions if you get stuck at any point, I’ve created a series of online courses that I teach once or twice each year, which will be much more helpful for you.

The next series starts with my Fast Track Clutter Clearing online course, July 5-25, 2019. It’s designed to help people with all types of household clutter, except for paper and digital clutter, which requires very different techniques so I teach a separate course for that (the next one is in September).

Taking an online course has the added benefit of the wonderful camaraderie of a group of people from around the world who are all decluttering at the same time, sharing their achievements and challenges in a safe, private virtual space.

You can log on to the message board where the course is conducted at any time of the day or night while it is in progress. Many people find it works best to visit a couple of times per day (for example, morning and evening), but you can do so as often as you like.

I have never felt anything other than dread and hopelessness when I had tried to clutter clear in the past Now, I wake up each morning excited and ready to tackle the next spot.  – Previous course participant

At the time of writing, there are still some places available on the July course.

More information
Upcoming online courses


About Karen Kingston

Karen Kingston is a leading expert in clutter clearing, space clearing, feng shui and healthy homes. Her two international bestselling books have combined sales of over three million copies in 26 languages and have established themselves as "must read" classics in their fields. Her best-known title, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, is now in its fourth edition. She is best known for her perspective-changing insights and practical solutions that enable more conscious navigation of 21st-century living.
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