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Why Organized Clutter Is A Step In The Right Direction

By March 20, 202412 Comments

Most professional organizers probably agree that clutter is the result of postponed decision making. So, this thought begs two questions in my mind and, I bet, also in your mind regarding the title of this post. The first question is, what is organized clutter? The second question is, why would a professional organizer think that organized clutter is a step in the right direction?

Let’s define organized clutter

I did a little research on the term ”organized clutter” and found this article in which professional organizer, Matt Baier, answers the question “Is there such a thing as organized clutter?”

One of the things I learned when I read the article is that our word clutter derives from the Middle English word meaning to clot. That makes sense to me because clutter usually causes things to clog the flow. Much as a blood clot impedes the flow of blood through your veins.

Matt explains that clutter is tough to get rid of because it is the excess of stuff.

What Does Organized Clutter Look Like Across Your House Or Office?

Organized Clutter in the Kitchen

Almost everyone has a drawer in the kitchen that has a mixture of odds and ends as well as multiple spoons, spatulas, and long forks. If you want to, you can sort through and remove the things you don’t use or need. People often refer to it as the ‘junk drawer’ because it has a little of everything.

Organized Clutter in the Bedroom

Organized clutter in the bedroom may be a dish on the top of your chest of drawers holding rings, earrings, and necklaces all mixed up together. It can also be a stack of books on your bedside table or on the floor beside the bed. Maybe it is a stack of neatly folded T-shirts on the chair in the bedroom. These are all things that contribute to clutter in the bedroom and are all somewhat organized.

Organized Clutter in the Laundry Room 

We define clutter as anything that doesn’t belong. A basket of orphan socks in the laundry room is organized clutter. There may also be a collection of coins or other random things that were removed from pockets before being washed. You never know what you may find in someone’s pants or jacket pocket.

Organized Clutter in your Front Hall Closet, Entry, or Foyer

The front hall closet, entry, or foyer in your home may have a basket full of hats, scarves, and gloves. It may look disorganized to a casual observer. You know there are ways to organize these accessories better and maybe you will do so one day but for now, this system is working for you.

How Organized Clutter Shows Up At My House

My Office

I relate to the expression organized clutter when I look at my office and my desk. I have a lot of stuff in my office. Some may say I have too much.

I love it and work well in my office.

If you look at the picture of my desk and the table beside it, you’ll see two very full hanging file organizers. One holds files related to DNQ Solutions and the other holds files related to the business I co-own with Jonda Beattie, Release Repurpose Reorganize. There is also a magazine holder on the table. It has partially used notebooks and some manila files. These are related to a few projects on which I am currently working.  

The clutter in my office is organized in the way that works for me.

Ballroom Dance Closet

Another example of organized clutter in my house is my closet which holds my ballroom dance costumes, shoes, and accessories. It’s been a few years since I competed in a ballroom dance competition. My last competition was before the Covid Pandemic. I continue to practice regularly with my dance instructor and partner, so I have several pairs of practice dance shoes as well as several pairs of performance dance shoes.  By definition, these things are clutter because they are clogging (or taking up space) the closet, but they are organized.

Taking A Step in the Right Direction

My Office

Let’s take the example of my office first. When I work with clients, I ask them what is not working regarding the organization in their home. While I firmly believe things can always be better why would I want to fix something that is not broken? We always start with the place in which they want to create more order and more space.

The organization in my office is working for me. The thought of a completely clear surface on my desk gives me the shivers.

Things that, in my mind, go together are together. Could the top of my desk and the table beside it be better organized? Absolutely! But it is a step in the right direction. Every now and then I get the urge to have my desk area better organized and go through the notebooks, files, and folders and purge the excess.

How about my ballroom dance closet?

Yes. This space has a bit of organized clutter. I admit I have lots of accessories and dance shoes. Some of the dance shoes have holes near the toes and others have soles that are practically worn through. I can fix the soles but can’t fix the holes near the toes. Those shoes are clutter and I need to toss them. The problem is that dance shoes aren’t comfortable to begin with, so I want to keep the broken in pairs of shoes for practice until I can’t wear them anymore.

As a professional organizer I ask my clients to trust that I will organize the space to suit them. What ever that means. If having a few piles of excess things here and there works for my client and, if they can find what they need when they want it then organized clutter is absolutely a step in the right direction.

If you are interested in organizing a space in your home to suit you, contact Diane for a complimentary 30-minute phone consultation. We can work together in-person if you are in the Atlanta, Georgia area or virtually no matter where you live.

Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer® ,a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization®, Master Trainer and owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC and co-owner of Release●Repurpose●Reorganize, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia.

Updated March 20, 2024


  • Jill Katz says:

    I love this idea of “organized clutter” as either good enough or scaffolding to get to your ultimate organizing goal. Your post gets both client and organizer to pause and think “Is this clutter a problem that needs to be solved” and that pause can yield great results. For me, I look for clutter that is “stuck”, meaning there is no movement. So if someone has a bunch of papers in a vertical folder that is just sitting there, we might tackle it and decide that it needs to be thrown out or it actually needs to be dealt with and the system for following through with “action item papers” is breaking down and needs to be rethought. But, of course, if it’s just sitting there and doesn’t bother the client then it can be left alone as “organized clutter.”

  • Julie Bestry says:

    I could not agree more to the philosophy behind what you’re saying and the importance of being at ease with what’s not yet fully organized and tidied away. I respect your definitions, but I think my perspective uses definitions a little more loosely.

    “More than we want/need” is my hallmark of clutter; It’s excess, and some of each collective group (if it were tidied) would still need to be on the chopping block for things to work maximally. I tend to think of things that aren’t organized at all not as clutter, but as merely disorganized. To me, clutter is what you don’t need; disorganized things you do need are just not where they need to be YET (like freshly washed and cut hair that hasn’t been styled yet). 😉

    I wouldn’t describe most of what you reference (the dance shoes with holes notwithstanding) as clutter (noun), even if the items clutter (verb) the spaces in question. So, to my mind, all those things you describe are beyond organized clutter, they are semi-organized or perhaps proto-organized. But whatever we call it, you’re so right that getting them together, LOOSELY organized, is an excellent first step, and may even be enough to satisfy certain people and in certain situations.

    • Diane Quintana says:

      Julie, I agree with you and find there is almost always something to remove. It’s about finding your personal comfort level and functionality.

  • I always feel like paper is organized if you can find something easily. And, yes, we sometimes keep more paper than we need. Part of the reason for that is that going through paperwork is very time consuming and not fun. I usually feel like I have more important things to do with my time. My medical files are a prime example of this. They are fairly organized but way too full.

  • What I love about what you wrote is how it leans into the idea of being ‘organized enough.’ What organized looks and feels like to each of us varies wildly. So, having a clear desk with nothing on it gives you “the shivers.” However, another person might function best with a clutter-free surface. Understanding those differences is at the heart of what you’re describing.

    I LOVE that you have a ballroom dance closet! I imagine beautiful colors, sequins, sparkles, and gorgeous accessories. It sounds like you have a few things you want to release, but for the most part, the space works well for you. That’s all that matters.

    • Diane Quintana says:

      I do have lots of sequins and sparkles in my ballroom dance closet! I agree, Linda. It’s very important to understand your personal need for organization and to accept that what works for you may not be what works for another person. And – that’s just fine.

  • Your post will make everyone pause and think. They thought they are well organized until they read your blog. Clutter is everywhere. There is always a solution, the solution is to take care of it and not let it pile.

  • Seana+Turner says:

    I have a lot of clients who feel they can’t even start making decisions about getting rid of things until they get their clutter “organized.” Seeing items together can really be a step in the right direction.

    I love how this post shows that organizing really is personal. It’s important to find states of belongings that work for us. For one, that might mean that the desk surface is always perfectly clear. For another, having a few items out, or a bin to collect various items, might be just what they desire.

    I smiled seeing you reference to my friend Matt Baier. I’ll tag him when I share this out!

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