Skip to main content

Why Organized Clutter Is A Step In The Right Direction

By January 15, 2023Control Clutter
organized clutter in Diane's office

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.

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.

Other Examples of Organized Clutter

You may have a basket full of reading material like saved sections from the newspaper, magazines, catalogues, and some children’s books in your family room. This is organized clutter. You have not taken the time to sort out the things that do not belong.

In your kitchen, you may have a drawer full 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.

The front hall closet 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.

A Step in the Right Direction

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. The soles can be fixed but the holes near the toes can’t. Those shoes are excess and need to be tossed. 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.

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.

15 Comments

  • Seana+Turner says:

    The beauty of this post is that it shows us how organizing is not strictly a “right” or “wrong” discipline. Each person should allow themselves a system that works FOR THEM. Some people like having thoughts out, where they can reach them, and as long as they are stored in an organized way, they are happy.

    I find people often have good reasons for why they keep certain objects in any given location, or why they keep things that appear to an outsider to be toss-worthy (e.g., your old dance shoes).

    It is when the system isn’t working… when the “clots” are a problem, when we need to change things up.

    • Diane Quintana says:

      Exactly, Seana. Why fix a wheel that is still operational? Everyone has their reasons for doing things a certain way. It’s our job as professional organizers to truly listen when our clients talk to us about their spaces and their belongings.

  • First of all, I love how you “let us in” to see your office space. I always find it fascinating to see how my colleagues organize their spaces. I appreciate you trusting us enough to share.

    What occurred to me as I read your description of “organized clutter” was the idea of clutter tolerance. When I’m getting to know a new client, it’s important for me to understand what feels and looks like clutter to them (and their housemates.) Someone might look at your desk and think it feels cluttered. Another person might interpret it as clutter-free. So what “organized clutter” seems to be about is more of an individual’s perception rather than actual clutter.

    If space is functioning well, as your desk and ballroom dance closet are, then perhaps they aren’t really cluttered. They are organized in a way that works for you. And by the way, I LOVE that you have a ballroom dance closet! I can only imagine how colorful and sparkly it must look.

    • Diane Quintana says:

      Thanks, Linda. I think tolerance of clutter is a wonderful way to look at the collections of things. Yes! My ballroom dance closet is quite sparkly!

  • Thanks for sharing your areas of “organized clutter.” We will always have clutter in our homes. I don’t believe every room has to be cleared of all the “clutter.” When hobbies are being done, chaos will exist. If you are not a hobbyist but prefer to collect, and joy comes to you when you look at the space, it may look like clutter to others, but to them, it brings joy. So, is that area cluttered? No, of course not. Clutter-like art is subjective.

  • An example of my own organized clutter is that I still have some old engineering textbooks. Do I ever use them? No! Have I gotten rid of most of them by now? Yes! Are they stored in a bin, with nothing in the bin but old textbooks? Yes. Will I be able to part with them if I decide to use that space, or that bin for something else? Yes. (As demonstrated by other bins and spaces that I suddenly had a desire to use for something more important.) But, for now, I have space for a bin of old textbooks.

    Another is my sock drawer. Do I pair my socks and display them neatly? No! Can I find a pair of socks when I need to? Yes! I figure as long as all the socks are in one drawer, and it’s not overflowing, and there’s nothing in the drawer but socks, it’s organized enough. Might there be a pair I never wear and could get rid of? Yes. But it’s not preventing me from getting dressed in the morning!

    • Diane Quintana says:

      Thank you for sharing these examples, Hazel! We all have some clutter somewhere – organized or not. Life is too short to be meticulous with everything.

  • Yes! Each person will have a unique optimal home and/or office setup. I love that this post allows for that kind of flexibility.

  • Jana Arevalo says:

    I like to think of this “organized clutter” as MACRO organization. Like items are combined, but not organized down to a T. Like you said, if the system works there is not really a reason to change it.

    I LOVE that you are into ballroom dancing!! How fun! And yes, there are many levels of broken-in shoes. You can’t just toss those puppies out! Thanks for the article.

    • Diane Quintana says:

      You’re quite right, Jana. It is organizing on a MACRO level. Thank you for commenting.

  • It’s so important for people to realize that ‘organized’ looks different for everyone. If you can find what you’re looking for and your space feels good to you, that’s often times organized enough, no matter how much organized clutter there is!

  • Julie+Bestry says:

    This was an interesting exercise in the process of getting from disorganized to organized, cluttered to uncluttered. To me, yes, clutter clogs things, but I believe clutter is that which we either DO NOT NEED at all or in the space where it exists and not merely that which takes up space. Otherwise we, ourselves, would be clogs and/or clutter, and I’m definitely unwilling to go along with that! 😉

    You are keeping those worn-through dance shoes because you are still wearing them (even though you probably shouldn’t) because of comfort. If you weren’t wearing them at all, they’d be excess, so to me, they are neither clutter nor (I expect, knowing you) are they ever disorganized. Similarly, your desk seems neither cluttered nor disorganized, but certainly if you are USING all of the things there regularly, they are not clutter. Your other examples (the kitchen, the hall closet) seem more aligned with the question of where we are in the path from clutters and disorganized to cluttered but organized to, hopefully, uncluttered and organized.