What is the difference between cleaning, decluttering and organizing?


The first time I went to a blogging conference was also the first time I identified myself as a “slob” to real people in real life. That hurt. But even more difficult was the fact that, initially, these real people ONLY knew this one shameful thing about me.

Strangely, no one was horrified or even rude about it. Most reacted as if they identified with this label I had put on myself through my blog.

I clearly remember a conversation I had one evening. I was asked, “Are you a dirty slob or a cluttered slob? There’s a difference, y’know.”

At that point, I’d been self-analyzing my slob problem for almost a year, tracking and reporting what did and didn’t work to actually improve my home, and I had figured a lot out about myself, my slob tendencies and my lovely, oh-so-logical excuses.

My answer: “Before I started this process, I would have said I was a cluttered slob, because clutter is my biggest problem. And I know how to clean and I like things clean. But I’ve realized I can’t actually clean when there’s clutter everywhere.”

That was my spur of the moment answer, but I’ve thought a lot more about this distinction over the past seven years.

Before I started my deslobification process, I thought decluttering was part of cleaning.

When I got fed up with the mess and decided to “clean” my house, the first step was getting clutter out of the way. But because there was so much clutter, I rarely made it to the deep cleaning I wanted to do.


Once I got going on my deslobification process, focusing on daily stuff (dishes, laundry, etc.) and decluttering huge amounts of stuff I’d never actually needed, a strange thing happened. When I got the urge to clean, all I had to do was . . . clean.

For real, y’all. That’s it.

This was such a surprise to me. I’d always included picking up randomness off the kitchen floor in the time required to “mop.” But when I was sweeping the kitchen daily, the time set aside for mopping only had to include mopping. Shocker, huh?

Realizing mopping only involves mopping means mopping is significantly less overwhelming. And that realization was a big part of the traction, the momentum that happened.


Cleaning is easier (and faster and therefore more likely to actually happen) when clutter doesn’t pile up because I’m doing daily tasks like 5 minute pickups.

Decluttering and cleaning are not the same thing.

But what about organizing?

Organizing and decluttering are not the same thing, either.

Organizing is problem-solving, planning, and system implementation. Decluttering is getting rid of things I don’t need.



Problem solving is stressful, and I analyze and think and plan before I ever take action. I feel the need to consider possible scenarios and predict all the ways my new system could fail.

When I realize decluttering and organizing are two separate, different things, a weight was lifted. I could declutter without any planning. Without any problem-solving. Just purge.

And the beauty of allowing myself to “just declutter” is that a decluttered space feels organized compared to the mess it was before!

I’ve found that the very best time to “organize” is after I’ve lived with a decluttered space for a period of time. We can usually function fine when the space isn’t crowded with things we don’t need, and as we function, I realize what tricks or containers or systems would work best for us. In our home. In our unique lives.

Decluttering, organizing and cleaning are different things, but they work together.

I used to say to myself, “I just need to get organized!” But “getting organized” was this smoky, in-my-head, fuzzy vision of my home being better than it was at that moment.

Strangely, my home felt more organized the minute I started doing my dishes. Daily. Consistently. When I was no longer overwhelmed and completely bewildered by my kitchen, I felt that elusive peace I’d been craving when I voiced my need to get organized.

When I was consistent with ongoing daily tasks and started tackling deep cleaning tasks regularly, decluttering was so, so much easier. I was aware of what we had, what we needed, and what we could live without.

So yes, all these things are totally related. Related, but definitely different. By understanding how they are different, I have improved my home.





Decluttering Clothing: Is It Hanger Worthy?


I was hanging clothes as I took them out of the dryer.

I came to a top. My top. My new top. A top totally worthy of one of my favorite velvet hangers. A top in need of the anti-sliding, anti-unintentional-closet-floor-cluttering characteristics of those beautiful, beloved hangers.

But I couldn’t find an empty hanger. 

After searching in all the places I might hope to find an empty velvet hanger, I scanned the hanging bar in my laundry room.

What was less hanger-worthy than the new, somewhat-flattering top?

I saw this beloved top. Beloved in theory, but proven not-worthy-of-love when someone posted a photo of me wearing it last spring.

Y’all, I should have tossed that ridiculously unflattering top the moment I saw the photo. Or at least the moment I got home after seeing the photo. Because, y’know.

But I didn’t. I justified keeping it for all the reasons I thought I loved it before. I like stripes. I like the cut (in theory). I like the length. I like the colors.

Just enough I likes to let me talk myself out of sticking it in the Donate Box.

So yesterday’s turning point was just what I needed to get it out of the house. I only have X number of velvet hangers. I have more clothes than I need. I definitely do not need to buy another set of 30 velvet hangers for a new top when I have one I’ve know for a fact looks awful on me. Besides, 30 more hangers would exceed the natural limits of my closet/container. 

It’s the one-in-one-out rule with an extra reality-check.

Is it hanger-worthy?

The new top was definitely hanger-worthy, so I just had to find something less hanger-worthy.

Yay for reality checks.


Do you have velvet hangers? I bought mine at Costco, but here is my affiliate link for some on Amazon. There are lots of options there, so I just tried to choose one reasonably priced with mostly good reviews. You might look around to see what you need. I earn a teeny-tiny commission on anything you purchase on Amazon after you follow my link, so feel free to shop for furniture while you’re there. 

Have you pre-ordered my book? LOTS of reality-based decluttering strategies laid out in it for you to use in your home! Find out more about How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind here



Pre-Order How to Manage and Get 14 Days to Opening Your Front Door to Guests Digital Bonus


On Nov 8th, How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind: Dealing With Your House’s Dirty Little Secrets will be out!

Out in the world!

Out on its own!

Available to be misinterpreted and misread and hated! Oh. Wait. That last line was just my author-insecurities coming out.

Honestly, I’m ready. The book is ready. And I’m so excited to share it with you because I know it’s exactly the book I desperately needed when I was ready to start this deslobification process. While there are people who definitely don’t need it, I know for a fact there are so so many who do.

My goal now (and for the next chunk of my life) is to get the word out about the book so it can reach those people who so desperately need it.

And that’s where I need your help. 

If you already know you are going to get the book, can you go ahead and pre-order? I’m not sure about all retailers, but the one where I pre-ordered it (yes, I totally pre-ordered my own book . . . ) says I’ll get it ON November 8th, the day it comes out!

And y’all, you know what else happens on November 8th this year, right? Mmm-hmmm. Elections. So if you think you might need a distraction on that day, won’t it be great to have this book to take your mind off of politics?

Here’s the thing. Pre-orders aren’t everything. You’ll be able to get the book whenever you want, but pre-orders help so so much in making sure others know about the book. Retailers look at pre-order numbers to decide if they’ll stock the book in their stores. You know there are people who don’t do much online, right? People who find the help they need by walking around bookstores? They need this message of hope, too.

I’ve been working hard on several special digital bonuses for those of you who pre-order, and the biggest one is ready for you now!

As part of these bonuses, I’ve written a brand-new short e-book called 14 Days to Opening Your Front Door to Guests. That e-book is free as a digital download for those who pre-order and fill out this form! After you submit the form, you’ll go to a page with the link to download the e-book!

Things to note:

You won’t get all the digital bonuses immediately, but you’ll get access to the e-book by filling out this form!

The other bonuses will be delivered by email, because they’re digital! (Not physical, like the book!)

You MUST fill out the form to get your digital bonuses. I do not have access to any information about you at the retailer where you pre-order. None. Not a bit. So even if you pre-order the book at each and every retailer that exists in the entire universe, but you don’t fill out this form, you won’t get any of the digital bonuses.

You do not automatically receive the digital bonuses when you pre-order How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind. You must fill out this form to get the bonuses.

I am fully aware that the last two explanations were two versions of the same explanation. Watch what else I’m about to do.

The book is a physical, pages-and-ink-and-everything book. The bonuses are digital. You won’t be able to touch them. They’ll be on your computer (or phone or tablet or whatever). They will not arrive with the physical book, but you’ll get access if you fill out this form.

You can order any form of the book (print, Kindle or Nook, audiobook) and get the bonuses. (But only if you fill out the form.)

The form asks for your order confirmation number. This is easy to find. Search your email for “How to Manage Your Home” and the email you received when you pre-ordered should come up. Your order number is on that email.

You can also sign into your account at the site where you pre-ordered and find your order there. On some retailers, if you go to the item page for the book, you’ll be told you’ve already ordered and be given a link to your order details:


Helpful hint: If you are looking at your email or at the order details page, but you’re just not seeing your order number, Press Control and F at the same time (on a PC) and type in “order” in the search bar that appears. Your computer will highlight that word on the page that you’re on. Cool, huh?

If “order” doesn’t work, try “confirmation” or something like that. Different retailers might use different terms.

If you have questions (after reading all of those instructions and details and clarifications) email me at [email protected] and I’ll help you out!

Go here to pre-order and then here to fill out the form!

Thank you SO much to those who have already pre-ordered and to those of you who pre-order today! 

More about How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind

Some quotes from some of the early readers:

I have read every bestseller book out there to help me get my house under control.  I can identify the “stuff” in my home and the items that bring me joy.  I’ve worked through “how to” checklists and posted purging questions wherever I’ve decluttered to help me make decisions.  And even though I found valuable tidbits in all of it, none of those books gave me hope for a real change in my household until I read How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind. The Container Concept hit me like a ton of bricks.

Stephanie M.

As a card carrying artsy fartsy slob, I not only enjoyed this book, I needed this book.  When I was asked to read a book about cleaning and decluttering, I was a bit hesitant.  I felt like a failure already.  Did I really need to read yet another book full of tips and tricks that would leave me feeling worse?  From the first page, I was put at ease.  It’s okay just to do the dishes?  Really?  I didn’t have the usual feeling that I needed to just fire bomb my house and start over.  This book gave me hope!  I can do this! The appendix alone is worth buying this book.  I want to print it and glue it to my wall as a life map.  Dana has found a way to make life easier for those of us who are cleaning challenged.  She has walked it herself and shares her journey with honesty and humor.  Thank you Dana for giving me permission just to “do the dishes”.  I woke up this morning to a clean kitchen and toasted you with my cup of coffee.  Tomorrow I may sweep the floor.

Angela S.

I laughed my way to a truly clean(er) house!  How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind doesn’t just tout another organizational method that sparks inspiration and then fizzles. Dana White uncovers the reasons most organizational ploys fail and delivers real, practical, attainable hope! Adjusting my thinking to reality about managing my home has already set in motion sustainable change. This is the first organization book that I have ever read that was written by someone who isn’t naturally organized.  And I loved it.  No judgement, no superiority.  Just a whole lot of real, practical help with a good dose of humor and hope.

Shelby K.

And you can see the table of contents here:

Click here to see the table of contents! HTMYH at ASlobComesClean.com

Click here to get to the form, or fill it out below. Go here if you need to pre-order. 




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