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 realized 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.
Everything you said makes complete sense ! You can’t clean properly with clutter around , you just clean around it !!! I’m a domestic cleaner for about 12 homes and I know which homes are easy to clean ! I have one Home I’ve been cleaning for 5 years or more and it’s a huge home , not cluttered and easy to clean ✅ the owner asked me to declutter her pantry , laundry ! Which I decluttered throwing out of date items and then did the organisation !! A difference in all 3 aspects , which I’m trying to get into the decluttering , organisation side of things 😉 bit more satisfaction !! Enjoyed your article 👍😘
I used to clean houses in high school. As an adult cleaning my own house it has seemed insurmountable – the difference is the clutter, it distracts me from my purpose of cleaning. Even if it doesn’t deter me from the task of cleaning, getting whatever is in my way “put away” takes tons more time than going into someone’s picked up house and cleaning it. Another example, if I pick up my kids toys (very efficient process, no distraction/emotional attachment) if I ask my kids to do it it TAKES FOREVER and we are all miserable. Still trying to teach them, but the distraction makes it so hard!
I love this.
Before my large family moved to this 2800 sq. ft. Victorian home, we lived in 1100 sq feet. I loved the same ‘stuff’ back then, that I do now. So when I found something special, or was given something special by my mom, I would most definitely keep it. BUT, that meant stuff began lining my walls in every available space! It looked cluttered and even crowded, but the items were very dear to me. I was just waiting for that moment that everything fell into place.
Then we bought this spacious home and everything DID have a place.
First, though we had to clean up the rooms and paint etc.
Now that our living room is done to perfection, there isn’t ANYTHING extra that needs to be in there. It is so awesome! I get to display my favorite heirloom photos and ‘have it all’- the space and the loveliness.
And, because it need not be cluttered it is SUPER EASY to clean!!!! That was the best surprise of all. Now dusting can get done weekly and without dread.
So this article confirmed what I have experienced.
Also, I inherited a bunch of my mom’s crafting supplies. I didn’t have to KEEP them, but I knew I would regret it if I didn’t at least get a CHANCE to keep them. So, I’ve been working real hard to create storage space and containers to keep things. Once I made that available, I was able to go through and DECLUTTER what I deemed as extra. I made up a lot of little containers and shared the crafting supplies with all the granddaughters. Now we ALL have something useful to remember my mom by.
So de-cluttering, organizing and cleaning really are distinct actions. Each joyful in their own way. 🙂
This was really helpful, to separate steps in making a space the way you want it to look. I’ve always had those fuzzy visions of what I want, so now I’m going to try to break down the steps to get there (and tell myself it doesn’t have to be perfect, which is a big struggle).
Thank you! So much of what you write makes me wonder if you’re in my head!
Oh, my gosh! Thank you. Separating these tasks makes so much sense now. I don’t know how many times I read this before, but it finally clicked.