Connect With Me

Linda Samuels, CPO-CD®

Connect with me on FacebookConnect with me on TwitterConnect with me on LinkedInConnect with me on YouTubeConnect with me on Twitter


Sign-up for free monthly e-newsletter and get "Organizing Tip 101" series as a thank you bonus!

Buy Linda's book at her Amazon store for Autographed Copy!

In The Other Side of Organized, Linda Samuels, CPO-CD® will encourage you to get organized enough to reduce the stress of life’s details and make time to embrace your passions. Already, thousands of clients and readers have found help and inspiration in her advice, personal reflections on change and connection, and vision of what can be accomplished when you find that sweet spot between chaos and perfection.

Available in paperback or eBook for Kindle, Nook, iPad or iPhone and Sony Reader.

Professional Organizing

Need some help? Linda's company, Oh, So Organized! provides professional organizing services. Click here to learn about our unique Client Loyalty Program. Visit the Oh, So Organized! website for organizing tips, resources, videos and more. Make this your year to get organized.

« What Are Today's Interesting Finds? - v5 | The Freedom of Letting Go of Supposed To »

Two of the Most Powerful Clutter Concepts

Life is complicated. There are many dynamics, decisions, phases and stages. There is constant change that we navigate to the best of our ability. Clutter is complex too. We become emotionally attached to our things. Our stuff seems to collect as we sleep. Where did those piles come from? How did my closet get so crammed that it’s stressful getting dressed every morning? I have to keep my stuff because if I let go, I’ll lose a part of me.

I’d like to share two powerful and possibly simple clutter concepts with you. Are you ready?

While there are many solutions for “dealing with” clutter, and I’ve written lots of posts sharing those ideas, it all comes down to two basic concepts: Release and Manage.


Powerful Clutter Concept One: Release

To reduce the volume of clutter, to make it easier to manage our stuff, we need to release or what I like to call, “edit.” Yes, we’re talking about letting go of the unessential so that we can make room for what’s most important and significant. You get to decide which clutter is taking up physical and mental space in your world and then release it.


Powerful Clutter Concept Two: Manage

To organize the essentials that remain, we need to create specific “homes” for our stuff to live so that we can manage how it works with us. The homes might be containers, closets, surfaces, or compartments. Yet it’s not just the creating of the homes, it’s also taking the time to return things to their homes.


You've heard this before: Less is more. Less is easier to maintain.


Decide what your less looks and feels like. What is your optimal less? Experiment with reducing the volume of clutter. Experiment with managing what remains. If you’re struggling with decision-making or organizing, enlist the help of a trusted friend, family member, or professional. The right kind of support can make all the difference.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Come join the conversation. What’s been your experience with releasing and managing clutter?





PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (24)

Thanks, Linda. These are wonderful tips for dealing with clutter. I particularly like the thought of managing the clutter. When you manage something you are in control. You decide where to put it - even if it means putting it in the recycling bin or donation bag, and thereby releasing it! I often tell my clients to create a mantra to help them remember to put their belongings back. The one I use as an example is: Don't put it down, put it away.

May 5, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDiane Quintana

Releasing and managing our stuff, the most simple principles. As time goes by, I try to release and reduce all the things I don't need any lo ger or those I don like anymore. In doing that I found the beauty of having less worries, less things to keep ant mantain, less fear of losing them. Letting go (things, bad feeling, grudges) is such a liberating process and brings more joy to my life.
Then, with less stuff managing it is more easy because I focus on what I really use or love. Organizing becomes a less srtessful task and more achieveable.

May 5, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNacho Eguiarte

Less is definitely easier to maintain. It's funny how people can feel they are bad at organizing, when their true struggle is releasing - or editing, as you say. Back in the days of life on the prairie, getting kids to clean up toys was not a struggle... they had hardly any! We seem to undervalue the truly refreshing influence of space to move and breath!

May 5, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSeana Turner

Release, I love that word, it is like giving your self permission, that it is ok to let go. Many struggle with word. Very powerful. Another great thought provoking post Linda.

May 5, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJill Robson

Wonderful "hearing" your voices. I'm still smiling because I got to see you a few weeks ago in LA for the NAPO conference.

@Diane- I love the clutter management mantra you shared, "Don't put it down, put it away." What other mantras do your clients find helpful?

@Nacho- You've beautifully described one of the benefits of letting go of clutter: "liberating process and brings more joy to my life." It doesn't get much better than that. Fabulous!

May 5, 2015 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

You too jumped on in while I was writing to Diane and Nacho. Great to have you join the conversation! Love your additions.

@Seana- Good point you make about identifying a common issue with organizing. It's in the decision-making and editing that we often get stuck, and not necessarily with the actual organizing of our stuff.

@Jill- Releasing is a favorite word that I use with my clients. It's just as active, but less harsh and more respectful than "get rid of, throw out, toss, or put in the garbage."

May 5, 2015 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Excellent tips, Linda. I agree, the ability to release and let go of items is extremely important in managing clutter. Creating homes for each and every remaining item definitely helps my clients manage and maintain a more organized space.

May 5, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNancy Haworth

Linda - I can hear you speaking when I read your words. Release and manage - so simple. I talk with clients about quantifying "enough" - how many black pair of pants is enough? Keep it simple. If it's 20 pair release the rest, manage what's left. I like Diane's suggestions for mantras... clients are so creative it'll be fun seeing what we can come up with!

Thanks Linda... you always inspire me.
A good day to all!

May 5, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRegina Lark

Welcome to the blog. Great to have you both join our conversation!

@Nancy- It's that two prong approach (Release and Manage) that helps our clients tame their clutter challenges. Great to know that these ideas are effective for your clients too.

@Regina- Oh yes! The idea of what is "enough." That's another powerful way to help our clients practice their decision-making skills by learning to quantify. There's no right or wrong. It's what works for them. I agree that our clients are extremely creative and resourceful. The best part is helping them discover how much they already know about their needs and what works. Staying curious, asking questions…and maybe introducing a few mantras (ala Diane.) :) - It was wonderful seeing you in LA, Regina! Look forward to hanging out again soon.

May 5, 2015 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Great conversation Linda (and everyone); very thought provoking feedback! Linda's points about clutter (release and manage) are very right-on. Particularly of interest is your thoughts about management. I named my clutter support classes "Managing Your Clutter..." because I think it is reasonably fair to assume that, for most of us, eliminating clutter isn't always, well...realistic. We all have clutter issues from time to time. So the key really is in the management of it all. Things in life ebb and flow, as does our clutter (although for some it just keeps 'ebbing')! How it affects us however, is in how we manage it all and by allowing ourselves to be released from it when it begins to dominate our quality of life. Thanks for the opportunity to comment. GREAT topic!

May 5, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSheila Delson

Sheila- And thank YOU for adding richness to this conversation. You and I have had many conversations in these past twenty years about clutter, organizing, emotional attachments and more. And with all the strategies and tools we've discussed, it does come down to editing and managing. I love what you say, "Things in life ebb and flow, as does our clutter…." That's beautifully said and Oh, So True! I appreciate your wisdom and perspective.

May 6, 2015 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

I love that these words are calming and gentle. In finding words for our clients it's easier for them to release, edit, eliminate, pare, or let go of what does not fit their current lives. Manage is a wonderful word to describe maintenance too.

May 6, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterEllen Delap

Yay! Ellen's here! Love when you join our conversation. You've identified one of my core beliefs- the language we use matters. Our word choice matters. It can make all the difference between how our clients feel during their decluttering/organizing journey. The sense of using "gentle" language is so important, especially since our clients can be very hard on themselves. We want to encourage, support and not judge.

May 6, 2015 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

My biggest problem with de-cluttering is that I have a large family. So, each time I clear out a space, it is literally filled the next day. Is there some secret method to dealing with this...preferably without yelling?
♥ Jill

May 7, 2015 | Unregistered Commenter♥ Jill

Jill- You are not alone with your decluttering challenge. I often say that the more stuff we have, the harder it is to manage. That same thought can be extended to the more people in a household, the more complex it is to manage the stuff. I wish I had a quick fix, but I don't. I can suggest a two-prong approach.

First, work on your personal stuff first. Begin by releasing, letting go, organizing the areas that are just yours. Your family will see what you're doing and some of them might get inspired and follow your lead.

Secondly, think about establishing boundaries. Think about communal vs. personal areas. The communal areas become EVERYONE's responsibility to keep relatively clutter-free or at a "comfortable" level. In the personal areas people can keep it to their desired level of clutter.

The main thing is enlisting help from the family, so that you're not in this alone. Your family is a community and it has to work for everyone.

Let me know how it goes.

May 8, 2015 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

I am not a professional organizer, rather in need of one myself, but I appreciate all of yourcomment. So much of what I own, I have, or rather think I have,an emotional connection to. This is what makes it so difficult to release some items. I have been following the Tidy Tutor, Fly Lady, and other organzers. I have only one sibling, a brother who is 5 years older. We haave had a very passive-aggressive relationship for most of our lives, with him being aggressive and I being passive. For the past 15 years, he has spoken tome only when necessary, and then condesendingly and tersely. In 1964, he sent me a beautiful dress hand made in Viet Nam,m, when he was a soldier there. I no longer have a relationship with him or his children, because that is how he wanted it. The dress has a lot of fond memories, but i think it might be healthier to throw it out. What do you think? When i look at it now, all i see is pain. Thanks, Katie

May 10, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterkathleen martell

Kathleen...I hear your heart & soul. The best answer/advise I can give you is from a quote by William Morris below.

"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."

Best wishes on your quest for making peace with the 'things' in your life!

May 10, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSheila Delson

@Kathleen- Letting go is not something that can be forced or decided by someone else. It takes time, especially when the attachments are emotional. It sounds like you have strong and conflicting feelings about the dress- both fond and painful ones. While I'd love to answer your question, only you can decide what to do. If you are contemplating releasing the dress, here's a link to a post I wrote which asks some questions that might be useful:

Thank you for being so open with us. Wishing you all the best as you navigate the decision-making process.

@Sheila- Love the William Morris quote as words of support for Kathleen. Just beautiful. I also love the choice of words, "quest for making peace with the 'things' in your life!" I echo that message for Kathleen and all the others that feel pulled between saving and letting go.

May 10, 2015 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Absolutely perfect choice of actions! Simple. Direct. Possible!! :)

May 11, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterOlive Wagar

Thanks so much, Olive. Sometimes it helps to stick with the basics.

May 12, 2015 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

I have a client that is really struggling with this. I'm going to share a few excerpts. Her ADD prevents her from reading more than a few small things at a time. I know this will be helpful. Thanks, Linda.

May 20, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAlys Milner

Hi Alys! I'm so glad that this post (and concepts) might be useful for your client that's struggling with releasing and managing. If you feel like circling back, I'd love to hear more.

May 22, 2015 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

I love that you make this so simple. The two concepts go together hand-in-hand too. First you release what's not essential, then you manage what's left, often by putting it with like items in a box, closet, dresser, or other container. When that container gets full, it's time to release some more.

July 30, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

Hi Janet!

Love the qualifier you offer up about keeping like with like. That's one way of organizing that can often work well. Also, your idea of using the container, surface or area as the cue for revisiting step 1: edit/release is also helpful. Great elaborations on the theme!

July 30, 2015 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>