Declutter before you organize

You’re tired of searching for a pen every time you make a grocery list and decide to organize “that” kitchen drawer. You go out and buy nifty dividers. But when you refill the drawer, you still can’t find a pen!

What might have gone wrong?

  • You have too much stuff in the drawer.
  • It isn’t grouped into “like” categories.
  • No one stuck to the organized drawer plan.

The toughest part about organizing a loaded drawer, stuffed closet, or overflowing garage shelves is that before you organize you have to declutter. And decluttering takes time, focus, and a willingness to get messy before you see results which is why decluttering often gets skipped.

Are you ready to tackle that drawer again and have the organization stick?

Declutter and reorg exercise
1. Take everything out of the drawer and put it on the floor or on a large table.

2. Sort everything into piles of like items – pens, paper, screwdrivers – whatever is in the drawer.

3. Put a trash can next to the table and throw out trash as you go. Test pens to see if they are dry. If they are, out they go. If you have pads of paper with stuff written on them, pull out the used pages and trash them. Toss anything that’s broken or that you know you’ll never use again.

4. Look at your piles. What ideally should go in this drawer? What is the drawer’s highest purpose? And what can go elsewhere? If there is stuff in the drawer you rarely use, find it a new home.

5. Now look at the piles you want to keep in the drawer. How can you divide the drawer to keep similar items together? Do you have small, loose items like paper clips or push pins? Or tall, thin things like pens and rulers? Then that’s the mix of dividers you’re looking for. Measure the drawer and make an ideal plan placing the “most popular” items at the front and the lesser-used items toward the back. Make a little sketch for yourself and head out to big box store like Target – or look on-line for ways to divide your drawer. You may not find exactly what you were looking for. Be flexible!

6. Come back to your drawer and add the dividers. As you re-load the drawer, edit one last time to make sure the drawer isn’t overly full. If it is, take out more stuff and find a new home for it elsewhere.

7. Now comes the hard part – maintenance.

  • Every time you put something in the drawer, make sure you put it with its friends. Every time.
  • If you live with other people, ask them to put things in with similar items.
  • If you’re getting something out of the drawer and see something in the wrong spot, move it to the right spot.
  • Throw stuff out as you go – if something is broken or nearly used up, don’t put it in the drawer. Throw it out!

There’s no magic to keeping drawer space neat. Like any organizational habit, you need to have an intent, an action plan, and a reward.

What’s your reward for a neat kitchen drawer? Now you can find that pen to make a grocery list! 🙂

Sending you organizational love with a shot of the newest member of our family – Amazing Grace.


P.S. If you want to keep your house organized and neat, don’t get a puppy. Just sayin’ 🙂






2 thoughts on “Declutter before you organize

  1. Love it. Just yesterday i impulsively bought an 18-drawer ‘organizer’ for my workbench in the cellar. now i know what to do first – unclutter. so now off to buy a trash can… maybe two.


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