In recent years, organizing and decluttering have become synonymous concepts, but they aren’t really the same thing. Although the two activities go hand in hand, the main purpose of organizing is not necessarily to discard things. Your closets and drawers can be packed but totally organized. Or, you may have a relatively clutter-free house but can’t find what you’re looking for.

Organizing is putting the things you own in order. Decluttering means getting rid of unwanted items that are taking up valuable space. It’s possible to do both things, but decluttering alone will not make you organized.

Most people fall somewhere in the middle. They have areas in their homes that they keep organized and others that are perpetually disorganized.

The goals of organizing should be to know what you own, where to find what you need and where to put things, regardless of how much stuff you have.

Closets are a common source of organizing angst. The directive to purge everything you haven’t worn in the past year stops people in their tracks. They think that they couldn’t possibly organize their clothing without doing a thorough clean-out first, which usually leads them to do absolutely nothing. After all, who wants to throw out that many pieces at once?

Instead of requiring yourself to look at every piece of clothing to determine whether it’s worth keeping before you start organizing, just start organizing. Purging and organizing don’t have to be two wholly separate processes. By hanging everything on the same type of hangers—hangers that properly fit your clothing—and arranging everything in a logical order—shirts together and facing the same way, pants hung properly and together by type, jeans and sweaters folded neatly—you’ll find your closet to be much more organized, and you’ll be better able to see what you have. This process of tidying up and organizing spaces you use every day can happen without decluttering, and it should happen a couple of times a year. If you discard some things along the way, that’s progress.

With her book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” Marie Kondo set the bar very high for all of us mere mortals who aren’t quite ready to part with our possessions that don’t “spark joy.” If you set a goal of doing a massive purge, you’re likely to get overwhelmed. Instead, be realistic, and strategic, by organizing the things you value most in an efficient and useful way. And if you get rid of some stuff during the process, you’re doing just fine.

—Nicole Anzia

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