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Why Decluttering Isn’t Permanent (and How to Clean Differently)

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If you’re like many people, you excitedly purchased Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up with high hopes of getting your home organized. Maybe you had amazing results. But maybe, like me, you had some not-so-great results.

If you’re struggling to figure out why decluttering isn’t permanent, here’s practical advice (that’ll actually work) on how to declutter.

The KonMari technique didn't work in our house, but I'm excited to check out some of these decluttering books and courses sound great!

A year ago, I was determined to declutter my house once and for all, just like Marie Kondo promised. Unfortunately, my house was still cluttered a year later.

My closet still burst at the seams, despite trying seasonal and capsule wardrobes (apparently my “winter clothes” take up a lot of space?!?). Even after our “nightly pick up,” toys still magically appeared on our family room floor. And laundry baskets (and shoes) still graced our entryway.

Even after purchasing Marie Kondo’s follow up book, Spark Joy, my house continued to… not spark joy.

Part of me wanted to embrace the new “hygge culture” and decide that my clutter was “cozy.” I gobbled up Pia Edberg’s book, The Cozy Life: Rediscover the Joy of the Simple Things Through the Danish Concept of Hygge. But even though I found some of my clutter cozy, other things, like the paper piles that needed to be filed, weren’t so cozy.

The Nesting Place ebook

Then I read the Nester’s The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to be Beautiful to be Perfect in hopes that I could just move my clutter around to create a happy home. But that didn’t work, either.

In the end, I wanted to just close my eyes.

Moved clutter and cozy clutter is still clutter, and I really wanted to streamline my home (while still creating a happy environment). Was that even possible?

If reading Marie Kondo’s books didn’t help, or if you’re so overwhelmed that you don’t know where to start, take a deep breath.

A happy (clutter-free) home is possible. You probably just need a little more hand-holding than being told to discard every photograph that doesn’t “spark joy.” I certainly did!

And if you struggle to make a decision, download my decluttering decision matrix (it’s available in the free Organized Motherhood Resource Library – sign up at the bottom of this post).

Decluttering Resources That Work

Once I realized that I needed to do more than just read decluttering books and pray that my clutter would disappear while I slept, I decided to try some other decluttering methods.

I found that I needed help focusing on different areas of my home.

Not everything in my home “sparks joy,” but there were some things that I was unable or unwilling to clear. These books and courses provided just the right amount of hand-holding to get my home organized and get systems in place so I could stop feeling overwhelmed.

Decluttering your entire home

Clutter: Sorted!

Declutter and organize your home at a relaxed pace with the Clutter: Sorted course.

If you need your hand held as you declutter each room of your house, the Clutter:Sorted! course is an excellent option! Over the course of 20 weeks, you’ll walk through each room in your home so that you can finally have a clutter-free house.

The Clutter: Sorted course also comes with a free workbook, which is invaluable. It makes the decluttering process simple so you can stay focused and avoid overwhelm.

Chaos to Clutter-Free: 16 Realistic Steps to an Organized Home

Chaos to Clutter-Free

Chaos to Clutter-Free: 16 Realistic Steps to an Organized Home is filled with practical steps to get your home into maintenance mode (i.e. tackle that laundry pile so you’re not overwhelmed before you even begin “decluttering”), best practices for decluttering, and ideas to declutter or clean when you have small children.

A lot of the helpful tips and encouragement found in Chaos to Clutter-Free were missing from Marie Kondo’s books. It also helps that Davonne Parks is a mom, so she understands the overwhelming amount of clutter (and embarrassing clutter stories) that kids can bring into the home. It felt like Chaos to Clutter-Free was written by a friend who “gets it.”

Home Organizing DIY Assessment Workbook

If you’re analytical or a planner, the Home Organizing DIY Assessment Workbook might be a great way to start decluttering. This workbook provides an interesting way to look at each room in your house and analyze what’s working, what you love… and what you don’t love.

One of my favorite suggestions in the book was to take a picture of each room to get a different perspective, which goes along with the theory of “quieting a room” in The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to be Beautiful to be Perfect.

If you don’t have time to caress each item in your house to determine if it “sparks joy,” using the Home Organizing DIY Assessment Workbook is a great alternative. It’s also a good starting place to help you visualize a happy home, even if you do end up using the Kon Mari decluttering method.

Organizing your paper and files

10 Steps to Organizing Photos and Memorabilia

10 Steps to Organized Photos and Memorabilia

If touching each photo to see if it “sparks joy” makes you want to run away, know that there’s a simpler (and less pragmatic) solution.

Our “stuff” has huge meaning and holds memories for us. There isn’t a magic wand that can make you process your past like a robot. It is hard and emotional work to let go of the evidence of your memories when the person or place you really miss is gone.

It is also done in stages. No one walks into their childhood home and walks out with 20 items for a shadowbox.

-Lisa Woodruff

10 Steps to Organizing Photos and Memorabilia gives a lot of creative tips to organize photos, letters, cards, and, most importantly, kids’ paperwork.

I especially love the idea of creating a bulletin board for each child’s artwork and then taking a picture of it at the end of the year. However, while I love the practical ideas shared in this book, you won’t find as much hand-holding or motivation in this book as some of the others. This book is perfect if you’re looking for specific ideas to organize your photos and memorabilia.

The Paperless Home

Wouldn’t it be great to just get rid of paper once and for all? Instead of shuffling papers and moving piles every time you need to make dinner, The Paperless Home teaches you how to organize your paper digitally so that you can still find your statements, receipts, and important files – without having to dig through piles.

I have the video version of The Paperless Home, which walks you through organizing your files in Evernote, complete with step-by-step videos to simplify the process. However, there’s also an ebook version, which would be good if you’re already familiar with Evernote.

Paperwork: Sorted! Step-by-Step Guide to Sorting the Paper Piles Once and for All

Paperwork is the bane of my existence, and I tend to create really complicated filing systems…. And then I end up procrastinating.

Your daily life is going to start testing your systems – and you need to work out whether what you thought would work in theory actually does in practice.

-Chrissy Halton

With Paperwork: Sorted, you’ll learn practical solutions to organize your paperwork on the front end. You’ll also learn simple solutions to manage the bursting files and paper piles that you’ve already accumulated.

I love how Paperwork: Sorted walks you through your paperwork system, including assessing your current system, what you hope to achieve, and why you want to tackle your paperwork. It’s actionable and makes it seem like it’s possible to manage your paperwork.

To permanently declutter your home, it’s important to have systems in place. Not only do you need to declutter each area of your home and determine if items “spark joy,” but you need to make sure that all the items entering your home have a place or fall into a system.

These decluttering resources will help you organize your home and create systems to avoid overwhelm, both now and in the future. After trying to KonMari my home and failing, these books and resources helped me feel like there was hope.

Related decluttering resources on Organized Motherhood:

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Wednesday 14th of February 2018

Great resources, I'm currently trying to declutter and re-organize my house.

Melinda Mitchell

Wednesday 16th of August 2017

I have never read Kondo's book, and never intend to. All the reviews have told me all I want to know. And "none" of her clients have backslidden?? Really?? Obviously no kids were involved. Ok, rant over. I need hand holding too! thanks for offering the bundle.

Alison Lange

Sunday 27th of August 2017

You're welcome! I love it, Melinda. Hope it helps!


Thursday 13th of April 2017

Do you have a link to the Home Organizing DIY Assessment Workbook?

Alison Lange

Friday 21st of April 2017

Thank you for pointing that out, Karen! I don't have a direct link, but the workbook is part of the Conquer Your Clutter bundle, which is filled with some of my favorite decluttering resources. You can check it out here:


Thursday 9th of March 2017

Thank for the mention! So pleased you enjoyed my paperwork:sorted! eBook x


Tuesday 14th of February 2017

I have a friend with two sons and hubby, never would one know the house was occupied by manly men.

Alison Lange

Friday 31st of March 2017

That's too funny!