Some people prefer spring cleaning. I get a boost in organizing mojo in the fall. Right now, I’m itching to do a little thinning of all my drawers, shelves, and cabinets.

Thinning as organizing


Just a reminder to please join us this Friday 9/29/2023 at 1-2 PM eastern. This Save Your Photos Month is our ninth year to encourage you to preserve your photos. The Phoenixville Public Library is hosting a Save Your Photos zoom event, so you can RSVP here and attend from anywhere. Bring your Q’s, as I hope for this to be a mostly Q&A event just for you.



Thinning is part of organizing and has different names: editing, shedding, culling, maintenance.

Please leave a comment on the blog about what you call this part of organizing. I’d love to know.


Sneaky Stuff

In Western cultures, we just acquire things, often without even knowing how. Even if we think we are minimalists or we “never” shop, somehow stuff comes into our homes and lives throughout the year.

While things seem to come into the house in stealth mode, there doesn’t seem to be a sneaky back door…unless you count that black hole in the dryer.

That’s where thinning comes in.

Drawers, Closets, Cabinets Need Thinning

You might be thinking, wow, the closets feel packed. I have to shove my drawers closed. I struggle to put my favorite coffee cup back in the cabinet. It feels like the house shrunk when you weren’t paying attention.

What’s really happened is your former favorite things migrated to the back of the drawer, closet, or cabinet, making you fight for those precious few easy-to-get-to inches in the front.

I do recommend the one-in, one out rule, but I’ve written before about the technical problems with that classic rule.

The solution doesn’t have to be an all-day organizing marathon. Instead, you can do a little selective thinning by removing one, two, or three things from the spaces that feel stuffed. Instead of agonizing over the things you can see, it’s much easier to remove things from the “way back.” That’s where you  find things that are chipped or broken, faded or torn, or just not as good as your current faves. You’ve probably already replaced those items with something better. Make room by thinning.

SORT and Succeed in small doses, 15 minutes, all five steps, is the organizing maintenance approach that makes thinning quick and fun.

SORT and Succeed for Organizing Maintenance

Problems with Thinning when Organizing

While thinning, you might be able to make a pile of things quite quickly, but there are four big mental roadblocks you might run into:

1. Category. When you pull things out of your belongings, they change category. It’s no longer in the “coffee mug” category. It switches to the “donation” category. This creates a momentary mental confusion. Make the transition easier by starting with the four or five organizing bins that I recommend. Don’t make piles and then look for a donation box. Start with the donation bin (and these other bins, too). Link to free printable signs below. bins for organizing


2. Fixers. As in, I should fix up this (whatever) so it can be used by me or someone else. As in the case of my favorite coffee mug from Nice, France in the picture above, half of the design has washed off. Maybe I should scrape off the rest of the design to end up with a clean white mug. Then I could hand paint a new design. Let’s be honest, I don’t have time for that. Neither do you. I officially let you off the hook from fixing your old thing if you don’t have the skills or the time to fix them. I’d love to keep as much as possible out of the landfill, but making your home a new kind of landfill doesn’t make it better. It just shifts the problem. If you WILL fix something and use it again, by all means, do that. But if that’s not likely, then deferring the decision to keep, toss, or donate doesn’t get your home more organized. Keep thinning.

3. Recycling. As in, is this recyclable? We used to eat movie night popcorn out of these cute plastic popcorn tubs seen in the photo above, but we haven’t used them in years. I need the space in my cabinet. These popcorn tubs don’t have a recycling mark on them, but chances are very good that they will be accepted in my municipal recycling, so I can make space by putting them in the recycling bin. If you know for a fact something can’t be recycled where you live, then in the trash it goes. Don’t keep trash in your home just because you can’t or don’t know how to recycle it. Our world isn’t perfect. Sometimes you’ve just gotta let it go…and then attempt to buy recyclable items in the future.

4. Best use. As in, someone else would surely be able to use this. We were gifted this beautiful mug (middle of the picture) with a K and gold trim, which means it can’t go in the microwave, which makes it completely useless in our house. Someone else can surely use this brand new mug, but I have neither the time or the interest in finding someone else whose name starts with a K. But you know who is really good at matching used things with the best new owner? Thrift stores. This pretty little mug gets packed away in the car for a donation drop off. Out of my cabinets today. Thinning.

Beyond Thinning

Thinning is just a few items at a time in about 15 minutes or less. A bigger project can takes hours or a few days to organize, like this garage project that we organized. So fun to hear the client’s reaction. You can watch this 43 second video of this garage organizing project here. 

Need a boost for your thinning project? You can download your own free printable decluttering bin signs here so you can start today.