How to organize a room with too much stuff: 7 tips you need before you jump in

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A series of purple themed organized rooms with pastel and bright tones
(Image credit: Urban Outfitters/SKLUM)

Do you ever just open the door, stare at your messy room, get overwhelmed just looking at it, and then freeze and walk away? Because yikes, same.

If you've been putting off figuring out how to organize a room with too much stuff and waiting for the perfect opportunity to declutter and reset your space, this is your sign to finally do it.

It's a lot to manage and it can be really overwhelming at first to think about tackling kitchens full of your parents' passed-down cookware, that bathroom full of expired products, or a messy af bedroom, but with these seven tips, you'll have a soothing and clean space sooner than you think — and you'll find some motivation to keep that room organized afterwards. 

1. Break it down into mini projects on a to-do list

I've found the best way to tackle a surplus of stuff is to go in with a checklist of the different sections in your room and work through them one by one. When recently decluttering my bedroom over the long weekend, I started with my closet, then my 4-tier bedside table of drawers, then moved on to the overflowing basket of hair and self-tan products on my windowsill, before finally finishing with my desk and art basket.

Since the closet and most of the drawers are full of clothes, I grouped those areas into the same day, leaving my top drawer of beauty products to declutter alongside the windowsill the next day. This meant I could work on smaller projects one at a time and also go to bed with a fairly clean space. Also, that feeling when you've checked a ton off your to-do list? So much seratonin. 

2. Create clear and concrete piles

When you're working with a room that has too much stuff, it's easy for the clutter to all feel like it's blended together into one big mess, even after you've been sorting it forever. 

So instead of just vaguely designating areas on the ground for items to keep, donate, and throw away, I like to set aside a grocery bag specifically for recycling and trash, have a box ready to take to my local thrift store or charity donation center, and put the items I'm keeping on an elevated surface like a table or ottoman. This makes it so much easier to easily clear out the items that I'm getting rid of, and putting the stuff I'm keeping in plain sight is extra-motivating when it comes to reorganizing and getting things put away.

3. Fully empty out the section you're working in

Start on the right foot with the organizing process is by setting yourself up a clean area to fully empty the items from each section into. Make sure you're completely clearing out a section before you start decluttering and organizing to deep-clean the inside of your closet, drawers, or surfaces, and give yourself a fresh start.

This also ensures you're actually going through ~every single~ item without missing anything or leaving a corner cluttered, and gives you a clear space to focus on as you move through each part of the room.

4. Figure out where you're going to get rid of items in advance

You know what makes a room with too much stuff feel even more messy and cramped? All that stuff being everywhere in piles and boxes for weeks after you've worked soooo hard to go through your things and get organized.

By doing some pre-searching and scrolling, you can find local spots to get rid of your stuff and set a plan to load up your car or recruit your bestie to bring those unwanted belongings to the right recycling center, your favorite charity's donation drop-off, or to friends or family who might have been eyeing that jewelry you never wear. 

If you're thinking of a garage sale, make sure you get that on the calendar with a designated date before you start the process, especially if you're going through multiple rooms or your entire home. Otherwise, it's way too easy to put off and plan to do with your next errand run, and forget to put those boxes in your car trunk forever.

5. Be honest during your decluttering sesh

It's so crucial to keep it real with yourself as you clear out and organize your belongings, and I mean that in every sense. It's good to be a little ruthless when it comes to getting rid of outfits and notes that might not be as sentimental as you remember them being, old presents you've never opened and forgotten to regift, or dresses you bought for the clubbing days that never happened (thanks, lockdown).

But on the flip side, don't put pressure on yourself to discard the little luxuries you love to use every once in a while if you'll be tempted to repurchase if you do get rid of. That iconic pair of heels you swear by and wear to every special occasion, your whitening strips, and your splurge-worthy lip oil? You can def keep those and find them a designated spot in your reorganized space.

6. Sort what you're keeping and store intentionally

Once you've gone through all the stuff in your room, it's time to get everything put back and organized.

I personally like to store my clothes by color, with a drawer each for black, white, and colorful items. My closet is sorted the same way, using the color system I learned after years working at Victoria's Secret and PINK: to start with pink, go into the rainbow chronologically with lighter tones first, and finishing with black, white, and beige or nude.

Start by repurposing any storage and organization items you have on hand, then see what products you might need to order in.

For example, I cleared out my basket of hair products, gave it a good clean, and moved it into the closet to store my comfy pajamas and socks in. I also made better use of my beauty junk drawer beside my bed by turning it into a dedicated space for my hairbrush, hot tools, and tanning products, and picked up a clear acrylic rotating organizer from Amazon for my skincare collection. It's been so much easier to get ready (and un-ready) since making the switch from my lineup of cosmetic bags, and my room is so much more soothing to be in with less stuff on the windowsill.

7. Pace yourself and keep decluttering regularly

I truly cannot emphasize this enough: it's so so okay for reorganizing to be an ongoing process, with sections coming off your checklist one at a time over a few weeks. Going through your stuff is a lot, and by not putting a time crunch on yourself, you can be much more intentional with going through which belongings you really want to hold onto.

You can also keep the stuff from piling up in your room again in the future by setting a reminder to do a light refresh on your organization every couple of months. I'm not talking a full reset and giving up your precious weekends on the reg, but remembering to put things back in their new homes after you use them will save you so much time and stress in the future, and will make going in for a maintenance session much quicker going forward.

Nishaa Sharma
Freelance social media editor

Hi! I’m the former social editor at Real Homes and a freelance social media expert bringing you the latest and greatest in home trends, interiors aesthetics, and celebrity finds. When I’m not scrolling or filming the best home decor for your small space, you can find me exploring the cutest villages and brunch spots, or snuggled up on the sofa with a new recipe, my husband, and our puppy, Ebble.