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Macro or Micro Organizing?

Macro or Micro Organization: What's the Difference?

What’s the Difference? Which Type of Organizer Are You?

About a year ago, I was listening to the ClutterBug podcast (she’s amazing!), where the host discussed micro and macro organizing. Realizing I’m a MACRO organizer brought a tremendous sense of relief. I used to compare myself to Pinterest and Netflix images, feeling “less than” because in my own home not everything is hyper-organized. I have systems, but not everything is categorized and labeled to the enth degree. Understanding my style freed me from the comparison game and motivated me to organize. If you’re unfamiliar with macro or micro organizing, let me break it down for you!

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Macro Organization: The Big Picture

Macro organization is big picture. It's a big category. Image: picture of a large basket with a blanket

Macro organizing is all about the “Big Picture.” In a home setting, it means everything has a designated home or zone, though not necessarily neatly categorized, uniquely labeled, or precisely folded. Take our clothes drawers, for example. Each item has its place, whether a drawer or a bin, but I emphatically do not engage in meticulous folding. If that works for you, fantastic! But for me, it’s not my style, and I embrace it without a care. My clothes are in the drawer, easily accessible, not spilling out, and the system works perfectly for me—judgment-free! 😄

Organization products for Macro Organizers:

If you find yourself leaning into the macro-organization idea, here are a few product ideas to help keep things organized in a big-picture way. Macro organizers often benefit from products that help streamline and manage larger-scale systems. Here are some product suggestions tailored for individuals who prefer a macro organizational approach:

These products help aid macro organization and see the bigger picture. Remember, the key is to focus on solutions that facilitate a broad yet systematic approach to organization, ensuring that everything has its designated space within larger categories.

Micro Organization: The Little Details

Micro Organization: organizing into smaller and smaller categories. Graphic: shows file folded clothing with the text micro organization

Microorganizing is a more detailed organization. Things are broken down into smaller, more specific categories. An area where micro-organizing can be really helpful is with art or craft supplies. My daughter has her art supplies separated into different categories in our own home. We bought this awesome organizing drawer unit, and she went to town! She has a compartment for googly eyes, a compartment for rhinestones, a compartment for beads, etc. A more macro-organizing approach (a.k.a Mom’s approach) was a giant box where all the art supplies lived. My daughter didn’t like this system because it took her too long to find what she needed. A micro approach was the correct system for her space.  

Product ideas for micro-organization

If you find that micro-organization is more your jam, here are some products that work really well to help categorize and compartmentalize items into a more specified organization system:

Another Option: Meso or Manageable Organization

Manageable of Meso Organization: a system of organization somewhere in the middle of micro and macro, a more manageable approach

Update to Original Post: I’ve recognized the need to acknowledge an intermediary level between macro and micro organization. In my daily life, I often find myself in this middle ground. The categories in my home aren’t overly broad, ensuring separation, yet I don’t delve into such micro-detail that it becomes unmanageable for others. While my initial post focused on micro and macro levels, my perspective has evolved. Now, I see the importance of mid-level organization, which I believe is the most manageable approach for many households.

Meso Organization Products:

If you are looking for products that reflect a more mid-level organization style, look for bins and baskets that will hold big categories of similar items. I like these options because they can be reused in many different ways… no matter where we live. To check out some of the organization challenges that military spouses face, read my article here.

Micro vs Macro in the Digital Organization space

In terms of digital organization, I lean more towards a macro approach. Too many folders on my computer can lead to forgetting where I placed something, and numerous email categories might result in overlooking essential tasks. In managing my digital life, I prefer creating broad categories for quick filing and easy retrieval. Of course, if a system with many folders enhances your ability to locate items, that’s the approach you should embrace! To delve further into my digital organization methods, explore my 7-day digital declutter challenge!

Which one are you?

So which one are you? Are you a micro or macro organizer? Does it change according to the space in your home? If you want to watch my Instagram LIVE (my first one! 😅), you can view it here: Instagram LIVE: Macro or Micro Organizing. Please let me know what type of organizer you are. Do you live for the details? Or are you okay with moving on if the system is working? If you would like to join the conversation, head on over to the Facebook Group: Organization Tips and Tricks for The Organized Military Life.

Looking for more great organization tips? Check out my article, How to Declutter by Category and How to Organize a Junk Drawer here.

Happy Organizing y’all!

12 Responses

  1. It’s always important to lean into who you are, what works for you, and not compare to others. So bravo to you for finding a comfortable place between mostly macro, but sometimes micro organizing. I’m a combo organizer too. While I appreciate looking at consistently folded piles of clothes and labeled drawers, I recognize that it’s a personal choice and lifestyle decision. Whatever works IS the best way. So if the sock drawer without compartments works best, go for it. If folding them and lining them up in neat rows makes it easier, then do it. No right or wrong…just a matter of preferences, which may vary depending upon which areas or items are being organized.

    1. Completely agree! You have to find the system that works for you. And, if that means file folding so that you can see all of your things all at once, then do that. I just find that would be a system that neither I nor my family can keep up with. I love helping my own kids think through the things that aren’t working and help them find a solution.

  2. I definitely have a hybrid approach. I am a micro organizer on my computer or in my closet. And my bookshelves are alphabetical by author within topic categories! On the other hand, my cleaning supplies and toiletries and random things are more generally organized. And I am with you, file folding is just too much work. Then again, I hang almost everything other than foundation garments and bulky sweaters!

    1. Julie, same. I, too, hang most of my clothes so the things in the drawers are mostly pajamas and athletic gear- same for the kids. I think I would drive myself and the family crazy if everything was in hyper-order all the time. As long as everyone generally can keep up with a space I am happy.

  3. I downsized from 2,700 sq. ft. to 400 sq. ft., recently.
    I went from a macro to a micro overnight. I have no space so I rearrange things and categorize. A friend just gave me a curio cabinet yesterday. I panicked for a second because I have so much space.

  4. I love that a lot of these comments agree about hybridizing organization styles. Flexibility and situational awareness are key to making your organization system work for you and your family. Depending on the area of the house, its contents, and how much time you (realistically!) have, it could go macro or micro.

  5. Well, I’m primarily more of a micro organizer, based on the way you describe the differences. That said, there are some areas of my life where having everything “just so” isn’t important to me. For instance, the top drawer of my nightstand has a variety of items. They aren’t perfectly aligned, but it’s okay with me. I know what is there, and can find what I need pretty easily.

    I do love the products for all three levels, though! I have some of each. 🙂

  6. I am both micro and macro and it depends on the area I am organizing. My office is micro, with small categories and items tightly grouped. If I reach for a paper clip I don’t want to rummage through binderclips and elastics to get one. My client organizing supply area is a macro area. All my supplies are in one area. Things are groups but are stored based on the shelving rather than what should be placed side by side. large items need large spaces and the small items tend to end up together in narrower shelving. There are no precisely labelled neat groups but things are stored so I can see everything. I wonder if things are stored visually ( out in the open) is miro organizing less important than if things are stored behind doors and in drawers where you can’t see everything at once?

  7. I love this concept because it really helps break things down so you can think about your end goal. As with most things, I am a micro organizer in some areas and a macro organizer in others. For example, I am a micro organizer in my kitchen. My tupperware is neatly stacked with lids on by shape (circles with circles, rectangles with rectangles, and squares with squares) and all my kitchen drawers are have dividers, not just my cutlery but everything! My papers, however, are more loosely categorized and in a vertical folder. And my off-season clothes are thrown in matching bins with lids (only my bathing suits are separated). I appreciate the micro but it isn’t always worth the effort it takes to put that system in place. Thanks for introducing me to these ideas!

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Jana Arevalo- Declutter Coach, The Organized Military Life

Hello! I'm Jana

Hi! I’m Jana! I have been a military spouse for 18 years, and I am experienced when it comes to PCS moves, organizing new spaces, and creating more efficient systems for my family. I understand the feeling of anxiety and overwhelm that can come with clutter, and that’s why I love helping military spouses, busy moms and small business owners declutter and organize their homes, digital lives and paperwork!

I am an Amazon Associate as well as an affiliate with Share-a-Sale and List & File, Military Life Binders. I receive a small commission (at no cost to you!) if you purchase through my links. Thank you!


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