How to Use the "Tetris" Decluttering Technique — and Why This Professional Thinks It'll Change How You Organize

Find out how the principles to one of the most popular games can be transferred into organizing your home and reap the benefits day after day

a well organized closet drawer
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Tetris is one of the world’s most well known and popular games to play, but perhaps what you may not have known, is that you can transfer those skills used to play the game into organizing your space. The gaming technique used is working out the best configurations, categorizing, and fast-paced efficient thinking. There are even studies which indicate that playing Tetris can influence how we see the world, so if we can use this to our advantage, why not do so productively?

It's something that professional organizer Kathi Burns, author of Organizing With Tetris, A Guide to Clearing Clutter and Making Space knows only too well. 'Over the last 19 years as a pro organizer, several clients have commented that I am really great at Tetris,' Kathi tells us. 'I do play Tetris frequently to de-stress, but without their comments, I would not have thought to package these two skill sets into one book.'

Ready to learn how to declutter your home like a game of Tetris?

What does Organizing With Tetris mean?

'Given how visual organizing your possessions 'like with like' is a key aspect of organizing anything,' Kathi says. 'Once you have gathered all like items together and minimized the duplicates triplicates, you can then consider organizing by shape and size, just like when playing Tetris.'

The idea is based around different objects representing "tetrominoes" that can fit together to make use of every last inch of space in drawers, cabinets and more.

We asked Kathi, and some of our other favorite organizers, how they'd approach decluttering with Tetris in mind.

1. Line By Line

Living room with brown wall and caramel furnishings

(Image credit: ferm LI|VING)

Beginning with storage spaces such as a pantry or a closet, some people practise a line by line decluttering technique to go back and forth on specific areas. Straighten items to streamline and see what you possess. If you find your shelves or boxes are overflowing and there is no way to fit the items you were planning on storing in there, you may simply need to condense down what you have by throwing out the unnecessary.

When organizing a room with too much stuff, it’s refreshing to discard things we don't need or use as efficiently as possible. Once you reach a point where it does fit, and whether stacked or not, it’s always better to be able to see everything even once it’s put away, to make it easily accessible.

2. Use bins and dividers to create tetrominoes

Not everything in life is the perfect linear tetromino shape, but you can create your own by introducing bins, baskets and dividers into the likes of drawers and cabinets.

'Every area in a home will benefit from using Tetris principals, The easiest place to begin is in a confined space, like a drawer or cabinet,' Kathi tells us. 'This way, you will be able to quickly see how to fit merge and fit organizational components, like drawer dividers and bins, together to form a cohesive storage strategy.'

3. Categorize to Create Systems

A cutlery stand in a kitchen

(Image credit: ferm LIVING)

For example, things like how to organize kitchen drawers or closet pull outs. ‘It may be helpful to group items in like-for-like categories so you can review items in a systematic way,’ advises Ben Soreff, Professional Organizer at House to Home Organizing. A thorough purge is always useful before doing this, and once left with the items to keep, the game begins… Using Tetrominoes (just like the game), as well as colors, will help to organize your layout, displaying everything you own that needs to fit inside this drawer.

Utilize the various shapes and colors you have to work with. Color coding will make for an obvious separation between items in your drawer space, and correctly sized drawer dividers will work wonders in assisting you in the layout. It will be like a breath of fresh air every single time you go to this storage point.

4. Play the Real Life Game

Crockery stacked on kitchen shelves

(Image credit: Broste Copenhagen)

Hardcore gamers will arrange each and every space just like they would in the game, putting items away like a Tetris puzzle. ‘These strategies will only be helpful for those who enjoy the puzzle game; it is not one size fits all. You may enjoy viewing organizing as a game to make the time go by but don’t feel you need to follow it blindly,’ says Ben.

Have fun with it, and direct your gaming technique into a practical everyday use, but don’t forget there’s no cheating by squeezing large things into smaller spaces with this system, you need to stick to the rules and work with what you’ve got in order for it to have the most powerful outcome.

5. Leave space for more

Packing your drawers full to the brim may sound like a brilliant way to use your storage, but it might not be so successful in real life. 'The best long term solutions are simple and easy to remember, Kathi tells us. 'Do what makes sense to you and make sure there is always extra room in your spaces for growth. Just like Tetris, there should always be open space to capitalize on later!'

Making Tetris your go-to game when clearing up is a low-stress way to get the job done. It’s fun and could be your new way of life. Allow everything to fall into place.

Portia Carroll

Portia Carroll is an interior stylist, writer, and design consultant. With a background in interior architecture and design, she has a plethora of creative experience in the industry working with high end interior brands to capture beautiful spaces and products and enhance their qualities.