Organizing Basics

The Biggest Organizing Mistakes People Make, And How To Fix Them

Have you ever felt that “Ahhhh” sensation when your home is clean and organized? For me, it’s the best! An organized home is a peaceful environment. It’s a place to feel calm, balanced and joyful. But for some people, having an organized home eludes them. It’s something they strive for but can’t attain. The reason? They’re making the biggest organizing mistakes and probably don’t realize it. Thankfully, these mistakes can be fixed with relative ease!

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Mistake #1: Failing to Declutter First

Failing to declutter is definitely one of the biggest organizing mistakes people make. If your pantry or closet is overflowing, no amount of containers will create a tidy, organized space. When you have too much stuff for a space, you’ll never succeed. And you’ll buy more containers than you really need. Organizing your house should ultimately save you money, not cost more than is necessary. Further reading: HGTV’s reasons why your house always seems messy, according to professional organizers.

You might also like:
5 Reasons an Organized Life Saves Money

While the easy answer is to simply pare down and purge, decluttering is often one of the hardest parts of getting organized.

Why? In this insightful post on KatiesKottage, there are six reasons why decluttering is so hard: lack of time, feeling overwhelmed, feeling guilt, thinking you’ll need the item some day, your partner doesn’t want to get rid of his/her things, and attachment to sentimental items.

It’s understandable that there are challenges when it comes to decluttering. Here are a few ideas on how to overcome them:

Overcome overwhelm and lack of time:

Make decluttering easier by addressing the challenges head on. Lack of time or feeling overwhelmed? Declutter in short sprints rather than marathons. For instance, for a large closet try decluttering just the shoes, then dresses, then slacks, and so on.

Biggest Organizing Mistakes People Make

You never have to set aside enough time to take every item out at once! Taking that pressure off yourself might just help you get more done.

Overcome guilt, sentimental attachment, and “I might need this”:

First, consider whether the item is serving its best purpose in your house. Are you or family members interacting with it on a regular basis? Is it covered in dust or hidden in a cardboard box in the back of the closet? If so, try to realize the item’s purpose might be better served with someone who has an immediate need.

When you just can’t part with an item, put it in a box or tub and tuck it away somewhere you can’t see it every day, like the attic or basement. Set a waiting time (a few weeks, a month, etc.). When the time is up, if you haven’t needed to use the item (or even look at it), agree to let it go. You might be surprised at how quickly you move on!

Another idea: for items you know you don’t have room for but feel attached to, take a picture and create a scrapbook memory for them. You don’t necessarily need the items themselves to hold onto their memories.

Overcome an unwilling partner who won’t part with his/her things:

It’s tough when a partner isn’t on board with our desire to pare down. There are a few ways to handle this: first, try to meet in the middle. Take baby steps. Perhaps they aren’t willing to give away all of their college t-shirts, but there are a few they’ll purge. Or agree that for every new t-shirt they buy, two old ones will be donated. In my house, I decided to just declutter and organize my side of the bedroom closet. After a week of seeing my beautifully tidy space, my husband got on board with decluttering and organizing his half, too. His side turned out pretty great!

You might also like: Easy Closet Organizing Tips

Biggest Organizing Mistakes People Make

Mistake #2: Thinking Neat Piles of Clutter = Organizing

When countertops are technically clean but covered in neat little piles of things (also known as cluttered), they’re not organized. I see pictures all the time of recently cleaned kitchens that have a million things on the counter; they’re just lined up neatly. Home office desks, too. Trust me, this is not organization. This is an unruly mess waiting to happen again and again, and one of the more common organizing mistakes people make. Thankfully, there’s a fix for this!

ClutterBug discusses the problem of too many little piles of things in this video (I can’t agree more!):

Overcome “neat piles” of clutter:

Give every item a home, and send it home as soon as it comes in the door. This applies to bills (try a mail sorter), groceries and pantry items (learn how to arrange like items in groups for easy sorting), vitamins and supplements, toiletries…everything.

You might also like:
DIY Weekend Pantry Makeover
How to Organize Vitamins, Supplements and Medications

I have a built-in desk in my kitchen, and the cabinets above it became catch-all areas for stuff that didn’t have a home. So I created homes for everything with inexpensive photo boxes and labels:

Storage Box Organization

Now, I know exactly where everything goes and exactly where I can find it when I need it.

You might also like:
Easy Cabinet Organization

Mistake #3: Not Organizing For Efficiency

Not focusing on efficiency is another of the biggest organizing mistakes people make. Sometimes, we get so complicated with our organizing solutions that they actually make things harder. The juicer we use every morning for our celery juice might fit perfectly in the cabinet above the refrigerator, but now we have to get a stepladder to access it. Every. Morning. And why do we keep our coffee bags or K-cups neatly arranged in the pantry when the coffee maker is on the kitchen counter? We’ve just added unnecessary time to our daily schedule.

Overcome inefficient organizing:

Before the actual act of organizing begins, carefully consider how each item will be used, then create a space for it in the most efficient place. The morning juicer makes much more sense on the counter for daily access; the summertime ice cream maker can be stored above the refrigerator instead. Coffee can be neatly stored in stainless steel canisters next to the coffee maker.

Bonus tip: placing the coffee maker and coffee beneath the cabinet with the coffee mugs = morning bliss!

Another efficient organizing tip: group items commonly used together in the same bin or organizer. For instance, my family likes to make popcorn on movie night. So, I created a popcorn bin in the pantry where I keep popcorn, seasonings, popcorn bags and a scoop. A clear-handled bin works perfectly for this purpose. On movie night, I just grab one container off the pantry shelf and go!

This tip works for school lunch items like bread and nut butters, in the bathroom for haircare and skincare products, and so on.

Mistake #4: Leaving Out the Labels

It’s the little things that matter when it comes to organizing. For me, this is a big one! In fact, it’s one of the littlest, biggest organizing mistakes people make. (See what I did there?) You can buy the prettiest bins in the world, but if they’re not labeled correctly, they’ll just become containers for clutter. And you won’t be able to find things when you need them. And you’ll need to organize everything all over again.

Overcome the lack of labels:

Labels are all the rage right now, so the possibilities are endless! They can be simple, written by hand on a 3×5 card; printed on the printer; created on a label maker; done up in chalk or designed with a Cricut.

In fact, I compiled a list of 16 Ways to Make Labels for Organizing to spark your imagination and inspire you to label away.

In truth, it doesn’t matter what form the labels take. All that matters is that they are made! For larger containers, group like items and add lines to the label for each category. I store printer labels and photo paper in the same bin:

Storage Box Organizer

Mistake #5: Not Being Maintenance-Minded

Final on my list of organizing mistakes people make: failing to maintain an organized space. Living an organized life is more than a weekend pantry makeover. It’s a practice, not a project. Once the pantry is organized, it takes focused effort to keep it that way. I know from personal experience! I recently overhauled my own pantry, and I put in time daily to make sure it stays neat and tidy. If I didn’t, I’d end up back at square one with clutter and disorganization, undoing all of the hard work I exerted.

Overcome maintenance mistakes:

Believe it or not, maintaining an organized space doesn’t have to take too much time out of the day, if you do a little something every day.

Start with a simple checklist of things to organize each morning or evening: mail, dishes, laundry, toys, groceries, etc. Then add things to check weekly, like the refrigerator and freezer, the panty, and the closet. If you have a cleaning checklist or schedule you follow, you can add a minute or two of organizing the space you’re cleaning.

A family command center is a great place to keep your maintenance checklist, along with chore charts for the kids to help with tidying up. If you don’t already have a command center, they can be very simple and inexpensive to set up.

Once you get in the mindset that organization is a daily practice, it will come naturally to you. Every time I walk into the pantry I make sure items have been put back correctly. My husband and son do their best, but I still find empty boxes of snacks on shelves or Tupperware strewn haphazardly about. By keeping a watchful eye on it and tidying regularly, I should be able to avoid another weekend makeover!

And keep in mind, organizing isn’t just for inside the home. It’s equally important to declutter, organize and maintain outdoor areas like the garage, shed and patio. I’ve compiled a list of brilliant backyard organization hacks to help you with everything from pool toys and supplies to gardening tools and doggy doo cleanup!

Biggest Organizing Mistakes People Make: Your Turn!

That’s my list of biggest organizing mistakes people make…what other mistakes have you made in the past? How did you fix them? Please leave a comment below!

Biggest organizing mistakes people make

I write about organizing, decluttering and simplifying to achieve a more balanced life.

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