5 common mistakes we make when organizing our homes, and what to do about it
(+ cheatsheet of 5 more)
Most moms I know and life coach want a home that is easy to keep tidy and organized.
We want to walk into our space at the end of the day and feel peaceful.
We want to wake up in the morning and feel this mental nagging that we need to clean everything.
We don’t want to spend our lives looking for things and moving piles around and feeling overwhelmed by our homes.
So we turn to ‘ORGANIZATION’.
We know it can solve these problems and it has the added bonus of making our home look adorable. After all, most of us have saved pins of lovely closet systems, we follow Instagram accounts with inspirational pantries and we buy all cute containers and bins that catch our eye at HomeSense.
BUT we might pin the pins, and buy the containers and label the jars and we still aren’t able to be organized!
The problem isn’t that we suck at organizing, or our family ruins all our attempts, or that we just need more storage.
Before you keep believing that you just ‘aren’t an organized person’ or that you have tried it all and you quit! I encourage you to consider that organization might be a great solution to our lives, but we often make mistakes that keep us from doing it well.
I know what it feels like to beat yourself for not being able to manage paper clutter, or get lost in a mountain of kids clothes in storage, or lose things because you don’t know where it went.
Over the years of decluttering my home, I have learned that organization is always possible if we can be mindful of the roadblocks that might trip us up and make us believe it can never happen for us.
Becoming aware of these mistakes and working to address them has helped me establish systems and routines in my home that work for us (and don’t require me to buy one of everything from IKEA, or require me to give hourly training sessions to my family on how to put things back into the pantry)
So, I will share with you five mistakes I have made when it comes to organizing. (Actually, I’ll share ALL TEN in the free cheat sheet – see below).
If you are facing these, then recognizing them can help you shift the way you approach organizing and find more success.
Not decluttering first
There is a popular quote from Joshua Becker in his book More of Less
“You don’t need more space. You need less stuff.”
This quote rings true because buying cute bins and baskets helps you HIDE your stuff, but it won’t organize you. It is just moving it around from one place to another cuter one.
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Decluttering brought me face to face with this question: When will it be enough? Over the decluttering process, I realized I wasn’t mindful of HOW MUCH I brought in. If something was cheap, I bought two. If it was free, I said yes. If I used it often, I bought extra to have back up. If it was cute, I added it to my closet. But then I only USED a small amount of these things in my home. This weekend I encourage you to ask yourself how much is enough. Enough clothes Enough books Enough shoes Enough cleaning products Enough phone chargers Enough cups Enough pens You get it. What are you ready to have ‘just enough’ of and stop accumulating?
I remember when I bought my home 8 years ago I lamented that there was no walk-in closet. Over the years of decluttering, I am happy I didn’t fight to find a home based on the criteria of ‘more storage’ when I was ultimately happier with less of the stuff I didn’t love. Having more storage just helps us to delay making a decision on simplifying our lives.
In order to truly organize our space, we need to decide first, what should stay, What is worth giving a portion of your home to? What is worth your time and money to organize it and maintain it?
What to try instead
When you are ready to organize a space, declutter it first. Then you aren’t left sorting stuff you don’t really want or use into cute bins. You can actually organize what should stay in your home.
Organizing before evaluating
Once you declutter a space you get to use it a bit differently. You might move boxes to make space for new activities or get rid of furniture that you no longer need.
For instance, I decluttered and renovated my home office last year and spent about 6 months trying different furniture arrangements before I settled on how I wanted the space laid out, and then I could organize it from there. I was so tempted to just go and buy all the cute office decor and furniture and put dramatic before and afters on the internet, but I knew from experience, that I wasn’t nearly done. If I would have bought all the adorable office organizing furniture and bins without paying attention then I would have been stuck with a limited way to use the space.
If you don’t take time to see how it is best used and laid out you will struggle to make your space work for your organizing system rather than your organizing system work for your space.
What to try instead
Give yourself weeks or months to observe how you want to use this space, edit out the furniture, refine the layout of the room and THEN buy the organization solutions.
Putting too many uses/things in one place
For years I had a messy hutch in my kitchen. It was a place for papers to be filed, for kid craft supplies, for all our ‘office’ accessories, a lot of candles, and batteries – and more! I wondered why I couldn’t keep it organized and then I realized I was cramming it with too many uses into one spot (and too many items as well!).
It is not ideal to smush so many things together because they all require different, storage, maintenance and are used at different times and frequencies. You are left with a space that is constantly rummaged through and hard to organize and maintain. And when a space is full to the brim, it is tough to manage the flow of items in and out.
What to try instead
Look for drawers and cupboards you can’t seem to keep tidy and ask what should really belong there, is there a better home for it? And if things are used less often, put them into a storage space.
Not organizing in a way that works for you (but probably looks good on Pinterest)
It is inspiring to look at all the ways people love to organize their space but keep in mind two things. One, most of what you see online is staged for that photo/video and doesn’t always look like that. Two, what works for someone else might not work for you.
When we use systems that don’t work for us and how we like to live in and use a space – we will end up with a system we have to fight to make work, and will likely end up giving up. And cue the mental narration about how much we suck at organizing.
What to try instead
Use Pinterest and Instagram for ideas but tailor it to what works for you. When you look at ideas constantly ask yourself what you like and what you don’t like about it. Get to know where you like to store things (out of sight, or everything is visible), how you put them away (eg. hook vs hanger, open shelf vs cupboard, basket vs container with lid), how you like to maintain it (portioning into smaller containers, first in first out) and how you prefer things to be organized (by size, use, colour, enneagram number, date, etc.)
Not maintaining it
This is the biggest mistake we make when it comes to being organized (or not). Organizing is not ‘set it and forget it’. Buying the bins and labelling them and putting them in the cupboard won’t automatically transform you into ‘Madame Organized!’. ‘Being organized’ has two requirements: organizing a space and keeping it organized.
After all #welivehere, and our pantry might look great on a Sunday night but by Friday evening there’s a trail of snack wrappers and a collection of chip bags and the soup is in with the cereal and nobody can find the ketchup.
What we need to remember is it takes maintenance to KEEP organized (and the higher the use, the higher the maintenance). This means: putting things away, cleaning up what doesn’t belong, decluttering it from time to time, removing old when you bring in new.
What to try instead
Pay attention to the areas that need maintenance and try to add it into your daily/weekly/monthly routines
Interested in more? There are 5 more common mistakes we make in this cheat sheet, enter your email below to get your free copy
Being organized involves a lot of things and I think we beat ourselves up when it doesn’t come fast or easy.
Just remember, it is the long game of making your house a home and learning what you want in your home and how you want to run it.
It takes changing habits, trying out new systems and creating routines for yourself and your family and that all takes time, intention and sticking it out for the long run. It is always doable!