As we slip into the spring cleaning season, it’s a good time to take a step back and look at the motivation for wanting to get organized. With a clear reason for making these (sometimes big) systemic, household changes, it can be easier to maintain them long term and you are less likely to fall victim to the common roadblocks to organization.
Let’s start with a few things we know.
Disorganization causes stress. A disorganized space equals a disorganized mind. It’s easier to relax and function in a space that is orderly and uncluttered.
Disorganization costs you money. For example, we’ll find six tape measures when we organize a garage and the client will say, “I’ve been looking for that!” Because there wasn’t a clearly defined place to store tape measures, they got lost in the clutter, and as a result, the client kept purchasing new ones.
Disorganization causes conflict with the people you love. We have witnessed so many relationships that are strained because one person craves organization, while the other resists getting rid of anything. When couples are not like minded about the level of order they desire for their home, it can become contentious.
Knowing these things and wanting to get back your time, money, and peace are all good motivators.Yet, for so many people we meet, it’s still hard to take that first step. Here are a few roadblocks we’ve encountered that may be holding you back, and some mindset shifts you can use to overcome them.
Organizing is expensive or means buying more stuff.
Organizing can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. You can spend thousands of dollars on products, or reuse containers or boxes you already have. Depending on your budget, you can shop at the Dollar Store or the Container Store. The idea is to give everything a home and label it.
That means you can just as easily reuse glass jars to decant the nuts in your pantry as you can buy a new air-tight container at the store. Write on the jars with an inexpensive Sharpie Paint Pen or use a fancy Brother PT Touch Cube label maker. Either way, don’t let the cost of organization products stop you from getting started. One piece of advice…only purchase containers after you’ve done the editing and taken measurements.
Organization is only for Type-A people.
Organization is for everyone! You don’t have to have a “Type-A” personality to get organized. The clients that we see who benefit the most from organization are actually those with ADHD or creative types. They need to be able to see at a glance what they need and have a system for putting it back afterwards. It is less daunting to clean up when everything has a clearly labeled home.
When you organize, it should just stay that way forever.
Organization is not a “one-and-done” kind of thing. It takes ongoing and consistent maintenance. Once you’ve given everything a home so that you and others can find it, systems are needed to maintain that organization.
For example, in your entryway you can hang hooks for jackets and baskets for shoes, but when you have an overabundance of either, you need to take the time to reset the space. If you don’t, it will get overrun with jackets and shoes and the system stops working. Maintenance is KEY.
Organization looks the same for everyone.
My definition of organization is that there is a home for everything and you and others can find something when you need it. What that actually looks like varies.
People appreciate different levels of organization, and you have to find the sweet spot for you and your family. The more complicated the system, the harder it will be to maintain. Start small and keep it simple.
Design systems based on you and your family’s natural habits. I always suggest adding a container to where you are naturally placing things. For example, add a tray to the kitchen counter where you tend to drop your keys or mail. By adding simple containment, you’ll give everything a specific home and will avoid the dreaded piles on the kitchen island.
Getting organized means you have to get rid of everything you own and become a minimalist.
No one is going to force you to get rid of everything you own if you get organized. However, by touching everything and doing a ruthless decluttering, you’ll be intentional about what you decide to keep. Only keep things that are serving you in this current season of life. Keep only the things you love or need.
Don’t keep things out of guilt, obligation, or because it was expensive. The money is already spent. Instead, be grateful that it served you in that previous season of life, and let it go for someone else to enjoy. It feels good to let things go that are no longer serving you!
If you are struggling to let go of sentimental items, think about creative ways you may be able to keep the feeling of the item without the item itself. Sometimes that could look like making a special photo album of pictures with people you love holding objects they loved. It could mean making a quilt out of old baby clothes or uniforms. If nothing comes to mind, create a system for the collection so you can display or store it properly and enjoy it whenever you’d like.
If you are organized, your house will look perfect all the time.
I can personally attest that this myth is false! Unless maybe you live alone. I’m a professional organizer with three children and a husband, and our house doesn’t look tidy all the time. Your home doesn’t have to look like a museum to be organized. The true sign of organization is that everything has a home. When it’s time to clean up, you should be able to easily reset your space. Give me 20 minutes, and my house can go back to looking neat and tidy.
Organizing takes too much time.
Depending on the space you organize, it does take time. It took years for the clutter to build up, so you should expect for it to take time to declutter and organize. But you can break down your spaces into smaller chunks.
Instead of organizing your whole office at once, start with just one drawer. Set a timer for 15 minutes. If you still have the energy, move on to the next drawer. Another night you can focus on organizing your office cabinet. Then, sort through your papers, photos or keepsakes while watching TV in the evenings. Use the limited time you have to make progress and little by little your space will be transformed.
The goal is to create momentum. Because it will feel SO good to have that space organized, you’ll feel empowered to tackle another space, I promise.
It can be hard, but try not to fall for these organizing myths. When you believe them, you never get started. It’s an all or nothing mentality. Instead of tackling one junk drawer for 15 minutes and using what containers you have, you resist organizing altogether because you don’t have the time to do the whole kitchen at once and spend thousands of dollars on products. Focus on progress, not perfection.
Here are a few more things I know.
- Everyone benefits from organization – from children to busy moms to aging adults.
- Being organized can be life changing. If you have good systems in place, you’ll feel more productive, calm, and in control of your surroundings. Some people who live amongst big piles and mess claim that they are organized because they know where everything is. I believe that organization means that you and others can find something when you need it.
- One of the biggest benefits of organizing your home is that it allows for other people in your life (kids, partners, caregivers) to help you. Others can lighten your load because they know where to find things and can help put them away.
- Maintaining an organized home should be a family affair. No one person should bear the responsibility to keep up the organization and systems. By having a team mentality, a home for everything, and systems that work, your entire family can work together to maintain an organized home.
Now that I’ve hyped you up to get organized, I hope you will take a stab at it this spring. You know yourself and your family better than anyone, so figure out what will make the biggest difference to your routine and start there. If you need a jumpstart, or the time just isn’t available to make it happen, my team and I are always just a consult away. Investing in organization is never a waste!
P.s. Some of my thoughts on this topic were recently included in a CNN Health article. Give it a read!
Each of my career choices-wedding coordinator, event planner, and teacher — gave me the creative freedom to organize everyone and everything. I have always thrived on to-do lists, planners, and systems! Now, I lead a team of organizers to help me on my mission. Read more…