7 organizing myths debunked

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by Mandi

Mandi Ehman is the blogger behind Life Your Way. She and her husband have four beautiful girls plus one baby boy, and together they live, work and homeschool on a little slice of heaven in wild, wonderful West Virginia. Mandi loves coffee, chocolate, easy meals, beautiful things and minimalist spaces.

When it comes to organizing, there are many different reasons people say it’s just not for them. However, most of these stem from misconceptions about what it means to be organized. Let’s take a look at the seven most common organizing myths and the truth behind them.

1. Organizing is only for type-a people.

One of the most common misconceptions about organizing is that it’s something only high-strung, type-a people do.

While it’s true that it might come more naturally, or even be fun, for those of us who fit that description, getting organized is a valuable tool for anyone. Not only does it allow you to be more efficient and more productive, but it also saves you time and money.

2. Organizing takes too much time.

Of course, some of you might be wondering how an activity that takes so much time can actually save you time.

In reality, getting – and staying – organized doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Of course, depending on the current state of your home, it can be overwhelming to figure out where you should even start. The answer is to start with one small room or area at a time.

Investing an hour to organize your pantry, or an afternoon to sort through your kids’ toys, pays off when you don’t waste minutes every day looking for certain ingredients or a half-hour trying to find the pieces to a specific game your children want to play.

3. Getting organized is frustrating.

Getting organized can be frustrating, but it doesn’t have to be.

I recommend a three-step method to organizing that starts with pulling everything out of the room or area you’re tackling. Next, sort everything into three piles – keep, throw away and give away. Then, start putting things away that you’re going to keep, thinking about what you need to be able to access, what you use most often, and what will work best for you.

Start with a small area so you don’t become overwhelmed, and put as much in the throw away or give away piles as you can. The less stuff you have, the less frustrating it will be.

organizing craft supplies with recycled jars
Photo by Katey Nicosia

4. Organizing has to be expensive.

I’ll admit I sometimes drool over all of the home organizing accessories and doodads that are available these days, all to make organizing easier and prettier.

But the truth is there are plenty of ways to organize that don’t cost anything, and if you’ve got a creative streak, you can still make them just as pretty. Be creative and think outside of the box about things you can repurpose or recycle in your quest to get organized.

5. Once you organize your home, it just stays that way.

In many ways, this myth can be the most discouraging of them all.

If you’ve ever spent a weekend organizing, only to look back three months later and find everything in shambles once again, you know what I mean. For other people, the idea of having to organize again and again in order to keep your home in order just takes you back to myths number one and two and reinforces that organizing isn’t for you.

I’m not saying you have to invest hours upon hours each week to keep your home organized, though. Once you have a system in place, take just a couple of minutes each day to either put things away, throw them away or give them away so that you’re system isn’t overwhelmed by stuff.

6. A good organizing system will work for anyone.

Systems like FlyLady and The Clutter Diet have motivated a lot of people to get on top of their household duties and get organized.

However, the reality is that most people who follow these systems end up tweaking them to work best for their own life, and if you don’t realize that in advance, you can easily become discouraged by your inability to follow the system down to the tiniest detail. We all have different priorities, responsibilities and lifestyles, and if your organizational systems doesn’t reflect these differences, chances are that they won’t last.

7. There is a right way and a wrong way to organize.

The thing I stress most often to people is that there is no right and wrong way to organize. The right way to organize for your family is the way that works for you.

Dorothy at Urban Servant, who is the mother of 11 beautiful children, shared her laundry method last year, which perfectly illustrates this principle.

“I don’t fold anyone’s laundry but daddy’s. We have shelving with 12 laundry baskets in three rows, and I can toss clean items into anyone’s bin without too much effort. I sort a large load in about 3 minutes and move on to the next thing. Of course that means we don’t own anything that wrinkles or needs much special care, but I don’t miss them.”

This is a perfect example and one that I’ve used in the past myself. You should not feel guilty if the way you do laundry is to simply sort the clean clothes into separate baskets and call it a day. I’m a little too type-a for that system, and because it would drive me nuts, it’s not the right system for me. But if it’s the system that works for you, then stop feeling guilty about it and consider yourself organized.

What obstacles have you had to overcome in order to get organized?

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Comments

  1. I think my biggest obstacle is perfectionism. I want to have an organizing system that is uniform and pretty. I tend to organize one way at one time, then re-organize the whole thing a year later so everything will look the same. Pretty storage containers and file systems get me every time!

  2. I can get started, I can declutter, I don’t even need to buy storage solutions because they too are just another form of clutter… My fault: I cannot keep it under control… I go too big, too industrious, too soon!!!! Instead of dealing with a room at a time I always feel a need to unpack the entire house and start fresh… My husband has very sweetly put a stop to this… He could no longer face getting home to a wife in a heap who has bitten off more than she can chew… One room, or one side of a room at a time… find a pending space for stuff that needs to shuffle round the house and sort where you are organizing to completion… then move on to the next area… And did I mention I hate maintenance, wish you could organize and just let it be!!!
    .-= se7en´s last blog ..This Week (25 January) At Se7en… =-.

  3. I am always stuck with the whole perfectionism trap. You know, “I want it to be perfect, and I don’t have the time/energy/stuff to do it perfectly, so why bother doing anything at all?” Yep, trips me up every time. Thanks for these reminders — I really need to start biting off tiny chunks and going from there.

    • I think perfectionism is the number one reason people don’t make changes/get organized (as evidenced by the first three comments!). I regularly have to remind myself to just do a bit at a time and that something is better than nothing or I end up just throwing my hands up in the air too!
      .-= Mandi´s last blog ..31 Days of Organizing for a Better 2010: Meet a Financial Goal =-.

      • here here.
        my problem is my mind forgets to keep cheering myself on, as i too am an “all or nothing” kind of perfectionist.
        (so…is there an app for that? ya know a cheerleading app? a “keep going, you can do it—just a little more!” kind of app?
        no? that’s ok.
        was kidding, no iphone anyhow.)
        but my point is, what are some great ways to make your brain take a break but at the same time remember to chime in with a burst of “one-step-further” so as to keep a better balance?
        .-= krromm´s last blog ..Am I the Only One… =-.

      • That’s an excellent point Mandi. I get overwhelmed thinking about organizing the linen closet, but it seems far more doable to just do one shelf a day…..
        Thanks.

        signed, another perfectionist!

  4. My biggest challenge is getting rid of things. I am perfectly fine to put them in the pile, but I get overwhelmed with WHAT to do with them. Do I take them to the Goodwill (I ususally do this just to get it out of my house after it sits for a month or more – then get depressed when I think about how much money I just threw away)? Do I take them to a consignment store (then I get depressed when I pick up my $20 check for what was probably about $2000 worth of stuff)? Do I sell them on eBay (too much work)? Do I hold onto them for a yard sale (giving up too much precious space in my house)? Give them to a friend (someone who might appreciate it)?

    I usually end up taking books & old toys to daycare because I feel good about the fact that my kids still get to play with it there. I have a hard time parting with my kids clothes – double the stuff bc I have a boy and girl. I have found I feel better about it if I give them to a friend who I think appreciates the things I truly love and have an emotional attachment with. I also usually end up taking our clothes or housewares to Goodwill or my church, because I feel like I am helping someone.

    I love to purge and do it often – sometimes daily – but my best A-HA is to realize how much I get bummed out to get rid of things, and now try to acquire them in the first place!!!!!

  5. Re: Once you organize your home, it stays that way. …. If only people (our clients) would realize that even professional organizer’s homes don’t stay perfect. It’s a natural part of living. As you’re using things through out your home things will get undone. Once undone, you’ve got to put it back together. That’s why “putting things back where they belong” is the most important step in staying organized.

  6. avatar
    Kati Shearer says:

    My husband and I moved last week into our new home. Were just married in November, so we had to find a place for all his stuff, all my stuff, and all our newly aquired wedding gifts in a rather small place. It is definitely overwhelming to see piles and piles of things and only limited space. The best thing we did, was set aside some time to organize and unpack and then also set aside some time to relax. If you just slave drive yourself into organizing for hours or even days, then you’ll get worn out and never want to do it again. Watching the progress over a week or so, helped us feel a sense of accomplishment. Also, having us both work together to complete the organization tasks, helped us both commit to keeping it all organized. Sometimes if one person does all the organization, it is easy to get frustrated when others mess it up or don’t put things back. It should be a joint effort in your home to keep things organized. It makes it easier on everyone!

  7. The biggest obstacle I face is myself. It is so hard to get motivated! Once I do, I have trouble figuring out how/when/where to get rid of the giveaway pile. I sometimes even have trouble deciding how to dispose of the trash pile! But I did clean out my closet this week — I’m donating a bunch of work clothes I don’t need since I left my job — and that step has me motivated enough to tackle my nightmare of a linen closet/medicine cabinet next!
    .-= Shannon @ AnchorMommy´s last blog ..10 things that make me happy =-.

  8. What a wonderful article! I’ve just written on on how Google can help organize your blogshop too! Please do stop by to let me know what you think :)

  9. thanks so much for this great post! I added it to my link love tonight!

  10. Brilliant! Linked it to my blog.

  11. I have a mini sabattour well, she’s 9 years old now, and love to play with lots of little things in and around her dolls’ house. At age 7, I bought her a dozen brand new plastic jars with screw top lids so she could put things like hair stuff in one, pony things in another, doll’s house stuff in the next, beads in another. Then I lined them up in the bookcase so they were easy for her to get to. Sounds good doesn’t it! Ha! within hours, the jars were organized in colour schemes! O…..kay, I can live with that as lo9ng as I can find hair stuff 15 mins before leaving for school. Does it stay like that? No. Now those jars are part of the great game she plays. She has this complex game with beads and stones and bits and pieces and the jars move around as part of this other world she is part of.Ocassionally they get used to hold water for paints, or crayons, or grass, I think the list may be endless. So what do I do? To order her to keep her room tidy would be hypocritical if you saw my study. I did remove boxes of toys, washed and culled them, then packed them in zip lock bags with like together with like and stored them in the ever present plastic boxes. I don’t think she’s even missed any of those! To be honest, there is a big part of me that is inclined to let her go, maybe creativity lies in the detail and I am looking at the big picture and not the important picture that is my daughter. Lead by example would be better, and I am trying to break 51 years of habits, genetically encoded on my mother’s side!
    I agree that those organising myths are just that, myths.
    ps – love the accompanying photos.

  12. I think of myself as an organized person. Everyone that knows me think I am. The truth is I AM but I am HUMAN TOO! Sometimes we forget that we are not a robot following simple instructions. For example, in my little apartment, if things are not put in a certain way they don’t fit and my rules is if it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t belong! :) It has worked for me! The advantage is that I am so used to it that when I move to a bigger house, I am already used to have what is necessary. Although I will have more stuff, but the ways I have developed to fit our family will make it work.
    The ONE thing I haven’t conquered yet is paperwork clutter… :S At least my Best friend suggested a method to me .. that I am going to try and then blog about it … let’s see!
    .-= lvlc @ FromMomToMom´s last blog ..<<We got our Christmas tree!!! We cut it ourselves and decorated it with recycled materials and reusing other ornaments>> =-.

  13. Great post, Mandi! I agree with you: everyone’s “right” way to be organized is different. What works for me is not necessarily going to work for the next person. It’s knowing yourself that’s the key.
    .-= Meredith from Penelope Loves Lists´s last blog ..Penelope Loves Her Crock Pot: or closest thing to a clone I’m gonna get =-.

  14. I am finding as I get older, it is so attached to emotional state as well. My kids are “grown” and one left at home who does his own little bit to irritate me and then have to take on my Dear old 88yo Dad next dor who thinks as a single woman of 50 I still make a meat and potatoes dinner every night (and guess who doesn’t dissuade him of that idea). In the last year I have lost the supposed love of my life (he wasn’t of course), my Mom died (no tragedy she was 88 and had vascular dementia but she was my Mom and its a big loss) my baby graduated from High School and is doing wonderful at a tough Liberal Arts college (again – no tragedy but a BIG emotional hit for this Mother who always had her performances and such to keep her busy and feed off of her glory) and in the middle of it I lost a well paying job and dealt with all the fras tack issues of funeral and disposal of loved ones stuff and moving a daughter out and have now the dad who is dependant more than he was when he had a focus, his dying wife. Sometimes just knowing that I have a new routine saves me emotionally – its kind of like a dance, just do the basic steps….I got a new job 3 weeks ago, it pays much less but its a good job with benefits and will adjust to that new reality. SO……just taking care of the basics is a lot right now but I feel much more sane. When I go to bed at night I make sure my coffee pot is set up, my little lunch is packed and my keys phone watch and bag are in position. I write down on sunday what are the possible meals I cna put together for my dad. Those are all the thins I do for sure right now. as time goes on I have managed to pile less stuff on the table and once every few weeks clear it off. My kitchen is fairly clean and I can manage to make my house cleanish in 20 minutes. That is good enough for now. As you get over whatever it is you are dealing with emotionally….it gets better and easier.

  15. This post is just what I needed!! I was just saying to Mum the other day that I think I need therapy because I love a tidy house, but I just cannot seem to keep it that way!! I must learn to recognise that it is not as quick as ABC and that it takes persistence!! (as well as allowing for natural cycles)

  16. Thank you for this post! I NEEDED it so much!

  17. Like Julie up the top I’m a perfectionist. That makes organising hard as once it is done I want it to stay that way. But I’m working hard at just being happy with clean and tidy, not perfect and immaculate :)

    My 7 year old yesterday locked herself in my bedroom and refused to come out until she had folded ALL the washing. She was so offended by having to find clean clothes in the pile of things waiting to be folded. I let her go for it :grin: So the idea of individual baskets for sorting clothing into really appeals to me.

  18. Very well written. The myth about organizing taking too much time really stood out to me. It is true that it does take some time, but I’ve found that the time lost by being unorganized is far greater than the time it takes to get and stay organized. Of course, staying organized can be a real challenge when sharing a home with several teenagers. :-)

  19. Your tips are great! I have also had to learn how to organise my life better and I know how difficult it is to apply these advices.. I am self-employed for 3 years now and I used to spend plenty of hours to organise everything…in the end I wasted plenty of time I could have used for more important things.. Later I took professional coaching lessons to really improve my organisational skills…My coach equipped me with some truly helpful tools how to work more efficient while not forgetting times to breath and leisure. I guess your advices are in fact very helpful, but at least I needed personal help and someone who motivated while taking the necessary steps. (I have made good experiences with Your24Coach if you are looking for some training) … I think everyone needs its own technique to manage its time better, depending on everyone’s individual life! Best Regards, Penny

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