We always start off with the best intentions when it comes to learning and perfecting organizational skills. We buy a bin here, feel smug over getting padded hangers there, and believe that this time — mark my words, this time — will be the time we get it together and keep it that way. No longer will our sock drawer look like a five year old's. Our shoes will stay in neat rows. There will be no such thing as a junk drawer in our house, and every cardigan and skirt will be hung up neatly rather than left crumpled on the floor. And it always starts rather promising: We implement rules that are easy to follow, try to set up systems that don't take up too much effort... and yet, after a week or so life gets in the way and our room is back to its messy self.
While it can be totally frustrating trying to develop that neat-as-a-pin habit, maybe what we need to do (rather than beat ourselves up) is to look at the situation from a different angle. Maybe the issue isn't that we're messy, maybe it's because we're setting ourselves up for failure. To explain what I mean, here are seven ways you're sabotaging your organization skills — pick out the red flags and maybe you'll stay on track.
1. Your Goals Are Set Too High
It's awesome you decided to take control of your messy tendencies, but pace yourself to make sure it becomes a real habit rather than a whim. Instead of deciding to completely redo your room with a new system, take it in sections at a time.
According to lifestyle blogger Abby at Just a Girl and Her Blog, "If you chip away at the things that need to be organized little by little and stick with it, eventually you will see big changes." For example, get your desk in order first, setting yourself up with files and paper trays. Then move onto your shoe rack or sweater shelf, and a day or week later, tackling your wardrobe drawers. If you take it inch by inch rather than mile by mile, it'll feel less overwhelming and more doable.
2. You Don't Invest In The Right Tools
If you want to be better at cooking, you have to buy yourself a non-stick frying pan. If you want to be better at gardening, you buy yourself a real spade. And if you want to be better at organizing? You have to buy yourself the right bins and cubbies. There's no going around it. Without these tools, you're just reshuffling or rearranging stuff, but not assigning it proper homes to live in.
According to expert organizer Vicki Norris, "A lot of us take the approach of entering a room and 'getting it organized' but at the end of the day, all we’ve done is rearrange its contents. We grouped, stacked, and shuffled, but that’s as far as we could take it ... Instead, take the time to ask questions and assign a purpose of each space and organize around those purposes." Stop shuffling things around and instead buy them proper bins to stay in. Once they have a designated place to live, you'll know that's where they should always end up by the end of the day.
3. You Just Have Too Much Stuff
Even the most tidy, immaculately neat person can have a hard time keeping their house in order if it's spilling over with unnecessary knick-knacks and no longer loved items. Just think of your closet: How much easier would it be to keep the madness in check if you didn't hav2 37 sweaters to fold?
According to lifestyle blogger Abby at Just a Girl and Her Blog, "No matter how many times I rearrange or how many new bins I buy, if I have too much stuff I’m not really organizing. I’m just rearranging my clutter." So take a week and systematically go through your space, picking out the things you no longer use or like. It's purging time, and you'll feel so much more in control afterwards.
4. You Do Things Only Half Way
So you decluttered your closet, but now you have a bag of clothes waiting to go to the thrift store. Well, be prepared for similar to-dos to be sitting there for days, if not weeks, because you feel like the main job is done and that's just a loose end to tie up. But the thing is, if you don't finish the project all the way, you start getting yourself into the habit or leaving things half-done, which stacks up the clutter.
According to Sherrie and Olivier at Apartment Therapy, "Here's the crucial part: Once you have decided where something is going to go — take it there. Never keep bags for charity or boxes for friends in your home to deliver later. Do it now. Finish the process... You've done so much work getting this stuff ready to take out, complete the deal!" Just grit your teeth, roll up your sleeves, and finish the task all the way through. Don't leave a dozen half-done projects around the house.
5. You Don't Stick With What You Like
This ties into the clutter problem that makes it hard to stay on top of our organizing efforts: You know what your favorite hairspray is, but you have 14 different products on your counter. You only wear one scarf during the summer, yet you have a basket overflowing with patterns by your bed. By not sticking with what you like and getting different kinds of duplicates, you make it harder to stay organized because there are more things to keep an eye on.
For example, according to Jeni Aron in Apartment Therapy, "I know I only like Aveda shampoo and Kiehl's face wash. This seemingly shallow information actually creates less confusion and clutter in my shower. In the mornings I'm not wrestling with a test laboratory of 18 different bottles of lotions and potions trying to do the job of two perfectly awesome products." Less stuff to juggle, less stuff to keep tidy.
6. We Ignore The Systems That Don't Work
Do you have a shoe rack, but it's still an unholy mess? Do you have a special shelf for your sweaters, but are they always left a jumble after your morning closet rifle-through? You've got systems to stay tidy, but they clearly don't work.
According to lifestyle blogger Abby at Just a Girl and Her Blog, "I will know that my organizational system isn’t working for a certain space, but instead of taking a few minutes to rethink it and change things around, I live for months being annoyed by the clutter and mess that my broken system creates." It's an easier thing to ignore, but also an easier thing to change! Spend a small chunk of your afternoon figuring out what type of storage you need to nip that clutter in the bud, and then get it. Sometimes all it takes is a quick and cheap trip to Target and that eye-twitch you were forming stops having an excuse to show up.
7. You Don't Realize The Value Of 15 Minutes
Most of the time we don't see the need to tidy up until stuff starts getting overwhelming. The counters are a mess with mail and papers and your room is littered with sweaters and jeans. Rather than waiting till things get to cray levels inside your apartment, realize the value taking time every day to put things back into their proper places — no matter how quickly or imperfectly.
According to Jeni Aron at Apartment Therapy, "There are small daily efforts that I do to keep clutter at bay. I sort the mail right away, as soon as I retrieve it from the mailbox... I put things back in their 'homes' once I'm done with them. This way, I don't have junk piles all over my apartment that I have to spend hours on a Sunday wrangling and cursing."
The struggle is real but you're the one creating it. Take 15 minutes every day to simplify your life.