The Social Media Illusion

Fancy closet. Social media isn't always a good thing.
Image by Mike Gattorna from Pixabay

I’ve noticed that in recent years “organizing” has become a common topic on social media. In one respect, I’m pleased by this trend: it acknowledges the widespread struggle many people have with organizing their space and belongings. If you feel disorganized, you clearly are not alone! I frequently post thoughts, tips, and images on social media to motivate and help people.

On the other hand, there are a few common elements I see on social media that may be less than constructive:

They can result in people feeling guilty.

Readers look at a photo of a beautiful entryway or color-coded folders and think, “My house doesn’t look like that. What’s wrong with me?”

The headlines often minimize the time required for a good solution.

“Organize your whole house in a weekend” is probably not realistic, unless you are already very organized and just need to spend a day putting everything away. This isn’t to say you can’t make great progress in a weekend – you can! But if you aren’t able to complete your whole house in 2 days, you aren’t a failure. It typically takes about 40 hours to organize an entire house, and larger homes or homes with stockpiled clutter can easily take longer.

Not every idea is a good fit for every reader.

It may be possible to refurbish an old, ugly filing cabinet into a piece of beauty… and if you are handy and enjoy projects, go for it! But if your old file cabinet is bent/covered in rust/doesn’t close well, or if you are not handy or have no workspace, then this may not be the solution for you. It might be easier to just pitch the old filing cabinet and buy a newer, well-constructed piece. And you shouldn’t feel like a loser because you didn’t reclaim the old one.

There is a heavy emphasis on products.

Ever see a photo with arrows pointing to the latest “must have” organizing gadgets? While these products may be genuinely handy, they probably are not necessary. I can organize almost any space with some basic bins, cardboard boxes, and common household items. Getting organized doesn’t mean you need to spend a lot of money on supplies.

There is a blurred line between organizing and decorating.

Frequently when I examine an article about a reorganization of a room, I see that the “after” space is not only organized, but completely redone. The walls have been painted, new furniture has been purchased, curtains have been added, etc. And all of this is terrific – it just isn’t necessarily organizing. Getting organized is about clearing clutter and setting up systems so that you can find what you need, when you need it. The idea that a room needs to be totally redecorated in order to be organized makes the task seem more intimidating (and more expensive) than it needs to be.

The “after” photos are staged.

Social media is an increasingly visual. Posters use every tool at their disposal to make a space look beautiful and appealing. Stylists bring in fresh flowers, add lighting, position happy children playing on the floor… whatever they can to get the desired effect. You can have a very well organized space, and it still may not look like a photo in a magazine. It’s sort of like the family favorite casserole; it tastes delicious, smells fantastic, and gets gobbled down every time you serve it, but it might never be featured on the cover of Bon Appetit.

*     *     *

The purpose of this post is NOT to bash social media. Posts and photos on the internet are entertaining and often full of great ideas. So if you enjoy surfing the internet for inspiration, new products or clever ideas, then by all means, enjoy!

BUT, if seeing posts on social media makes you feel guilty, unsuccessful or overwhelmed, then it is better to pass it by. Why invest your time in endeavors that make feel badly about yourself?

Where do you get your most helpful ideas for getting organized?

23 thoughts on “The Social Media Illusion”

    1. Exactly, Janine. It’s all a matter of perspective, and not trying to hold ourselves to an unreasonable standard. Wishing you and those princesses a wonderful week!

  1. Oh I totally agree with everything you said! When I look at magazines, sometimes I have the impulse to buy this and that and when I look around my house, we have lots of storage bins and boxes, even shoe boxes and I realize I don’t really need to spend more. There’s the pressure to make our house always look nice and clean but it’s just not possible all the time especially with a toddler around.
    Rea recently posted…Brique: Good Food. Good Company.My Profile

    1. Oh yes… toddlers always bring their own little pice of “chaos” to the scene! I always start with what clients own in the way of storage containers. Sure, sometimes you need to get some files or a box, or even some shelving. But you can accomplish so much with items on hand. And you can always go back later, when the budget permits, and buy matching baskets or repaint the space!

  2. We are in the process of organizing getting rid of all the baby stuff. While doing the organizing (sorting for sale vs. donation) it LOOKS so much worse than when things are hiding in closets and so tempting to forget the whole thing! THanks for the tips though – I will hang in there because it’s so so time!!

    1. Oh Kristin, it ALWAYS gets worse before it gets getter. You’ve gotta get it all out so you can see what you have and make wise decisions. Feel buckets of affirmation coming your way as you go through this process!!!

    1. Thanks, Jill. Affirmation from a fellow Professional Organizer always means so much to me. We have to get function first – that is where the joy is. Making a space look beautiful but leaving it inefficient is not my idea of success:)

    1. Yes, IKEA is another totally fun place for me:) And their stuff is so affordable that you can really go crazy! The thing is, lots of these products are terrific and I love them… you just don’t HAVE to have them, especially to get started. So many tools are things you already own.

    1. Why thank you, Sarah… you are making my day:) And I commend you for focusing on solutions that WORK. Beauty is overrated and sometimes even interferes with function. I’ve been called in to organize spaces that were done by a designer.. and they are lovely! But sometimes they lack function (such as a file drawer in a desk area), and it is functional spaces and systems that make us feel in control and calm.

  3. This is SUCH a great post. And sooo true. I am guilty of reading articles on houzz.com (basically, an online magazine) and feeling like a failure for my house not being magazine perfect. And yes, I agree… sometimes it IS best to just pass these things by. Great work! Anyhoo, I stumbled upon your blog through a fellow blogger and thought I would stop by and say hi! It would totally make my day if you stopped by my blog and said hi or kept in touch! http://www.domesticgeekgirl.com

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting, Gingi! I know about houzz.com — it is fun to look, until it makes me feel bad. Then its time to turn away. I’d be happy to follow and share great content:)

  4. Thanks for these encouraging words, Seana. I frequently tell clients that “those” pictures as well as the home decorating/organizing shows are staged within an inch of their lives. No one I’ve ever met lives in those pristine conditions. I once helped setup a kitchen for Extreme Home Makeover with several of my NAPO-GA colleagues. We set the kitchen up like we would for a client, then production came through and made us change it all because it was “too cluttered” to show on TV. Reality TV, indeed!
    Andi Willis recently posted…7 Things You Can Toss From Your Closet NowMy Profile

    1. Exactly, Andi. That is such an interesting story. And I think in the end it makes people feel badly about themselves, which is ridiculous. It’s similar to comparing our bodies to the photoshopped image where they shaved an inch off each thigh, right?
      Seana recently posted…Polly Sorts PaperMy Profile

    1. Exactly, Hazel. It’s marketing. Being organized has become one of the Womens’ magazines topics.. and it just always seems to make people feel badly about themselves. It’s just not necessary…
      Seana recently posted…Polly Sorts PaperMy Profile

  5. You make a great point about magazines, and not just in regards to organizing. When I look at most magazines, all I see is fashions and home furnishings that I could never afford, making me feel like my stuff just isn’t good enough.

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