Are You Making These Common Organizing Mistakes?

Wrong way sign. Common organizing mistakes to avoid.

Image by Gabe Raggio from Pixabay

The time has come: you are finally ready to dig in and get organized. Good for you – you can do this! However, there are a couple of common organizing mistakes that many people make. If you want to have a positive experience, avoid these pitfalls:

Shopping for Supplies First

Buying bins, boxes, dividers, etc. can be fun; no one loves a trip to the Container Store more than I do! But it is impossible to know what tools you need to purchase until you have done the hard work of examining, culling, measuring, and sorting your belongings. In fact, getting organized often requires no supplies at all. So begin with clearing the clutter and establishing order, and then – if you need supplies – do the shopping.

Focusing on Form Over Function

Many times we try to rearrange items to make them look nice rather than truly organizing them. To organize, you have to…

  1. look at everything you own,
  2. get rid of what you aren’t using, and
  3. design a system that will accommodate what you use in a way that is easy to access.

For instance, if you have a mudroom with so many shoes that you can barely walk, simply tidying the shoes won’t solve the problem. You need to get rid of some shoes, relocate out-of-season shoes to the bedroom, and then consider how to best store the remainder in your space.

Using the Wrong Container

An organizational system will work best if you match the size of the container(s) to the size of the items you store inside them. For example, many people use large bins or toy boxes in playrooms. While these seem easy – because you can just toss items inside – they often result in a hodgepodge of toys getting mixed together, with the tiny pieces falling to the bottom.  Instead, store small objects in small containers, sub-divide large shelves with bins or dividers, and put drawer organizers (or smaller boxes) into drawers.

Storing Things in the Wrong Place

We all have a limited amount of storage space that is easily accessible… our “prime real estate.” This space should be treated like royalty, and reserved for those items we need on a daily basis. If we want to keep an item for a possible future need, that’s fine… but don’t store it on the most convenient shelf of a kitchen cabinet. Move it to a closet, under a bed, or to the attic/basement.

Filling Containers Too Full

It is always wise to leave a little “growing space” when you are organizing. Otherwise, your setup is vulnerable to becoming obsolete. For example, if you completely fill a drawer with spices, what will you do when you bring home a new spice? It will end up getting shoved somewhere else, and the drawer will no longer work. Make sure you always have space to add a bit more, or another variety, or a different color. This will extend the longevity of your system.

Allowing Donations to Linger

Many times we do the hard work of deciding what to donate, and then leave bags/piles in our garage or entry. This not only clogs the space, but often causes us to second guess our decisions. Once you make the decision to donate, get the items out of your house ASAP.

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Few projects are as satisfying getting organized, but disappointing results can be de-motivating. What errors have you made, and how did you overcome them?

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14 thoughts on “Are You Making These Common Organizing Mistakes?”

  1. I especially like the reminder to leave a little space when organizing. New things are likely to come in and if there is no space to put them, your new organization system may fall apart.
    I’ve had clients organize their closet or drawers and get rid of some items but still have the closet or drawer looking nice but full. They have forgotten to remember all the clothes in the laundry baskets or dry cleaners that will need to into this full space.
    Jonda Beattie recently posted…The Benefits of Habits and RoutinesMy Profile

    1. That’s such a good point, Jonda. When I’m working with a client, I always ask, “Do you have any more of these elsewhere in the house? Dishes in the dishwasher, clothes in a suitcase, etc?” I want to make sure we design the system to accommodate everything they have!

  2. I totally agree with all of these mistakes.

    Subdividing is super helpful for small things. Sometimes small items in small containers can get overwhelming too. So, knowing one’s limit before establishing a system is important. My husband placed all screws and other small items in different pull-out drawer units, and while I appreciate that he took the time to do this, I will never remember where things go because it is way too many little drawers.
    Sabrina Quairoli recently posted…Unique Clutter Free Ways To Organize ShoesMy Profile

    1. Don’t overcomplicate the system, right? I think the user needs to have a level of distinction which makes sense to him/her. I’ve seen this with parents sorting Legos™ by color and type of piece, but then the kids don’t necessarily care about that, and the parents end up sitting on the floor at night sorting them. You want to design a system that is helpful, but not overly burdensome.

  3. We definitely did the thing with the shoes. We just line them up again and again, for the toddler to mess them all up. So finally I got mad at made everyone declutter their shoes from ones that didn’t fit or were broken/torn. Made a difference. It’s the little things.

  4. Your tips for avoiding common organizing pitfalls are right on point! The donation one stood out. I always advocate for my clients to get the donates out as soon as possible. This keeps the spaces clear and it’s easier to see progress. And guess what? Progress begets more progress.

    1. It absolutely does! Once that space is freed up, you feel empowered to tackle another, right? Keep those items moving along to their final destination. 🙂

  5. These are all stellar tips, and I love the energy you bring to explaining them. I see all of these mistakes, but I think the ones that are most overarching for my clients are either trying to make it pretty instead of functional, or the ones that are the reverse, trying so hard to make it functional that they make the system “too” complete and lead no room for growth. Both are trying to achieve some kind of perfection, and neither has the flexibility needed to make life work.

    Great points!
    Julie Bestry recently posted…Paper Doll Explains Digital Social Legacy Account ManagementMy Profile

    1. “Perfection” is not a great word for organized, which is funny, but true. A system needs to be flexible, simple, and intuitive. Overly managing a situation usually backfires. Good thing you are there with your clients to lead them in a direction they can sustain!

    1. That whole “magazine ready” thing is often counter-productive. You can make a space look beautiful, but if it doesn’t function well, it will end up looking lousy in no time.

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