Are you making these common organizing mistakes? Find out if you’re missing the mark and how to redo your organizing systems the right way. Updated January 2021
You bought the bins, you wrote the labels, you followed everything they said to do on the organizing shows, but something still is working. The clutter is still there, the bins are overflowing, and you can’t find a dang thing in that house of yours. Sound familiar? Here’s the truth…you may not have done things right the first time. The media makes being organized seem so simple, but in reality, it’s a lot more complex than you think. Here are the eight most common mistakes I see people make, and how to fix them once and for all.
1. You use Pinterest photos as a guide instead of inspiration.
Anytime I hear someone say “I want my house to look like a Pinterest photo” I cringe. No you do not, Girlfriend! First of all, every single picture you pinned with perfect light, perfect spacing, and half-filled clear jars of flour is staged. They don’t actually live like that! And if they do, they don’t actually cook.
Organization is so personal. It’s never a one-size-fits-all. That blogger’s habits are different than yours, and their lifestyle isn’t the same as yours. We are all different, and our schedules are unique, so there’s no way copying a photo you see online will work seamlessly for you.
*Use those photos as inspiration to see what you like and what you don’t, and try it on for size, but don’t ever feel like you’re less of a mom, wife, or woman if your pantry doesn’t have the sparseness to grace the cover of a magazine.
2. You buy bins that are too big or too small.
The right size of storage container is imperative for good organization. A container that’s too big will turn into a mosh-pit of a mess, and one that’s too small will cause you to pile up the excess somewhere else. My biggest tip is to start by using random shoeboxes and shipping boxes for a week or so as a stand-in bin. You’ll be able to live with them for a bit to see if they’re really the best size. Once you’re positive the sizing will work, you can trade that Amazon box for a real bin.
3. You aren’t considering your daily routines.
Just because that key ring you bought at Target last week during the Home Clearance Event looks cute doesn’t mean it will serve you at all if your family drops keys on the island every day. Instead of forcing yourself and your family to completely change their habits and routines, adapt to what is already working for you. Like a pretty bowl on the island designated for keys only.
A good friend of mine is a perfect example of this. She recently told me that she and her husband argue over bathroom space every morning and was looking for ways they could share the room better and both be able to get ready peacefully. I pointed out that the problem wasn’t that they can’t share the bathroom, it was that they both needed to get ready at the same time. So instead of trying to make it work, I suggested that one of them take over a spare bathroom as their place to get ready. Just because a master bathroom is the grown-up bathroom, doesn’t mean it has to be the place both spouses use. So now she has her own bathroom and they can both get ready in peace, no argument necessary.
4. You get hung up on “gadgets.”
A lot of “organizers” actually hold very small amounts of things, or create extra work for you. Just because an organization gadget looks cool in the store doesn’t mean it’s actually a good way to store your stuff. Be honest with yourself and ask “will this actually make my life easier?” and if the answer isn’t a hell yes, then it’s a hell no. Simple as that.
5. You buy containers BEFORE you reorganize a space.
Always, always, ALWAYS follow these steps in this exact order when you are organizing or reorganizing spaces in your home:
- Decide on a functional layout/placement
- THEN buy containers based on the needs of each category and space you have for it.
Buying containers before steps 1-3 will almost always result in wasting money on things you don’t need, extra trips to buy things you do need, and piled-up unused baskets and bins in a random closet to be used “someday.”
6. You rearrange things too often.
This is fine if you live alone, but if you’re sharing your home with other humans, too much rearranging is a recipe for disaster. No one knows where anything goes so they stop putting things away altogether. Which makes you mad, so you rearrange things again, which makes them mad, and it’s a vicious cycle.
My best advice is to get the family’s input on the placement of the things you all use collectively (i.e. the scissors that are almost always lost), agree on a spot together, and leave it there. No point in changing something that works.
7. You’re misusing labels.
When I was in high school, my younger brother bought a label maker with his allowance. He went through the refrigerator and labeled EV-ER-Y-THING! He labeled where the ketchup went, and the mustard, and the exact spot on the shelf where the milk would go…and he was very upset when the mayonnaise was in the ranch dressing spot.
On the flip side, when my husband and I moved in together, I brought all my kitchen stuff, crammed it into his cabinets, put things where I thought they should go, moved his stuff accordingly, and for weeks he had no idea where anything was because I didn’t label anything at all.
There’s a fine line between excessive labeling and zero labeling, so find what works best for your family that keeps everyone’s stress levels under control.
8. You’re buying cheap containers.
This is my biggest problem when I work with clients in their house. A lot of people think they can save money by buying dollar store containers. Yes, these containers do work just the same as higher priced ones. But they break, bend, crack, warp, and fade much faster than a good quality brand. You are spending way too much time and money replacing them, switching them out, trying to make them fit, and re-labeling them.
I’m not saying you’ve got to blow your whole paycheck at The Container Store, but I am saying it’s wise to spend a few bucks more on a good sturdy brand name you trust. I’ve had great success with Target’s Made By Design collection, which looks just like TCS stuff but costs a third of the price. Walmart’s Better Homes and Gardens organization line is also fantastic and really affordable.
Has the reality check settled in yet?
I know, I know, mean old Lela just poo-pooed on your entire organization system, but sometimes you need a little tough love to take action on what you know deep down was a problem from the start. We get busy, we take shortcuts, we try to save money, we try to follow what someone else did, we don’t take time to experiment. It happens to all of us. But now is the time for you to check yourself, acknowledge the mistakes you’re making, and correct them.
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