Common Organizing Mistakes

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 mistakes that many people make when trying to organize a space. If you want to have a positive experience, avoid these pitfalls:

Wrong Way to Organize

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 and ordering your stuff. In fact, getting organized often requires no supplies at all. So begin with clearing the clutter, making donations, establishing order, and then – if you need supplies – do the shopping.

FIXING THE WRONG PROBLEM
Many times we try to rearrange items 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 only work if the items you store match the size of the container you store them in. 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 THE WRONG STUFF IN PRIME REAL ESTATE
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.

FAILING TO LABEL STORAGE LOCATIONS
The single best way to ensure that you (and others) maintain an organizational system is to label storage locations. Whether you use a labeler, sticker, piece of masking tape, or a printed label covered with packing tape, a label reminds everyone of what belongs where. For small children, a label can be a picture instead of a word. Labels can go on a container, the edge of a shelf, or a wall.

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.

NOT GETTING RID OF DONATIONS
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.

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?