Six Common Organizing Mistakes
Are you one of those people who panics when guests are scheduled
to come to your house? Do you begin the frantic “dash and stash,”
running around your house trying to conceal your piles of clutter? Do
you slide your arm across surfaces, piled high with paper and clutter,
and shove the contents into a bag or box, then stash it in the closet?
If so, you are like a lot of my clients, who inadvertently have taken
enticing shortcuts to true organizing.
Most people have a hall closet or spare room that contains bags of
paper and clutter that have been the outcome of a “dash and stash”
moment. As we sort through these time capsules, we find unpaid bills
(maybe that’s why the electricity was turned off!), the old health
insurance plan, letters and reminders, a long-lost calendar, and sometimes
even treasures like un-cashed checks and precious memorabilia.
As you begin getting organized, you will likely discover bags, boxes,
junk drawers, and even entire rooms that have been a receptacle for
your organizing efforts. You might begin to wonder how this pile-up
has happened to you. In the trenches of disorganized homes and offices
across America, I’ve discovered six common shortcuts to true organizing.
In reviewing them, I hope you can discover where you may have taken
a wrong turn that has derailed your organizing progress:
1. The Product Panacea
In an effort to address our disorder, we often rush off to the store
and buy a hunk of plastic (usually with multiple drawers) and throw
it at our mess. Product alone is not the answer. I’ve seen people
with hundreds of bins and baskets who are still disorganized. I recommend
partnering a good organizing process with the appropriate product introduced
at the right time in the project. If you preemptively buy product without
determining exactly what you want to contain and how it will improve
functionality, you will likely have wasted your money.
2. The Rearranging Remedy
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. We didn’t know what to do with the
contents of the room, so we simply re-arranged it back into the same
space. Instead, take the time to ask questions and assign a purpose
of each space and organize around those purposes.
3. The Cleaning Cure-All
While it is wonderful to have a clean home, it’s not the same
thing as an organized home. Cleaning simply de-grimes your living space,
while organizing requires planning and space allocation to activities
and items. Cleaning can actually create clutter, since many of us hide
things as we clean in order to get to the surfaces. The good news is:
when you’ve taken the time to organize your home, it is also easier
to clean, because nomadic items can be confidently returned to their
appropriate location, and surfaces aren’t clogged with clutter.
4. The Stashing Solution
We stash even when we’re not cleaning. If we are trying to “pick
up,” we look to the nearest empty spot to stash it. We highjack
open spaces on shelves, counters and drawers, and in closets, stacking
them full of odds and ends. In our attempt to get things off the floors
and surfaces, we stuff our way to a disorganized environment where nothing
has a home. To stop stashing, you’ll want to observe the assigned
purpose of each area of the home (ie: the game closet) and use my “Only
Policy” to limit the items landing in that closet to “games
5. The Tidying Trick
It is likely that at some point, we have all tidied up our space instead
of organizing it, aiming for a neat appearance. This organizing mistake
is especially easy to make because it feels so productive! With good
intentions, many of us have stayed late at work or come into the office
on a weekend to deal with our messy workspace. We tossed and recycled
and purged and we were proud of our progress. Sadly, within a couple
of weeks we found ourselves sitting in a messy space once again, shaking
our heads in disbelief. Tidying up never lasts very long. If you have
not implemented systems for capturing and processing incoming paper
and information you will be stuck in an endless cycle of tidying.
6. The Cookie Cutter
We so badly want to believe that there is a magic potion for our organizing
challenges that we will try almost any solution. The last serious organizing
mistake we make is when we take a universal tip or method and try to
apply it to our own mess. This is the “cookie cutter” approach
to organizing. I have come to believe that there is no one tip or trick
that will work for every person. Each person needs and deserves organizing
solutions designed with him or her in mind.
Just like frantic dieters trying to cut pounds, the disorganized masses
are looking for a quick and easy shortcut to their messy homes and offices.
We all want to believe that “in three simple steps” or in
“five minutes a day” we can get organized. Yet, deep down
I think we all know—as we survey the landscape of our rooms layered
with clutter—that there is no way (short of arson) we can untangle
our mess in three steps or five minutes. We come to a moment of truth
where we finally understand that shortcutting only short-circuits our
organizing efforts. Our compulsion to cut corners isn’t going
to help us truly restore order. We’re going to have to retire
our haphazard attempts to get organized and look for a better way.
I’ve shared a solution to each of the shortcuts described above.
In order to achieve lasting change, you must “dig out” of
the backlog that you’ve created over the years and “dig
in” to set up new systems to help you manage in the future. Here’s
to “restoring order” to your space and reclaiming your life!
Adapted from: Restoring Order™ copyright © 2006 by Vicki
Norris (available at www.RestoringOrder.com and in July 2007as Reclaim
Your Life™. Copyright © 2007). Published by Harvest House
Publishers, Eugene, OR. Used by permission.
Vicki Norris is an expert organizer, business
owner, speaker, television personality, and author who inspires people
to live out their priorities. Norris is a regular on HGTV’s nationally
syndicated Mission: Organization, and is a recurrent source and contributor
to national lifestyle publications including Quick & Simple magazine, Better Homes & Gardens, and Real Simple magazine. Norris is also
author of Restoring Order™ to Your Home, a room-by-room household
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