Decluttering | General Organizing

10 Biggest Organizing Mistakes to Avoid

Laura Coufal

About Laura

I  am a Southern California girl – turned small-town, Midwest Mom. I am wife to Bruce and mom to my three girls.

Back when I first started my professional organizing journey in 2013, I had what I thought of as a dirty little secret. I have ADHD and although I am organized, and enjoy the process of sorting, and tidying. I knew that there were many others with ADHD who really struggled with staying organized. I had a case of imposter syndrome and mostly kept the fact that I had ADHD to myself. That is until I learned that there are other really successful professional organizers who have also learned to compensate for their ADHD the same way that I have.

I eventually realized that my need for order and simplicity actually stems from having ADHD as a way to compensate for my short attention span. So my gifts and my challenges are all ironically tied together to create who I am,  and I am able to relate to and help others as a result of this coping method that I have developed for myself.

I help women and moms with ADHD, but I also help those who struggle with clutter without having ADHD.  Because simplicity and less clutter are always at the heart of staying organized, there is much overlap when it comes to finding solutions to clutter and disorganization.

I am dedicated to keeping my life as simple as possible and to helping others do the same by teaching them how to declutter their homes, simplify their lives, and manage their busy families better.

I have been helping others stay organized since 2013.

It is my deepest hope that you will find resources here that will bring you closer to living a simpler, more intentional, and more peaceful life. 

always have

something

beautiful 

in your space…

…but let it be

as simple

as a daisy

in a vase.

 

Updated Dec. 9th 2022

If you are getting ready to tackle an organizing project, these are the most common organizing mistakes I often see when working with clients. Learn to recognize and avoid these common pitfalls so that they don’t bring your organizing efforts to a sudden halt.

1. The most common organizing mistake I see is shopping for organizing products too soon.

It is best not to shop before you start a project. This is an organizing mistake I see all of the time. For one thing, it is impossible to know exactly how much and what size products you need before you finish sorting and purging.

Once you have sorted through all of your things, and have let go of what you no longer use, you likely will end up with newly emptied containers. So you will need fewer products than you anticipated. You will spend less money and purchase more functional products if you wait until after you have done your sorting and purging. Extra tip: Don’t forget to measure your spaces before you bring home organizing products.

Shopping is the easiest and most enjoyable part of the job, so if you shop first, you risk losing your motivation to continue. What’s worse is that if you shop first, then lose interest in getting the job done, your newly purchased organizing products will just add to the clutter that you already have!  Trust me, I see this all of the time, your unused organizing products stacked in the corner will make the room look even messier than it was before.

2. Another common organizing mistake is  getting caught in the “shuffling” trap.

If you catch yourself filling up a different room in your house each time you organize the one you are working in, you may be caught in the shuffling trap. Be careful not to make the mistake of moving things from room to room instead of deciding what to do with them. If you do this, you will never finish organizing!

It is so easy to make this mistake because it is harder to make decisions about things than it is to just move them. I know it is tempting to push off decisions until later in order to get a room that has been driving you crazy cleaned out. But if you are only postponing decisions, no real progress is being made. 

If you can’t find permanent homes for things because your storage spaces are already full, this may be a sign that you have too much stuff.  Your home has likely exceeded its clutter threshold. It might be time to go through your closets and cabinets and do a deep cleanout. Making some empty storage space so that you can put things away, will usually put a stop to the shuffling game.

Organizing Mistakes

3. Don’t make the mistake of forgetting to give yourself credit for your wins.

If you are facing a big job, focus on what you have completed as you go, rather than on the sometimes-overwhelming amount of work that lies ahead. By staying focused on your progress, you will give yourself the motivation and determination to keep going.

Be careful not to let a small slip-up or delay in your progress derail your effort to move forward. Don’t make the mistake of focusing on your failures rather than your successes. Taking photos of your space before you start can help you see your progress as you go.

Success comes by taking small steps forward and building on those successes. Nothing stops your progress in its tracks like beating yourself up for not being perfect. Stay focused on your goal. With each small win, you will gain more confidence in your own ability to make progress.

4. Don’t Organize too large a space all at once.

Have you ever spent the day running around your house, haphazardly doing a little organizing here and there, and by the end of the day, you are exhausted and can’t see any tangible results? This can leave you feeling like your efforts have been futile. Instead, focus on one small space at a time and break up large rooms into small chunks.

If you can get your kitchen island organized, you can get your pantry organized. If you can get your pantry organized, you can get your whole kitchen organized.

Breaking a project into small manageable chunks prevents you from getting overwhelmed. It also will help you to clearly see your results as you go. At the end of the day, if you can open your pantry or closet and see the fruit of your labor. This will give you the encouragement you need to keep going.

5. Another common organizing mistake is starting with the wrong category of clutter.

If you have several areas in your home that need attention, leave keepsakes, photos, and paperwork until last. Tackle these categories later because they are the most emotionally challenging and time-consuming. Both photos and keepsakes can take you for a walk down memory lane.  The next thing you know, you are out of time and not much progress has been made.

​In the beginning, you will want to target a category that will enable you to make more rapid progress. Start with an easily manageable space such as a bedroom closet, a bathroom, or perhaps a pantry. Once you have gained momentum and are nearing the finish line, you can then dive into the more difficult categories of clutter.

Organizing Mistakes

6. Making Excuses About Letting Go of Clutter is another common organizing mistake.

I often hear the same excuses for not letting go of things, such as “I might use this thing someday” or “I should sell this thing” or, “I don’t use this thing, but I paid a lot for it, so I should keep it.” And my favorite; “This thing was a gift so would feel guilty if I got rid of it.”

These excuses for not decluttering become the barriers that get in the way of freeing yourself from this kind of clutter. Try to let go of making excuses that keep you bound to the things that you don’t really use. If an excuse traps you into keeping something, consider alternative choices.

7. Postponing Decisions is also a mistake.

Any given item usually has a whole set of strings attached to it…Should I keep it? Will I use it? Where shall I store it? Or perhaps…How should I get rid of it? Much of the clutter in our homes ultimately represents indecision, and it is tempting to put off all of those difficult decisions until tomorrow. But you will be doing yourself a great favor if you take a deep breath and decide to decide now rather than put it off until later.

Whether you are dealing with clutter from the storage room, laundry room, or kitchen, deciding to decide now will prevent build-up from accumulating as time goes by.

8. Don’t make the common mistake of letting perfection get in the way of progress.

Idealistic expectations can not only prevent you from making progress but may immobilize you to the point that you don’t even know how to get started. This is a common organizing mistake for perfectionists. Remind yourself that ‘done’ is always better than perfect.  You know yourself, if this sounds like you, don’t stop yourself from moving forward by trying to meet your own internal perfectionistic expectations.

If you are putting off getting started because you want to make sure you do it perfectly, I encourage you to push yourself to just get started. A functional system that’s not necessarily perfect is better than no system at all.

9. Avoid the mistake of making organizing systems too complicated.

Keep in mind that the more complicated an organizing system is, the more set-up time and ongoing maintenance it will require. The most functional organizing systems are those that are user-friendly and simple.

It is a misconception that to be organized, you have to have elaborate systems. In fact, often the opposite is true. For example, think about micro-organizing your underwear drawer. Having 48 little compartments for each pair of perfectly folded underwear is going to require more maintenance than if you simply toss all of your underwear together into a shoebox-sized bin inside your drawer. Place your bras into another bin to keep them separated from your underwear. Use two more bins to separate white and colored socks.

Unless you have a lot of time to organize and enjoy doing it, do yourself a favor and keep it simple. Organize things so that they are easy to put away, easy to retrieve, and easy to maintain.

10. The last organizing mistake on this list is pulling everything out at once.  

Raise your hand if this has happened to you before…

You destroy an entire room in an effort to clean it up, by pulling everything out all at once, then you get called away, get overwhelmed, or run out of time and can’t finish the project. What you end up with is a mess in that room that you have to look at for the next month or two… or more.

Breaking large jobs into small chunks will prevent this from happening. It is important to pull everything out of a drawer or off of a shelf because you will declutter more effectively, just don’t try to do it all at once.

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