5 Organizing “Hacks” Pros Want You to Stop Trying

Step away from the clear containers.

Interior. Jars and and boxes in the kitchen cupboard
Ekaterina_Marory / Getty Images

When it comes to decluttering your home, there’s never a bad time to get started—though there are times of year, such as spring and back to school season, when you (and everyone you know) may feel the urge to start organizing your space. Around those times of year (or whenever you go looking for them), you’ll find plenty of advice and hacks for making your organizing job just a little bit easier

But some of those organizing hacks might seem slightly suspect. (Does a pantry full of clear containers really stay looking so neat and orderly all year round?) In an effort to figure out which hacks really work (and maybe make ourselves feel better about the perpetual state of our own junk drawers), we turned to the experts to ask: What popular organizing tricks do experts actually avoid?

Relying on Rainbow Color-Sorting

As mDesign spokespeople, Ryan Eiesland and Brandie Larsen of the Home Sort are well-versed in which storage solutions work and which don’t. When it comes to rainbow-themed organizing methods (such as color-coding your closet), they say leave it.

“[A hack] that we find NEVER works for our clients: ROYGBIV color sorting,” say Eiesland and Larsen. “This has been a strong trend over the last few years and, sure, it is Pinterest-worthy, but it’s so unpractical. Most of our clients don’t have homes where the ROYGBIV sorting method coordinates. In fact, rainbow coloring sort can tend to feel a bit juvenile.” 

Rather than incorporating a rainbow of bright colors into your place, Eiesland and Larsen have another solution. “A better option is to sort like items together and use something neutral to house them,” they say. “mDesign has so many naturally woven bins and baskets that work wonders for any space. The right bin will help keep you organized and look good while doing it.”

Using Too-Large Storage Cubes for Kids’ Items

While Eiesland and Larsen love certain storage containers, there’s one style they say to avoid. “The large storage cubes that are often used for kids’ toys do not work,” says the Home Sort duo. “They are often either too large for smaller toys, so they fall to the bottom and get lost, or for larger toys and stuffed animals: too small. The size just doesn’t work. Instead, opt for large baskets for oversized toys and smaller divided bins for tiny toys.”

Decanting Everything Into Clear Containers

Kathryn Lord from More to Organising feels strongly that the trend of emptying everything into new containers has got to go.

“[My site] More to Organising is about making your life easier, not harder,” says Lord. “While using see-through containers can make sense for dry foods, decanting other things—such as herbs and spices, sauces, or even lotions and shampoos—is not only time-wasting but means you have bought even more plastic.”

The good news? Lord encourages everyone to use what they’ve got. “With my clients, as much as possible, I use what they already have for storage more effectively rather than mindlessly buying more containers. It’s better to reduce what you have instead of creating more space for clutter!” Lord says.

Buying Containers Before You Declutter

Jane Stoller, founder of Organized Jane and author of Decluttering for Dummies, agrees that starting your organizing journey with a fresh set of organizers isn’t the way to go. “My biggest pet peeve is actually the stores that sell containers and boxes aimed at organizing your clutter!” she says.

But along with procuring more stuff, Stoller is also against leaning on the so-called hack of stocking up on storage containers before doing the actual work required to get organized. “Before you go out to get new bins and baskets, first assess everything and declutter,” Stoller says. “Once you figure out the stuff you want to keep, you will quickly realize you don’t actually need all of those organizing supplies.” 

If you’re avoiding decluttering because you’re scared to let go, Stoller suggests looking at the process in a new way. “Decluttering unfortunately can have a bad reputation. We have all been told to declutter entire closets or our houses in one sitting and to only be left with one pair of shoes and one coffee cup,” she says. “This is false—you can have one hundred pairs of shoes if you wear them and they are properly organized. Decluttering is not about the quantity, but rather the quality and usability of the items you keep.”

Asking the Wrong Questions

As Shira Gill, professional home organizer and author of MINIMALISTA, tells us, “Attempting to organize your belongings before thoroughly editing them will probably leave you feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. Organized clutter is still clutter!”

Whether or not you subscribe to the KonMari Method, popular organizing advice says to ask yourself if something brings you joy before you decide to keep it or toss it. But Gill fears people are asking themselves the wrong questions entirely, or relying too much on questions that don’t work for them.

“If you truly want less clutter in your home but feel overwhelmed or resistant to parting with your stuff, you may simply be focusing on the wrong questions as you assess each item,” Gill explains. “‘Could this be useful one day? Did someone give this to me? Did I pay a lot of money for this item?’ These questions are rooted in guilt, obligation, and fear, and will provide you with the justification to keep just about anything!”

“Instead, try these alternatives,” says Gill. “‘Does this item support my current values and priorities? Does this item fit in with the vision I have for my ideal home? Could this item be useful/helpful for another person? Would I buy this item for full price today? Would it impact my daily life not to have this item? Is this item really worth the space it's taking up in my home? Is this item adding value to my life right now?’”

“These questions will help keep you focused on creating a space that supports your current goals and lifestyle,” Gill says. “They are rooted in abundant thinking—i.e., if I end up needing an eyeglass repair kit, I can easily buy or borrow one. The goal, of course, is not to be careless, or get rid of everything, but, rather, to remain focused on keeping things that are truly meaningful and functional for you in the present.”