Getting your home organized is not always easy. First and foremost, your space doesn't necessarily belong to just you: there are kids, pets, roommates, and partners to consider. Plus, the process is often far more complicated than just moving items around or ‘decluttering.’ Not to mention everywhere you look—from blogs and viral TikToks to well-meaning (but inaccurate) advice from loved ones—there's conflicting information.
So, how do you actually get organized? Perhaps it’s less about what you need to do and more about what you need to stop doing. Here are seven organizing mistakes to stop making this year, according to the experts.
Buying Organizers Before Decluttering
First thing’s first: You can’t actually organize unless you know what you’re keeping and
what you’re getting rid of. Although this sounds obvious, we often get excited about the idea of organizing, so much so, that we forget the reality of it. If you actually want to get your home organized, you have to start with eliminating the items you don’t need or want first.
“Do NOT buy organizing products before you've done the work of decluttering,” says Elsa Elbert, owner and professional organizer at Composed Living. “Most people want the ‘fun’ part of buying something to help them get organized, but often times it's the wrong size or product altogether. You won't know what you need until you know exactly what you're organizing!”
When you rush to buy organizing products, you not only risk potentially wasting your money, but you also set yourself up for habits you can’t necessarily sustain in the long-term.
“People are more likely to maintain their new organizational system[s] when they aren't overwhelmed by how much they have,” says Julianna Poplin of The Simplicity Habit. It’s best, she suggests, to start with the decluttering and removing of items so that you can have a fresh perspective about how (and why) you’re keeping what you decided to keep.
Not Allocating Proper Time
Cleaning and organizing are, in reality, time-consuming tasks. One of the biggest mistakes people make is not thinking it through—and therefore not properly allocating the amount of time it takes to actually get these tasks completed.
“Organizing and cleaning are all about time,” says Ben Soreff, professional organizer at House to Home Organizing. “Most people don't finish what they start and when it comes to [organizing]. People start off with good intentions, but things can quickly go south, leaving the house messier than before you started.”
His suggestion is to just be more realistic about how long it takes to clean, and rather than focusing on one big project, look at one space or item at a time. This way, you won’t get distracted and abandon the project halfway.
Not Knowing Your Organizational Style
Organizing seems easy, but depending on your personality, your space, and the method in which you naturally operate, you may need a non-traditional approach.
“If you want to organize the mess in your life, you first need to understand why people get disorganized,” says David Mason of The Knobs Company, a home solutions business. “[One of] the biggest mistakes people make in organizing is to rely on their memory. People make the second major mistake to allow their system to evolve into a pile.”
Instead, he suggests budgeting first so that you know what you can afford and what financial investment is involved in your overall home organization. He also suggests creating a system to help you file, sort, and streamline your overall process. This way, you’ll have fewer piles and ‘stuff’ and more intention behind what you have and where you have it.
It’s also a good idea to consider your ‘normal’ and try to stay within the boundaries. If you are, for example, going to extremes with your organizing, it (unfortunately) won’t last.
“One common organizing mistake people make is over-organizing their space,” says Eden Passante, Home Expert and lifestyle blogger at Sugar and Charm. “If a space is overly-organized and doesn’t fit your lifestyle, it won’t stay organized for long and can quickly become cluttered again.”
Relying Too Heavily on Pinterest
Pinterest can be an amazing resource for inspiration, but whether you’ve been on the platform for five years or five minutes, you’ll quickly realize that these beautiful boards can be overwhelming and, perhaps, a bit unrealistic at times.
While there is, of course, a wealth of great ideas as far as cleaning, organizing, and designing, there are also home layouts that are created digitally or in a studio, and not everyday people and their everyday homes. So it’s best to take everything you see with a grain of salt.
“People often create unsustainable systems for themselves that don’t match their lifestyle or organizing style [after looking at Pinterest]” says Caroline Solomon, NYC-based Home Organizer. “Before purchasing storage solutions, [for example], ask yourself whether you’ll realistically be able to maintain these solutions.”
“Sometimes organizing inspo is best left on Pinterest,” she says.
Neglecting High/Low Space
When it comes to organizing, we tend to focus on the main focal points. However, there is often ample vertical space that, more often than not, we’re neglecting.
“A lot of times we forget to pay attention to access points,” says Jill McMeekin, founder of J. Ryan Solutions. “This means that the easier a drawer/cabinet/closet is to access, then the stuff that lives there should be used A LOT. We don't want holiday dinner platters in a super-easy-to-reach kitchen cupboard. Move those items to the garage, or another place that is not in the main daily living zone.”
Abandoning Your Closets
Everyone has a messy closet or two. But chances are, these closet spaces have just been dealt with rather than intentionally redesigned and organized.
“One of the biggest organizing mistakes people make is with their closets. Oftentimes, people are willing to just accept the way their closet is laid out when they buy their home,” says Dan Wiener, founder & lead interior designer at Homedude.
Instead of doing this, he offers some tangible suggestions: “If your closet just has a builder-grade hanger rod, consider adding shelving or drawers to your closet. Then, use dividers to organize shelves and separate different types of clothing.” Or, if you’re a visual person, Wiener suggest arranging your clothing by color and type. “This makes your closet more visually appealing and makes it easier to find what you’re looking for,” he says.
Not Incorporating Organizing Into Your Routine
It’s one thing to do a deep clean or a refresh every few months—and it’s a completely different thing to make organizing a part of your overall routine. The more often you practice organizing, the more automatic it becomes.
“[A] common mistake is not breaking up organizing into bite-sized chunks,” says Solomon. “People often assume that the only way to get organized is to throw the entire contents of your home into a big pile at once… not so! Instead, set a timer for 15 minutes and see what you can accomplish in that time frame. Whether you’re tackling your junk drawer or one corner of your room, small steps lead to big changes.”