One of the most popular resolutions of possibly all time is “I will get organized.” This can mean different things to different people, but the drive to simplify life and make sense of what can be the chaos of our homes is universal. It doesn’t take long for many of us to revert to old habits and once again find ourselves besieged by clutter. These organizing experts share their thoughts on organizing practices that just don’t work in the long run and how we can all get control of the mess once and for all.
01 of 06
A top reason experts give for failed organization attempts is pretty basic: Most of us have too many things.
Any serious push to organize our space has to start with an honest edit of what we use and what we do not. “Even if you own a lot of household items, you need to be able to see when too much is too much,” says Michelle Hansen, owner of Practical Perfection. “There isn't anything wrong with keeping lots of things we love, but it does become a problem when all of your 'stuff"' is taking up your valuable mental space and keeping you from thinking clearly and accomplishing tasks efficiently.”
02 of 06
We have ALL done it. We look at social media and see closets and pantries and kitchens clean, simplified, and completely streamlined—that is not reality. Don’t let the idea of perfection stop you from creating systems and spaces that work for the way you live.
Michelle Urban of The Organized House says, “the goal of organizing is to make your daily routines and habits efficient and chaos-free, so remember functionality comes over perfection and give yourself time to find organizing systems that work for you.”
This can be especially true if you expect kids to help. “If a person is a parent with young kids at home, insisting on very specific organizing categories is a recipe for frustration for both the parent and child,” says organizer Andrea Brame.
03 of 06
Stop Buying Tidiness
How many of us have started the new year in the storage bin aisle at our favorite store, certain that if we buy this 32-piece set we will be ship-shape in no time?
Unfortunately spending a bunch of money isn’t going to give you an organized home.
Aaron Traub, owner of Dallas organizing company My Professional Organizer, sees the “spend first” method as a big reason that people can’t maintain a tidy space. "One trend I have seen that is not sustainable in the long run is the 'quick fix' mentality,'” Traub says.
Buying bins and baskets to organize isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Traub says, “while these products can be helpful tools for organization, they are not a substitute for regularly decluttering and maintaining a space."
04 of 06
Form Over Function
Once you have decluttered and surveyed all of the items you are keeping, you might be ready to hit the stores. However, what looks cute isn’t necessarily what is going to do exactly what you need it to do. "We organize for aesthetics, but everything has to be 100% functional,” says Jane Abrahams, owner of Jane’s Addiction Organizing in Port Washington, N.Y.
Consider everything you need to store in the pantry and measure the space on each shelf before you hit the stores. Once you have a good idea of what types of things you need to house and the space you have to do so, you will be able to make better decisions on which products will do the trick. Check what storage items you already have. You might be able to use existing bins, saving yourself time and money.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
05 of 06
There is no shortage of “surefire” organization methods on Instagram and TikTok. It can be easy to get caught up in the next new thing, thinking this might be the thing that finally ends all the mess.
Professional organizer Julie Peak, owner of North Carolina’s The Precise Place, sums this problem up simply: “Until you understand your organizing style, and stop following trends, you will never stay organized," she says. "If something doesn’t come naturally to you, it’s a safe bet that you will have a tough time maintaining that method.”
Marie Kondo’s Konmari system focuses on taking everything in a room out, then releasing those items that do not spark joy. For some people, that really sparks stress. “Taking every similar item out of every room and shelf and cupboard in the house and sorting through it all at once can just be overwhelming for many people,” says Brame. “It's a lot more manageable to go one cupboard or drawer or closet at a time.”
06 of 06
Another issue with chasing trends is that people don’t get a realistic idea about how long it will take to not only set up a system but also to keep it running efficiently.
L.A.-based design pro Sarah Barnard believes the opposite is true, especially for busy families. “Home organizational systems that require extensive daily maintenance can often be quickly abandoned,” she says. “If systems are unaligned with available time or commitment levels, we can quickly become discouraged by the overflow and feel overwhelmed. Being realistic about organizational solutions starts with recognizing the amount of time we're willing to put into daily organization and working backward to create achievable solutions.”