The 10 Biggest Organizing Mistakes . . . and How to Avoid Them

Basement, before professional organization
Basement, before professional organization (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by: Sharon Lowenheim

Many people want to get organized but don’t know how to take the first step. Unfortunately, the first step many of them take is the wrong step! Here are the ten biggest mistakes that would-be organizers make, and how to avoid them.

1. Waiting for a large block of available time

Many disorganized people say that they will get organized when they have a completely free weekend, or when they can take a few days off from work. There are several problems with this approach. One is that it postpones getting started. Another is that higher priority tasks always crop up, and the seemingly free block of time rarely ends up being used exclusively for organizing. Spending a full weekend organizing can be exhausting! It’s better to start in small increments — an evening here, a few weekend hours there. Some organizing tasks can even be completed while watching television, or waiting for the laundry to finish. The important thing is to get started!

2. Being discouraged by the big picture

Many people want to get organized but feel overwhelmed by the size of their organizing problem. They don’t know where to start, so they don’t start at all. The Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” There are no shortcuts to organizing. Decide where you are going to start – pick one cabinet, or one section of a room, or one closet – and just start!

3. Hiding clutter in the closet

In an effort to make one’s home presentable to guests, many people deal with clutter by shoving it into a shopping bag and hiding it in the closet. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as it is just a short-term fix. It is important to take those shopping bags out of the closet after the guests leave and make decisions about the contents. Otherwise you will have trouble locating those items when you need to find them again, and you may also be giving prime storage space to many things you don’t need to keep.

4. Buying organizing products first

Stores like The Container Store and Bed, Bath and Beyond are full of great organizing products. However, it is important to first measure how much stuff needs to be stored. Start by sorting out the different types of items to be organized, and getting rid of the items you no longer need to keep. Next decide how you are going to organize the items, and where you are going to keep them. Only then are you ready to start considering organizing products.

5. Reading multiple organizing books

In this self-help culture, there is no shortage of books on organizing In their desperation to get organized, many people buy several of these books. However, since each organizer has his or her own methodology, reading several books without getting started will only be confusing. It is better to read one book and follow that author’s approach to get organized. Then, if there are aspects of that system that aren’t working well for you, you can consult additional books to find other ideas. Another alternative is to hire a professional organizer, who will work with you to come up with an organizing system custom-tailored for you.

6. Putting things in storage

The self-storage industry grossed over $20 billion in this country in 2007, and one out of every 10 households in the U.S. currently rents a self-storage unit. Yes, there are situations in which it is quite appropriate to rent a storage unit. However, many people opt for a storage unit as an alternative to making decisions about their possessions. After you have lived without your stored items for a year, you can safely say that these are not items that are useful to you. Instead of wasting your money storing them, make decisions about them now.

7. Asking the wrong person for help

Organizing can go faster and be more enjoyable if you have company. However, no matter how enthusiastic your friends or family members are about helping you, they may be too emotionally involved in your clutter situation to be objective. The last thing you need to hear is, “I can’t believe you let things get this bad!” or “You’re just like your father; he could never throw anything away either!” You’ll find the organizing process easier and far more productive if you work with a professional organizer.

8. Getting distracted from decision-making

Clutter, it has been said, is the result of postponed decisions. The process of getting organized is thus one of decision-making. However, some people get distracted from making decisions and start reading through unread papers or going down memory lane while reviewing photo albums. It is important to stay focused while organizing. Items that need detailed review in order for decisions to be made should be put aside in a “Review” pile and dealt with at another time.

9. Not involving the rest of your household

The habits of the other members of your household are very likely contributing to your home’s organizing issues. Furthermore, items that are used by everyone (such as kitchen and bathroom supplies, CDs and DVDs) need to be organized in a way that everyone can find them. Make sure that you have the cooperation of everyone in your household in making your organizing decisions.

10. Keeping something “just in case”

We all know the frustration of throwing something away and then regretting it later because you suddenly find the perfect use for it. To compensate, we then save too many items, “just in case”. However, the amount of storage space taken up by those “just in case” items – which will most likely never be used again — far outweighs the inconvenience of having to rebuy things that we have discarded in error. Unless you can think of a use for something right now, let it go.

I hope this article will prevent you from going down the wrong path when you get ready to organize. Happy sorting!

About the Author:
Sharon Lowenheim, MBA, MSE, is a Professional Organizer and owner of Organizing Goddess, LLC, in New York City. Since 2006, she has taught organizing skills to individuals and groups in their homes and their offices. She can be contacted by e-mail at or by phone at (212) 249-3537 . Visit Sharon on the web at

Article Source: