There are so many organizing myths and misconceptions that limiting my list to ten was difficult. Nevertheless, below are some of the most common and damaging to one’s journey from chaos to calm that comes from organization.
1. If it is worth doing at all, it is worth doing perfectly.
Perfection is sneaky. It can appear in subtle yet impactful ways. Sometimes, we struggle to differentiate between a job well done and perseveration. It commonly lurks about when we are finding “homes” for discards, creating organizational systems, or diverting items from landfills. (It is great to be “green,” but not at the expense of the ability to use space as needed on a daily basis.) The more you catch it attempting to wriggle its way into your process, the better chance you have of organizing in a more realistic and thus relaxing way.
2. I have finished once it is magazine-worthy.
This one goes hand in glove with Myth #1. Magazines display “normal” homes. The photo for this “normal” home probably involved a team of professionals who worked full days to get the right shot. Additionally, it can take thousands of dollars to recreate drool-worthy pantries filled with matching organizing products and decanted dry goods.
This is not to say that one’s organized space cannot look polished, but it is tremendously helpful to be realistic with expectations. We will lose if we measure our homes against a team of professional designers.
If this resonates, try a magazine and social-media diet. When you finish an organizing session, tell yourself, “Good enough is good enough,” celebrate your progress, and reward your efforts. Eventually, you will have a home with workable, calm spaces.
3. I need a bigger home or a storage unit.
One could rent a storage unit or move (and in some cases, like a growing family, might need to). That could be true for some individuals, but most people I meet are not hoping to move or pay monthly storage fees. They simply want to live a more relaxed daily life. Thankfully, the organizing process typically creates enough space that one does not need to move or rent outside storage units.
4. This is going to take forever!
The start of the organizing process can feel overwhelming and like it will take forever. Thankfully, there are a finite amount of items in any given home. You will see progress as you start to clear out drawers and shelves. Then, you will see light at the end of the tunnel.
5. I know myself: I will only finish if I do it all at once.
When the mood strikes, one’s natural inclination might be to conduct a whirlwind decluttering session. Behind the scenes, the individual might unconsciously wait until dopamine levels are high enough to light fires. These embers of motivation can be stoked by the thought of guests arriving in a week or receiving an audit letter from the IRS. Magically, it seems they have all the energy in the world to tackle the clutter.
The issue with this strategy is that it leaves one exhausted. The next time they need to declutter, they remember that marathon session and think, “No way!”
Instead, this individual can focus on doing fifteen minutes of daily decluttering. In this manner, they will maintain stamina, and the work will become easier as it becomes habituated.
6. I need new bins to stay organized.
It is logical to think new bins and containers solve our organizing woes. Advertising, TV shows, and media bombard us with images of beautiful new containers in decluttered homes. The truth is that bins and containers are a piece of the puzzle, but only one part. Brand-new bins and containers are not usually the answer to clutter. In fact, they can add to the chaos. Once we discard unwanted items, we know which type of container or bin will work best for the remaining items. As we empty existing bins and containers, we can repurpose them and save money.
7. I need to dismantle everything and start over fresh.
Sometimes, it feels like everything needs to be fixed because of the clutter. Fortunately, parts of spaces or organizing systems are typically working well. They might only need slight modifications to work as intended. As you declutter, look for those winning systems and leave them intact.
8. It is hopeless because I have read organizing books, and I am still disorganized.
Organizing books are great. They introduce us to helpful concepts and strategies. It is important to note that not every strategy will work for every person. If you have ADHD, many organizing books might not help because they are written for neurotypicals. You might be better off with Ari Tuckman’s More Attention, Less Deficit or Judith Kolberg’s ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life. (Click here for information on both books.) Sometimes, a home-grown, customized approach is needed. You might weave together various strategies to discover what works for the way your brain works.
9. It is hopeless because my space has been messy for years.
I am commonly the first individual a client has had in their home for years. It is absolutely possible if you are willing to learn, challenge assumptions, and practice. You might need individual or team support, but you can succeed.
Organizing is a soft skill that is not always explicitly taught. Additionally, challenges such as undiagnosed ADHD, depression, or anxiety can wreak havoc on the process before they are addressed. Many clients deal with one, two, or all three of these challenges. If there is support for symptom management, the organizing process is much more manageable than otherwise.
10. It is hopeless because I am still disorganized despite my friends' and family’s efforts.
Friends and family members are typically the first line of defense against the battle with clutter. Commonly, this team can do wonders. Other times, friends and family are well-intentioned but lack the skills to understand roadblocks and strategies to move around them. They might have excellent organizing strategies that work for their spaces, but everyone’s brain works differently. This could mean that their loved one needs a different system.
Hopefully, dispelling these myths leaves you feeling more energized and ready to tackle clutter. You can reach your decluttering goals with time, effort, and practice!
Author: Judith Dold
Musings from yours truly about all things organizing.