Updated: Apr 29, 2021
First off, let me just say that this is my FIRST EVER BLOG POST for Freakishly Neat! Yay!
Now, let's get started!
Since starting this business, I have been fortunate to get to go into people's homes and help them get organized. One of my favourite parts is getting to talk to my clients, hearing more about their goals for their space, and better understand their struggles and what obstacles might be getting in their way.
Some of the comments I hear the most when going into my clients' homes are:
"I organized this room last month/year, and yet it always ends up like this!"
"I'm just not an organized person."
Or my personal favourite...
"I'm just too lazy to stay organized."
To these comments, I always say the same thing.
THIS IS NOT YOUR FAULT!
We are part of a busier society than ever, more distracted than ever, and, since the pandemic, we are more stressed than ever! No wonder we feel like we can't get organized.
In addition to those factors, there many smaller factors that, when piled up together, make us feel like we can't get a handle on our home organization.
To help you out, I have compiled a list of 10 common mistakes I believe may be hindering your ability to stay organized.
1. Not knowing your organizational style
When I ventured into the world of becoming a professional organizer, I discovered that organization looks different for everyone. Just because your mom organized one way and that's how you were taught doesn't mean that's the way that works for you. I learned this the hard way. My entire life, I was taught to keep everything neatly sorted and in specific categories and I always had a hard time keeping things that way. It just seemed so daunting and I would get easily overwhelmed and just let the mess take over.
Fast forward to this year when I discovered Cassandra Aarssen's Clutterbug theory. According to Cas (who is the host of HGTV's Hot Mess House), people tend to organize in one of four different ways (or sometimes a combo of two ways). We either like our stuff visible or hidden and we find it easier to sort in either specific or broad categories.
Learning this info was a game-changer for me and the way I kept my house organized. I realized that I prefer to keep my things visible and the categories needed to be broad. Which is the total opposite of what I was taught as a child! No wonder I was so messy!
If you want to learn more about your organizational style, I highly recommend taking Cas' quiz on her website by clicking here.
Let's talk about lids, shall we? In my opinion, lids are one of the most significant contributors to people not staying organized. Let me get one thing straight first. Lids are totally essential for certain circumstances. When storing food, for example, or items that you only access every once in a while, like holiday decorations. However, when it comes to organizing frequently accessed items in your home, lids are LIMITING you!
I recently posted a poll to my Instagram story where I asked the following question:
When it comes to your stuff, would you rather be able to:
Find it easily?
Put it away easily?
A whopping 86% of people who responded said they would rather be able to put things away easily. So why not make it as simple as possible for you to put your items where they belong? The more obstacles that are in the way (i.e. lids), the more likely you are to just leave it out and tell yourself, "I'll put it away later."
Spoiler alert. You probably won't.
3. You're stacking bins on top of each other
Keeping with the theme of lids, stacking bins and boxes on top of each other is another thing that may be keeping you from being organized. Again, this is referring to items that are accessed daily. If you store seasonal items in bins and stack them to save space, more power to you! But if you're buying cute lidded baskets from your local Homesense, storing your everyday items in them, and stacking them on top of each other in your closet or on a bookcase, you're going to have a harder time keeping it that way.
I get the appeal of trying to use up as much vertical space as possible (and I will be making a blog post about that very soon), and I know it is aesthetically pleasing, but it's just not sustainable for most people. If I'm tidying up at the end of the day, I want to do it as quickly as possible. Why would I want to include unstacking containers, removing a lid, storing an item, replacing the lid, and restacking the containers in that process? I'm exhausted from just writing that sentence. Could you imagine doing it every single day? No, thank you.
You do have options when it comes to stacking containers while also keeping them accessible. I highly recommend getting stackable bins with open fronts like these ones from The Container Store.
4. Trying to be Pinterest and Instagram Perfect
Look at this picture.
This is Khloe Kardashian's pantry. It was organized by a team of excellent professional organizers down at The Home Edit.
It. Is. GORGEOUS.
It's also what many people set as the standard for their own home organization.
Too bad that, for many in North America, it is an impossible standard. Yet, it's what is shoved in our faces every day when we log into social media. Many of us won't start our organizational journey because of this. People think that to be organized means your space has to look like Khloe's pantry or the thousands of pictures we see online.
Let me let you in on a little secret. It doesn't.
The thing is that when looking at these beautifully organized homes on Pinterest and Instagram, you don't see what goes on behind the scenes.
You don't see the money that went into creating this space. You don't see the way the perfect pantry looks a week or even a month later. You don't see the personal assistants and cleaning staff who are keeping this space maintained every day. You also don't see the homeowner's personal struggles with perfectionism and keeping the space maintained.
If you want to be organized, then do yourself a favour and set the bar LOWER. Especially if this is all new territory for you. Make it something you are doing for your own well-being and sanity and less for the "likes".
5. You're a perfectionist (like me)
In a recent Facebook post, I spoke about how one of my biggest weaknesses is perfectionism. I have a tough time taking risks because I am afraid to fail. This often transfers to my ability to get organized, and I'm sure I'm not alone in that mindset.
When I want to do something. I want to do it right. I want it to look good (*cough cough* Pinterest perfect), and if I can't guarantee my success in this endeavour, I usually talk myself out of it, or my anxiety gets the best of me, and it doesn't get done.
If you're having a hard time getting organized, it may be time to check if you're a perfectionist. If that's what's holding you back, here are a few things I like to do to overcome that feeling and get the organizational ball rolling:
Strive for improvement instead of perfection
Give yourself some grace. Think of what you would say to a friend if they were feeling this way.
Brainstorm by asking yourself the question, "If it all goes wrong, what's the worst thing that could happen?" Take a look at what you came up with. How likely are those scenarios?
Do a 21 Item Toss to get your feet wet.
Take your time. It's hard work. As long as you're moving forward, you're going in the right direction.
6. Saying "no" to labels
Since starting Freakishly Neat, naysayers have come out of the woodwork and have been critical of certain aspects of my organizing process. Mainly, they have been slamming the idea of labels. To be honest, I get it. Before I started doing this professionally, I never understood the concept of labels. Why would I stick a label on something when I clearly know what is in the basket/box/bin? It seems counterintuitive, doesn't it?
However, after more training and research, I have found that labels are essential to maintaining organization in your home. Here's why:
Labels create a concrete "rule"
Have you ever noticed while driving that we automatically stop when we see a stop sign? We don't even have to think about it. It just happens. We see red, and the big word STOP and our brains automatically know what to do. It's the same thing when it comes to labels. Labels will subconsciously trick your brain into following the clearly written rule that is right in your face. When you organize without labels, it is just a matter of time before you "allow" other items to take over a space that was otherwise dedicated to something else.
Labels keep EVERYONE accountable
If you're like me and you feel like you're the only person in your home who cares about being organized, adding labels is a surefire way of making sure the other people in your home follow suit and put things back where they belong.
Labels can be customized
I totally get how someone can be turned off at the idea of adding labels to their organizational system. Some are big and bold and can make your home look more like a classroom than a neatly organized and streamlined space. What people may not realize is that there are endless options when it comes to labelling spaces in your home. Take these 3 examples. They each cater to a different aesthetic and yet still serve the same purpose.
Kaley from The Little White Farmhouse opted for quick and easy Dymo labels to identify the items in her pantry. These labels are perfect for minimalists who just want their labels to be simple. Dymo also offers a large variety of tape colours, so you have lots of options!
Jenn from Clean and Scentsible when the vinyl route, and I am HERE FOR IT! These types of labels add a touch of class and, with so many beautiful fonts out there, the possibilities are endless!
These printed and laminated labels are what I have in my own pantry. I like that they are easily interchangeable and, if you have a knack for graphic design, you can create beautiful labels that go with any space.
7. Not decluttering before organizing
I'll keep this one short. If you plan on organizing a space, it is in your best interest to create more room by getting rid of some of your stuff. If it's garbage, trash it. If you still use it but it doesn't belong in that space, put it in its home. If it doesn't have a home, create one. If it's still in good condition but no longer serving its purpose, donate it.
Notice how I didn't say sell it? I won't get too much into it, but unless you can guarantee the item will go quickly, trying to sell it will just prolong the process and isn't worth the money, in my opinion.
Not decluttering before organizing is like baking a cake but not adding any flour. It is a crucial element in getting organized and staying organized.
8. Accepting "guilt clutter"
Picture this. It's a beautiful Sunday afternoon, and you're having brunch at your parents' house (pre-pandemic, obviously). Just as your about to leave, your mom hands you a little box filled with various items.
"What's this?" You ask.
"Oh, your father and I are just going through some things, and we thought you'd like these."
You quickly look through it. You know you don't want most of the things in the box. You know you'll just end up getting rid of most of it eventually. So what do you say?
"Okay great. Thanks!"
Then the box sits in your home, untouched. Adding to the already accumulating clutter.
This happens all the time. Someone hands you down something that meant a lot to them. You get a gift for your birthday that you know you'll never use. Your dad brings over a toy for his grandkids that they will most likely only play with for a day.
Why do we keep these things? Because we feel guilty.
We don't want to say no and hurt their feelings. We don't want them to ask about it later just to break the news that we ended up getting rid of it. We're afraid of what they'll say or how they'll react.
But at the end of the day, the person who is feeling the weight and the pain is you. Sure their feelings might get hurt, but that's on them. You didn't ask for the clutter. It was forced upon you, and that's not okay.
So next time someone forces clutter upon you, say no, thank you. If that is too difficult (i.e. if it's your birthday or it's from someone you're really afraid of hurting), quietly get rid of the item the next time you have a chance and try to be honest if it ever comes up again.
I know it sounds challenging, especially if you're a people pleaser like me. But I promise it will help you set boundaries and help you in your organizational journey.
9. You're afraid to ask for help
Every week, I have at least 5 people who reach out to me. They want to get organized. They want me to help them do it. Great! I book them a free consultation session, and, without fail, they end up cancelling the day before.
At first, I would take it personally. Was I doing something wrong? Did they not like my pricing or my website? Did they find someone else? Maybe.
But then, one of the people who cancelled reached out to me a few weeks later. Do you know what she told me? She said she was scared to have me come to her home. She was ashamed of the clutter and was afraid that I would judge her. My heart broke for her.
That feeling of shame and that fear of being judged can be crippling and will just make the problem worse in the end. I've been there. I think we've all been there.
Yet, if someone were to ask YOU for help, what would you do?
You would most likely help them. You wouldn't judge them because you know what it's like.
I know what it's like because I've had the same fear and shame. That's why I do what I do, and that's why I started this business.
10. You have kids
You love them to death, and you would do anything for them, but let's be honest. Children are tiny energy suckers and are naturally messy. They are a never-ending tornado of destruction and are one of the main reasons we can't have nice things. If you have kids, especially kids under the age of 10, your house will probably not feel organized. At least not to your standards. It's not their fault. It's not YOUR fault. It's part of life and being a parent, and it WILL get better. I mean it HAS to. Right?
So that's that! If you're having a hard time getting organized I hope some of the items on this list resonated with you. If organizing still seems like a daunting or overwhelming task for you, please don't hesitate to reach out!
Happy organizing! You've got this!
If this post was helpful, be sure to pin the image below so you can come back to this list when you're ready.