Clutter

The Scariest Organizing Mistakes

With a nod to Halloween, I’m gathering today a collection of some of the scariest organizing mistakes which I see people make, particularly around decluttering your home. There are wonderful benefits of being more organized, including saving time and money, reducing stress, and increasing your sense of calm. But there are also plenty of myths about how to tackle your project. I’ve collected 6 of them here:

Scariest organizing mistakes | Pauline Wiles

 1. The one-size-fits-all approach

Organizing books love to recommend a method that you should implement, regardless of your lifestyle. However, run the dishwasher every night is wasteful if you live alone. Create a binder with these labeled sections is overkill if you prefer digital storage. And fold your shirts in a certain way will never stick, if you love to hang things instead. The best organizing solutions fit your life, and the way you live.

My irritation with one-size-fits-all preaching was a key driver behind me developing my new free mini course, Your Clutter Persona. I’m releasing it next week, but you can get on the list now.

2. Buying containers

Aargh! This one is just dreadful, but it’s what many magazines and fancy stores encourage you to do. They want you to think that buying cute baskets and boxes is the easiest way to get organized. In fact, this should be almost your last step. You should sort your belongings thoroughly, and purge them, before you determine what containers you need. Otherwise, you’re buying more clutter. Please save your money!

3. Expecting magazine-land

Still on the topic of magazine aspirations, many of the pictures you see in articles, representing the “after” stage of an organizing project, are simply not realistic. Yes, the spaces look beautiful, but they’re usually pared down to extremes and styled with matching, or heavily coordinating, items. There’s no harm in aiming for your home to look attractive, just know you’re unlikely to attain (and retain) magazine-worthy outcomes.

4. Leaping locations

If you’re organizing books, for example, and you have them stored in different rooms of your house, I’m fine with you gathering by category so you can work on similar items. However, leaping locations occurs when you’re trying to work on one place (say, a kitchen drawer), and you find something which belongs in your office, so you take it there, and get distracted by the clutter in that new location. Aim to stick with one space and make a difference there, before you let your sights wander.

5. Expecting lightning-fast results

You may prefer one big weekend blitz over steady, incremental progress, and that’s fine. But, whichever way you slice it, organizing does take time and you’re unlikely to get your whole house in order in a single hour. Much like losing weight, you can’t undo years of gain with a short, sharp burst. Just know that you’re investing the time in creating a space that truly works for you, and that the decision-making techniques you’re practicing will stay with you, and benefit other areas of your life.

6. Hoping for zero regrets

When decluttering, many of us feel anxiety that we’ll let something go and later regret it. But the truth is, a tiny number of organizing mistakes are inevitable. They’re part of learning to let go and, if you aim for zero regrets, you’ll end up holding onto far too much stuff. Instead, keep asking yourself what’s the worst that can happen if you get rid of an item. Usually, the answer is less scary than you think.

The actual organizing process may not be everyone’s idea of fun, but the results are certainly worth it. Find what works for you, take it in steps and celebrate each bit of progress. Hopefully, this will give you the momentum you need to continue.


Watercolor bubbles

Would you like email updates?



previous post
next post

4 Comment

  1. Reply
    April J Harris
    November 5, 2018 at 8:26 pm

    I’m pretty sure I’ve made all of these mistakes at least once! Reading this post definitely makes me feel better, and will help me make better decluttering decisions in the future. I’ve got a study redecoration coming up soon, and I’m going to need all the help I can get to reorganise that space!

    1. Reply
      Pauline
      November 6, 2018 at 9:30 am

      I’m guessing the study might mean lots of paper, April. Yep, that could be tough!

  2. Reply
    Jean | DelightfulRepast.com
    November 8, 2018 at 7:06 am

    Pauline, this is the most sensible post on organizing I’ve read anywhere! Number 4 is my mistake; I do tend to get distracted! Number 2 is probably one of THE most common mistakes–whenever anyone tells me they’re heading to The Container Store, I just roll my eyes! Thank you for your well wishes last week. Getting better every day.

    1. Reply
      Pauline
      November 8, 2018 at 9:34 am

      Jean, I find I leap locations whatever I’m doing, decluttering included! Glad this post spoke sense to you. And yes, there is some smart marketing money aimed at convincing us if we just buy more stuff, all our problems will be solved. So happy to hear you’re feeling better.

Leave a Reply