Ready to Finally Get Organized? These Are the 5 Common Mistakes You Should Avoid.

published May 20, 2022
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

You’ve likely been reading about spring cleaning for a while now. (Summer is soon now!) And maybe you’ve been putting it off? It’s okay. Different people feel different rumblings. Some go all out and scrub corners with toothbrushes and take mops to their walls and ceilings, while others take it as an annual opportunity to declutter and simplify. If you fall into the latter category, you might still be drafting your organizing battle plan. To help you make this process as seamless as possible, here are some common mistakes to avoid while getting organized. And just like everyone else, I learned these the hard way, so I’m speaking from experience. 

Not Researching Organization Strategies

There are so many different ways to organize any given space, and that’s because everyone has different needs. Some people want things to look aesthetically pleasing, others just want to contain the chaos. Whatever your particular need, take the time to research different ways to organize before you start. 

For example, are you trying to get your pantry under control? Round up ideas on visual inspiration apps like Pinterest and see which solutions make the most sense for your household. When I first organized mine, I fell into the trap of wanting things to look Instagram-worthy and bought a bunch of bins that were infinitely too small for the Costco items we like to purchase. So instead of dainty wicker baskets, I got huge hulking bins, and the space became way more functional. Take your time, explore your options, compare different storage products, and weigh what will help elevate your space to its highest potential. 

Not Decluttering Before Buying

I’m a naturally messy person, and the only way I can keep up with my clutter is to minimize it. The fewer clothes I have to dump on the floor, unused decor pieces I have shoved into closets, and unnecessary tableware or pots haphazardly stuffed into cabinets, the easier time I have keeping it all tidy. Because of this, take the time to declutter each drawer, closet, and room before buying your new organization systems. 

Once you understand what needs to go into each drawer, you’ll know what kind of bins you will need to separate your sweaters from your athleisure. The same goes for closets. Once you understand how much clothing you need to organize, you’ll better understand what kind of products you need to give each item its proper home. One closet might need an intense organizing system, and the other will make do with a few bins. Either way, the first stop on the way to better organization is decluttering first. (Sorry!)

Thinking Inside The Box

If you feel you don’t have the proper amount of storage space to be truly organized, add some. A common mistake you can make when trying to get organized is living within the limited confines of your closet(s). For example, if you have a builder-grade closet with a simple rod hanging across it, maybe add dresser drawers, cubbies, and shelves to create more organizational space inside. This doesn’t need to break the bank — you can easily buy IKEA furniture or get it secondhand. When I moved into my hundred-year-old Chicago apartment, the space came with two meager closets with a single rod in each. What they were lacking in width they made up in height, so I went to Home Depot, bought a bunch of wood, and installed four shelves leading up to the ceiling. They were also just wide enough for an IKEA MALM dresser, so I slide the four-drawer version inside to create space for t-shirts and sweatpants.

If your pantry only has exposed shelving, and you would rather keep some of the clutter behind closed cabinets, add a row of cabinets on the bottom. And, if your apartment only has one closet to cram everything into, invest in a standalone wardrobe that you can blend into your living room to increase storage space. 

Committing to a System with Too Much Maintenance

If you’re naturally tidy and enjoy folding shirts and putting away coffee mugs in a straight line, skip this step. But if you can’t bring yourself to fold your sweaters half the time before putting them back into the closet — or don’t have the time! — then you need to create more forgiving systems. Consider creating systems that allow for a bit of clutter here and there. 

For example, rather than getting small wardrobe bins that call for each sock to be perfectly folded into a cube, I invested in bigger containers that let me roll those socks into a ball and toss them in. And instead of decanting food items into clear plastic bins displayed on open shelving, I installed a row of closed-door cabinets on the bottom of my pantry. Each one is earmarked for a certain food group, and the clutter of branded boxes and bags are tucked away behind closed doors. 

Not Creating Clutter Shortcuts 

Life is messy, and it will always be messy. You’ll drive yourself up a wall if you aim to keep your house spotless — especially if you live with others! Because of that, consider embedding clutter shortcuts into your day-to-day life to keep things contained until your weekly cleaning day arrives. What does that mean?

One of my favorite shortcuts is adding a decorative tray to capture the mail that usually gets tossed on the dining table. I also love adding a wicker basket to the stairs, which we use to toss anything that needs to go up to the bedrooms or bathrooms. There’s a small hamper in the bedroom as well as the bathroom to avoid tossing clothes onto the floor each night. We also have a small, similar basket next to the dirty hamper, capturing the clean laundry we didn’t fold. It’s better than seeing it on the bed for three days, trust me. 

And if you have small kids, get a large jute basket with a lid on it, where you can store their most-used toys that usually spread out in the living room. Forget organizing them in bins and shelves if you know they will end up on the carpet day after day. Afterward, your kid can just haphazardly toss them into the basket and call it a day. Life gets in the way of being tidy 100 percent of the time. But you won’t be frustrated if you plan for that fact.

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: Ready to Get Super Organized? Avoid These 5 Common Beginner Mistakes