Our upstairs linen closet was where things went to die.
It was a huge space. But when you opened the closet, there was a 99 percent chance that you wouldn’t be able to find what you’d need. And a 1 percent chance it wasn’t there in the first place.
I had good intentions. It’s a big space with lots of potential. It was intended to organize towels, sheets, cleaning supplies, toilet paper and medicine. Instead, it was filled to the brim with things that didn’t have a home anywhere else.
Books. Users manuals. Broken candlestick holders. Vacuum parts.
And I was DREADING dealing with this space. But, enough was enough. So last week, I took everything out of the closet and started over. That meant I had to find a place for the broken candlestick holder (trash). And it also meant I had to figure out how to create a system that would actually work this time around.
I didn’t worry about perfection, but I worried about function. And now, I can actually find the Tylenol and the toilet paper.
Maybe you are like me. Just a year ago (or a month ago or a week ago), your spaces looked Pinterest-perfect. And now you’re living in chaos.
Here are four reasons your house isn’t staying organized for long – and a few tips to try to tackle those messes once and for all.
You have too much stuff for the space.
Maybe you lament that your organizational systems look great at first. (Read: my linen closet.) But then they fall into disarray. Quickly.
If you were here, I would take your cheeks in my hands. It’s time for some tough love: YOU HAVE TOO MUCH STUFF. (I’m talking to myself, too.)
You can spend lots of time making your closets look beautiful. But if you shove too much stuff in there, it won’t stay that way for long. There’s a reason you pin those gorgeous organizational systems on Pinterest. They are beautiful because they aren’t stuffed to the brim.
So, the first step in any organizational project is PURGING. (Need motivation? Check out my decluttering tips for real people.)
You don’t create maintainable systems.
Finding a place for everything is only one part of a realistic organizational system. You also have to create a system that you’ll actually stick to. That means EASY! Keeping things organized has to make sense and be convenient.
If you bring in the mail by the front door and have to walk all the way across the house to put the mail in its assigned spot, the mail will probably just pile up where it’s most convenient. (Maybe on the counter by the front door?)
Because even the most beautiful setup won’t work if it takes extra work.
So before organizing, look at where everything is piling up right now. That will give you a hint about where a new organizational system should be located. In our home, we have a filing system right next to where mail would pile up on the countertop. It’s just as easy to file it as it is to pile it.
You don’t get everything out at the same time.
It may seem easier to organize your home room by room. But instead, you should organize category by category.
For example, you may work on your bathroom and tackle towels. And then you organize your linen closet and tackle more towels. And then you hit your second bathroom and tackle towels.
Instead of tackling towels three different times, you’ll have better results bringing out all the towels and tackling them at once.
Why? Because it’s much easier to see what you’re working with when you see them all at the same time.
I did this with my linen closet. I found four sets of sheets in the closet. But then I pulled out all the other sheets from their hiding spots in bedrooms and the barn. That helped me narrow down to only the few sets of sheets I actually wanted to keep. (Check out more tips to clear your home of clutter.)
You buy containers first.
I know you do this. I do it, too.
You see beautiful baskets or bins at Target and fill up your shopping cart. “I’ll use these to make my closet look prettier,” you think, as you fork over your red card and leave in a happy state of bullseye-induced-bliss. (How can Target make me so happy to spend $100?)
Here’s why this almost never works: You have no idea what baskets you’ll need until you have purged and organized your closet. And sometimes, you don’t need any baskets at all. (I KNOW! BLASPHEMY.)
So you end up with hundreds of dollars of baskets and containers … with no where to put them. Ask me how I know this.
The bottom line – organization isn’t only about pretty containers. Organization is about creating order where there was once chaos. And in many cases, that doesn’t cost any money.
Pretty baskets aren’t even a requirement.
In our closet, I used containers that I already had. They don’t match. They aren’t perfect. But, they were free and they corral the small things that needed corralling. And I am happy to open the door and find exactly what I need. Toilet paper? Got it. Baby bathtub. There it is.
I’m starting the year with clean and organized spaces. And you can, too.
Now that you know the secrets that can derail your organizing projects, they may even stay organized until next January!
Which of these organizational mistakes have you made?
Can I let you in on a secret?
You don't have to spend all your time cleaning to have a presentable home.
Grab our 6 tips for a clean home (in no time).