20 Home Organizing Mistakes You’re Probably Making (And How to Fix Them!)
Professional organizers reveal the surprising habits that are keeping your home cluttered and inefficient.
Could you be adding to your home’s clutter without even realizing it?
Clutter-busting habits make all the difference between a messy home and a tidy one. So the first thing a professional organizer does is find a place for every single thing—then keep it there. This doesn’t mean purchasing sets of matching bins or decanting all your pantry foods into clear glass containers with hand-printed labels. Rule of thumb: if an organizational system actually increases the time and effort you’ll have to spend keeping things tidy, ditch it. Read on for more mistakes professional organizers see all the time.
You’re not prioritizing prime real estate
Try storing things by frequency of use. For example, those nesting mixing bowls that you frequently reach for should be kept on a low shelf and that crystal vase that you break out every Valentine’s Day should go higher up—or even into deep storage elsewhere. This goes for smaller things like spices, too. “I never alphabetize my spices, because I don’t use allspice as often as I use thyme.” explains workplace productivity expert Susie Hayman.
You mix dissimilar things
Speaking of spices, Vicki Norris, organizing expert and “life reclaimist” of Restoring Order tells us she never comingles sweet and savoury spices on the same shelf. Why? Because “on a bleary-eyed morning, no one wants to accidentally put chili powder in their oatmeal instead of cinnamon!”
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You hang onto donations
To avoid letting unused things pile up, Tamah Vega of Tamah Vega Design has a rule we can all get on board with, “Never go without a donation bag in the house ready for items you no longer need.” This way the minute you decide you’re ready to donate the item, you can have it ready to go.
These tips on how to sell secondhand items during COVID-19 could also come in handy.
You leave computer files unnamed
After downloading a file, Andrew Mellen, author of Unstuff Your Life! immediately renames it and saves it in the appropriate folder. This way you avoid wasting time trying to remember its name or where to look for it next time you need it.
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You let the mail pile up
“I deal with it all as soon as I get it,” explains Jessica Dolan, owner of Room to Breathe. She sorts, tosses, and shreds junk mail, then immediately deals with whatever remains.
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You forget to run errands
Move items like those books to return to the library or returns you are taking back to the store from house to your car trunk immediately, shares Amy Trager, certified professional organizer. “If they’re already in my car, I’m more likely to get them taken care of,” she says. Keep car clutter to a minimum too and you’ll always have room to store.
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You can’t let go of the originals
Once you’ve made a decision to replace an item, let the original go, suggests Birdie with Birdie Brennan Custom Closets & Organizing, LLC. Her rule, “never keep something that you have replaced.” That’s especially true for tech items you’ve upgraded.
Find out how often you need to replace everything in your home.
You keep your stash of reusable shopping bags indoors
Instead of storing reusable bags in the house, Sheryl Hadley, president of Organization & Relocation, puts them right back in her car after every use. This way you won’t forget them when you go to the store and you won’t have a messy pile of bags cluttering up your mudroom. Win-win.
Find out how to clean reusable shopping bags.
You unload your purse halfway
When you switch purses, empty the current one out completely, Vega advises. Otherwise, you might lose track of your favourite lipstick—or that license or credit card that never made it back into your wallet.
You use the chair as a closet
“I never leave clothes lying or draped on the floor, chair, bed, or treadmill,” says Betsy Fein, president of Clutterbusters. They can get wrinkled, coated in pet hair, or simply forgotten about when not stored properly. If you need space to hang gently used clothes for another wearing, try installing a few hooks on the back of your closet door. In fact, not having a place to store “worn once, not dirty clothes” is one of the biggest closet organizing mistakes.
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You clutter the nightstand
Keep your bedroom clutter-free for a good night’s sleep. “I never clutter a nightstand because it’s next to where I sleep, and I need peaceful surroundings to get the best night’s rest,” says Ellen Delap, a certified professional organizer.
Discover more daily habits for a better night’s sleep.
You shop for organizing products first
When you’re preparing to organize an area of your home, don’t make purchase organizing products the first thing you do, says Jodi Granok, professional organizer and owner of Organizing Magic, LLC. Shop for an organizing solution only after you’ve edited down and know how many and what size containers you need—or whether you already have one you can re-use.
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You keep buying more bins
“Never purchase a new organizing bin just because the current one is full,” says Colleen Ashe, certified professional organizer and chief expert organizer at Ashe Organizing Solutions, Ltd. Make space in the current container by paring down what’s inside.
Here are more ways to squeeze storage out of small spaces.
You overcrowd your living space
One thing most of us don’t need help with is acquiring more stuff, so leave room for that eventuality. “Leave some room to grow in your cabinets, bins, drawers and shelves,” suggests Granok. Otherwise, you’ll outgrow your storage containers, find yourself storing stuff in random spots, and you’ll never be able to find things when you need them.
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You don’t plan for storage
“I never buy anything unless I know where it’s going to live in my home,” says Standolyn Robertson, certified professional organizer and owner of Things in Place. This goes for everything from that new juicer you want to that sweater you’ve been eyeing. This rule of thumb will help you “buy one, let go of one” and avoid the problem of having something new and nowhere to store it.
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You forget to label
“Never put unlabelled cables in a drawer or box,” says Sharon Lowenheim, a certified professional organizer. You’ll have no idea what devices they belong to when you come across them later.
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You make a mess in the pantry
If you buy in bulk, take the individual items out of the giant bag. “Never leave bulk items, such as protein bars and snack foods, in large packages,” advises Laura Leist, author of Eliminate Chaos: The 10-Step Process to Organize Your Home & Life. She places often-used items into bins in the pantry for easy access. That said, these are the things you should never buy in bulk.
You let dishes linger
One sure way to get your day off to a bad start is to wake up to a pile of dirty dishes in the morning, says Gayle Goddard, certified professional organizer and owner of The Clutter Fairy, LLC. Deal with the dishes before you go to bed, because “a spotless sink sets the tone for your house—and your day,” she says.
Make sure you avoid these habits that shorten the life of your dishwasher.
You keep out-of-date things
Don’t keep things that are past their prime: in some cases, it could be downright unsafe to use them. This includes expired food, expired home goods like batteries, and expired personal care items, says John Trosko, founder of Los Angeles-based OrganizingLA. This goes for expired medications, too.
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You skip dividers
Never toss things in a drawer without dividers. “By using dividers you’ll know what and how many you have,” says Kathi Burns, certified professional organizer of Add Space to Your Life. “This also saves you from going overboard buying excess items you already own but cannot find.” The dividers don’t have to fancy—upcycled shoe boxes will do the trick.
Next, discover 20+ secrets a personal organizer would never tell you for free.