I've consumed a lot of organizing content over the years from instagram to blogs to magazines to Pinterest to organizing TV shows…and there are a few vitally important organizing secrets that I rarely hear talked about! I think the first one can be a game changer, so if you hear nothing else, listen carefully to that one. Watch the video here or keep reading while I spill my secrets!
1. Your space doesn't have to look like a magazine!
Most of the spaces we see online or on Pinterest are color coded, all match in neutral modern colors, and everything is uniform. The shelves have lots of negative space, and everything looks super tidy. This just isn't often real life!
There are only two things a space needs to be “organized”;
- Every item needs a place,
- It has to make you happy.
That's it! You need a clear home for everything, and as long as it makes sense to you and gives you a sense of peace and calm, then you're golden! It does NOT have to look perfect or be ready for a photoshoot at a moment's notice.
2. What you see online often costs a LOT of money.
Have you ever looked at pictures on The Container Store Site or photos from Real Simple magazine and loved how all their bins were coordinated, and their colors all matched, etc.? That's because their budgets are pretty much unlimited. The acrylic bins are gorgeous, but one bin can cost $20!!! Imagine doing that over a whole closet or pantry. Things can get crazy!
If you don't have that kind of money, you can still have a very organized house. I even did a comparison recently between organizing my kids' craft closet with Container Store multipurpose bins versus dollar store products. The Container Store products cost $700 for one very large closet! You don't have to do that!
3. Many organized spaces are staged.
The spaces in photos are often not lived in by real people. The spaces don't have to be maintained and stay the way they do in the photo. Have you ever seen pictures of a perfectly organized pantry with pasta and crackers/chips in matching jars? What do you think happened to the bright blue plastic on the oreo packaging? What if you like to buy different brands of pasta when it's on sale? Your packaging won't match!
We can spend so much time stressing over getting our pantry to look like the picture, but it's not realistic. It's not fun to decant every product or limit what we buy based on how the packaging looks. People aren't actually eating or cooking with the food from those pantry pictures. But you have to actually live in your house!
Try not to compare your own organized spaces to what you see online. Those pictures are beautiful and inspirational, but they're not really practical. Think of those spaces like a photoshopped model, and don't let all that “photoshopping” make you feel badly about your own organized spaces.
4. Color coding is pretty but not always practical.
I LOVE color coding. In my closet, my clothes are in rainbow color. My kids books are even in rainbow color….I know that may sound a little over the top. It looks so pretty on a shelf though, and actually color is an easier method for kids to organize. It's not like they'll be able to alphabetize, but usually they can color code.
There are a few sticky points with this, though. First, what do you do with a book that is blue-green. Which color does it go with? What about a book that has two colors on the spine? Also, if it's your kids' bookshelf, they will not be perfect with this. It will get messed up, and it will need maintenance, so expect that and roll with it!
5. It's just as important to maintain a space as it is to organize it in the first place.
The most successful organizing projects start our by making it as easy as possible to keep up with it. A system has to be just as easy to put things away as it is to toss it somewhere. What makes the most sense to you? If your family or kids will be using the space, what will be easiest for them? If they toss their clothes on the bathroom floor, put the hamper in the bathroom instead of in their bedroom.
Are there any spaces you've organized in the past that have stayed that way? If so, why? How are they different than ones that failed? Think hard about this and then try to repeat that.
6. Start with decluttering, but then be just as intentional about what you bring back in.
Sometimes it's almost easy to spend an afternoon organizing and decluttering one space. You're motivated, seeing progress, and then you get that sense of accomplishment. But it's never really “done.” If you want a space to stay organized, it will need regular mini-declutters. But what I think is one of the most important parts is to be careful about what you bring back in afterward.
If you're like me and love to shop, this can be particularly difficult! My best tip is to be absolutely ready to return something if it isn't perfectly right. When clothes don't fit you quite right, or don't match the skirt you thought they would, then take them back immediately.
If you love something, use it right away! If you don't have the perfect place for it, then back it goes! Don't stash it somewhere and wait 3-6 months or more until it's too late to return. Take it immediately to your car so you can return while you're out running errands the next time.
7. Not every item needs to be used for its intended purpose.
You know those binder clips for office paperwork? They work great as. a chip clip or as a clip to corral your charging cables. Cable organizers cost significantly more, but binder clips work just as well.
Boxes can also be repurposed. Apple (phone, earbuds, laptops, etc.) have great sturdy boxes that work perfectly as drawer organizers. Some people even cut up cracker and cereal boxes, cover them with contact paper, and use them as drawer organizers.
The one warning I would give you, though, is not to start stashing all your boxes indefinitely. You need to have a planned project, save them a while, do that project, and then get rid of the leftovers! Don't make this an excuse for collecting a bunch of clutter in the form of boxes!
8. Have an inbox and an outbox in every room
I made an entire video about this. What I mean by this is that every room in your house should have a place to put things that are coming in when you don't have the time to put them exactly where they go right away. This will help keep things contained and keep clutter off your flat surfaces until you have time to deal with them.
An outbox is basically a decluttering area. I have them in every closet so I can quickly toss something that doesn't fit or that we just don't like. Once it's full, it can easily go off to the donation center. I have a dresser drawer in my bedroom for this purpose, and it's just as easy to put something here as it is to stash it back in my closet to “deal with later.”
Hopefully these tips have made you think outside the box LOL! I just don't hear people talking about these things, but some of them can be total game changers. Let me know if you give any of them a try!
Organization that sticks for busy, happy lives.