If you’re often running late to work because you can’t find your keys or tensing at the sight of kitchen clutter, you might feel the need to get organized. But what if you don’t know where to start?
Maybe you think your pantry would have to look Pinterest-worthy for the effort to be worthwhile, that organizing will be expensive or that you’re just not the type to be successful at keeping your spaces free of clutter.
These are just a few of the many myths that can keep you in an all-or-nothing mentality and prevent you from getting started on beneficial organizing projects, said Susie Salinas, owner of Systems by Susie, a professional organization business in Annapolis, Maryland.
“Instead of just tackling one junk drawer for 15 minutes and using what containers you have, you resist organizing altogether because you don’t have the time to do the whole kitchen at once and (can’t) spend thousands of dollars on products,” Salinas said of this mindset.
“My definition of organization is that there is a home for everything and you and others can find something when you need it,” Salinas said via email. “What that actually looks like varies. People appreciate different levels of organization, and you have to find the sweet spot for you and your family.”
Below, professional organizers debunk popular myths in hopes of sending you on a path to a more organized home — and mind.
You might think you have to have a type A personality to be organized, but professional organizers have helped clients with varying personalities, budgets and backgrounds.
If you’re a creative type or have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, you might think organization won’t align with how your mind works. But these people often benefit the most from organization, Salinas said.
“They need to be able to see at a glance what they need and have a system for putting it back afterwards,” she added.
Initially, creating a system for organization takes time, said Brianna Rogers, co-owner of The Tidy Citrus, a home organization business in Phoenix.
“It took years for the clutter to build up, so you should expect for it to take time to declutter and organize,” Salinas said.
However, you should start small instead of trying to do everything at once — unless you’re hiring organizers. Start with one simple task, such as going through your shirts and donating what you don’t need, Rogers said. Then you get the feeling you’re getting somewhere, versus deciding to tackle your entire closet in one day, pulling everything out, getting burned out and never finishing the job.
Also, over time, disorganization can take more time away from your life than an organizing process if you’re always having to look for things hidden among the mess, Rogers added.
“Organizing can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be,” Salinas said. Get creative by reusing containers or boxes you already have.
For drawer organizers, for example, you could use shoeboxes. “I’ve even taken paper bags from the grocery store and cut them in half so they’re not as tall, rolled them over and then put those in the drawers and file folded my clothes instead of spending $25 on a drawer organizer,” Teeple said.
You don’t need a label maker either when you can use an inexpensive paint pen or label sheets. Upgrade containers later if you want, these experts said. But before buying anything, make sure you’ve decluttered and taken the measurements of items and storage spaces first, Salinas said.
If you often look at stylish organized spaces curated by celebrities and influencers on social media, you might think your home needs to look similar.
Social media can be a fun source of inspiration, but leave it at that and do your own thing to avoid going down a rabbit hole of comparison, Teeple said. What works for some people might be overwhelming and paralyzing for others, she added.
“Make your organization function for you. For instance, another myth out there is if you haven’t worn it in six months, then you should get rid of it,” Teeple said. “I don’t subscribe to that rule because there are certain items in my closet that I probably only wear like three or four times a year, but when I wear them, I feel great.”
Organizing is much easier when you have less stuff, Salinas said, so decluttering spaces before you organize them can help you be intentional about what you keep. Otherwise, the intention to organize can turn into just rearranging clutter, Teeple said.
“Keep only the things you love or need,” Salinas said. “Don’t keep (something) out of guilt, obligation or because it was expensive. The money is already spent.
“Instead, be grateful that it served you in that previous season of life, and let it go for someone else to enjoy. It feels good to let go of things that are no longer serving you!”
If thinking a family member or roommate won’t help you is what’s stopping you from trying to get organized, you might be placing blame or making an excuse to procrastinate, Teeple said.
Some people don’t like being involved in the process, but most are still likely to follow an organized structure created by someone else, Teeple said.
At the same time, following a new system can be a learning curve, said Kimri Madrid, The Tidy Citrus’ other co-owner.
If someone won’t budge, they might need their own space where they can do their own thing, Rogers added. But having logical homes for things in shared living spaces is, for the most part, easier for everyone.
“No one person should bear the responsibility to keep up the organization and systems,” Salinas said. “By having a team mentality, a home for everything, and systems that work, your entire family can work together to maintain an organized home.”