Living in the days of Marie Kondo, Pinterest, and The Container Store, it seems like organizing has become less like a chore and more like a hobby. I’m all for it and I live for smart solutions and new tools that are designed to make our homes and lives more efficient. But, even though people seem to be enjoying organizing (both the process and result), no one should be having to “organize” and re-organize the same space every other week. Lining up baskets and adding a few labels doesn’t necessarily mean “organized”. If you’re finding you’re having to re-visit spaces a little too often, today we’re gonna chat about seven organization mistakes you may be making.
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Common Organizing Missteps
I’ve definitely had my share of projects that didn’t work out; you can actually see my favorite solutions that have and haven’t worked HERE. Sometimes, you don’t know til you try and organization solutions aren’t one-size-fits-all. It’s about our individual needs. But, I do see a lot of commonalities between spaces that are a little lacking in the functionality department. Let’s go ahead and talk about some common organization mistakes and dispel a few myths.
1. Letting Aesthetics Dominate
Who doesn’t want a Pinterest-perfect, matching, coordinated space? Look, we all love pretty organization, but if it doesn’t actually work, is it really “organization”? That’s not to say that organized spaces can’t be pretty- they totally can and I think it can actually be more motivating to keep up attractive spaces, but in the organization game, it’s form over function always. We aren’t merchandising our shelves and cabinets; we are trying to implement workable systems in our homes. It doesn’t matter if it looks good if it doesn’t work.
2. Getting Rid of Original Packaging
Canisters have a time and a place and I truly believe that sometimes it’s appropriate, and other times, it isn’t. So, why do people use containers at all? Well, they can keep some food items fresher, longer and some are designed to help pantry storage in a major way. (I’ll take a vertical, stackable container for brown rice that uses minimal shelf space over a flimsy, ripped plastic bag any day!) It can be tempting though when you see zero cardboard in online images to decide that you need to do a serious purge and stock up on 32849504 Pop canisters. Everything does not need its own permanent container. I use canisters and plastic containers for our pantry staples but only very few snacks that we constantly stock. I keep our most consumed pasta and brown rice stored in Pop containers, along with sugar, flour, and other baking items but the only other pantry other items I remove from original boxes are goldfish (portioned from our huge Costco sized boxes), Ritz, and hard candies — all three of which we keep stocked without exception. Chips, popcorn, cereal, granola and any other items that we switch up are corralled in baskets. If you eat the same cereal every morning for breakfast, well, maybe that would be a candidate for a permanent container.
I love the look of spices in uniform jars. But, for us, that would never work. In addition to buying our favorites in huge containers, we are in the kitchen so often, we are constantly testing out new spices. We don’t use just 15 or so regular staples. If you operate the same way, don’t let systems that work for others dictate what you think you should be doing.
Other original packages have purpose — whether it’s a blade for cutting tinfoil/plastic wrap or smart design to grab and go, don’t get rid of all your containers just because it looks prettier.
3. Not Accounting for Growth
I’m sure you’ve seen those incredibly photogenic spaces, lined with bins and product with zero room to spare. It may look nice for photos but unless you are fronting shelves for a grocery store, it isn’t practical. In the fridge, what if you have leftovers? What if you have a food item that doesn’t fit in your three narrow categories? In the pantry, what if your shelves are filled with containers that are jigsawed together but you didn’t leave space for the pack of oreos you grabbed while you were running errands? When you organize a space, you can’t assume that nothing will ever be added to the mix. Plan accordingly and leave room. Don’t limit yourself to finite categories. Instead of a specific “Pretzel Sticks” basket, maybe broaden it to “Snacks”. Remember, the goal is to implement systems – not just to organize what you have on hand at this very second.
4. Making Items Difficult to Access
Here are a few things that stress me out- 1. seeing great use of corner lazy susans that can’t actually be accessed because they’re behind pantry posts/overcrowded with side shelf containers; 2. pyramids of Pop canisters with everyday food items stored behind them ; and 3. canned goods stacked in baskets. Don’t hide things you use on a daily basis just so your prettiest containers are front and center; your pantry/closet/cabinet will end up in a mess the first time you’re running late. Have something you only need when you entertain? Or during the holidays? By all means, store it where you can. But making items difficult to access or see for the sake of aesthetics will get old quickly. You need to be able to easily see and grab what you use regularly.
5. Not Using Uniform Containers
I am all for using box lids, bowls, and other items I find around the house for organizing. But, in some areas (certain drawers) where space is precious, using the same kind of container will allow you to fit the most in (and in a neat way). If you have a drawer organization project, I would encourage you to invest in the same line of containers — they usually are measured to fit together perfectly to maximize drawer storage.
6. Using Complicated Containers
If you only bake once a month and you want to use a canister with a multi-step latch to hold your flour, by all means… go for it! But, using jars/containers that have screw tops, complicated latches, etc. for items you have to access every day isn’t ideal. I 100% swear by the Pop canisters and would pay a premium for them any day.
And, here’s a tip — if you have something like dishwashing tablets, use a slant-top canister — not the cube/rectangular stackable version. 1. When you’re doing dishes, your hands are usually wet; you don’t want to have to stack/unstack and use multiple hands to pull out detergent pods, and 2. the slant helps with items stored lower, like underneath the sink. You can swiftly use one hand quickly pop the container open, grab a tablet, and replace/lock the lid.
7. Not Using Slim Felt Hangers
It’s been eight years since I replaced all my hangers to be uniform, huggable, slim felt hangers. And while yes, there’s no doubt that it does look nicer, the aesthetic had zero to do with my conversion. If you use different hangers, your clothes probably all hang at varying heights; using the same hanger keeps all your clothes uniform and therefore, easier to see. The huggable hangers are also so much thinner that plastic tubular hangers; you can maximize that hanging space and fit so much more. Lastly, keeping them all the same color helps you see where the hangers end and clothes begin. My closet has thinned out a bit since this shot from a few years ago but here’s a look at how efficient they are. This past year, I turned Mama Nan into a convert, too 😉
Have you found yourself in the middle of any of these? If something doesn’t work out, clear out your space and start over with a new solution! Organization is a process and when we find the things that do work for us, it make it easier to use similar techniques to get other spaces in order. I have a new organization post coming later this week, about hiding things in the main living areas in plain sight. To catch this and more, be sure to subscribe to my emails at the bottom of this post. Also, follow me daily on Instagram HERE.
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View my full organization project gallery HERE.