Do you work hard to tidy and organize your home only to have to it get messy again in hours or days? Do you feel you’re drowning in housework? If the mess is never ending and you can’t stay organized, it’s probably because of one of three reasons.
And no, the reasons aren’t because you have kids or can’t afford organizing supplies!
1. You Can’t Stay Organized Because You Have Too Much Stuff
Regardless of how much you try to organize, you can’t organize clutter. Clutter is anything untidy and messy in your space. When a space contains too many items, it often becomes cluttered.
If you keep your shirts hung in your closet and you’ve got more shirts than you have space, the closet will get full and messy. Trying to put too many shirts in a small space is difficult and frustrating so you might not feel like doing it – which means your system breaks down.
How to fix it:
Declutter and purge.
Keep only what you need and love. Be realistic about what you use and what you need. Easily getting shirts in and out of your closet is so much easier when it’s not jam-packed. For decluttering motivation and inspiration, read the book Declutter Like a Mother by Allie Casazza.
If you have clutter on your surfaces, assign those items a home. Items without homes float around and get lost. If you have no space to make a home for an item, either let go of the item or let go of something else to make room for that item.
Stop the Flow
If you have a cluttered home, immediately stop the incoming flow of stuff. Cancel your shopping trip, pause home projects, and end your subscribe-and-saves.
Declutter and assign homes. Fix each space and figure out what you truly need and what you have room for. Live by the one-in-one-out rule as much as possible, especially in areas of weakness.
Leave extra space for future purchases, if possible.
When you shop again, be sure you have room for the items you purchase. In fact, when you’re shopping for an item, don’t buy it until you know where it’s “home” will be.
2. You Can’t Stay Organized Because Your Systems are Broken
If you’ve decluttered and assigned homes for items, but your home is still messy, your system may be broken.
If your system is tedious or frustrating, you will not keep up with it and neither will the members of your family. Your systems need to be simple to work. Humans are lazy (no offense) so make systems as user-friendly as possible.
If you’ve got too much stuff in a space, your system will not work. If you’ve got complicated systems, your systems will not work.
What is a complicated system?
If your system has too many steps, requires too much upkeep or too many labels, if others in your home can’t use it or don’t understand it, you’ve got yourself a complicated system.
A few examples:
- intricate folding in kids’ drawers
- color systems where they aren’t helpful
- multiple bins for similar foods in a pantry
- items behind items in closets
- a laundry routine that involves moving laundry to multiple places in the home
How to fix it:
Identify Problem Areas
First, take a step back and evaluate what your problem areas are. What’s not working, no matter how many times you organize it? Which spaces gets messiest quickly? What do you always have to repeat for family members?
Some high-traffic areas, like refrigerators, will constantly need resetting because they’re often in flux — that’s to be expected. Other spaces, such as coat closets, kitchen drawers, and cabinets shouldn’t be too hard to maintain.
Opt for simple systems that require minimal work.
Only use a bin if it truly helps contain small items.
Aim for broader labels like “dinner ingredients” instead of a bin for pasta and one for grains and one for rice. Label a bin “breakfast” instead of breaking it down with different breakfast foods. Be careful not to take this too far! A bin labeled “food” wouldn’t help anyone.
Use drawer dividers instead of letting all items flow together.
Finally, if you’ve got kids, aim for kid-friendly systems. We all love a color coded closet and file folded drawer, but if you’d like your kids to be independent, you’re going to want to lower your expectations. Pajamas piled on a drawer are okay. One cup of markers instead of individual rainbow containers is okay.
By being too stringent with your systems, you’re setting your kids up to fail, and you’re setting yourself up for extra work.
You Can’t Stay Organized Because of Bad Habits
If you’ve thoroughly purged and simplified your systems but they’re still not working, it may be time to change some habits. A LOT of staying organized and keeping your home tidy is maintenance, and maintenance is simpler once you’ve got effective habits in place.
If you use the peanut butter and then just shove it back in the pantry when you’re done using it, you’re breaking your own system because of your habits.
If you fold your laundry but then leave it in the basket for days on end until your clothes wrinkle and you need to rifle through the pile to find an outfit, you’re breaking your own system.
If you walk in the door, drop the mail on the counter, and leave your shoes on the floors, you’re breaking your own system.
I know I sound like your mom, but I also know that I’m right.
How to Fix It:
The bad news: There’s no quick fix to this one, you just need to make staying organized and putting things away a priority.
The good news: This isn’t as hard as we build it up in our heads to be.
How often do you dread doing a task so you put it off for weeks or months? Then, when you finally force yourself to do it, it ends up taking just a few minutes and is really no big deal?
Most of the maintenance habits in your home will be like that.
Just as with the steps above, look around your home and evaluate what’s messy because of bad habits.
DON’T ATTEMPT TO CHANGE ALL YOUR HABITS AT ONCE.
Decide on a pain point, then pick one small task to focus on every week or two. When it becomes more routine, pick another.
Here’s an example:
A few years ago, I decided I wanted my room to look neater. I began to make my bed every morning. A task I had previously thought was annoying and not worth my time LITERALLY took me 13 seconds to do. 13 seconds.
I made my bed every day for a few weeks and then one day, I don’t know why, maybe I got out of bed early in a rush, I forgot to make my bed. I walked back into my room later that day and did a double-take when I saw my unmade bed.
That response when I walked into my room was enough to know I had formed a new habit. My “normal” was no longer a messy bed.
Habits to Start With:
- Making your bed
- Doing the dishes every night before bed (no one wants to wake up to yesterday’s dishes)
- Putting a load of laundry AWAY as soon as it’s folded
- Meal planning
- Tidying the living room before heading to bed
- Clearing counters
Pick one, then add another in a few weeks. Get your family involved, too!
Why You Can’t Stay Organized
Everyone’s got a story and a reason, so I’m not judging. If staying organized is important to you, be truthful about why you’re struggling and tackle the issue.