January 28, 2016  

6 Warning Signs Your Organizing Attempts Will Backfire

Do you feel like you’re floundering to get organized? Like no matter how many times your try to get organized, things still fall back into disorganized chaos?

We all know how quickly things can spiral out of control. We get busy and life just happens. Although we have great intentions and set up organization systems for times just like this, those systems can quickly derail. And once that starts to happen, we just let go and things really start falling apart. It’s a viscous cycle.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been blogging about all sorts of organizing goodness during my Resolve to Get Organized series. We’ve chatted about setting goals, making to-do lists, managing our time, organizing email, eliminating paper clutter, steps to organize any space, and good habits to keep your house organized. By now you know I’m a pretty organized person, but don’t let me fool you – no matter how organized I appear, disorganized chaos can set in very quickly if I’m not careful. As I was thinking about how to conclude this series, I thought it made sense to take a step back and discuss why, no matter how good our intentions, our organizing attempts can still backfire.

No matter how good our intentions, our organizing attempts can still backfire. These are great tips for staying organized!

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I have a knack for finding ways to improve systems, and over time I’ve noticed a pattern of things that often derail even our best organizing intentions. The first step to fixing something is identifying the problem, so watch out for these warning signs that your organizing efforts will backfire.

Why Your Organizing Attempts Backfire

1. You forget to plan.

Warning Sign: You rush right into a project without giving any thought to how you’re actually going to accomplish it. You’re in a hurry, so you just jump right in and start doing – there’s no time for planning! On the contrary to rushing into something, there are also all of those projects you think about doing, but then never get around to. You don’t have any sort of plan for keeping your life and your stuff organized, and instead just sort of let things happen. Let’s face it – without a plan, it’s just not going to get done.

Solution: “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” These wise words are widely attributed to writer Alan Lakein, and I whole-hardheartedly agree with him.You need a plan! What area of your home needs some organizing help? Is there a part of your life that always feels chaotic? Take a bit of time to think about why those things are disorganized and how you can improve them. While it’s fun to peruse Pinterest for tips, that does not count as planning. Make a real checklist and schedule a block of your time in the next couple weeks to tackle it.

This makes organizing seem so easy! How to organize any space in 7 easy steps

2. You over-plan.

Warning Signs: I am so incredibly guilty of this one! I love planning, but sometimes I spend so much planning that I never get around to actually doing. Like how for an entire week, I kept telling my husband I was perfecting a plan for incorporating regular exercise into my week. He pointed out that I had spent way too much time mapping out time blocks on my calendar, searching for the perfect workout charts, and researching workouts. It really wasn’t that complicated of a project since all I really needed to do was lace up my shoes and exercise. My point of this story is to show that you really can over-plan. It’s pretty easy to do, especially if you’re not very excited about the project.

Solution: Limit your planning time. I know this might seem to contradict #1 above where I talked about the importance of planning. It is so important to have a plan, but it’s also important to actually take action! You’ll never accomplish anything if you just sit around and plan – eventually you have to start doing it. Remember that a plan can always be refined, so get a plan in place and start taking action and then you can always adjust your plan along the way.

This makes organizing seem so easy! How to organize any space in 7 easy steps

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3. You never set up a system.

Warning Sign: Every morning, you hastily dig through the pile of shoes on your closet floor in search of a matching pair. Every night, you scramble to think of something to make for supper and struggle to come up with a meal that you have all of the ingredients to make. There are things like this that frustrate you every day, but you move on and forget about them until you’re back in the same predicament the next day.

Solution: What daily tasks to you dread doing? What closet door do you avoid opening? Put some time in your schedule to set up a solution for your problem. No more ignoring it, it’s time to do some planning and get the space organized. This will save you so much time and headache in the long run. Just make sure that your system isn’t overly complicated. It needs to be simple enough that you’ll actually stick with it.

This makes organizing seem so easy! How to organize any space in 7 easy steps

4. You try to do too much at one time.

Warning Sign: It’s so hard to say ‘no’ to people because you don’t want to let anyone down. You don’t want to pass on an opportunity, and you have severe FOMA (Fear Of Missing Out). You just don’t have enough time in the day to get everything done! You’re so busy doing things for other people that you let your own things become disorganized. You don’t have time to take care of yourself and your own things, there are too many other things to do!

Solution: This is an obvious one – just say ‘no’! It takes practice, but be fair to yourself and your friends and family by only agreeing to things that you truly have time for. It always helps me to remind myself that I may not have time right now, but that doesn’t mean I’m necessarily saying ‘no’ forever.

This makes organizing seem so easy! How to organize any space in 7 easy steps

5. You don’t get the people around you on board.

Warning Sign: You spend a lot of time setting up systems to keep your house and your family more organized. But you often wonder why you even bother trying, because your kids and your spouse ignore your systems. Your house is disorganized, but you blame it on them. You do what you can to keep things organized, but the rest of the family isn’t pulling their weight.

Solution: Involve the whole family in your organizing endeavors. Let the kids choose bins in their favorite color to store their shoes. Ask your husband for help finding a good place to put the mail. Make your weekly meal plan together during family dinner on Sunday night. By involving them in some of the planning and decisions, they’ll be way more on board with your organizing efforts.

This makes organizing seem so easy! How to organize any space in 7 easy steps

Crush Your Week Promo Bar

6. You don’t take time to reset and reboot.

Warning Sign: You’re always dashing from thing to thing. You go, go, go until your head hits the pillow. You come home, kick off your shoes and drop your coat and bags in a pile. You scarf down your meal and abandon your dishes on the counter. Things quickly pile up and all you’re doing is reacting to whatever comes your way next.

Solution: Make a game plan for your week that includes time to reset and reboot. I usually do this on Sundays, because I tend to have free time then and it’s a nice way to make sure I start my week off feeling organized. It’s okay if life gets in the way during the week and the house is looking pretty disheveled, because you have some time set aside to clean things up and reorganize. I also try to mentally set aside 5-10 minutes to tidy up the house before I get ready for bed each night. It hardly seems like any time at all, but it is plenty of time to straighten up the living room, load any dishes in the dishwasher, and gather up anything that I need to take with me in the morning.

This makes organizing seem so easy! How to organize any space in 7 easy steps


Organization is an ongoing process, and it will never be completely done. But we can save ourselves time and stress by watching out for these warning signs that our organizing plans are about to be thrown off course. No one is 100% organized all the time, but you can be a lot more organized by setting up systems and establishing good organizing habits.

When it comes to organization, what usually gets in your way?


Other Posts In This Series

Introduction: Resolve To Get Organized

Part 1: Setting Goals & Designing a Road Map to Crush Them

Part 2: Dominate Your To-Do List With This Time-Saving System

Part 3: How I Organize My Week for Maximum Productivity & Focus

Part 4: 7 Steps to Ruthlessly Organize Your Email

Part 5: How to Organize Your Mail to Eliminate Paper Clutter

Part 6: 13 Practical Habits That Will Keep Your Home Organized

Part 7: Organize Like a Pro With Free Printable Storage Labels

Part 8: How to Organize Any Space in 7 Steps

Conclusion: 6 Warning Signs Your Organizing Attempts Will Backfire – you’re here!


Ready to crush your week?

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This book is designed to help you find time for all of your commitments and responsibilities as well as your big goals. Consider it an action guide rather than your average book. You will come away with a tangible routine you can put into practice immediately.


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About the author

Emily Counts is the founder of Small Stuff Counts, a home and organization blog she created in 2013. Her goal is to help moms make home life easier so they can create beautiful, organized, and thriving homes. She shares life at home as a mom juggling two young kids and being a working mom with a corporate job. The Iowa-based blogger lives in the suburbs of Des Moines, Iowa, with her husband, two children, and rescue dog. Emily has collaborated with brands including The Container Store, Cricut, Command Brand, Bissell, Sam's Club and Rubbermaid.

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  1. Oh, yeah! I relate to so many of these – especially No.2 – I’m totally guilty of over-planning sometimes instead of just taking action! And No.5 – Getting the family on board is a real biggie at our place (as in, I don’t do it, and then feel frustrated that no-one is using my systems! Ha!) Great points, and I love your final reminder to take some time out, too. So important! xo

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