Confessions of a Professional Organizer (I’m organized enough, and not one bit more)
Clients are always amused and relieved to learn that I have my own organizing issues to deal with at home. I tell them, “I’m organized, not perfect! Whoever said I was perfect?” If you and I both have a pile of clutter on the kitchen counter, the difference between us is that I know it’s a temporary situation, and that I have a reliable system for getting it back under control. My home is relatively tidy, organized, and clean… but don’t open that one door down the hall, or get out your white gloves!
What fascinates me are the people who are surprised (if not horrified) at some of the things I choose NOT to organize. These are usually friends and family who visit my home and notice things for themselves. They can’t understand why a professional organizer would NOT organize something that CAN be organized.
Why is everything in my home not alphabetized and situated according to OCD or KonMari standards? Well…let me ask you this:
What is the point of organizing?
I say the point of organizing is so you can find what you need when you need it. So it’s easy to put your stuff away again where it belongs. So you can save time, money, and energy, and live in a pleasantly clutter-free environment (according to your personal comfort level, or sweet spot).
Making it look pretty is nice, certainly, and is more important to some than to others, but it’s a secondary goal to functionality. More organizing is more work. The trick is to organize as much as you need to… and no more. It’s true what they say: Organized people are just too lazy to look for things!It's true what they say: Organized people are just too lazy to look for things! Click To Tweet
Confessions of a Professional Organizer
(Confession #1: This post was originally published in 2015, but it has been updated to comply with the KonMari Law of 2019: All articles about organizing must mention Marie Kondo, KonMari or Spark Joy at least once, if not many, many times. LOL?)
Here are some personal examples. Keep in mind that these systems work for me, but they might not work for you at all. It depends on how much stuff you have; how much storage space is available to you; how big your family is; and your personal goals, style, and preferences. When working with a client, my job is to find a system that will work for you, not for me.
Clothing: I organize by Extremely Casual (wear at home, for exercise, or for most errands), Casual (suitable for a client appointment or outing with friends), and Business Casual (suitable for networking or other public event). I have nothing formal because I don’t need it. When the Queen invites me to tea I will go shopping! Within those categories I group tops and bottoms. That’s about it. I don’t sort by color, or sleeve length, because I don’t have enough items of clothing to warrant it. My limited wardrobe pieces all live in the same 6 ft. closet all year long — plus a couple of drawers — and I can see them all at a glance. Also, I’m the only one using that closet. I don’t have seasonal clothing other than a few shorts and tank tops for summer; I just wear more, or fewer, layers according to the weather. I do have jackets and coats in a separate hall closet which, if I had a family, would need some seasonal switching out due to space limitations.
Socks: All my socks go in the sock drawer. There is nothing in the sock drawer besides socks, and there are no socks elsewhere (except the laundry). That’s organized enough for me! I only have white socks and black ones. I don’t feel the need to pair them up, much less stick them into a honeycomb sock organizer. (My poor friend, who gave me the organizer shown in the photo as a gift, never imagined that I wouldn’t put it to immediate and constant use.) It takes me less time to choose a pair of matching loose socks in the morning than it would to fold them up and stick them in the organizer. If you have a variety of socks, or a family whose socks are co-mingled in the laundry, my system might not work for you. But it works for me.
Spices: I do not alphabetize my spices! But then, I also don’t cook much, so I probably don’t have as many spices as you do, either. I keep mine in two places: Baking spices are up on a high shelf with other baking stuff because I only use them a few times per year. Savory spices are within arm’s reach of the stove. It only takes me two seconds to find the spices I want, so additional organizing isn’t going to help me find them easier.
Papers: In How to Create Your Own Simple Filing System, I suggested grouping related files into broad categories, like Utilities and Insurance, instead of filing by individual vendor name. The fewer file categories you have, the less need there is for alphabetizing, and the easier it is to find what you need. I believe this is true for everybody, not just me. But if clients want to have lots of separate files, and alphabetize them, we create a cross-reference sheet in case they forget what they named the file they are looking for. (Which is more work.)
Books: I have two book cases in my home. Ten shelves altogether. I do have a few categories: Newbery Medal winners (children’s literature); books about organizing and business; books I haven’t read yet; and everything else. It really isn’t that hard to find a particular book, if you only have so many. So why organize them further? Limiting the “strangers and acquaintances” on your bookshelves will really help.
Of course, the fewer things you have, the easier it is to organize them. And find them later. And put them away. And clean around them. Owning more stuff leads to taking care of more stuff; needing more elaborate organizing systems to find it; difficulty putting it back where it belongs; and more cleaning around it.
Are you over-organized?
If you ever feel you are in danger of being over-organized, ask yourself these questions:
- Is the level of organizing that I am considering (or already maintaining) worth the trouble (time, money, and energy costs)?
- Will it really make it easier to find what I am looking for?
- Will it make it easier, or harder, to put things back where they belong when I finish using them?
What are you over-organizing?
What did you feel inadequate about, until you read this post, because it wasn’t as organized as you thought it should be?
Are you relieved to hear that simpler might be better? Or do you just think I’m a lazy slob…LOL?
Please join the conversation by commenting below!
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