by Lisa Woodruff
Have you ever searched the Internet for home organization tips? Or clicked through a Pinterest pin on how to organize your space? If the answer is yes, you’ve likely seen some stellar before and after shots. I'm here to tell you "Decluttering is Easy. Organizing is Hard. Decorating is Fun!"
There’s just not much better than a good before and after, am I right?
The problem here is that you’re usually attracted to the person’s skills in decluttering or decorating.
The problem with that? You need solutions on how to organize!
I see this cycle constantly. You find the latest trendy blogger or Instagram influencer, with a feed full of gorgeously styled photos of picture perfect pantries.
Off you go to the store and purchase the exact same containers and bins, stuff them into your already cluttered space, take a step back, and deflate.
Why doesn’t it look like the Pinterest photo?!
(PS: I’m on Pinterest, if you don’t already follow me there!)
For one, it’s because decluttering needs to come before any organizing happens, and, in my opinion, you need to be truly in the productivity stage before you hit the stores for containers.
For another, the organization stage is really about developing systems that will work for your home and your family. These systems might look like a tidy spice carousel, but maybe they look like a drink cabinet full of mugs and protein powders.
And I’ll tell you what, that drink cabinet is going to skyrocket your productivity a lot faster than alphabetized spices, if we’re talking about real life here.
Today, I want to break down some of the specific reasons why everybody seems to prefer (and talk about) decluttering and decorating, rather than organizing, and why that leads to road blocks.
Organizing is Hard Because It Takes The Longest
When you grab that trash bag or donation box and start decluttering, it goes quickly. Unless you are dealing with heavy emotional baggage, such as cleaning out a deceased loved one’s home or moving out after a divorce (more about that in a bit), decluttering is often the fastest part of the process.
Also, we get a nice physical release when we declutter, allowing our brains and bodies to feel accomplished afterward.
Organization, however, is mental. We have to observe and understand our tendencies. We have to imagine our routines differently. We have to invent unique solutions that cater to those tendencies and routines. That takes time!
With time being such a hot commodity this days, it’s a significant burden to dedicate a lot of it to any project, especially one that is so mentally draining.
Organizing is Hard Because the Seasons Change
You’ve finally decluttered, and now you have a system in place that you like. You’ve done it! The only problem? The seasons are about to change, and now your home that was humming along so nicely in the summer is about to enter Back to School Season. Your home will change its function as the seasons change, which means that your organizational systems need to flex. As we all know, change is hard! And once you’ve done something difficult, like organizing your home, it’s hard to find the motivation to do it all over again.
Organizing is Hard Because Gratification is Delayed
When decluttering, I always tell you to get rid of three things first: food, trash, and broken objects. There is immediate gratification when you do that, along with a nice feeling of accomplishment. When you decorate, you get that same rush, because you made a space prettier and more unique than it once was.
But organizing is different. When you organize, you are improving the function of a space. Certainly an organized space can look lovelier than an unorganized once, but sometimes you can’t visually see much of a difference at all, even though significant progress has been made.
The example I use is the drink cabinet. A cabinet full of mugs, glasses, powders, and tea bags might not produce a Pinterest-worthy photo, but it improves the functionality of almost every home. But not right away. It takes a while to live in that home and realize how much easier it is to use one cabinet than three. Delaying that gratification is hard!
Another example is the sock drawer. You can toss your socks into your drawer without matching them, and close the drawer. Or, you can get an organizer and arrange them by color or function, and also close the drawer. Depending on the person, they can both work just fine, and they look exactly the same. You don’t get that lift of visual beauty that you do when decluttering and decorating.
Organizing is Hard Because of Your Family
I recorded this podcast about organizing around your family, but it bears repeating. It’s not about them; it’s about you! You need to organize yourself, and your family will follow. Or, they won’t. You can’t control anyone but you.
As true as that is, it’s still difficult. It’s hard to live with others who don’t value your need for organization or stick to the methods you are trying to implement. It’s hard when you aren’t being encouraged and supported by people you live with and love.
Organizing is Hard Because It’s Emotional
This is perhaps the biggest barrier to organizing. Even the most organized people have feelings and memories tied to the objects in their home. Everyone has guilt, of some sort, about giving away heirlooms they don’t like or broken things that were expensive. Especially if you are dealing with a loss, organizing can be downright painful. Treat yourself with kindness if you’re in that situation, and remember that progress is the goal.
One especially emotional hurdle to organizing is kids’ items. If you’re an empty nester, it can be difficult to clear out your child’s room. If it’s your children’s artwork you’re trying to deal with, everything is a masterpiece!
I am a huge advocate for turning nostalgic items into something especially functional or beautiful (or both!), like a quilt or pillow. In fact, this podcast episode is all about how to do that. I address memorabilia from loved once who have passed away as well, which is a wonderful option for those dealing with loss.
Organizing is Hard Because It’s Lonely
Decorating (and shopping!) can be such a fun social activity. It’s hard to deny the reality of retail therapy, and the lift you get when seeing something new and beautiful in your home. Sometimes, these items have no function at all, and that’s just fine! It’s okay to have something just because you treasure it.
Organizing, however, is not a social activity at all, because nobody else really cares how your spices are arranged. Your girlfriend doesn’t want to come over and help you process your mail. They care about your happiness and your sense of sanity, which organization can give you, but the actual act itself is pretty isolating. For extroverts like me, that can be a big roadblock to organization.
So, how can you make organization easier on yourself?
I don’t want to plug too shamelessly here, but I designed the 100 Day Home Organization Program to specifically address all of these pain points. My absolute favorite time in the program is when that gratification, though delayed, finally hits. Around Day 8 of the second or third round, the Facebook group is overloaded with people who are shocked at the amount of progress they had made since the last round!
To address this issue of difficulty in both home and paper organization, we have live Q&As and an active social group to support and cheer each other. A lot of the time, it’s just about inertia, and it helps getting that boost! If you aren’t already a member, I hope you’ll join us for the next round!
If you’d like that same support for your Workboxes, Sunday Basket, or your filing cabinet, you’ll definitely want to join us in January for our next Paper Organizing Retreat. We are adding on a Grow Your Business Day this time, where Emily and I will join forces to help you skyrocket your productivity and profitability in your business. Join us!
If you tried any of my suggestions, I’d love to see them! Follow me on Instagram and join the Facebook group for more great organizing tips, then share your photos with me by tagging me @organize365 or using #organize365!