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If organizing your home was easy, everyone would be living in pristine, uncluttered spaces that stay that way permanently. Of course that’s not the case, which is why many people have to lean on experts to guide their way to more organized homes. (And the very reason why every year I share the house tours of professional organizers and as much of their wisdom as I can.) Below, five professional organizers reveal what they believe are the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to getting and staying organized.

Not putting your things away

“The biggest mistake I see when it comes to staying organized is people using things, but then not putting them back where they belong when they are finished. Little by little, this adds up to a lot of clutter and then is overwhelming to consider tidying up,” explains Michele Vig, the founder and Chief Organizer at Neat Little Nest. (Her home will be featured in a house tour on Apartment Therapy later this month).

“People mistakenly buy a bunch of bins before decluttering their stuff first,” says Caroline Solomon, owner of organizing company Caroline Solomon Home. (Her home will also be featured in a house tour on Apartment Therapy later this month). “It’s key not to skip out on this step, because people are often disorganized simply due to an overwhelming amount of stuff. Cull the items you no longer use, that no longer serve you, and save the rest. Only then do you have the green light to go out and buy those bins! Otherwise, you’re simply rearranging your stuff, which is not the same thing as getting organized.” 

Waiting until there’s too much stuff

“Waiting until there are a lot of items/belongings to organize,” begins CEO and founder of SoleOrganizer Jakia Muhammad, whose uncluttered home Apartment Therapy recently toured. “And I totally get that life happens. However, there will be evidence that your space needs to be organized when you see a small pile of items expand. That’s a key indicator to take action and get in front of the issue before things really spiral out of control. For example, when the oil needs to be changed in your vehicle, a light typically comes on to indicate that it’s time for an oil change. So, now you’re aware that you need to take care of that before it can pose issues for the vehicle. The same concept applies to clutter: When you notice a small pile starting to form, allow that to motivate you to take action immediately.”

Trying to do it all at once

Organizing expert and author Shira Gill (whose home Apartment Therapy toured) also advocates for decluttering before beginning any organizing efforts (“Organized clutter is still clutter!”), but also thinks you shouldn’t try to organize everything at once. “Zipping all over your home trying to organize everything all at once inevitably leads to organizing burnout. Instead, choose one space to focus on and tackle one micro project at a time until the entire project is complete. When you focus on completing just one drawer or shelf, you will experience the thrill of completion and feel motivated to keep going.”

She also warns against overbuying organizing products. “Sure, the right products can help contain and elevate your space, but they can also add to the clutter. I suggest editing and organizing your home using what you already own before you hit the shops to buy more products.”

“People give up on an organizing system or technique because they fall behind a little,” says
Nonnahs Driskill, founding organizer of Get Organized Already!. (Her home will also be featured in a house tour on Apartment Therapy later this month) “Don’t give up! If it has worked for you before, it works for you. Simplify it or just give yourself some grace about falling behind.”

Caroline Solomon also encourages people not to give up. “The other mistake I see is failing to organize in small steps that can be incorporated into a daily/weekly routine,” she says. “People give up before they’ve started because they make organizing this overwhelming ‘one and done’ task. Instead, there are simple steps you can take each day to get organized, like setting your timer for 15 minutes to reorganize your junk drawer (even five minutes counts!), or tossing a handful of jeans you no longer wear into a clothing donation bag (yes, you CAN organize your closet in baby steps!).”

Starting the year off by touring the homes (and drawers, pantries, closets, and more behind-the-scenes spots) of professional organizers, small space dwellers, and other design experts has become a tradition on Apartment Therapy. After all, how your home functions is just as important as how it looks, and I personally never tire of seeing how the pros organize their spaces. You can find great home tours and even greater organizing advice from this year’s fresh crop of inspiration (and catch up on last year’s tours) all on this one page: Professional Organizer Home Advice.

Adrienne Breaux

House Tour Editor

Adrienne loves architecture, design, cats, science fiction and watching Star Trek. In the past 10 years she’s called home: a van, a former downtown store in small town Texas and a studio apartment rumored to have once been owned by Willie Nelson.

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