Five organizing myths

Myths abound in the organising world. Don’t let yourself fall for these five common tales:

  1. Sticking to a rigid meal plan for the whole week will save time. What if you’ve planned a 5-course meal on Wednesday then have an emergency orthodontist appointment at 4:00pm? Generally a meal plan will save time but keep the ingredients for a few healthy, easy-to-prepare meals in your pantry at all times. This way, you can eat what you want, when you want.
  2. I only need to touch it once when I am organising something. Many jobs may have to be broken down into smaller tasks (divide and conquer) so they are not so overwhelming. For example, if you have lots of photos that need to be organised, the first step might be to separate them by year into boxes. Step two would be sorting within each box. You’re going to touch things more than once.
  3. Using the latest technology will save time. This may be true if you’re a techno-wiz, but it does take time to learn the new technology and new gadgets can be expensive. Ask yourself if you are willing to invest the time and money in a product so it can actually help you.
  4. Organising is easy and I can do it myself. While you may be able to clear some of your clutter yourself, you may have too much emotional attachment to your own belongings and may need someone with no biases to help you. I often ask my sister for help with my wardrobe or else I would still be wearing the clothes I had in high school. Many people work better with accountability partners.
  5. My house should look like the ones in the magazines. The homes in magazines are staged for pictures. Life is never picture perfect. Daily living is messy and over the course of a day it’s not going to look like a museum installation.

10 Comments for “Five organizing myths”

  1. posted by Katie on

    Thanks for the reminder about #2. Just this morning I was doing a major overhaul of my desk at work and found myself doing multiple sortings and thinking “shouldn’t I only be touching each of these things once?” But it actually worked a lot better to sort twice… getting rid of the things I didn’t need anymore and then sorting the rest into relevant folders.

    Also, I think #5 is one of the hardest things to remember, but I keep having to remind myself that I LIVE in my house and therefore it won’t always look perfect and that’s okay.

  2. posted by Leslie on

    Great post. For me, I don’t find it necessary to stick to anything rigid. Meal planning consists of figuring out what we’re going to eat for the week based on what’s in the fridge/freezer. It helps when making grocery lists. With more than one cook in the house, if one of us has an emergency or had a hard day at work and fell asleep, the other can step up. On #2, I’ve rarely been able only to touch things once. Usually it’s a 2 or 3 touch process (pick it up to determine what it is and where it goes; put it in THAT pile/stack/box; tackle each pile as I go). #3 I’m a huge fan of using technology to lighten my load, but I often find that it isn’t always the best option. #4 I do find that for me, organizing is often easier by myself. I don’t have the emotional attachment to objects that other family member do. While I’m ready to put something in the giveaway pile, they’re giving me a list of reasons why I should keep it and most of them are emotional or fall into the ‘what if I need it later’ category. #5 was never an issue for me. Unless of course I come across pics that are EXACTLY what I’m looking for. And that has yet to happen.

  3. posted by Dana on

    I love this list! Especially the one about the meals. I can never get my act together to make a massive meal to last throughout the week. I am pretty good at having a simple but well stocked pantry and can whip up simple meals that take 15/20 minutes when needed. Also, the idea that we shouldn’t be stressing about making our spaces look like the magazines is a must. NO ones home looks like that because we actually live in our spaces. What is most important is that we feel good in our space and that it functions well for our lives. Thank you for this!

  4. posted by Jodi on

    I think the idea of “touch it once” applies to maintenance, but not the initial organizing, for all the reasons stated above. And with #1, the idea of having an emergency back-up plan is a great suggestion and can probably apply to other areas besides just meal planning!

  5. posted by Leslie R. on

    Love this post – especially number 2! That “rule” has always driven me crazy. I agree with Jodi that it’s probably best applied to maintenance – although even then I think there are probably things you’d touch more than once – but you still hear people throwing it around as an organizing technique.

    Also number 4 – I’ve found both my husband and my mother to be a great source of support in my uncluttering projects – even if they’re just a shoulder to cry on while I work out my emotional attachment to something I KNOW needs to leave my house.

  6. posted by ChrisD on

    My parents were away for a week and when I popped round to keep an eye on things, the living room was SPOTLESS, it remained immaculate, just like something out of a magazine.
    Therefore the answer to having a lovely house is simple to not live in it. There you go, problem solved.

  7. posted by Beverly on

    Actually, the OHIO principle was aimed at business mail (Only Handle It Once). The message was to open a piece of mail and deal with it . . . not set it in a stack for later. Stacks of stuff accumulate and first thing you know . . . a deadline has been missed or a bill has been lost. The best organization tip: quit acquiring so much stuff. DECLUTTER means keeping on top of stuff/junque!

  8. posted by G. on

    In my house, handle it once usually only happens with things that can go directly to trash, like junk mail, or the leaking can found at the back of the pantry.

    Technology – so true, the learning curve is often left out. So is the time needed to do tasks like scanning. And organizing those files. Or archiving or deleting files not needed any more. Or making sure your backups are running (you DO have backup system, right?)

    Sometimes, I get stuck thinking in a certain way on things. A 2nd person can get me looking at the other end of the elephant, so to speak. Whether it’s a case of where/how to store something, or making a comment that clarifies my attachment to something. When no other person is available, photos allow me to see things in a new way.

    The house looking like a magzine?? On occasion, for a few minutes before the holiday guests arrive, the living room, kitchen and bathroom sometimes comes close. The rest of the house is usually hiding stuff normally in those rooms. Otherwise, it’s….. lets just say it definitely looks lived in.

  9. posted by [email protected] on

    I agree with all of those points, especially the one about your house never looking like the ones in the magazines. The truth is, those houses are staged. If you look, you’ll be amazed at the number of times you can find lamps with no cords. Or rugs in places that could never work in real life. Or there aren’t any lamps. Those rooms are NOT real.

  10. posted by Elizabeth UK on

    Can I add one further myth? It’s prompted by the technology myth but could just as easily apply to non-technology organising systems.

    It is the myth that any particular organising system is going to be the perfect one and is going to stay perfect forever.

    Our lives change and a system that once met our specific needs may no longer match our new demands. It may need reviewing and revising or it may need to be replaced entirely with a different system, better suited to our needs. Also (certainly in terms of technology) new methods and products are constantly coming out. I

    I’ve seen many a heated debate on other forums about whether x product/system is better than y product/system and my view tends to be that the answer will depend on who is using it.

    I realise it is possible to get cluttered with multiple systems that have been tried. But at the same time I think we need to be aware of whether an existing system is working for our circs or whether it places artificial barriers based on our lifestyles. And be prepared to trial new/alternative systems from time to time.

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