Ask the Organizer: Why can’t I get organized?

Sometimes organizing isn’t just about stuff and having the time to get rid of it.  Here are some things you do which might make organizing difficult and inhibit the process.

sabotage organizing efforts

{Letting trends dictate your efforts} Catalogs like Ikea and magazines like Real Simple are so much fun to look at and can inspire you to want to emulate the latest in organizing systems.  However, not every new product or system will help you actually get organized. For example purchasing containers that don’t utilize all available space, or trying to keep your spices alphabetized might actually inhibit you from staying organized instead of helping you. My advice is to use a system that works for you.


{Multi-task} It is very easy to become overwhelmed when organizing especially when you move around while trying to complete one space.  For instance, you are trying to organize the kitchen and find something that belongs in the garage, you take it to the garage, realize there are items that need to go to the basement, you take them to the basement where you become so overwhelmed, tired, or run out of time that you can’t complete the original task of organizing the kitchen.  My advice is to stay in one spot. If you find you are collecting items for other rooms, put them in containers labeled with what room they belong in and continue organizing the inital space.  This helps to keep you focused and removes all the wasted time moving from room to room.

{Keep saying you can’t} One of the hardest parts of organizing is getting past negative self perceptions like, “I can’t believe I let it get this way” or “I will never be able to get this space organized”. This type of self sabotage not only increases the amount of stress and anxiety you might feel about your space but reduces what I call your decisive ability. The more you say you can’t do it the less likely you are to even try. One of the ways I suggest to move past this is to set up a list of goals and then break them down into 15 minute steps.  For example if you would like to be able to host a party but your dining room is basically storage then break it down into simple steps, such as clearing off the table top and putting away the laundry.  You can complete more than one step at a time but it is so much easier to move forward when you see what step you need to take next.

{Not planning or preparing} You find yourself with a free afternoon and say “hey, let’s organize the garage”. You start sorting and creating piles then you realize it’s time for dinner. You mean to get back to the garage but don’t have time that weekend, then the week starts and you realize that the piles are too big to park the car in the garage, so you park outside.  Time moves on and you start throwing more items in piles till you forget what each pile represents.  After awhile you stop going in the garage.  This is why having a plan is so important, it allows you to move toward your goal in incremental steps while planning for interruptions. For more on planning check out Organized Organization: A project plan to keep you on track.

{Sticking with the status quo} Change happens, it is a fact of life. So as change occurs look at the old systems and see what you might have to change.  Marriage generally requires new paper management and closet systems; children require organizing for safety and toy storage systems. And feel free to ask for help when you see systems failing that you thought would work.

I would love to hear what projects you are working on, so please feel free to comment!


3 thoughts on “Ask the Organizer: Why can’t I get organized?

  1. gaellebythesea

    hi. We have finally moved back in and I did fill in my linen filing box. it need a couple of tweaks and sorting but it is there in it’s new home and doing it’s new job. One of the thing we are doing is to reconsider each piece of storage and furniture and optimize where it should go, what job it will do and if it is not appropriate anymore, we are piling up for a car boot sale. Ruthless! (to be fair we have gone in circles for long enough in the past)
    Reading your post reminded me what was going through my mind this morning. I was trying to give a start to organizing my new craft room. I moved a few boxes, made some space for a large chest of drawers to be move tonight to realize that boxes needs moving further so we can squeeze the chest down the corridor and through the door. Many jobs keep being interrupted by my two and a half year old and if I get the chance to have 5 minutes it feels like a long time! most of the tasks involve two people lifting and having no insecure child around. So I wish I could have the 15 minutes and do it all myself. It is getting there, slowly by I am craving my space. Any advice?
    Back to it. Bye

    1. Organizational Specialist Post author

      Congratulations on moving back in! I totally understand the difficulty of completing a sentence much less a project when you have a small child present. When trying to move heavier objects I love using the “moving men” sliders which you can get from amazon. If that isn’t possible would you be able to co-op with a neighbor? 30 minutes of help at your house in exchange for 30 minutes of help at theirs? Another option is calling a church and asking if anyone is trying to raise money for a mission. Several churches in our area offer help with housework in exchange for charitable donations to their cause. It isn’t free but it is tax deductible. And lastly high schools in our area require community service hours, maybe contact a local high school and ask if anyone needs additional hours. Please let me know if this helps!

      1. gaellebythesea

        It was so good to read your ideas. Certainly some angles there I never considered. We are away this weekend but I have just ordered furniture sliders that work on both wooden floor and carpet. This is a start. Thank you for your help. Smiles, Gaelle.

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