get organized

The One Thing You Must Do to Get Organized

get organizedOrganization is a hot topic these days. There are so many experts out there and every one has their own organizing system. There is no shortage of methods and every method is just right and so simple. But you’ve tried them all and all you have left to show for it is more mess and less money. So how do you figure out which system will work for you?

Is there really a right way and a wrong way to get organized? I grew up in an organized home. My parents had a place for everything—and everything pretty much was always in its place. My father was an engineer; he was also a DIY guy. His workbench was precisely organized. He always knew right where to find everything. That also meant I always knew right where to find everything.

I am pretty sure that I got my love of containers from my mother. She had a container for everything. I reconnected with an old friend not too long on Facebook. One of the first things he told me was that he remembered how my mother had little bins—with labels on them—for all the crackers in the cupboard (it’s true). She was very organized—and she still is. A cross-country move after her retirement involved many color-coded and numbered boxes with corresponding inventory lists. My move at about the same time did involve neatly labeled boxes. No inventory lists, though. My excuse was that I still had three kids at home and a small zoo to organize. I thought I was doing well with the color-coded and labeled boxes.

When I got married and moved into a home of my own, I wanted it to be organized. My husband came from a different organizing philosophy, though, and it caused some degree on conflict in the beginning as we each had our own idea of what it meant to get organized.

And as we worked things out, we learned an important lesson:

 Being organized can mean different things to different people.

So, in order to get organized and stay organized, here is what you need to do first:

You need to figure out what organized means to YOU.

It’s that simple. Or not. This isn’t about what the organizing expert of the week says is the sure fire method to control the clutter and liven up the laundry room. This is about learning what organized feels like and looks like to you.

Before you head off to store for your latest round of organizing supplies, take a time out and figure out why you want to get organized, what organized looks like and what an organized life feels like. Write it out if you need to. Visualize what it feels like to move through your organized home. What does it look like? How does your home feel? What is different (better) as a result of being organized? How is being organized improving your life?

Once you’ve answered these questions, then you can move forward with organization. Without these questions, you’re just going to drop another wad on bins, boxes and containers that will eventually become more clutter and frustration caused by a system that doesn’t work.

So, set all the organizing manuals aside, ditch the guilt because you haven’t been able to make it work. You are not an organizing failure. You will never be successful at living someone else’s life; you need to live your own. And part of living your own is to get organized in a way that works with who you are and how you live.

Now go figure out what organized looks like for you.


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  1. I would love to have little containers for EVERYTHING. Of course, the designer in me would want to create fancy, coordinating labels. <– I would spend too much time on details like that!

    1. Rob, we are so two peas in a pod. I would do the same thing, given the time and opportunity. I have had to train myself to stay far away from “The Container Store” and office supply stores run a close second. And then I would have to organize all those cute little containers. It’s all about learning those limits, isn’t it?

  2. Great post Marie. I like how you say to decide what organization looks to you. For me I stay pretty organized. I think it helps me to stay focused and more productive.

  3. Love this post on organization, Marie. I love containers as well and want everything to have a “home.” I have a couple of small areas that need my attention, so great reminder to organize a little more. Take care.

    1. Organizing is definitely a process, Cathy. There will always be something more that needs a little organizing. I also find that sometimes I need to go back and tweak things around. As my life changes, so do my organizing needs.

  4. I love this post, Marie! I especially liked when you wrote, “You need to figure out what organized means to YOU.” Great advise, thanks!

  5. Sounds like we grew up in the same kind of home. My parents were THE most organized people! Having said that, I’m not so much so. Yes, my bed is always made and the basics done, but I’m not so organized that the world stops if something is out of place. Of course, all my towels DO have to be folded a “certain” way and clothes in my closet are arranged by color (and all going the same way). Yikes! I *might* be like my parents! LOL

    1. Martha, you do sound just like me. I do make sure the bed is made (though I wasn’t always that way) and my towels do have to be folded a certain way, too. I tell my kids they have to do it that way because they stack better in the closet. Hmmm. . . .

  6. The last conference I went to I bought a book on organization there. I need to pull that out and begin reading it. My goal for 2013 is to get better organized.

    1. That’s an admirable goal, Jamie. Just remember, getting–and staying–organized is a process. Allow yourself to do it at a pace that makes it do-able for you. And feel free to ask if you have some questions or get stuck along the way. I’d love to hear how the journey goes.

  7. Thanks Marie – I’m always organizing – the joke at work is that people always question why I need to organize because I’m already so organized – that’s why I am !!! It isn’t a one time event! LOL

    1. Absolutely, Estelle. Organizing is an ongoing process. It’s really developing a series of habits. I wish we could do it once and be organized forever, but that only works if you never touch anything again. Doesn’t work so well in a houseful of people.

  8. I enjoyed your post, Marie. I love that you gave us permission to be ourselves with our organizing style!

    1. Not that you needed my permission, Sally, but that is exactly it. You have to be yourself in organizing just like in every other facet of your life.

  9. When i saw the title: organized…i went oulala! something i need to work a lot on! thank you for your wonderful tips!

    1. You are so welcome, Carele. I hope they help you in your organizing journey.

  10. Marie, love how you say to ditch the guilt and find out what organized means to you. That is a very powerful statement! Figuring out what organized means to you and looks like to you…wow…that is an eye opener! There really is no one size fits all road is there? Love it!

    1. There definitely is not no one-size-fits-all solution here. I think we’d all be more organized if we could embrace that idea and stop feeling guilty about not looking like the pictures in the magazines.

  11. I like to be organized but a lot of the time I don’t have the time and my desk is a mess, the webinar sounds great : )

  12. Elizabeth Maness says:

    Great advice. Being orgainzed is different for everyone . The key is definitely finding out what it means to you but then keeping it that way so that you can work more effectively. Sometimes things tend to get scattered and you can feel the anxiety of it immediately.

  13. Thanks for the great tip on organization being all about what it means to each of us. I’ve tried to fit myself into many molds over the years and I feel like you’ve given me permission to make up my own way.

  14. I love the topic of being organized. I always think that people don’t have their own life all together when their home is one big mess. I like to stay on top of my life and get all the clutter out as soon as possible. thanks Marie

  15. My desk in this moment would appear quite unorganized to most. I, however know why everything is where it is and it is quite functional for me. Thank you for allowing me to define organized. Cheers!

  16. BarbaraJPeters says:

    Great post! Being organized can change our lives and our ability to be more productiveand less stressed. Thank you for sharing.

    1. I find that disorganization definitely impacts my creativity and productivity, Barbara. I think that is one of the reasons the topic attracts me so much.

  17. I love the fact that you recognize that being organized means different things to different people! I love containers, baskets and bins…my husband just needs things to be where he left them! ha!

    1. It definitely does, Denny. Even in my own family, I see how different the definitions of organized are and how what works for one person can make another stressed and uncomfortable. That’s why I think it’s so important to figure out what works for you.

  18. Excellent article, Marie. I am in the process of organizing….it will take time but I do have a goal in mind…that may need some revamping! Thanks so much!