5 Organizing Myths That Can Keep You Stuck

It’s time to dispel some organizing myths that may be keeping you stuck and getting in your way of a more organized life. I’ve focused on the 5 most common beliefs about organizing, so you can get clear on what works and what doesn’t. Once we bust the myths, you’ll be on your way to organizing yourself like a pro.


1.  Containers will always get you organized. True or False?

False. Contrary to what the ads want you to believe, containers alone are not the answer to your organizing dilemmas. In fact, they can become part of the problem. Let’s take Nancy for example. She purchased several large plastic containers to organize all of her craft supplies and memorabilia. But she still couldn’t find what she was looking for when she needed it. Nancy mistakenly thought all she needed to get herself organized was a few containers. But what she really needed was to learn a bit about organizing.

Before you go out and spend money on containers or other organizing products, do some preliminary work and planning. The first thing I recommend is doing the purge. Only when you know exactly what it is you need to store, how much of it, and where the most suitable location is to store it – should you go out and purchase containers. And don’t forget to measure first. Bringing home the wrong containers for the job simply creates more clutter.

2.  Multitasking is always productive. True or False?

False. Although useful in some situations, multitasking can cause you to lose your focus and make costly and time consuming mistakes. When working on important tasks, multitasking is probably not a good idea. Some things require your undivided attention.

Multitasking distracts us from being in the present moment, which can drain our energy and leave us feeling exhausted and unfulfilled. Next time you are participating in an activity, be with that activity (rather than thinking about all the things you should be doing instead, or have to do later). Resist the habit of trying to do two things at once.

3.  Being messy automatically means you are disorganized. True or False?

False. Organizing is not about how it looks; it’s about how it works. Visual, creative types need to have things out where they can see them, because out-of-sight is out-of-mind for them. This may cause their spaces to appear disorganized to others, but they probably know exactly where everything is. The flip side of this though is that visual types lose focus when there is too much to look at, so they need to find products that will allow them to contain their stuff to keep down the visual clutter. For example, a literature sorter (pictured below) allows them to contain their papers while still keeping them within view.

4.  You have to toss everything to get organized. True or False?

False. I often hear people say to me “there’s no way I could get organized because I am too sentimental – I don’t want to get rid of everything.” Although you shouldn’t keep things you don’t like or will never use, there’s always a way to either display or store the things that matter. For example, shadow boxes or display cases allow you to protect as well as showcase the possessions that truly mean something special to you.

5.  If you write it on a to-do list, it will get done. True or False?

False. I had a client who was so proud of her to-do list: it was prioritized, color-coded and categorized – yet she was frustrated and overwhelmed at how many things on the list were not getting done. To get anything accomplished you have to actually schedule time to do the things on your list. Simply putting a task on a list is not a commitment – blocking time on your calendar to do it is.

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This post has 6 comments

  • Helen- Love this post! Such great ways to look at organizing ideas that might not be serving us well. Perhaps the most common one I encounter is the belief that the “right” container will be that magic solution. A container can certainly make a big difference, but it’s not the only part of the organizing process. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Twila says:

    1. Containers — oh what suckers we can be for purchasing cute containers and thinking that’s the whole answer! Not me, of course ;-D — but I’ve seen friends go down that road.
    2. Multi-tasking — so glad to see that one debunked! I used to be a super-hero at multi-tasking, when my kids were younger and it was necessary in order to get everybody through the day with food and clean socks, but as I get older it gets harder and harder. And now it’s a real pleasure to be able to focus all my energy and attention on one thing at a time — so much more peaceful.
    3. Woe is me — everyone in my family is visual! And I’m the only one who really cares about clutter — cares enough to try to do something about it. But that’s life!
    Thanks Hellen for another great post.

  • Sandra says:

    Love 3! Need, need, need to see it!…clear containers behind a curtain serve us all.

  • Juliana says:

    My step-father is a sentimental hoarder. I actually got him to get rid of a bunch of stuff by offering to take photographs of his stuff and transcribe his stories about the items. He made an album with everything. Like you said the right container for the right stuff.

  • Jule says:

    The sorter is fantastic. I bought 2 which allows me to sort my stationary and some
    “pending” documents.