10 Organizing Mistakes You May Be Making—And How to Fix Them

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No matter how often we tidy up, there are those areas in our homes that just never seem to stay neat. And while no home is perfect, if you’re making one of these common organizing mistakes, the process may be more difficult than it needs to be. To figure out what the most common missteps are, we reached out to professional organizers who have made over the homes of countless clients. While some of the mistakes clients made were obvious—like never putting items back where they belong—others were eye-opening—like we’ve been stacking our dishware wrong our entire lives. Here, we’ve rounded up 10 of the more surprising mistakes these organizers have seen over the years, so you can avoid them, declutter quickly, and move on to more important things.

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1. Purchasing Products Before You Organize the Space

Marissa Hagmeyer, the owner of the organizing company NEAT Method, has seen plenty of tidying-up mistakes over the years. The number one mistake she sees clients make? Buying organizing products before they have done the real work of organizing. “Beautifully labeled bins and baskets help you stay neat, but they don’t magically perform the actual organizing!” says Hagmeyer.

Smart Solution: Rather than expect products to do the work for you, start by going through your belongings, sorting out what you no longer need, and separating items into categories. Only then should you make a list of the boxes, bins, or trays you need. This way, you’ll have a more accurate estimate of how many containers you need, and you’ll have a clear plan for how you intend to use them (you’re also more likely to save money this way!).

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2. Making Your Categories Too Specific

The second step in the organizing process (after sorting through your belongings), is to categorize everything you own. “A common mistake we see during this phase is that people make the categories too specific,” reports Hagmeyer. When the categories are so narrow, it can be difficult to keep up with the system you’ve created and you’ll end up tossing items in any container you see.

Smart Solution: When sorting, Hagmeyer recommends keeping in mind the mantra “broad is best,” and avoiding the tendency to create narrow categories. “An example of this would be in a children’s space labeling one bin cars, and another trucks, and another planes. Instead, name one bin auto!” she says.

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