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4 Pitfalls to Avoid Before You Organize

I recently spoke with Good Housekeeping about some of the lies people tell themselves about getting and staying organized. I love this topic, as helping people to avoid these pitfalls is what we do. Our goal is to help individuals have a successful and rewarding – and never discouraging – home organization journey.

Here are a few additional thoughts I wanted to share. Enjoy!

It's Only About the Stuff

Some people think that organization is only about bins, tubs, and the stuff that goes in them. That what they lack at home is purely structural, and not personal. But once they get those bins and tubs home they quickly learn that they have to face what goes inside. The truth is, when you get that plastic tub home, it isn’t going to tell you what to do. Some people don’t want to admit that emotions will come up in this process, but you have to face your clutter and make decisions about it to really move through roadblocks. Being unable to move through emotional and mental blocks is what stops some people dead in their tracks. This is why we teach our clients to give each item the time it deserves so that they can make a decision about it, and get rewarding results.

Buying Tubs and Bins Will Get You Organized

Blog_Organizing Lies_Photo 1

Organizing products are wonderful. We love them and use them all the time in our work. And today there are countless solutions to meet everyday needs, from the simple and low-cost, like containers at Target or IKEA, to the more sophisticated and high-end, like at Design Within Reach. And yet, design, form, and function will only get you so far. Even tips from experts will also only get you so far. The need for the product must start first with an analysis of your stuff – we call this Home First. This means we start first in your home, not at a store. Once you’ve taken stock of everything you own, you’ll know exactly what you’re looking for, down to shape, size and of course, function. And, often you’ll find the exact item you need tucked in a corner or closet!

Organization is an Innate Skill

Another common misconception people have about organizing is that they should already know how to organize their homes. This is especially true of my mommy clients who often feel the ability to get organized at home should be natural, a skill that should have kicked in when they began a family. The truth is, organization is an acquired skill that takes time to learn. The ability to create a home, set a table, complete a project in one sitting, know how to generate next steps to help a project get done, these are skills that must be learned, just like anything else in life. Organizational skills are rarely taught at home or in schools, and this has left a nation of adults feeling insecure about their ability to create and maintain a home.

Systems Should Last Forever

As kids grow, their systems will need to as well

At Maeve’s Method we create systems in and of the moment, to address current situations. When a good system breaks down it often means the situation has changed. The first step in our method is to do a Project IQ. This gives people a chance to evaluate their current state of affairs. But, life changes. It’s unrealistic to think that a system created one year will work perfectly the next. This is most obvious with parents who create a home around the needs of a newborn only to find that one year later they have a toddler on their hands, and the home needs all new rules! The key to maintaining systems is to remain flexible and to be prepared to re-evaluate solutions that have broken down. It’s not a failure, it just means something new is going in life. Take time to reevaluate and make some – usually small – tweaks and adjustments to get things back on track. Even nuts and bolts have to be tightened every once in awhile.

What are some things you’ve learned about organizing?

Photo Credits: Kelly Guenther, Jacqueline Butler

Maeve Richmond is the founder and head coach of Maeve's Method, a home organization system based in New York City. She specializes in parents & kids, couples, small space solutions, space planning and decorative elements for the home. Contact her at or @MaeveRichmond.

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