6 Common Organising Mistakes You’ll Want To Avoid

So often, I’ve started to get myself organised only to find that I’ve managed to sabotage my own efforts due to some rather common organising mistakes. 

Before long, anything I organised would return to its disorganised and messy state.

But no more!

There’s a lot of great advice out there about how to organise your:

  • Space
  • Life
  • Sock drawer

But nobody warns you about the mistakes that can be made, which ultimately leave you more frustrated and in an even bigger mess than when you started.

The Most Common Organising Mistakes

I’m a great reflector, and quite frankly, I was tired of all my effort going into something only to see a short-term benefit.  In this article, I’m going to cover the following: 

  1. Too many projects on the go
  2. Unclear starting points
  3. Dangers of over-categorising
  4. Failing to declutter before organising
  5. ‘Just for now’ mindset
  6. Failing to maintain

And how you can overcome these common organising mistakes.

Too Many Projects

The first obstacle that can trip you up when you’ve decided to get your life organised is taking on too many projects at the same time.

  • The house is a mess
  • Your finances are out of control
  • You have pizza every night for dinner because you don’t have anything in to cook

But you’ve made the decision, and you’re ready to jump right in.  You tell yourself that it’s okay each of these areas can be achieved; you just need to be um organised?

We often tell ourselves that we can cope with more than we actually can.  But this is a common organising mistake.

See Progress One Project At A Time

The trouble with starting different projects is that we get side-tracked and do a little here and there.  Then after 6-months, when we feel we should have everything under control, we discover that none of the projects is completed.

Believe me, you will achieve more in the same time frame if you focus on just one project at a time.  Because when you focus on one thing at a time, you are more likely to succeed and see it through to completion.

But if you see all the areas as important, it can be hard to prioritise. 

There are two ways to approach this.

  • Choose the area that will bring the quickest result or
  • Pick the area which is causing you the most stress and get it out of the way.

But, whatever you do, choose one project at a time and avoid the stress of trying to do everything at once.

Unclear Starting Points

Okay, you’ve now decided on your one project – hurrah.  But here’s another common mistake we can make.

Where to start?  There are so many areas of your life you want to organise.

Let’s say that you’ve decided to get your house organised.  You have a vision of a clean and tidy home where everything has a place, and you can find whatever you need as soon as you need it.  Great.

You need a clear starting point because if you just start randomly organising things, you’re not going to see much progress, and it’s also going to cause you quite a lot of stress.

Don't derail your organisation efforts before you've even started.

Make sure you have a clear starting point in mind.  If you simply just organise things in a random order, you're quickly going to become confused.  So, have a clear starting point in mind and work from there.

Every Where’s A Mess

If all of the rooms are a mess, I’ve been there!  The best way to start is to focus on the rooms you spend the most time in.  Then, once they are organised, you can move on to the rooms you use less often.  

Remember, you don’t need to complete a whole room in one go.  Instead, choose a small area, perhaps a drawer or a shelf and give yourself a quick win. 

Elizabeth Larkin wrote a great article for The Spruce website all about how to declutter your home, room by room which I think you'll find really useful.

If you do this, you can keep yourself motivated and more organised.

Dangers Of Over-categorising everything

I’m a stationery addict.  I have folders, notebooks and all sorts of writing implements.  So when I came to organise my paperwork, it was like I’d died and gone to heaven.

But the mistake I made, and it is a common mistake for others when organising, was how shall I put it, getting carried away.

I had the main topic and all sorts of sub-categories to file things under.  All with their own colour-coded, alphabetised process.  I’d become a little too specific.

When You’re Too Specific

For example, my car.  I had a folder for each of the following:

  • Insurance
  • MOT
  • Work done
  • Licence

There were probably more, but I’m too embarrassed to put them down.

It may seem like a good idea to have as many categories as possible.  However, it makes it much more difficult to keep up with the system.  

Where It Goes Wrong

At some point in the not too distant future, you’re going to revert back to throwing items in any old category.  I found I delayed filing paperwork because it became too time-consuming.  The filing soon started to get out of control, and little piles of clutter began to appear once again.

So, do categorise things, but don’t over-categorise them!

Failing to declutter before organising things

Another common organising mistake is the failure to declutter.

When trying to clean up and create a more organised space, it’s vital to first spend time decluttering.

Because if you don’t declutter, you could end up organising things that actually need to be put out.  You really don’t want to waste your valuable time and effort.  Because you’ll only need to go back and revisit the situation later.

At times you might find you have to be ruthless.  So often, we hang onto things “just in case”.  Then 5 years down the line, we find that we’ve never used them.

Unfinished Projects 

How many unfinished projects do you have?  You know the:

  • Paint you bought to update that old cupboard that you would use again if it was the right colour
  • Broken picture frame you were going to use for the photo of your nan
  • Material you bought 5 years ago intending to create a quilt for the bed

Those things are there to haunt you and act as a guilt trip to remind you of what you haven’t done.

Too Many Similar Items

Then there are the items you hang onto when you already have plenty to hand, such as:

  • 15 towels you keep for when you wash the dog or if the washing machine breaks down and throws water all over the floor
  • 30 bottles of disinfectant because you just add it to the shopping list each week because you can never find a bottle when you need it
  • Shoes that pinch your feet or you never wear because the heel is too high

Use The Space Efficiently

These items have taken up valuable space that could be more efficiently used.

So, before you start, review the room and decide what needs to be:

  • kept
  • thrown away or
  • donated  

Once you’re left with only the things you’re keeping, you can start organising them into appropriate spaces.

The “Just for now” mindset Mistake

Another common organising mistake is to do with the mind.  To be more specific, the story we tell ourselves.

When you first start to become more organised, you have a powerful motivation to stick with it.  Besides organised people don't put anything off. 

However, like everything, that motivation can waiver.  This is especially true if you’ve lived in an unorganised way for many years!

When that motivation does go, it’s really tempting to adopt the “just for now” mindset.  Basically, we offer ourselves an escape route.

The quickest way to jeopardise organisational efforts?

When motivation is waning, it's important to push yourself to continue putting things away in their right place and keeping up with your plan.  Don't fall into the "I'll just put this here for now" mindset

Instead of organising, we tell ourselves something like, I don’t need to do this right away, “just for now, this will be okay here”.  

It’s like a loophole where you tell yourself you’ll put something in its right place in a little while.  The reality is, you won’t!

So, if you catch yourself adopting this mindset, stop it!  To be organised, you have to be consistent. 

Failing to maintain the system

Okay, this common mistake follows the point above where we adopt the “just for now” mindset.

Once you’ve spent a lot of time and energy getting things organised, you need to maintain it.  This means setting aside time to repeat the steps you’ve taken.

You can’t expect to get everything organised and then have it magically stay that way – if only it would.

Maintaining a system does not need to be complicated or take a lot of your time.  It could be as simple as:

  • setting 10 minutes aside in the morning or the evening to ensure things are put away where they belong
  • a regular time slot to deal with paperwork or update your finances
  • creating a weekly meal plan so you know what you need to buy before you go to the supermarket.

What is important is to find a system that works for you.  One you can stick to.  And preferably one that is super easy that it only takes a short amount of time to complete.


The decision to get your life in order and become more organised is a fabulous way to take control of your life.  And when you’re in control, you’ll feel:

  • Less stressed
  • Happier
  • More confident

But there are a lot of mistakes you can make along the way.  

The key to a more organised life?


Some days you're not going to want to do it.  However, if you want to make it work, you need to find the time to maintain your organisation schedule and systems.

However, as you can see, there are ways to avoid these common organisational mistakes.  The above are just some of the ones you’re likely to come across when you make a start.

Best to be forewarned!

About the author Alison

A qualified UK based coach with 30 years of experience in personal development.

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