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5 Reasons You’re Failing at Organization

I fall into these traps for failing at organization all the time, but being aware of them helps me overcome them and get more organized! 

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We’re all about organization at the beginning of the year, right? We say this will be the year when we get it all together, our house will start to look more like Pinterest, and we’ll live in the world of organizational bliss…. and then life happens. 🙂

A few weeks in (aka right about now…), the kids are back in school, activities are starting up again, things get busy and all of those dreams of order and organization go right out the window. But it doesn’t have to be that way!

I was thinking about this vicious cycle the other day when my analytical brain kicked into overdrive and I started jotting down reasons why Mission: Organization tends to get derailed after we start out with so much enthusiasm.

Having this list written down helped give me a different perspective. It showed me the red flags and things to watch out for so that I could avoid them or rededicate myself to my efforts if need be. And since this list was so helpful for me, I thought you just might like it too.

Organized pantry with decanted baking items, pasta, and spices

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This quick guide gives you 7 simple, practical ways to begin to tackle an overwhelming organizing project. (And once you get started, the momentum will help you keep going until it’s complete!)

So here we go– 5 Reasons You (and I) Are Failing at Organization:

1. We take on too much.

I am terribly guilty of this. I hate telling people “no” because I don’t want to disappoint them or make them feel sad. What happens, though, when I say “yes” to everything is that no one gets the best of me– not the committees I’ve joined or the people I agreed to help or my friends or my family.

And when this happens, when I don’t say “no” and life gets busy, the first thing to go is order and organization. My house ends up a mess, I can’t find what I need, my family doesn’t have clean clothes to wear or dishes to eat off of, and I’m stressed because I feel like I’m failing at everything, which I am, simply because I couldn’t say “no.” (Whew! That was a lot.)

Along with taking on too many responsibilities, I also find that my organization fails when I take on too much stuff. No matter how many times I rearrange or how many new bins I buy, if I have too much stuff I’m not really organizing. I’m just rearranging my clutter.

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

This post gives so much insight on why I fail at organization over and over! Aha moment! Click through to the post to see if you're making these organization mistakes too!

(Silhouette, Laminator, Baskets (similar), Bins, Bookshelves, Cube Unit)

Solution: Say “no,” have a good purging session to get rid of all of the extra stuff, and don’t feel one bit bad about it! 🙂

2. We fail to plan.

If you haven’t caught on to this yet, I think planning is hugely important. I know that even if I want something to happen really badly, if I don’t make a plan to get it done, it just won’t happen.

It’s so easy to fall into this trap with organization. We pin a few organization posts, get really excited about how organized we’re going to be this year and then… nothing.

We never make a plan for how we’re going to organize our lives and our stuff, and we look around a few months into the year and our house is as unorganized as ever.

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(Grab my home binder here.)

Solution: Make a plan! Make a list of the areas or systems that need to be organized or reorganized in your home and schedule specific times on your calendar to take them on. Better yet, get the whole family involved– it will be more fun and will go a lot faster!

3. We do too much planning.

“But Abby,” you’re thinking, “I thought you just said that planning was a good thing!” And it is! But sometimes we get stuck in the rut of what my husband Donnie calls “analysis paralysis” where we spend all of our time planning how and what we’re going to organize and little to no time actually doing the organizing.

Maybe it’s because we’re fearful that our plan or system won’t work. Maybe it’s just really fun to read blog posts about organizing and make lists of how we’re going to do certain tasks but not as fun to put our plans into action. But as perfect as our plans may be, if we never take action, we won’t get our desired result– a peaceful, organized home.

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Solution: Take action today! Even if it’s only decluttering one drawer or bin, start the process. If you chip away at the things that need to be organized little by little and stick with it, eventually you will see big changes.

4. We ignore broken systems.

I do this all. the. time. I will know that my organizational system isn’t working for a certain space, but instead of taking a few minutes to rethink it and change things around, I live for months being annoyed by the clutter and mess that my broken system creates.

Take my tupperware cupboard, for example. For way too long it was a hot mess of mismatched containers and lids, I could never find what I needed, and every time I opened the door to grab a container, several of them would inevitably fall out, making a mess on my counter.

One day I had had enough. It took me 10 minutes to stack the containers by type, corral the lids in their own container, and my problem was fixed. 10 minutes. And I had lived with the broken system for months!

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I find that broken systems often happen when we try to take on other peoples’ way of doing things instead of finding a way that works for our life and our situation.

When our boys first got into Legos, for example, I was determined that I was going to organize them by color. I had seen that method on Pinterest, and it seemed to be working well for everybody else (and it looked pretty!), so certainly it would be perfect for our house too, right?!

It turns out that with the way my boys play with Legos, organizing by color just made them very tedious to clean up, and we were often left with a messy pile of Legos on their Lego table, simply because it took too long to break everything apart and re-separate it by color.

When we abandoned the color coded system and just started storing all of the extra pieces together (only separating out the “guys”), my boys were much happier and their playroom stayed a lot tidier!

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Solution: Think about the areas of your house that you avoid or dread facing. Is it a certain drawer or closet? Maybe a particular box or storage container? It may even be an entire room.

Mark time on your calendar this week to fix that broken system. (There’s that planning thing again!) Rearrange, get rid of things, use a different container– do whatever you have to do to make that area an organized, welcoming space that works for you.

5. We forget to reset.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to always be in “go” mode. Go get the kids from school, run errands, work on a project, write the next blog post, answer the emails and comments I’m SO behind on, make dinner, do laundry… you get the point.

There’s always so much to do that I often forget to stop and think about how I should really be using my time. When this happens, I end up playing defense, dealing with whatever situation seems most pressing at the moment rather than intentionally using my time to work on my goals and priorities.

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(Grab this printable in this post.)

Solution: I try to set aside a little bit of time each week to reset. For me it’s usually Sunday afternoon. I think about what I want to accomplish during the next week, write down the action steps that will make those things happen, and schedule the action steps for specific days on the calendar. 

Even if I’ve failed miserably the week before, taking time to reset renews my focus and gets me right back on track rather than letting myself slip further and further away from the things that I’ve set out to accomplish.

This post gives so much insight on why I fail at organization over and over! Aha moment! Click through to the post to see if you're making these organization mistakes too!

I think that all too often we treat organization like it’s this thing that we should be able to complete in a week or so and then our lives will be all better. The truth is, though, that organization is a process. Our goal should be to build better habits rather than just creating this picturesque, Pinterest-worthy scene that is neither helpful nor practical.

The more we avoid the five derailing traps above and really hone in on what works for our particular family and situation, the further we’ll get on our path to organization.

So even if you are feeling like you’re off track already, take a moment to refresh, refocus, and get right back at it. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, so go out there and run your best race! 🙂 Happy organizing!

Looking for some simple tips to help you get organized? These posts can help!

How to Organize Every Space in Your House

How to Get Organized When You Feel Overwhelmed

How to Get Organized When You Have Trouble Letting Go of Things

What things most often cause you to get derailed when it comes to organization?

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This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

44 Comments

  1. I’ve recently become more of a planner (but not too much:) and it really does help. I know my biggest problem is sticking with it & maintaining. I can get everything neat and organized and then it slowly deteriorates, so I’m working on disciplining myself to maintain!

  2. I definitely could relate to many of these reasons. You are so right about these stumbling blocks to organization! I’ve always used a monthly planner, but this year is my first at using a weekly/daily planner. So far I love it! I can write down the things I need to accomplish, check them off, and move them around if something gets overlooked. So far so good, and no “analysis paralysis” so far! 🙂

  3. This post is amazing and inspiring! You really nailed it on why I am so disorganized (it’s a little hard to admit). You have an excellent point to say that we need to change our habits – this will be the ultimate fix.
    Thank you again!
    -Gina

  4. Thank you for this post!!! It is so true and I need to refer to this every few months to do a major reset! Thank you again!

  5. Carrie @ Curly Crafty Mom says:

    I have SO been there with the tupperware cabinet! Cleaning out our storage area in our basement has been on my list for YEARS and I am going to start on it soon. I do think being over scheduled hurts, too.. I can sign up for a few things at school, but that 2-3 hour interruption can really wreak havoc on the rest of my day. SO, I try to be choosey about what I sign up for these days. 🙂

  6. My problem is taking on too much. I have so many things I want to do and tend to start several projects without finishing others. Perhaps my problem is discipline rather than taking on too much. I need to be more disciplined about completing something. I just tend to walk away from it if I find I have to make too many decisions or it just gets boring. I’ll find something else that needs to be done, but could wait, but I’ll enjoy it more. Like laundry….I’ll use that to escape anything. I love doing laundry and gardening or yard work.

    Anyway, nice post. Very well written and enlightening. Thank you.

  7. Meaghan | Cook. Craft. Love. says:

    getting organized with my blog was one of my resolutions this year and for the last 2 weeks I’ve really slacked off. It’s a habit I need to get into though before I get really busy in April and May. I’d say my biggest problem with organizing is consistency. Even though making a list of everything I need to do that day really helps me be more productive I’m really bad about doing it daily.

  8. Great post! I definitely identified with some of these points.

    I once heard a sermon at a church my youth choir visited in which the pastor described a theory from some famous book. (I can’t remember the title.) Obligations were grouped as urgent/non-urgent and important/unimportant. Like your point #5, I definitely get caught up in the urgent without usually taking the time to assess its importance or prioritizing it. This is why my dishes (which drive me nuts while sitting by the sink) are washed but I still haven’t packaged up my best friend’s overdue birthday card and gifts.

    Thanks for the reminder. I really enjoy everything you write!

  9. Jamie @ All That Srocks says:

    This is all so true! I get stuck in the planning a lot, my weakness. I have a dozen started and abandoned craft projects in my craft room right this very second. (sigh)
    Time to follow through, james!

  10. Laura Sue Shaw says:

    These are all very true! I’m most guilty of doing too much planning and not enough “doing.” It’s actually one of my goals for the year to not get so stuck on planning so I can get more done!

  11. I think I fail because I have too much stuff and that results in #1.

  12. Hi all it is fun to read that others are also “stuck” when it comes to organization! I have a huge problem with fatigue (due to illness) any ideas on how to cope and improve my ways and habits … and avoid procrastinating like a friend says above mailing boxes to my friends and grandkids on time and also good organization ideas for photos…. I love to clean and organize and thanks for all the very neat ideas!!

    1. I just started using short lists of goals. I focus on one and get it done. Then on to the next. I also try just doing one thing a day but that just helps to create a habit to get started then it gets easier to continue.

  13. Perfect post. I get myself in items 1 and 3 a lot! Really lot! And when I’m not at 3, I am at 5. I am now with Yearly, Monthly, Weekly and Daily goals set and I feel hopeful. hehe

  14. Brandi Comeaux says:

    I was doing some research for my blog …. paperplanelane.wordpress.com ….and came across your site. I am a single mom, part-owner of an online children’s boutique (Paper Plane Lane), am an accountant (tax season) and am heavily involved with my son’s schooling…. I want to write about “organizing chaos” and here is where I landed! This is one of the best posts I have read about why I am FAILING at organizing my life. I learned to schedule everything in college but have since fallen off the bandwagon. Thanks for the inspiration! I will definitely take your pointers to heart!
    Much love from Louisiana,
    Brandi

  15. This is such a great post. I think that Pinterest is an amazing place for inspiration, however I also see it as the enemy in some ways – like the neighbor that always dresses perfectly with the perfect house and the children are always immaculate and so on and so forth – so you really do need to take it all with a pinch of salt! What works for the neighbor would definitely never work in our house because, well quite frankly we are a bit quirky! I am no longer wanting to be like the ‘neighbor’ but just a better version of us (preferably with organized drawers and cupboards!) But purging/organization definitely is no sprint – it takes time and sometimes it is difficult to keep going – but personally I look forward to a) possibly making money from purging b) I look forward to redesigning the free space and c) I look forward to a less complicated and more clarity filled lifestyle for the whole family…Thank you so much again Abby for yet another great post!

  16. This was really helpful to me! THANK YOU!

  17. I love organization, so this post really resonates. But, since I do love to organize, I think a lot of these tips are a whole lot easier for me. I know people who would feel overwhelmed still with these because they just don’t enjoy cleaning up. Just a thought! Don’t take it wrong. These are great ideas. I just think they would be a lot easier for someone like me, who already likes to organize.

  18. Thanks for this post! It’s definitely a timely reminder for me as to why I don’t seem to be as organised as I would like. I really liked your comment around “reshuffling the clutter” – I seem to do this a lot, or I’ll start a big project and then it seems to take forever to finish it. I’m definitely going to put some of these ideas in place this week.

  19. Nail Polish Pursuit says:

    These are all great tips. Sometimes we forget to do the simple things like saying “no” and that’s where it has to start! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  20. Analysis Paralysis is my AHA moment! So True!! My other issue is what my Dad calls “Low Hanging Fruit.” Each time I attempt cleaning and organization, I see other things that need to be done…consequently I end up starting many things, finishing none. Yep…Low Hanging Fruit. I enjoyed your post. Thanks so much! 🙂

  21. Thanks so much for this.After reading I have a new perspective on some of my organizing problems. I had actually about given up but this article has given me new inspiration and encouragement. ..thank you!

    1. justagirlabby says:

      So glad it was helpful, Julia! Hope you’re having a wonderful day!

      ~Abby =)

  22. I really enjoyed reading you post. It was a reminder of the things that I already knew but somewhere along the line failed to execute. Not only do I have a new perspective how to organize my home, but also how to organize the “stuff” in my day to day life. Our lives get so busy and consumed with things that we don’t even have time to organize our thoughts (that’s me right now). What really struck home was your comment, “organization is a process” and “It’s a marathon not a sprint”. You are absolutely correct!…..keep moving. Some days it will be a sprint, other days a walk, other days a crawl…..point being, keep moving.

    Thank you for sharing.

  23. Charlee-Ann Ellis says:

    This is so true and helpful. I know I for one am especially guilty of spending more time planning the organization than actually doing it! It’s a habit I’m trying to break 😛

  24. Hey Abby – I like this post and I can relate to the points you’ve made. I’m trying to use a planner more this year – this is more so I can actually remember to do things (I tend to forget?). After reading your post on how to organize your whole house – I actually started decluttering this weekend so I’m REALLY looking forward to this 7 day Organizating Challenge!?

  25. Kaylee Marie says:

    100% relate! So glad I stumbled upon your blog, I definitely needed to read this. Thanks for being so honest and real:)

  26. I suffer from analysis paralysis too. But after reading the first paragraph here, I got up and emptied the Tupperware and storage cupboards (five of them) and tossed, tossed, tossed those pesky containers with no lids and lids with no containers! Just doing something instead of making a list of what needs to be done, was so refreshing and fulfilling. Thanks for the nudge.

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Yay! Small victories are what it’s all about! 🙂 Hope you have a great week, Sandi!

      ~Abby =)

  27. I have trouble figuring out a system that works for me. Also, nearly every day that I have a list of things in mind I really want to do, DH, whose schedule is flexible (aka erratic), will usually throw a monkey wrench into the works and want me to do something or help him. I constantly feel “behind” or like I’m just barely treading water.

  28. Lauren@thechocolatesunflower says:

    Oh my goodness, I love this! I tend to slip up on finding a solution that works for me. I get it looking all pretty then by the next day it is a mess again.

    1. justagirlabby says:

      So glad it was helpful for you, Lauren! Hope you’re having an awesome week! <3

      ~Abby =)

  29. Karen Hobson says:

    I agree with everything you said about organizing. I am a procrastinator and I also get stuck in analysis paralysis. I can’t decide what I want to do with a space so I do nothing. Or, I know what I want to do but never make a plan to get started, Two areas have been my focus to reorganize for two years. #1 – our spare bedroom closet…the goal is to move my “hope” chest from our bedroom into that closet. It is not something that I need to open every day, so it can be tucked away in the closet and free up the bedroom nook for a useful piece of furniture. #2 – the Utility Room (Mud Room/Laundry Room)…we live on a working farm so we have lots of boots/shoes in this room – some belong there and others just get taken off there and left. It also contains a tool chest, a utility sink, my washer/dryer, the mop, broom/dustpan, bag of dogfood and two rubbermaid shelves on the wall that are crammed full. It’s a useful room but could be so much more useful and less cluttered if I could organize it – here’s where analysis paralysis sets in- I have no idea where to start. We do not have a budget for anything major (besides, we only built the house 6 years ago), but it needs to be more useful…like a bench for my hubby to sit down on to put his boots on. Everything that I really want to do takes more money than we can pour into it. Any suggestions??

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Hi, Karen! It’s so hard to know without seeing your spaces, but as a general rule, I try to declutter and get rid of as much as I can first. Then I reevaluate and see what kind of storage or pieces I need for what I have left. I look around and “shop” our house first and then supplement with outside pieces after that. If the hope chest is large, could you “kill two birds with one stone” and use it in the bench as a mudroom? Again, it is so hard to know without seeing the space in person, so that may not work at all. I always do a search on Pinterest or Google images to get ideas and inspiration, so maybe that would help! Best of luck with your projects!

      ~Abby =)

  30. ellen from ask away says:

    YES! We keep using broken systems and that really puts a knot in our plans ! I am so glad to read that part of your post. I had to get rid of some broken systems this go-round and I’m so glad I did!

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Awesome! So glad it was helpful, Ellen! Have a great evening!

      ~Abby =)

  31. This post is what I need! We live in a small house with no garage or storage space, so we had been using a room that is half my office, half storage. At the end of 2017, when the school year ended here in Argentina, I got rid of a lot of things I didn’t want or need, I donated a lot of books (it was really hard for me to do this) and stationery supplies I never used. There are still a lot of boxes lying around and I must say it causes me a great amount of stress just to look into that room. I don’t even use my office anymore. So I’m taking action. A bit at a time. I hope everything works out well! Thank you for all the bits of advice! Hope to see new videos on your channel soon! Lots of love from Argentina. Luci

    1. justagirlabby says:

      So glad it was helpful for you, Luci! I know it can feel overwhelming, but you have the right approach! A little bit at a time! Getting started is usually the hardest part. Cheering you on, you can do it! 🙂 Have a great weekend!

      ~Abby =)

  32. susan kromrie says:

    I can relate to planning too much, but another that trips me up is illness. There is no room in my masterplan for me to not be functional.

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Yes, illness definitely makes it tough!

      ~Abby =)

  33. Thank you for writing and sharing this blog with us. Sometimes I feel that I am the only one failing at keeping my life organized (even though I know it’s not really true). My husband and I are currently living in a 400 sq/ft +/- 5th wheel and boy do we have to have systems and organizational skill more than ever! I have had to discipline myself to always put things away and not just set them down. It gets really messy in a second! We have a place for everything we have and TRY to put back in it’s place when we are not using it. So far, it seems to be working (although at times we do get a bit lazy). I cannot agree with you more on how important it is to have a system that works for you and your family. I love your honesty because it reminds us all that you are human too! Keep up the great work <3

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Thanks so much, Kimberly! I can imagine that 400 sq/ft makes it challenging! Props to you for finding great systems that work for you! You go girl! <3

      ~Abby =)

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Thanks, Kris!

      ~Abby =)

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