7 most common mistakes in organisingWhen it comes to getting organised, there are several things that can turn good intentions into a failed attempt. Whether you are a professional organiser, or someone getting organised on their own, here are the 7 most common mistakes in organising that people make.

Mistake #1 – Underestimate the time it takes to work through a project.

So, how do you avoid that mistake? There are a few steps you can take. First, be realistic about what’s possible.  Consider all the variables like your level of commitment, your ability to make quick decisions, any likely interruptions, the size of the project, the complexity of the project, and past results of other organising projects you’ve tackled. Now take all that information and calculate a time, including breaks. Now, if you’re going it alone, double that estimate. Unless you have lots of experience with successful organising projects, it is far better to overestimate than underestimate. Underestimating leads to frustration, disappointment, a half-finished job and more chaos. Overestimating leads to time to put your feet up and enjoy the fruits of your labour.

Mistake #2 – Buy the storage solutions at the start of a project.

Frankly, it’s not uncommon for a professional organiser to arrive at a consultation to find a room piled high with neat boxes and baskets and containers, all as yet unused, all representing a significant dollar investment, and actually causing some of the clutter problem they are there to help out with. And what’s more, until the first stages of the project are completed – sorting, purging, organising – you can’t accurately determine how much, which type or size of container or other product will be needed. Storage solutions are very often someone else’s, typically a manufacturer or retailer, idea of what you need. They can add up to quite an investment, and that’s not something you want to take a stab in the dark at. You may well not need anything new at all. Often, it’s possible to reuse things already on hand. The right time to think about storage solutions is towards the end of the project when you will get a much clearer picture of what sort is required, what will look good in the space and how much you will need.

Mistake #3 – Have unclear goals for the space or the project.

It’s like heading off on a fabulous holiday without first checking the destination. Would you start packing without knowing the climate there? Would you head off in the car without checking the map first? Without knowing the final destination, you could head off in the wrong direction and be lost for hours or even days. When organising, it’s easy to start off on the wrong foot, and end up spending hours on a task that could have been eliminated entirely.  Instead of wasting time and effort “getting lost”, take a short time up front to decide on the vision for the space or project. How will it look and feel? What will success look like?

Mistake #4 – Have unrealistic expectations from the space.

Many people find that the space they thought they had available to them is actually not enough. Or they imagined they could create nooks and crannies to stash extra stuff, and that didn’t work out. If there is limited space, or too much stuff, one or both have got to change. There is no substitute for a good hard reality check. If you’re going it alone with organising, this might be something a professional organiser could help with.

Mistake #5 – Let the unwanted stuff hang around.

You’ve done the hard work sorting your stuff and deciding to get rid of some of it. If you let the unwanted stuff hang around, waiting for removal, or another decision or another step, you run the risk of getting used to the pile of unactioned, undecided stuff, second-guessing the hard-earned decisions already made, or having the piles of stuff to go and stuff to stay getting mixed together, and having to sort it all over again. The answer is to take action immediately. If you’re going to have a garage sale, set a date in the near future and go for it. If you’re going to sell on eBay, either get online and do it, or pay someone to do that for you. If you’re donating it, make a call and get it carted away, or put it in the car and deliver it the very next time you make a trip. If you’re tossing it, toss it.

Mistake #6 – Stop before the project is done.

When you stop before the end, momentum is lost. The work done tends to get muddled up with the stuff still to be done and before you know it, you’re back where you started. And worse, motivation can be lost as well. No one ever starts a job intending not to finish but sometimes life gets in the way. A good professional organiser will know how to “bookmark” the work done so far for when life gets in the way and you have to hit the pause button. They will keep a client on track and prevent distraction. They will recognise a sticking point at one hundred paces and know how to avoid it and move forward.

Mistake #7 – Listen to well-intentioned but ill-informed advice.

Announcing to your friends that you wish you could be more organised is a bit like being a new mother – everyone has advice, some of it conflicting, and all of it from their own perspective, not yours. Unless the advice takes into account your situation, your budget, your available time and resources, your learning style, your space, your needs, your desires, and the needs and desires of all the others you live with, then it’s just not good enough. If you need help on your organising journey, by all means, invite a friend or loved along for the ride. Just make it clear what their role will be, and who will be making the decisions. It goes without saying that if you feel pushed, or even bullied, into making decisions in the organising process, you have invited the wrong person to join you. Thankfully there are professionals who are trained and ready to help.

So, those are the 7 most common mistakes in organising. Of course there are more, but I’ll write about those another day. Let me know what you think.

Read more in the Organising by Numbers series here.


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