Don’t do it for the ‘gram—home organization doesn’t have to be perfect

Beautifully organized spaces look amazing, but not all of the ideas you see will fit your lifestyle. (Do you really want to spend your time re-separating Legos by color or refilling cute little spice jars just to maintain a lewk?)

home doesn't have to be perfect
@halla.arabi/Twenty20

By now, absolutely everyone is binge-watching or has binge-watched Get Organized with The Home Edit on Netflix. But, truth be told, organizing your space to be functional and pretty can be time-consuming, crazy-making and pricey—those plastic containers are not cheap.

This isn't to say that you should rethink your casual worship of Clea and Joanna, Marie Kondo, the ladies of Neat Method, or your organizing gurus of choice. However, before you start making piles and purging items, make sure your organization goals are realistic and attainable for your unique (and perfectly imperfect) life.

Here's why it may be worth checking in with yourself before you embark on your own personal home edit.


You'll drive yourself crazy playing the comparison game

Logically, we all know that pretty Instagram photos are usually staged and TV shows have all sorts of behind-the-scenes, hot mess action we'll never see. But, even so, it's all too easy to consume these images and then look around our own homes feeling like our spaces are completely unsuitable by comparison.

"We witness the outcome, not the amount of time, energy and manpower that went into creating that 'perfect' space," says psychotherapist Grace Dowd. "What an entire team of people with an unlimited budget can create will look different than what is feasible for people who are balancing work, kids and other commitments."

These unrealistic standards can translate into black-and-white thinking where anything less than perfect becomes not good enough.

"We can obsess about having our homes 'just so' and feel discouraged when we are not able to attain that expectation. Or if we are able to attain a certain standard, we often find that it is not sustainable over the long run," Dowd says. "It is so important that we routinely give ourselves a reality check when consuming this type of media: We are seeing the edited, revised, touched-up version of something."

You could get easily overwhelmed

Many organizing shows and brands encourage people to take absolutely everything out of the closet, kitchen, garage—insert space here—so that you can properly tackle the project, leaving no stone (or junk drawer) unturned. But seeing so many items piled on your floor or bed can be unnerving. (And may even compel you to want to either give up or simply donate as much as possible just to get the project done sooner.)

"We can easily burn out or get discouraged if we are trying to do too much too soon," Dowd says. "If you choose to take on home organization tasks, remember that you do not have to accomplish everything all at once. Pick a drawer, a closet or a countertop in your home and start there. See what works well for you and your family."

You might chase a look that doesn't fit your life

Beautifully organized spaces look amazing, but not all of the ideas you see will fit your lifestyle. (Do you really want to spend your time re-separating Legos by color or refilling cute little spice jars just to maintain a lewk?)

In the end, organization is not just how you arrange things but how you interact with them as well, says Certified Professional Organizer Denise B. Lee.

"If something inspires you—great! Make it your own and make it fit your life," Lee says. "Before pursuing magazine-worthy organization consider if the price you pay for that snapshot of perfection." Make sure it's worth your time and effort and that it's appropriate for your lifestyle.

You may use organizing as an avoidance mechanism

Chasing organization perfection is a race you can't win. However, the pursuit can often keep us so occupied that we can put real to-dos—and true self-care—on the backburner. Maybe you clean out your closet to avoid having a hard conversation with a friend or family member. Perhaps what you could use is not a carefully curated pantry but a commitment to an exercise program. It's all too tempting to get immersed in these non-essential home projects because they make us feel busy.

Step back and analyze why the organizing needs to be done right now and how it would help your day-to-day. "Many things in life are a work in progress, and we can look at our spaces the same way," Dowd says. "Depending on where we are in life, we may or may not have time or energy to dedicate to intensely organizing and clearing our spaces."

However, she adds that if you feel that de-cluttering would help you function better in other roles of your life then pick just one area of your home to start and go from there. For instance, a well-organized bathroom drawer can make your morning routine smoother and help you start your day on a positive note.

You miss out on the beauty of the mess

Ultimately, no one lives on a TV show or in an Instagram shoot. Trying to keep your spaces tidy and carefully organized all the time can keep you from fully embracing real, spontaneous, not-even-a-little-bit glamorous life with your family.

"Fun is often messy. Creativity is often messy," Lee says. "Life transitions are often messy—like, moving into another house or having a baby, for example. The mess is just part of the process, and that's okay."

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