7 Organizing Tips That Are Totally More Trouble Than They’re Worth

posted: 04/21/15
by: Blythe Copeland

If you daydream of precisely organized cabinets, drawers, closets, attics, and garages, then you've probably read hundreds of organizing tips in your mission toward a more streamlined space. And while a lot of them are totally worthwhile, some of them require more trouble and time than they're worth. Here seven you should ignore:

1. Buying storage solutions before you start organizing
Perfectly coordinated boxes, bins, and bags can make any space look prettier and more organized. But before you invest in enough containers to make your drawer or closet look like your favorite Pinterest board, your first step should be weeding through everything you're storing. Divide the items into piles to be donated, trashed, moved to another space, or kept where they are, and then sort the items remaining in your space by type. Know exactly what you need to store before you go shopping--otherwise you'll almost always end up spending more than you wanted and coming home with storage solutions that don't quite work.

2. Throwing out the packaging
People who tell you to store items out of their original packaging aren't totally wrong--puzzles and games take up less space when kept in plastic bags, shoes can be arranged toe to heel out of their boxes, and packaged bulk foods save space in your pantry when removed from their big, unwieldy cardboard boxes. But instead of throwing away the original boxes, use them as drawer organizers: Cut them down until they're short enough to fit in your desk, silverware drawer, or nightstand, and mix-and-match the sizes to create a custom solution for everything from measuring cups to electronics chargers to paperclips. (For a prettier end result, cover them in wrapping paper, contact paper, or even plain white paper.)

3. Repurposing 2hoe organizers
Plastic hanging shoe organizers are easy to use around the house and outside of the closet: On the bathroom door for hairstyling products and deodorant, in the playroom for dolls and other small toys, in the laundry room for cleaning supplies, and even in the coat closet for hats, gloves, and scarves. And as a short-term solution, they have their pros (they're cheap, easy to install, and you can see what's in every pocket). But long-term, they're bulky, they flop around when you open and close the doors, and, well--did we mention you can see what's in every pocket?


4. The evening collection bin
Organizing experts suggest having one large basket or box that you use each night to collect all the misplaced items in each room of your house: coffee cups from the office, Legos from underneath the dining room table, dirty socks from the mudroom, and so on. But there's one thing they don't mention: If you don't have the time or energy to put those items back where they belong as you collect them, then you've just got a basket of clutter that gets more full every day (don't ask us how we know). A few alteratives: Clean up only what you can carry at one time, so you have no choice but to return it to the right spot immediately; or fill the basket based on where things are going, not where you find them--so do a sweep for toys, another for laundry, and one for office paperwork. You can also give each member of your family a dedicated basket and fill it throughout the day with stuff that has migrated from their rooms; then leave it up to them to put everything in its place.


5. Planning your meals every week
Weekly meal planning is one of the most popular ways to save money on groceries, catch the best sales, and increase your chances of making a home-cooked meal every night (ok--most nights). But you can save even more money and time by making a two- or four-week meal plan and using it consistently. Even a vague schedule--pasta Monday, taco Tuesday, vegetarian Wednesday, sandwich Thursday, pizza Friday--gives you an easy place to start, and you can tweak the specifics based on sales or what you already have in the freezer. If you think your family will get bored, try switching it up seasonally (adding more salads in the summer and stews in the winter, or trading tacos and spaghetti for enchiladas and lasagna after a few months).


6. Storing instruction manuals in a binder or box
A binder or file box will keep all your instruction manuals easily accessible--but before you stock up on sheet protectors and folders, ask yourself if you really need to save all of those booklets in the first place. Many companies now put all their guides online, so you can always find out how to rebuild that piece of flat-packed furniture or what the "Turbo" button on your dishwasher really does. And if you're still feeling anxious about getting rid of the paperwork, scan the most important pages and keep your own digital copies.


7. Keeping a "to give away" box in your closet
We like the idea of purging clothes you don't wear anymore on a regular basis, and the idea of donating to a local charity or secondhand store. But actually dropping off the items? That's the part that always seems to get put at the bottom of the to-do list, while the boxes continue to pile up. Instead, schedule a time for the charity to pick up the items from your front porch--and then spread the word to your neighbors, so you can all donate at the same time and contribute even more to your community. If your neighborhood charity doesn't offer a pickup option, then schedule a monthly appointment on your calendar to drop off the box, no matter how full it is.