The Real Reasons You’ve Failed at Organizing

An organized house makes me happy.  It’s something that I strive for but I’ve always come up short.  The clutter takes over and nobody else helps to keep it at bay but me.  I can organize one area only to turn around and have it undone in a matter of hours.  I’ve re-purchased things I know I already own because I can’t find them and I’ve walked into a room and felt like turning around and walking out again.  It made me feel like a failure.  Like all my efforts were for nothing and I couldn’t figure out why I was failing.  I thought I knew all the principles of organizing;  Cut back on clutter, keep like things with like, keep items where they are used, enlist help from the family, before buying anything think about where it will go.  And still I failed.

Where was I going wrong?  I couldn’t figure it out!

Then I went to see Peter Walsh.  He was here in Calgary with Get Real Live and their Calgary Spring Clean initiative.  Finally, it all fell into place!

peter walsh in calgary
Can you see Peter Walsh amongst the clutter of Calgary’s social media who’s who?
Left to Right: Kim (bottom – Two Bugs and a Blog,) Brooke (Brooklyn Berry Designs,) Catherine (The Dabels Divulge,) Peter Walsh, Leanne (Ironic Mom) ME! Leslie (bottom – Hippo Hug) Erin (Working Mother Chronicles,) Tamara (That Tam I Am)

Peter talked about the four pillars of organizing:

  1. Vision
  2. Function
  3. Zones and
  4. Limits

At the end of his show he challenged us to go home and tackle our junk drawers.  He said it would make us feel like rock stars.  He said it would empower us and so I, with a leap of faith, listened to him and took on my junk drawers.  Here is the before pic.  My drawer was basically full which meant it had really become useless to the function of our home.  There was no room to put anything else in and there was no way to find anything in there without partially emptying out the contents.

junk drawer organizaiton tips

See?  Total failure.  But that’s ok, I was ready to take it on.  I emptied out the contents as Peter suggested to see what I had in there.  And then I thought about the reasons I had such a mess on my hands.  I thought about my vision for my junk drawer.  I wanted it to house various things that didn’t have a ‘real’ home.  I wanted to open the drawer and see what I needed and grab it quickly.  You could say my vision was “Easy Hiding, Easy Access.” Then I thought about the function of my drawer.  I need this drawer to be utilitarian and just do it’s job.  It just needed to hold stuff.  So far this isn’t rocket science right?

junk drawer mess

Here’s a photo of everything I hauled out of there.  Gross.  I started thinking about my zones and I began first by throwing out he things I didn’t want.  Phone book?  Please.  Next I sorted like things together and noticed I needed a zone for pet things, a zone for pens and tools and a zone for power adapters.  I also took some things away that I knew belonged in other places like my glue gun.  Nobody really needs to keep their glue gun in the kitchen….right?

I filled my drawer with little boxes as Peter recommended.  He said that cut off milk cartons or yogurt containers would work – and he isn’t wrong, but I went to the dollar store and got some containers that would fit the space better – my drawer is kind of narrow.

junk drawer organizers

This is where the last item comes into play – limits.  By nature, a drawer is a perfect example of a limit and the boxes break that down even more.  There is a physical limit to what can fit in a drawer or a box so here, the limit is pretty much built in.  In other areas of the home you would need to create a limit.  I could say ‘this shelf is the only shelf that I will use to store XYZ and when that shelf is full I either have to stop purchasing XYZ or get rid of an old one.    Or, I only wish to have 20 DVDs in my DVD storage space and the same applies – if I want a new one, I need to get rid of an old one.  Sometimes limits are easy and other times they are not.  There are no limits on books in this house!

organizing life tips

So if you’re like me and have failed at organizing in the past here are the reasons why:

You’ve not thought of a vision for the space –  In the living room your vision could be of earthiness, entertainment, coming together.

You haven’t thought of the functions you require of the space – Again, in the living room you need for people to sit, you need music, you need places for people to put down a glass.

You haven’t set zones – Where will the music related items live?  Where will you keep coasters etc.

And finally you haven’t set limits – So you have 10 sets of coasters…they don’t all fit in the drawer you set as their zone so this means you need to get rid of some.

It really is genius and now that I’ve set visions for certain spaces it’s easy to ask myself  ‘does this item support my vision for the space?’  If the answer is no, then it’s gotta go!

Now, go on, go tackle YOUR junk drawer.  You’ll feel like a rock star.  Really.

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  1. I love this! I need to re-do my front entry way. I have coats we don’t use and winter and summer stuff cluttering it up. I’m pretty sure (I hope!) we don’t need both of those any more.

  2. I seriously hate organizing, but like being organized. It’s one of those weird things in life. I do agree though that having some little containers or boundaries really helps – it makes me want to actually put the stuff back in a ‘place’ instead of just opening the drawer and blindly tossing. Your drawer looks much nicer 🙂

  3. I just started reading your post. #1 clean out junk drawer. Ummmm actually you DO NEED YOUR GLUE GUN IN THE KITCHEN!!! it was the first staple in my junk drawer when I moved in and I try my best to contain it elsewhere but yet it always lands to its original home. Lol. So glad it wasn’t just me that kept it in the kitchen.

    • So funny. I moved it out of the kitchen after this post but it has made it’s way back. It now has a spot in the junk drawer because it just seems that this is where I use it most. 😀


  1. […] I went to see Peter Walsh back in May he shared many organizing tips with us.  One that really stuck with me was to have a vision for your space.  My closet certainly […]

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