Why You Can’t get Organized: The 5 Most Common Organizing Mistakes

Have you ever organized your whole apartment just for it to fall apart within a week? Maybe you’ve tried to organize a space in your place but it just didn’t end up looking quite right or working like you had hoped. If so, you’re probably making one of the most common organizing mistakes without even knowing it. Here’s the top five reasons you can’t get organized.


1. You strive for perfection over function.

Pinterest is the best thing to ever happen to the decorating and organizing world, but it’s also the worst. You’re number one source of inspiration can also be the thing that’s keeping you from getting organized. Instead of trying to make a space look like a pin on your Pinterest board, focus on making it work for your needs. The real reason to get organized is to live a more efficient life. Without proper function, a space isn’t really perfect, after all.

2. You organize a space to fit a bin or basket.

Beware the myth of “the bin.” A cute bin, basket or tray, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting organized. Many times, people buy organizing products without an intended use for them and then try to plan an entire space around a bin that’s too big, too small or just doesn’t work at all. Don’t force organizing products on your spaces–you may find you don’t need a product at all, so be sure you’re planning out your systems before purchasing products.

3. You don’t maintain.

An organizing system won’t work for you if you don’t work for it. It’s so important to be sure you’re taking responsibility of maintaining and nurturing the system you put in place, or it could all fall apart. That’s not to say that you can’t reorganize a system that’s not working for you anymore. Just like a bad relationship, you’ve got to know when to try harder, and when to try something new.

4. You think “tidying up” is the same as being organizing.

Throwing your mail in a pile on the edge of the desk, tossing clothes inside a dresser drawer or clearing off the dining room table doesn’t mean you’re getting organized. Clutter is still clutter even when you can’t see it. Take the time to put things back the right way so you know exactly where they are when you need them again. No exceptions.

5. You don’t focus on one-step organizing systems.

This is the biggest organizing mistake in the book. The key to effective organizing systems is making all of your essentials easy to put away and even easier to put back. If you have to move your blow dryer out of the way to put your hairbrush back and then move your blowdryer back again, you’re probably going to leave your brush on the bathroom counter time and time again. Make sure that when you’re setting up a system for an item you use daily, or even weekly, that it takes only one step to grab it, and one step to put it back.

If you’re struggling to get organized, you may want to consider some of the above mistakes before tackling your next organizing project. For organizing tips and tricks delivered to your inbox, please subscribe to my blog by entering your e-mail address into the right sidebar of this site, follow me on blog lovin’ or follow me on Instagram (@lifeinorder) or on Twitter (@LifeInOrderBlog).

Organizing the Pantry on a Budget

Before we get into the pantry stuff, I wanted to let you guys know that Life In Order now has it’s very own Twitter and Instagram accounts! So please follow me on Twitter @LifeInOrderBlog and on Instagram @LifeInOrder (you can also click the icons to the right to connect with me). And don’t forget to subscribe and follow me on bloglovin’!

Anyways, let’s get to the good stuff.

When we moved into this apartment six months ago, one of the things I was most excited for was to have a pantry! We didn’t have one in our old apartment and I couldn’t wait to tackle organizing this new space. I learned the challenges it posed pretty quickly: what things to put at eye level and which to put up high or down low, how to properly store food, and building one step systems for quicker meal times–I had it under control for the most part. But about a week ago, I decided to take it all one step further and really get a handle on the space. So here’s the infamous before and after of our tidy little pantry:


Please excuse how dark and grainy these pictures are – my pantry is very far away from any natural light!

At a glance, it’s not so different. But it functions SO much differently than it did before. It’s easier to cook and putting ingredients back is a breeze. You can see the subtle but huge differences by taking a closer look at each shelf:


What’s Different:
The lazy susan on the right hand side of the shelf stayed exactly as it was, but the bin on the left changed. I purchased the container from Walmart and use it to hold our drink mixes like hot cocoa, tea, and iced tea mix. I like it because it’s narrow, deep, and has a handle, so no inch of space is unused. Behind it, I put extra Brita filters and our electric knife; things we don’t use everyday or need to access often.

Why it changed:
The space to the left of the lazy susan wasn’t reaching its full potential. I kept things in the front that weren’t being used very often, and that piece of real estate is just too valuable to go untouched. So, I pushed things we don’t need to use to the back, and made more room for things we do in the front.

Why it works:
Every single inch of this shelf has a purpose and there is no wasted space. The lazy susan creates a one-step organizing system, making things easy to grab, use and put back. Also, it let’s me see and access things all the way in the back with just a flick of the wrist–I’m only 5’1″ so it’s a pretty big help.

What products I used:
Clear Bin: Walmart, $6
Lazy Susan: Garage Sale, 25 cents! (the person who sold this obviously didn’t know what they were doing)

Total = $6.25


What’s Different:
Actually, nothing is different about this shelf. It was functioning perfectly just the way it was. Other than some purging, it stayed exactly the same, hence the lack of before/after picture.

Why it stayed the same:
I’ve seen a lot of people organize beautiful Pinterest worthy pantries where everything is out of the box and put perfectly into color-coordinating containers. But, for me, this works just fine. I am far too lazy to take cereal, crackers and pasta out of the package each week after grocery shopping to put it into a separate container. Why would I do that when I don’t have to? That just sounds exhausting (and a little unnecessary).

Why it works:
Although you would never catch a pantry that looks like this on the cover of HGTV Magazine, that’s okay. It works well for me, and is cheaper than paying for containers. Just because you keep things in their original packaging doesn’t mean you’re unorganized–it just means your practical (as long as a space functions well). It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to work for you.

I used no products for this shelf!

Total: $0


What’s Different:
I didn’t change this shelf too much either, I more tidied it up. I switched out my high school looking binder for a nicer, brighter, Martha Stewart Home Collection binder (that I already had) for our recipes. I added a mason jar for chip clips and wine stoppers and moved some things to other shelves where they fit much better.

Why it changed:
I felt like I could make better use of the space by clearing things out, and making sure I could see everything on the shelf. With the popcorn bag in the way and the jars of salsa and sauce that were all the same, I wasn’t making the most of the tiered shelving.

Why it works:
I can now see all the labels on the shelf. It really makes it a lot easier to grab and put back.

I used no new products for this shelf!

Total = $0


What’s Different:
This shelf probably underwent the most change of them all. It’s completely different–but it needed to be. I took everything from that green bin and moved it up to the clear container on the top shelf. I unloaded the bread crumbs and quick oats into new, air-tight containers and moved the spice packets to another shelf. I used mason jars that we had around the apartment for smaller quantities of baking and cooking supplies and put cans of sauce behind them.

Why it changed:
I wasn’t using the space to it’s full potential at all. I just kind of threw things on this shelf willie-nillie, and broke my own rules of organizing. I’m pretty ashamed. I knew I could fit much more on this shelf with a little rearranging, and rearrange I did!

Why it works:
I moved everything to inexpensive air-tight containers to keep them fresh and staying good longer. The simple switch from round to square containers let me fit everything on the shelf so much better and gave me the extra space I needed for more items. I can take the lid off, scoop out as much of the ingredient I need and then put it back. I used to keep some of these things in plastic baggies, and it was really a pain to get them out when cooking–but I don’t have the problem anymore!

Chalkboard labels allow me to change the contents of the container easily without having to peel off labels and reapply. If I want to switch it up, I can just wipe off the chalkboard marker and rewrite it.

What products I used:
Clear Containers: $35 for a set of 3, $7 for additional tall container
They are from Walmart Better Homes and Garden’s Brand in the kitchen section if you’re interested!
Decorative Chalkboard Labels: $2 for 2 packs
Mason Jars = free!

Total = $44


What’s Different:
In the before picture you’ll see that I have all our baking supplies inside ziplock bags and thrown in that red bin to be forgotten. The old setup made cooking a complete hassle.

Why it changed:
 I couldn’t get anything out of the bags without making a mess and it was difficult and heavy to take out the whole bin and put it all back, so I usually just ended up taking out one thing at a time and then throwing it back on top of the heap. Not good.

Also, Matt never put anything back in the right place with these stackable bins, so we needed some order and some labeling.

Why it works:
We rearranged the contents of the stackable bins according to usage, which is how onions ended up on top. It makes it easier to access the things we use more often. Also, we put the flour and sugar in cereal containers, ideal for such a narrow, yet tall space. The new containers make it easy to grab what we need, use it, and then put it back while keeping things fresh and mess-free.

What products I used:

Clear Containers: $8 each

Total = $16

The grand total for this pantry overhaul came in under $70, $66.25 to be exact! That’s a small price to pay for the amount of time it has saved us in the kitchen and the longevity we will get out of those beautiful air tight containers.

It helps to shop the house first when you’re trying to organize on a budget and use what you’ve already got before going out and buying new things. But when you do buy new things, make sure that you’re purchasing items that are worth the investment. The Dollar Tree is great, but when it comes to keeping your food fresh, you’re going to want something air-tight. The cost of replacing your food each time it goes bad is going to add up quickly if you don’ have the right tools to store it all.

If you want to cook, but you’ve given up, consider re-organizing your pantry and think about one-step organizing systems. This means one step to take it out, and one step to put back. It will help maximize your kitchen efficiency and may even help you turn into a pro in the kitchen (am I over promising?).

I hope I’ve given you some ideas and inspiration to try and tackle organizing your own pantry on a budget! Leave me a comment below if you have anything to add or share. I love learning from other people who are getting organized to live more productive lives!

Don’t forget to subscribe if you’d like to get updates from my blog to your e-mail account, follow me on bloglovin’, follow me on Instagram @LifeInOrder and on my new Twitter account @LifeInOrderBlog.

If you’re curious about how I organize something in my apartment, let me know! I would be happy to show you if I haven’t already. See you next time!

Organize Any Space: A Six Step Process

Today, let’s get back to basics. Spring is coming, I can tell because there is less ice and more puddles (but still a lot of snow – ugh). When spring rolls around we start thinking about all the ways we can clean, re-organize and de-clutter our homes for the coming warm months. So to help you get your spring cleaning on, here’s a tried and true six-step process for organizing any space.

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 6.27.26 AM

1. Figure out your budget and due date

It’s important to figure out not only how much money you have to spend on the project, but also the amount of time you have to dedicate to it. If you don’t set a due date, the project might to sit unfinished for days, weeks, months or even years. Set reachable goals for yourself at the onset so that once you reach them, you can use that momentum to organize more spaces!

2. Take everything out

Yup–everything. Every last thing needs to come out of the closet, off of the desk, out of the drawer, the pantry–you name it, it’s gotta go. Take this time to clean the space if it’s accumulated some nastiness (you know what I’m talking about). This will help you see the space clearly in order to put things back where they make the most sense. It also helps speed up the process of grouping, rearranging and squeezing value out of every last inch.

3. Purge

The hardest part, yet most essential part of the organizing process. Think really hard about the things you’re putting back. Do you still have use for them? Have you used the item in the las six months to a year? If not, it’s probably time to get rid of it so you can make more room for things you actually need and use.

4. Sort whatever is left into piles or groups

There is no sure-fire way to process things into groups, because it’s about what makes the most sense in your head and fits your needs. You are the one who has to live in the space everyday, so go with what you feel to be best and most efficient for you. It’s important to not think about how your groups are going to fit into the space just yet. Your primary focus should simply be to sort and pile.

5. Gather your supplies while keeping your budget in mind

Take a look at the groups of things you’ve just made. What resources do you already have that help organize the space? Do you need bins, baskets, boxes, pockets, folders or cups? Go out and get the things you need–but don’t break your budget! There are , stores that carry organizing products at low prices, The Dollar Store, Target and Walmart to name a few. You may even need to get a little crafty and inventive with what you use to organize your space. There are a lot of DIY organizing projects out there just waiting for you to try out!

The key here is to make sure you take measurements of your space before you go purchasing or creating all kinds of things. The last thing you want is to try and put it in the space and realize it doesn’t fit or isn’t right. I’ve learned that heartbreak the hard way.

6. Put it all back in like you’re solving a puzzle

Is there anything better than coming home with new organizing products in tow? I can’t really think of anything that brings me more joy. Use whatever you found, made, invented or bought to put all of your stuff back into your space. When you’re putting things back, think of it like a puzzle. How can you make all these pieces and elements fit together in the best way possible to maximize space? Arrange and rearrange until you get it just right. This step might be the longest part of the process, and is certainly one of the most challenging, but the rewards are worth it.

Organizing takes time, more time than a lot of us are willing to take out of our day (especially the weekend), but taking two hours to organize a space now, can save you a lot of time later. Being organized makes our lives more efficient, even if it only saves us two seconds here, or a minute there, it all adds up to a more productive life overall. Just don’t forget to maintain and put things back where they belong

Spring has almost sprung! Go out there and organize your life, so that when summer rolls around, you’re not digging and searching for something you need and you can spend more time relaxing and enjoying the sunshine–I know I will be! Is anyone else sure excited to turn the clocks ahead this weekend? I can’t wait for extra hours of daylight after work!

I hope you found this six step process helpful and use it for your upcoming organizing projects. Is there anything I left out? How are you organizing your space? Let me know in the comments or tweet me @qqquimby016. See you soon!


For photos of organized spaces and places, fun organizing finds, and weekly planner updates, follow me on Instagram @LifeInOrder.

Quick Tip: Organizing Spices and Herbs for Free

I hope everyone had a nice weekend. Hopefully, it was long like mine! I had today off for Presidents’ Day. It was pretty successful, I had my best run since I got my butt back to the gym and I spent the rest of the day reading Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. I couldn’t put it down! Stay tuned for a review.

Anyways, I wanted to share a quick tip to start the week–and a totally free tip at that! It’s been a challenge the past couple years to figure out how to organize my spices and herbs. Most store-bought organizers for cupboards or pantries, take up a lot of space that is valuable in a small apartment like mine. For example, the spicy shelf leaves a ton of unused space in the middle of the cupboard, and I’m not down with that. So, I toyed with the tiered shelving from the dollar tree, and adjusting the shelves in my cupboards to fit all my spices, but as our collection grew, it was getting harder and harder to find a place for them all where I didn’t have to dig around to find what I needed.

Until I realized I had a drawer that was for the most part, vacant. I was keeping two cutting boards stored horizontally in here. Ugh–I know, I was breaking like the first rule of organizing, which is store everything vertically when you can. But I moved the cutting boards to a different spot in the kitchen (phew–that was a close one) and played with all my spiced until I ended up with this:


I couldn’t believe how perfectly they all fit. It was like a little McCormick miracle.


Perfection. Order. I can see all the labels and they are right next to the stove where we do most of the cooking!


Ahhhh I just love looking at it.

Do you have an unused drawer in your kitchen that you can turn into a spice drawer? Maybe you have a drawer full of things that could be moved to a different area or could be purged of unused items to make some more room.

Even if all of your spices won’t fit perfectly in the drawer, you can always get some small containers from the dollar store or a home goods store that you can work out to fit into your drawer. Sometimes, organizing is like one big puzzle, you just have to try things out and move them around until they fit how you want them to.

Happy Organizing!Signature