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Help Diane, Why Can’t I Stay Organized?

By September 10, 2022May 29th, 202412 Comments

I often have clients reach out to me with this question. They say that they know how to organize. Sorting, recycling, tossing, and even putting things away is not a problem for them. Organizing skills are not a problem for them and so they ask, “why can’t I stay organized?”

The answer is simple. Organized is not a destination, it is a state of being.

People think that they can organize a space once and that it is done. The fact is that it is never done for more than a day. That is unless you don’t use the space, even then it still needs to be cleaned from time to time.

Let’s unpack this.

3 reasons you can’t stay organized

1. No regular routine or schedule for getting things done

When you don’t have a regular routine or schedule to maintain the organization in your home it can quickly become disorganized, especially if you have children. Life gets busy. Things are put down, for now, instead of being put away.

You think inside your head that you will do it later or that it will take too much time to do now. I get that. But unless you decide when you are going to do that task (put whatever away) it will not happen.

2. Wear blinders

We are so accustomed to things in our homes that we sometimes truly don’t see things that are right in front of us. Close your eyes, keep them closed, and then describe out loud the things that are in the room with you.

Now, open your eyes and look around. What did you forget? Are there some little things here and there that you didn’t describe because they should not be there?

We wear blinders in our homes and often don’t see things that are out of place.

3. Unfinished tasks, chores, or jobs

There are always chores to do in a home. Sometimes we can’t stay organized because a chore has been left partly done. I’m thinking about 3 household jobs in particular. They are the laundry, the dishes, and the trash/recycling.

Maybe the laundry is still in the dryer or in a basket. It is partly done because it is not put away. There may be dishes or pots and pans in the sink waiting to be washed. Perhaps the dishes in the dishwasher are clean and now it need to be emptied. Then there is the trash and the recycling bin. They need to be emptied when they are full.

Sometimes these jobs get partly done and then we are pulled away to do something that seems more important or time-sensitive in the moment. We forget to go back and finish the job.

Remedy to stay organized

1. Develop a maintenance plan

In days gone by we used to assign different tasks to a day of the week. Monday was the day we changed the sheets, Tuesday was the day we did the laundry, and so on. I still do this to a certain extent.

When you have a maintenance plan set up to ensure your home stays clean, it can also stay organized. The very nature of going in and cleaning a space means that you are going to look at everything in the room.

If as you are cleaning you remove anything that doesn’t belong in that room and put away the things that do belong, the room will stay organized.

Create a room cleaning rotation schedule so that you spend time cleaning, organizing, and evaluating the things that are in each room of your home. Set up a room cleaning schedule that works for you and your family.

2. Take off the blinders

If you see something out of place in your home, pick it up, and do something with it.

Is it a glass left on a table? As you are walking through the room, pick it up, and carry it to the kitchen sink. Teach your partner, your children, and anyone else in the home to do the same thing.

Do plates, bowls, cutlery, and glasses get left beside beds? Let the members of your family know that these things must make their way to the kitchen and get washed or put in the dishwasher.

Maybe there is a stack of catalogues or magazines on the coffee table. Decide how long you are willing to let them sit there. Recycle the catalogues you know no-one is going to order from and only hold onto magazines for a cycle or two.

Do you take off your shoes in your home? Decide on how many pairs of shoes per person can stay by the door. Have a place to corral the shoes neatly so they don’t become a tripping hazard.

3. Tasks, chores, and jobs

My belief is that everyone who lives in the home is responsible for helping to maintain the organization in the home. Everyone can do chores. The youngest and the oldest among us can always do something to help. Even when it isn’t an assigned job.

It’s easier to get tasks, chores, and jobs done when everyone pitches in. There’s a certain amount of pride in jobs well done – even though you know in 24 hours or less they will have to be done again.

Build that sense of responsibility and pride in your children by inviting them to help with chores. They can empty the dishwasher, take out the trash, and fold and put away the laundry. This will not only teach them how to organize it will also help you stay organized.

Remember that when you have that sinking feeling that disorganization has taken over your home, close your eyes and assess the situation.

Did you put things down, instead of putting them away?

Are the horizontal surfaces covered with paper, magazines, and catalogues?

Do the household chores need to be finished?

Next open your eyes and create a plan for tackling each space, one small area at a time.

If you would like more tips and strategies to stay organized in your home join the Clear Space for You virtual clutter support group.

Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer® ,a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization®, Master Trainer and owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC and co-owner of Release●Repurpose●Reorganize, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia.


  • Seana+Turner says:

    I think some people in my home specialize in blinders. They just conveniently “don’t see” things that need to be put away. To some extent, I think this is genetic, and to another, I think this is something that can be taught.

    I love Jill’s comment about organizing being like practicing yoga. I’ve been doing yoga for years, and it is something that I need to stick with, experiment a bit with, and even enjoy. Plus, it always feels good when I’m done for the day. 🙂

  • Jill Katz says:

    I love this! Organizing is a practice like yoga. You keep working at it, tweaking it, and each day, week and month you figure out more about what works for you. I am organized but don’t enjoy many of these maintenance chores so I like to build lots of routine into my day. It helps take away the fatigue of making decisions about what needs to be done and when. Thanks for providing these helpful remedies.

  • Julie Bestry says:

    You hit the nail on the head! Without maintenance, organization is a snapshot of time gone by. Just as we need to bathe every day, we need to maintain, whether it’s our cars, or our bodies, or the organization of our homes. Your advice is spot on!

  • “Organized is not a destination, it is a state of being.” You’re so right. It’s not a one and done situation. Great reminders for maintenance and moving towards that state of being.

  • I agree! Setting organizing tasks as a priority is essential. To take off the blinders, I like to come into my home from the backdoor. It helps me see things differently. Thanks for sharing.

  • I love how you got to the heart of the organization issue that so many people encounter. They get the concept of how to organize and even have some good systems in place. But they question why it can’t stay that way. Maintenance is a huge piece. The exercise you suggested about the blinders is great. It points to the idea of “clutter blindness,” when we cease to notice the stray piles and out-of-place objects in our spaces.

    One thing I’ve noticed is how much easier it is to stay organized and clutter-free when it’s just the two of us. When we have visitors, things tend to migrate to other areas. It doesn’t bother me because I know it’s temporary. I’d much rather have friends and family over than keep 100% order while they are here. I know I’ll have time to get things “back” after they leave.