7 Ways to Self-Sabotage Your Organizing Efforts

Jane Douglass May 12, 2017

Have you ever heard the saying, "You are your own worst enemy"? Self-sabotage exists for all of us in one way or another - and we usually notice it when our homes and lives become too disorganized to manage.

It starts innocently enough with piles of unopened mail, a full inbox of unanswered emails, or stacks of dirty dishes. But these are clutter cues, and they’re telling you something is out of whack.

If left unchecked, clutter can quickly escalate to forgetting important matters, like doctor visits, taxes, or a best friend's wedding. Read on to see the top seven ways we self-sabotage our organizing efforts, and how to overcome them.

"I know I can't do this."

Ouch! We certainly live up to our expectations of ourselves, whether positive or negative. If you think you can't do an organizing task, you won't. If you think you are worthless, unchangeable, or chronically disorganized, you will feel depressed and unmotivated.

SOLUTION: Reframe your thinking! Start telling yourself, "I know I can do this."

"The task is just too big."

This is looking at the forest and not the trees. You can only do so much in one day, so break things into smaller, more manageable sub-tasks.

SOLUTION: List each sub-task, estimate how long it will take, then work on one task at a time. If you’re cleaning your garage, your list might look like this:

    • Organize tools: 2 hours
    • Eliminate unused pool equipment: 1 hour
    • Donate old clothes: 1 hour
Photo from listing on Zillow

"I can't get started."

Hey, 90 percent of getting started is showing up! Sometimes the hardest part of exercising is getting out the door. But once you get going, your heart starts pumping, and you make progress. The same holds true for organizing, too.

SOLUTION: Even when you don't feel like it, just take one tiny step - just one! Maybe you received a new bed you ordered online, but it feels too difficult to put together. Take it one step at a time:

  • Day 1: Take it out of the box
  • Day 2: Read the directions
  • Day 3: Remove the old bed
  • Day 4: Build the new bed

"I'm afraid I will mess this up."

You may be great at growing roses in your backyard, but not so great at completing an organizing project correctly. The good news is that you don't have to do it correctly! It only needs to make sense to you.

SOLUTION: At the beginning of the project, tell yourself, “I will create a positive outcome.”

"I don't know how to do this."

If you don't speak French, you won't know that "ouvrez la fenêtre" means someone’s asking you to open the window. And if you lack the training, skill, or resources to do the organizing task, you may avoid it completely. But guess what? You can still get your organizing project done, even if you lack skills.

SOLUTION: Seek out the knowledge you need to do the task, or get a professional to help you. Visit the National Association of Professional Organizers to find an organizer near you.

"I need to do things perfectly."

If you are the type who settles for nothing less than perfection, you may stop the project before you even start. Instead, use my favorite organizing slogan: Avoid perfection at all costs and finish the project.

SOLUTION: Done is the new perfect.

"I have too many things to do."

Being overwhelmed can feel normal in this day and age. And with computers and smartphones at your fingertips, you can always get something done, like downloading your bank statements or resizing your photos. But remember - just because you can, doesn't mean you have to. If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.

SOLUTION: Take a moment to eliminate the unessential items from your to-do list.

Don’t let negative self-talk sabotage your organizing efforts. Follow these tips and tackle one small task at a time. Your home - and your life - will feel much more in control when you do.

Top image from Zillow listing


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