Why is Simple Organized Living so Hard to Achieve?

posted by Andrea | 09/24/2012

A few weeks ago, I was helping a client organize her closet and her kids’ closets before school started up again.

I helped her do the same thing last year… and the year before that.

When I mentioned our yearly organizing “dates”, she laughed and said, “yeah, you’ll probably be back next year unless I learn to stop buying more clothes!”

We talked as we continued to organize, and she asked me how I was able to maintain such a simple wardrobe and keep our closet organized.

I shared with her the 6 reasons both Dave and I are able to maintain a pretty simple wardrobe… and then went on to talk about how we practice the one-in-one-out rule; how we go through our clothing and purge anything we don’t need, use, love, or wear; how we donate items regularly; etc.

After a few minutes, she looked at me and said, “wow, it sure takes a lot of work to live a simple and organized life.”

What she said is SO very true — but it was honestly something I had never thought about before.

Simple, organized living IS hard.

It takes discipline, diligence, and determination to simplify and organize your life/home/office/etc. Then once you have things simplified and organized, it takes continual (daily) maintenance to keep it that way!

It’s impossible to ever be completely finished. 

So if you’ve been trying to simplify and organize your life but always feel like there is more you could be doing, that’s because there IS always more you could be doing!

The tricky part comes in finding balance. How can you achieve a simple ENOUGH and organized ENOUGH life to be happy and healthy — without spending all your time and energy to do so?

Obviously, there are different seasons of life, which also affect how simple and organized your life can be…

Dave and I are in a very “unsimple” and “unorganized” season right now — with a crazy kitchen renovation almost complete, a baby who doesn’t like to sleep, and both working full time. However, we’re doing our best to keep other aspects of our life as simple and as organized as possible to compensate for everything else (simple meals, simple cleaning schedules, no outside activities, no evening activities, not bringing any unnecessary clutter into our home, etc).

Once our kitchen is usable again, we can get back to simplifying and organizing our house (I’m just a little excited about this!), and once Nora starts sleeping a little more, we can get back to more of a normal schedule (or at least a new normal).

If you are in an “unsimple” or “unorganized” season of life, look for other ways you can simplify and organize… sometimes it’s those little things that make a big difference in helping our lives to FEEL simple and organized, even if they really aren’t.

Simple, organized living IS worth it.

Even though there are days when I don’t feel like cleaning, organizing, making dinner, taking out the trash, or responding to emails… I can almost always convince myself to do these tasks anyway because I know it will be worth the extra effort NOW so I don’t have to do even more LATER.

No, I don’t think you should take time away from family to sit home organizing your closet or pantry, but I bet if you really made it a priority, you could carve out 15 – 30 minutes at some point every day to work towards simplifying and organizing your home and life.

IDEA #1: Spend 30 minutes planning next week’s menu while your kids are sleeping. I guarantee that 30 minutes will come back and save you SO much more time (and stress) the following week since you won’t have to wonder what to make for dinner.

IDEA #2: Take 15 minutes while watching your favorite TV show to fold the laundry (and then put it away during commercial breaks!) Sure, it might not be as relaxing as doing nothing, but it’s one more thing you can cross off your to-do list… and now your kids have no excuse not to pick out their clothes for tomorrow.

IDEA #3: Make a goal to clean up the kitchen and living room every night before you go to bed. Yes, you might be tired, but think how refreshing it will be to wake up to a clutter-free house (even if it only stays that way for 20 minutes!)

IDEA #4: Pack your lunch (or your family’s lunches) immediately after dinner. Even if you have a million other things to do after dinner, this will help to simplify the morning craziness.

I think you get the idea! 

Everything I mentioned above is very doable — even for a really busy family. In fact, the busier you are, the more important it is for you to implement simplicity and organization into your daily routine.

But that still doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. 

It’s going to be a constant battle — especially if simplicity and organization don’t come naturally to you. But the more you do it (even if you have to force yourself) the more natural it will feel… and before you know it, your life will gradually start to become more simple and more organized.

No, it will not happen over night, but if you put forth the effort, it WILL happen eventually!

In what area of your life are you working to simplify or organize?

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27 comments

  1. Pamela

    09/24/2012

    So true — an organized, simple, clutter-free home does not happen magically or easily. It takes constant attention and effort. The (harsh) reality is that the clutter-free home has someone keeping it that way; on the other hand, the cluttered home has someone keeping it THAT way.
    Thanks for another great post. And PLEASE post more kitchen photos!!!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Pamela — and yes, more kitchen photos will be coming. I promise!

    [Reply]

  2. Cathy

    09/24/2012

    Andrea, you are right it is not easy.
    But coming from a person who this does not come naturally – IT ALSO ISN’T THAT HARD!!!

    I have been reading your advice and putting it into practice for about 6-7 months now and we have our Saturdays back! The 10 extra minutes I take every morning and 20 min at night have added up, and I have less work (almost none) to do on Saturday.

    Another bonus: we have noticed my eight year old daughter has picked up these habits!!

    Thanks Andrea!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for your input Cathy. Obviously organizing DOES come naturally for me so I would agree that it’s not that hard… however I’m glad you would agree, even though it doesn’t come naturally for you!

    Oh, and SOOOO glad that you’re finding helpful information here… isn’t it crazy how much time you can gain by spending a little time up-front getting organized!

    [Reply]

  3. Kim

    09/24/2012

    Life/everything is work. You have to decide, do you want to live cluttered and chaotic or neater? I’d LOVE a spotless and clutter free home, however, I live with 2 kids, a husband, a dog and 3 cats. So I settle for neat/clean enough and stay on top of the majority of the clutter. And read blogs to keep my inspired and learning new techniques! :o)

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  4. Deb

    09/24/2012

    It is work, but I have helped others “try” to get organized and I really think that is much more work and stress. If I had to search for my keys, phone, purse for 15 minutes before we could leave the house only to realize the car needs gas and I am going to be late, it would make me crazy!

    I really think that being messy/unorganized/a slob takes more time and money in the long run. I also think there is a tipping point where people give up because organizing the basement/closet whatever is impossible and overwhelming and then it just becomes the dumping ground.

    That 15 minutes a day or staying on top of life is so worth it for the short and long term……..

    I have two teens at home now and a yellow lab, but even when they were 3,1 and zero, our house was clean, you just have to make it a priority.

    [Reply]

  5. Shannon

    09/24/2012

    Your post is so timely today! I’ve been wallowing in self-pity about what a wreck my house is in right now. I’m so tired of wasting time looking for things. My first item on my list is to change to a new purse to be more organized. I don’t cherish the thought of carrying a larger bag, but I guess I need to do whatever it takes to get organized!

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  6. Lisa

    09/24/2012

    Thanks for the tactful kick-in-the-butt that I needed this morning :) Things have been more than a little upside-down lately here too, but instead of giving up, I need to just do what I can in the areas that I can influence whenever I have a few spare minutes. I’m getting off the computer right now to empty the dishwasher :)

    [Reply]

  7. susie

    09/24/2012

    on thing you will notice when nora grows is that kids grow so fast! It seems like I just went through the kids closets not that long ago and now it is time to do it again, the seasons change so fast and then they are in a bigger size! Thanks for all of your tips though, it has helped me big time!

    [Reply]

  8. GIGI

    09/24/2012

    YOU ARE CORRECT !! IT IS A HARD DECISION TO GET ORGANIZED, HARDER TO KEEP UP WITH IT AND THE HARDEST PART IS TRYING TO GET EVERYONE IN THE HOUSEHOLD INVOLVED, BUT ONCE EVERYONE FALLS INTO THE ROUTINE…. IT IS BLISS. I NEVER GET ASKED, ” WHERE ARE MY SHOES ? DO WE HAVE ANYMORE TOOTHPASTE ? I CAN’T FIND MY TOY TRAIN ! ” LABEL LABEL LABEL !! CURRENTLY MY BIGGEST PROBLEM IS THE OFFICE WITH ALL THE SCHOOL WORK AND PAPER THAT COME IN ON A DAILY BASIS…..THROUGH TRIAL AND ERROR, I AM GETTING BETTER. THANKS A BUNCH =)

    [Reply]

  9. Jen

    09/24/2012

    Wow, this post was good timing! My husband and I were cleaning/organizing/throwing things out this weekend and I realized we need to work at keeping it that way. This week I’m working on getting in a routine – a very flexible routine since I have a 3-month old who doesn’t nap for longer than 30 minutes! Hopefully having some sort of schedule will help me with staying organized and on top of things

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I’m right there with you Jen — I have a 10 month old who still has absolutely no schedule or routine (and almost never naps!)

    One thing I do is bring toys into whatever room I want to work in and she sits and plays while I work. So I’ll bring toys in our bedroom while I’m going through our clothes, or bring toys in the office while I’m going through our filing cabinet. It’s been working for now and giving me a few extra minutes to simplify and organize things around here!

    [Reply]

    Michele Reply:

    Make your life even easier: keep a small bin of toys in each room where you’ll be working. That way you don’t have to tote toys around with you, and she always has a fresh batch of toys to play with! Just shove the bin under a bed or into a closet when she’s not in there — out of sight, out of mind!

    [Reply]

  10. Rebecca

    09/24/2012

    YES YES and YES! You are so right that it takes WORK to live a simple, organized life. It takes forethought but it is worth the stress you save in the long run. I would love to see a post about how a “simple/organized spouse” and a “Type B spouse” can find common ground. If you don’t have experience with this maybe you know someone who does?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Well, I don’t necessarily have 1st hand experience because Dave is pretty clean and organized. However, I did write this post about dealing with a messy spouse… it might give you a few ideas :)

    [Reply]

  11. Cherie

    09/24/2012

    Discipline,discipline & discipline it right! Your wisdom has cetainly helped in a lot of areas in my life. Thanks

    http://enduringfaithministry.wordpress.com

    [Reply]

  12. Cherie

    09/24/2012

    Correction: Discipline,discipline & discipline is right!

    [Reply]

  13. Alana @ Domestic Bliss Diaries

    09/24/2012

    I would say that NOT striving for a simple and organized life is even harder. It may feel easier at times, but that’s because you’re extended zero effort to manage things. But, like this woman who has you come over every year, she has to tackle things in chunks… and, to me, that’s just harder than taking an extra step here or there to ensure overall simplicity and organization.

    [Reply]

  14. Evelyn @ Smallish

    09/24/2012

    Idea #3 resonates with me, mostly because our place is so small I need it to be clean, or at least neat before I can relax and sleep. I have several cabinets that make me cringe every time I open them that I need to get under control. That’s my concentration for October. Thanks for the inspiration, Andrea!

    [Reply]

  15. Melissa

    09/24/2012

    Currently we’re trying to simplify our household possessions in every room in our home. My husband and I were in our thirties when we got married and had both lived on our own for many years before hand. That means we both had completely furnished homes and then combined those two homes into one after getting married. We’ve been married for three years now but are still working on paring down how much we own. It seems to take forever to go through things and make decisions about what stays and what goes. We have made quite a dent but it’s still an ongoing process. We’ve been good about not bringing in too much new stuff which helps, but it seems there’s always more we haven’t gotten to yet!

    For the past few months I’ve made a habit of taking a few minutes every day (or almost every day) to identify 7 items that need to be gotten rid of. After identifying the items I either throw them away if it’s garbage, or place it in a donate box in the garage. I like this method because it takes what could be an enormous time consuming task if I let it and breaks it into a small very achievable task that I can finish in just a few minutes (which means I’m much more likely to get started if I know it won’t take too long). The house is much lighter because of this. I’d like to say it’s getting more difficult to find 7 items to ditch, but it doesn’t seem to have gotten any harder yet! Maybe it will in a few more months!

    I also try to practice the one in, one out rule. Lately we really haven’t been buying much of anything except groceries though.

    [Reply]

  16. Carrie

    09/24/2012

    This is exactly what I needed (at this exact moment)! I’ve been working diligently to live a simple life and it is not easy. I started my “journey” after years of planning – you see, my youngest child just started full day school. The clothes are difficult since my 3 boys are each one size apart. It seems like we’re constantly amassing more clothes. As difficult as this journey is right now, I am certain it will be worth it. The clothes are just a small part of the process. I’ve been going through each part of my house de-cluttering, organizing and purging what isn’t useful or beautiful. That’s all great! My mistake was in thinking that there was a deadline I’ve been missing. Now I realize that this will continue and get easier with each purge and conscious decision to live simply. Did I mention that I have to cook two dinners each night? I’d love people’s advice on that one! I’m a vegetarian and my kids still need to each meat/fish since they don’t necessarily eat all of the things they would need to meet their needs. Thanks for keeping me inspired on a daily basis and reminding me that it is a lifestyle change that will be worth it!

    [Reply]

    christie Reply:

    Hi Carrie. I am in a similar situation. I have recently started trying to make a crock pot of something healthy, that I like, every weekend. Then I can have this for lunch or dinner while the kids are having something else. Trying to cook two dinners is the pits! I also try and make dinner in the morning and then put it in the fridge. ~ Christie

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  17. Carrie

    09/24/2012

    One more confession…I was going to reach some articles and leave the kitchen undone since I felt discouraged this evening. Now I will step away from the computer. It will be so much nicer to wake up to a clean kitchen with lunches made instead of scrambling in the morning. Thanks!!!!

    [Reply]

  18. Our Lives

    09/24/2012

    I have been doing the Flylady thing since 1999 and I have been using her method as a guide and just keep whatever works with my personality and my working habit. For example, I have loved the 15 minutes at a time thing and I have loved keeping my sink clean every time after I used it. However, I got more motivated after I ran into this blog the “Zero Waste Home” which has inspired me to REFUSE bringing in anything that I have to throw out. It was like a light bulb went off. I know I have a way to go before I can even be any where close to her way but I have become so conscious of what is coming into our home. So that is what we are working on right now – de-junk before we move into a different home.
    I have been reading your blog for a while now and really like your no-nonsense approach in simplifying and organizing your life. Thanks for sharing and I can’t wait to see more of your new kitchen pictures.

    [Reply]

  19. Michele

    09/25/2012

    You’re so right; organization is key. I am mom to 2 kids, work full time (on a split shift so that I can be home when they get home from school), and my husband works out of state and commutes every day. Mornings especially can be hectic around here, as the kids have to be on a school bus for 6:45 and I have to be at work for 7:30. To make things as easy as possible, I pack lunches and snacks the night before. I hung a coat rack at kid-level in the kitchen; this is where backpacks and jackets are kept. Also, school shoes are placed on the floor under the coat rack when they come in from school. I stuff a pair of clean socks in the shoes and hang their school clothes on the rack, too. That way all I have to do in the morning is get teeth brushed, hair combed, and get them dressed (they eat breakfast at school since they leave so early): no wasting time searching for the lost shoe. Also, laundry tends to eat weekends, so I’ve taken to trying to do a load every day rather than waiting for a day off. I gather clothes from hampers as I make my way through the house and put the load in on the timer to wash an hour before my break. That way, it’s ready to be put into the dryer when I get home in the afternoon. Then I fold it when watching TV at night. The living room and kitchen get cleaned up before going to bed, and then everything’s ready for a new day! It takes a little effort to get into the habit, but it’s so much less stressful to work this way!

    [Reply]

  20. Andrea

    09/25/2012

    L-o-v-e this. You’ve nailed it on the difference between a clean house and a non-clean! Someone has to DO it. I’m really tired from chasing the mess of 2 kids, myself & hubby..but.. our house is clean and tidy and appears effortless!, because I actually DO the cleaning everyday as a stay-home-mom.

    Love this post. I’m always telling my kids the only way to the laundry is to DO the laundry, to read the Bible you have to actually READ the Bible, bathrooms only stay clean if someone actually CLEANS it :) etc.

    When people make this connection that the hard effort of constant cleaning and tidying up every day yields a CLEAN house everyday and not just for company…it becomes more than a chore and rather a choice. The rewards are also more than a clean house too, like you said..time saver, money saver, sanity saver :) A clean house really is a happy home.

    [Reply]

  21. Rachel Mans

    09/27/2012

    Clever Containers provides a wide array of products that are amazing for helping to get yourself organized! Check it out for yourself! http://www.celvercontainer.com/rachelmans or Check me out on Facebook!

    [Reply]