3 Myths from Popular Home Organizing Shows

posted by Andrea | 04/30/2019

Although I haven’t watched much TV in the past 7 years, I definitley watched my fair share of organizing and home makeover shows in the course of my life — everything from Hoarders and Extreme Home Makeover to Clean Sweep and Fixer Upper.

The results are always jaw-dropping — which is one reason the shows are so addicting. However, as I hope many people realize, these shows are far from “real life”. 

They have teams of people (including professionals) working around the clock to transform the spaces in record time, they can do so much more with their budget since much of the labor is donated and the products are discounted due to advertising, and of course… they only show all the fun stuff on film!

Although I do think these makeover shows can be very motivational, I also think they have the potential to make real life organizing projects in our own homes seem out-of-reach and overwhelming for us normal people.

If you’ve ever felt completely overwhelmed with the thought of everything you need and want to do around your home, I hope today’s post offers a few helpful suggestions and ideas. It might not be as fun-filled or as entertaining as your favorite home show — but I think my advice is a bit more practical! 🙂

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1. You do NOT need huge amounts of time, money, or resources to complete your project.

Contrary to what you see on TV, you don’t need to take time off from work, you don’t need to hire childcare or ship the kids off to grandparents, you don’t need to move into a hotel for the week, you don’t need to bribe all your friends and family to help, and you don’t even need to spend money hiring a professional.

You just need to get started (sooner rather than later if possible!)

Yes, the project might go faster and be more fun with many helpers and an unlimited budget, but I can speak from lots and lots of personal experience that even as a mom with several young children at home, I can carve out a few minutes here and there to plug away at an organizing project.

Of course, I am grateful for the times Dave is home and I can get a full hour or more of uninterrupted time to work on my project — but I’ve finished many larger organizing projects in 15-20 minute intervals — every little bit DOES make a difference!

2. You do NOT need fancy containers or coordinating color schemes.

Oh how I love the look of matching organized bins — but I also know that it is NOT necessary in any way for a functional and organized space. 

Yes, I can see the appeal for TV and magazine audiences — and it’s a great marketing tactic to sell specific products, but it’s often not practical or economical. Unless you already have a bunch of matching containers in your home, this concept could add a hefty price tag to your organizing project. Plus, it takes a decent amount of time and energy to set up the system, make the labels, and keep refilling the containers.

Aside from my whole grains (which all look the same if I don’t have them labeled) you will find very few cute containers or fancy labels in my organized home… and yet, I can still quickly and easily find everything I need.

If cute containers and labels are your thing, go ahead and use them… but please know they are NOT necessary to successfully organize your home.

In fact, I strongly encourage you not to purchase any organizing containers until AFTER you’ve finished going through a significant amount of stuff. You might be surprised how many empty containers, boxes, bins, etc. you find as you start to purge!

 

3. You can NOT expect to get organized once and be done.

In my experience, people with messy homes are often people with messy habits (after all, homes don’t get messy unless the people inside them make messes!)

If you’re a messy, disorganized person who decides to finally get organized “once and for all”… but then immediately goes back to your normal lifestyle of piling papers, not picking up after yourself, etc. etc, you will end up with a messy home sooner than you realize.

Although it’s not always fun or glamorous to think about daily and weekly maintenance, it’s an essential part of every organized home — and the part they never show you on those makeover shows!

Yes, getting organized and seeing the before/after transformation is much more exciting than picking up your clothes every day, washing the dishes after every meal, and filing all the paperwork that comes through your door. However, I guarantee you’ll need to do the maintenance if you want to enjoy your organized space for more than a few days.

One concept that has always helped me with the not-so-fun maintenance part is to literally time each task as I do it so I realize how quickly I can actually plow through the things on my list.

I now know that I can easily clean out the dishwasher in less than 5 minutes and load it with dirty dishes even faster — so what’s the point of procrastinating? I realized I can fold a load of laundry in less than 10 minutes and make my bed in about 3 minutes — so why don’t I just do it right away?

Knowing how quickly I can complete these daily maintenance tasks helps me to “do it now” versus putting it off until “later” — whenever “later” might be!

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The next time you watch your favorite organizing makeover show (or read your favorite organizing magazine or blog), enjoy all the fun before and after footage, get motivated to tackle your own organizing project, and then actually get up and DO something to move yourself towards a more organized home and life.

Don’t let yourself become overwhelmed because you don’t have a huge crew of professionals or neatly organized bins to help you. Just pick one area, set your timer, and get started!

Also, just for fun, I’d love to know…

Do you have a favorite organizing show (or magazine or blog)?

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64 comments

  1. Wendy

    05/01/2019

    Your blog is my favorite organizing blog.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    well thanks Wendy!

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  2. Summer

    05/01/2019

    I totally burst out laughing with the photo of the jars in the cupboard!!! As if! No way would anyone in my house turn the labels out on the containers, except for me! It’s gorgeous and I love it, but I would be better beating my head against the wall. I am still laughing!

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    Andrea Reply:

    yeah, I know — not totally practical for a normal family!

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  3. Liz

    04/30/2019

    I like these organization videos on YouTube.
    https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=alejandra+organizer

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    Andrea Reply:

    thanks Liz! Yes, I’ve seen some of her videos — they are very well done!

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  4. Sonia G

    04/30/2019

    Your blog is the only organizational blog I read! I feel that between you and Marie Kondo, I have a fairly good idea of how to organize. Both of you have intuitive approaches to organization that don’t require fancy storage solutions—just a sense of what you want out of your space at the end of it all. Personally though, I have attention and procrastination issues…I have to marathon it (and thank my very patient husband) or the initial tidying up wouldn’t have happened at all. It was so much easier to maintain my space once I purged things and had less to deal with.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks so much Sonia!!

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  5. Shirley Morain

    04/30/2019

    Hi Andrea,
    You posted about organize 365 with Lisa Woodruff and I checked it out and boy it’s a game changer. I went all in.
    Thank you so much for suggesting it.

    She is a proponent of breaking tasks into 15 minutes. She has every area of your home detailed out in how to videos and a wonderful podcast.

    I notice that you are very similar in your approach like when you went through your entire home. I love reading your blog because you are very down to earth and not Pinteresty.

    My only regret is I wish you were there when I was raining my children.

    Kudos to you for all you do.

    Shirley

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes, Lisa is amazing! She has more energy than ANYONE I know!! Glad you have been enjoying her blog (and my blog!)

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  6. Pascale

    04/30/2019

    Hi Andrea,

    You are an expert on all things frugal and I admire your practical, no-nonsense approach.
    I’m a minimalist and I’m always on the lookout for ways to simplify my life even more.

    I practice almost everything you mentioned except for making the beds right away. I let all of them air out for about one hour and then I make them. My aunt who raised me from age 12 to 19 showed me the importance of doing this. Even though we lived in a much colder climate than Michigan where I live now, she would always open the windows for about 15 minutes to let some fresh air in even during the winter. When I moved out to go and live on my own at 19, I did some research to learn the “why” behind this and it convinced me even more to continue with this habit.

    I know everyone is different and some people will forget if they don’t do it right away, but for me, it’s worth it no matter how many beds I have to make in the morning.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I know others who let their beds air out too — I’ve thought about doing it, but I just love knowing the bed is made right away!
    As for the windows… BRRRRRRRR! We have ours open as often as possible in the spring, summer, and fall, but I’m too cold in the winter (I often wear a robe inside over my clothes!)

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    Sun Reply:

    We do the semi-airing of the bed. We make the bed up but pull the covers half-way down the bed so at least the upper half airs out while getting ready. Later, I pull the covers up to fully make the bed, but in the meantime, it still appears made. The children leave theirs in that semi-made state since they see me doing that. Hee hee! Some of them have it made so the covers are pulled 1/2 way back, and one leaves the bed turned down on one side as though ready for bed. So cute. I like to air out with open windows. Thanks for the reminder to do that more!

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    Pascale Reply:

    That’s an original way of semi-doing it. I understand why you would like to do it that way. It looks neater and if you don’t get around to doing it later, at least, it doesn’t look untidy. It’s cute to see that your kids are doing the same thing.

    I did the test on Clutterbug’s YouTube channel to discover which type of organizer I am. She has 4 types and recommends différents ways of organizing based on your type. According to her test, I am a cricket. For that type of organizer, she recommended different strategies, but also another YT channel called At home with Nikki. Nikki is a professional organizer and she has a beautiful way or organizing. My home doesn’t look anything like hers because I’m a minimalist, but I glean ideas from her channel.
    Here’s the link to the test on YT if you’d like to find out more and discover which type you are. Perhaps, your clients might also find this helpful.
    https://youtu.be/yRIneCaBXNA

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  7. Kim

    04/30/2019

    I am a fairly organized person by nature and I’m also very practical, but I still benefit from your ideas. Your blog is my favorite organizing/simplifying resource hands down. You are real and normal and practical. Even though I am pretty organized, I sometimes get overwhelmed and think, “I’m tired. I’ll do that later.” Then I remember your “Do it now” post, I get the (usually small) task done, and I have one less thing swirling around my brain. I love your tips and I love how you break things down so that they are quite manageable!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks so much Kim!! I’m glad my “do it now” voice is always in the back of your brain 🙂

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  8. PW

    04/30/2019

    Your organization posts have been very helpful. People come up with ideas that I would never have thought of. We moved from a home of 30 years to a condo and it took a lot of Andrea’s ideas to get organized into a much smaller space. One of the things I do is that I create an inventory list of what is in spots. We had a freezer but now just a fridge with freezer on bottom. I make an inventory list of what is in each section of the freezer, written on white paper with black marker, and it iists what is in each section of the freezer. That list stays in freezer.I take that list, put in a quart zipper freezer bag and cross off what I use. I also have inventory lists for kitchen cabinets as they are deep and hard to see what is in it. In my pantry I have inventory lists for each shelf. Super fast super simple and cheap. We work long hours and usually are doing things on the dash so it is really helpful. I only grocery shop every 2 weeks so I can plan my meals from my freezer inventory my pantry inventory. No fancy labels needed.

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    Andrea Reply:

    good for you! So glad my posts have been helpful for you!

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  9. Sonya

    04/30/2019

    I do have a favorite organizing blog – this one!

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    Chris Reply:

    Me too, Sonya!

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    Andrea Reply:

    thank you so much Chris!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    awww… thanks 🙂

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  10. Marisa

    05/05/2017

    About 10 years ago or so, I saw a show about organizing your clothing/closet. The professional-organizer-guy went through the lady’s “before” closet and got dramatic about how awful it was that her hangers didn’t match. She stood there, baffled, saying, “But what does the color of my hangers have to do with getting organized?” He flew off the handle, “How on earth can you have an organized closet with hangers of all shapes and colors?! It looks terrible!” And he stormed away in apparent disgust at the magnitude of the job before him, and the depressing apathy of the unenlightened masses.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    That’s ridiculous! I’ve honestly never seen the organizer be overly rude to a client. That’s bad!

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  11. Lee Winemiller Cockrum

    04/30/2017

    I’m in the boat with the people who say they enjoy reading hoping it will rub off on them! LOL

    But seriously, although I totally need to get rid of quite a bit is stuff, I truly am organizationally impaired! My brain just does not work that way. I am fabulous at brainstorming, but I do not do well thinking in a linear fashion. If a system is set up for me, and it makes sense, I can generally follow it.

    I am making a small amount of progress, I have a couple areas in the house that I have gotten under control, and I’m managing to keep them up:)

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  12. Julia

    04/29/2017

    Your blog is my favorite organizing blog! I’ve actually stopped reading the first one I found that was all about making organizing look pretty too. I do like to make my projects look nice because I appreciate the aesthetic, but it’s not necessary and doesn’t always happen. One simple, frugal and versatile thing I do is use mason jars and Pyrex containers. It all “matches” but has multiple uses. Since I don’t like my handwriting either I just use a simple label maker and call it good. Thanks again for all you do! I love your practical tips and use a lot of them. Have a wonderful weekend!

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  13. Leanne

    04/29/2017

    yours!!!!
    its totally do-able, adaptable, and easy to maintain…
    please never stop writing your blog!!!!

    [Reply]

  14. Chris

    04/29/2017

    When I see pictures of spices in little matching jars, I think of ALL the work of transferring them, making sure it doesn’t spill. What if you have some leftover in the original jar? What a lot of work and mess. lol I do love pretty organizing but for some reason I just don’t like the look of all matchy, matchy pantries. 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes! I always think it looks so cool (and I was THIS CLOSE to doing that with my own species after our kitchen reno 4 years ago. However, then I realized how expensive the project could be to buy all the jars and labels — plus, I do not have nice handwriting so the whole project would probably look silly once I was finished.

    One thing I DO do for my spices is write the name of the spice on the top of the container because my spice cabinet pulls out from the wall and I see the tops of all my containers. This makes it so much easier for me to find what I need quickly. It sure doesn’t look pretty though 🙂

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    Rhonda Reply:

    I used your idea Andrea. I have two generic boxes (they might be old oatmeal packet boxes), and labeled them “A thru G” and “H thru Z”. The spices are in those boxes in the cupboard, and then I write with Sharpie near the top of the lid, so I can easily see what they are in each box. It works fine, and it’s “pretty enough” 🙂

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    Andrea Reply:

    oh cool! This sounds like the perfect system for your spices!

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    Stephanie Reply:

    Didn’t you share new spice jars as a favorite thing in March? Cool flip top and sprinkle top square jars that you refill?
    And the cool and very organized way you store all your grains is very similar.
    So where do you store the spices and grains that don’t fit in the cool spice jars and mason jars?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes I sure do have new cool spice jars!! They were a HUGE surprise at Christmas this year (from a fellow blog reader) and I LOVE them so much!
    The jars are the EXACT jars I was referring to in the comment above (which is 2 years old already).

    As you probably know from reading other posts, my cooking style has changed significantly over the last 2 years and I now buy almost all our pantry staples in bulk. There is no way I’d have room in my kitchen to store all the bulk bins (nor would I want to) so I completely changed how I set up my pantry a while back. This includes many more mason jars (as they were the only free option I had access to — from my canning stash in the basement).
    Just last week I used some chalkboard labels I was gifted years ago to make them look pretty (and to prevent mixing up supplies when the masking tape labels fell off)

    My bulk items are stored on shelves in the basement (in food-safe 5-gallon and 1-gallon buckets).

    I’m sure my system will change again over the years, but for now, this works really well for my cooking needs.

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    Stephanie Reply:

    I was wondering why it sounded like you were knocking some of the same things you actually are doing now. I didn’t realize this was a post from two years ago.
    The older I get, the more I realize that I don’t have anything figured out and I just be careful how I speak about other’s systems, because someday I may be doing the same thing I once judged someone about. Giving grace to others has allowed me to give more grace to myself.
    In context, like you said it isn’t necessary to organize like shows, magazines, and even many blogs organize, that isn’t real life for many people. On the flip side, it is reality for many people and surprisingly I may someday have it be a reality in my life. We all tick different at different times.
    I remember walking through the grocery store and seeing all the prepackaged processed high sugar snacks and thinking who buys those? I can make it at home healthier and cheaper. God humbled me, after the birth of one my children, those snacks became a staple in our house so that we had food. And I felt truly humbled for my judgmental proud thoughts a few short years before. Who buys those? Women who are overwhelmed by the small children in their life, some because their family doesn’t eat the homemade stuff and the mom throws it away. Some because although the woman wants to be healthier she doesn’t have the time to devote to it RIGHT now, but maybe someday she will.

    In context, it’s good to point out reality and remind us our home is not a magazine or tv show. It’s it home, and we don’t have to strive to be like those things. But maybe someday some of those things will be a reality in our life, and we will remember how we once judged others who did the same thing.
    As the saying goes “Never say Never.” Haha

    [Reply]

  15. Stephanie

    04/29/2017

    Your blog has been my favorite! Your advice is real and practical. I love decluttering and making our home attractive and efficient. I am not attracted to the blogs that look too slick. I tend to be a perfectionist but when I see blogs with all white furniture, glass, and expensive organizing tools, I move on. I love to see homes that families live in and are at the same time functional and beautiful. Clean, simple, but not so high maintenance that it looks impossible with kids.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks so much Stephanie!
    I think that’s probably the goal I have for my home at this point in my life — functional, beautiful (in my eyes), clean, simple, low maintenance!

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    jennifer Reply:

    Yes, I am thankful you have told me that I don’t HAVE to use matching containers and pretty boxes to organize things. I just found your blog from the Organize 365 podcast and I’ve enjoyed trying to ‘catch up’ on your posts! I also have four children ages 8-1 and I loved your ideas about making the house more child friendly. Automatic soap dispensers, etc.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    no need for matching containers!! And yay for a new reader!! I love Lisa’s podcasts and I’m glad you do too!

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  16. Debbie

    04/28/2017

    Wow, I’ve never watched any organizing type shows at all! I do look at Pinterest and see all the pretty organized closets, pantry, drawers, etc. I personally can’t think clearly if my environment is not organized. I like to be able to find things I need easily.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    what!! You should watch at least one home organizing show soon! They are usually very cheesy and you probably won’t want to watch another one — but then at least you can say you did it 🙂

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  17. Angela

    04/28/2017

    You’re blog is my favorite organizing blog of course! Really!! You give the best genuine and practical advise.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks so much Angela!

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  18. Emily

    04/28/2017

    Well said! Your practical organizing methods are one of the reasons I love your blog! One vlogger that I enjoy is Kathrynn from the YouTube channel “Do It on a Dime.” She’s all about budget organizing, although she’s a bit overkill on the coordinating bins. 😉

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    thanks Emily 🙂

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  19. Tori

    04/28/2017

    YES especially to number two!!! i watched a youtube organizing video where EVERY.SINGLE.AREA had cute, color-coordinated containers and darling, creative labels. I found it to be utterly ridiculous. I often think I’d like to have a cute set of canisters, but then I immediately think, “What a hassle.”

    One thing I really like about you, Andrea, is that you are super organized with minimal to no clutter, but you aren’t nuts! 🙂 You offer practical, realistic help without going overboard.

    Unfortunately, all of my very enjoyable reading of your articles has not resulted in any improvement in my home management…Maybe someday…

    Tori

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yeah, the cute labels just seem so over-the-top for me.
    Also, I read your comment to Dave and we both laughed out loud! I’m glad you enjoy reading my blog… but I certainly hope some of my tips eventually prove to be useful and helpful in your daily life!

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    Mary Catherine Martinez Reply:

    Lol, I am in the same boat! I read your blog hoping the productivity and organization will rub off on me…but nope! Still love it, though!

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — just keep reading. Maybe someday!!

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    Mrs. A Reply:

    Hilarious! I love the honesty.

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  20. Ann

    04/28/2017

    Great information. We downsized, moved and retited a little over a year ago. It is a on going organizing challenge. We use what we have, do not buy more and keep finding ways to improve what we have and love.Thank you for your tips and suggestions.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I think LIFE is an ongoing organizing challenge — so you are not alone!

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  21. Karen

    04/28/2017

    Absolutely! This one. Just yesterday I started filling out the Important Information document downloaded from here. Wow. The time it took me going through my own file folders for the information told me I was doing the right thing. And I discovered a few important pieces were missing. We also have a home based business, so I added a page with important info for that too. I wasn’t aware of being stressed about this before, but definitely feel a sense of relief knowing it’s taken care of now.

    I like that you focus on the organization itself, not so much the container it is in.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    oh yay! Glad you’re doing the binder! It can be a bit of work upfront, but you’ll never regret it once you have all that info together!

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  22. Chris from Normal

    04/28/2017

    Your blog is my favorite along with Mockingbird Hill Cottage. I like Thrifty Décor Chick because she does the majority of her projects/remodels herself including building cabinets!

    I don’t watch any decorating or organizing shows anymore because they all seemed “put on”.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Chris — looks like I need to check out the Mockingbird Hill Cottage blog now 🙂

    [Reply]

  23. Alison

    04/28/2017

    I loved Clean Sweep! I did always find it comical that they organized a yard sale in what appeared to be 1 day’s time. I watch Hoarders occasionally, but sometimes it’s way too gross for me to stomach!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I agree, I’ve only watched a few episodes of hoarders in my life and that’s enough for me!

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  24. Candis

    04/28/2017

    My favorite “organizing” blog is andreadekker.com. While the blog is primarily focused on living a more simplified life, that approach to life helps me stay more organized. 🙂 Thank you! 😉

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — thanks Candis 🙂

    [Reply]

  25. Mara

    04/28/2017

    Terrific post! Happy Friday!

    [Reply]

  26. Angela

    04/28/2017

    Good points! I think it’s worthwhile to look at the motivation behind cute organization.

    If a person is doing it because they want to measure up to the Pinterest photos or cute bloggers or HGTV, that’s probably the wrong reason and will only cause them stress and discontenment and might overshadow the process of organizing.

    If, however, the motivation is channeling l a person’s creativity and bringing joy to their home, that’s a different story. I’m a creative person who also loves to organize, so I have a couple of areas that are “cute”. My labels in my laundry cabinet make me smile each time I open it, and my kids like their fun toiletry baskets with their initials on them. It sure doesn’t help KEEP anything organized, but I think it’s motivation for me to use my creativity in a way that benefits my home and adds a little color and personality to otherwise hum-drum spaces. It all depends on each person’s personality, I think!

    I used to be a daily reader of I Heart Organizing. Then I went through a time when looking at all the very glamorous organizing photos got a little bit discouraging and disheartening to me, because it was not attainable for me and too fancy and contemporary for my style, so I stopped reading it. Now I pop in there from time to time because I do enjoy the blogger herself, but don’t read daily. I do read your blog daily though, because your tips for simple living resonate with me, your decorating style looks more like mine, and you enjoy some of the same things like gardening, baking and frugal, NORMAL living. I guess it’s kind of like choosing friends to hang out with…people with similar interests are more fun to be around! : )

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes, exactly! if you get enjoyment and pleasure from making your organized spaces look cute with matching bins and such, then go for it!
    Also, I used to read I Heart Organizing more regularly too — but it just got to be too much for me. I honestly can’t imagine she really takes the time to meticulously label everything like she does (but who knows, maybe she does!)
    Anyway, I just visited her blog last week for the first time in many month… and she’s still labeling 🙂

    [Reply]

  27. Organize365

    04/28/2017

    Amen! Well said:)

    [Reply]

  28. Organize365

    04/28/2017

    Amen!

    [Reply]