How Over-Organizing Leads to Clutter
Jan 10, 2023
You walk into your home, and you see 7 unfinished organizing projects. It feels like you spend a lot of time organizing but things still feel chaotic. If it feels like everything is just a little too perfect, you might be over-organizing.
Believe it or not, there is such a thing as creating systems that are too perfect, and when it comes to our homes, it can lead to some serious clutter.
Is there such a thing as too organized? YES! One of the most common problems I saw when working as a Professional Organizer was over-organizing. This is what it is - and how to prevent it.
Read on for all the details!
What Is Over-Organizing?
Over-organizing would be when you’re trying to make things too perfect to the point where it is no longer efficient or you are making your system too complicated, or there are too many steps within that system that are not necessarily needed. Over-organizing is also when you are getting too detailed, too many options, going way too micro with your organizing. It becomes an obsession and a way of life, to the point where your living space is consumed by your need to control everything.
The thing about over-organizing is that it's not sustainable. It's an endless cycle that leads to clutter and chaos. And when your living space is cluttered and chaotic, it's hard to relax and feel at home.
What is over-organizing look like?
So how do you know if you're over-organizing? Here are some common signs:
This can manifest in different ways: You might have a specific place for everything and become enraged when something is out of place. You might have so many organizing tools that you never finish a project because you're constantly starting new ones. You might be so focused on organizing that you can't enjoy the present moment. Here are just some examples:
- Too many choices: your file cabinet folders have a lot of subfolders. You spend much time looking for the items in multiple places.
- Too perfect: When your systems are too perfect it takes a lot more time to achieve your goals and if you're not getting everything done on your list, this can be a sign that you’re over-organizing and that is time that could be used better elsewhere.
- Too many steps: If you have a system with too many steps, you’ll never get to the end and actually complete it.
How Over-organizing Leads to More Clutter and the reason Over-Organizing can be Detrimental
Over-organizing seems like it should be a good thing. But, a lot of times that can actually cause it all to crash and burn. Here’s why:
- Exhausts the brain faster : Your brain has to work harder. That means less brain power for finishing the project. You are just mentally more tired.
- It takes more time overall: Imagine spending 30 minutes filling your account statements versus 2 minutes to look through a broader category of statements. Overall it takes more time if it’s over-organized. When your home is cluttered, it's hard to find anything when you need it. You spend more time than you'd like searching for your misplaced keys or that shirt you just can't seem to find. Not to mention, an over-organized home can be a real stressor. All that perfection and control can be overwhelming, and it's easy to feel like you're never doing enough.
- It creates procrastination: When things take longer, when they are more exhausting for your brain. We don’t have a positive association with the task in our brain. We’ve trained our brain to not like it. We feel it’s going to take a while, we’re just too tired right now, we procrastinate and we don’t do anything.
Breaking the Cycle
Breaking the cycle of over-organizing may seem like an impossible task, but it's actually not as hard as you think. The key is to take things one step at a time and realize that taking small steps can lead to big changes.
We never like to make changes, our brain avoids changes. If making a change scares you, if it makes you nervous and uncomfortable, that’s actually a good sign. Being uncomfortable means that you are making a change and making a change is good.
- Identify habits or systems that can be simplified: Create a list of things that you can simplify and ask yourself “Do I even need to do this at all? Is there a less perfect way that I could do it and still function well?”
- Choose one thing at a time to simplify and get used to the change: Choose 1 thing at a time to simplify and get used to that change. Breathe through that change and work through that and live with that change for a little bit. This gives your brain a chance to see “Hey you know what this is actually great, this change is saving me time and still looks great”. Once you get to that comfort level then choose another thing.
- Break into smaller steps and smaller time chunks: Start by deciding what areas of your home are most important and where you want to focus. Then, make a list of goals—what do you need to do to achieve an organized space? Breaking things down into small steps is a great way not to over organize and create less overwhelm. One way to do that is using the small step cards. You can grab them here.
- Use a system that’s already created: Sometimes learning to let go and using a system that has already been created and is really solid and it may not be exactly specifically the way you want it but it is really close and does the job very well that can be a great way not to over organize.
By breaking the habit of over-organizing, you'll have more free time, feel less stressed, and not feel overwhelmed.