Thursday, January 7, 2010

Organizing myth: Organization means perfection

Organizing Myth #003: Being organized means attaining perfection; you aren't truly organized if everything isn't perfectly labeled in perfectly color coordinated containers all positioned at right angles.

Organizing Reality: The only way getting and staying organized is going to work in the long run is if you let go of an impossibly perfect mindset regarding organizing and start being comfortable with only being as organized as you need to be. What does being as organized as you need to be mean? It means that if you can never find your keys, you need to put a dish or bowl by the front door and always deposit your keys there on your way into the house. But you don't need to necessarily go out and by a hook and install it next to the door and then get tiny labels and label each key according to some color coded system that you'll never remember. It means get organized to the point where it's helpful to your everyday life, to your efficiency and well being, but stop before you spend more energy that it's worth alphabetizing all your books by author (I like to sort books by subject) -- unless of course, that's what will help you find what you're looking for in the future. The level of organization required to make life better is going to be different for everyone.

There's a saying that the perfect is the enemy of the good, and that is 100% true when it comes to attitudes about organization. Sure, I like it when I open my desk drawer and all of my little tools (binder clips, tacks, rubber bands) are all stored in the same individual compartments. That's nice. But what's essential is that I have all of those things at my fingertips where I can see them, get to them and use them, not that they are in matching containers.

Don't let a tendency towards perfectionism be an excuse for not getting organizing. Saying to yourself, if it isn't perfect, it isn't worth doing, is not acceptable. This can be hard for some people. Here's a book that I haven't read but hear is really good on this topic: Everything I Know about Perfectionism I Learned from My Breasts: Secrets and Solutions for Overpowering Perfectionism by Debbie Jordan Kravitz. 

You might also want to read my posts on the pitfalls of color coordinated organizing and organizing myths #1 and #2. Click to find out what they are!

Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email


  1. Great post, Lelah! And thanks so much for suggesting my new book.

    Getting organized is about improving the quality of our lives and our level of productivity. Since achieving true perfection is impossible, by striving for over-the-top standards we can only be left with feelings of failure and ineffectiveness.

    Being "organized enough" is a great goal; it isn't settling, it's being realistic. For me, it took the very imperfect reality of dealing with breast cancer to finally be able to push past my life-long battle with perfectionism. Now I call myself a recovering perfectionist.

    It isn't easy to overcome perfectionistic tendencies, but it's definitely possible.

  2. Thanks for sharing your insights, Debbie! I look forward to reading the book.