Guilt-free (dis)organization: OK or a cop-out?

Whenever I give a talk, one of the first questions I always ask the group assembled is: who here considers themselves organized?

Usually one or two timid hands go about half-way up; the owners of those hands not quite believing they really are all that organized.

When I ask who feels like they’re losing the battle, the remaining 98% of hands shoot up.

In fact, we recently did a nationwide survey and found that the vast majority of women agree with the statement I am not organized enough.

Just think about that for a second: your neighbor or friend who you believe is supremely organized is just as likely to believe she’s not organized enough as the woman you know who is, well, struggling a little bit with the concept. How is that possible?

I personally blame org porn.

The airbrushed images of perfectly pristine living spaces trick us into thinking that being “organized” means having to have rooms with no toys about, linen closets with everything folded meticulously, all beds made with nary a wrinkle, desks free of paper, and so on.

In a nutshell, they present “organized” as a perfectly beautiful, perfectly static, end-sate.

The one thing you don’t see in those images: life, which by the way, is always moving!

I personally think it’s high time everyone in that majority stopped feeling guilty for having a less than perfectly together room/closet/desk/nursery/schedule/life.

I believe that getting organized is an ongoing fact of life; it’s a process.

Sometimes things go smoothly and all gets put away.

Sometimes you simply have other priorities.

That’s healthy. When you’re pressed for time, there’s no need to waste energy worrying about those toys all over the living room floor, the dishes lingering in the rack by the sink, or the unmade bed.

The mess doesn’t mean you’re not organized.

It simply means you’re organized enough to know it’s not a priority for you today.

How about you? Do you buy my argument or do you think it’s a big cop-out?

  • http://www.bestorganizingtips.blogspot.com Evelyn

    I could not agree with you more. Organization is simply a tool to let you enjoy life more, it’s not a destination. And everyone has a different idea on what organized is. I say as long as your home works for you and your family, you have achieved organization. Unless of course Real Simple is coming to take a photo…..

  • SarahButtonedUp

    So glad to hear I have someone else in my corner on this one, Evelyn! Having just done a 1-day trip to LA and stumbled off a red-eye into a messy home, I feel NO GUILT whatsoever hanging with my boys rather than cleaning up the mess.

  • Julie

    Halleluiah!!!  I started blogging almost 2 years ago, and just seeing some of the blogs that are out there has made me feel really bad.  I’m a clean person, and pretty organized, but not having every single item in my pantry/closet labeled with chalkboard labels in ALL the same containers almost makes me feel shameful!  And what about all the people who are extensive sewers or big-time DIY-ers?….never mind the women with lots of kids ~ I feel like I’m missing something on how they manage to handle it all.  Maybe it’s all smoke and mirrors(?).

  • SarahButtonedUp

    Julie – your comment made me smile. I feel exactly the same way – especially when I troll Pinterest (such a huge addiction of mine lately). All the organization and craftiness is SO pretty to look at – but I don’t have the time OR the genetic makeup to DIY. :) I do think there are people who have the gift for that kind of thing – but I also know it takes WAY more than 20 minutes here or there to pull off well. Bottom line – it’s about trade offs. Who knows what they are trading off (time with kids? exercise? sanity?)!! 

  • SarahButtonedUp

    Julie – your comment made me smile. I feel exactly the same way – especially when I troll Pinterest (such a huge addiction of mine lately). All the organization and craftiness is SO pretty to look at – but I don’t have the time OR the genetic makeup to DIY. :) I do think there are people who have the gift for that kind of thing – but I also know it takes WAY more than 20 minutes here or there to pull off well. Bottom line – it’s about trade offs. Who knows what they are trading off (time with kids? exercise? sanity?)!! 

  • Anonymous

    This article really makes me feel conflicted inside.  My brain knows that what you’re saying is absolutely true.  There are things more important than organizing.  My inner perfectionist, on the other hand (I promise that I try SO HARD to get him to go away!), is screaming “NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!!!!!!”  I love organization so much, and I love that wonderful “everything in its place” feeling.  At the same time, I let it get to me too much sometimes, and then I end up feeling incredibly guilty when things aren’t…well…perfect!

    In a nutshell, I think you’re absolutely right, but that’s a tough concession for me to make. :P

  • Boe

    life, which by the way, is always moving … LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this!!!!

  • LAINEYWILL623

    I call it “LIVED IN”. and when things don’t go the way they “should”, I have to remember what I tell people all the time, ” Oh well LIFE HAPPENS!!”

  • Heather Henderson

    Having recently had an ADD diagnosis thrown into our family, I’m slowly coming to grips with the fact that the disorganization in my home isn’t because we’re not good enough or smart enough or energetic enough to get organized, but because it’s not possible to get organized in the same way other people do it.  The organization that works for us looks less like a magazine spread and more like a Kindergarten classroom.

  • Sarah

    Heather – you are SO right. In fact – I think you might like this post because it speaks to exactly the dynamic you’re talking about: http://getbuttonedup.com/2012/03/09/reader-question-im-chronically-disorganized-are-my-kids-destined-to-be-too/

  • Karen

    I totally agree with you. Being organized is having a place for everything not having everything in it’s place at all times. Thanks for this article, it’s helped my motivation. 

  • Chris

    I never thought of calling it “org-porn”!!! I LOVE IT. It’s true, when you think about it. This rings with me because in an effort to just live my day-to-day life I’ve had to put myself in a “time-out” from looking at decorating blogs & magazines. I like to dream & be inspired, but looking at “decor-porn” was taking too much of my time & I found myself becoming less grateful. Sigh… the illusive dream of “perfection”….

  • Catnipper

    Order goes in fits and starts whether you’re Jane Q Public or Martha Stewart. When you have your home torn apart with a flooring installation, bathroom remodel and paint job, there is bound to be some disorder for a while. In a case like this “just take advantage of the lemons and make lemonade”. Many of our organizing projects got done because of this disorder!