Professional organizers have seen it all.
From overflowing closets to basement storage areas that look like they’ve been struck by a tornado, these people know all of your dirty little secrets—literally.
Since it’s their job to help you rid your home of clutter and implement smart organizational systems, they’re pretty much the experts when it comes to giving advice about keeping things nice and tidy. But sometimes, rather than being told what we should do to be more organized, it can be most helpful to understand what we shouldn’t be doing. In other words, what bad habits do we have that are derailing our chances at an organized home? So we asked personal organizers to share their biggest pet peeves—that’s right, you should avoid these behaviors like the plague.
1. Wire Hangers
Not only are they flimsy, but wire hangers also tend to get tangled up with other hangers, says Jill Annis, a Wisconsin-based professional organizer. Just get rid of them.
“If your budget allows, switch to plastic hangers,” says Annis, who owns Simply Organized. “Most dry cleaners will accept wire hangers for recycling.”
2. Not Decluttering Before You Buy Organizing Supplies
Sure, you may get excited about the prospect of tidying up your home. But don’t “put the cart before the horse,” says Allison Weigensberg, who owns Everything in Place in Montreal.
“(Clients) will often go out and buy tons of organizing supplies—bins, baskets, etc.—without having decluttered first,” she says. “It’s really important to go through your belongings and then purchase storage containers.”
You’re going to end up wasting time and money if you buy organizational products before you edit your belongings. This one came up in conversations with several professional organizers, so take note—it’s truly one of their biggest pet peeves.
3. Holding On To Junk Mail
Unnecessary mail can be a huge source of clutter on your counter or desk, says Annis. She recommends shredding, recycling or throwing out junk mail immediately, as soon as it hits your mailbox. You can manage your mail with resources such as DMAchoice.
4. Not Asking For Help
Throwing stuff out, organizing, unpacking boxes—it can be totally overwhelming.
But if you ask for help, whether it’s from a friend or a professional, you can create a comfortable living space, Annis says.
Your friend or a professional organizer will support you and can help you decide which items to hold onto and which items to get rid of by asking you questions like “Have you used it recently? Does it fit you?”
5. Choosing Appearance Over Functionality
Believe it or not, not everything you see on Pinterest is real.
Weigensberg says one of her biggest pet peeves is when clients think pretty equals organized.
But just because something looks good doesn’t mean it’s working—a fun, polka-dot storage bin could be a mess inside.
“A great way to avoid this type of Pinterest-fail scenario is to create a system that works for you and your lifestyle first, try it out for a bit and make adjustments as needed, then go wild and make it pretty,” she says.
6. Setting Yourself Up To Fail
If you don’t have a trash and recycle bin nearby, you won’t be as motivated to keep things tidy. The same goes for laundry baskets, which Annis recommends putting in every bedroom of your house.
“The floor, furniture and exercise equipment aren’t the best choices if your goal is less confusion about what needs to be laundered, as well as a neater bedroom,” she says.
7. Thinking It Has To Be Perfect
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that if your organizing system is not perfect, it’s not worth doing at all.
You can chip away by organizing one room or one closet at a time—your whole house doesn’t have to look like a magazine spread, Annis says.
Her mantra? Done is better than perfect.
8. Straightening Up First
Jeanie Engelbach, owner and founder of apartmentjeanie, says it bugs her when clients straighten up before she arrives for their first meeting.
“I need to see how the client really lives,” she says. “The project cannot be properly assessed if the client is concealing her true lifestyle. For me to understand how to design an organization system that will support the clients’ goals and desires, I need to witness their habits so that I can create a realistic plan for them.”
If you’re hiding unopened mail in a drawer instead of leaving it on your counter, she won’t know that a problem exists and can’t help you fix it.
9. Being Embarrassed
These people are professionals—there’s simply no reason to be embarrassed or afraid to let them see your mess, says Engelbach.
“My job is to be of service and provide help, support and solutions,” Engelbach says. “Being judgmental wouldn’t allow me to achieve those things.”