When Organizing Doesn't Spark Joy

Have you heard about or watched Marie Kondo’s new Netflix series or read one or more of her bestselling home tidying books? If you are not familiar with Marie Kondo, she is a Japanese organizer who has risen to celebrity status. I need to get the name of her PR firm. The fervor has ignited a heightened level of home organization projects as witnessed by the long lines and flooded inventory at donation centers and thrift shops nationwide. Her KonMarie method is designed to help you determine what to keep or release via whether the object sparks joy or NOT. Simple enough and great idea for some people to reconcile letting go of the things that no longer serve them.

sparkler-839831_640 pixabay spark joy.jpg

Come On Baby Light That Fire

But what if organizing doesn’t spark joy? What if the idea of organizing leaves you cold. If getting and staying organized is REALLY hard for you? Or what if you honestly don’t care? Psst, if someone else in your household is perpetually irritable, they may not function well in any state of chaos. Unless your brain wiring is akin to mine where order and routines reign, organizing joy is more like tidiness agony, right? But face it, if chaos is not working for you, that could be sucking the joy right out of your soul.

BUT, what if it could spark joy? If we could make your life easier, would that spark joy? If so, then let’s do it.

If your life sails on smooth seas that’s fabulous! Go enjoy a steamy latte, no need to read further. Hold on, before you go consider this. Is there someone in your life that seems to be chronically several yards behind the 8-ball at odds with their home or getting things done? Think about your spouse, a child, a parent, a sibling, your bestie, a boss, or a student. If you think that person could use some reprogramming, then best stay tuned. Understanding their challenges more clearing opens up opportunities for compassion, and who knows maybe you will be the catalyst for change. Seeing those we care about in pain causes us pain too. Definitely a joy killer.

To be honest, despite what some of my clients believe, I don’t have a magic wand nor can I solve all your problems, but what I can do is help you get very specific about the things that drive you bat sh*t on a daily basis, and help you to change the things that can be changed. Let’s get those off your plate so you can enjoy the rest of life’s buffet.

Ditch the Jargon

Imagine this, I say to you, “your kitchen is a mess, go organize it.” How does that sit with you? Yes, I can hear you screaming “look bitch, my house, I will keep it any dang way I choose.” I get it, and if its working for you, high fives. But beyond if you’d rather walk on a bed of sharply honed nails than walk into your kitchen and leaves you craving change but you have no idea what organizing. The concept seems really BIG, SCARY, OVERWHELMING, and FRUSTRATING. Where do you begin and how aside from melting into a puddle of tears wherever you can find a foot or 2 of open space?

According to Merriam Webster (you mean she didn’t cite Wikipedia???), organizing is defined like this:

  1. to form into a coherent unity or functioning whole

  2. to set up an administrative structure for

  3. to arrange by systematic planning and united effort

  4. to cause to develop an organic structure

Great, now that we have that nailed down I bet you know exactly what to do right? If you do, I might want to hire you. But look at the definitions again, where is the prescription or formula for designing systems or creating structure? I think this is where people can get hung up, and why some eventually turn to professional organizers. We watch HGTV, surf Pinterest, or dreamily turn the pages of Home & Garden magazine for inspiration, but the reality is this may not be your reality. And what makes life easier for strangers may not be true for you, your lifestyle, and your home. And the pictures are pretty, but how the heck do you do that in real life much less keep it that way? If the idea of organizing is sucking the joy out of your life, here’s my secret (don’t tell anyone)…Ditch The Jargon. Instead try this, ask yourself “how can I make my life easier”? Yep, that’s it. I know, you are probably thinking seriously?

Before we go any further, typically I offer my clients 2 assessments before we get down and dirty. You can find them by clicking here. Getting to know the way you process information and function allows us to create roadmaps to success. When we do things that feel right, that are come naturally, we zip through them without much thought. Think about those times you arrived at your destination with no recollection of the last 15 minutes. Auto-pilot. That’s what we are striving for here. Are you a social butterfly? Call one of your gal pals over for a margarita and a deep dive into those sofa and countertop piles. As you are laughing about the incident at the middle school auction last weekend, you won’t notice you already made a 2 foot dent in the 3 foot pile with 4 more equally sized mounds scattered throughout the family room. Word of caution: select that pal carefully. Opt for one that won’t be judgemental or distracting but instead keeps you focused and motivated.

Are you a visual processor who is highly creative? Use fun, colorful, bright storage containers. If you LOVE them and SEE them, you will be more likely to use them. Use labels if you need to as reminders of what goes where.

Visual creatives use fun, bright, colorful storage options. If you love it and see it, you will be more likely to use them to put things away.

Visual creatives use fun, bright, colorful storage options. If you love it and see it, you will be more likely to use them to put things away.

Don’t dig hangers? Try command hooks.

Don’t dig hangers? Try command hooks.

Time to dig in with some specifics with common challenges I run across.

Gnawing on Razor Blades is NOT Fun

Is your spouse grousing about the dirty clothes you leave in heaps on the floor? Place a basket where you tend to drop them. When the basket is full, toss the clothes in the laundry.

Rather gnaw on razor blades than hang clean clothes on hangers? Use decorative (or plain whatever suits you) baskets for containing them. Again add labels if you need references as to what’s where. Roll or fold items if you like. Marie suggests tent-like rolling. She does have a point. If you grab shirt #3 in a pile what happens to the pile? All the shirts rumple. If you roll the shirts, then it’s a quick grab and go while the rest remain intact. Neatly storing them means less ironing for you, hint that’s a TIME SAVER unless you never iron. Alternatively, put some hooks or heavy duty pegs on the wall if hangers are your enemy. If you are not a handy person, Command Hooks are an option. Stick them on the wall and remove them without damage or so they promise as long as you strictly adhere (pun intended) to the removal instructions.

knowledge-3914811_640 brain pixabay.jpg

One vs. The Many Rule

Math was never my strong suit, and word problems destroyed my arithmetic confidence, but see if you can solve this. What takes more time: A). putting away the object in your hand or B). cleaning up an entire pile of accumulated stuff? If you are running out the door with no spare time to take books upstairs to your nightstand, tuck a tote off to the side of the stairway, so that you remember to grab the books the next time you head to your bedroom. This is only suggested if you can do so safely. I don’t advise stair baskets if there is someone in your household who has difficulty navigating stairs or sleep walkers.

No need to hassle over misplaced keys and ensuing late appointments. Use a key hook.

No need to hassle over misplaced keys and ensuing late appointments. Use a key hook.

Want to avoid a budget hit from a careless late fee? Oops forgot about that buried electric bill. Before you answer that phone call when you walk in the door with the mail in hand, place the bills in your bill paying location. Or stick them inside your laptop so that you will remember to deal with them after you take your coat off. Same with your keys, put them on a key hook so you don’t miss your appointment tomorrow morning because your keys went AWOL. In fact, just let the phone ring until you get yourself sorted and take a breath.

Time(r) to Clear Out

A Time Timer is a powerful tool for showing how much time you have and keeping you on schedule.

A Time Timer is a powerful tool for showing how much time you have and keeping you on schedule.

Kids leaving a trail of backpacks, homework assignments, and sporting goods from the entryway through the kitchen and beyond? Before soccer practice, dance class carpool, tv time, or console gaming, set a timer as a reminder for them to clean up and clear out their stuff so you won’t be tripping your way to the refrigerator and oven to prepare dinner.

Speaking of timers and math problems, little Susie has 5 math problems to finish before leaving for dance class in 15 minutes Yet her attention flits to the refrigerator for drinks about as often as she blinks coupled with potty breaks and sparring with a sibling. To her 15 minutes seems like an eon. I suggest using a Time Timer. As that red dissipates, she will see that she needs to buckle down to finish in time for her carpool. This is a super useful tool for visual processors or anyone with attention difficulties to enable staying on track.

When tasks feel overwhelming, set the Time Timer or any timer for 15-20 minutes to work in bite-sized chunks. Come on, you can do to just about anything for a short time. Then scamper off for a water, food, or stretch break, and refreshed work for another 10-15 minutes unless your agenda dictates otherwise. Chunking it down will make the task more palatable unless of course it’s your taxes, yuck.

Baking soda, vinegar, and Dr. Bronner’s soap along with boiling water will make the toughest baked on ingredients easier to clean.

Baking soda, vinegar, and Dr. Bronner’s soap along with boiling water will make the toughest baked on ingredients easier to clean.

Meals Made Easy

Now it’s time to simplify in the kitchen. As you prep ingredients immediately put any containers away.

Does a recipe call for lots of spices and your spice cabinet is clear across the kitchen? Either bring your prep bowl closer to the cabinet or use a bin to tote the spice jars back and forth to save trips.

Keep a rag handy to wipe any spills so your post-dinner clean up goes quicker.

As dinner bakes or simmers, put bowls, utensils, etc., in the dishwasher or boil water for soaking tough to clean pots and pans in a solution of the boiling water, a few tablespoons of baking soda, 1/4 cup of vinegar and a few splashes of Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap. After soaking a few minutes, scrape up some of the burned on bits, and then continue to soak for approximately 10-15 minutes. Click here to check out a hint for a nutritious and time-saving clean up tip that offers the ultimate in making simple, healthy meals that render easy clean up.

Fumble-Free Laundry

You can knock off nearly 3-5 minutes per laundry load (depending upon load size) if you take off clothes right side out. Then after the laundry is finished, there is no need to fumble with disheveled sleeves or turning the article right side out. Already done. Need more laundry time saving tips, click here.

But It’s Great Deal

Do you sometimes buy more than you probably should falling prey to marketing ploys such as free gifts with a purchase of $159? The offer is so enticing so you spend $159 on items you didn’t actually need or want to get freebies that will take up space and possibly remain unused. If you plan to gift them, keep all gifts in a designated box for gifting so that you don’t forget what you have or where you put them when holidays, birthdays, or anniversaries roll around to avoid double-purchasing.

Same for sale items. Is the sale too good to pass up? If the goods are something consumable, needed or deeply desired that’s great. But if you’re thinking the bargain is too good to pass up, pass it by until you are ready to leave the store. If it still calls to you, as you walk back toward the aisle, visualize where you will store the product. Is there available storage? Are you willing to give up something you already have to make room for it? Could you borrow the item instead of purchasing it? Even though it’s on sale, could your money be spent on something that will make you truly happy or saved for a catch-up lunch with an old friend? In the end it is your choice. This is purely guidance to aid the thought process.

Heart to Heart


If you have more stuff than you know what to do with, then it’s time for a heart to heart about whether you really need or want the things that are taking up physical or head space. The less we have to deal with the more freedom, time, and space we have to enjoy. If you are buried under an avalanche each time you open your closets, pantries, junk drawers, then go ahead and see if any of the objects SPARK joy for you or anyone else in your household.

So if organizing makes your brain hurt, look at it from the point of view of how can I make life easier, more fun, more spacious, and more joyful.

If you still need a helping hand to simplify or stoke the passion for your home, contact ThePracticalSort.com and together we will figure it out. Now go out and enjoy life. I sure will.