Organizing Mistakes That Make Your House Look Messy

Your house may look clean, but these common organizing mistakes can make it hard to maintain order. Professional organizers share their top pet peeves and how to solve them.

By Liz Gray,

The Mistake: Confusing “Clean” and “Organized”


“Having piles neatly lined up on the counter doesn’t mean you’re organized,” says professional organizer Linda Rothschild. If you find your flat surfaces filling with clutter, it’s time to designate a spot for everything coming into your home. Once you get the hang of it, the piles will disappear. Design by Anastasia Faiella

The Mistake: Keeping Counters Too Clear


Once you’ve cleared off what doesn’t belong on the kitchen counter, don’t forget to leave room for things you use every day. If you make daily smoothies, make a spot for the blender. It’s easier to keep the surfaces clean and organized if you have what you need at hand and everything has a designated spot. Design by Gina Samarotto

The Mistake: Using the Fridge as a Message Center


Another reason to skip the note-filled refrigerator? No one will read it! “You think everyone will see it, but actually no one does. They’re just going for a drink,” says Rothschild. “Households need a place where people go for messages or mail or permission slips…an area where everyone knows things are kept.” A built-in bulletin board, like this one designed by Nar Bustamante, is the perfect solution.

The Mistake: A Non-Functional Entryway


An entryway offers a home’s first impression, but it’s often covered with coats, backpacks, shoes and more. The solution? “Rearrange the coat closet in the entryway where kids can hang things,” offers professional organizer Alejandra Costello. “Or put a basket by the door to toss shoes inside. If the shoes can just make it inside, it can make a huge difference.” Design by Traci Zeller

RELATED: 20 Ideas for an Organized Mudroom

The Mistake: Stocking Up on Storage Bins


Professional organizer Nancy Heller’s top pet peeve? Too many storage bins! “They don’t use the space efficiently, so they end up sitting in the corner, collecting dust,” she says. Instead, search your home for containers you already have. “Use salad bowls…put dog’s toys in one, some Tupperware in another. Put shoeboxes in your drawers and tidy up the shoeboxes when you have a chance.” Bonus: You’ll save money, too! Design by Junk Gypsies

The Mistake: Skipping Labels


“Bins are fine, but they need to be space-efficient, properly labeled and specific,” says Heller. “Leave a little extra space, but don’t throw a mismatched glove in there because there’s room. A label helps you halt and say, ‘oh, this doesn’t go here.’” Design by Cas Aarsen

The Mistake: Packed Bookshelves


Displaying only books you love leaves breathing room and space for decorative accessories. “I always go for balance. I’m fond of telling people when your bookshelf is 80 percent full, it’s really full,” says Heller. Design by Jennifer and Kitty O'Neil

RELATED: Style Your Bookshelf Like a Boss With These 10 Items

The Mistake: Messy Under-Bed Boxes


Under-bed storage is a great space-saver, but exposed boxes and bins can make a bedroom look cluttered. The fix? “Add a bedskirt, or make the stuff on the edges of the bed look more contained or organized,” says Costello. Or, opt for a bed with built-in under-bed storage like blogger Erin Hiemstra did here.

The Mistake: Too Much Stuff


Photo by Trevor Tondro

“People love staying in hotels because it’s such an escape. You can have that in your home, you just have to have less stuff,” says professional organizer Kendra Stanley. Design by Design Development

The Mistake: Waiting Until Tomorrow


Staying organized is easy if you do something every day. “It’s continuous maintenance. For every hour we spend organizing we save 3-4 hours,” says Heller. “Spend 5 minutes tidying up your junk drawer…just 20 minutes here, 10 minutes there will make all the difference.” Image courtesy Jennifer and Kitty O'Neil

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