The Lost Rule of Organizing

Care to see my kitchen drawer?


I just finished organizing it.

No, that’s not the “before” picture. That’s when I finished it. It only took three minutes to organize it (maybe you can tell).

No matter what article you read about how to organize stuff or which method they use, they all cover the same three principles:

1. Purge – remove the things that don’t belong.

2. Order – sort and arrange what you have in a useful way.

3. Maintain – pick up after yourself, repeat 1 & 2 as needed.

What is usually not mentioned is really one of the most important parts:

4. Know when to stop.

That’s why it only took me three minutes to organize this drawer.

I could have found drawer dividers to separate the baking utensils from the other gadgets. There is definitely satisfaction in seeing things arranged nicely. I could have bought trays to line up everything neatly in rows, but I didn’t want to buy more stuff to hold my stuff. It’s just one drawer and it’s not out in the open.

Is my goal to have it look perfect like in a magazine, or is my goal to be able to find something quickly when I’m cooking? The way it is now, I can find what I need in two seconds. That’s good enough.

Having a magazine-worthy drawer might impress others, but it’s not worth it if you spend too much time on it. You don’t want to become a grouch when someone else moves something out of place.

If you organize to perfection, then you’re not organizing to make your life better, you’re living your life to organize, and nobody needs that.

Organize until it’s good enough, admire your work, and then move on to something else. Because even though little containers are great, sweeter things are waiting.

About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. God bless you. “Know when to stop” should be a cute sign with vinyl letters hanging in the kitchen of every mom.

  2. Rachel, I love this post.

    I’m the Organising Queen :) but also believe in organising just enough to make your life function better.

    Well done on recognising that!

    Marcia Francois, Organising Queen´s last post…4 ways to schedule bathroom time better

  3. Hay – Isn’t that the truth… “Organized Chaos” is a very useful term!!! I keep our junk drawer just that… I first reduced it from a junk drawer in every room and on every surface(!!!), but realized we really need a place for just eclectic junk – The Junk Drawer it is… and it is not an infinite size… but it is the place to find stray elastic, erasers, batteries, keys, buttons, vital bits and pieces!!! I could spend my day putting each individual item in an individual container or I could say: “It is contained in the drawer!” and still have time to live a little – or blog for that matter!!!

    se7en´s last post…Se7en Do Christmas: Step 2 – Christmas Cards…

  4. I love this – you’re a smart lady to know when to stop. Sometimes I force myself to stop “just before perfect” – as an exercise in letting go and not having to control every little detail of life.


    steadymom´s last post…Bartering: Advice for the Frugal Mom

  5. Well said! What no one ever mentions about all those organizers and containers —- they take up valuable space!!! By not using them, more fits in the drawer. Knowing when to stop is a good thing. Blessings!

  6. That looks like one of my drawers. I don’t have many so all my stuff like that goes into one. (besides things I use alot when cooking, those are in a huge mug next to my stove) Even after I organize, it pretty much looks the same!

  7. I loved that last line. I bet when you open this drawer, it doesn’t take you long to find what you need.

    and those drawer dividers cost too much anyway…

    Kristia´s last post…How to Roast Butternut Squash

  8. I love your 4th point! I don’t remember ever seeing a magazine or t.v. show mention that. This helps me get out of the silly mindset that you need containers for your containers!

    Stephanie´s last post…Lion for a change

  9. I love this! Personally, I think your “after” shot is beautiful. I think with a drawer like this the real key is to purge the utensils you don’t use. Then it is easy to find what you need. I’m enjoying your blog so much, Rachel. You are such an inspiration!

  10. Imagine that, simplicity is supposed to make things simpler!!! Rock on.

  11. So true!!!

    Sarah@ Life in the Parsonage´s last post…For the Life of Me I Can’t…

  12. Sandra Gonzales says:

    Oh my goodness, you are so wise. I am totally a grouch when I organize something perfectly and then someone else moves it out of place. Being a grouch is such a waste of time. Wow! Enlightenment on Friday the 13th.

    Don’t walk under any ladders today Rachel. J/K.

  13. Love this! I am an organisation queen and my husband can’t understand why our big cutlery drawer looks like this. We had three drawers with lots of clever dividers in our last house and, to be honest, I find things quicker from the one “messy” drawer now. Three margarine tubs hold little things at the back (bag clips, cocktail sticks etc) and the rest lies at the front of the drawer.
    Karen (Scotland)

  14. Love #4. Know when to stop. That can be applied in so many areas of life. Constantly trying to achieve perfection can be such a hindrance.

    Nancy´s last post…varied veggies

  15. I just found my cigar clipper!!!! it’s near the top left corner on top of that sweet thing that makes it easy to eat an apple…..been looking for that…thanks Honey. I love you so much.

  16. I just read a great post from Abbe at Organizing-Life on perfectionism. Your post put that into action. It isn’t about being perfect. Its about “making life better” and being “good enough”. Well said!

    Marci@OvercomingBusy´s last post…Start Overcoming Busy Right Now – Make a Date

  17. Brilliant, as always. My own personal lifestyle guru. Thank you!

    Zom´s last post…9.3 Golden Autumn

  18. Brilliant

  19. I loved this line from you: “I didn’t want to buy more stuff to hold my stuff. ” How true. :)

  20. 4. Know when to stop. I need help with this one.

    Tina´s last post…Veterans Day

  21. Glad to see someone else that thinks like me! :)

    Lydia´s last post…PineCone Research : Accepting Applications

  22. Wonderful post! I used to live my life to organize, but finally learned that there were more important things. My husband reminded me that schedules, systems etc. are there to serve you…not the other way around! Thank you for this post!

    Keri´s last post…Ponderosa Sunday

  23. My utensil drawer looks exactly the same as yours and it works for me, always has. My pantry is more organized, so are my dishes and bowl, etc. But I feel the same way, it only takes me seconds to find what I need and it’s “good enough”!

    Michelle Traudt´s last post…CAN

  24. I think this was very timely … quite seriously on my to do list today was to find some longer drawer dividers to fit in my utensil drawer, I have a set of 3 but they are only 30cm long and I ‘need’ ones that are 40cm … so I was planning on spending money and time searching those out. But maybe I should reconsider … and go and get a coffee and chill out instead!

    Gypsy´s last post…Take my advice – I’m clearly not using it

  25. Amen, sister! My utensil drawer looks much the same. :)

    Minnesotamom´s last post…Disney on Ice Princess Classics – Giveaway!

  26. My drawer looks similar :-) Who knew, we have similar cleaning style!!

    Zengirl´s last post…13 ways to be compassionate

  27. Love it! I have a couple drawers that look the exact same, but I never thought to define it like you have, even though I’m perfectly happy with them!

  28. So. simple. So.breathtakingly, mind-numbingly BRILLIANT. I shall now close my reader this morning and read no more blogs and just attempt to put this one rule to practice today. Bless you!!

    Christy @ Family at Work´s last post…Public Displays of Affection

  29. Great post, thanks for the reminder.

    Marci´s last post…Team Buchan Does The Impossible

  30. So, so true. Great post!

  31. Mamie Ruth says:

    Be sure if you have a tiny jumble that little fingers, (including yours) don’t find the sharp edges of things like peelers and can openers. My drawer looks like yours, but I “contain” the blades. even the safe ones. I once cut myself on a plastic pizza cutter.

  32. So true! Thanks for putting it out there.

  33. Hilarious! Never thought of that way!

    Jena (Organizing Mommy)´s last post…Blitz-It Friday # 31

  34. You know the great thing about cleaning your drawer is that everytime you open it you get rewarded with a lovely peacefully feeling saying “go me!”.
    I wiped down the walls of our stairwell and I get to enjoy it everytime I go down them!

    Well done!

    Juggling Motherhood´s last post…How we had a party with 20 kids!

  35. oh that last little bit about living to organize struck a cord. earlier today i was thinking about my cleaning routine/obssession and how i keep telling myself that cleaning relaxes me, but in actually, it makes me slightly more anxious. i living so clean, no cleaning so i can live. yikes!

  36. Have you read A Perfect Mess? It comes to the same conclusion, that there’s a place of equilibrium between chaos and obsessive neatness, and that place is messier than most professional organizers think. Whenever you organize too much, you have to spend more time maintaining the system than it would take to locate the slightly less organized object.

    Of course, I always veer too far in the messy direction, but I like the general idea!

    Lauren @ Hobo Mama´s last post…November giveaway roundup, now with McLinky action

  37. Hey Rachel,
    I just wanted you to know that I had a very domestic weekend with your help.
    I made homemade granola from the recipe here and then made the walnut ornaments. Very cute. I love both of them.

  38. I love it! You came and took a picture of my kitchen drawer, didn’t you. I didn’t realize you had a key.

    Knowing how much time to commit to something is always a challenge. If you can learn to “set the timer”, life gets amazingly simple and doesn’t need to feel like scheduled windows.

    My computer files need major resorting and a redundancy plan put in place. Instead of overwhelming myself with a giant all time consuming task, I’m going to do several small chunks every week until it is done. The chaos is still functional, so I’ll accept the balance.

    simply stephen´s last post…Simply Stephen Network Launch

  39. take this, Martha!!
    love your approach, made me smile, thanks :-)

    Machen und Tun´s last post…arcadia quilt (or: a quilt only a mother can love..)

  40. Love it! I’m such a perfectionist that it totally sabotages my efforts sometimes. I’m one of those people that would waste the day away looking for the perfect dividers. I too need to know when to stop, so I’ve been using a timer and doing small tasks in small increments. Thanks for your insight! I will definitely be linking to your post on my blog!

    Janelle´s last post…Let’s Not Cry Over Spilled Milk

  41. Way to go! It’s so nice to see someone that’s real and letting others know it’s OK to not be picture perfect!!!

    Kristen´s last post…How To Get Jalapeno Juice Off Your Hands–Tuesday’s Tips

  42. Know when to stop (organizing ……… obsessing ………. believing it’s all in your control…….) Indeed!

    Had to learn this about being a Mommy, too. I finally figured out I would never be the perfect parent….. but I could be good enough.

    Works for me.

  43. I didn’t read through all the comments but my utensil drawer looks something like this too. What I love about it is my children can help with emptying the dishwasher and not have to worry about what goes where.

    Mrs. K´s last post…Pilgrim Boy

  44. Thanks for this post. I have a few organizing sites on my Google Reader, including yours, and sometimes they just get carried away. And that’s usually when I unsubscribe from their feed and get on with real life. This is the best organizing tip ever. Not that I don’t love to organize! It’s just nice for someone to say it like it is (or should be). Brilliant! :)

    Crystal´s last post…Oh yeah, Thanksgiving.

  45. When I was learning to use a computer I made a beautiful poster that reminds me every day: Be satisfied with Good Enough. Line after line, different fonts and colors each time, it reminds me to be satisfied with good enough. People who see the poster “get it” or they don’t need to, but it’s a daily reminder for me. I’m a recovering perfectionist.

  46. Know when to stop. I love it. It reminds me of my own mantra – good enough is good enough!

    bashtree´s last post…aquacrestgate

  47. Augh!! This article is perfection! I sooo needed this inspiration right now as I have been getting very frustrated with our home lately…and money is super duper tight…and no matter what some say, it DOES cost money to get organized!

    Thanks for this! <3

  48. Aaahhhh. Love this advice! You just opened my mind about organizing. Thank you!

  49. Thank you for your wonderful advice! I have a basement full of “helpful” organizing tools like baskets, bins, containers, dividers etc.. that are no longer helpful and I am now either desperately trying to find a new use for them, to no avail, or trying to find a place to store them and well, organize the organizing stuff. seems a little counter productive doesn’t it? ; )

  50. Wise words nicely put.

    That draw is perfect as it is: it’s The Bizarre Kitchen Implements drawer. I bet it’s the second one down under the cutlery drawer, and the things you use the most will naturally work their way to the front.

    stephbg´s last post…Hoofing it

  51. I did the same with my utensil drawer- i probably had at least 6 or 7 serving spoons and slotted spoons, etc. I purged a lot of things and my drawer looks like this now!

  52. We organise the “tool” drawer in our kitchen in much the same way, purging it from unused tools every now and again and cleaning it but otherwise just letting it be. Though, it really, really does help to put a plastic container in there for the smaller stuff, like peeling knives, so they don’t hide underneath the bigger stuff or in the back of the drawer which they have a tendency to do.

  53. “(…)then you’re not organizing to make your life better, you’re living your life to organize” – this is a concept that i never thought of, yet it makes perfect sense now that i read it… wow. thanks for the great tips!

    francesca´s last post…Flat Irons – beginners guide

  54. Recently found your blog and love it! I love this post and the sense it brings to real life. There is a principle from Economics that says: “good enough is best” and I love that you’ve applied that to organizing.

  55. There are so many ways to organize things – love the idea of knowing when something is organized well enough!

    DeclutterLady´s last post…How to Declutter a House in a Day!

  56. I’ve recently moved into a smaller kitchen so i’m trying to downsize my cooking equipment. It’s sooo hard i have so many things. and i don’t even have a garlic press or an olive piper or a pizza cutter either:)

  57. Love it.
    Shell´s last post…Writers Workshop- Winter Roads

  58. I just found your blog and LOVED this post on organization! This is totally how I feel about it! Glad to meet someone else who feels the same way:)
    momto9´s last post…Cooking and tales

  59. Ha, DH and I argue about this all the time. My rule is: Is it where I need it when I need it? Good, then it’s organized. DH is horrified because there aren’t any cute containers. His mom has cute containers. But the more steps it takes to put something away, the less likely I am to put it away.