Sometimes Getting Organized is a Big Fat Waste of Time

For many of us, getting organized is the fun part. We love buying materials for new craft projects. We love school supplies. We’ll make our lists and schedules, and even organize our recipes.

We’ll spend all of our time planning and getting ready, but then starting to work on those projects stumps us. So what do we do? We organize some more.

If you’ve wondered why some people are so productive, how they manage to finish those projects and accomplish so many things, it’s not just because they’re organized. Being organized is not enough; you also need to be willing to take chances and try something that is hard. You have to be willing to start.

  • Cut into that fabric even if the finished piece won’t be as pretty as you imagined it.
  • Bake that new recipe even if it flops and the whole thing winds up in the trash.
  • Send that difficult email instead of organizing your email inbox first.

We often think about organization in terms of appearance: if it looks pretty, if it looks calm and orderly, if you can find what you need, then it’s organized. But organization is every bit as much about usefulness as it is about appearance, and something is only useful if you use it.

Sometimes organizing masquerades as productivity, when it is often another form of busyness. Don’t let organization be a tool for procrastinating something that is hard to start.

Do you have a project that you’ve been getting ready for? Take a risk and get started. I know I have a couple of things I’ve been wanting to do.
About Rachel

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


  1. Sandra Gonzales says:

    Sometimes getting prepared and organized for the project leaves me too tired to start the actual project.

  2. What an INSIGHTFUL post. Thank you, Rachel.

  3. I have been struggling with that very thing! Thank you so much for the reminder to just do it! I’m going to send that difficult email right now! :)

  4. Jenni at My Web of Life says:

    This was an absolutely brilliant post! What a great reminder that organization isn’t the final goal. Organization is just the tool towards a more productive, hopefully peaceful, life.


  5. I’m so glad you all are understanding this post the way I hoped. I used to think being organized was the best, and then I would wonder why other people got so much more done than I did.

  6. i am sooo guilty of this. i always seem to block myself from creative pursuits by “cleaning” or “organizing” something first. just fear in disguise.

  7. I laughed when I read your title, as I’m right in the middle of organizing two rooms…but as I read I understood your point. Just do it. Stop planning sometimes. Thank you for the inspiration.

    Peaceliving´s last post…Rain.

  8. Thank you for this post, it came at the perfect time :)

  9. Just what I needed today. I haven’t sent our Christmas letter out yet because I wanted it to be perfect. Forget perfect – just send the thing!!!

  10. Great message! The last two sentences are my favorite. I often organize to avoid other things. I just never realized it! Exactly what I needed today. Thanks!

  11. Denise C. says:

    I have LOTS of projects lined up!

    I’m redoing our barstools in the kitchen and just got the paint and fabric (it’s my first time using a staple gun!)
    I’m also researching purple paints for my daughter’s bedroom, and once we get the ok from our HOA, we’re having a fence and patio installed.
    I love projects, my husband is always telling me I need to pace myself, I can’t help it, once I get going with something I always want to do something else!

  12. This is great…you are so right.

    And now…to go CUT that fabric!!

    Michelle´s last post…Wednesday in the Word.

  13. I could have (should have?) written this about myself. Sometimes even as I’m planning, I already have doubts about implementation. I need a balance between the time it takes to theorize and the time I have left to DO.

    Case in point, I’m about to quilt my first quilt. Have spent about 3 hours deciding on what quilting design I want to use, I’m hoping to gift it tomorrow, and it still sits taped and basted on my living room floor. I just have to take the plunge (esp. w/ a 3-year-old around who understandably doesn’t get running AROUND the quilt).

    Jessica´s last post…these boots get a lot of wear.

  14. sometimes you just need to “do it” !!

  15. You are so right!! When I was just thinking about starting a blog, my friends told me I should devote it to organizing as a way to get the busyness out of our lives. But, in my mind, organization was just a small part of it all. You can still make yourself busy organizing. It is about balance. I still write about organization, but I write about other areas of life as well. Great post!

    Marci@OvercomingBusy´s last post…Organizing Your Taxes

  16. Oh, do we have to face those unfinished projects?? You’re perfectly right though. It isn’t really “simplifying” if we have unfinished stuff around us, whether it is paying the bills instead of just organizing them, finishing that apron that I started instead of organizing it in a rubbermaid container, or cleaning out that last area that NEVER gets cleaned because it is so overwhelming. (I think the best organizers often have ONE thing that they avoid organizing because it is so overwhelming).

    This past week, I’ve actually gone back through my house and started purging things I have kept for years because they were things given to me (kept out of guilt) or I thought I might use them (kept because of the monetary value), but for whatever reason, I never have and most likely WILL NEVER use them. I keep thinking – SIMPLIFY!

    Amy blogs @ River Rock Cottage´s last post…Videos of Work in Haiti

    • So true! I do have one thing I’ve been avoiding… I’m actually going to be posting about it tomorrow, so you all can keep me accountable.

  17. Thanks for the inspiration! I’ve ordered jars to organize my pantry…..I’ve been putting it off because I couldn’t decide on the perfect containers…or the perfect containers were too expensive…or…I couldn’t imagine buying so many jars at The Container Store… I’m just gonna do it!

  18. This is so true! Actually ‘doing’ the project we’ve been planning for takes the hard work & effort & requires will power to dive in. Many times I feel very organised on paper but know that unless I start doing there is no point! Some big projects do need planning & organising before even a little finger is lifted bit I’m trying to implement the ‘just do it’ principle! Enjoy the ‘doing’ everyone.

  19. Such a great point! I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve realized I’m procrastinating by cleaning out my junk drawer when I really should be mopping the kitchen floors!

    marybeth at´s last post…´s

  20. Great post! It appears that a lot of us struggle with this! I definitely have my share of unfinished projects lying around my house!

    I think this idea can apply to blog reading as well – I read several (very good!) blogs, nearly daily, with the pretense that what I’m learning makes me a better wife/mom/friend/daughter/child of God, etc. but unless I actually APPLY what I’m reading/learning, I’m just wasting an extraordinary amount of time!

    Thanks. I needed this reminder. :)

  21. I totally agree. Case in point my clean desk at work and my design project that was neglected for 2-3 hours. Get to get to that, ASAP!

  22. Thanks for such a wise thought! Not only does this make sense, but it feels freeing! Off to cut up some fabric I’ve had sitting on the shelf for months!

  23. AlaskanAndi says:

    Ummm. Yes, yes I have a project or two to get started. One of which is an ongoing project. I have to weed through all of our papers. How long did it take you to do your massive paper revamp? I think I have a bit more than you did. It is a very daunting task. :-) Another is emptying the boxes out of our garage. We moved the day after Thanksgiving. The holiday rush stumped us and I’ve had a hard time getting the gumption to sort through the rest of the boxes (all of my craft stuff and most of the kids toys)… I almost want to dump it all at goodwill…

  24. So true! I know there’ve been a number of times I’ll get ready to cook a “special” dinner and buy exotic ingredients, special tools, printed recipes…only to let the food go bad for lack of initiative!
    Great reminder!

    Kait Palmer´s last post…Wardrobe Challenge Day 7 & 8

  25. I’ve been wanting to make homemade granolla for most of January, but knew it would take a lot of effort. I finally did it on Tuesday and it’s so yummy!
    And yes, sometimes I use organizing as an excuse to “get ahead”, but I end up wasting time on it. I usually only let myself organize enough (at the desk, etc.) to feel sane, and then get on to more important tasks.

  26. When I first read the heading, I thought, man, just go bash my profession, will you?
    But then I read your post – you are right on. One of the biggest issues I run into with clients when I’m organizing, is their many “projects” that they have stuff for everywhere. Even items that are for a project are still clutter if they aren’t actually used. Plus all that stuff laying around simply causes guilt and anxiety – I SHOULD be doing this. And then, they want me to help them get organized so they can do these projects. I’m fine with that (love it, in fact) but I always ask if really, truly this is something they want to do or if they just feel as though they should do it, they’ve already spent the money or maybe it was an interest a long time ago that isn’t so strong now.
    Either do the project, or don’t. Making the decision is the hardest part. But any time spent organizing something that won’t be used, or isn’t necessary, is wasted time in my oh so humble opinion.

    Liz Jenkins´s last post…Blog Talk Radio with Julie Verleger & Me!

  27. I feel this was written just for me. The hardest part of a hard project is just getting started. The idea and planning are the easy part.

  28. Wow.

    I’ve lurked here for a while now, but I had to comment because that first bullet hit hilariously close to home. That first cut into the fabric is always the hardest! It’s so much easier and nicer to keep the pretty apron pattern in my head. :)

    I’m starring this post in my reader so I can come back to it again and again to remind myself to just GET THE SCISSORS OUT! Thanks!

  29. Definitely a great perspective. Organizing can be a way to avoid DOING.

  30. I am actually almost in tears over here. I feel like you took a look around here (not that i am organized, just good at avoidance) and wrote this based on my many, many unfinished projects that abound here. Thanks for being open in addressing this. I really, really need this.

    Printing it out now.

    Megan@SortaCrunchy´s last post…WFMW: Stop Collections Harrassment

  31. You had me smiling at the title. Well said.

  32. Excellent post so I just had to put in my 2 cents.

    You are right about everything that you said, but I just would like to add that starting or not starting in this case is usually because of some underlying fear. For me and in the case of many it’s the fear is the fear of failure.

    We don’t begin because we fear lackluster results and spend forever getting it perfect so that we need not be disappointed.

    Just remember that winners take imperfect actions while losers are still perfecting the plan!

    Thanks for the post

  33. I could totally relate to what you said. At one point in my life I was so obsessed with my monthly menu planning thing. Even though it was a good thing to plan ahead but what good was it when sometimes it stumbled me from serving my family because I ran out of certain ingredients in a recipe and I refused to cook it? I’ve come a full circle with that. Now I still plan my monthly menu, but it is served as a guide only, I don’t stick to it religiously any more. I inter-change the meals within each week to fit our life schedule.

    Our Lives´s last post…The 21st Century Toddler

  34. Your posts always speak to me, I just love your blog. I am always on about decluttering – love it, and organizing – love it… and I was in the middle of a huge declutter from top to bottom that I blogged about when I first began blogging… And I really learnt something as I wrote and progressed through it: While I am creative and love projects I was getting nothing done because I had all these pending projects… that I was shuffling from one organized space to the next. You won’t believe it but I decided if I had had a pending project lying around for ages that I would pass it on as is… lots of friends got strange gifts: unpainted ceramics, a felt mobile begun and so on! They loved their gifts and I had a fresh start. Good for everyone. Now I buy no new materials unless it is a project I will be doing within the week/fortnight… and almost every project can be done with basics from around the home.

    se7en´s last post…The Most Magnificent Chocolate Chip Cookies in Se7en Steps…

  35. Hang on, do you know me? :D

  36. What a great post. I’ve been putting off hanging art and family photos on my wall because we are renting. I’m afraid of committing to a certain photograph, deciding on a frame and mostly settling on a wall space to put it on. Only to finally find that 3 bedroom we so badly want and to have to tear the frames off the wall and pack them. In the meantime, I stare at my blank walls everyday & privately wish I had the courage to just do it.

    I’ve also done zero decorating in my sons room. Mostly because I can’t decide on a darn thing. The colors, what to do with the wall space,trying to find the “perfect” lamp that he won’t knock over and whether to buy that cute rocking chair or not. And all with a very small budget. The list is endless.

    I just need to do it already! I’ve wasted so much time “organizing” it all in my head, you don’t even know.

  37. You are absolutely rigth – I sometimes spend more time organizing my fabric and patterns just so I don’t have to sew!!!!! But I absolutely can not work in a mess, so I have to find a balance.

  38. Jackie @ Lilolu says:

    I always get caught up in the creating part of organizing due to the simple fact that it’s fun for me to create. I do realize at some point I need to complete the task. You’ve motivated me to actually file today, instead of finding pretty folders or the perfect labels for my filing system. Thanks!

  39. Great point, though I do love me some organization!

    Ben Brooks´s last post…Sometimes Getting Organized Is a Big Fat Waste of Time

  40. It looks like some of the issues you are encountering when you file could be solved by using software to keep track of your files. You can try The Paper Tiger Filing system to help you better keep track of your files. Give it a try! We are BBB A-Rated business and are always looking for ways to help people file!

  41. Guilty as charged! So often I catch myself in the throes of “I can’t start / do this until I organize / clean such-n-such” and then at the end of the day I feel like I’ve just been spinning my wheels and haven’t accomplished anything. Thanks for the reminder!

  42. Excellent post, Rachel. This really speaks to me and my Penelope heart. In fact, I started knitting 5 years ago bc I wanted to get better at being willing to try something and suck at it at first. That’s so difficult, but so necessary.

    All these years later, I’m so glad I took that first step.

    Thanks for these thoughts.

    Meredith from Penelope Loves Lists´s last post…Get ready for tax time: I wish this were fun

  43. I agree with your post! It is great to be organized but if you aren’t willing to be a little daring and go ahead and do something than our organization doesn’t get much accomplished.

    Some projects I find easy to get started on and then others I will put off and put off (usually because I feel uncertian on how to do it) and then when I get going I usually find out that it isn’t nearly so hard as I thought it would be.

  44. Its funny ’cause it’s true.

  45. Thanks! Just what I needed to hear today!

  46. I have barriers to starting and completing, and taking a risk. Thankfully I have a husband who is very “end focused”. Together we were able to frame some photos I have taken. It seemed like a daunting task to me. Finding the right photos, finding the right place to put it etc etc. To help me through it, my husband would keep saying things like “we won’t know until we try”, “let’s give it a go” etc. Now I am so happy with the result, and that I was actually able to finish the job, rather than have my fears of not getting it “just right” ruin the end product!

    Meeks´s last post…A suprise for our 10 year anniversary

  47. Hmmm,
    Is it the organization or “analysis paralysis” that is the problem? Either way, I agree that spinning your wheels while getting ready to start a project won’t get the job done. And you will end up with a whole lot of frustration.

  48. Well done…organization rules! Thanks.

  49. I do the opposite. I always do things. Not organizing them, jut doing them.
    The result is : many things done, and the biggest paper pile you’ve ever seen!

  50. Nike probably says it best. Just do it. The little creative rebellion in me wants to dance around the basic, boring things that need to be done, and find a fancier way. Why reinvent the wheel?

    Lauri V.´s last post…It could be worse

  51. WhoCaresItWillJustGetMessedUpAnyway says:

    I don’t bother with organisation. Life’s too short! And who CARES if your socks are lined up in the drawer according to date bought, colour, store they were bought at, and day of the week they were bought? No one! Does anyone actually see one’s socks or underwear? No. I say just toss them in any old way and spend your life the way it was meant to be spent: Having fun. Relax! Life’s too short to while away on organising things like that.