• Cheryl Libutti

Put Down the Organizing Magazine: Life is Messy.

I'm sure you've all seen these beautiful, glossy, perfect looking magazines in the grocery store checkout lane... they are a siren song for the unorganized, the "looking for the perfect organizational answer" seekers, the aspirational homemaker.

And let me clear about two things: 1) I have them right now in my own house; and 2) I, too, fall for their beauty and simplicity and grace.

But I am going to give you a piece of advice: Put down the magazine. Walk away. Don't buy the beautiful glossy book. Don't get it out of the library, don't borrow it from a friend, don't touch it, feel it, smell it, or chew it.

I guess this is weird advice from a professional organizer, someone who's now been in dozens of houses of all shapes, sizes and levels of functionality and has been hired to implement the same systems/ideas/dreams that are being shown in the magazines.

My concern is this: magazines show you such an idealized version of "life organized". And in reality, Life Is Messy. And it is almost impossible to meld the two worlds.

Let me show you some examples from The Container Store catalog.

See this closet? It's GORGEOUS. But your closet can only look like this with an elfa closet system... and an entire wardrobe of only yellow and white clothing. Mostly skirts. And a closet that has no doors and is open to a room.

I don't know about you, but I don't know anyone who has that situation.

How about this pantry?

Again, beautifully organized with an elfa system, wonderful lighting, and again, only yellow and white food items and appliances. Where are the granola bars? The potato chips? The soup cans? The leftover Halloween candy from last year that has floated around inside there for a few months and basically everyone has forgotten about but the moment the mom throws it away, a child from the household will wail with grief? And who has space for only two paper towel rolls??

And lastly, one more well-lit door-less closet, this one filled with only clothing and accessories from the green/natural palette.

You get my point. And let me be clear: I LOVE THE CONTAINER STORE. They can style a space like nobody's business. They offer amazing products and ideas of how to make spaces more functional and organized. Their catalogs and website are like mommy pornography: an ideal, a fantasy, aspirational, and ultimately, in many cases, unachieveable.


Because I can get the elfa, buy all the matching hangers, purge my clothing, arrange it all beautifully in my closet with like items together... and it will still not look this good.

And the problem I have with catalogs and organizational books and magazines is that it assumes three things: 1) you have unending funds to make it all work; 2) you only have to do it once and it will be organized forever; and 3) you can basically redesign the structure of your house to make it look like a magazine.

The best time to look at books and magazines (and a perfect time to hire a professional organizer) is when you are designing a new house. THEN I think it's a great idea to look at these resources. THEN you have complete control over how things are structured, and you can look at how your kitchen functions and where will you fold laundry and pay bills and wrap gifts. THEN you can establish magazine-worthy closets and stations at which to do the activities of running a household.

And in the meantime, you can seek out real solutions about how to make what you have look and function better. And I do that everyday. It is astounding what some labelled bins and folders can do to make someone feel in control of their stuff and life.

But don't get discouraged: Life Is Messy. And Constant. And it takes time and energy to stay on top of it. And it can look good- great, even. But will it be magazine-perfect? Probably not. And that's okay.

Making it better is good enough.


1. Storage books/ catalogs/ magazines are helpful tools, but don't get lost in their ideal version of life.

2. I need a Container Store closer to my house than 2.25 hours away.

3. A professional organizer is a great person to have on your team while building a house or doing a remodel of the one you currently live in. Organizers look at how the space functions and how your belongings would fit into a space. And we have tons of ideas to make it pretty, neat and fun to use.

4. Organizing is not a one-and-done. It takes upkeep. If a space is hard to keep organized, it needs to be re-evealuated. An organizer can help you come up with a great system designed just for you.

#organizing #emotion

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