4 Signs It’s Time to Get Organized, According to an Expert Organizer

published Jun 13, 2023
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
collage of messy counter top and front door with pile of shoes
Credit: Photos: Shutterstock & Photo: Lucy Schaeffer; Prop Styling: Carla Gonzalez-Hart; Design: Apartment Therapy

Keys in the laundry hamper. Shoes in a heap by the front door. Junk mail mingling with important mail in a pile on the kitchen counter. These are all telltale signs that you need an organizing system. These signs are not just mildly annoying — they also get in the way of living with more ease. It’s more difficult to find your keys, choose your shoes, and identify important mail when you don’t have a system. Implementing an organizing system goes beyond simple tidying — it’s creating a solution to a recurring problem that is interfering with your day-to-day life. 

While the idea of systematizing your entire home is overwhelming, Rebecca Enberg, the organizational expert behind the substack “Your House Machine”, believes there are four ways to identify when an organizational system is needed. Rather than taking on the entire home, use these prompts to identify which areas of the house are truly in need of a system, and go from there. 

The same household problem keeps popping up over and over.

“Why can’t I ever find my keys?” “How did I lose my voter’s pamphlet?” “Where is my other shoe?” These are all refrains heard in households the world over. If a problem repeatedly occurs, that is the first sign that it’s time to design an organizational system. 

The problem is annoying you (or someone else). 

Some problems aren’t all that problematic. For example, my husband is a hat guy. He wears a classic dad hat every day and leaves them around the house like hidden Easter eggs. He so often needs a hat, that it doesn’t make sense to just store them in the upstairs closet. Baseball hats peppering the home don’t bother me, or anyone else, so I don’t consider it a problem. But if a household issue is bothering you (or someone else), then it might be time for a system. I hate walking into my home and seeing shoes splattered throughout the entryway. This minor problem has caused major arguments, and so I knew it was time for a solution. 

The thing causing problems is essential for your life. 

Organizational systems are best applied to essential items. For example, having a system to organize the extra-special brooches that you wear twice a year is nice, but it’s not going to impact your daily routines. Systematizing your shoes, keys, and toiletries, however, is going to change the way you get out of the door each day. When selecting an area of the home to systematize, ask yourself how addressing the problem will impact your day-to-day life. Maybe you’ll never lose your keys again, each family member will have the right pair of shoes by the door, and you’ll no longer store junk mail and can immediately address important documents. Those seemingly minuscule things take up a lot of time and headspace, so creating ease around them can have a profound impact on your life. 

You have the power to actually address the issue. 

For years, I lived in a house that was over 110 years old. It was beautiful and tricky. There were many things I, as a modern person, wanted to change, but those changes were outside of my wheelhouse and budget. Luckily, though, you can create an organizing system without buying anything or by purchasing or repurposing a few low-cost items like baskets or file boxes. Start with the problems you can address. If you have the power to make a change that will positively impact the way your home works, why not make the change?