3 Ways “Perfection” Actually Prevents Helpful Organization

published Apr 30, 2023
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kitchen shelves with teapot and baking needs on it
Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaeffer; Prop Styling; Tom Hoerup

You’ve probably seen an impeccably organized home online — like a pantry decked out from top to bottom with labeled clear bins or a kitchen filled with every organizational tool under the sun — and “saved” it for inspiration. Of course, these spaces are pretty to look at, but, beyond the beauty, are they really functional, or even sustainable for your lifestyle? Probably not.

When it comes to getting your home organized, you might think that by buying and arranging based on what you see on social media, your home will be magically organized. But that’s not true at all: A truly organized home has a system that is realistic for you and works the way you need it to each day.

“As a professional organizer, I always tell my clients that the goal, above all else, is to build a system that is easy to maintain,” says Stefani Herr, co-founder and CEO of SortJoy. “No matter how good your space looks right after being organized, if a month later it’s unrecognizable, not much is really accomplished. Organizing by being kind to yourself and keeping the future in mind is the sustainable path.”

Herr says that if you find yourself admiring these seemingly flawless homes online, you might be influenced in the wrong direction. Here are three examples of how striving for a “perfect space” doesn’t actually work best for organization, according to a pro organizer.

Selecting All Clear Bins for Uniformity and Convenience

The case for clear bins might make sense at first glance. You can easily see what you have, which looks great if that’s a colorful array of items that are neatly organized. But the truth is, aspiring to that level of organization and color coordination isn’t easy to achieve or maintain. “The problem with these clear bins is that they require absolute organization within (and even then they can look cluttered),” says Herr. “The moment you’re in a rush and don’t put something back in perfectly, its placement is on full display.” 

So instead of thinking this type of full transparency can be a positive thing, it instead becomes a constant source of worry. Herr recommends going with opaque bins, like these, that still provide a uniform look but without all the contents being on display.

Going with “Sturdier” Finds Because They’ll Last Longer

Yes, those heavy perforated metal or wire bins are stylish and long-lasting, but they’re also heavy and can cause more damage than you think. When looking for bins to fill your home, you need them to be durable and also easy to use. Heavy wire bins have the potential to scratch wooden shelves when you’re simply wanting to rearrange them, which “defeats the whole purpose of bins,” says Herr.

She recommends going for something lightweight but structured. “If a bin is lightweight enough, you can grab the whole thing instead of needing to take out one item at a time. Imagine cooking ingredients in your kitchen — instead of leaving the bin on your pantry shelf and inefficiently taking out the individual items, you can instead bring the whole bin to your counter and back when finished,” she says. 

Credit: SortJoy

Choosing to Decant Everything for Aesthetics

The argument to decant or not to decant is endless — but ultimately, it comes down to whether or not you want to empty your pantry items into containers to get rid of the original packaging to create a consistent look all throughout your space. However, you shouldn’t rely solely on aesthetics as a reason to decant your pantry. Instead, you should consider the “why” behind it first. For instance, you might not want to decant something if you need or want to easily see the nutritional facts or serving information on the back of your packaging. In this case, keeping the entire item, package and all, makes the most sense. “Instead of committing to decanting in order to achieve a ‘look,’ try putting pantry items in a monochromatic set of bins with labels,” suggests Herr. “Decanting is only worth it if it makes your life easier!” 

Alternatively, you can decide to decant the items you go through regularly and know they will be replaced frequently enough that you don’t need to see the expiration date or know the packaging details by heart.

The Goal Shouldn’t Be Perfection

Many experts agree that perfection isn’t what you should be striving for when it comes to home organization. Instead, you should be implementing the habits, systems, and tools that’ll serve you best long-term. “The secret to having a well-organized house isn’t doing a once-a-year big organization day,” says Herr. “It’s creating a system that you can maintain every day. That means being kind to yourself and thinking about what feels right to you.”