4 Unexpected Organizing Obstacles

obstacles to organizing



Organizing requires courage and tenacity.  With every goal we have, there are bumps in the road and obstacles we will have to face.  We often discuss the obstacles in organizing. The most frequent challenges are

  • sentimental attachments, such as gifts given with emotional attachment
  • financial obstacles, items with more value than we have used them and
  • time obstacles, just how much time do we have to organize.


It’s in addressing obstacles that we can find solutions for getting started.  These 4 obstacles to organizing may surprise you.  Which one may be holding you back?

Organizing is a more than one time activity

All too often I hear about the amazing organizing job my client did in 20XX.  It was a long project and then all of a sudden the office/home/filing system was again disorganized.  The obstacle to organizing is your perception that organizing need only happen once. Organizing changes as your life changes. Organizing requires steady commitment with a routine that reinforces your organizing.  When organizing is only a one time activity, it’s time to commit to a daily and weekly routine to stay on track.

The lack of “flow” in your space

Just like the balance we aspire to with home and work, organizing has a flow to it as well.  The flow of items in should match the flow of items out.  When more items come in or stuff has no movement, it becomes clutter.  Being aware of this flow as an element for organizing makes it easier to let go of items and not bring as much. When you are organizing, have a hiatus on purchasing. It’s much easier to let go of items and create a balance in your home as you are creating an organized space. As  you continue your organizing journey, think  of natural maintenance factors to maintain your flow.  For some people, one in and one out is a good strategy. For some people a seasonal decluttering makes a difference. Decide what works best for you to create a flow of items in and out.


Analysis paralysis

While a certain amount of complexity is required for organizing, at times you might experience analysis paralysis.  This is when you over think the organizing possibilities. It might be that you are researching too many solutions to your organizing challenges.  It might be that you have not decided how detailed your categories for filing should be. Your obstacle to organizing is the myriad of details.  When you pare down the number of organizing options, it’s easier to get started and also complete your organizing.  Another strategy is to apply the mantra, Keep it simple sweetie. The simpler the strategy the easier it is to get organized.


Clutter Blindness

You may not have realized how much clutter has accumulated as you go about your daily life. Your life is busy and you have a lot going on.  It’s not until there is a transition that you realize how much has become clutter in  your home or office. Once aware, it can be overwhelming and difficult.  Focus on the big picture rather than negative self talk.  Remove this obstacle to organizing with a plan.  Start with a plan that breaks your organizing into manageable chunks for you to accomplish.  It’s all about using baby steps to create an organized home or office.


There are valuable lessons learned as we move around these obstacles. These life lessons can apply to other challenges we have as well.  What are the obstacles you have seen as you organize? Thoughts that gave you pause as you decluttered? I look forward to hearing your ideas.


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6 replies
  1. Janet Barclay
    Janet Barclay says:

    Maintaining my filing system is a huge issue for me, especially now that so much less paper is generated that needs to be filed (and therefore the need to purge to make space for it feels less urgent). I bet if I were to look right now, I have insurance renewals going back at least 3 years, because I’m not in the habit of pulling out the old one when a new one comes in.

  2. Sabrina Quairoli
    Sabrina Quairoli says:

    I am definitely a seasonal declutter. I have to declutter the areas depending on the seasons. I declutter my closets during the fall and spring. I declutter the garage, attic and shed in the spring because of the heat. I declutter the kids rooms in the summer when they are finished with school. It works out for us. I agree that decluttering is a process and needs to be reevaluated and refined whenever there is something new happening. Thanks for sharing, Ellen. Great post.

  3. Liana George
    Liana George says:

    I love how you explained these obstacles to beautifully! They are definitely reasons why people have trouble moving forward in their organizing efforts and I know that many will benefit from your post. Thanks for sharing!!

  4. Ellen Delap
    Ellen Delap says:

    @Janet – it’s true that maintenance is the hardest part of a filing system. But you are on the way to getting a new habit started when you file.

    @Sabrina – you are in inspiration! Connecting different seasons with decluttering helps you stay in forward motion and get ahead on organizing.

    @Liana – acknowledging obstacles prevents paralysis. Thank you for your kind words.

    Thanks everyone!

  5. Seana Turner
    Seana Turner says:

    One place I often see clutter blindness is around the computer screen. People put Post-it notes with all kinds of information on them, typically to remind themselves of something, but they stop looking at them. Visual cues only work when they are an interruption to the normal view!

  6. Ellen
    Ellen says:

    Good point Seana! It’s funny how people can use these notes in a less than effective way. I typically suggest having a notebook with key words, passwords or any other frequently used notes instead of post its.

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