52 Weeks: #49 Say no to scattered and unfocused organizing

If you are new to 52 Weeks of Organizing, catch up here!

I blogged about this tip previously but it’s so important I’m doing it again!

As you know, while in Ontario visiting my family, I helped my sister and brother in law do a lot of organizing.  I’ll talk more about that next week but today I wanted to talk about a bad habit that I recognized in my brother in law that I know is very common for many.

Scattered and unfocused organizing.

It will get you into a whole pile of trouble.

Unless of course you have all the time in the world then don’t worry about it.

Except most of us don’t.

We find pockets of time here and there to organize our spaces.  Nothing wrong with that.

Except when we don’t focus on the area at hand and instead find ourselves here there and everywhere leaving a trail of disorganization behind us.

Scattered organizing will get you nothing but one great big mess.

I can’t even tell you how many times I had to say to my BIL, “focus, stay focused”.  He was all over the place moving from one room to the next organizing a little here and a little there (he really really loves to organize so for him he just kept getting ahead of himself).  Things quickly get out of hand this way.

It’s not effective.

It’s not productive.

It can be overwhelming.

And it’s very very common.

Focus –> Freedom Out of Curing the Urge to Scatter

It happens so easily.  You start organizing in one room when you find something that belongs in another room.  You go to put it away in that space and realize you should actually deal with the toys scattered all over the bedroom floor but that means you need to rearrange the room.  You then realize you are missing a piece to one of the toy sets so you head over to the living room to find it.  Your eyes land on the piles of paper on the coffee table and you immediately forget about the toy reorganization when you remember you need to sort these papers out in order to find the bill you know needs to be paid.  You’ve got papers scattered all over the floor when you have to go the bathroom.  Once in the bathroom though you see your hair products scattered all over and decide you simply must do something about that asap.  And on and on it goes.  As you can imagine the path of destruction by this time is totally out of hand.  You feel like a failure and beat yourself up.

There is a cure for this.


Start a task and finish it before moving onto the next.  This is why throughout this 52 weeks series I have emphasized setting smaller task goals that can be completed in reasonable and practical amounts of time.  Never say to yourself “I need to organize my playroom today”.  Break it down to manageable steps…I need to organize the Polly Pockets, I need to organize the Lego, I need to organize the dress up clothes, I need to buy x, y and z, etc.

Always have a container near you for items that need to be relocated elsewhere and toss things into that rather than moving it right then and there.  At the end of your time, relocate all items at once.  It will not only save you time but your sanity as well.

In order to motivate yourself to continue you need to see that you are making progress and you can’t do that if you never allow yourself to complete any one task.

Don’t be a scatter pants.


Be mindful of this pattern of behavior this weekend and see if any of it rings true for you.   Making this one little adjustment might be just the mental shift you need to stay on track and get things done.

You can do it!  Don’t forget to let me know how you make out.


Please feel free to share your organizing journey and encourage one another in the comments. You are also invited to link up to the linky below with any posts related to your 52 weeks of organizing participation or to any post of an organizing nature that you feel will inspire and encourage others in their quest to get organized. Please remember to link back to here though so we can reach out to as many people as possible in need of some inspiration.

One other thing to consider: by including your link below you, you are giving me permission to use parts of your post including pictures as a spotlight in future 52 Weeks of Organizing posts. Proper credit and links will of course be provided. If you are not okay with this please do not link up. Thanks!

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18 Responses to 52 Weeks: #49 Say no to scattered and unfocused organizing

  1. 1
    Ginny says

    I thought of you tonight when I got really angry about the STUFF all over our kitchen table. I decided right then and there – and told my husband – that in the future, if someone has left a pile of mail / boxes / food containers / etc. at their place, then I’m not going to clear it off to set the table. I simply placed the dishes and silverware in the closet available space. Hubby and I discussed it later, and I feel motivated (after Christmas, though) to finally make the mail pouches I’ve had fabric for since . . . well, we won’t say how long. That will be my first project for the new year, I hope.

    I realized from reading your post that I am one of those unfocused organizers. I have such limited time, and even more limited energy (I have moderately severe fibromyalgia), but you are so right – focusing on one task at a time ensures that at least one thing gets done. I’m going to try.

    And may I share an organizing success? I always put the ads from Sunday’s paper that I was going to need (mostly the grocery ads) on the coffee table, but like my kitchen table, it was always messy. Then I got myself a wonderful decoration for the table and suddenly, the motivation was there to do something about those ads. I talked to my daughter about it, and she suggested a binder system. We went to Office Max and found the “[IN]PLACE Innovative” pockets and envelopes, which I put into a pretty binder. I labeled the pockets using Post-It Note labels, and now with only a few minutes’ work, I have everything I need to plan my grocery lists in one place. I’m a happy camper!

  2. 2
    raven says

    This method works for me sometimes during maintenance mode. You know, when everything’s mostly clean, IS organized.. but there are a few things in each room out of place that belong somewhere else.

    The problem is operating in that mode (scattered) when we’re NOT in maintenance.

    I have learned over this past year to FOCUS on putting those few items away, then make a note on my To Do to come back to the “Thing Lurking” that I found later – that way I know I won’t forget and can come back to it without getting totally off-task.

    I plan to try out your app, but right now I’m using Cozi because I have my whole family synced to it including the 2 older kids – it texts them reminders to their cell phones, emails us all at the beginning of the week with what the family schedule is, etc. Since I can set up Lists on it, everyone has their own To Do and it is texted to them weekly. I’m going to add a “52 Weeks of Organizing” one to it come January 🙂

    My husband is not only the Scattered type, he’s the ADD type – if there’s a television on, he will literaly stop in the room, standing, holding whatever – to watch it. And it can be the most horrible infomercial EVER created but it’s “ooh look bright moving pictures! Must watch!”. Then he twitches and glares when I hmph at him to get moving or turn off the TV. Get some meds, honey, cuz that ain’t my monkey.

    A small update – I still don’t have my garage back. This is mostly due to hubby’s job deciding that since they get ONE day off for Christmas, it makes sense to put everyone on mandatory 12 hour/6 day week schedules. *headdesk* I’m frankly amazed we managed to buy a tree and clean the house somewhat just with the daily stuff. His only day off right now is Sundays, so no way to get the items to storage (closed on Sunday). Oh well.. guess it’ll be our first task in January!

    The kitchen is almost completed – remember we started right after Halloween O.o sigh – still have the electrician and tile to go, and then I’ll update my blog! And start looking for a kitchen table.. haha.

  3. 3
    Rebecca says

    Wow, this is exactly how i feel! I am so scattered i can barely keep the house picked up everyday! It totally makes sense now! I’m going to try to FOCUS.. thanks for the tip!

  4. 4
    [email protected] says

    THAT’S ME!!!!!
    I scatter!!!

    I’m considering to hire a professional to come and help me figure out some storage solutions for this house, then maybe I can be organized once and for all!!!


    or is that just a dream?

  5. 5
    Brandy says

    I must say that I get soo motivated by reading your blog. When procrastination starts to set in I just turn to your blog to get re-motivated. I have started organizing on my lunch break. I am very fortunate to live close enough to home to be able to come home every day for lunch. So what I have done is made myself a goal to organize my filing cabinet by taking 10 minutes for 4 days a week at lunch time. I started doing this about 1 month ago and I am almost finished.

  6. 6
    S says

    Thanks for posting this. I think I tend to go to extremes: either I do the “If you give a mouse a cookie” thing you wrote about here, or I don’t give up until the project is done, and ignore everything else that needs to be done, like making food, cleaning dishes, getting myself and the kids out of pjs and dressed, showering… not a good way to use my focus. I’m working on realizing that this mess wasn’t made in a day and it’s not just a matter of doing one big fix and then it’s over. It’s about making and keeping small changes, one at a time. And the kind of focus you write about here is exactly the kind of balanced approach I need to take.

  7. 7
    Suzanne says

    The scattered organizing you described is what I call AAADD – Age Activated Attention Deficit Disorder. It can strike at any time! I’m always laughing at myself when it hits me. Thinking of it like that, though, helps me get back on track.

  8. 8
    Sabrina Jackson says

    I definitely do that. I think this weekend, I will sit down and write a list of what I want to organize and and then only do one at a time. Maybe that will help keep me focus since so I can check them off!

  9. 9
    Sinea says

    Yikes! This is exactly what I’ve been doing lately…unfocused organizing. I’ve been getting nowhere fast. Thanks for bringing me back to reality. 🙂

  10. 10
    Becky L. says

    It almost sounds like me. I find myself taking stuff to another room when I’m organizing and I feel defeated when I do that. So I usually make a pile! Thanks for helping us stay focused! And the dining room is 2/3ds painted. It’s been too busy and now too cold to paint it b4 Christmas…we’ll see.Below 40 degrees F. all these past two weeks isn’t good to have a window open! Oh dear and I’ve had a cold which doesn’t help….it will get done! ARG! I hate putting it off!

  11. 11
    Michelle @ Getting Through the Day says

    This is great! I find myself pacing from one room to the next way too often not accomplishing much of anything. I’m trying to teach my girls that the stay in a room until they are finished. I usually just have them put things that don’t belong in a room in a pile near the door while they finish the other things in the room. I definitely need to start using a basket. That makes so much more sense than a pile!

  12. 12
    AJ says

    OMG! I am so your BIL!! Drives my hubby nuts!
    I just found your 52 weeks list last night and I’m starting today….It’s never to late to start right?

  13. 13
    Nicole says

    I just realized I’m a scatter pants. OMG, my husband always says will you just stop and do one thing, but I think OHHHHHH but I’m doing so many things. Yes, very counter productive. You’re so right.

  14. 14
    Cynthia H. Bannister says

    Just discovered your website and the 52 list. I’m also doing the 15 min. Organizing things to my kitchen and other drawers. Love all your addvice and telling all my friends about your site and 52 list. Thanks again.

  15. 15
    Ak says

    Oh my gosh! That’s me!!!!!!!!!!!!!. Thank you for showing me where I was going wrong. An invaluable contribution to my life.

  16. 16
    Tiffany says

    I love this. I’ve realized before I do this every day with my cleaning chores. It’s given me insight and empathy for those with ADD. Now that I’ve recognized my issue, I’m sometimes able to focus, but I need to keep working at it. It helps to remember that baby steps are the way to get things done.


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