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We live in the age of the “hack”: life hacks that solve every small, mundane inconvenience you could ever come across, shopping hacks to save money, sleep hacks, food hacks (also known as “recipes”), even health hacks.

The problem is, a lot of the tips that parade as little-known tricks that will make your life infinitely better aren’t really hacks. In fact, they often end up being more trouble than they’re worth, especially if they involve a high-effort project for a low-impact problem.

Home organization is a popular topic for the people who create these hacks, and you may be wondering if the ones you’ve seen are worth your time.

As someone who believes that home organization means that every object should have a place, even if that place is at the bottom of the junk drawer or cluttering the top of your dresser, I may not be the best person to tell other people that their organization tips are bad. However, what I lack in organizational skills, I make up for in being able to spot a bad life hack from a mile away. As a bona fide lazy person, I love things that make my life easier, so I’m pretty good at knowing what makes a good hack and what’s a waste of time.

So, which of these hacks are more DI-why than DIY?

Chalkboard Wall

Every few years, I get the urge to paint a wall of my bedroom with chalkboard paint. This always spawns from fantasies of me drawing beautiful, colorful murals in chalk and writing motivational sayings in attractive script, all at the whim of my mood that day.

But because I know myself, I refrain. And you should, too. Here’s why.

Sure, all those pictures of successful chalkboard walls you’ve seen paint a picture of a beautifully organized life where your family always knows the weekly dinner menu because you’ve drawn pictures of each meticulously planned meal on the kitchen wall and nobody wonders whose turn it is to walk the dog because your chore chart spells it out in big, chalky lettering.

However, getting organized should make your life simpler, not add to your list of things to do. Because this hack hinges on you carving out time each week to create a new masterpiece, your chalkboard wall will likely fall into dusty disuse in a week or two. You just won’t want to keep up with it. And if there’s one thing that makes you look disorganized, it’s a faded, several-months-old chore calendar displayed for all to see.

What to Do Instead

Use a pen and a notepad to write out your plans for the week or keep track of chores. If your family is asking for a week’s notice when it comes to dinner plans, start a group text chat or remind them to be thankful that they have someone who provides meals for them and let dinner remain a mystery until it is served.

Reusable Containers for Things That Came in a Container

The internet would have you believe that adorably labeled, hipster-style glass containers are a great spot for you to keep your dry goods, and maybe they are, in the world of lifestyle blogs and certain image-sharing sites, where everything looks good, but nothing is practical. However, the time you spend cleaning up the flour you tried pouring into a chalk-labelled mason jar will make you rue the day you decided it would be cuter to fill your cabinets with these monstrosities rather than keep your food items in the containers they were sold in.

While this hack certainly gives your cabinets a uniform look and can help you keep track of your pantry’s inventory, it’s not necessarily a more organized route, especially since the bigger containers can be kind of unwieldy if you need to use them frequently. Constantly having to wedge them in and out of your pantry is going to get really old, really fast.

What to Do Instead

If you dream of having super-organized shelves or just have a problem with buying items you already have hidden in the back of your cabinet, a better option is to corral these items together using shelf organizers or baskets, so you can group like-items together and make sure that everything has a place and is visible.

Cookie Jar Bathroom Storage

Organization hackers love to take random objects and repurpose them as storage. Apparently, the latest hack is to use cookie or candy jars to store nail polish, lip gloss and other beauty items. While it might look adorable – and invite a fun comparison between picking out a makeup shade and choosing a treat in a candy shop – it’s not super-helpful if the color you want is at the bottom of the jar. It also means that if you ever want to take stock of the colors you own before making a decision, you’ll likely have to remove them all from the jar first, which is incredibly inconvenient.

What to Do Instead

If you must keep confectionery containers in your bathroom, stock them with something you won’t need to dig through, like cotton balls.

Wall Displays of Clutter

Whether it be with a magnetic makeup board, your spice collection mounted to the side of your fridge, a pegboard in your kitchen for hanging utensils or jewelry pinned to a corkboard, more and more people are utilizing the vertical space in their homes to store and display their stuff.

While it may be clever, it’s not necessarily good for organization. Flipping a mess vertically and hanging it on a wall doesn’t change the fact that you’ve still got clutter scattered about. If I keep all my kitchen utensils splayed out on the counter, it’s considered messy. But if I stick them up on the wall in the same formation, suddenly I’m an organizational genius?

If it makes your life easier to have your most-used items within reach, maybe this hack will work for you, but it’s a hack of convenience, not organization, so if you want a way to make your home look more orderly, this ain’t it. In general, making your home look organized involves putting things away, not leaving them out.

What to Do Instead

Walls often have a lot of untapped potential for storage space. However, the key is to make it look neat and minimize visual clutter. This means hanging up something that actually belongs on the wall, like a shelf, and displaying a few choice items on it, rather than sticking each individual makeup palette or rubber spatula up for everyone to see.

Putting Lots of Effort into Organizing Kids’ Stuff

The kids will appreciate all your hard work with pom-poms and the hot-glue gun for approximately zero seconds before destroying it in almost the same amount of time.

There are countless mommy-bloggers with abundant ideas for fun, cutesy ways to keep their kiddos’ living spaces nice and organized. The results are definitely worthy of a lifestyle-magazine spread. But are they really worth all that effort when the tots will be just as happy with a few plain, cheapo storage bins that don’t require a complex organization system likely to be undone the first time they put their toys away?

If you’ve ever interacted with children, you know that they don’t tend to be super into organization. Which is why these types of hacks are especially baffling, because they don’t seem to benefit anyone. It’s nice for the kids’ space to be tidy, but many of these tips seem to be more about making their room photoshoot-ready – one suggests sorting Legos by color into separate bins!

What to Do Instead

Kids don’t care if the container that holds their toys is nicely decorated or cutely labelled. Kids are better than we are in that way – they care about what’s on the inside. Save yourself an afternoon of crafting and buy a big canvas bin for all their favorite stuffed animals. As they get older, let them take the lead on organizing their stuff, but even when they’re young, don’t feel the need to micromanage all of their belongings. Let them sort their own Legos. It builds character.

Takeaway

There are a lot of organizational tips and tricks out there, and while some of them are more “hacky” than “hack,” if they end up working for you, hey, don’t let this article stop you. However, after poring over many of the hacks the internet has to offer, I have two thoughts for those who feel the need to organize their homes into oblivion:

  • Your home is never going to look like a magazine cover or the beautiful pictures you have on your online pinboard because your home, unlike the ones in those pictures, is lived in. Relax with this knowledge and aim for manageable imperfection.
  • Those beautiful magazine homes are overrated, anyway. Ultimately, organization should be about making your home easier and more soothing to live in. You don’t need a bunch of clever hacks. Just put your stuff away and get rid of clutter. Done.

Do you have any hacks that ended up not being so helpful? Share your story in the comments!

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This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. You are right on the money, Zing. I have learned from experience that all the organizational “hacks” in the world work if there is only ONE person involved, you. Add a second person, and their idea of organization frustrates yours. Add some children or other “roommates” (whether they are children or not) makes the hyper organized person crazy.

    P.S. I cringe at using the word hack to mean a new idea. Canisters in the kitchen are a relic of bygone days when women actually cooked every day. Now putting sugar in a canister for convenience, and yes to prevent pest like ants, is called a hack so that it sounds new, but take a look at some of the retro pictures of kitchens you can find on the internet. You will see canisters (4 labeled flour, sugar, coffee and tea) on the counter keeping the kitchen organized and pest free while frequently used items were still handy.

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  2. I thought this article was awesome! Organizing all your kids toys always seems like a good idea for about 10 minutes until you’re back to square one!

  3. I just need to mention that the reason people have been keeping their flour, sugar, etc. in bins for generations is to keep out pests. Those paper containers they are purchased in don’t cut it.

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