two small organized floating display shelves against a red painted wall

How will I know when I’m organized?

If clutter has been a long-standing problem for you, it can be tough to figure out when you’re done. How will you know when you’re Organized with a capital O?


You’re Organized when you can use each room for its intended function. No books stashed in the oven or piles of laundry in the bathtub. You can cook in the kitchen, shower or take a bath in the bathroom and sit comfortably in your living room. You’re Organized.

You’re Organized when you know where to find things. There’s no more scrabbling under couch cushions and behind dressers, hoping to find the other sock in your favorite pair. If your child’s school needs vaccination papers, you know exactly where to look for them and they’re right where you thought they would be.

You’re Organized when you’re proactive rather than reactive to your everyday needs. You keep an eye on things that run out, like food and gas, and take care of the issue before the cupboards are bare and your car is running on fumes. You can keep track of appointments and arrive on time.

Not There Yet

You might enjoy seeing all your books arranged in rainbow-colored order but if you have to hunt through every shelf to find a certain book, organization is still a ways off.

You might have 16 pairs of scissors but if you don’t know where any of them are, you can buy 16 more pairs and still be tearing your house apart next time you need to cut something. Having lots of everything doesn’t make you Organized.

Putting everything in gorgeous totes, bins and boxes doesn’t make you Organized. Your items can be contained without being organized. You can label all the boxes and they can look genuinely lovely but if you don’t have the sense of where everything is, organization still awaits.

Often Confused With Organized

Cleaning is often confused with organizing, perhaps because when people picture their ideal space, it’s not only uncluttered but also sparkling. Cleaning comes after you get organized. Until then, you’re just dusting around the piles.

Being overly fastidious is often confused with being organized. If you can’t rest until all the magazines are squared off and the children’s toys are hidden out of sight, you’re not focusing on the point of organizing, which is to be able to find and use the things you have. If people are scared to put down a full coffee cup on the table because you’ll jump up and ask anxiously if they’re done with it before they’ve taken a sip, don’t confuse that anxiety with being organized. Organization supports us, it doesn’t stress us.

Having a visual memory of your space is often confused with being organized. You may be able to find specific papers in your stacks with uncanny accuracy but as the piles grow and merge, you’ll lose your GPS skills. It’ll take longer and longer to locate the right stack and searching for a specific piece of paper will take far more time than reaching for it in a filing system you’ve created would.

Close But No Cigar

Have you ever had someone help you by organizing your space for you? You don’t even have to be there! It’s the gift that keeps on taking. You have no sense of where everything is in your space because you didn’t set it up to take your unique situation and needs into account. You’ll try to follow along but you won’t keep it up.

How will they know you always put the vegetable peeler with the lemon zester because you use both to remove the rinds/skin of something? They’ll put the zester in with the baking supplies because that’s what they do.

They won’t store the rice cooker at the back of the pantry, they’ll put it on the counter next to the coffee maker because they use their rice cooker daily. You haul yours out twice a year, so there’s no need for it to be dominating the best counter in the kitchen, but they don’t know that. At best, you’ll have a lot of rearranging to do after they’re gone. At worst, you’ll think you’re doing it “wrong” and try to maintain their system.

If you read the latest organizing manual and carefully follow the instructions without considering whether their suggestions make sense for you, you’ll be temporarily organized but never Organized.  Following a system that’s not intuitive for you is never a long-term solution.

This Is How You Know You’re Organized

When you’ve created systems that work just right for you, when your space supports you, when you’re ready to get on with your life because organizing is just something you do, not the big, bad wolf, then and only then, Grasshopper, will you be organized with a capital O.

READ MORE >>> How to declutter and organize

READ MORE >>> How to stop organizing overwhelm

If the idea of getting there overwhelms you, there are people out there who can work with you to make this happen. Let them help you create systems that work for you, systems that you follow and use them most of the time without chaos returning, knowing you’re officially Organized.

by Lucy Kelly


  1. I love this. You are so spot on. Anyone who wants to know if they’re organized should just read this as their guide.
    I always thought it was important not to take over the process for my client but to work with them. Otherwise, how would they understand the system and it wouldn’t be tailored perfectly to their needs? Moreover, I always believed if I did my job right, my clients would be able to manage on their own except for occasional check ups.

  2. Yes! Understanding the system AND the process creates organization. It’s often more time consuming but you’re right, done for you is “the gift that keeps on taking.” I’ve started creating diagrams for clients in addition to labeling everything to help remind them (and me) where everything lives.

  3. I love the way you describe what being organized will look and feel like. And how what some of the ways that people think are organized, are not really so.

    You mentioned when someone else organizes for you, it doesn’t make you organized (necessarily.) I know what you mean, and most of the clients I work with it’s a collaborative approach. There are very few that I do the organizing work “for” them. However, there are clients who are time poor and want the help of an organizer to do that work for them. It doesn’t mean they aren’t organized. They are just opting to delegate that task/project to someone else.

  4. Agree with all of this. I sort of think you know you are organized when you stop berating yourself about needing to get organized. Having an ongoing approach for keeping things in locations that are easy, intuitive, convenient, and accessible. Very fun post!