Organizing Fairy Dust

fairy dustIn my last blog post, I gave some examples of the science of organizing. I explained that what we do is not magic, it’s science. This time, I thought it would be fun to look at some of the magical ideas I have encountered over the years about organizing and professional organizers. I call these ideas organizing fairy dust.

A professional organizer can just look at my mess once and know what systems are needed.

Just as a doctor needs to give you a thorough exam before prescribing medicine, so too a professional organizer needs to assess all your priorities before recommending the appropriate systems. There are no absolutes in organizing systems.

Get organized without purging.

Getting organized is ultimately about sorting out your priorities. Priorities change and so the value of your items naturally change along with them. You must take the less important stuff out of the way, so that you can more easily get to the most important stuff. I have never met an organized hoarder and I have never met a disorganized minimalist.

Get organized and stay organized in one shot.

By the time someone resolves to contact me for help, it is very unlikely that he or she is reporting a situation so minor, that we can get it fully organized in just 3 hours. And there certainly won’t be time to establish effective organizing systems to STAY organized, after a lifetime of ineffective organizing habits. Getting organized usually involves a mad rush to cover a lot of ground, clearing space, and sorting priorities. Staying organized involves a calmer discussion of habits and a methodical execution of systems.  Mad rush and calm discussion are a bad mix.

The magic mail bin.

People often ask me what container I recommend for organizing mail. My answer is so snarky, I almost hate to say it.


I say, Mail stops being mail the second it comes out of your mailbox. I have product recommendations for bills to pay, magazines, solicitations, and statements, but not for mail. Mail should not get comfortable in a container. It should not take up residence. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of products that exist to hold mail, but it is organizing fairy dust to think that any of them will help you organize your mail.

“I should just scan everything and go paperless!”

There always seems to be two assumptions that come with this statement:

  1. There will be less paper to look at
  2. Everything will be automatic

#1 is certainly true, assuming you are able to break old habits like printing out your electronic mail. #2 is the real fairy dust. There is actually a lot of work involved in scanning everything, even with the fastest scanners, especially if you are scanning all the paper you should be tossing. Not all bills will pay themselves and not all digital documents will file themselves. If you don’t understand how to organize your paper files and you don’t like spending the time on them, it is a fantasy to think that that you will suddenly be more organized just by going paperless.

Value based on expediture.

I am often told, “Hey, that cost me a lot of money,” with the expectation that if that item were to be sold, it could fetch a lot of money. I am all for getting rid of things that no longer serve you, especially when they are getting in the way, but it’s important to recognize that the open space created by that elimination is usually far more valuable than the item that occupied it.  Certainly there will be items that can be sold and return you some money, but it is fairy dust to believe that you can recoup the amount of money you spent on it, especially if it is a few years old, especially if its condition is…compromised, and ESPECIALLY if just no one wants to buy it!

One place to take it all away for free.

This one is kind of related to the last one, because I think sometimes folks feel like there should be more of a reward for getting organized. Rewards for organizing are important, but they should be things like gaining space for a home office or selling a home, not profiting from selling your treadmill, that you’ve been using as a laundry drying rack for the last 5 years. Another unreasonable reward is the expectation of convenient, free, one-stop disposal, of all trash and donates. Simply put, clutter costs and no time is this more apparent than when you are trying to get rid of it. There is a limit to how much your sanitation service will take. Charitable donation services have limitations on when they can come and on the size and condition of items they can take. The closest answer to a convenient one-stop-shop for disposal is a company like College Hunks Hauling Junk. The free version is organizing fairy dust.

On our testimonials page, you will see the word “miracle” thrown around a lot, but I can assure you that all these miraculous results were built on a very scientific process. If you trust the scientific process, then you can trust us.

Can you think of some good examples of organizing fairy dust?