7 Questions to Ask Before Following An Organizing Trend
“But wait,” you say*, “surely there’s nothing wrong with something as helpful and entertaining as ‘organization hacks’… right?”*
As a professional organizer, I love researching new ways to make homes more functional and pleasing to the eye. People are always thinking of these neat, innovative ways to store Tupperware and clean sheets, organize pantries and beautify blank walls. It’s one of the most thrilling parts of my job— there’s always something new to discover.
TikTok has become a valuable resource for fellow organizers and decor enthusiasts to share their ideas, so I began investigating the app for myself. And, the content well is bottomless... I can’t tell you how many ways I’ve seen people use IKEA towel rods. It’s insane.
I’ve sifted through the endless barrage of videos and found some really smart, fascinating, creative strategies that I hope to use in future projects. And I’ve also found some really questionable ones.
More importantly, I’ve noticed a pattern of behavior throughout these social media platforms that I feel I should touch on, as someone who believes good mental health is a necessity for leading an organized lifestyle.
I have a lot to say about what I’ve found, but my goal for this article is to encourage you to exercise mindfulness and discernment while looking through organization trends*—* there’s a lot of content out there, and not all of it is truly helpful or in your best interest. In an effort to be concise (and, well, organized), I’ll separate my concerns into three categories: practicality, financial responsibility, and the emotional cost.
When “Easy” Becomes Impractical
Organization content has a lot of big allures, but the biggest is probably its creative payoff— the “Aha!” feeling you get when people turn baskets into lampshades or slide a bin into a perfectly-sized gap. Their resourcefulness can be so surprising and inspiring, so much so that you might try their methods out yourself… regardless of whether or not you even need a “hack” at all.
Take, for example, folding methods.
It seems like every time I check social media, there’s a new kooky way to fold your towels, sweaters, or pants. These ideas are fun, but let’s be honest with ourselves here. Laundry can be a very taxing chore, especially for people with big families: it’s boring, it’s time-consuming, and you have to do it 1-4 times a week.
So when you have to juggle the responsibilities of finances, relationships, work, and self-care, do you really need to be worried about finding the “best” way to fold your sweats?
A lot of trends that claim to make your life easier can have the reverse effect when they’re not actually serving a purpose. I see this a lot with people who want to store their cereal in labeled plastic bins. These look really nice, but practically speaking, what problem are they solving? And are you willing/able to maintain this look every time you buy cereal?
Concerning yourself with “perfecting” your home maintenance can be a really exhausting and futile approach to organization. Focus instead on what you want to improve, then try a couple of ideas to see what works best for your situation. Worry about labels and clear cereal boxes after you’ve fixed the root of your problems.
And if everything doesn’t look “Instagram-ready”, good. Because that’s not the point. The point should always be to serve you and your needs.
The Price (Literally)
One of the most exciting parts of renovating a home is buying new products, and it’s made all the more thrilling when you get those items at a discount. I’ve seen a lot of social media posts that emphasize the joy of getting a good dupe, or buying less expensive products that perform the same as high-end brands. I’m 1,000% in on the excitement.
From what I’ve seen, though, there are two temptations social media seems to present: 1) impulse-buying products to “get the look”, without actually having a plan for how it benefits your space, and 2) not taking your own financial boundaries into account.
These temptations are so difficult to manage because social media makes everything look so, so pretty and so, so easy to buy, even when you could get the same thing elsewhere for less money.
Social media is largely driven by marketing, and that can include paid advertisements from people who might simply be promoting a product. Making it look super practical and pleasing to the eye is kind of the whole point.
This isn’t to say that this system is inherently bad. But it is disturbingly easy to get swept up in this culture of “stuff acquisition”, so much so that we can ignore whether we need what we want, or if we can afford it in the first place.
At the end of the day, you have to reflect on your own financial situation. Chances are, their budget is not your budget, and what they consider a cheap hack might be a severe blow to your next paycheck. Be in tune with your finances, stay alert while scrolling, and be fiscally responsible.
Self-Help or Self-Sabotage?
Social media can be such a wonderful resource. I’ve found authentic, balanced creators who are excited to share their work with the world, and they’ve taught me so much about my own profession.
But jeez, there’s just… so much.
There are people building their own bookshelves, knocking holes into walls, up-cycling found furniture, relabeling pantries, sanding floors, recommending, reshuffling, reorganizing CONSTANTLY. And it all looks so beautiful and perfect.
That photo-ready lifestyle can feel so out of reach, and when you look at how many people seem to be that put together, your life can suddenly feel wrong somehow. Their “life hacks” can stop being helpful and start feeling alienating and overwhelming— a constant reflection of what life could be, if you only tried a little harder.
This is the hardest part of my job. This is the emotional element of organization that so many people overlook.
I’ve met with clients who are so tired and defeated, so convinced they need to strive for these standards that are literally impossible to meet. They are bogged down by their own unrealistic expectations, predicated on the lives of complete strangers who don’t even know they exist.
We internalize the impressions we get of people from social media, but we don’t recognize that it’s just a tiny, highly-manicured peek into their lives. I can guarantee you that those spaces don’t look like that 24/7. And chances are, you already knew that.
So before you start folding your clothes differently or buying materials for a renovation, ask yourself what your motive is. If it’s to service an idealized version of your life, then release yourself from the obligation to have everything look and feel perfect. Give yourself some grace.
You’re doing just fine.
The Big Questions
In light of all these concerns, I hope you understand that there are, in fact, several trends that are extremely helpful and make living spaces feel and look beautiful. But the key here (and in every facet of life) to is practice mindfulness. Whatever you want to purchase, plan, or practice, it should be in service of you and your needs.
So with that in mind, the next time you want to take on the next big social media trend, ask yourself these 7 questions:
Does this trend solve a persistent organizational problem? (You might not need to do anything in the first place!)
Do I have the time and expertise to complete this project? (Make a list of what materials you would need and how long it would take.)
Can I afford this renovation? (Look at your budget, then make a responsible choice.)
Is this a spur-of-the-moment decision that I will regret later? (Give yourself a day or two to decide if it’s something you really want to commit to.)
What problems could arise if I follow these instructions? (Research safety hazards, product recalls, etc., and seek professional advice.)
Will this project be more stressful and exhausting than I can handle right now? (If the thought of doing it right now makes you upset, put it on the back burner.)
Will this project make my life easier and happier? (At the end of the day, do what you want... responsibly.)
As long as you ask yourself these 7 questions before you start your next project, you can proceed with your organization ideas with confidence and enthusiasm. Just remember that your home should be a reflection of who you are and what you need.
No matter the trends, self-care is always in style.