9 organizing myths, debunked

'It's about doing a little bit today so that tomorrow is a little easier for you'

Editor's note: This story was updated on August 21, 2017.

Organization can be intimidating. "The word alone can make you feel inadequate," writes Fast Company's Stephanie Vozza.

"But the reason it's so intimidating isn't because it's hard," Vozza says. "More likely, it's because we don't understand what it really means."

Keep your inbox organized: How to be an inbox ninja

To shed some light on the matter, Vozza spoke to organizing experts to bust nine myths about organizing.

Myth 1: Organization means not having anything out of place.

Organization isn't about perfection, says Andrea Brundage, founder of Simple Organized Solutions. "People have different tolerances for stuff in their space, and finding the happy medium is critical for finding peace."

Rather than worry about every item, create a system that works for your personal needs, Brundage recommends. "There is no perfect, so let go of that expectation right away."

Myth 2: You only have to organize once.

While the process of setting up your organizational system may be a one-time weekend project, you need to focus on "reorganiz[ing] your lifestyle, rather than just organizing some space," says Jasmine Hobbs of London Cleaning Team.

You have to clear up and organize your space every day, or else it will fall into the same state of clutter as before you began to organize, Hobbs says.

Myth 3: Organizing is hard.

It can be intimidating to face down a desk covered in years' worth of printouts and envelopes, but at its core, organization is just separating things into categories—which people do every day.

"If you know the difference between a shirt and a pair of pants, you're halfway there," says professional organizer Felice Cohen.

Myth 4: You have to 'be' an organizer.

Some people truly enjoy color-coding—but you don't have to be one of them to successfully organize your space. "Some may have a propensity to being organized, but just like learning math, we can learn to be more organized," says Brundage.

If you aren't inclined to bust out your label maker for fun, don't fret. Set a timer for a half hour and get done what you can—and allow yourself to stop when the timer goes off, Brundage recommends.

Myth 5: You need the right materials.

You don't need a storage system before you begin to organize. In fact, if you go out and buy containers before you begin to organize, those boxes just become more clutter, says professional organizer and author Katherine Trezise.

Instead, start cleaning first, says Trezise, and get rid of items that don't fit a room's function. Once you've cleared away the trash, you'll have a better understanding of what tools you need to organize your space.

Myth 6: It doesn't matter that it's messy, because 'I know where everything is!'

While you may not mind the mess, clients and colleagues will. People make assumptions about your character and professionalism based on your workspace, says Melissa Gratias, a psychologist who specializes in productivity. Gratias recommends setting aside the last 15 minutes of your day to organize your desk.

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Myth 7: Organization stifles creativity.

While you may think your collection of desk toys are helping you focus, clutter actually hinders creativity by introducing distractions into your space.

"Why waste valuable time and energy on chaos that won't contribute to your success?" says professional organizer Alison Kero. "Imagine what creativity you could create if you had a clean canvas and a well-organized space."

Myth 8: You've got to shred everything.

Many people hold onto old documents out of privacy concerns, says Trezise. But an Internet search can reveal a fair amount of information about you, making shredding certain papers (that wouldn't be a HIPAA violation) a waste of time.

"Holding onto papers with no more personal information than a name and address and waiting for that elusive day when you'll have time to shred them only contributes to clutter," Trezise says. Instead, recycle those items—and save the shredding for things that have sensitive information, such as account numbers or your Social Security number.

Myth 9: Organizing doesn't work for you.

"The ego gets in the way because it doesn't like change—even the good-for-you kind," says Kero. "It tells you that you can't stay organized, that getting organized is hard and boring, and that it won't help you."

So rather quitting before you start, remind yourself that these little efforts to organize are going to help you.

"It's about doing a little bit today so that tomorrow is a little easier for you," Kero adds (Vozza, Fast Company, 5/13).

Keep your inbox organized: How to be an inbox ninja

Ever struggled to write a concise, action-oriented email that effectively conveys your message? You're not alone—many otherwise high-performing professionals still struggle with using email to accomplish their goals.

So, what does it take to be an inbox ninja? Check out our infographic to get best practices for email-specific writing and email management. You'll also find tips for email formatting, scripting, and structure, plus approaches to collaboration and decision-making over email.

Download the Infographic

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