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Just Because It's "Tidy", Doesn't Mean It's "Organized"

Updated: Oct 24, 2022

Have you ever come across a home office or kitchen photo online that you thought looked so beautiful that it inspired you to recreate it in your own home? Then after you copied the look, you found it difficult (if not impossible) to keep it looking so "picture perfect". Now you're left feeling disappointed because you realized that what looked so beautifully organized in the photo, just couldn't be sustained in your own home. Why did this happen? Well... you probably fell into the trap of thinking "tidy" and "organized" are the same thing.

But there's a very big difference between an "organized" area and a "tidy" area. Just because an area is neat and tidy, it doesn't necessarily mean it's organized. The same is true regarding organization. An organized room doesn't automatically mean it will look nice and tidy. That's because the focus of making something look tidy is vastly different from the focus of making something organized. "Tidy" and "Organized" have two very different goals.

The goal/focus of something "tidy", is on the appearance of it. Does the lamp look pretty on the end table? Does this small stack of books make the area look balanced? Is this area visually appealing? The goal/focus of something "organized" is on the function of it. Is the area set up to support what you're doing? Can you find what you need when you need it? Can the task be done quickly with little effort?

So if a room is tidy, it appears neat and clean but it may not be organized. Likewise if a room is organized, it may not appear to look very tidy, but you can find everything you need easily!

One perfect example of the difference between tidy and organized would be color coding a collection of books. A recent trend is to sort and store a collection of books based on the color of their cover and not the topic or author of the book. While sorting your books by color might look neat and "tidy" (because it's pleasing to the eye), it may be considerably more difficult (and time consuming) to find the book you need. Sorting that same collection of books by topic (or author) may be less visually satisfying, but it would be a much more "organized" system to use. That's because it creates a faster and easier way to find the book you need. When systems are set up to make tasks faster and easier to do, they tend to be easier to maintain. That's the benefit of focusing on the "organization" of an area instead of the "tidiness" of an area.

Another example of the difference between tidy and organized would be the trendy folding technique popularized by Marie Kondo. While I'll admit her wildly popular folding technique looks beautifully tidy for your clothes, it may actually fight your organizational goals. Again, remember that organization comes from creating systems that are fast and easy to do, and easy to maintain. If you don't enjoy folding clothes perfectly "tidy" like Marie Kondo, then you might have considerable difficulty following and maintaining this particular "tidying" technique. Personally speaking, I don't have the time (nor desire) to roll all of my underwear and socks into cute little sausage rolls to create that "tidy" look.

So the next time you're tempted to recreate the look of a photo you see online, ask yourself these following questions:

  1. Which is more important to me... the way it looks, or the way it functions?

  2. Will imitating the online photo help me or fight me in achieving my organizing goals?

  3. Will it make daily tasks faster and easier to do?

If it's the appearance you want... then absolutely go for it! But if your looking to create systems that will support your needs, help you reach your goals, and will be fast and easy to maintain... then avoid falling into the "tidy" trap, and focus on "organization" in your home.

Happy Organizing!

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