rule /ro͞ol/ – one of a set of explicit or understood regulations or principles governing conduct within a particular activity or sphere.

In life, there will always be rules: school rules, safety rules, societal rules. These are set in place to keep chaos at bay, to protect the greater community, and to keep things on an equal playing field.

I appreciate the need for rules, and in general, consider myself a rule-follower.

But sometimes, rules can and should be, broken. Gasp!

Now, before you start throwing stones, hear me out…

Rules are instructions, a guide to help you accomplish something. But they’re not the only way to accomplish that thing, especially when it comes to getting organized. That’s because organizing isn’t the same for everyone. It’s a very personal and individual activity/skill.

Which means conformity to the organizing rules isn’t always guaranteed (translated, it means you have permission to break the rules occasionally!).

The 4 rules of organizing you can, and should, break

Although there’s no “official” rulebook for getting organized, there are “suggestions” that most professional organizers adhere to:

  • Sort like with like
  • Label as much as possible (yes, we love our label makers!)
  • Declutter, declutter, declutter before doing anything else
  • A place for everything and everything in its place

And while I agree and follow these organizing rules myself, there are four rules that if broken, might make it easier for you to bring order to your life and space:

1.Touching paper only once. This statement has long been the golden rule for handling paperwork. The idea is that when you pick up a piece of paper, you should immediately handle whatever action is associated with it (file it, trash it, act on it). By doing so you avoid creating paper clutter you won’t have to deal with later.

While it’s nice in theory, the reality is most of us don’t have time to touch paper only once.

When we come in contact with a piece of paper, it’s usually mail we’re bringing inside the house or a child’s backpack we’re sorting through. In those situations, before we can actually deal with the paper, we’re busy fixing dinner or yelling at our child about why we didn’t see the paper sooner. When this happens, it’s impossible to touch paper only once.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating paper piles, but realistically this “rule” is a pipe dream. Feel free to break it.

2. Asking yourself if an item sparks joy. I won’t deny that Marie Kondo, the originator of the “spark joy” movement, has done a lot to help people get organized.

But I’ll be honest – I’m not a big fan of hers or her spark joy question when determining whether or not to keep something.

That’s because not everything in my house sparks joy. But if I need it and use it on a regular basis then it stays regardless of my joy with it (think toilet paper, bras, and somedays, children).

No one question should be the litmus test when you declutter. There are lots of questions you can be asking, but does it spark joy? doesn’t have to be the only one.

3. Using containers. I love containers and The Container Store is one of my happy places (the other two being the tennis courts and the library). However, I’ve learned that not everything needs to be containerized (yes, that’s a word).

Containers help set boundaries, let you know when you need to declutter and can make your space more visually appealing. But there’s no hard and fast rule that you must use them.

You must determine whether or not you actually need a container to keep things organized. Depending on your personality, your space, or your budget, you may or may not need one.

So before you head to the store to purchase a container (or 20), make sure you truly need one in the first place. Trust me, if you don’t, it’s okay.

4. Using methods or formulas for getting organized. Many of us wish there was a magic fairy who would have her wand and clear the clutter from our lives. Sadly, there’s not one. Nor is there one particular method or formula for getting organized.

Though many people will dictate how you should do it (when, where, why and how), there simply isn’t one right method. That’s because bringing order to your life isn’t one-size-fits-all. The process varies from person to person and to assume or mandate a right or wrong way to get the job done is faulty thinking.

The goal is to get organized and stay organized. If you happen to do that over a weekend or over a year, one room at a time or one drawer at a time, or if you declutter sentimental first and then your clothes – it’s all okay!

As long as you do the necessary work and feel peaceful in your space, then don’t worry about the method or formula. It’s not that important.

You have permission

Like I said earlier, I’m a rule-follower (except in the car with my foot on the gas pedal!). So to even think about breaking a rule can throw me for a loop. But when I have permission to break one, I do. That’s because I know the opportunity probably won’t come around again and someone in authority said it would be okay.

If you’re a rule follower like me, then I want you to know, you have permission to break one of these four rules! If you do, I promise the world won’t end, your clutter won’t creep back into your life, and the organizing police (if there is such a thing) won’t be knocking on your door. You are safe.

However, by breaking the rules you might actually get organized and stay organized.

But isn’t that the idea?




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