Do you ever wonder why you just can’t stay organized?

Your morning was a complete blur, as you rushed around like a crazy person, trying to get the kids ready for school while simultaneously getting yourself ready for work and somehow managing to throw together lunch for everyone too. There was a lot of yelling, a little crying and a whole lot of heavy sighing going on before you all finally made it out the door. (Ten minutes late, of course.) 

Your afternoon and evening weren’t much better as you came home exhausted to a complete catastrophe—laundry piled in the corner, dishes piled high in the sink, and toys and shoes and who knows what else scattered all over the house. Too tired to figure out what to cook for dinner, you ordered takeout for the third time this week, then suddenly remembered that your daughter’s birthday is just days away, and you haven’t prepared a thing.

You’re wiped out, frazzled and best of all, you get to do it all again tomorrow. 

Lucky you.

Meanwhile, while you’re running like a hamster on an endless treadmill, trying desperately to keep yourself from drowning in a sea of endless responsibilities, you can’t help but compare yourself to that mom down the street who seems to have it all together. 

Her kids are always adorable, with unwrinkled clothes and the best birthday parties. Her house is always impeccable like it came out of a magazine. She never seems stressed or frazzled, but instead just seems to have life all figured out and has found a way to keep it all balanced and organized—while you call it a win if your kids have on matching socks.

How does she do it, and more importantly…why can’t you? 

The BAD news is that it’s not just one thing that’s keeping you stuck on that endless treadmill. Instead, it’s likely a combination of many factors, all of which are conspiring against you every single day.

But the GOOD news is that you are not powerless, even in the face of what sometimes feels like an overwhelming list of chores and responsibilities. And once you understand the biggest reasons WHY you can’t stay organized, you can also start developing the right strategies to fix it.

The 5 Big Reasons You Can’t Stay Organized

1. You Are Too Overwhelmed

The reality is we all get overwhelmed sometimes. As hard as we may try to be organized or proactive, there will likely always be seasons where the stress and the busyness feel like they are taking over and that we are just barely keeping our heads above water, times when it feels like if we have to think about one more thing, we might just drown.

If that’s where you are right now, start by reminding yourself that feeling overwhelmed every now and then is a normal part of life. Craziness tends to come in waves, in ebbs and flows. 

Allow yourself permission to let some stuff go on those crazy days—without feeling guilty about it! Go ahead, order that takeout instead of making dinner. Feel free to put off sorting the mail or doing the laundry or cleaning the shower or tackling that big project until you feel like you’ve got a little more bandwidth. It will all be okay.

And when those waves of overwhelm hit, be intentional with how you handle your stress. Take a few minutes to clear your head. Go for a quick walk. Breathe. Do yoga. Drink a glass of red wine.

Then, once you’ve calmed down just a little, set the timer for 20 minutes and do a brain dump of everything on your plate right now. Just get it all out of your head and onto a piece of paper where you can start to make sense of it all. Because when your mind is clear you will better be able to focus on the tasks at hand.

2. You’re Not Clear About Your Priorities

When your priorities are out of whack, you’ll find yourself focusing on the wrong things or trying to do ALL THE THINGS, all at the same time. 

But the reality is that you can’t do everything, at least not well. 

You and only you are going to have to decide which tasks matter most to you (and which ones matter less), then give yourself permission to half-ass the less important stuff (or better yet, not do it at all!). 

And guess what else? You’re going to have to make this decision FOR YOURSELF—no one can do this for you. No one else gets to determine YOUR priorities, as much as they might want to.

For most people, this is much easier said than done. There’s so much that gets in the way of admitting what really matters most to YOU, whether it is a feeling of obligation to someone else, a feeling of guilt over things you think you should be most important to you (even if they’re not), a tendency to compare ourselves to other people or an inability to focus on anything except whatever fire feels most urgent right now.

It’s important to start the prioritization process by being aware of all these things that can get in the way of being honest with yourself. Remember that your list of priorities is YOURS ALONE. You are not required to share it. You are not required to justify it. It’s just for you.

So, once you’ve got your brain dump list in hand, it’s time to evaluate—give every single thing on your brain dump sheet a number in order of priority. The reality is that not everything can be important, so you have to choose. 

Give every single item a DIFFERENT number—there can be no ties—then allow yourself to focus just on the top 20% of the list.

Pareto’s Principle—also known as the law of 80/20—says that for every endeavor in life, 80% of our results will come from 20% of our actions. I strongly recommend applying that principle to the list in front of you. 

3. You Don’t Plan Your Days

It might be cliche, but it’s awfully true: a failure to plan is a plan to fail.

The reality is that most people who are consistently successful are so because they take the time to plan. They write down appointments (and keep them), utilize a daily task list and use their calendars as a map toward achieving their goals.

But more importantly, they realize that an organized life is not based on one good day or one good week or one big cleaning session or one magic moment. And it’s not a result of being perfect all the time. Instead, an organized life is the result of many small steps and small actions, taken consistently over time. 

So maybe you’ve tried to use a planner in the past and could never stick with it, and now you feel like you’re doomed to fail forever, but that’s not true. Even the MOST organized people fail at using their planner or staying organized or getting things done sometimes. But what they do differently is that when they screw up, they don’t quit. They try again. 

And you can too.

Start by doing your best to plan your day with a prioritized to-do list. (We recommend using the Daily Focus Sheet.) You might want to work on it over your morning cup of coffee, or, if mornings are rough for you, try filling it out the night before so you’re ready to hit the day running. If you miss a day, don’t get discouraged, just start again the next day. 

Then, once you’ve established this first habit, build on it. For each to-do item, find a time on your calendar and write it in. Scheduling time for things like exercise, housekeeping, cooking and leisure time can feel a little funny at first, but once it becomes a habit, it’s a great way to get an overall view of your week. Scheduling helps you manage your time wisely, so you can maximize your “rewards” and anticipate your family’s needs.

Start slow and build, and you might just be amazed at how much calmer, more productive and more in control you feel.

4. You Don’t Have Good Home Systems In Place

If you are trying to run your household without any type of system, it may feel like an endless cycle of doing the wrong things without any hope to finally get it together. 

Putting simple systems in place in your household will help it run like a well-oiled machine, and it is important to have systems that work for your specific situation, so that they work for you, not against you!

Ultimately, you’ll want to create systems in four key areas of your home life—your habits and routine, keeping tidy, simplifying mealtime and mastering money. 

This includes developing systems that will help you: 

  • Create and maintain better habits and routines
  • Create meal plans that work for you
  • Master keeping an organized and tidy house without spending hours on chores
  • Feel in control of your money and develop a manageable budget

Establishing simple, easy-to-implement and easy-to-maintain systems in each of these areas will help you free up valuable time and energy for all those things you really want to do, rather than spending hours cooking and cleaning or paying the bills. 

If you’re not sure where to start, then take our free Home Systems Assessment to determine your personal Overwhelm Zone—and the area of your home life we recommend you work on first.

5. You Just Won’t Commit

The final reason you can’t stay organized might just be…YOU. 

It isn’t that you can’t, it’s that you won’t. Or that deep down you don’t really want to change. For whatever reason, you’re resisting every possible solution that gets placed in front of you. You are sabotaging yourself.

If that’s the case, it’s important to figure out WHY.

What is it about the chaos or the stress or the overwhelm that feels safe or comfortable to you? Is it possible that there are deeper issues you need to address?

The reality is that old habits are hard to break, and they will require you to sometimes feel uncomfortable. Understanding more about your motivations—and possibly about the things that are holding you back and keeping you stuck—will ultimately help you get to where you want to be.

To recap, here are the 5 big reasons you can’t stay organized:

  1. You are too overwhelmed.
  2. Your priorities are out of order.
  3. You don’t plan your days.
  4. You don’t have systems in place.
  5. You just won’t commit.

But the good news is that while it might sometimes feel like life is conspiring against you, you are not completely powerless. And sometimes just getting a little push in the right direction can make you feel a whole lot more in control. 


Ready to take action? Here at Living Well Spending Less® we’ve got some incredible resources for developing and maintaining simple but powerful home systems in every area of your life.

  1. First, check out our Home Systems Toolbox, an entire digital library of tools and resources for organizing every aspect of your home life. 
  2. Join the waiting list for Living Well Academy™, our signature program designed to take you from stressed and overwhelmed to calm, happy, and in control of your home systems in just four weeks. 


Ruth Soukup
Ruth Soukup is dedicated to helping people everywhere create a life they love by follwing their dreams and achieving their biggest goals. She is the host of the wildly popular Do It Scared podcast, as well as the founder of Living Well Spending Less® and Elite Blog Academy®. She is also the New York Times bestselling author of six books, including Do It Scared®: Finding the Courage to Face Your Fears, Overcome Obstacles, and Create a Life You Love, which was the inspiration for this book. She lives in Florida with her husband Chuck, and 2 daughters Maggie & Annie.
Ruth Soukup


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