Could macro organizing help you get your house under control?
I grew up with a stay at home mom who was a type A perfectionist. She had everything organized to a T.
When I had my first place, I tried to be as organized as my mom was.
Instead of the pristine organizing systems that I grew up with, I ended up with a bunch of piles on the counter and kitchen table (and everywhere else!) that were to be sorted. But I never ended up sorting them.
While this led me to do a ton of decluttering, which was somewhat helpful. (You can read my decluttering journey here.) I still struggled to maintain the organizing systems that I thought I needed to have.
The problem was really amplified when I got married and my husband moved in with me. We had way more stuff. Plus, I was struggling with chronic pain and fatigue (which I now believe were mold poisoning symptoms). I didn’t have the bandwidth or the time to be as organized as I wanted to be.
My to do lists turned into piles of clutter.
I knew I couldn’t get ahead or on top of the chaos. So I started researching how to get organized, and I stumbled upon a video by Cas from Clutterbug about organizing styles.
I realized I had been trying to use the wrong organizing style for me. I had been trying to micro organize (like my mother always did) when I was in a season of life where I needed to macro organize.
I needed a mindset shift from aiming for perfection, to ust getting everything under control enough.
So I went all in and have been macro organizing for over 7 years now. It’s been sustainable through kids and multiple moves. So here’s how you can use this efficient organizing shortcut.
What Is Macro Organizing?
Macro organizing is a “good enough” approach in which you only sort your items by large, broad categories.
It’s a big picture way of organizing your stuff. You simply put like items together without more detailed sorting. You can use containers or zones to corral your belongings.
For example, in a bathroom closet, a macro organizer is likely to have medium to large sized bins or baskets with big categories to toss items into.
In our bathroom closet, we have big bins for:
- Make up
- Personal care
- Body care
- Hair care
- Skin care
And I just tossed the items into the bin. I don’t have drawer dividers or cubbies that separate our toothbrushes, floss, toothpaste, toothpicks, etc.
And while it may take me a few minutes longer to search through a bin or drawer for what I need, I maintain this macro approach much better than a micro one.
Before, I would come home from the store and end up putting the bags on the floor of the closet to organize it later. I procrastinated organizing because I was setting my expectations on myself too high.
Let’s look at the opposite of macro organizing next. It’s called micro organizing.
What Is Micro Organizing?
On the other hand, micro organizing is a more detailed approach where you sort your items according to your preferences.This could be a rainbow order, an alphabetical order, or just putting what you use the most in the front.
Micro organizers like to use a lot more small drawer dividers and sections. And they take the time to divide stuff into subcategories.
For example, in my mom’s main bathroom, she has divided out multiple parts of her personal care products into smaller clear bins.
All of her dental supplies are broken out and micro organized into:
- Tooth brushes
- Replacement heads
- Tooth brushes
The biggest advantage to organizing to this micro level is that you can find your stuff faster because it’s already been sorted into these smaller categories.
But the biggest disadvantage about micro organizing is taking the time to parse out all your items into particular places. Doing this just wasn’t realistic for me as a busy wife and mom (and not to mention while battling chronic illness.)
Why You Should Macro Organize
Your organizing type matters. Would you prefer to micro organize? But does the time required to do that feel overwhelming?
You’ve gotta be honest with yourself about where you are in this season of your life and what’s doable for you right now.
I had to learn that getting my stuff put away in macro categories was good enough.
One of the best tips that I learned from Cas of Clutterbug is that if you have both macro organizers and micro organizers in your family, that you should defer your systems to the macro organizers. This is because it’s a lot harder for macro people to maintain micro systems. However, a micro organizer can more easily adapt to using macro systems.
Even if you resonate the most with micro organizing, if you’ve got piles of clutter around the house that you are yet to organize in the detailed ways that you prefer, you might want to try macro organizing as a good enough approach.
Simply put, macro organizing is easier to do and maintain than micro organizing.
Read More: How to Maintain Your Organizing
I have also found that the kids have a much easier time macro organizing than micro organizing.
For example, we’ve got a car guy in our family. He has all sorts of cars from Hot Wheels up to Duplo dump trucks. Early on, I wanted to have him put all his little cars in one place and big cars in another place. But this led to a lot of frustration because this just wasn’t a realistic expectation for a toddler.
I wish I would have realized sooner that we just needed to make a car garage out of some wire shelving where he can organize the cars however he wants to.
This is an easy example where all of the similar items of one category are together so he can still easily find what he wants, but I’m not wasting his time or mine micro sorting his cars. While it doesn’t look like the pictures on Pinterest, it’s good enough for our family.
Tips for Macro Organizing
Once you’ve macro organized most of your house, then you can decide what you want to micro organize. I’ll share with you the few places I’ve made an exception about macro organizing.
But next, read these tips about macro organizing. The first is to label everything.
Label Label Label!
If you live alone,you don’t need to worry about labeling your bins or zones. But if anyone else lives in your house, and you want them to be able to put stuff away, you’ve gotta use labels.
And the bigger the better.
Because it’s amazing what people don’t see.
I made the mistake of using a small font with a handheld label maker but my signs were somehow invisible to my family.
When I shifted to using the largest font my label maker had, it was easier for my family to see the labels.
If you have small kids who can’t read yet, I recommend using picture labels. You can draw them or copy images from online.
Don’t Buy New Equipment
When you start on your macro organizing journey, do not go out and buy a bunch of large bins. You can simply use what you have.
For us, I used the small Amazon boxes and shoe boxes to hold categories.
Just make sure you write on the box with big letters what’s inside.
To this day, I still have cardboard boxes that hold different cuts of undergarments and shapewear instead of drawer dividers. And I don’t fold them. I simply throw them in.
Whenever I was tempted to buy organizing tools, I had to ask myself what containers I already had. Sometimes I had to think outside the box.
For example, all of our kids’ art supplies are simply in the bottom two drawers in a secretary desk.
All my kids’ cooking supplies are in a lower cupboard of our kitchen so they can reach them easily.
Depending on your space and how much you have, you may not use containers at all. If you prefer to see what you have, you may like using zones instead.
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For the types of organizational needs that are too big for a drawer or a bin or that you want to see everything, try using zones.
In our household, the biggest place that we use zones is in the garage.
Other than putting all the category items in the same place, the only other rule that I have for the zones is that like items must be put together. I find that if I don’t put items together I don’t realize that I have more paper goods two feet away.
Here’s how we zone our garage for macro organization.
Our Garage Zones
When I walk out the back door into the garage, the first thing on the right side is all of our coats and shoes. We simply have a large mat where everyone kicks their shoes off. Then in the corner, I have a rack where I put all of our off season shoes. We currently don’t organize by person with cubbies or anything.
Past the coats and shoes, is all of our kitchen overflow.
In my kitchen overflow, you’ll find large pots that I only use around the holidays and my backstock of pantry goods.
Again, my main rule is that like foods go together. So right now, I have multiple jars of tomato based products that I made sure are together.
This way, if I empty one jar of it, I know I still have another jar waiting for me so I don’t add it to the grocery list.
I think you can get the idea that I’ve just put categories together so that we know where to look. The other zones you might have are:
- Yard tools
- Snow removal
- Car care
- Paper products
- Home tools
- Baby gear
- Paint, primer, and stain
- Sports equipment
My last macro organizing tip might be the most important one to make it work for your family.
Change Your Macro Categories As Needed
As the needs of your family grows and changes, don’t hesitate to change your organization system’s specific categories. What worked with an infant might not work with an elementary schooler.
For example, if you have young kids who use all the same personal care products, it may be easiest for you to organize your bathroom by the type of products being used. However as kids get older and have more opinions about what they want, you may find it easier to give each kid their own drawer or place.
If you don’t have a lot of bathroom storage, I’d highly recommend giving each person a caddy with all of their own products that they can carry back and forth to the bathroom. (Or if you’re lucky enough to have a big closet or lots of shelves, they can put their caddy there.)
Being able to drop all of their items in the caddy makes them more likely to put them away.
Another example of how your needs might change is that you initially might have all the outdoor sporting toys in one tub for your kids. But as your kids get older and they have their own gear for sports practice, you may end up dividing them by person so each kid has their own bin.
Last, I want to be honest with you about places that I still micro organize.
Places I Don’t Macro Organize
Once I got most of the house macro organized, I realized that there were some places that I did prefer a micro approach. Overall, I realized that I have to limit these to the places that I primarily use.
- Spices – I put these in alphabetical order so I can grab them quickly while cooking.
- Essential oils – These are also an alphabetical order. They’re easy to put back because there is an obvious hole.
You might find you prefer to micro organize all your craft supplies or your desk. The main goal is to find what works best for you.
I hope this fresh perspective on macro organizing will help you get your entire home in better order.
I’m so thankful for the wisdom of moms before me who recognized that organizing on a macro level is more doable for busy women.
Don’t try to start all at once. Pick one shelf from a closet or another small place to start. And be kind to yourself as you do.
What type of organizer are you? Where will you try macro organizing first?