Is there such a thing as TOO organized?

Can You Be TOO Organized?

Karen Caccavo Paperwork Organizing, Working with Seniors

Caution tape around construction cones

“Too organized?”

I don’t hear it often from clients or prospective clients who reach out to Personal Money Manager.  But occasionally over the last 12 years I’ve heard:  “Maybe I’m too

organized.”  This stops me in my tracks.  After all, if someone is TOO organized why would they be calling me for professional organizing assistance?

Clearly, “too organized” (if there is such a thing) is NOT good!

So what does it mean to be “too organized,” and why would someone think it needs fixing?  I recently had the chance to understand this better when working with Celia (not her real name) who claimed in our initial exploratory call, “maybe I’m too organized.”

Here are 3 ways being “too organized” can be a problem.  I’ve included ways Celia and I devised to fix it.  I hope these solutions will be helpful to you or your clients:

Update your priorities.

While parts of her home were organized, a few spots persisted as being “helplessly disorganized.”  Apparently, Celia had set organizing priorities at a different stage of life – but then never updated them.  Now that she’s retired and unfortunately has less energy for keeping organized, she runs out of steam before she gets to her current “must-dos.”  So they remain undone.

  • What Celia really wanted was to quickly put her hands on papers related to her volunteer positions, as well as a system for submitting claims to the retiree medical plan. Missing deadlines was causing stress and costing money!  At the same time, some of the areas she always spent time organizing no longer required her attention (professional journals, for example, that she no longer reads).
  • Solution: It was time for Celia to align her priorities with her current reality.  We made a plan to get a handle on paperwork related to her volunteer board positions.  To get started, Celia asked for pointers from veteran members of the boards on how they organize the proliferation of paper—what to keep, what to bring to meetings, and what was available online, etc.  Then, she channeled her organizing time and skills and re-focused them on her new needs.

Organize selectively.

While Celia was impeccably labeling files (a carry-over from her years as a teacher), she wasn’t always using them.  Empty file folders sat alongside of piles of unsorted papers.  Nothing shouts “I’m a mess” and de-motivates like piles on the dining room table!  They were in her face every day, keeping her from inviting friends over and leaving her in fear of unexpected visits.  While she loved her label maker, her focus on this one step of paper organizing was unfortunately leaving her little energy to get the whole project finished.


  • Solution: Great to start with your strengths and what motivates you.  But you can’t ignore the other steps.  Celia needed assistance with the less fun tasks of sorting and filing.  We experimented with scheduling these activities in her calendar, working together to do some of it, and her delegating to me the crushing backlog.

Combat information overload.

  Newsflash:  The paperless future has not yet arrived!  In fact, it’s easier than ever to get overwhelmed with mail, online information, and paperwork.  That is, unless we establish systems for deciding what and how to keep information in paper (and online) format.  Celia tracked her credit card transactions and checking account closely.  (Maybe a sign of being “too organized” for some, but a habit that for her provided peace of mind.)  She printed out all transactions.  This process generated lots of paper.

  • Solution: Purging first lightens the filing load.  Celia and I came up with a system for her to view financial transactions online but print only those receipts that required a closer look.  She agreed to deal with these immediately, or, worse case, put them in a “pending file” set up for that purpose only.  When monthly statements arrived, she could then shred – not file – the printouts.
  • We arrived at that solution by 1) confirming how much history is available online from her credit cards and banks (and saving statements electronically before they disappeared); and 2) using her building’s shredder and having shred / toss guidelines handy.

Think that maybe you or someone you know is “too organized”?  Hmmm …Think again.  Maybe it’s time to revise priorities and shift your organizing energy to reduce your paper overload.

Photo Credit:  ID 148133194 © Vasyl Helevachuk |