Is chronic disorganization something you struggle with on a daily basis? Perhaps you're feeling as though there might be something fundamentally wrong with you because you just can't seem to get or stay organized despite your repeated attempts. Have you felt like giving up? Does merely reading this make you feel heavy, hopeless, depressed and overwhelmed? Good! That means you're ready for some positive, lasting change!
First off, let it be known forever more that you are NOT broken nor is there anything wrong with you at all. Organizing can become a learned skill and over time, with daily practice, you CAN get and stay organized even if you've tried a million times before. Also, organization is about perception - some people love spaces filled with only a few possessions and are content while others feel happiest in spaces filled with their many possessions - so find your sweet spot of organizational happiness and stick with it! If you live with others, find a happy medium you can all agree to and stick with it. The first thing we can do to create some change is to go over the reasons why disorganization occurs and then I'll provide some solutions to help you realize your goals.
1. Ahhh! Life Won't Stop Happening! Some of us have taken on so much in our lives that we are no longer living our lives, but merely reacting to what happens. Most people in this category are exhausted, overwhelmed and don't feel they have the time or energy to do more than just put out the immediate fires while their "some day" projects, dreams and goals get pile up and begin to feel unobtainable . They are merely getting through the moment and are hoping something will change soon before they break.
Solution - Things Won't Change Until You Do: When life becomes constantly overwhelming it's often because you've taken on too many responsibilities at that moment making you feel stuck and unable to make good and effective decisions. When you feel like this, THAT is the moment to stop, take a breath and start making a list of your real priorities that make you happy and healthy rather than your never-ending list of "should do's" which are exactly what's exhausting you in the first place. The truth is that you have too much going on and unless something changes, the things you value most usually suffer the worst like your health, happiness, friends and family. A good way to start is by purposely scheduling time each day just for yourself to exercise, meditate, take a bath, get a massage or whatever makes you happy, it doesn't matter. The point is that when you have some space to think and breathe, you'll be able to figure out what is truly important and what is merely extra clutter you no longer need or want in your life.
2. Blame Your Parents! It is possible you simply were never taught organizational skills from your parents and if you never learned it, how would you know how to do it? That's like never learning to use tools and then being asked to build a perfect birdhouse with no instructions. You cannot be successful at anything unless you learn the proper way to use the tools and know and understand the steps you need to take in order to be successful. The same goes with organizing, there are specific steps to take that ensure you'll create the perfect organizing system for you; one that works and lasts.
Solution - Learn the Skills! It's important to remember that most of us don't pick up new skills and master them in one day. It takes time to rid yourself of your old habits and to create new one's. The first step is to make time in your schedule to go through everything you own and purge everything you no longer like, use or need. Hire an organizer, buy a book or MP3 if you feel you'd like some additional support and guidance while learning these new skills. Remember that organizing is going to be a lifelong habit you need to incorporate into your daily schedule but the great part is that even doing a little bit each day will create a huge difference in your life so keep going!
3. Excuse Me, but Your Inner Chaos is Showing: Clutter comes from indecision, a lack of skills and unexpressed emotional turmoil. Often we hang onto objects for much longer than we should because of guilt, shame, hurt, anger, or feelings of unworthiness. Sometimes we hang onto items because it gives us a false feeling of safety to be surrounded by our stuff when we feel lonely and separated from other humans and are just looking for a connection to anything. When left unchecked, what we secretly feel on the inside can show up loudly on the outside looking like clutter and chaos in every aspect of our lives. When it builds up too much, it can lead to isolation and/or hoarding.
Solution - Face Your Feelings! Eww! Face my feelings!? Yes - they are building up on you and will lead to a whole host of problems that can affect your life, work, health and relationships so face these sooner rather than later! One nice thing about purging your stuff is that it can end up feeling like an amazing therapy session if you allow yourself to let go of what you no longer need. For example, if you have a sweatshirt from an ex who didn't treat you nicely or for whatever reason you haven't gotten over the relationship yet (and since you've still have their sweatshirt, it's a signal that you, in fact, have not let the relationship go), you can get actually get some closure just by holding the sweatshirt for a few moments. Go on! Hold that sweatshirt in your hands and allow the emotions to bubble up. Happy times, sad times, anger, laughter and whatever else comes up - just let it flow. If you feel compelled, tell that sweatshirt how you feel! The sweatshirt is safe because it can't talk back so cry, yell, kiss it, whatever. No one can see you anyway, so heck, rip it up if it makes you feel better, who cares? Just don't keep the emotions or the sweatshirt anymore. You deserve a better and happier life and getting rid of physical and emotional baggage is one of the first and most important steps you can make.
4. Rebel Without a Cause: While some of us never learned organizational skills from our parents, some of us are reacting in the exact opposite way our parents showed us. Say you grew up in a very controlling household and everything always had to be perfect and in its exact place. You disliked how rigid it felt so now you live with piles of clutter, most often don't know where anything is and tend to lose items. Or perhaps your parents were extremely disorganized and in response you felt a need for more stability in your life and therefore developed hyper organizational skills where you feel almost uncomfortable if everything is not in their exact place but you also find your perfectionism can get in the way of achieving goals because now nothing seems good enough.
Solutions - Awareness! In this situation therapy can help but sometimes just becoming aware of it is enough to start changing things. Once you realize that you're keeping something because you're emotionally attached to it for some reason or that you keep chosing to say 'yes' to projects and taks you don't want to do, or that you have a habit of shopping even though you never wear half of what you buy ... if you're willing to take a look inward and observe which habits you have that aren't effective, making you happy and/or are exhausting you, you'll find that it's easier to become unstuck, ditch the bad habit and form new, lasting and positive changes in your life.
4. Know Why: What's your motivation or reason for getting organized? Is it because you think you "should"? Or is it that you're worried what others might think? Neither reasons are great incentives for anyone to want to make a change in their lives. So think for a minute. Envision your space as you wish it could be. What does it look like? And more importantly, how does it make you feel?
Solution - Feelings, Nothing More Than Feelings: Feelings are the only reason we do anything. Why do you marry your spouse? Hopefully it's because you have warm, happy, loving feelings towards them. Everything we buy is based on our feelings. We love the Yankees so we buy their logo'd t-shirts because we feel pride in supporting our local team and we feel like kids again when we watch them play. They make us happy when they win. Wearing our favorite outfit might make us feel powerful or beautiful or happy. So what feelings do you want to experience in your space? Spaciousness? Happiness? Serenity? Joy? That's your real motivation - to experience those feelings in your own space. Once you've identified how you want to feel in your space and your life, the motivation to live in a well organized space becomes easier than just, "I should," it then becomes a life changing, "because I want to".
Lastly, Give Yourself a Break! Forgiving yourself for the clutter you currently have is a great step towards letting it all go and achieving lasting organization.