Why You Can’t Get Organized: When Organization is a Phobia

July 2nd, 2018

Clutter / Organizing

Is it “can’t” or “won’t” when it comes to summarizing the reasons people fail to organize their stuff? And does it apply to you?
“Can’t” implies inability.
“Won’t” is the lack of initiative or desire.

The five main reasons fall into BOTH camps: Can’t AND Won’t.

CAN’T – Don’t know how
Mindy (fictitious name) tells me “I just don’t have the gene to organize.” Could it be genetics that stop Mindy from organizing her important household stuff? Could it be a neurological issue? Mindy is a very creative (right-brained) individual.

For decades, Mindy has tried to read books in many failed attempts to follow guidance on organizing papers and assorted stuff. Does it sound familiar? She feels like a failure because she can’t maintain a system of organization. Plus, She rarely remembers where she puts her stuff.

Yes, many disorganized people complain about their memory. While cognitive decline is a real thing, finding yourself overwhelmed can affect thinking, especially, in my experience, with creative people. Reader, you may be chuckling as you recognize the trait in yourself, but you know it’s not funny. It can be painful. People spend hours each year searching for important information that they put “in a good place.” They spend more money than necessary to replace items that were put away but can’t locate.

Organizing overwhelms, and many smart people truly believe they’re hopeless. They develop bad habits, leaving things around their home and office because they think that the “stuff” will be visible to find at a later date. But nothing can be found when you need it. The lucky ones find help, or find a partner to assist, and to compliment this “missing gene.” Some, however, don’t let others in, and end up unhappy.

CAN’T – Can’t get started/ Can’t manage interruptions/ Gets Distracted
Starting a new project can be daunting.

Some people need to be in the right frame of mind to start a project, while others can “Just Do It.” If you are easily distracted, especially if the project is that dreaded ORGANIZING. Distraction can be a disorder and a house filled with stuff, with dozens of unfinished projects, may point in that direction. If you think you’re overwhelmed because of Attention Deficit Disorder, get an evaluation. The right treatment can make the job of organization a thousand times easier.

With or without ADD, many people don’t know how to begin to sort through all their stuff. When sorting through the past, the trips down memory lane can divert you off on tangents. It is a normal hazard when going through old things. It’s not hard to reminisce the day away.

Robert (fictitious name) wanted to transition his business. He had an office filled with papers: client material, marketing material, and personal papers. He also had a habit of making multiple copies of each paper to be sure he always had a copy. This compensatory mechanism made his office look like a sea of random papers and files.

The task of “organizing” the papers of the old business was impossible. He lacked the motivation to get started because he didn’t know how. And, so the business transition could not begin. The old business made Robert unhappier each day, and he was stuck. Each folder he touched stirred up old (good and bad) memories. He couldn’t get out of his own way to organize. Empowering himself to learn how to get started, and stay focused, helped change his life. Also, learning how to conquer his personal challenge of starting new things gave him a new confidence.

WON’T – Don’t feel like it
Yes, our feelings get in the way – with relationships and our relationship to stuff. Rhonda (fictitious name) refused to keep a calendar/date book because she wanted her life to be flexible, be a butterfly, do as she pleased. Often, any plans made in advance were forgotten unless a good friend called her to remind her. Now, that’s a good friend, but then again, maybe that “friend” actually enabled her fairy tales.

More often, her plans were cancelled at the last minute because something better to do came along. Bills went unpaid. Piles of mail, and assorted papers and household items, collected on tables, under tables, and inside cabinets. Rhonda did as she pleased, until her husband wanted to refinance the house. Their credit rating was so low because of so many unpaid or late paid bills, their refinancing was rejected. Rhonda only wanted to do things that were fun. She constantly compared her life to others’. She festered over the thought that someone else’s life could be better than hers. I could tell you how her life turned out, but this time, I’ll let you fantasize.

CAN’T – Have to clear up first
We think too much. Some think they have to clear the decks before they can plan or organize. They have so much stuff in the way, they think they have to clear away the “stuff” before organizing.

Angela (fictitious name) had boxes and files full of personal memories and professional accomplishments, all mixed together. She wanted to embark on a new job search, and needed to put together a resume. Angela wanted to use some examples of the materials located in these files as resume points. She was FROZEN. Angela felt that she had to go through EVERYTHING before she could even START organizing her resume. She needed guidance, and fortunately found that guidance so that she could begin her journey to find her dream job. Clearing and organizing go hand in hand. As you start to clear, you get a clearer idea of what is left to organize. Then, the organizing process will flow easier as you’re gradually familiar with your “stuff”.

CAN’T – Need the right “tools”
Every craftsman knows that “Good tools aren’t cheap; Cheap tools aren’t any good.” There are so many good organizing “tools” at varying price points. Have you been to The Container Store, Bed Bath and Beyond or Home Goods lately? You’ll find a dizzying array of organizing “tools” in those and other stores, as well as online sources.

Those who can’t organize, because they need to find the “right” tools first, are land locked in their stuff. Others may purchase a wide variety of inappropriate tools, adding to the accumulation of clutter.

Organizing is an ongoing activity. Oh, did you think that once you’re organized, you’re organized? The organizing process evolves just like we do. Our needs change, as do our systems. There’s never a right time to organize. We make the time.

If you learn to organize each day, just a little, a great deal can happen. Start with your bed, and move on to your work or your house. Tackle a little at a time, and learn not to be afraid of clearing, organizing and discarding. Soon it will become natural.

Finally, whether you CAN’T or WON’T organize your stuff, enlisting help will empower you to accomplish these and other Herculean tasks. Yet, once things begin to clear out, you’ll begin to feel freer, only to have the energy to do more. Organizational phobias do exist with multiple can’ts and won’ts. As with most phobias, the best way around them is through them.

(Reprinted from Mark Banschick’s blog in Psychology Today)

Why People Hold Onto Stuff

February 12th, 2018

Why people hold onto stuff

“Y is a crooked letter.”

This was my grandfather’s standard response to the basic question of childhood “Why, Grandpa?”.  My interpretation of that expression is that the answer is complicated.  And, when it comes to human behavior,  it almost always is.

Why do people hold onto stuff?

The answer is complicated because there are so many different kinds of “stuff “, and there are so many different kinds of people.  No two individuals are alike.   No situations are alike.  Each is unique in their environment, and although you may empathize, you cannot compare your situation to theirs, nor can you judge them.  You, the reader, may suggest “Why don’t they just toss it?” 

These are SOME of the reasons:

Lack of permission
Lack of instructions
Lack of knowledge
I didn’t know it had a deadline
Not aware of an alternative
I borrowed it, and don’t know if they want it back.
Out of sight, out of mind
I may need it someday
Hope
Future
Can’t waste
Someone else may need it
Belief that it is, or will be, useful
Sentimentality
Overwhelmed
Don’t know where to begin
Unable to bite off small pieces to downsize
Not ready; waiting for the right time
Not a priority
Fear of letting go
This is not the first thing on my agenda

I remember a client who received an envelope in the mail marked “Do Not Discard”.  She didn’t know why she wasn’t allowed to throw it out, and asked for my direction.  The envelope dictated “Do Not Discard”.  The envelope contained a promotional offer which she was not interested in, but the envelope dictated TO HER “Do Not Discard”.  Most people would ignore that demand, but she was confused.  The instruction “Do Not Discard” meant do not discard, period.  It’s a real story, yes!  So, you don’t believe that there are people who could think that way?  This case may be an extreme, but this is the perfect example of the #1 reason why people hold onto stuff.  Many people simply don’t feel that they have permission to get rid of things. They need to be reassured that they are adults, and it’s their stuff to do with as they like.

Clearing out a garage, a closet or a home often requires empowerment.

I had another client who presented me with shopping bags filled with mail (some unopened) and assorted papers.  She can’t decide WHAT to do with each piece, and asked me to explain what they were, so she could make the decision to keep or toss.  Lack of knowledge (“something MIGHT be important that I’m not aware of.”) or instructions (offer expired last month) kept her from making decisions. And this is the #2 reason why people hold onto stuff.  They simply can’t imagine how to proceed – it’s overwhelming. Attics, basements and garages are filled with boxes of past taxes and paid bills because the owners don’t know when they can discard or shred the material.  Pantries, refrigerators and bathroom cabinets are filled with expired food items, medicines and cosmetics.

Where do I start? What’s important? What if I make a mistake?

The future is a mystery to everyone.  “ I may lose the weight, and get back to that size.”  “What if I gain weight again, and need the larger sizes?”  “What if I need it someday?” “I once wanted to travel to those destinations.”  “I used to like to participate in those hobbies.”  These are familiar comments and questions from those who hold on to old clothing, accessories, papers, books and household items.  Closets, cabinets, files and drawers are filled with hope and future possibilities for many.

The environmentally conscious individual will always be concerned about waste.  They wonder if someone else could use the items they own.  Therefore, they will hold onto their stuff until they know the answer.

Some individuals cannot distinguish whether a book or collection is clutter or a treasure.  You might think of clutter as you might consider a weed in the garden.  But, some people enjoy weeds, a.k.a. wild flowers.  Defining irrelevance is not cut and dry. 

My grandfather knew that education is a necessary response to the most tough questions.   The answer to “Why” is complicated, and helping someone to let go of their stuff (or to organize their belongings), begins with learning more about themselves.

It’s a virtual cycle. Clear your mind and then reorganize.

Reorganize and in turn, your mind will feel clearer.

Plus, you may even remember where everything is!

(Reprinted from Mark Banschick’s blog in Psychology Today)

The Right Strategy for Paring Down

October 9th, 2017


“Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.”
– – A. A. Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh

Before you tackle your next organizing project, will you plan and strategize?  What motivates and inspires you?

I have helped 600+ individuals to successfully accomplish their organizing goals with solid plans and strategies.  I believe that there is no “right” strategy.  As your personality is unique from your friends and relatives, so are your styles to succeed.  We cannot compare our stuff with others’, nor can we compare our ways and lives with that of others’.  Each project and each individual is unique, and there are so many different strategies to pare down and/or organize your “stuff”. 

Recently, a new client asked for my help.   Sheila (fictitious name, real person) had experience paring down possessions, but this time it was too emotional for her to do alone.  Her mom had passed away, and the home needed to be cleared out.  Sheila was afraid that she would procrastinate and it would not get accomplished.  Her budget was limited, too.

Sheila accepted my first recommendation which was to complete a specific task on her own within one week.  Sheila completed her assignment successfully. She trusted the idea to work with me virtually to achieve ultimate success, and keep her expenses low. Her next assignment was also completed on time. I estimated the project to complete in six months, this was agreeable to Sheila.

With my feedback, advice and encouragement, Sheila was motivated and held accountable for her success.  Her organizing/paring down project was completed in 3 months….way ahead of schedule. The strategy, that I recommended to Sheila, worked! 

Part of our strategy was to start with easy decisions.  The easier the decision, then the organizing process flowed.  If you start with the hard decisions, one could get stuck.  I vote for easy, and small changes over time.  Leo Tolstoy, the great author of War and Peace, knew that great success was achieved by taking baby steps. He said, “True life is lived when tiny changes occur.”   Taking baby steps give us a chance to experience the changes in our lives.  When we give ourselves time to make decisions, (to keep or eliminate our things, relationships and/or relationship(s) with things or people), we have great opportunities for success.

The industry of Professional Organizing officially began in 1985 by a handful of bold women.  Today, there are thousands of professional organizers in the world, each having a specialty, unique personality, style and philosophy. Marie Kondo, a new popular author of simplifying, emphasizes that if “the thing” does not resonate with you, “it” no longer belongs in your life.  That makes for an easier decision to keep or eliminate. 

Be successful at organizing your space and your life.  Make thoughtful decisions to keep or eliminate, and organize the “best way” for you.

Winnie the Pooh and his friends gave everyone, at every age, a sense of joy, adventure, loyalty and accomplishment.  Allow them to be inspiration for your next organizing project.

Twenty Five (25)

June 26th, 2017

Twenty Five (25)

When you think of 25, what comes to your mind?

Twenty five is:

  • also known as quarter of a century
  • the number of cents in a quarter
  • the atomic number of Manganese
  • the number typically reserved for the best slugger in Baseball
  • the name of Breckenridge Brewery American Porter Style Beer
  • the name of George Michael’s (rest in peace) 2016 greatest hits album

Twenty-five is also 24 + 1 hours in a day, enjoyed once a year at the vernal equinox.

And, June 2017 marks the 25th year anniversary of my business, Under Control Organizing.  

It’s hard to believe that it has been 25 years since I started organizing professionally. In 1992, when I began Under Control Organizing, I knew that I had the ability to assist, teach, motivate, and guide others toward a more organized life. My career tests had demonstrated strength in “organizing”, and I deeply felt that I could successfully share that gift with others.  

I am honored to have helped almost 700 individuals with their spaces, paper, “stuff” and lives.  The spectrum of these organizing projects over the past 25 years is wide. They include simplifying, right-sizing, enhancing productivity, and managing transitions into different phases of life. The relationships that developed from these projects was not predictable, and certainly a bonus.

Many requests which began with sadness, frustration, embarrassment and/or shame, ended in elation, hope and pride. Closets, cabinets, storage rooms, RV homes, (home) offices, kitchens, attics, garages, playrooms, and art studios are some of the spaces that I tackled with my clients.  Those spaces held supplies, collections, files, inherited items, minutiae and prized possessions. From arranging furniture for maximum functionality, identifying and sorting “like things together” for easier access, tabulating spreadsheets to keep track of costs, and managing digital files for cloud access, each individual and situation has been unique.  I have always said that there is no cookie cutter solution to organizing challenges, and the results of the past 25 years have proved that notion.

Some of my current organizing projects include:

  • Downsizing homes, offices and storage for retirement or transition
  • Planning moves to smaller homes
  • Settling into new homes
  • Modifying living and work spaces for better efficiency and comfort
  • Managing paper, digital files and cloud storage
  • Tackling your unique “situation”

I am grateful, to all of my customers (and those who referred you to me) over these last 25 years, for your trust in me to “invade” your homes, offices and lives. You can count of me to be there for your next organizing challenge. In the words of Robert Frost, “The woods are lovely, dark and deep.  But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep.”

The Rewards of Organizing

March 6th, 2017

The Rewards of OrganizingThis story is true but the names have been changed to protect the privacy of the innocent.

Given a choice, would you choose freedom or burden?  Pierre chose to fly like a kite, free from the burdens of his “stuff.”

Pierre is 60 years old.  For decades, he ran a successful business and was the family member in charge of multiple generations’ history.  Can you imagine the collection of papers and artifacts that accumulated in his home, office and multiple costly storage rooms?

Each storage room cost Pierre $4,800 each year.  The thought of facing the contents of the room was stressful, causing daily anxiety.  He was determined to simplify his life but overwhelming feelings influenced his procrastination.  Finally, with lots of caring, non-judgmental support and the dedication of 5 hours organizing with me to sort through and make decisions, here are the results:

  • Emptied one storage room.
  • Found forgotten items to be used today.
  • Enjoyed various memories.
  • Connected and shared with assorted family members interested in artifacts.
  • Employed a shredding company to shred 25 boxes of old tax info and dated material.
  • Made charitable donations of supplies, electronics and furniture to a local children’s after school center.
  • Added tax deductions for donated items.
  • Received help from an intern in exchange for a well-deserved college recommendation.
  • Saved $4,800 per year on storage bills.

Pierre is now relieved of much stress and anxiety, feeling lighter, happier and energized.

As you can see, simplifying and organizing is not only freeing, it’s giving, sharing, connecting, and empowering; in addition, it’s making others happy and successful.  It’s also cathartic, emotional and strengthens relationships.  The costs of storing “stuff” are more than monetary.  They can take their toll on our emotions and relationships.

Pierre chose to take the time to reduce his burden and feel the freedom.  Can he tackle another storage room and gain more freedom and joy from the burden of excess?  I think he knows he can.

Now that you know what is possible, think about your “storage costs”.  Is it overwhelming?  Now, count to 10, and recapture your senses from the burden of your own overwhelmed accumulations.  Can you tackle your stuff, and rejoice in the same accomplishments that Pierre achieved?  The rewards of organizing and de-cluttering are beyond monetary.

Organizing, Gratitude and Asking for Help

December 5th, 2016

Marcia Sloman, Under Control Organizing

The grocery-cart-return area was about 20 feet away, but the able-bodied, middle aged man rolled his emptied grocery cart to an level surface next to his car instead.  I just couldn’t walk away.
“The return area is right over there”, I stopped, pointed, and said with a smile.
He froze, unexpectedly confronted.  “Yes, it is”, was his retort.
“I’ll be happy to help, and take it for you, if you like”, I offered.
“That’s kind of you”, was the man’s reply.
“You’re welcome. All you had to do was ask.  Have a nice day.”

Whether it’s keeping the parking lot safe from rolling grocery carts, being able to find things quickly in my home and office, or listening carefully to you to determine the best “systems” in your space, it’s all Organizing.  I’m happy to do it.  All you have to do is ask.

It’s natural instinct for people to want to help.  We need help, and help may come from unexpected sources.  All you have to do is ask.

I’m happy, and grateful that I chose my second career in Organizing. I’m grateful to my mentors, supportive friends, family and acquaintances.  I’m grateful to the career counselor who evaluated my skills in 1992 as “having excellence in organizing”.  I am grateful every day for the challenging projects offered to me by my clients.  All you have to do is ask.

Giving thanks is not limited to the holiday time of Thanksgiving.  I think that if we make time to remember and acknowledge others throughout the year, our lives might be easier, less stressed, more organized and productive.  We would feel comforted by partnership.  We just have to ask, “Can you help me with ______?”  After receiving, please pay it forward.  I can only hope that the man in the parking lot “paid it forward” in gratitude later that day, even if no one asked.

It’s a challenge to stay organized.  Today’s hectic, harried life commands our attention in so many directions.  Tasks take longer to complete than expected.  Our high priority lists grow.  We’re stretched.  Distractions abound.  There are only 24 hours in the day, and we can’t be everywhere at once.

What does gratitude and helping others have to do with Organizing?  I named my Organizing business “Under Control” to represent a feeling one would have after they work with me.  I enjoy sharing that knowledge with you.  I want you to feel a sense of confidence and calm after our work together.  Being organized can provide that sense.  Organizing is a thoughtful process, whether it’s downsizing, transition-ing or building a new venture.

For me, “organized” is knowing how, when and from whom we need to ask for help, and being able to take our valuable time to express our appreciation for it.

Organizing Options for Care-giving and Care-getting

August 29th, 2016

balance-1372677-1024x682I heard it said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The other day, I received a call from a client who confidently exclaimed When I get stuck, I ask myself What would Marcia do?” Wow!!!! I was flattered and glowed with pride. I pride myself in setting a good example by practicing what I preach. Managing time, for instance, is self management. If you had a brief 20 minutes to get something done or started, what would you choose to do? The following are options for accomplishing something in 20 minutes from which this Veteran Professional Organizer would choose.

Enrichment Creative
Learn something new Draw, paint, craft
Practice a skill Cook, Garden
Read Play Music
  Photograph
Social Write, Visualize
Catch up on Social Media De-Clutter/ Organize
Call Someone  
Write a note Well-Being
  Snuggle your pet
Tasks Meditate, pray
File, Put stuff away Yoga, Exercise
Clean/clean out Healthy snack
De-Clutter/ Organize Personal hygiene

Did I leave out any choices? One cannot say there is nothing to do, unless your choice is to do nothing. We have to capitalize on downtime, if not create it.

We all enjoy having choices, but we often fritter away precious moments. What can you accomplish in 20 minutes? What do you need? Is it an urgent need, or a plan for some future important event? If you’ve thrown away precious time in the past, start new. Set a timer. Eliminate distractions such as silencing electronic alerts (except for emergencies).

Life is full. We’re so busy as care-givers to ourselves, our families, our businesses and our loved ones, that we forget to “care-get.” We’re filled with obligations to others, demands from new life, and expired life, let alone our own deadlines. And because we care-give so much, there are more demands on us to organize. We can’t properly help others unless we help ourselves first. The flight attendant’s announcement before every flight includes “In the event of an emergency, make sure your oxygen mask is securely tightened before assisting a child.” Ask YOURSELF, “What do I need to help myself?” Should I write another post on how to ask for help?

Take heed this quote by Amelia Earhart, “Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace. The soul that knows it not, knows no release from little things.” Have the courage to organize, grant yourself peace of mind, and ask yourself, “What would Marcia do?”

Simple Ways to Streamline your Life, Be More Productive and Stay Organized

August 10th, 2015

Praying for Organization?

Start with a few simple ways to streamline your life, be more productive and stay organized:

Manage your schedule

  • Send yourself reminders via email, app or electronic calendar.
  • Set up a separate inbox for your reminders, and check it daily.
  • Use a family calendar to track family commitments.
  • Eliminate multiple calendars, or be sure to synchronize.
  • Set up a grab and go area near your exit to remember to bring items with you when you go out.

Pare down paper

  • Pay as many bills online as you can.
  • Remember to maintain receipts if they are tax-deductible expenses.
  • Find what you need, when you need it: set up a simple format and naming convention to scan and to file. Please remember to back up. If you don’t keep the paper as back up, save to a hard drive or cloud storage.

Eliminate electronic clutter

  • Reduce stress and anxiety resulting from the overwhelm of feeling buried.
  • Unsubscribe from e-offers and emails that are no longer relevant to you.
  • Clear out your Inbox by creating folders for important senders/categories.

Filing

  • No one LIKES to file (except for me). Make it easy on yourself, or set up a simple system, for paper and electronic matter, so that anyone can put your stuff away.

De-clutter your space(s)

  • Surround yourself in an environment that represents who you are.
  • Free up valuable space.
  • Start with the EASY decisions. Choose to keep or eliminate. Get to know what you have.
  • Set aside 10-15 minutes a day: with a notebook and pen, walk room to room, closet to closet, drawer to drawer, until your entire home/office is inventoried. Bookmark where you left off each day so that you can pick up where you left off. This may take a month or more overall to complete. The process will force you to eliminate items that you no longer want.

For more easy ways to streamline your life, be more productive and to stay organized, contact me. We can quickly brainstorm your unique life situations to transform your life to an organized life.

Why You Can’t Get Organized

July 14th, 2014

Do you find yourself struggling to organize your things? You’re not alone.

Read my article on Dr. Mark Banschick’s blog in Psychology Today. I know it’s overwhelming. But, you can do it.

Organizing a Closet

June 5th, 2014

RimbergBeforeToUseDo you have a closet that looks like this? Or worse?

Could you find what you needed in this closet?

Scroll down to see the results of a few hours of professional organizing help.

 

 

 

 

 

 

RimbergAfterToUseE-mail Marcia to get your closets in order.