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Why get organized? What are the benefits to you?

When I ask my workshop participants this question, they toss back answers.

  • So I can find things.
  • So I can pay my bills on time.
  • So I can have company over without feeling embarrassed.
  • I will feel happier, more peaceful and serene.
  • My stress will go down.
  • I will save time and effort; life will be easier.
  • I will be better able to meet deadlines, improving my work performance and relationships with co-workers.
  • I will save money (on late fees, buying another item because you can't find the one you have or don't know you already have).
  • I will make money.
  • I prefer the aesthetics, the way my home (or office) looks and feels when it's organized.
  • I will have more time to spend with my family and doing what I really want.
  • I will feel better about myself.

Excellent reasons to become organized! And yet, some of us still resist. It helps to ask "What would happen if I became organized?" Sometimes, we use disorganization as protection. One woman I know felt that, as long as her home was in chaos, she couldn't have anyone visit. By using the "what would happen? and then what would happen? and then what would happen?" questioning technique, she uncovered her underlying fear of rejection. She realized that she didn't want people to visit because she believed she was socially unacceptable, and keeping her home in chaos was her way of preventing rejection.

Another example I read told of a man with an overflowingly cluttered garage, who believed that clearing the garage would force him to admit that his house had become too big now that the kids had grown and left. Admitting that the house was too big led to the conclusion that he'd have to move. Having to move brought forth that his marriage had been dead for some time... . Hmmm, keep the garage cluttered and deny the marriage problems, or clear the garage and face the relationship?

Others resist becoming organized out of rebellion against authority or a fear of losing their creativity. People hang plaques in their homes proclaiming that "A woman with a clean home is a boring woman." They equate organization and cleanliness with excessive control, a lack of creativity, repression, and drudgery. Yet often their lack of organization is preventing them from fully expressing their creativity because they can't find their materials or access their tools, or because they are spending so much time on other tasks that they have little time left for their projects.

Julie Morgenstern, author of Organizing from the Inside Out, defines organization as "the process by which we create environments that enable us to live, work, and relax exactly as we want to. When we are organized, our homes, offices, and schedules reflect and encourage who we are, what we want, and where we are going." I would add that organization is actually about being lazy; about making our lives easier. Rather than seeing organization as a dam that restricts our life's river, think of it as the raft that contains us, that provides structure and a modicum of safety and control as we float (or ride rapids) downstream.

On a personal note: When my mother died of lung cancer, I chose to deal with my grieving process by thumbing through books on the topic. One book explained that my then-current stage was referred to as "disorganization." As a professional organizer, I found this ironically funny. "Oh, great! I'm becoming psychologically disorganized!" What kept me together as I fell apart, though, was the organization I've created in my life. Organization provided the safety and structure, the support system that held me together.

So why get organized? Besides all the reasons my clients offer? Because when times get tough, being organized keeps life from getting too hard. Because, when all is said and done, being organized makes life easier.


last updated on July 3, 2012