5 Culprits of Disorganization

Before you can dig out of your disorganized state, you have to understand what led you there. Professional organizer Vicki Norris sheds light on five common causes of clutter buildup in our homes and lives.

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#1 — Situational Disorganization
The cause: A precipitating life event that causes disruption and disorganization in your life.

Sometimes our circumstances just get the best of us. At work and at home we encounter situations that invite disorder. Things might be going along fine and then all of a sudden we are inundated by some event or project. When something happens that we did not anticipate or did not prepare for, we can find ourselves the victim of our circumstances. These folks are what I call situationally disorganized.

Situational disorganization happens when a precipitating event causes life disruption. It could be as simple as getting backlogged at work or home due to a big, time-consuming project. Personal loss like the death of someone close to you can cause major disorganization in your home life. Even managing the affairs of an elderly, ailing relative can derail your own personal state of order. The grief and loss of a divorce or medical emergency can also inundate people with disorder. Situational disorganization may be caused by a variety of sources, but it can be temporary in nature.

Knowing that a precipitating event caused your disorder hopefully takes the pressure off you. Many people look around at their clutter and feel ashamed. They wonder why they can’t get it together. When I find out that someone has been through a divorce and a death in the same year, I want to help them see that the disorder that surrounds them is not their fault. All of us can become inundated by the unexpected. When you recognize the variety of reasons that have contributed to your disorganization, you let yourself off the hook.

#2 — Habitual Disorganization
The cause: Bad habits that have developed over time.

Some of the clients I've worked with have needed help re-directing their behavior. Some are stashers. Some are stackers. Others are pilers, spreaders, suffers and hiders. You name it, I've seen it. There are a million bad organizing habits, and we've all indulged them from time to time. Instead of unloading the dishwasher, we leave our dishes in the sink, hoping someone else will unload. Rather than facing the paper pile-up, we shut our office door so we can’t see the mess. We knowingly overbook our schedule because we can't say no. We are the habitually disorganized.

Habitual disorganization does not mean that we are forever cursed and stuck with chaos in our life. Rather, it means that we have created our own state of disorganization with our collection of bad habits. We can also remain in our chaos, using our bad habits as a reason for why we can't get out. Whether we are dealing with space, time, paper, information, or tasks, we all have our own set of patterns that may sabotage our order. From procrastination to over-scheduling our life, we are our own worst enemy. By our own hand, we become victims of disorganization.

To change, begin by identifying any bad habits that you've developed that are contributing to your disorganization. Acknowledging those habits is the first step to restoring order. If you don't identify your bad habits in the process of organizing, your efforts won’t make a lasting impact. For example, you could go through a lot of work to establish a great filing system but if you are in the habit of neglecting maintenance, your filing system will rapidly deteriorate. Once you name those bad habits you can become more conscious of them. As you engage in your organizing process, you can then proactively work to eliminate those bad habits. Only when you extricate yourself from self-defeating habits will you truly be liberated from disorder.

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