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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#4 — Social Disorganization
The cause: When you are influenced by your social world to create and exist with disorder as a way of life.

Our culture encourages accumulation. We are told through advertising and social norms to collect enough belongings to fill up our garage or to gather more toys than the next guy. Some of us wear our stuff like a badge of honor. We think that if we have more stuff than others that means that we are better or smarter or richer. We want to have name brand stuff so that we can tell the world about our financial status. We get more and more stuff, yet we are more and more unhappy and stressed. We are the socially disorganized.

The dichotomy is that once we stockpile all this stuff we don't know what to do with it and it begins to enslave us. Whatever we collect we must save, dust, store, protect, inventory and insure. In my experience as a professional organizer, I've observed that the more stuff people have, the more complicated their lives become. Having stuff isn't wrong in itself. The problem is when you have so much stuff that you lose and abuse it. When we stop managing, using and appreciating what we own then we become victims of a society that accumulates for the sake of accumulation.

Social norms also encourage us to over-program our lives. We become disorganized when we give into the attitude in society that says, "I have to have it all." This attitude can lead us down a slippery slope of over-commitment. One of the reasons we collect too many belongings and activities is because we have a hard time saying "no." If you have been a victim of social pressures, your choices may have resulted in an overloaded schedule and disorderly living. You can now make a conscious choice to reject the social pressures that surround you and extract yourself from an out-of-control schedule. If you can say "no" and stop accumulating you will begin to restore order.

#5 — Chronic Disorganization
The cause: When we live in a chronic, debilitating state of disorder even though we have tried and failed to help ourselves.

Chronic disorganization is another way people arrive in chaos. This phrase is not a subjective term. In fact, there is an actual condition called "chronic disorganization" as well as a group of people who study it. If you've ever wondered why none of your efforts to organize yourself have succeeded, you might fall into this category.

If you've tried a number of methods to dig out, only to find yourself in the same place you started, this may be your unique brand of disorganization. According to the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization (www.nsgcd.org), the definition of chronic disorganization is "having a past history of disorganization in which self-help efforts to change have failed, an undermining of current quality of life due to disorganization and the expectation of future disorganization." In short, if you've been disorganized in the past, have tried to change on your own and forecast similar unsuccessful results in your future, you may suffer from chronic disorganization.

The chronically disorganized likely have a home or work space (or both) that is piled high with clutter. Often, they feel helpless to overcome their disorganization. Indeed, chronically disorganized people require more specialized service than those who came by their disorganization by way of situation, habits, family history or social influence. It is unlikely that a chronically disorganized person can independently pull themselves out of their circumstances alone. Anyone who thinks she may suffer from chronic disorganization can visit the website of the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization (www.nsgcd.org). On this website, you can find a referral directory in case you decide to enlist the help of an expert or investigate resources for you to conduct further research.

Excerpted from Restoring Order: Organizing Strategies to Reclaim Your Life by Vicki Norris. Visit her website at www.restoringorder.com.

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