Why Am I So Disorganized?

Do you groan at the thought of getting organized? We feel your pain. But according to experts, you don't have to change a thing about yourself — only your system.

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When it comes to getting organized, says author and organization guru Julie Morgenstern, too many people attack first and ask questions later. With cash in hand, these folks hurry to the store in search of the latest bins, boxes and baskets that promise to rescue them from the clutter overtaking their lives — and their sanity. This approach, which she calls "organizing from the outside in," is often expensive, demoralizing and, in the end, unsuccessful.

To create an organizational system that will prove truly useful, Morgenstern explains, "a person needs to honor their own unique personality and design a system around that." In her best-selling book, Organizing from the Inside Out, Morgenstern advises her readers to examine their habits and behaviors before creating a plan of action.

"Ask questions first, attack second," she says. "We need to understand the problem before we can come up with a solution."

In her 18 years as a professional organizer, Morgenstern has come to know that more often than not, there are hidden forces — psychological roadblocks — that are preventing her clients from achieving organizational nirvana. "People often wrongly assume that they are sloppy, dirty or lazy, or that they just don't have enough storage space," she says. In reality, in almost every case there are deep-rooted obstacles that push her clients toward disorder.

Psychological Obstacles
Morgenstern distinguishes psychological obstacles from those that are "technical" or "external." "Technical errors are simple, mechanical mistakes in a person's organizing system that make it impossible to succeed," she explains. Easy to remedy, these roadblocks include not storing items where they are used or simply having more stuff than space. External realities are those factors outside one's control that make it hard to sustain a system, such as an unbearable workload, uncooperative housemates or limited space.

In contrast, psychological obstacles are those hidden personality traits that seem to sabotage one's organizational system, despite how much we might try to succeed. With labels like "the need for abundance," "the conquistador of chaos" and "sentimental attachment," these internal impediments need to be addressed before any lasting success can be achieved.

The good news is the would-be organizer needn't make a date with Dr. Freud to prevail. "We don't necessarily need to solve these issues, we just need to identify them and build a system of organization around them," Morgenstern says.

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