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Why is Getting Organized so Difficult?

New clients ask me this all the time. They are doctors, lawyers, teachers, businessmen and people in the arts.   They come from all walks of life.  They wonder how they can be so successful in life and simultaneously be so overwhelmed in their physical spaces? Afraid I will share something horrific they hold their breath waiting for my response.  Here’s how I explain it in my seminars.

Imagine if you will that we are in a large concert hall.  You are part of an audience assembled to hear my lecture on getting organized. I ask if there is anyone who has never had a piano lesson in his or her life.  You raise your hand and I ask if you wouldn’t mind playing some Chopin for us.  Everybody laughs. Who is the fool in this scenario?  Why should you feel embarrassed for not being able to do something you were never trained for?  Shouldn’t we all laugh at my request? Sadly when it comes to getting organized most people have never been taught how it all works and yet they carry shame about their lack of knowledge. Let’s agree to leave guilt and shame at the door.  They never produce good results and simply bog us down as we seek to grow and change.

I’ve written nine books on the art of getting organized.  I’ve tailored my tips for different circumstances and life situations. You can find me at Amazon and with a few keystrokes I’ll be on your Kindle helping you get started.  Aren’t you relieved?  There’s nothing wrong with you! No one ever taught you and that’s my job.  But wait.  Might there be contributing factors?  Yes.  Let’s review them and know in advance every single one has an antidote.  Guilt and shame remain kicked to the curb.


It’s hard to get out of bed in the morning when you’re depressed much less tear the house apart in an effort to get organized.  Do a little personal research.  Do you know why you are depressed?  Are you suffering postpartum depression or did your little darling just go off to college leaving you with empty nest syndrome? Were you laid off from work or has retirement thrown you for a loop? Did your spouse move you to a new city and you find you miss your old friends?  There are so many reasons you might be depressed but all can be remedied with a bit of acknowledgment, a dose of exercise, good food and kindness.  If you are clinically depressed you may need to consult with a therapist.  Once you’re on the other side of this hurdle you can start to get organized.  In the meantime focus on simple things like establishing good habits. Here are once again my all time favorites:

  • Make your bed every day.
  • Check the trashcans daily and empty as needed.
  • Always place your keys in the same spot the second you enter the home.
  • Wash dirty dishes rather than stack them in the sink
  • Put clean dishes away rather than letting them languish in the dishwasher or on the drain board like orphans

Simple actions like these when repeated for 21 consecutive days become a part of you.  You will be amazed how they increase your self-esteem and how powerfully they influence those with whom you share your environment.


Physical challenges come with long term diagnoses like MS or diabetes and with temporary challenges like cancer or a broken bone.  You will need to find out how to navigate the new world you’re now a part of and will most likely need help.  As a cancer survivor of 11 ½ years who had 2 surgeries and 6 rounds of chemotherapy believe me I have walked a mile in your shoes.  I know it’s possible to survive and thrive.  I also know that people love to help.  Don’t think you’re being a burden.  And remember one day they may need you! Concentrate on creating good habit and keeping up with any organized areas of your home.  When you’re ready to get organized start small.  You are the perfect candidate for The 8-Minute Organizer. As you feel better and are in more control you can tackle the big projects. Chaos isn’t created over night.  If it has to last a bit longer it doesn’t matter.  In the end you will conquer it.

Negative Mental Tapes

Erroneous ideas about our abilities are inserted in our brains by parents, teachers, friends, enemies, strangers and everyone in between. Walk around with a notebook one week and make note of every negative thought you have about yourself or your abilities.  I would bet money you will identify a pattern. “I am so stupid!”  “Why did I think I could do that? I know how clumsy I am!”  “I just can’t get organized. I know it.”  You will no doubt notice a pattern and with a little introspection you will be able to identify the person who put that pattern into your head as if it were fact. With patience and persistence and perhaps some therapy you can just as patiently exorcise those patterns and replace them with their positive antidotes. In the meantime concentrate on those habits.  One Year to an Organized Life like all of my books is full of suggestions.

Fear of Success and Failure

Flip sides of the same coin.  One client will be incapacitated because she can’t do everything perfectly.  There’s no time or she doesn’t have the supplies or any of a hundred other self imposed excuses.  Meanwhile another client is equally immobilized but because he is convinced he will not be able to do the task well.  He’s going to fail and the shame is too great to bear. And so the home and office clutter accumulate because guilt, fear and shame are the rulers of the day.  In my world the fact someone would try makes him or her heroic in my eyes. And if we do things to the best of our ability the outcome will be ‘good enough’ and move us forward. It’s important to make the distinction between doing your personal best and being perfect. The former is always possible with a little effort.  The latter is a pipe dream. It is guaranteed to keep you immobilized. Break free! People in this group will find tremendous satisfaction starting small and savoring the results.

Prepare Your Vehicle

If we were to take a road trip and use your car you’d be responsible and have it checked out, tires rotated and tank full, right? Well an organizing project is like a trip into your future.  And guess what? Your vehicle for this adventure is your body: tune it up before you begin!  Eat a good breakfast, have healthy snacks handy, drink lots of water and plan a reward commensurate with the expenditure of time and energy demanded by your project. In general you’ll feel better and think more clearly if you exercise regularly.  I have 15 minutes of walking every day in mind but if you want to pump iron, buy a Pilates machine or run a marathon I’ll be impressed!  Remember that for our purposes all of those wonderful and rewarding activities are overkill. Just move your body!

All Knowledge Is One

You’ll find once you embrace one discipline there are parallels in other fields you investigate.  In Chinese medicine for example a lack of movement or exercise can lead to stagnation of energy and that in turn leads to disease.  In my world of organizing a lack of decision-making leads to stagnation in the home as evidenced through piles of stuff.  Get moving in one area of your life and you’ll experience ripples of energy in all the others. Everyone can bring more order into his life. Everyone will save time, money and energy because of her efforts. Very often the first step is acknowledging you have a block.  Breaking your ties with that block may not be easy but what have you got to lose but guilt, fear, shame and a few piles? I think Nike has it right: just do it!

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Regina Leeds
‘The Zen Organizer’

Want more organization tips? Download Regina Leeds’ Home Organization Guides.

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