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anyone else chronically, hopelessly disorganized?

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 

I would like to think there is help for me but I really don't know.... Ever since I was a kid, I would be a frazzled mess, my homework was always tossed into the wrong book, my notebooks were all mixed up because I once forgot my science notebook in my locker and had to put my notes in the math notebook and it was all downhill from there... I always had a trapper keeper that I would use for 2 days before I lost interest in it and instead would carry it from class to class and never open it.


I have journals, notebooks, planners, books on organization, charts, files, storage boxes, etc and everything just sits there.  I don't know if I am lazy, or confused, or overwhelmed.. we have so much stuff and some of it, DH won't let me get rid of.  He is half the problem as far as I am concerned.  He can't put clothes away because his bureau is packed with clothes that he never wears but are too good to get rid of.  We moved 2 years ago from a house into an apartment and we don't have storage for everything- I have been trying to simplify but I can't get rid of DH's stuff and am having trouble parting with some of mine- things that were given to me, sentimental things.. I really think the main problem is STUFF.  stuff like random tools, games, an incense burner, baskets that are too big for the countertops... I "clean" the house but within a day, it is back to where it was.  We are trying to declutter toys and books, and some kitchen stuff..


is anyone struggling with chronic disorganization?

post #2 of 22

Your description of yourself as a child sounds just like me, and, yes, my disorganization continues through the present day. I don't have any answers, but just want you to know you're not alone.redface.gif

post #3 of 22

I was just reading a housekeeping book and it talked a bit about having ADD and housekeeping. You might google that and see if it yields any interesting strategies. I find that labeling EVEYTHING is a huge help for me and the whole house. I forget the plan so easily if I don't write it down.

post #4 of 22


I'd recommend the book _Organizing from the Inside Out_. The premise of the book is that your organization scheme should be the one that works for _you_ and your lifestyle, not the one that your mother or your aunt or your English teacher or Mary Poppins thinks is best. Some people are visual organizers, some people need the organization scheme to be really pretty, some people have a "need for abundance" and that needs to be catered to in the organization scheme, and so on. 
The book won't necessarily give you an organization scheme that will work for you, but it might give you some ideas, and also amply demonstrate the idea that if a scheme isn't working for you, there's a very good chance that the problem is the scheme, not you.
If your husband is keeping your storage areas filled with old stuff that isn't in use, I'd say that he's more than half the problem. My guy also likes to keep all of his old clothes, but I don't let those clothes stay in the active drawers or closets - I stuff them in boxes and stash them in the spare bedroom and, well, I don't ask him first. :) This makes the spare bedroom a mess, but it makes it possible to use the normal storage areas in the other rooms.
The keys that let _me_ keep a place tidy (your keys may be different) are:
- Sparsely filled storage. If I have to rearrange things to put away that teacup or that book or that basketball, I won't put it away. Ideally, I'd like to keep all of my storage areas no more than seventy percent full. I'm not there yet. I think that empty storage space is the biggest key, and the lack of it is the biggest cause of the "It was clean three hours ago; what happened?!" phenomenon.
So, yes, a huge (huge huge huge) part of solving the problem is getting rid of stuff, or at the very least getting it out of the main living areas.
- Simple storage, without mixing things or putting things in front of other things. The sock drawer is only for socks. The stack of dinner plates contains only dinner plates, all identical in the stack - I never ever stack salad plates on top. Yes, there are two stacks of cereal bowls, but they're in front of each other, and all the bowls are identical, so we never have to reach for the back stack until we've used up the front stack.
If there isn't enough storage for everything to go in "simple storage", I give the everyday stuff prime storage space, and do the complicated storage for the rarely used stuff. So the everyday china gets simple storage, while the tea set and sushi plates and other rarely-used entertaining things are all tucked into one cabinet like a puzzle. That way, the messy cleanup only happens once in a while if we have a party.
- Edited to add: One-handed storage. Wherever possible, organize your storage so that you can take things out and put them away with one hand. And fight like mad against storage where you have to take one thing out to put another thing away. (Like, say, lifting the salad plates off the stack to put that dinner plate under them.) The easier and more instantaneous it is to put something away, the more likely that you will put it away.
- Landing zones. In addition to having permanent homes for things, I have temporary "homes" where I can drop stuff when I don't want to put it away properly yet. A tiny basket in my bathroom to drop dirty clothes in, shelves and a bench by the front door for dumping keys and mail and packages and shoes (we kick them under the bench), a shelf just off the living room that allows me to sweep through the living room and quickly put all the books and magazines on that shelf, a basket to hold magazines and random papers, little decorative bowls all over the house where I can drop keys or change or a piece of jewelry or whatever small, hard object I have and don't want to put away properly.
I can keep an eye on these areas, and when they start to fill up, I know that I should plan on taking an hour or so to put their contents away. But since they can absorb a few days' worth of "droppoff clutter", I can do that cleaning at my leisure. When I do put the stuff away, the dropoff areas should be empty or nearly empty.
- Willingness to use landing zones. There's a pull against putting things away - I'm going to get back to that knitting project, that book, that checkbook, that bill, that magazine, that newspaper, any time now, so why put it away? I resist that pull and put all that stuff in a landing zone, so that it's not cluttering the place, but it's easily find it again when I'm ready to pick it up. 
- Strict storage rules where I have trouble. For example, very few things "live" on my kitchen countertops - when the kitchen is picked up, my countertops are almost totally clear, front to back. The only things that belong there are the kitchen soap and sponge, the upright mixer, and the electric kettle, and I'd like to stash the kettle somewhere. 
I designated one cabinet shelf for those little things that I frequently grab and therefore otherwise keep on the counter - cooking salt, box of tea, vitamin bottle, sugar dispenser. I moved the canisters to a convenient cabinet right above the counter so it's easy to sling their weight up and down, and I force myself to put them back every time I use them. I just realized last month that I'd been letting the drain plug clutter up the kitchen counter for years, without using it to plug the drain more often than once every couple of years, so it was evicted to under the sink.
Getting the kitchen counters to this clear state, and wiping them down, makes me feel good, so I resist when my SO wants to store a knife block or something similar on the countertop.
I'm not claiming that I achieve this flawlessly - there does tend to be other stuff. That box of cereal that we don't have cabinet room for because my "70% full" plan failed for the staples cabinet, a bunch of bananas (what _do_ you do with bananas? I don't want perishable food out of sight in a cabinet), a flat of drinks - but the fact that none of this _lives_ there means that this clutter doesn't just build and build and build. I clear space in a cabinet for the cereal, we eat the bananas, I get the drinks put away, so space is always being cleared even as other stuff is coming in and trying to claim a space. My "short counter" usually has a few uninvited things trespassing in the back; if this overflows into the "long counter" I declare war and get it cleared.
Simlarly, nothing lives on my toilet tank, or on top of the fridge, or on my bathroom sink (I have shelves in the bathroom, and when they approach a full state I start to get rid of or rehome stuff), and so on. 
Again, this is what works for me. It's entirely possible that you might need the a different strategy. For example, except for books and music and DVDs, I like my stuff stored out of sight, but maybe you're one of those people who needs to be able to see their stuff. In that case, you might want to consider open shelves instead of closed cabinets and closed drawers - maybe a visible stack of colorful sweaters on a pretty shelf or an attractive basket of socks is what it would take to motivate you to put stuff away.
Getting an organized house is much more about rearranging and changing the house to suit you, than about changing you to suit the house. Sure, you'll have to form some habits and force yourself to do some things, but in general when you find that something just doesn't get done, odds are that the problem is with the house.
post #5 of 22
Thread Starter 

Crayfish, holy mackeral!  Great tips!  Will you come organize my house? 


Thanks everyone!

post #6 of 22

Yes, me too. I am disorganized and cluttered to a point that it's really negatively affecting my life. I'm kind of at a loss of where to start--- I had a flylady type system going, but honestly, I feel like I am working every second of the day to keep it going, and that feels bad to me. So I don't know what to do; I think the key is decluttering, so that's what I'm going to focus on for now.

post #7 of 22
Thread Starter 

I just decluttered our hoosier and 3 kitchen cabinets!  yay!  Took a break for lunch and next I will continue with the kitchen.  The rest of the house is a disaster but hey, I am making some progress!

post #8 of 22

I don't see the point in having lots of things you don't use. I'd tell hubby that if he hasn't worn/used things in a year, they are going to a garage/yard sale or being donated and the same goes for anything of yours that you don't need. I know how it is. I also managed to have too much stuff again. I say again cuz a couple years ago I moved to Europe and had gotten rid of the abundance but since returning to the US a few months after that (2 year ago still) I have accumulated a ton of stuff again. I think part of my problem is that if I don't organize things, I literally forget what I have and buy more. That really goes for clothes, food, sundry items. 


I say it's time to throw things, give things away and put things in storage. Best wishes. :) I'm in the process myself.

post #9 of 22

I have ADD and so organisation has always been a struggle since childhood for me also...so I can relate!


You said you already have books on organisation...just wondering which ones have you tried?


If your DH has clothes he doesn't wear but are too good to toss, can you convince him to sell them perhaps? At least that way you are getting some money back.


post #10 of 22

It's All Too Much by Peter Walsh is good too, he recommends starting with a vision of what you want your life to be, then what you wish each room in your house to be- and then it is easier to get rid of things because you can ask yourself if it stands in the way of your dreams


I would also look into books on ADHD/ADD


I am reading this one now



ADD Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life by Judith Kolberg


Susan Pinsky wrote Organizing Solutions for People with ADD


and this one is supposed to be helpful too



There are more if you go to amazon.com books and type in "organizing and add"


I am finally realizing this is my issue and have found support in reading about this subject

Good luck!

post #11 of 22
Thread Starter 

I had a book on organizing with feng shui (although I lent it out and now I can't remember to whom, or the exact title) and Organizing For Dummies (which I lost for 2 years) bag.gif


I realized something else- that I still do.  I have this panicky thing about rushing.  Like, at the grocery store when I get my receipt and change, I stuff it into my pocketbook along with my debit card or whatver, never in an organized way, because I don't want to keep the people behind me waiting.  Thus adding to my disorganization.  It never occurs to me to fix everything neatly when I get to the car.



post #12 of 22

I do that too. Thinking I don't have time to take care of it right now is my biggest pitfall.

post #13 of 22
Originally Posted by maisiedotes View Post
I realized something else- that I still do.  I have this panicky thing about rushing.  Like, at the grocery store when I get my receipt and change, I stuff it into my pocketbook along with my debit card or whatver, never in an organized way, because I don't want to keep the people behind me waiting.  Thus adding to my disorganization.  It never occurs to me to fix everything neatly when I get to the car.



I've concluded that any system that falls down if I don't do something _right now_, is a system doomed to failure. That's why I have landing zones.
So how about a landing zone in your purse? If you designated one pocket of your purse as the "quick stash" pocket, then just that pocket would be disorderly, and the rest of your purse would stay orderly. You could tidy up that pocket at your leisure, every few days or every week or something.
post #14 of 22

Kerri, I completely identify with your post.


Will have to come back later and read Crayfish's first post. I can't focus right now... bag.gif


I highly recommend It's Hard to Make a Difference When You Can't Find the Keys by Marilyn Paul.  It's a bit like therapy.   She doesn't actually give you clever ideas about where to put things. She gets you to think about what you're dissatisfied with and why you do what you do even though it causes lots of distress and unhappiness. 




About Julie Morgenstern's Organizing From the Inside Out, even though I don't own it anymore, even though I didn't get one bit more organized after having read it ...12 years ago?... it has a special place in my heart.  It's one of the few truly life-changing books I've read.  I just move very, verrrrry sllllowwwlllyyyy.  smile.gif  It did re-frame the issue for me, and I felt hopeful after having read it. Most Get Organized! books and articles leave me feeling frustrated and down-trodden.

Edited by journeymom - 1/8/11 at 4:55pm
post #15 of 22

I'm a big fan of the workbook companion to Peter Walsh's book. Going through it made a huge difference in helping me to see what I want. I also really like the Marilyn Paul book that journeymom mentioned.


I am chronically disorganized. I also realized a few months ago that I'm a bit of a hoarder. It's not terrible, but it's enough that we do not have people over often because of it. Luckily DH is totally on-board with de-cluttering, and we've been working on it with pretty good results.


I've decided that for me, I really need less stuff. Things like "landing zones" just become a huge disaster for me because they grow bigger & bigger. I don't ever get around to clearing them, etc. We're being pretty ruthless right now in de-cluttering as we go, but I think we probably have a year (at least) before we've actually gotten rid of everything.


As to your original question, yes I am chronically disorganized & always have been. A couple of months ago, I said to the kids that it was time to leave. DS turned to DD and said, "you look for her shoes. I'll find the keys." DD nodded and ran off like this was a pre-determined plan. It was pretty sobering to have your 3 and 5 year olds do that to you.  

post #16 of 22

LOL Visionary Mom - that's pretty funny. 


For anyone interested in just HOW disorganized I am and what my house looks like - I took pics on Jan 1, 2011. We'll see how it looks on Jan 1, 2012. 







Updated for Living Room 






Baby in the kitchen is a boy, BTW. 

Edited by Ellien C - 1/11/11 at 8:55am
post #17 of 22

Ellien, first your child (girl or boy?) is adorable. 


Second, I like your kitchen.  The green cabinets with white and black tile is cute. 


Third, that's about as messy as we are.  I'd say my kitchen gets cluttered to that degree once a week. 




VisionaryMom, is that the It's All Too Much workbook?

post #18 of 22

That's about how we are as well... except the counters are a little more clear, but we have random crap on the floor like right now, a toy bowl, the DVD remote that the baby carried in, a bunch of playing cards, a bib, a bag, a pair of shoes, Little People bus driver, some books, a basket, a brush. All it takes is for the baby to have a bad week sleeping and it gets like this. And thne she'll have a couple of good nights and I get so much done. But when I am exhausted, I can't focus. We don't have good habits in place so that we can afford to have a bad week.

post #19 of 22

Here is my other tip that I read on my second trip through Sandra Felton's "Messies Manual." 


She says that you need to take well enough care of yourself when you are out (or at work) that you can take care of things at home. This was a revelation to me. I used to stay out so long (shopping or whatever) that by the time I got home I was too exhausted to deal with the stuff I brought into the house. OR, for example, I would be feeding the baby and making lunch basically until the baby was screaming in the high and then he'd need to be removed immediately and I wouldn't have time to clean-up lunch. Now I am a little more planned and can eat, feed the baby AND clean-up all before he or me runs out of steam. I guess this is obvious to some people, but it really wasn't for me. 


I work full-time 40 hours a week but my school and day care are REALLY close to my house. I've found that everything works SO much better if I get myself home first, change clothes, put away my stuff and plan dinner and THEN go out to get the 2 kids. Even 10 minutes makes a huge difference. I used to think that I would be more efficient to pick up the kids first and just be home rather than go out again, but those few minutes to plan my evening make a big difference. 


I think about coming home and putting away whatever I've brought in is NOW part of the coming instead of a second step. and I make sure that I don't stay out so late or leave myself so little time that I can't deal with those things. 

post #20 of 22

That's pretty much brilliant.  orngbiggrin.gif  Good example with the grocery shopping.  This is how I end up wasting food.  I'll buy a big, econo-pack of chicken thighs with the intention of breaking it down into several freezer bags of smaller portions.  Then I'll get home tired and hungry, put the package in the freezer and get on with the evening.  Later when I only need 4 thighs I have to defrost the whole huge pack, then of course I have to figure out what to do with the rest of it. 

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