How to Stay Organized - Figure out how it started

Have you spent time, energy, and money getting organized, but become frustrated when it doesn’t stay that way?

Many people want to live an ordered life, but their efforts fail because they never explored WHY they became disorganized in the first place! In this article, I’ll show you how to stay organized by getting to the root causes behind your disorganization.

Learn three of the leading causes of disorganization, and what to do about them, in this video from More Good Day Oregon.

Getting organized is the easy part.

Learning how to stay organized requires investigating your life, habits, and mindsets in order to create systems that will last. Good organization takes detective work!


If you want all your organizing efforts to truly pay off, start your organizing process by examining the root cause(s) of disorganization.

Situational Disorganization:

Situational disorganization occurs when a life event has caused backlog and a downward spiral. Often, this kind of disorganization happens when we are too busy and aren’t building any reset time into our day.

How to Stay Organized - Situational Disorganization

Pictured here is the familiar buried desk that happens with situational disorganization. It could be an illness, a new baby, a divorce, a move, or another short-term situation that has led to clutter and disorder.

(Read more about situational disorganization here or in my book Reclaim Your Life and Get Organized for Good)

How to Stay Organized - What you know

SOLUTION: “Do What You Know First”

Don’t get overwhelmed by the whole picture and what you DON’T know; zero in on each form of backlog.

To resolve the desk buried with paper, create an incoming paper sort

Or if that’s too overwhelming, reset the junk drawer. Success in a small project creates momentum; so feel free to start small!

Just do what you know and what you know will grow and what you don’t know will shrink. Getting started is the key.

If situational disorganization is your only cause of clutter, here are the key steps to dig out and stay organized:

  1. Deal with the clutter build-up one area at a time until you’ve dug out
  2. Utilize your organizing systems daily
  3. Build margin in your life to recognize when things get out of hand and take the time to reset

Habitual Disorganization

Habitual disorganization is when our own bad habits are to blame for the mess.

You know: it’s when we leave dishes piled in the sink or use the floor as our closet. Over time, bad habits result in clutter and disorganization.

How to Stay Organized - Habitual Disorganization

Maybe you’ve taken the time to organize your home, your desk, or your car, but you haven’t changed your habits.

Getting organized is the first step, but then you have to learn how to stay organized!

Organizing is not a destination; it’s a lifestyle. And if habitual disorganization is behind your chaos, living a life of order starts with making new habits.

(Read more about habitual disorganization here)

How to Stay Organized - Habits

SOLUTION: Tackle One New Habit at a Time

Take the time to examine your household habits:

  1. Walk through each room of your home and assess whether the disorganization is due to lack of systems or just pile-up due to poor habits
  2. Identify WHAT those bad habits are (ex: leaving shoes all over the house; being lazy with laundry, etc.)
  3. Don’t just “pick up” the clutter; create new habits that will PREVENT the clutter from reappearing!

It can feel overwhelming to attempt to change all your bad habits at once. Instead, choose one new habit to focus on at a time.

It takes 21 days to establish a new habit. So, once you choose the habit you want to change, see it through for just 3 weeks. By then it should feel natural and will be built into your daily rhythms. Once that habit is corrected, move on to another.

In our home, we have created a habit of unloading and reloading the dishwasher every morning to prevent creeping counter clutter! This job belongs to our sons as they participate in household order.

If bad habits are behind your messes, creating orderly habits in your home is the key to staying organized!

Social Disorganization

Social disorganization happens when we collect our way into chaos.

How to Stay Organized - Social Disorganization

Pictured here are bags and bags of items to be returned to the store. Why? Because this client loves to shop! But then, she later realizes she has overbought or that the items weren’t right for her home.

Our professional organizers frequently encounter shopping overage: a common outcome of social disorganization.

A lot of folks shop because they’re lonely, bored, or just for the company. Pretty soon they are buried in accumulation.

Subscribe to Our Blog

We live in an accumulation culture where having the trending styles – both for our homes and our wardrobes – is paramount. So we keep acquiring! Trying to stay “current” causes us to BUY, BUY, BUY.

And then, due to guilt or loyalty, we KEEP all the stuff we’ve acquired. The multi-billion dollar storage industry reveals just how much we keep. We pay to keep a roof over our stuff!!

Social accumulation is keeping us buried in stuff and – all too often – debt!  

How to Stay Organized - Organize in Community

SOLUTION: Organize in Community!

The way OUT of social disorganization is the same way we got INTO it: socially!

Grab a friend, or your mom, or hire a Professional Organizer to link arms with you and help you reclaim your space and your life!

Get your social “fill” by being with people, rather than by shopping and accumulating. Bringing someone else into your disorganized space will give you “fresh eyes” on your stuck spaces and an extra pair of hands to tackle the chaos.

It may also be helpful to put some other systems in place to help curb your shopping habit, such as a household budget or cutting up credit cards.

Less is more

The less you accumulate, the less you have to organize, store, and clean!

Take a critical look at the stuff in your space and mindset that is behind keeping it. Slimming down your belongings is the fastest way to achieve lasting order.

Understanding your unique causes of disorganization will help you stay organized in the long term. Here’s to living a life of order!

Want to learn more about HOW YOU BECAME DISORGANIZED? (Other causes of disorganization include historical disorganization and chronic disorganization.) Get the full story in my book Reclaim Your Life and Get Organized for Good!


Pin It on Pinterest