Why am I so disorganized? Isn’t that the million-dollar question? Walking into peoples’ homes and lives over the past 15 years, our professional organizers have learned that people become disorganized in many ways and for many reasons.
Sometimes a precipitating event, like a death in the family or a divorce, can cause disorder. Other times, bad habits are to blame. Each of us had an example to follow in our homes growing up, and we have all been affected in some way by that example. Some of us have accepted cultural norms and have collected our way into chaos. A small percentage of folks have struggled with disorganization their whole lives.
Over time, our organizers have observed that people’s lives become disorderly due to their situation, habits, family history, social behavior, and chronic issues. (Read more about this in “Reclaim Your Life and Get Organized for Good.“)
Today we want to share a story of a client who was dealing with situational disorganization. Situational disorganization occurs when our circumstances get the best of us. Things might be going along fine, and then all of a sudden we are inundated by some event or project. When something happens that we did not anticipate or did not prepare for, we can find ourselves the victim of our circumstances.
Personal loss is a catalyst for situational disorganization that can cause major problems in your household. When a loved one dies, chaos ensues. Life comes to a screeching halt when we are faced with grief. We often cannot cope with our daily responsibilities. The death, the funeral, the obituary, and the probate process all bring unthinkable tasks that weigh heavily on our shoulders. During this time, even rote tasks like dealing with the dishes and laundry seem insurmountable. As a result, household order quickly spins out of control. If you inherit belongings, your garage and storage spaces will be flooded with stuff until you have the time to sort through the items and make decisions. All these contributing factors add up to disorder in your life when someone close to you dies.
This is what our client was dealing with. Our client’s husband passed away and after all the arrangements, services, and grieving she was left with chaos in her home. Not only was her daily incoming paper getting out of control, she was left with a large home that was too much to handle on her own. Bogged down by taking care of her home and the daily tasks that come with it left her little time to do the things she loved like quilting, spending time with friends, and doing Bible study. When the paper piles gathering around her home became too much to handle, she called Restoring Order for help.
The daily paper that flooded this client’s home following her husband’s death collected on the desk and overflowed onto the floor. In an attempt to keep on top of her responsibilities, any paper that needed the client’s attention was kept on the desk or tacked to a cork board. However, the client became overwhelmed by trying to figure out how to categorize her paper and how to know what to keep available and what to file. The fear of missing important documents and deadlines left the client feeling anxious and overwhelmed.
Here is what her office looked like when our professional organizer, Colette, arrived.
Colette began by getting to the roots of this client’s disorder. In the case of situational disorder, it is often a matter of dealing with backlog and putting easy-to-use systems in place to get back on track. Working with the client, Colette sorted through all the paper around the home and helped the client determine where different types of paper should be located.
One important strategy Colette implemented when creating files was to use words that made sense to the client. It is important to organize according to how YOU think! For example, do you think “Auto” or “Car”? If you are deliberate about your labeling, it will make utilizing your filing system much easier.
Any paper that has a shelf-life should be stored above ground (aka not in a filing cabinet) because most of us are visual. If you stick papers that you need to take action on into a filing cabinet, often they leave our mind the moment we close the door. Only papers that need to be kept on hand for future reference should be kept in a filing cabinet. Colette worked with this client to separate out the actionable paper from the reference paper and to create an action center on her desk top to capture incoming mail and tasks to be done. In this way, the client was empowered to take back her work space and gained peace of mind that all actionable items were queued into a process that ensure they were completed.
After completing this project, this client felt a huge sense of relief. Asking for help to conquer her clutter allowed this client to move forward and get back to doing the things she enjoys in life.
If you find yourself in a similar situation and a life event has caused chaos in your once-ordered life we encourage you to call for reinforcements! Whether it is a friend, neighbor, family member, or professional, reaching out and asking for help can relieve overwhelm and help you tackle your situational disorder.
- Learn more about our Professional Organizing Services
- Watch Vicki’s segment on More Good Day Oregon about another client dealing with Situational Disorganization
- Read Vicki’s book “Reclaim Your Life and Get Organized for Good” to learn about more causes of disorganization and what to do about them. Available in paperback or as a download.
- Want to do-it-yourself? Check out our Paper Organizing DVDs