Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Organizing The Disorganized - Like Me

April 12, 2004

Over-commitment plus procrastination plus disorganization is a surefire formula for achieving stress. As my wife can attest, I’ve probably struggled with all three with disorganization being the worst. I am not good at filing or throwing away paper. I hold on to things that I might need some day. I often create my own stress by having to frantically search for something that I need immediately.

I came across an article by Angela Ostrom, a marriage and family intern at the Family Therapy Center at North Dakota State University. These are her words of wisdom for people like me. They are used with her permission.

Unorganized, disorganized, clutter, chaos...do any of these words fit you? Not knowing where anything is, not remembering your appointments, unsure of how to take care of the messy clutter at home, your office or even your car? Do you feel like you’re running on a treadmill, doing lots of work but never getting anywhere?

In our fast paced world, being disorganized has become a lifestyle for many people. However, changing your attitude about being disorganized can help bring more order into your life, getting you off the treadmill and on the road to a calmer, less stressful life.

Why get organized. Living in an organized environment brings a healthy attitude. There is something about having things organized that brings a sense of relief to most people.

Many people have busy lives and claim they don’t have time or are too tired to become organized. In reality being disorganized brings unneeded stress into your life. It may be hard at first to become completely organized. However, if you keep up with it, organizing will become a habit. More organization generally means less stress, and we could all use less stress.

It takes more time to be unorganized than to be organized. You might not believe it but it is true. Being disorganized brings running around looking for things, trying to remember what needs to be done, and struggling to remember where you are supposed to be. Because of my disorganization, I often have racing thoughts, jumping from one thing to the next. I spend all my time sorting through my thoughts instead of getting anything done.

So nothing gets done. When you're organized you no longer have to search for things or hyperventilate about the meeting you are running late for because you forgot about it. The time wasted stressing over the things you have to do is replaced with peace of mind.

How can becoming organized help you. Here are a few ways being organized can help you. We all have our own personal areas that we know being organized could help us. This list is not exhaustive but will give a few reasons why being organized will be good for you.

- You won't be constantly reshuffling clutter. Instead you will get to enjoy focusing on goals and priorities.

- You will save time and keep from running late.

- Organization reduces stress and tension.

- You will feel inspired by your surroundings, increasing your sense of well being.

- Organization creates space for positive changes to take place.

How to be organized. How to become organized is a personal endeavor. There are no precise rules for all people, but rather it depends on how each person wants to be organized.

It can be hard for some to begin organizing. Some can do it by themselves, others may need to read about it, and still others may need professional help, especially if your disorganization is due to other underlying issues.

There are many resources available to help people sort through their goals, lifestyles, priorities and family backgrounds that may contribute to this problem. If you all you need is a little nudge, the following list will offer some tips on you how you can start organizing today.

Prioritize. Concentrate on the areas which are screaming at you, rather than those you think are the most important. There is a difference. Dishes can wait, the meeting can't.

Prepare. Spend 10 minutes in the morning or in the late afternoon to organize your thoughts, goals, and tasks for the day or the next day.

Simplify. Learn the most effective ways to handle everyday tasks and then repeat the process.

Keep track. Find a system ("to do" lists work well) that is comfortable for you to keep record of what needs to be done. Then get in the habit of doing it.

Organize your home. Getting organized in your home naturally helps your personal organization, which will lead to an organized life.

Don’t expect perfection. Know being organized does not mean being flawless.

Establish goals and then follow through with them.

Sort. If you haven’t used something in 12 months, you probably don’t need it. It is just clutter. Get rid of it. Immediately throw away useless paper, mail etc.

Get a personal or family planner.

Recycle. If you get something new that duplicates a current item, donate the old one or throw it away.

A peaceful, less stressful life is waiting for you. All you have to do is open the closet door, find it, organize it or throw it away.

Thanks, Angela, now where do I file this?