Why Is It So Much Easier to Organize Everyone Else’s Stuff?

People have often said to me, “I can help other people get their stuff organized, but with my own stuff it’s different” or “I have no trouble staying organized at work, but I can’t seem to do the same thing at home.”  Why is this?

There are several reasons. We have no history with other people’s stuff. We didn’t pay for it, get it as a gift, or inherit it. It doesn’t evoke memories, good or bad. We haven’t moved it with us from place to place. To us, it is just “a thing.” Therefore, we have a heightened level of objectivity; we can think more clearly. Also, if it isn’t ours we can just put things in order and leave. We don’t have to find things or put them away.

Your own stuff is different! There is history. You do have feelings about it. You live with it. Your stuff has more significance. And often there is so much more of it. Ownership makes the difference.

As far as being more organized at work and not at home is concerned, there is usually more structure in the workplace and certainly a more clear definition of what needs to be accomplished from day to day. We are getting paid to do our job, and if we don’t do what is necessary, we may lose our job.

In our own homes, we are often not clear about what to do. We are tired, and losing the job is not an option (although we sometimes fantasize about running away). Wherever we live, we have food preparation, cleaning, laundry, etc. to do. Even if we are able to hire help, we still carry some level of responsibility for our stuff and our daily chores.

So what does all this matter? The point is if we’re good at organizing other people’s stuff and we want to be good at organizing our own, we need to adopt the same mentality we have toward other people’s stuff. We need to move in the direction of objectivity–less emotion and more reason. We need to take the time to get clear about what we are attempting to accomplish and to be as kind, patient, and helpful with ourselves as we are with others. And if we need help, we need to be willing to get it.

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Florence Feldman

Florence Feldman has lived through a lot of different situations, from finding herself an overwhelmed single mom at 28 to caregiving for her mother with dementia for 6 years to surviving cancer. Florence learned to organize to survive. Along the way, she became a professional organizing consultant, and for more than 30 years has been helping others get unstuck and find freedom. At the ripe young age of 68, she produced an award-winning documentary that has offered encouragement to hundreds of caregivers. Florence has also been speaking for most of her adult life, delighting audiences by dealing with deep and sensitive topics with humor and candor.

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