Why Is It Easier to Organize Someone 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 was a single mother and is now a grandmother of four, she was a caregiver for her mother who had dementia, and is a cancer survivor. As a professional organizing consultant for 40-years, she helped others find freedom through organization. When she was 68, she produced an award-winning documentary that offered encouragement to thousands of caregivers. As a speaker, she has delighted audiences by addressing sensitive topics with candor and humor.