This is an excerpt from Julie Morgenstern's book, "Organizing from the Inside Out."
To find out if you have a hidden motive in staying disorganized, answer “yes” or “no” to the following questions:
1. Does the idea of a spare, clutter-free environment make you feel anxious or uncomfortable?
2. Are you a highly visual person?
3. Do you habitually buy things in large quantities?
4. Does the prospect of getting rid of anything disturb you?
5. Do you love displaying everything you collect so you can look at it?
6. Are you constantly buying more and more cubbies, containers, and baskets to hold everything?
7. Do you harass yourself all day long with the mantra, “I’ve got to get organized, I’ve got to get organized?”
8. Do you spend more time organizing and reorganizing than working or having fun?
9. Do you frequently turn down social activities to stay home and get organized?
10. Are you constantly rearranging your stuff, never satisfied with the system you set up?
11. Are you afraid getting organized might squelch your creativity?
12. Does the prospect of being truly organized fill you with simultaneous feelings of excitement and an accompanying dread?
13. Do you think disorganization has always been your primary obstacle to reaching your full potential?
14. Were you more organized at an earlier time in your life?
15. Does your disorganization keep you from delegating work to others?
16. Does the cluttered state of your home or office keep you from letting people visit?
17. Did you grow up in an extremely chaotic household?
18. Did you grow up in an extremely orderly household?
19. Did you have a traumatic childhood?
20. Does your accumulated clutter go back fifteen years or more?
21. Are you a high achiever who must do everything perfectly?
If you answered, “yes” to three or more questions, a psychological obstacle is likely working against you. It’s important to identify it and learn how to work around it.
Psychological Obstacle #1: NEED FOR ABUNDANCE
If you have a need for abundance, it is often better to organize what you have rather than try to force yourself to throw stuff out. Once things are organized, it may be easier for you to see what is excessive, and part with it bit by bit.
Psychological Obstacle #2: CONQUISTADOR OF CHAOS
Some people keep their lives or spaces disorganized because they love the thrill of coming to the rescue and creating order out of chaos. Since you thrive on a busy schedule, don’t expect to use the extra time organization gives you for unstructured leisure. Instead, fill your days with activities that make the most of your incredible problem solving skills.
Psychological Obstacle #3: UNCLEAR GOALS AND PRIORITIES
Given that organizing is about defining what is important to you and setting up a system to reflect that, it is logical that if your goals and priorities aren’t clear, it will be very hard to set up a workable system. If you feel you have so many goals and priorities it’s hard to focus, consider spreading out what you want to achieve over time, focusing on accomplishing a few goals now and postponing others for later in the year or some point in the future.
Psychological Obstacle #4: FEAR OF SUCCESS/FEAR OF FAILURE
You may be using disorganization as a convenient way of holding yourself back. You may be just making excuses.
Psychological Obstacle #5: NEED TO RETREAT
Some people use clutter as a protective shield, a barrier between themselves and the “outside world.” Give yourself a chance to get used to the changes you are making. Try putting things in offsite storage as an experiment. See what it’s like living apart from these items while still knowing you have them. An organized work or living space can be a nicer “retreat” than a cluttered one.
Psychological Obstacle #6: FEAR OF LOSING CREATIVITY
Many creative or “right-brained” people who have always worked in chaos both crave and are frightened of getting organized. Being organized releases rather than restricts creativity. It gives you immediate access to all the materials you need to do your work more effectively.
Psychological Obstacle #7: NEED FOR DISTRACTION
Disorganization can serve as a convenient preoccupation to help you avoid issues or tasks you don’t want to deal with or face. To put it another way, as long as you have a closet to clean or a stack of papers to sort, your mind remains distracted, leaving no room for weightier concerns. You need to substitute a more head-on approach to dealing with the larger, more perplexing problems you are evading.
Psychological Obstacle #8: DISLIKE THE SPACE
You find your room, home, or office so loud or so quiet, so dreary or lonely that you dislike being there. Move to another room, home or office, more to your liking. If this is not an option, brighten your space by decorating it and giving it some of your personality.
Psychological Obstacle #9: SENTIMENTAL ATTACHMENT
It is hard for people to let go of things because they infuse them with a tremendous amount of meaning. By projecting so much identity onto our possessions, we can wind up living in an enormous amount of clutter, surrounded by items we never use. Your identity comes from inside, not outside. Objects can remind us who we are, or who we want to be, but the real truth is inside us and doesn’t go away.
Psychological Obstacle #10: NEED FOR PERFECTION
Often, clutter accumulates because people refuse to deal with it until they have the time to do the job perfectly. Doing something, however imperfect will help avoid some of the accumulation. You must give yourself permission to be “imperfect” and move forward.