This month\’s premier column is in response to Nancy in Schertz, Texas who wanted tips on de-cluttering the house. Too much ‘stuff\’ seems to be a common cause of stress in most American households. Let\’s see if we can\’t pinpoint the possible cause. Once you know ‘why,\’ you will be better equipped to resolve the issue. Here are five common culprits. Which one represents you and your home? This month we identify the underlying issue. Next month we\’ll discuss some of the common cures.

  • Lack of storage: some of my clients feel guilty because they have ‘so much stuff.\’ What they really suffer from is ‘too little storage space.\’ If you have no place to put what you need, it\’s going to spread like a fungus all over your house. Take an honest look around your home. Are the closets shallow? Do you have rooms without any closets? Do you live in a house with no attic, basement or garage? If this is your predicament, you can stop feeling guilty. After all, you live here but you didn\’t design and build the space!
  • You suffer from the ‘Someday I might need that!\’ syndrome. This personality is ruled by ‘a consciousness of lack.\’ This is a phrase borrowed from the world of metaphysics. In short it means being ruled by fear. You might be afraid you will make a mistake and toss something valuable. Or perhaps you suffered a loss in the past (fire, theft or financial crisis) and you now unconsciously hold on to everything because you were so wounded by your loss. In the extreme, we have the pack rat. This person holds onto just about everything and the space and all the inhabitants suffer as a consequence.
  • Perhaps your childhood home was always chaotic? This visual and emotional upset is on some level comforting to you. As human beings we\’re always drawn to the known and fear change. You may not like all this chaos but there was no one around to teach you the art of getting/staying organized.
  • Piles of anything whether it\’s a mound of clothing on your bedroom easy chair or stacks of papers on the kitchen counter represent unmade decisions. Some people simply don\’t realize that making decisions is a skill you can develop. More importantly it\’s where the power is! If you don\’t make the decisions that guide your life, you can be sure others will. Instead of the chairman of the board of your own life, you are a spectator or worse a slave.
  • Depression is common cause of chaos. Let\’s face it, when you don\’t feel your best, it\’s not the optimum time to clean out a closet or tear through your paper piles. Many other emotional and physical challenges can derail our best intentions to get organized. When I was going through chemotherapy seven years ago, I was grateful I had an organized space. I certainly didn\’t have the energy to do much physical work!
  • Take some time to consider each of these as the possible cause of your chaos. This contemplation may lead you to some other cause at the root of your resistance to creating order. I invite my clients and students to make use of a journal. It can be a document you save on line, a beautiful leather bound notebook you purchase as a stationary store or a child\’s composition book. The important factor is privacy. This journal is part of a journey of self discovery. Keep it safe and private. What you write down is almost always different and deeper than the thoughts you have in your head when you read material. Set a timer so you don\’t get lost in the process. You want to focus in on the cause of your chaos not indulge your desire to escape the task at all costs!

    Next month we\’ll look at another way to jump start the organizing process in addition to journal writing. We\’ll also consider some great products you can pick up for just a few dollars. The end result of your organizing efforts should be an environment that nurtures you and supports you to achieve your dreams.

    Regina is the author of seven books on getting organized including the New York Times best seller “One Year to an Organized Life” and the just released “One Year to an Organized Work Life.” Next January, 2010 the last book in the trilogy “One Year to an Organized Financial Life,” written with financial planner Russell Wild, will make its debut. You can find these books at on line retailers like Amazon or in your local bookstore.