Getting yourself and your home organized is one step of the process. The next part is keeping yourself and your home organized. That’s where many people falter. You realize that to stay organized you have to do work to make it so. But before you know it new things are coming into your home and you panic. That panic leads to organizational barriers that get in the way.

These obstacles are nothing new. They overwhelm everyone, including professional organizers. But when you learn to shift your mindset and come at these obstacles with a positive attitude you’re going to find it easier to defeat them. That alone will help you get and stay organized for life.

Let’s look at these 5 organizational barriers and why they get in your way

#1 — Deciding about paper

Try as you might to get a handle on paper it always comes back. Despite the advances in computers and digital readers, there are many jobs and occupations that require actual paper. Your kids come home from school with homework, permission slips, and fundraiser flyers. Mail is delivered six days a week. You can declutter paper every day and still have it coming into your home.

For something so thin and light, it fills up quickly. When you have a poor system for dealing with paper, you can become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of it. Who hasn’t had a pile of papers sitting on their office desk or kitchen counter at one point or another?

Deciding what to do about paper is one of those organizational barriers that need constant surveillance. Because paper keeps coming into your home, you need a system to deal with it right away. Have a place to sort it all. Keep all bills together, school papers together, and house-related documents together. Use a simple accordion folder or binder. There are so many options to try, but you need to try one. If not, paper will consume your home and you’ll never be or stay organized.

#2 — Adapting a decluttering mindset

Ask any professional organizer and I guarantee you they’ll say many of their clients have too much stuff. Not stuff that is meaningful and used. I mean stuff that is sitting around with no intention or purpose. Empty boxes from Amazon, pens that don’t work, broken appliances. We’ve seen it all.

If you want to get and stay organized, a barrier you have to overcome is adapting a decluttering mindset. Don’t be misguided. Decluttering doesn’t mean getting rid of every single item in your home. It simply means taking stock of what you have and choosing to keep what you use, love, and value.

Throw the pen away when it runs out of ink. Break down the shipping box and add it to your next paper recycling. These are tasks that take less than two minutes to complete. Often when you skip those two-minute tasks, you’re adding unnecessary clutter to your home.

#3 — Learning to overcome guilt and buyer’s remorse

Once you’ve adapted a decluttering mindset it’s time to overcome guilt and buyer’s remorse. These are organizational barriers we all face. I understand it’s hard to let go of stuff, especially if it was gifted by someone or it was expensive. But here’s the hard truth: if you’re not using it, it’s clutter and it’s time to let it go.

Your friend is not going to look for that knick-knack she bought you two Christmas’s ago when she visits. She has probably forgotten about it herself. And if it doesn’t match your style or you never put it out, don’t feel guilty for letting it go. Somewhere, someone will find it and it will make their day.

When it comes to expensive items, I get it. You spent a lot of money on that treadmill or stationary bike. But if you use it once a month because you have a gym membership or you take daily walks, why are you keeping it? The money is already spent. If you can return it within the proper timeframe and get your full money back, great! But most of us don’t realize an object’s unworthiness until months, even years later.

You can always try to sell it and get some money back. But the sooner you accept that the money is gone, the faster you’ll be willing to let go of the item in question.

#4 — Turning down free stuff

Have you ever gone to a conference or a retreat? If you have I’m certain you were handed free stuff from every direction. Travel mugs with company logos, notepads with contact information, pens, and tote bags to carry it all. There’s nothing more enticing than the word FREE. It’s also a huge source of clutter.

Challenge yourself at the next conference. Say no to free stuff and see how you feel at the end. My guess? You’ll feel light because you won’t have to worry about how you’re going to chart all of it with you. Free items feel amazing at the moment because our brains latch on to that word: FREE. But when the dopamine wears off and you’re sitting surrounded by items you’ll never use, you feel awful.

You don’t want to get rid of it because the company spent money on this stuff. So you take it home or to your office where it sits and collects dust. Years go by and you find it one day. You recall that moment and consider tossing it, but don’t.

You would think free stuff would be the easiest to declutter because you’re not losing anything by doing so. You didn’t spend money on it. But you might still feel guilty or you think, “I’ll use it someday.” Because even if you don’t use the item in question you’d hate to get rid of something that was free.

#5 — Dealing with mental health or other illness-related obstacles

The last of these organizational barriers are more individualized. Sometimes getting and staying organized is not due to lack of skills or psychological obstacles. It can simply be a mental health issue or another illness-related obstacle.

For example, people with ADHD have a hard time staying organized. Other brain-based conditions that make organizing difficult are chronic depression, anxiety, and learning disabilities. While it’s possible to nail some skills down, maintaining them might be a bit harder. And for those who deal with physical limitations such as Diabetes, Fibromyalgia, Endometriosis, or Rheumatoid Arthritis, keeping an organized home can be exhausting.

It’s not impossible for people with brain-based or physical-based conditions to get organized. They can get loved ones to help get their home in order. The key is making sure the maintenance is simple and easy for them to manage, especially if they live alone.

Overcoming these psychological obstacles will take time. You must have patience with yourself and trust the process. Don’t rush it. Learn to adapt your mindset and be ready to make hard decisions. When it comes to organizational barriers, the first step is figuring out what you need to do to work with it, not against it. Luckily, I’ve written a few more blog posts that can help you out.

Give them a read and if you need any more help, feel free to contact me. Besides organizing and downsizing, I offer paper organizing services. And since I stated before that paper is something constantly coming into our lives, you could use all the help you can get.

What’s a psychological barrier that keeps you from being or staying organized?

Patricia Ramos

Photo: @kelli_mcclintock

Can’t Stay Organized? You Might Be Facing One of These 5 Organizational Barriers

December 10, 2021

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