Feeling Underwater

Puddle of water. How in the world did things get so out of control?

Ever walk into your home/office, take a look around and say to yourself, How in the world did things get so out of control? MANY people find themselves in this situation, often for one of three very common reasons.

This can be either a traumatic experience (e.g. illness, death of a family member, job loss) or a joyful event (e.g. wedding, relocation, new job). When we encounter situations like these, we naturally shift into “cope” mode. In “cope” mode, we don’t have the time to sit and ponder optimal storage solutions, or to reflect on the most efficient way to accomplish a task. Instead, we are typically just trying to survive the day! Bottles of medicine for an ailing parent get piled up on the kitchen counter; belongings get stashed in the nearest cabinet so we can get the moving boxes out of the hallway; personal files get dumped out as we frantically search for important documents. The resulting patterns frequently aren’t the most efficient. At one point or another, everyone encounters these life events.

These others include spouses, children, coworkers, parents, and pets. This can be a very frustrating situation. We work hard to clear out a room, organize a closet, or establish a paper management system, but then it gets quickly undone because we don’t have buy-in or cooperation from the other people in the space. To be honest, there are limitations on the extent to which we can force others to fold into our systems. Pets can be trained and children can be taught (some more easily than others), but spouses and co-workers often have their own ideas of how things should be done. Sometimes the best we can do is negotiate “zones” (areas we call our own and can keep as we wish), and then let the other spaces go.

If this is you, don’t take this as a condemnation! Maybe organizing just isn’t your thing: you would rather hang at the party and leave the dishes for tomorrow; you want a home where “kids can be kids”. In many aspects of life, these qualities are serving you well.

Or maybe you want to be organized, but you just don’t know how. You weren’t reared with any instruction in this area, and you wonder where to start, how to go about setting up a system, or what you need to buy and where to get it?

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For many individuals, the source of the problem may be a combination of all three. For example, you moved 5 years ago but still have stuff in boxes, and your Mom is sick, and you’ve needed to take on a part-time job, and at night you are just too tired to run around and clean up after the kids.

The good news is: retaking control is easier than you think. It’s all a matter of starting small (e.g. with a drawer), and then maintaining the space you’ve organized. Talk with coworkers and family members about your goals, and see if they are willing to support you.

If you need help, there are a variety of resources available:

–            Read blogs like this one for ideas
–            Follow organizers like The Seana Method on Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter
–            Hire an organizer or get an organized friend to help

Sometimes just having someone showing up at the door to tackle the space is enough to keep you from procrastinating (much like a personal trainer or workout friend.) The important thing is to not throw in the towel… these situations can be fixed!

How have you been knocked off your game? What tools have helped you regain control?

20 thoughts on “Feeling Underwater”

  1. I have had moments like this in the past, but thankfully it hasn’t lasted long and I have pulled myself out by organizing better, but glad to know there resources out there if needed 🙂

    1. So great to be out on the other side of a tough time, right Janine? Good to know there is help, and hopefully also to know that it isn’t worth beating yourself up over!

  2. My favorite resource is the first one!
    I have been there, more often than I care to admit. Every so often, I feel like I’m underwater and drowning and it all seems overwhelming.

  3. I guess I’m just lucky that I can’t stand seeing a mess and a disorganized closet for a long time. I can stare at it for a while then stand and fix it, except if I’m extremely tired. Gaining cooperation from people especially at the workplace can be tough so I agree that agreeing with a zone is necessary.

    1. That’s so true, Rea. Being bothered by the mess is probably the greatest motivator out there. Too bad not everyone in our space shares the same intolerance:)

  4. I can relate, my step daughter shares my office ( it is in our spare room, now her bedroom). She has been tardy about putting clothes away and keeping it tidy for when I “go to work”, and after doing big shows or going away for a conference paperwork piles up. I had another “talk” with my step daughter and cleared the air, and set aside a day to get things back in order after being away from it for a few days.
    As long as you have a good system put in place, getting back on track doesn’t take as long as you think. Great article.

    1. I think you nailed it, Jill: having a system in place makes all the difference. Sounds like you found a way to have a conversation, which is often the critical starting point. Thanks for this comment!

    1. Well, patience always makes the journey more pleasant, so shedding the self criticism is highly recommended. ANY progress deserves celebration:)

  5. In my case it is all me with my messy work desk at my job, I just don’t have a great system and tend to have too much paper given to me each day and it just stacks up everywhere:) I am happy that I am going on vacation next week as it seems like the only time I really clean and organize my office desk thoroughly is before I leave for a trip:)

    1. I’m sure your situations is especially challenging, Jessica. Being on the road makes regular maintenance very difficult. I’d have to say I think we ALL get too much paper! So much for the paperless society, right? Happy vacation:)

  6. I agree with the zone idea. I’ve stopped fussing at my kids about their rooms (mostly) and agreed to just shut the doors on their rooms as long as they help with keeping the other areas of the house looking nice. Same thing with my husband. I let him keep his little “man cave” area in pretty much whatever state he likes (unless we have company coming) and try to just get more cooperation in the public areas of the house. You just have to pick your battles, I think. Thanks for stopping by my blog the other day.

    1. I let my husband keep his office the way he likes as well. Fortunately, there is a door on this room. What’s funny is, when my oldest went off to college, she got much neater!

  7. Hey Seana!! It’s so good to be back over here..I absolutely love your tips! I’ve recouped since then, but about two years ago I definitely would have fit under the “Life Event”! We happened to move the very same week our daughter was to get married. On top of that, we had out of town guests AND I was the mother-of-the-bride/wedding planner for 300+ guest for an OUTDOOR wedding…argghh! After that, I think I hibernated the entire month of August, lol! It was extremely stressful for me as I am a neat freak! Thanks for sharing Seana, hopefully I won’t need it…HA! Have a wonderful week my friend!!

    1. So great to hear from you, Michell. That was a triple-threat situation. Seriously a “strap in and do your best” scenario – phew! I know you are pretty organized, so I’m sure you recovered nicely. 300+ people – WOW!

  8. boy I really needed this post. Laundry is getting out of hand…I feel like I wash, dry, hang to dry and never get any of it away in the right spots…I need a better system…really need to do some thinking on this one.

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