You Are Normal If…

Is this normal?

When talking about getting and being organized, I often hear people say things like, “I’m sure your house is perfect… if you came to my house you would be scared!” or “Someday I will get organized like everyone else.” There seems to be a general feeling out there that the “rest of the world” lives in houses that are perfectly organized. Perhaps it is the plethora of magazine spreads showing perfectly ordered (and color-coordinated) spaces that has perpetuated this illusion. Or maybe it is the fact that most people do a “quick tidy” before company comes over, so we think everyone else’s house is always perfectly neat.

But it is important to know that very few people’s homes look like the cover of a magazine. I’ve worked with a lot of clients, and I can honestly say that a bit of disorder is very common. Most people have some room for improvement on the organizational front. You are probably very normal!

Here is a brief list of common situations I encounter when helping clients.

You are normal if you have:

  • A box or drawer full of cords that you have cannot identify
  • Books you started, didn’t like, and quit reading
  • Stacks of back-issues of magazines that you haven’t gotten around to reading, but feel you shouldn’t get rid of until you have (“well…. I paid for them”)

  • Tools and supplies from a recent household project (perhaps incomplete?) piled up in a cobweb strewn box in the corner of the garage

  • Old cameras, computers and other electronics that you aren’t sure how to safely dispose of and/or have photos on that you don’t want to lose

  • Clothes stuffed into your closet that you are holding onto for when you lose a few pounds

  • A bulletin board that hasn’t been cleared off in years

  • A drawer full of make-up, much of which you either don’t use and/or is expired

  • Decorative items that you don’t really like, but which came from a close friend or family member and you feel too guilty to donate

  • A junk drawer crammed with a strange variety of stuff (like a hammer or goldfish crackers)

  • A box in the attic/basement/closet from your last move that you never unpacked

  • Boxes of paperwork that you are keeping because of a vague tax fear

  • Boxes/bags/bins/computer full of photos in no particular order

  • CDs, DVDs or VHS tapes that you haven’t listened to or watched in years

  • Kitchen appliances that you don’t use

  • Boxes of your child’s artwork & mementos that you are planning to put into a scrapbook… someday

  • Old cans of paint (some of which you can’t match to any space in your home)

  • Building materials left by the previous homeowner

  • An empty baby book for your child… who is now a teenager

  • Original boxes for computers, electronics, etc. that you are holding onto “just in case” you need to send them in for repair

  • A kitchen cabinet overflowing with mugs or sports bottles

  • Plastic storage containers that don’t have matching lids

  • Craft/hobby/activity supplies that you haven’t touched in years (and aren’t sure you ever want to again)

  • Instruction manuals for appliances or electronics that you no longer own/or which no longer work

  • Keys that you can’t match with a lock

  • A pile of shoes near your door

  • Puzzles or games that are missing pieces

  • A teenager whose bathroom and bedroom surfaces you can no longer see

  • A bin of nude dolls

  • A spouse who has a very different idea of “clean” than you do

  • Expired medication in your medicine cabinet

  • Mismatched bed linens

  • A garage that is so full your car won’t fit

*     *     *     *     *

Feeling better yet? The good news is, there are solutions for all of these situations. Order is always within reach, and help is available if you need it. In the meantime, stop berating yourself for not having the perfect looking space.

Can you identify with any items on this list? Do you have another to share?

28 thoughts on “You Are Normal If…”

  1. You nailed this, Seana! I’ve encountered just about all of these in my years of helping others to get organized. And with full disclosure, some of the things (like a full garage and DVDs or tapes that haven’t been watched in years) I have personally experienced.

    The interesting thing about most of these points is that very often people just lose sight of these things. They’ve collected items in piles or corners and no longer notice them. They don’t seem important or much of an issue. They may not even be on their radar. But what is just as fascinating is going through the identifying and editing process of these items. People are amazed at what they’ve been holding onto and just don’t need or want anymore. So once the awareness is there, letting go becomes easier. And as you know, quite freeing too.
    Linda Samuels recently posted…How Will Being Open or Unsure Focus Your Possibilities Perspective?My Profile

    1. Isn’t that the truth? I couldn’t agree more. So often when I pull out boxes of these things I hear, “Why was I keeping this?” It happens to all of us, even when the items are in plain sight. The good news is, we can often make rapid progress with items like these, so as you say, it ends up being completely freeing!

    1. I bet it feels good to know that you are holding onto fewer of these items. It feels great to “see” progress. I think all of us have, and will always have, room for improvement:)

  2. I love that we are sharing the perspective as professionals of what is “normal, typical, and acceptable.” Often our clients think EVERYONE else has a perfect life. Life, work and homes all have touches of what is not working and that is acceptable. I encourage my clients to think about the life they want to live and what works for them. From this list, I see you encourage the same!

    1. Couldn’t agree more, Ellen. I find it comforting when I am struggling in an area to know that my struggle is shared by others. I am hoping this post will alleviate guilt, and shift the focus toward solutions. Most of the items on this list can be swiftly dealt with, often making a big, positive difference in the space!

  3. This is great! Your list is really complete. I, like the others ,have encountered most of the items on your list. I also have (in the interest of full disclosure) a plastic shoe box with miscellaneous keys and cords that I’m reluctant to part with – just in case.

    When I’m working with clients I ask them to take off the blinders. We often don’t see what is there because we are so accustomed to the disarray. When we remove the blinders, stop, and talk about what we see we often realize that we don’t need, use, or want much of what is in the pile.

    1. Sometimes it helps just to pull the items out and look at them in a different physical location. Often people will ask, “Where did you find this?” This is why I love a review table:)

    1. That is a good possible explanation. People often hold onto a spare set of their neighbor’s keys. Hard to be alive and not have at least one of these, right?

  4. Seana,

    This was so much fun to read and you nailed it. Spot on. I don’t think you missed anything on your list and so we can all sleep well tonight knowing how normal we are.

    I have a neat junk drawer for me and a messy junk drawer for my husband and son. So all three of us are happy.

    Thank you for being so honest in your writing and points of view. Anyone can relate to what you have to say.



    1. I think that is so great to have two junk drawers- so smart! Customizing solutions that work for you is really what professional organizing is all about, right? Glad you identified with the list:)

  5. I love all of your examples! I’ve seen many of these things in homes, including my own! It is interesting how everyone assumes that everyone else lives in homes that are perfectly organized. I think both magazines and social media give us unrealistic glimpses of homes, and make everyday people who live in and use their homes and have stuff and maybe some clutter or disorganization feel that they are not normal.

    1. Unrealistic expectations make us feel bad about ourselves, and at least when it comes to organizing, this just isn’t necessary. We are living in our spaces. They are not intended to be showcases. Hearing “reality” helps us realign our expectations and be a bit more tender with ourselves.

  6. Yep. I’ve seen most everything on this list and most at my siblings homes. People have all different levels of order, but having these things doesn’t mean you aren’t organized. It means your normal. I might have to borrow this list.

  7. So many! Especially the half-finished books, the stack of magazines I really want to read one day!! And the unfinished or unstarted baby books. Definitely definitely the kitchen appliances we don’t use!

    1. Ah, those kitchen appliances. They can take up so much space? Sometimes, a little tough love is called for with those. Doesn’t it feel great to be normal??

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