Why is it so hard to get organized?

Why is Marie Kondo so incredibly popular?

Why does “get organized” make it on your New Year’s resolution list every single year?

Why do so many people struggle with getting organized?

We think it’s a simple task – “just” get organized. But we try and try and then get completely frustrated when no matter what we do, we never feel quite done.

So, what’s going on? Turns out, there’s a very important piece of the puzzle we often ignore in our haste to get things sorted out.

When you start getting frustrated by the clutter, your mind’s getting confused too. Deep in your subconscious, the mind knows what the space “ought” to look like. It puts together an image of “living room” based on things as random as a picture book you were read when you were two years old, the living room set from “Bewitched”, the way your parents kept their living room, the cover of a pristine showpiece on the latest copy of Real Simple magazine.

But because the process of putting together a visual definition of “living room” hasn’t been conscious, your mind’s image of the ideal living room may be totally at odds with what you actually want.

Is your living room making you unhappy?

When you think of your living room, there’s a vision lurking in the recesses of your mind and it’s usually centered around the idea of a parlor. That special room you’re only allowed to go in when company comes. Where the furniture is “good” and we’re not supposed to put our feet on it. There are lots of decorative knick-knacks. Your mind loves that vision because it’s comfortable with it. A living room is a parlor.

But of course real life gets in the way 

The mail gets dumped on the end of the couch. All those socks you can’t find? Stuffed down the side of the couch cushions. The dog has buried his old toys deep in the pile of newspapers on the floor by the side of your chair.

The poor living room is overwhelmed with a whole bunch of stuff and because it’s at odds with this deep-rooted vision of your parlor, it bugs you. You buy a few more containers and pick up yet another magazine promising organizing nirvana. You berate yourself for not getting organized already.

Here’s the secret

Before you do anything, it’s vital to figure out what you want to use that particular space for. The answer might surprise you but trust yourself. If you take a moment to ask yourself and then really listen, you’ll know.

What is the living room for?

The living room is for entertaining

Whose answer is this? Your Great-Aunt’s? How does that feel when you think about it? Maybe, although you can’t remember the last time royalty dropped by.

The living room is a quiet space for the kids to do their homework in

Whose answer is this? Your kids’ third grade teacher? Is that what makes sense for you? Not really. If they ever do their homework, it’s at the kitchen table while you make dinner.

The living room is for watching movies and TV

Aha! There it is. Your answer. For you, the living room isn’t a parlor, it’s a space to unwind and relaxing while you watch a movie or see what’s on TV. Uncovering that truth lets your mind update its definition of a living room and frees you up to make that happen.

When we say we want to get organized, what we really mean is we want to feel at home. When a space is set up for us so we can do what we really want to do there, we feel at home.

Once you know what a space is for, getting organized is so much easier because it’s specific. I don’t want to “get organized” (enormous, daunting goal), I want to turn this room into a cozy comfortable place to watch movies and TV (achievable, specific task that resonates with me).

So take a look at what’s in the room right now and think about how it’s fitting in with your vision for the space. The living room is for watching movies and TV, so why is it full of bookshelves crammed with books you haven’t read in twenty years while the DVDs are scattered under the couch? Why is the coffee table covered with six months’ worth of coupons? Why are there knitting needles on top of the window ledges?

If the books are for decoration and you love seeing them there, then leave them there and go get another shelf to put the DVDs on.

If you sort through your coupons while you’re watching TV, then grab a designated basket for the coupons and keep a pair of scissors there too. While you’re at it, a basket for the knitting needles and your current project would be helpful too.

But if the books are just dust-catchers and you actually hate couponing, that frees up a whole bunch of space for your DVDs to go on the shelves and the remote to have its own little basket on the coffee table so you don’t waste ten minutes hunting for it every time you want to watch TV. If knitting makes you tense instead of relaxed, donate the yarn and the needles. You don’t need anymore stress.

Now sort through the VHS tapes. Do you still have a working VCR player? How many Mr. Bean and Barney VHS tapes do you still have? Does anyone still watch them?

How about all those DVDs? You can enjoy a movie and yet never want to see it again.

Ask yourself the bigger question

Do you use Netflix and don’t actually watch any of your movies anymore?

What getting organized in this case means is creating a cozy comfortable place to unwind in, so you might ask yourself if you like the chairs you have in there or if there’s a better one in another room. Would you like some comfy cushions too, or would you like to get rid of the sixteen cushions covering the couch so you can actually sit down?

Do you need a blanket to snuggle under? If you drape it on the back of the couch, is that going to get in the way during summer? Perhaps there’s room on a shelf for the blanket now all the books are gone. Or a footstool that opens up with space to store the blanket.

Do you need a side table to put your bowl of popcorn on? Is there room to keep a little microwave oven and a stash of popcorn and couple of bowls?

How can you make this space feel like home?

If you stop thinking about getting organized and start thinking about making your house feel like a home, the process seems less daunting. It’s no longer an impossible goal, but a reminder that houses are for living in. If you need help uncovering your vision or moving through the process of making it happen, let me know!

When you enter a space and it’s set up for what you’ll do there, every cell in your body smiles

Before, every time you went in your living room wanting to watch TV, the old books were a visual distraction and not being able to find the DVDs or a place to sit comfortably was not only annoying but nagging at you on a deep level you might not even have been conscious of.  The living room didn’t feel like yours. You hadn’t taken that step of listening to yourself and discovering what your vision for the space was. Your vision, no one else’s.

You told yourself you needed to “get organized” but what you really need is to feel at home in your space. “Getting organized” makes that happen.