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Is disorganization anybody's fault?

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Initial post: Jan 19, 2009 5:27:40 PM PST
We say no!

This is Liz Franklin, author of, "How to Get Organized Without Resorting to Arson," talking atcha.

Here are five reasons it may not be your fault if you're disorganized:

1. If you're disorganized at home but not at work (or vice versa,) obviously it's not you.

2. If someone is nagging you to get organized, it's human nature to shut down and "go into" resentment, which means the disorganization gets worse.

3. If you believe the standard organizing "rules" like, "Handle paper once," you will find that you can't *stay* organized (because these rules are made up by Linear people for Linear people. See a free excerpt about "Linears" and other organizing personalities at

4. If you have tried to get organized without ever learning how, it's time to realize that's equivalent to trying to speak a foreign language with absolutely no training.

5. If you've hired someone to organize you, but it didn't "take," that's because their retrieval methods were different than yours, but they didn't know enough about the nuances of *lasting* organization to get out of their own head and into yours.

There's more (of course there is!) at

Organizedly yours,

Posted on Mar 2, 2009 6:47:46 PM PST
lightnow says:
I think there is more to it than these five reasons. Example 1: I have a friend who's mother kept things so clean that my friend is the most disorganized person I know. Example 2: Another friend is so organized that her house is a total wreck because she can't put anything away until it can be put away just so in just the right place. I have seen many instances where different organizational strategies work for different people, so throw out #4. A person with a job of data entry or cake decorator probably won't have disorganized work areas but may have very disorganized homes. When the suggestion of organization comes after a complaint from me and it's accompanied by reading material and/or an offer to help, it may be well received. One article, one book will not be the "cure". The message, your book probably won't have it all either. Why would anyone hire someone to organize when every person needs a different arrangement? My aunt is very organized in shoe boxes on her closet floor. I am very organized with a desk drawer of files. Who's to say that one system is better than the other?

Posted on Mar 20, 2009 3:38:21 PM PDT
Amy Pierce says:
Anyone who has to ask why anyone would hire someone else to organize them has never been truly disorganized. Sometimes the level of disorganization is so great, or the person is so overwhelmed by the task, getting help is the only way it will ever get done.

Posted on Mar 21, 2009 10:03:03 PM PDT
B. Drews says:
The best way to get organized, is to look at several different strategies and pick and choose the parts of each strategy that match your personality. If you are a really busy person with young kids and a job, then trying to work in one room until it is done may sound like an impossible task. On the other hand, working on small sections of a room for fifteen minutes a day may be a goal that you can accomplish.

For more information on this topic, go to

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 30, 2009 12:22:08 PM PDT
I have a co-worker who is one of the worst disorganized persons I've ever seen. This person leaves stuff in other peoples spaces and offices and loses items frequently. I know this is a source of frustration to everyone this person works with!!! It has been mentioned how embarrassing it is to have this persons office door open because it is just a bunch of clutter - NO work is done in there. AND the mess has spread to many other areas. Items are even brought from home (with the idea that somehow SOMEDAY it will be used here!)
One excuse for the clutter has been mentioned " I just need time..." When time has been given this person is very easily distracted so there goes the time that was needed! We have HIRED a professional organizer to help with this persons office (ALOT OF MONEY!!!) . It was almost managable. BUT there again was the items that couldn't be gotten rid of because maybe we can use SOMEDAY, so the items just take up more space and more stuff has been added to it. In public spaces I have to clean up almost on a daily basis otherwise it just looks like a CLUTTERY MESS! I have no clue what to do to help this person. It has been suggested by several people that this person be fired. BUT I can see that this person has a genuine heart and greatly cares about the job they are doing. I see the struggle too. I feel sad because I think how much more this person could enjoy life, especially their career if they could get a handle on all the clutter!!! ...

In reply to an earlier post on May 1, 2009 4:09:18 PM PDT

Are you the supervisor of this disorganized person?

I'm the author, and I'm happy to give you 15 minutes free over the phone. Reply to, and let's make a phone appointment.

Looking forward to talking with you,


In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2009 7:51:11 AM PDT
Yes I am but also a friend ...

Posted on May 4, 2009 8:01:02 AM PDT
it has been very embarrassing for me because we've had various people who have seen the office on their way to my office and commented on it. Such as our accountant, he was relieved that this was not my office. This also happened with the health dept inspector who inspects our kitchen. She too was relieved that this was not my office. Mainly, I try to keep the door shut. But there are times where the door isn't shut and we have "guests" walk though.

Posted on May 4, 2009 8:35:56 AM PDT
If you still want that phone appointment, please email your address to me at I can't tell if you want it or not, and I can't address it directly on this post.

In reply to an earlier post on May 8, 2009 7:20:56 AM PDT
I will call you soon working alot right now!

In reply to an earlier post on May 8, 2009 10:19:08 AM PDT
FF, everytime I send directly to your email, it is returned to me as follows:
A message that you sent could not be delivered to one or more of its
recipients. This is a permanent error. The following address(es) failed:

Do you have another e-mail? I simply cannot get through on that one.


Posted on May 10, 2009 3:46:07 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 10, 2009 3:47:17 PM PDT
Patty Jay says:
Liz - I just read your book (Organizing Without Resorting to Arson) and want to tell you it is the best decluttering book I've read (I read them more than I declutter, but eventually I do get inspired to move.) I read it in one sitting and learned so much. This book really got me going. I now understand why you can't organize someone else and why there is no one universal way to declutter/organize. After looking at my retrieval methods it was easy to make better systems so items are easy to put away and don't pile up. Thank you for this insightful book.

In reply to an earlier post on May 11, 2009 10:28:51 AM PDT
Thanks, Patty! What a wonderful email; you really made my day and I appreciate your comments.

May I use this quote when I market my book?

Tell your friends that everyone can find out about our upcoming events at

Best wishes,

Liz Franklin
Author and Cubicle Anthropologist

Posted on May 11, 2009 12:04:35 PM PDT
Liz I will send you another e-mail from my yahoo account!

Posted on May 11, 2009 1:34:06 PM PDT
Liz I sent you a new e-mail from a yahoo address

Posted on May 19, 2009 9:04:12 AM PDT
I would kindly suggest that the person get a physical. The problem could be medication, a mini-stroke, brain tumor, ADD, ADHD ... Ritalin or Prozac would probably be very beneficial if no other physical cause is found.

ON THE OTHER HAND, if repeated warnings and paid assistance do not help, that person also may be very manipulative. S/he knows that you won't do anything. What a position of power over you!

In reply to an earlier post on May 24, 2009 6:20:15 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 24, 2009 6:21:20 PM PDT
HerCathyness says:

You #&*(*&^%$##$%^&*&^%$#{}*(%^}!!!!!

Ok, I've calmed down now. You seem personally quite annoyed by what you think should be an easy fix. Please, consider these facts-

While ADD may contribute to a person's clutter problems, medication won't fix the clutter.
And there are WAY more people suffering with clutter than there are with brain tumours.

Studies have shown that runaway clutter may be a physiological problem in the brain. Scientists have identified specific areas that react differently to questions and comments about keeping things or giving them up than those same areas in people not afflicted with an inability to deal with THINGS.

ON THE OTHER HAND, most of us crippled by clutter are so mortified by it that using it to manipulate someone is not something we could even consider.

It is not that we are being lazy.
It isn't that we don't care about the effect on others.

And often, it isn't even that we don't know what is suggested to do. I have been studying the books and watching the programs for 20+years, and while I understand it better, I am still not able to effect noticeable change. I do have ADD, but that is far from the only factor.

For reasons that, apparently you have been blessed enough not to be familiar with, we can't just clean it up.

We are are not doing it to you.

Please, have some compassion-and if that's too much, perhaps less disdain?

Posted on May 25, 2009 7:23:43 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 25, 2009 7:38:47 AM PDT
Please note that my message was in response to a BOSS and her problem with an EMPLOYEE.

It was said in the original note, that the employee's clutter problem was now affecting CLIENTS and others in the organization.

There was NO disdain meant, but an employer-employee problem MUST be solved or BOTH the BOSS and the EMPLOYEE could find themselves UNEMPLOYED. If an employee had an ALCOHOL OR DRUG problem, it would need to be solved IMMEDIATELY.

Also, please recognize that I DO understand what you're talking about and I AM compassionate. I myself am a reformed clutterbug and now have a thriving business helping clutterbugs in a GENTLE, NON-JUDGMENTAL WAY. (Please feel free to visit my website --

But my biggest source of new clients isn't clutterbugs themselves, but Social Services, the Fire Marshal. the Department of the Aging AND BANKS! I often have as little as 24-hours to clean someone out of their apartment or home. There is NO TIME to look at physiological problems, mother issues, ADD etc. The bank representative is standing there with a LOCK in one hand and a notice of foreclosure in the other. I do the best I can (I can clean out an entire house in 40 hours) and I offer a shoulder to cry on.

The reality is THE PROBLEM DOES NOT CORRECT ITSELF WITH TIME. It only gets worse. By getting help early on, the clutterbug CAN prevent the authorities coming in and FORCING them out. That is often more traumatic than getting Ritalin or other types of help early on.

As for clutter and manipulation, I assume you've never been the mother of a teenager! ; )

I hope I have cleared up this misunderstanding. It was an employer who wrote the original comment, not a distressed clutterbug who sincerely wanted to solve his or her problem.

Thank you for your understanding.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 4, 2009 10:07:39 AM PDT
thank you for your response. Yes This is an employee but also a friend. AND YES I agree with you about being a mother of a teenager! Thanks for your humor on this too. I will be checking out your web-site too

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 5, 2009 1:12:42 AM PDT
HerCathyness says:
I would plead for forgiveness, but my foot is too deep in my mouth.

Please accept my humblest apology? I certainly had the wrong end of the stick. Without an option to view messages flat, I got confused in the ?/reply stream (which is a reason, but no excuse. I did go to your website, and found some very helpful info and links.

I appreciate what you are doing and have done!

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2009 2:44:36 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Jul 30, 2010 10:37:23 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2009 7:53:45 PM PDT
Ha ha, thanks for the shameless plug, Jane!

BTW, you misquoted me: What I said was, "IF (note the "if") your therapist hadn't helped you in 10 years you should fire her. I did NOT say "she's doing a lousy job." Not my language.

Or as we say in the publishing industry, "If you're going to misquote me, misquote me exactly!"

As the Es-steamed Author, I invite everyone to list their organizing issues at

Liz Franklin, Cubicle Anthropologist and author of, "How to Get Organized Without Resorting to Arson."

Watch for the new book, "How to Get Bigger Bucks in Your Biz Without Resorting to Robbery!" Stay tuned to

Posted on Jul 9, 2009 6:14:20 PM PDT
Dear Liz

I live with a person who cannot throw *anything* away, because he might need it later. He is a "collector" (read: pack rat) and has numerous "collections" (read: stuff) around his house. The only saving grace to this situation is, he does have everything "organized (alphabetized, in one location per collection, etc.). At the moment, I am jobless and cannot afford to move. It's his home, so I really don't want to step on his toes by suggesting he needs therapy, etc. (He really does, tho! He has family issues...). I'm not the most organized person, but I like to be able to find things with a minimal amount of effort. How do I keep sane until I can get a place of my own?

Numb to the mess

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 10, 2009 4:44:09 AM PDT
It may be that your living arrangement is stressing you out more because you're unemployed and spend more time at home. If it's his house and he's happy, there's nothing you can do except offer to help if he wants to "downsize." Keep your stuff in your area and get out more -- go to the library, walk, dog-sit for your friends, take up a new (free) hobby, visit your mother, job hunt etc.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 10, 2009 7:11:51 AM PDT
Dear B,

In my book I talk about one way to handle this: Instead of saying, "When are you going to get rid of this?" or "Why are you keeping this?" it helps to say, "Tell me about this one over here," or, "I know you're keeping this for a reason." Then listen to the reason. It's easier said than done, but helping the person to talk about their reasons brings out *so* much information that you may be surprised at what you learn about him and whether you *want* to stay involved with him.

It's a healthy exercise to hear a person out without condemning their "collection." On the other hand, Diane may be right: get out more and job hunt.

Now for the amateur psychology: Focusing on his "need for therapy" may be a way to re-direct focusing on your own joblessness and inability to afford to move. Why not focus on your own needs, growth, and strengths? Build yourself up until you *can* do what you want, instead of feeling trapped because his mess means you *can't* have things the way you want.

In other words, change yourself, not him.

Hope this helps,
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Discussion in:  Organization forum
Participants:  14
Total posts:  34
Initial post:  Jan 19, 2009
Latest post:  Jan 11, 2011

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