Barriers to Getting Organized, And How To Deal With Them

I’ll never get through this stack of papers. I’ve gone through these papers before, and I just end up putting them back into one big stack.
When sorting papers, don’t wait until you are completely finished to set up files or other containers for the categories you sort them into. Have file folders and labels, an accordion file, or envelopes on hand when you start going through the stack. Even if you’re only part way through the stack when you have to stop, don’t restack the papers you’ve already sorted. Put each category of papers into a file or envelope and label it. Either store those files, or keep them temporarily with the large stack, so you can continue to sort more papers into those files.

I am afraid I’ll need something right after I get rid of it.
Try this “hedge” approach. Put the item(s) in a box. Seal the box with tape, and write a date on it for six months from now. Put the box in the garage or basement, someplace out of the way. When you come across the box and the date has passed, toss it out without opening it.

For paper or pieces of information, ask yourself, “If I need this information again, can I get it from somewhere other than this piece of paper?” The information may easily be accessible on the web.

I don’t know where to put this.
Before you can put something away, it has to have a home. You’re just creating clutter inside your storage areas when you take a whole stack of unsorted papers and stash it in a drawer. So make a file folder label a box, or identify simiilar items to put it with so that there is a logical home for this thing.

I can’t get rid of this: it’s special because…
Maybe someone special gave it to you. Or you bought it on a special trip. Or it was a wedding gift. If the item really holds a lot of sentimental value for you, try to decide how to display or enjoy it in your home. Or, consider preserving the sentiment without preserving the actual item. Some people take photographs or make collages of these kinds of things so that they can hold onto the special feelings those items evoke while taking up much less space.

I can’t get rid of this. It cost too much!
Like hanging onto losing stocks until they are worthless, we hesitate to get rid of unwise purchases because it confirms our poor decision and makes the loss “real.” Try to rationalize your way through this decision: Even if you paid a lot for it, hanging onto something that is useless to you just makes you feel worse by reminding you of your mistake every time you see it. Could someone else use it? Can you donate it for a tax deduction? Or could you do something corny with it, like use it as a centerpiece for a dinner party or use it for an oddball conversation piece at your office?


I’m afraid to toss this information – it has my Social Security number, financial accounts, or other personal information on it.
You are right to be concerned. Identity theft and fraudulent financial transactions can result from the wrong person getting their hands on your information. Luckily, the solution here is fairly simple; either rip the documents carefully (some people even throw away different parts of the document in different containers) or get a shredder. Shredders are pretty inexpensive and can make quick work of those documents.

I know how to do this, and I should be able to do it. But somehow I just can’t make myself do it.
Does logic say, “Get rid of it,” but you just can’t bring yourself to deal with it?

Instead of focusing on the item, focus on what it means to you or what feelings it evokes when you think about tossing it. Try to identify all the thoughts and feelings you have about the item or how you obtained it.

Once you recognize the emotion that is holding you back, you may be able to toss, give away, or organize the clutter. Or, you may feel less frustrated at your seemingly illogical behavior and be able to stop worrying about it.

For more information, visit the University of Illinois Extension website Dealing with Clutter at .

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