“I don’t know how things got to this point. I used to be so organized.” I hear this lament all the time. People who had no trouble keeping their stuff under control in their 20s one day wake up with “junk rooms” and piles that need to be stashed before company arrives.

What happened? Do people start out organized and suddenly become unorganized?

No. Clutter creeps in over time. Life events (getting married, having children, moving, and changing/starting jobs) affect both home and office. Organization changes as we age.

Ideally, organizational skills are learned as kids and teens learn to group like items together and put away toys, clothes, and household items. Broken items are discarded, and they learn to let go of things that are unused, unwanted, or unneeded. If a child does not learn these skills at home, often a teacher, friend, or family member can be a good role model.

In their 20s, young adults “grow up” their room or apartment, boxing up a few childhood items and letting go of the rest (hopefully). They usually leave boxes at their parents’ house until they get a larger place of their own, which they will furnish with some version of hand-me-downs and inexpensive furniture. Most have no clutter because they have few things of their own.

Life gets more complicated in the 30s. Spouses and/or children usually come along, creating the need for systems to accommodate their schedules and stuff. Houses get bigger; belongings get nicer. Sentimental items accumulate as kids grow and relatives age. If no one weeds things out, clutter begins to pile up.

Life changes in the 40s and 50s, but people are so busy that it’s hard to keep up. Accumulation becomes automatic (“I might need this later”) even though there are fewer people in the house. Belongings have such a rich history that it’s hard to part with them even when they are no longer needed or useful. Clutter can become overwhelming and often mobile (“Put it all in the garage!”) when company comes.

The 60s are a perfect time to begin downsizing, but it’s hard to think about the fact that you won’t be around forever. Most people are busier than they expected. Besides there is still time left to sort through all this stuff, right? Unfortunately, what isn’t taken care of eventually becomes someone else’s problem.

Organizational skills can help navigate the stages of life. When clutter is not addressed, it becomes difficult to move forward. People get stuck. But no one has to stay stuck. There are always things that can be done to move forward:

• Recognize where you are. Sometimes just knowing where you are and how you got there helps to move forward.

• Take responsibility for your own stuff. Don’t leave a mess for a spouse and/or children to deal with later. Take care of it now.

• Start now and start small. Twenty minutes a day becomes over two hours by the end of the week. Start with a drawer, a shelf, or the piles on the floor.

• Shop in your own house first. You’ve already got a lot of good stuff. Don’t add more without checking to see what is already there.

Are you where you want to be in organization and stage of life? If so, congratulations! You are in a great position to encourage (but not nag) someone else. If not, there’s still time get better organized. Recognize the stage you’re in. Take responsibility. Get started on a small area. If you need more help, there many resources on my website: www.get-it-together-llc.com/monthly-article/archive/index.html.

Whatever your age, take steps to get organized. You’ll be glad you did.

© Renee Ursem, 2013

Author's Bio: 

Renee Ursem, Professional Organizer and owner of Get It Together, LLC in Las Vegas, helps people learn how to organize and maintain their spaces using simple, practical strategies.
Renee can be reached at www.get-it-together-llc.com. Find her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/GetItTogetherLLC) and Linkedin.