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Vicki Norris
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Getting Organized

When Keeping Up With the Jonses Keeps You in Chaos

Vicki Norris
Restoring Order

CBN.comLots of people try to get organized and wonder why their efforts fail again and again. If you suffer from backsliding and can’t seem to remain organized, ask yourself if you’ve really resolved the reasons you are disorganized. By figuring out how we became disorganized, we are giving ourselves the best chance of getting and staying organized.

Together, we’re making our way through the causes of disorganization. We’re discovering how we became so disorganized in the first place. Last week we examined historical disorganization—when our past is keeping us cluttered and chaotic. This week, we will explore social disorganization—when our need to acquire is contributing to our haphazard existence.

Our Mountain of Accumulation
The other day, I drove past a storage unit near where I live. The sign said: “If you can’t find your lawnmower, bring your garage clutter here!” I couldn’t believe the message that the sign was sending! It was encouraging passersbys to ignore their mess by simply relocating it! Instead of dealing with and eliminating the mess, the sign recommended a stashing solution!

As I thought about the sign, I realized how enticing its message would be to a lot of people. Wouldn’t it be a lovely, blissful world if we could just ignore our stuff? It would be easy to buy into this approach, but deep down we all know that it doesn’t work. Eventually, all the things we’ve delayed or hidden come to light and we have to deal with them.

A Culture of Collecting
The sentiments of that storage unit sign reminded me of the attitude behind the bumper sticker we’ve probably all seen, “He who dies with the most toys wins!” Our culture encourages accumulation. We are told through advertising and social norms to collect enough belongings to fill up our garage or to gather more toys than the next guy. Some of us wear our stuff like a badge of honor. We think that if we have more stuff than others that means that we are better, or smarter, or richer. We want to have name brand stuff so that we can tell the world about our financial status. We get more and more stuff, yet we are more and more unhappy and stressed. We are the socially disorganized.

The dichotomy is that once we stockpile all this stuff we don’t know what to do with it and it begins to enslave us. Whatever we collect we must save, dust, store, protect, inventory, and insure! In my experience as a professional organizer, I’ve observed that the more stuff people have, the more complicated their lives become. Having stuff isn’t wrong in itself. The problem is when you have so much stuff that you lose and abuse it. When we stop managing, using, and appreciating what we own then we become victims of a society that accumulates for the sake of accumulation.

A Calendar of Constant Activity
Social norms also encourage us to over-program our lives. Children are as over-committed as adults these days. Soccer kids in my neighborhood are working out all summer long. They are even required to practice and play games throughout Christmas break! Gone is the summer at the pool at holidays at home.

My clients have shared with me how over-scheduled their lives are as well. Many families earn double incomes but never seem to have time or money to invest in their quality of life. Instead of enjoying family camping trips, dad has to work all weekend to get the promotion. Instead of making cookies with the kids, mom is trying to get her home-based business off the ground.

Work is not the enemy here and I work very hard myself. I am not criticizing working hard. It’s just that when parents and children alike are juggling so many pressures, family life often suffers. We become disorganized when we give into the attitude in society that says, “I have to have it all.” This attitude can lead us down a slippery slope of over-commitment.

Digging Out
One of the reasons we collect too many belongings and activities is because we have a hard time saying “no.” If you have been a victim of social pressures, your choices may have resulted in an overloaded schedule and disorderly living. You can now make a conscious choice to reject the social pressures that surround you and extract yourself from an out-of-control schedule. You will have to practice the feared two-letter word to release yourself from social disorganization. If you can say “no” and stop accumulating you will begin to restore order.

I encourage you to dig out of your social disorganization.  While  the socially disorganized are stuck with more stuff and less quality of life, those who dig out enjoy the surprising dichotomy of simplicity and abundance!


Adapted from: Restoring Order™ copyright © 2006 by Vicki Norris (available now at and in July 2007as Reclaim Your Life™.  Copyright © 2007).  Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR. Used by permission.

About the Author: Vicki Norris is an expert organizer, business owner, speaker, television personality, and author who inspires people to live out their priorities. Norris is a regular on HGTV’s nationally syndicated
Mission: Organization, and is a recurrent source and contributor to national lifestyle publications including Quick & Simple magazine, Better Homes & Gardens, and Real Simple magazine. Norris is also author of Restoring Order™ to Your Home, a room-by-room household organizing guide.



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