Bootcamp Organizing For The Chronically Disorganized

What you’ve read about organizing might not fit your brain.

Photo by Erica Wittlieb/Pixabay

I’ve read almost every organizing book published over the last 20 years. I love reading organizing books and watching organizing videos on YouTube. The problem with these books and videos is they’re written and produced by organized people. Organized people don’t know how disorganized brains think. I’m a lost cause when it comes to keeping a neat and organized environment. My worst fear is that someone might drop by unannounced and find out that I’m a slob. Then they’ll tell everyone in the neighborhood. My finances don’t look much better. The bank stays in business on my late fees alone. If I were Catholic, I’d pray to the four Patron Saints of lost causes to heal this affliction.

You Might Recognize Yourself

  • You drop a piece of paper on the floor and two weeks later it’s still there
  • You’re running late because you can’t find your keys
  • Every table, desk, or flat surface in the house is piled with junk
  • Your desk looks like the aftermath of a hurricane
  • Your finances are an embarrassment
  • Dirty Dishes in the Kitchen Sink

If you can relate to any of the above, boot camp organizing can help. I’ve solved some of these problems, but it took drastic measures.

Dropped Objects

I did this for years, and sometimes it would lay there for two weeks. Finally, one day, when my life was more than half over, I stopped and looked at that piece of paper and analyzed the situation:

“Why don’t I pick it up? I asked myself. What is it about my brain that keeps me walking by and seeing it but not picking it up?”

I love to analyze myself and everyone else. I even analyze my pets. I couldn’t answer that question, so I called a friend and asked her if she might know why I do that.

“I don’t know, but when you find out, let me know because I do the same thing,” she said.

I went to Facebook and asked. The response surprised me. Evidently, there are a lot of people who do this. One woman said she’ll dance around that object one hundred times before picking it up. My Facebook friends weren’t much help either.

However, I soon discovered that by asking myself why I wasn’t picking it up, I’d pick it up then and there. Give it a try, and you might find it works for you, also.

The lost keys

There isn’t a person on earth who hasn’t done this. We all know that the solution to the problem is to set up a specific place where you always place your keys. I keep my keys hanging on a knob on my armoire. I always find my keys when I need them except when I don’t put them there.

One morning, several years ago, my now ex-husband couldn’t find his keys. The longer he looked for them, the madder he got. He started blaming the three kids and me for doing something with them. When I finally had enough of his ranting, I told the kids I would give whoever found his keys a dollar. They all scrambled, and one of them found them in two minutes. Dad took the keys and exited the front door.

About five minutes later, as I was getting the kids ready to go to school, I find Dad slinking quietly around the house.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“I lost my keys,” he sheepishly admitted.

Somewhere between the front door and his car, he misplaced his keys again. I went outside and immediately found them on the back bumper of his car. Whew! What a way to start the morning.

I don’t know what to tell you if you don’t put your keys in a designated place. I do know that offering the kids a reward to find lost objects works great. If you don’t have kids, maybe the dog can help.


End tables, coffee tables, dining room tables, and kitchen tables are my enemies. If there’s a flat surface in my house, I’ll pile junk on it. Yes, I know the solution is to have a place for everything. That doesn’t work for me. What does work is getting rid of the tables. Until recently, I had a bedside table with a lamp, and these items piled on it: Dental floss, two books that I wasn’t reading, a jar of Vaseline, scissors, scotch tape, gum wrappers, a can of compressed air, and glass cleaner.

One day, after some brainstorming, I came up with a solution. I bought a floor lamp with a circular table attached to it. The diameter is 1 foot, and it has a USB port for charging my cell phone. It holds the remote control, my glasses, and cell phone. There isn’t enough room to pile it with junk.

I’ve found the only way to deal with clutter is to live a minimalist lifestyle. I don’t mean only one chair and the TV in your living room. Get rid of anything that isn’t functional and keep only what can hang on the wall. Don’t use the living room as a catchall. It’s off-limits to mail, shoes, homework, toys, etc. Designate your living room as the one clean and peaceful space where you can proudly receive guests. Don’t let them go into your other rooms.

You will not find a coffee table or end table in my living room. I’m single and don´t need a table to eat on. I usually eat on my desk in front of the computer. Yes, I know it’s not good for digestion, but it works for me. It might work for you, too.

The Home Office

I’ve read all the articles on setting up the perfect filing system. I’ve tried them all, and the one that works best for me is piles of paper on my desk. One professional organizer wrote that people pile papers on their desks because they’re afraid of the out of sight out of mind syndrome. True, that’s what scares me. He went on to say that we need to file all those papers and that we won’t forget about them when they’re out of sight. Wrong! I forget about them. I’ve tried posting important papers on a bulletin board in front of me. It works until I go blind, and that bill becomes like any other object in the room that I ignore. I find that putting anything important under my computer keyboard with half of it sticking out works best. It’s more or less in my face then, and I don’t forget.


Set up online banking. Cancel paper billing and sit back and relax knowing that the bills will get paid and you won’t have late fees. You can have your bank send out payment or set up payment with each company. If your debit card feels like free money and you tend to go over your limit, take out the cash to pay for everything that isn’t a bill and leave the debit card at home. This works best with a budget.

The Kitchen

I hate washing dishes with a passion. Scraping them out, rinsing, and putting them in the dishwasher is still washing dishes. I might leave dirty dishes in the sink for a week. Yes, I am a slob, but I came up with a solution: Buy disposable plates, bowls, and utensils. They don’t cost a lot at places like Walmart, Costco, and Sam’s Club, but make sure they are recyclable.

Let it Go

I’ve shared a few drastic ways to organize your life. You might not like them and feel they wouldn’t work for you and your family. Maybe an organizing book or professional organizer would help. Let me end with a little scenario. I used to belong to a knitting group. One of the women, Rachel, said she and a friend wanted to start a professional organizing business. Her mother, an artist, had an art studio that always looked like a tornado ran through the room. Rachel and her friend decided to make this their first organizing job. They set up an organized system, and pretty soon, the studio looked like something you’d see in “Traditional Home.” A month later, they went back to see how her mom was coming along in her new studio. That tornado had paid her another visit. Everything was back to a disorderly mess. Rachel had this advice for her mom. “Let it go,” Mom.

I’m giving you the same advice. If you’re anything like me, there comes a time when you have to accept yourself for who you are. That doesn’t mean you can’t keep trying. I continue to come up with little tricks to organize. It’s usually something I’ve dreamt up myself. See what ideas might come to your mind. Keep reading those organizing books and articles and after that, just let it go.

A free spirit, visual artist, writer, animal lover, introvert and independent woman.

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