You’re Not Just Lazy: 5 Subconscious Reasons Why You Can’t Clean Up

Plus, helpful tips on how to clean up your act.

subconscious reasons you're messy_ a woman's desk

Mountains of junk mail and overstuffed closets aren’t just eyesores; they can also increase anxiety. “Clutter makes it impossible to get anything done on time,” says Barry Izsak, founder of Arranging It All in Austin, Texas. “As a result, we miss deadlines, forget appointments, and annoy our friends and work associates—all of which causes stress that makes it even harder to get

“As a result, we miss deadlines, forget appointments, and annoy our friends and work associates—all of which causes stress that makes it even harder to get organized. It’s a vicious cycle.”

Messes, however, often serve a subconscious purpose: “They hide problems in our lives we don’t want to confront,” says Sheila McCurdy, owner of Clutter Stop in Upland, Calif. Recognizing this root cause is the first step to staying organized and getting rid of junk.

1. You’re avoiding something.

Bills and statements, for example, may be piling up because you don’t want to confront money woes, says Ramona Creel, founder of Onlineorganizing.com.

“People think, If I get organized, I’m going to find out my finances are in horrible shape. Then I’m going to have to change my spending habits.” Similarly, a client of Creel’s who was selling her house kept it so unsightly realtors refused to show it. “My client didn’t really want to move, and the mess was her way of staying put.”

Similarly, a client of Creel’s who was selling her house kept it so unsightly realtors refused to show it. “My client didn’t really want to move, and the mess was her way of staying put.”

2. You fear failure.

“I’ve had clients say, ‘If only I were organized, I’d go back to college or finish a book proposal,’” says Stephanie Denton, owner of Denton & Company, an organizing firm in Cincinnati. But the mess lets them put off taking a shot at their dream.

“If they failed, they’d have no one to blame but themselves. Blaming a mess is easier.”

3. You’ve changed—and aren’t prepared for it.

“Possessions let us hold on to a part of ourselves we aren’t ready to give up,” says McCurdy of Clutter Stop. Clothing is often the culprit: Keeping smaller clothes you hope you’ll squeeze into again shows you’re unhappy with the extra pounds you’ve put on. And holding on to bigger clothes is a sign you’re sick of your workout regimen or diet.

But old apparel can subtly undermine your identity. “The sight of your smaller clothes will quietly convince you you’re fat,” McCurdy explains. “The sight of bigger clothes after you’ve lost weight may beckon you to relapse into your old eating habits.”

4. You want to retreat.

Can’t throw a dinner party because your house is a pig-sty? Deep down, you may want to withdraw from friends and family—even from people in your own home.

“Women will deliberately not do housework if they’re having problems with their husbands,” says Sandra Felton, founder of Messies Anonymous, which hosts an online chat group, Mates-of-Messies, with 127 members mired in clutter-related marital strife.

“The home is often where women have power, so this is a way to express their hostility,” says Felton. But such passive-aggressive tactics rarely solve problems. Instead, they fuel the fire—Felton has seen disorganization lead to divorce.

5. You’re holding on to someone.

While it’s natural to save mementos of a loved one who’s recently died or moved out, keeping too much can keep you from moving forward, whether that’s finding new friends or a new career path. “When you have too many ‘memory joggers,’ you become distracted and overwhelmed,” says Denton. “One client whose kids had gone to college kept every outfit they’d ever put on,” says Creel. “What these people don’t

“When you have too many ‘memory joggers,’ you become distracted and overwhelmed,” says Denton. “One client whose kids had gone to college kept every outfit they’d ever put on,” says Creel. “What these people don’t

“What these people don’t realize is, their memories aren’t in these objects, it’s in them.”

Source: Adapted from Reader’s Digest

Originally Published in Reader's Digest

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