Most of my organizing clients tell me that their parents never taught them how to be organized, either by overt instruction, or else by modeling the behavior. Whether the parents were messy or neat doesn’t seem to make as much difference as the way the kids saw them engaging with their stuff (or failing to engage with it).
If someone’s going to learn how to be organized, they need to see a clear example – a role model – of what that means. I spent some time recently thinking about that. Where is there a space in the world with everything one needs and nothing extra, where everything is easy to access, where stuff comes in and stuff goes out, in an effortless way? Where things are both comfortable and beautiful?
It’s got to be the womb.* The temperature is always perfect; the light is dim and rosy. Everything you need comes in through the placenta; everything you don’t need gets filtered back out. There isn’t much to do, but you don’t really need much in the way of entertainment (as far as we know; I wonder if there’s a way to measure fetal boredom?). You have all the space that you need and nothing more; the room expands to fit your growth. Sometimes you have a roommate or two (or six or seven), but that doesn’t cause you any stress, and (again, assuming everything works) there’s enough of what you need for all of you. And once it’s too small for you, you move out and leave behind the stuff you no longer need. Time management is no issue; you sleep and wake whenever you feel like it, and you don’t have anywhere else you need to be, or anything to do except grow and develop, which happens on its own.
When you move out, your needs become more complex: you’ll need a source of oxygen (the atmosphere), a source for food/water (breastmilk or formula), a waste disposal method (generally a diaper system and people to manage that), a way to manage your temperature (blankies), and a warm parental body with a heartbeat to snuggle with. Unfortunately, none of these things are automated except the oxygen, so you have a fair amount of stress trying to get what you need when you need it, but parents generally figure it out.
And then your parents start giving you stuff, and that’s when it starts to get difficult. But in the beginning, we were all perfectly organized.
*Okay, this is assuming that everything works the way it’s supposed to.