Today’s blog post written by: Anderson Organizing owner and operator Certified Professional Organizer Connie Anderson, CPO®.
Connie has been changing lives for the better since 1996 through creating homes that
inspire organized living tailored to each client’s learning styles and abilities.
Mom, Have You Seen My ____________?
“Mom! Have you seen my (fill in the blank)?”
If I had a quarter for every time my boys asked me that over the years I could afford to pay off my auto
loan. This also includes my husband rummaging around the kitchen cupboards or linen closet searching
for something he was sure was there the last time he looked. As a seasoned Professional Organizer, I
would think I could set up systems efficient enough for my family to find what they need when they
needed it without my assistance. But no. No matter how many times I have tweaked with the storage
system in each room of the house or garage, someone is relying on me to find their goggles or ear wax
bulb. In some instances, the sought-after item is right in front of their nose. Like when the kids are
rushing out the door it decreases their ability to focus and see their jackets hanging on the hook. Or
when my husband was cooking chili for the Super Bowl and couldn’t find the blades to the hand mixer.
Albeit he’s is 6’1” so it’s not natural for him to bend down and look in lower level spaces. So of course,
that’s where I hide my emergency stress relieving chocolate biscotti stash.
Organization and the Brain
Joking aside, as a subscriber and student of the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD), I
understand the factors associated with chronic disorganization. ICD is a community composed of
Professional Organizers, Productivity Specialists, and other related professionals who want to know why
people are affected by chronic disorganization. This applies to our clients and families. “The brain has a
lot to do with a client’s ability to be organized and to maintain organizational and productivity systems.
Brain-based challenges, whether congenital or acquired, directly impact organizational skills. Because of these brain differences, we seek education from professionals in the medical, educational and
In Psychology Today, Shahram Heshmat Ph.D.wrote an article entitled, “Learning and Memory: How Do
We Remember and Why Do We Often Forget?” Heshmat states, “…much of learning takes place in the
form of emotional learning. To make our memory stronger, it helps to attach emotional significance to
objects and actions we experience.”
Instead of giving my son the task of putting his dirty clothes in his hamper (they usually are lying on the
floor) I give him the task of washing and putting away his clothes. This way he gains self-care skills and
has a better chance of remembering where to find his favorite hoodie sweatshirt.
Everything Has A Place
My husband tells me the assumption is that being married to a Professional Organizer would make your
life easier. There is an expectation that everything has a place. As he likes it to be known, living with a
Professional Organizer isn’t always easy. Like that time when he was hammering loose nails in the living
room floor boards. I thought I’d be helpful and start cleaning up, when he promptly asked, “Honey, have
you seen the hammer?”
Sometimes I admit, I get myself in an organizing frenzy and I pick things up and put them away
prematurely. He also claims I move his stuff. Of course, I do, but to put them away. My husband has
learned to adapt to living under my impulses towards tidiness by reframing the question. “Do you know
where I put my (fill in the blank)?” Asked in this way with an emphasis on the I, my husband asks me in a
non-defensive way. Fortunately, we are similar in that we enjoy an orderly home. According to Phyllis Flood Knerr, CPO-CD, MA, ICD Master Trainer, many factors contribute to a person’s organizing challenges. I pinpointed a few of those factors from her rubric to describe the scene in my house.
Choices, communication problems, and beliefs about possessions would describe my teen, tween, and
husband. Perhaps perfectionism and addictive tendencies are a few of mine!
Whether it’s my husband or the kids wanting help locating something they can’t find, “mood memory”
helps them remember where they can retrieve their misplaced item. Heshmat notes “Our current
emotional state facilitates recall of experiences that had a similar emotional tone. When we are in a
happy mood, we tend to recall pleasant events and vice versa. This is because moods bring different
associations to mind.”
An example of mood association is when my son is rushed and stressed to be at his soccer game on time
and can’t find his soccer ball. He directs his negative thoughts to me and accusingly suggests that I did
something with his ball to make him late. In contrast, if we want to practice drills in the backyard on a
Sunday morning then he might ask me in a positive upbeat tone if I’d seen his ball.
Keeping Your Sanity
Here are some techniques to help your crew CUE up to find their own stuff and keep your sanity.
Communicate. Tell them the why, when and where you moved something. “I’ve noticed you have been
making cat toys out of crumpled paper. This morning I have moved Blizzard’s box of toys from the top
shelf in the living room closet to an open basket next to the couch. He would benefit from a variety of
stimulation. The basket is easily accessible to find and put away toys when they start to spread all over
Unpack. Immediately unpack upon arrival from returning from school, sports, travel or other places
where you bring home a bag. Things you use frequently like mobile phones can go on a charging station,
dirty clothes in the laundry basket, important papers filed, and old food tossed. The longer things stay in
a bag, suitcase or backpack the more likely they are forgotten.
Emphasize. Children need frequent reminders. Get them involved in deciding where their stuff will be
stored. Label containers, bags or shelves for easy identification. Periodically give them a tour of shared
household spaces like kitchens, linen closets and garages so they know where to find and put back
things they use.
Remember, nothing is really lost, until your Mom can’t find it!