Why is staying organized so hard?

Do you hate organizing? Do you feel like once things are organized, things will fall apart in a few days?

This may not just be you. According to behavioral economics, there are certain behavior principles that may be the reason why organization for your student group is so hard. The following principles might be the root cause to your disorganization:

  1. Default Bias – People often default into choosing the easiest option when faced with complex decisions.
  2. Herding – Like lemmings, humans tend to follow the crowd and do what others do.
  3. Time Discounting – People place a higher emphasis on the present. They discount the future and prefer to favor the current benefits over any future ones.
  4. The “What the Hell” Effect – People decidedly will give up on a goal if they fall off TRACK.

Any of these sound familiar or resonate with you?

You must now be wondering, if these behaviors are engrained AND defined in economics principles, how can anyone ever be organized?!

Overcoming these behaviors can be a challenge, but are possible! If you want to overcome them, the two biggest takeaways to note that will be important to your group are:

A. Make Organization a Goal

  • If organization is a goal that everyone is working towards, it will be more likely to happen. Working together to achieve a singular goal can be an effective way to use the Herding Principle to your advantage! If people know what others are doing (perhaps through a specific list of duties) and people know that others are also equally working towards keeping things organized, they will follow suit.

B. Organization needs to be as simple as possible

  • While we have highlighted this before, students are busy! But based on these behavioral principles, there may be more to it than that. For your organization policy/strategy to work long term, it needs to be simple and easy. Don’t make a complicated strategy with ten different steps and unnecessary categories for organization of items. Do what makes sense to your group and needs. Limit over complications is key! Even easy tips like storing drinks and food items near each other can help overcome Default Bias.

With these tips and knowledge that you can change your behavior, your organizational aspirations can become reality!

Too Disorganized to Start Organizing?



Photos look familiar? Does your student group storage room resemble this? Or maybe you are reading this thinking, well at least we aren’t as bad as that. No matter what stage of disorganization your student group is facing, starting to get organized can feel daunting. You may feel like things are too disorganized to even begin getting organized. It may seem like a never-ending cycle: you can’t get organized because things are too disorganized, so you just continue to stack boxes on top of each other.

If you are feeling like you are deep into this disorganization cycle, then you came to the right blog! Tidying up can feel scary. Have you seen an episode of Marie Kondo’s Tidying up? Everyone thinks they are too far gone for help. But like Marie Kondo, we are offering some easy practical steps to begin your organization journey!

Step 1: Assess the Problem

If your storage room looks like the one above, you may think this step is unnecessary. You may be thinking that the problem is clear: Things are everywhere! Always! But while you may think this problem is unnecessary, your student group needs to know the extent of the problem you are dealing with. Is the problem that your volunteers and executives simply do not know where to put things? Or is the problem that nothing gets thrown out, so you keep accumulating trash or unnecessary items that could be recycled or donated? Without knowing what the problem is, your group won’t be able to find an effective solution.

Assessing the problem will also help make the start of the organization journey more manageable. No one wants to jump in and have an overhaul cleaning day. Start small; start manageable.

Now enter the dilemma: How do you assess how much of a mess is being made?

Proposal: Monitor and Observe!

Assign someone to simply monitor and observe the state of your storage room. Take notes and  collect real-life observational data without influencing anyone’s behavior! You need to know how people act on a day-to-day basis if you want to understand what the root problem is. 

From our experience, here are some tips for on-site evaluations:

1. Set a timeframe for evaluation or assessment. 

  • Timeframe needs to be long enough that you can get an understanding of the situation. We propose one month, but this can be adjusted to whatever timeframe works best for your group.

2. Set frequency of assessment. 

  • When deciding on the frequency, think about how frequently do things actually change. Are there events that cause changes in the situation? How frequent are these events?
  • We propose twice a week, but again this can be adjusted to whatever timeframe works best for your group.

3. Create a guide or checklist for assessment.

  • Create a guide or checklist to know what you or your student volunteers should be monitoring during assessments. Categories can be adjusted based on your group’s needs.
  • As an example, see our tool that we created and used:

4. Ensure that the metrics for assessment align with the goal and information sought.

5. Ensure that all team members or volunteers working with the tool, understand how to use it.

  • This will be important to have consistency in the results.

6. Decide on a way to analyze and review the data. 

And some extra tips:

Reevaluate as needed. Your first site assessment tool may not be perfect. Allow for adjustments as the monitoring continues. 

Communicate your findings between teammates! 

Document extensively – it is always better to have more information than less! 

This first step can help your group start your group’s organization journey! Good luck 🙂

What’s the Link? Organization and Sustainability

UBC plays a unique role in the region as a global leader in sustainability and climate action. The entire UBC community is committed to sustainability research, teaching, and learning. Students at UBC are some of the most proactive when it comes to sustainability efforts. There are numerous volunteer-run student clubs, organizations, and initiatives at UBC that have taken on the job to promote sustainability and implement sustainable practices that align with the university’s goal.

But, sometimes, sustainability can feel out of reach for the average student. While there is a desire to be sustainable, 5 courses and extracurriculars combined with attempting to have a social life can make this feel unrealistic. Especially, for student groups sustainability may be the last thing on everyone’s mind when trying to balance their own busy schedules AND organizing events for hundreds of undergraduate students throughout the year.

One simple way to help student groups be more sustainable is to be organized! Perhaps this is easier said than done. But staying organized can have wondrous effects on a student group’s sustainability efforts!

How you may ask?

The AMS at UBC alone has over 350+ student clubs and groups; many of who host events. One simple way organization can impact sustainability practices is through inventory management! If student groups are unaware of all the available resources to their disposal, they may generate a lot of unnecessary waste (and additional cost) through unnecessary overbuying. This is especially harmful to the environment if resources bought are plastic cups, cutlery, or plates. To better maximize the use of resources, it is key that students have an organizational system in place so that they are aware of what is available and, furthermore, can easily visualize and access the same. Most importantly, it is key that students recognize that by being organized, they can be sustainable! Student leaders or executives can play an important role in this. Student executives should promote and ensure the use of the organizational system and further motivate other students or volunteers to care about being sustainable.

Once students realize the link between organization and sustainability, the second step should be an attitude change! Adopting a greener approach to student life does not have to be difficult! Students at UBC have access to an entire community of faculty, staff, and other members who work to ensure a socially sustainable UBC community. Working collaboratively together to help enhance sustainable practices will be the key to success! Blogs like this that share helpful tips and knowledge about small practical changes to help improve sustainable efforts are important. Join the community or create your own, but the important thing is we work together!