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The average American spends almost 4 minutes searching for lost keys, television remote controls, mobile telephones and other elusive household items every time one of the little suckers sprouts legs and walks off — or so says the latest survey conducted exclusively for American Demographics by Rochester, N.Y.-based research firm Harris Interactive. Sure, 4 minutes may not sound like a long time, but the minutes add up. If, for example, a person misplaces his wallet once every week, he would spend 3.5 frustrating hours each year trying to hunt the darn thing down.

Our survey found that not having enough time is the biggest excuse people use for not getting organized. In fact, almost half of Americans (44 percent) say they don't have time to get their stuff in order. But, ironically, those who are the most organized spend considerably less time looking for lost belongings.

According to the nationally representative survey of 2,288 adults conducted online between February 11 and 13, the 10 percent of Americans who consider themselves “extremely organized� say that, on average, they can locate something they've misplaced in as little as 1 minute and 18 seconds, while the 7 percent of adults who say that they are “not at all organized� take an average of 8.5 minutes to locate a missing item.

Disorganization appears to be an equal opportunity trait, with equal numbers of Americans across most demographic groups saying that they are organized. Whether you're a man or a woman, young or old, with kids or without doesn't seem to affect your likelihood of being a neat freak. What does seem to matter is marital status. According to the survey, 61 percent of married adults say they are either “extremely� or “mostly� organized, compared with just 54 percent of never-married singles and 49 percent of divorced, separated or widowed adults. Previously married Americans (15 percent) are more than twice as likely as married (5 percent) and single adults (7 percent) to say clutter is their middle name.

Regardless of one's level of organization, however, 89 percent of Americans say they could use help tidying up some corner of their life. Nearly half of respondents (48 percent) told American Demographics they need help getting their keepsakes in order — the area in most dire need of attention. Quite a few Americans could also use help organizing their closets and clothes drawers (42 percent) as well as their finances, including bills, pay stubs and receipts (35 percent). A significant share of respondents (27 percent) admit they need some help in the garage, at their computer station or with their facts and figures (telephone numbers, addresses, birthdays, etc.).

Of course, if getting organized was all that easy, everyone would do it. Or would they? In addition to time constraints, Americans say that not having enough space is another major roadblock to their organizational efforts — 39 percent use this excuse. Others feel that without the cooperation of everyone in their household, there's no use even trying (26 percent) or that getting organized is so overwhelming they wouldn't know where to start (16 percent). Naturally, there are also those who admit that they are just too lazy (22 percent) or that they simply don't care enough about organization (17 percent) to bother. Not surprisingly, men are the most likely to state apathy as an excuse, whereas women complain more that they are overwhelmed by the idea of getting started.

Still, there are scores of Americans who would be willing to take action, and even pay for some help. According to our survey, 54 percent of adults say that they have purchased or would be willing to purchase containers, furniture, file systems or similar products to help them get organized. Young Americans are the most likely to take this approach. Seventy-two percent of young women (ages 18 to 34) and 57 percent of young men have bought or would consider buying such products. A quarter of those surveyed also say they have built or would consider building new cabinets, closets or shelving space to help them eliminate clutter. And then there are the 6 percent of Americans who would prefer hiring someone else to clean up their mess. Mom was way underpaid.

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Retirees are prime targets for home products that can help them organize books and magazines; 30 percent of them indicate that they need assistance in this area.


Keepsakes Women ages 45-54 64%
Clothes Households with kids ages 6-12 54%
Finances Households with kids under age 6 46%
Garage Men ages 45-54 45%
Computer station Students 37%
Facts and figures Students and households with 5+ members 35%
Kitchen Women ages 35-44 and households with annual incomes between $35,000 and $49,999 36%
Books/magazines Retirees 30%
Bathroom Women ages 18-34 34%
Audio/video Men ages 18-34 31%
Cleaning supplies HHs with annual income under $35,000 and kids 6-12 23%
Toys and games Households with kids under age 6 30%
Source: American Demographics/Harris Interactive
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