Chronic Disorganization: The Basics

There’s more than one type of disorganization- regular disorganization, chronic disorganization, and hoarding. Regular disorganization, which everyone experiences from time to time, is characterized by disorganization which is temporary and is not expected to persist into the future. It’s a sort of “fix it and forget it” disorganization. The degree and longevity of the disorganization are what separate regular disorganization from chronic disorganization.

Hoarding is different from chronic disorganization in that it is a compulsive behavior which includes acquiring and saving of possessions that appear to be useless or of limited value, living spaces that are so cluttered that they are unusable, and significant distress or impairment caused by the clutter.

The Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD) states that “Chronic Disorganization (CD) is characterized by disorganization that has persisted for a long period of time, has a negative impact on daily quality of life, has not responded to repeated self-help attempts, and is expected to continue into the future.”

Let’s look at these characteristics:

Persisting for a long period means that it has been present at some level for years, often since adolescence or childhood.
A negative quality of life implies daily effects on social, personal and work activities such as paying bills, showing up on time, personal care and turning in assignments.
Repeated self-help attempts such as ‘how to’ books and programs have met with little or no success.
Expectation of future disorganization is based on past experience with the failed attempts and the long period of under these conditions.

There are three underlying components that affect chronic disorganization. One is Beliefs about Self and Possessions. These are based on the relationship between one’s identity and one’s possessions. A second is Brain Based Conditions. These are conditions that occur due to neurological or neurochemical factors, such as AD/HD, OCD, Parkinson’s. The individual may not even know if they are effected by one. The third component is Situational Factors. This is the condition or “state of affairs” in which the individual finds him or herself.

Within these components, many factors are associated with chronic disorganization. Factors such as learning differences, information-processing deficits, perfectionism, mental health issues, aging issues, physical challenges, life crises and systemic problems are just a few.

There are some traits among chronically disorganized individuals that will vary from person to person, but these are quite common:

accumulations of objects and/or papers beyond apparent necessity or pleasure
cluttered spaces
having difficulty letting go of things
many uncompleted projects
difficulty completing common household tasks
missed deadlines
weak time management skills
no (or multiple) calendar in use
frequently misplaced documents or files
no (or multiple) filing systems in use
tend to be easily distracted
often have difficulty making decisions
stressful household and/or work environment
and many others.

Traditional organizing methods seldom meet with success because they do not address the underlying factors that lead to the disorganization in the first place. So, how does a professional organizer work with a CD client? The professional organizer partners with the client in a collaborative relationship where they provide and maintain objectivity to help the client reduce overwhelm and gain a fresh perspective. They transfer skills and strategies that support the client’s organizing goals. They focus on the client’s strengths and successes and understanding of underlying factors to help them maintain motivation and get “unstuck”. They may facilitate cognitive and technical skills training and recommend outside resources when appropriate. They may also work in collaboration with the client’s other physical and mental health providers and councilors.

If you believe you have been challenged by chronic disorganization, you can find help through the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (

Are you prepared for cold and flu season?

With the increased activity and stress around the Holidays, we are exposed to more chances for catching something at the same time we are reducing our resistance. Are you prepared? Here are 3 tips to help you manage this cold and flu season:

1) Dispose of old medications. Check the dates on the medications you have available. If they are past their expiration date, they might not be as potent and effective. Most over the counter medications have the expiration imprinted on the bottom of the box. (Food and Drug Administration disposal guide .)

2) Replace any items you feel are necessary. Add them to your next regular shopping list.

3) Set yourself up for comfort. Is your vaporizer or humidifier functioning? Are you stocked up on easy to make (and easy to eat) food and drink? What about heating pads, bubble bath, cozy pajamas, robe and slippers?

Wishing you a healthy and happy Holiday season!

Public Teleclasses through ICD

The Institute for Challenging Disorganization is now offering teleclasses to the public.  Subjects currently available are Understanding Chronic Disorganization, Introduction to ADD, Introduction to ADHD and Procrastination and Introduction to Hoarding.  Offered for $10 each, they are quite a resource.

For more information go to

Sleep for organizing

Part 2
We all have heard that we should get a “good night’s sleep ‘, right? But what is a good night’s sleep and why is it so important? Continue reading Sleep for organizing

Making spirits bright... Exercise to Organize

Exercise to Organize

We all know that our mood affects our ability to get things done. When you feel down or depressed, you just can’t seem to get motivated. Conversely, when you feel happy and energized, you feel like you can conquer anything. One of the best ways to elevate your mood is exercise. Continue reading Exercise to Organize

Organize Your Holiday Shopping

School is back in session and fall is in the air, so holiday shopping can't be far off! This is often a difficult time for anyone, let alone the disorganized!

In order to bring some peace out of the chaos, here are some tools and skills you can use.

Make your list. If you're like most of us, you have quite a few people to purchase gifts for (family, friends, coworkers, toys for tots, etc.). Write down each person and next to the name write down what you know about them (sizes, favorite colors, likes and dislikes). Do this for every name on your list. Be sure to leave plenty of space by the names you have no information for.

Check your calendar. Go over your list with calendar in hand. This way you can decide when you will be exchanging gifts with each person. Make a special note of those that will require shipping, as you will need to post them early to be on time.

Schedule your shopping. Make sure that you carve out enough time and put it into your planner. Don't forget to add time for traffic, parking and meals while you are out. Also, remember that highly sought after items may require you to visit several stores. If you are an online shopper, schedule your time in your planner, as well. Keep in mind that many popular sites get bogged down and slow because of increased usage around the holidays, so try to go online at "off peak" times (really late or very early).

Never shop while hungry. This doesn't just apply to grocery shopping. The brain functions better when the body is properly fueled and you will be less likely to make poor choices or be pressured into making unwanted purchases. Likewise, all the thinking and stress of shopping can easily lead you to make costly dietary decisions. After all, its not just Thanksgiving dinner that packs on the pounds!

Take a decision break. When you have trouble deciding on an item, walk away for a short time. Go get a cup of coffee or shop for someone else on the list. Then come back to that decision with "fresh eyes".

If you take these steps, you will have a happier holiday!

Two Types of Disorganization

Did you know there are actually two types of disorganization – situational and chronic? Could one fit you?

Situational disorganization happens when a life event causes a “hiccup” in our normally organized lives. It is often something that happens occasionally (marriage, moving), or for a short period of time (accident recovery, night classes). With a little extra planning and help, situational disorganization can be readily dealt with.

Chronic disorganization is defined by the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization (NSGCD) as “…having a past history of disorganization in which self-help efforts to change have failed, an undermining of current quality of life due to disorganization, and the expectation of future disorganization.” The causes of this type of disorganization may include physical disabilities, emotional upheavals or mental disorders . Successfully dealing with chronic disorganization can be a lengthy process and include the help of family, friends and professionals.

**More detailed information can be found at the NSGCD website, Click on the Fact Sheet link for free information downloads. Also check out the Clutter Hoarding Scale.

The best way to start dealing with any type of disorganization is by analyzing the problem. How did it happen? Can it be easily put back in order? Do I need help? What kind of help do I need? How do I make the time to deal with it?

If you find that you need help, a web search for Professional Organizers should turn up a few in your area. The National Association of Professional Organizers ( and the NSGCD ( both have automated referral searches.

If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it.
Abraham Lincoln

Organizing: Why blog about it

I am not what anyone would call “technologically savvy”. So, why start a blog? Because I can see the direction the world is turning, and savvy or not, this IS today’s communication tool.

There are already many other professionals who blog about organizing, so why another blog? Because each of us is looking at organizing through a slightly different pair of glasses. One organizer may concentrate on the “situationally” disorganized, one may specialize in helping those with physical disabilities and another one’s specialty may be ADHD. There are as many variations of organizing as there are organizers.

My chief interest is in applying the ever increasing information about how the brain works to the individual’s ability to reach their goals. Understanding what is going on in our brain, body and environment is the foundation. Organizing skills are the framework.

So, what is the last, best reason to start a blog? KNOWLEDGE! Simply to give and gain information which empowers each of us achieve all that is possible. It is my hope that anyone who reads this blog will feel free pass along any new research which applies.