There are many forms of disorganization that span from a few things out of place to hoarding disorders. It’s important to understand the complexities of the range so you can identify if you or others may need/want outside assistance. Below, I’ve identified the three types of disorganization that may want or need to seek out assistance from professionals.
Situational disorganization is due to unforeseen events that temporarily change living or working arrangements. Events that may cause one’s life to be situationally disorganized include:
- Death or severe illness of a family member, friend or co-worker;
- Marriage, divorce or re-marriage, especially blending families;
- Birth or adoption of a child;
- Parent or adult children moving into the home;
- Change in employment or partner’s employment, either forced or voluntary;
- A family member or friend is using the home as a storage facility until he/she stabilizes his/her own situation; and
- Moving into or out of the home or office.
Even though one’s life may never be quite the same afterwards, organization may be restored relatively easily after the event. Based on the situation, an individual may seek the help of a professional organizer to aid in motivation and strategizing, but may be able to handle the situation on one’s own.
Chronic disorganization is disorganization that has had a long history, undermines one’s quality of life on a daily basis, and is constantly present.
According to the Institute for Challenging Disorganization, someone may be suffering from chronic disorganization if he/she:
- Accumulates large quantities of objects, documents, papers or possessions beyond apparent necessity or pleasure
- Has difficulty parting with things and letting go
- Has a wide range of interests and many uncompleted projects
- Needs visual “clues” as reminders to take action
- Tends to be easily distracted or lose concentration
- Often has weak time management skills
Chronic disorganization can also be created when people who think or work in an unconventional manner try to use conventional methods of organizing. Although being situationally or chronically disorganized can often result in someone having a hoard of things, it does not classify him/her as a “hoarder”. Similar to situational disorganization, an individual may benefit from working with a professional organizer or may be able to go it alone.
The book Buried in Treasures, indicates compulsive hoarding is thought to be present when all three of the following criteria are met:
- The person accumulates objects that most people would consider of limited value and the person has a great deal of difficulty parting with those objects;
- The amount of clutter acquired limits the use of living spaces;
- The acquiring, owning and discarding of the objects causes considerable stress in the person’s life.
A licensed medical professional usually makes the diagnosis of a hoarding disorder and then prescribes a level of care that can (and almost always) includes working with a professional organizer and an on-going relationship with a licensed medical professional (such as a psychiatrist). Note: As hoarding is a medical disorder requiring on-going care, our website does not provide adequate resources to people with these conditions. Please see the resource section below for sites that can be more helpful.
How can you help someone who is disorganized?
If someone’s chronic disorganization or hoarding issues are affecting your life, it is important to explain how the disorganization affects your relationship with him/her without blaming. Indicate that you are concerned about your relationship with him/her and concerned for his/her well-being. Ask what would be the most effective way you can help in the situation, and please abide by the request.
If you are the person in the situation and you wish to seek outside assistance, you can find professional organizers in your area through the National Association of Professional Organizers and the Institute for Challenging Disorganization‘s directories. If you think you might be a hoarder, begin by talking with your physician. You also can find hoarding resources through the International OCD Foundation.
Regardless of which type of disorganization a person is dealing with, offer encouragement and support. Be compassionate if things don’t go as well as expected and help them celebrate their successes.