Chronic disorganization: is that another way to describe when a person keeps a sloppy or messy space? The answer is no. It goes far deeper than that. In this episode of the Sage Aging Podcast, we dove into this topic because it touches so many lives yet often remains hidden in the shadows.
I had the pleasure of chatting with Nicole Ramer, the passion behind Organized Haven, a company that specializes in moving, downsizing, and senior move management. Nicole’s expertise sheds light on this challenging issue. I’ll recap the highlights here, but for the full conversation, tap the play button on the image above.
What Is Chronic Disorganization?
Nicole explains, “Chronic disorganization is something that we are challenged by for as long as we can remember. It impacts our quality of life and the way we’re able to function.” This isn’t just about having a cluttered garage or a pile of unsorted mail. It’s about a persistent struggle that affects daily living.
The Difference Between Clutter and Chronic Disorganization
We all deal with clutter, but chronic disorganization is different. It’s less about the stuff; it’s more about how the stuff impacts your life and your ability to function. Someone who displays hoarding behavior or suffers from hoarding disorder may need assistance beyond the cleaning up of the physical space. For the chronically disorganized, it is not a matter of lacking time management skills or home organizing skills. There could be a mental health issue that needs attention.
The Role of Professional Organizers
Professional organizers and organizing services like Nicole’s don’t just sort through things; they provide education and strategies to help people manage their spaces better. This is vital for those dealing with chronic disorganization or hoarding tendencies.
The Emotional Aspect of Chronic Disorganization
Nicole emphasizes the emotional side of disorganization and hoarding. “It can be hard to put things in order,” she says, noting that conditions like ADHD, depression, and anxiety can contribute to these challenges. But the good news is that, properly managed, these conditions do not have to sentence an individual to a lifetime of chronic disorganization.
The Importance of Trust
Working with chronically disorganized individuals, especially older adults, requires building trust. Nicole shares, “Older adults are slow to trust others… They won’t even let you into their home if they think that you’re going to judge them.” I’d say that is likely the case for most of us, wouldn’t you? If your loved one struggles with this, be patient, be kind, and educate yourself. That will get you a whole lot closer to a solution.
Solutions and Strategies
Nicole offers practical tips for those facing this issue. She suggests breaking down big projects into smaller tasks and using techniques like ‘treasure hunting’ to make organizing more engaging. These strategies help to make the process a little less overwhelming for everyone.
Preventing Chronic Disorganization
To prevent chronic disorganization, Nicole advises starting early with downsizing and ensuring everything in your home has a place. Regularly downsizing and having a designated spot for donations can make a big difference. Chronically disorganized or not, this is something that will benefit anyone. I have an annual purge at the beginning of each year. If items are no longer serving me, I feel good about letting them serve someone else.
Nicole leaves us with sage advice: “Getting through the situation is really just 40% physical organizing and 60% education.” It’s about changing beliefs and habits to make a lasting difference.
Remember, chronic disorganization is more than just clutter. It’s a complex issue that requires understanding, patience, and often professional help. Let’s approach it with empathy and support.
Resources and Links
Nicole left us with a treasure chest of resources if you’d like to dig deeper:
- The ICD Clutter Quality of Life Scale
- Buried in Treasures – Help for Compulsive Acquiring, Saving, and Hoarding, David F. Tolin, Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee
- I’m Right Here – 10 Ways to Get Help for Hoarding and Chronic Disorganization, Jill B. Yesko, CPO, SMM~C
- Conquering Chronic Disorganization, Judith Kolberg
- Digging Out – Helping Your Love dOne Manage Clutter, Hoarding & Compulsive Acquiring, Michael A. Tompkins, Ph.D. & Tamara L. Hartl, Ph.D.
- Keep the Memories, Lose the Stuff – Declutter, Downsize, and Move Forward with Your Life, Matt Paxton
- National Association of Senior Move Managers
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