Chronic Disorganization

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.


Nicole Ramer of Organized Haven helps us understand chronic disorganization and hoarding.

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

Nicole left us with a treasure chest of resources if you’d like to dig deeper:


Disclaimer: The content on this site is meant for general informational purposes and should not be considered professional advice. While we strive for accuracy, we recommend consulting experts for specific guidance. We are not responsible for any decisions made based on this information.


Liz Craven
Liz Craven

Liz Craven, co-publisher of Sage Aging ElderCare Guide alongside her husband Wes, brings a blend of personal experience and heartfelt dedication to her work. Their path in eldercare started with a family story — caring for Wes' grandmother, Mabel, who faced Alzheimer's. This personal chapter not only highlighted the complexities of eldercare but also ignited their passion to support others in similar situations. Later, Liz and Wes filled the caregiver role three more times for their parents. Through the Sage Aging ElderCare Guide, Liz offers a mix of empathetic insight and practical advice, making eldercare more approachable and less daunting for families. Her commitment shines through in every piece of advice, aiming to ease the journey for others as they navigate the world of eldercare.

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