What is Chronic Disorganization?
What is chronic disorganization?
Let me first tell you a story. In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was condemned to push a huge stone to the top of the hill. With great physical exertion he pushed and pushed all day long until he got the stone all the way to the top. But no sooner had he reached the top than the stone rolled all the way back down to the bottom. Sisyphus then had to begin his efforts all over again. This is a quote from the book “Organizing for the Creative Person”, written by Dorothy Lehmkuhl. It is a sentiment commonly expressed by my chronic disorganized clients. Chronic Disorganization can be described by some clients as an uphill battle.
Chronic Disorganization is defined as severe disorganization which requires hands-on organizing assistance, plus on-going organizational support such as regular organizing sessions or coaching. It has three defining features: the persistence of severe disorganization over a long period of time, a daily undermining of one’s quality of life by disorganization, and a history of failed self-help efforts. It has to do primarily with how one learns. It is an expression of the bad fit between conventional organizing practices and unconventional learners.
Chronic disorganization is not helped by logic, as the chronic disorganized have strong emotional attachments to their possessions. Their possessions need to be treated with respect. Judith Kolberg has written many books on the subject of Chronic Disorganization. Her techniques evoking emotional organizing, which is described in her book, “What every professional organizer needs to know about Chronic Disorganization,” have been proven to be very successful with the chronic disorganized.
Some of her suggested techniques evoking emotional organizing are treasure hunting, which is to find in your house the items that are truly treasures in your life. This game can make it easier for a person to then identify other items as trash. My preferred game is playing favorites, where I allow my clients to identify who their friends, their acquaintances, and their strangers are. These techniques can be very helpful to a chronically disorganized person.
Judith also advocates the importance of social organizing. Social organizing is a necessity for the chronically disorganized. It is the only way to raise their level of organization and to maintain it. There are several forms of social organizing, one being body double. In body double a professional organizer, friend or a mirror serve as an anchor for the chronically disorganized. Anxiety is one of the most common emotions that affects organizational abilities of the chronic disorganized. Some believe that the anxiety is the result of the clutter, and indeed it may be. The clutter may be also the result of the anxiety. Clutter has a very impactful effect in our lives, our relationships with friends, family, and our pets.
Maintenance is the natural progression put in place to maintain the new level of organization the chronically disorganized has reached. All maintenance structures are social, on the promise that no matter how motivated my clients might be, maintaining the level of organization created together is difficult to do alone. The reality is that to organize a lifetime of clutter that has accumulated over a period of ten, twenty, or more years, realistically might take many hours, weeks, and even months of work.
The field of professional organizing has proven to be valuable to chronically disorganized clients and is certainly evolving to help more people in our consuming society. Collaborative therapy between therapist, clients and professional organizers has been the subject of many studies with positive results.
To find a qualified Professional Organizer in your area: The Institute for Challenging Disorganization
To find the causes of Chronic Disorganization you can download some valuable fact sheet on the ICD website.