Is your loved one challenged by chronic or situational disorganization?

by Tina ~ February 25th, 2015.


If someone you care about is struggling with clutter and disorganization, you may be wondering what you can do to help.

The first step is to determine whether they are chronically or situationally disorganized.

Situational Disorganization

The Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD) states that

“situational disorganization occurs when one finds oneself in clutter or chaos for a short period of time, resulting from an unusual turn of events or changes in living arrangements.”

We’ve all been there at one time or another. Being ill, caring for a sick family member, moving, and changing jobs are all examples of the types of situations that may disrupt our routines and cause temporary disorganization.

Offering a helping hand to get things back on track may be all that’s needed, but it often helps to bring in a professional organizer who can create systems that will make it easier to stay on top of everything the next time life throws a curve ball.

Chronic Disorganization

Chronic disorganization, on the other hand, goes much deeper. In her book, Conquering Chronic Disorganization, Judith Kolberg states that

“Chronic disorganization that has a long history, undermines one’s quality of life on a daily basis, and recurs.”

Rather than resulting from a short-term situation, chronic disorganization may be caused by a number of different factors, including neurological conditions, mental health issues, and addictions.

Unless you are a trained professional, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to provide the type of support that is required by someone who is chronically disorganized, but you can encourage them to seek treatment for the underlying problem.

To help determine whether your loved one is chronically or situationally disorganized, and to develop a plan of action, the ICD offers a number of free downloads, including:

  • Are you chronically disorganized?
  • Are you situationally disorganized?
  • Common characteristics of individuals challenged by chronic disorganization
  • Factors associated with disorganization
  • Should I hire a professional organizer or work with a friend?
  • How do I find a professional organizer that’s right for me?
  • Readiness for change

Hoarding Disorder

In 2013, Hoarding Disorder was added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). More serious than either situational or chronic disorganization, this disorder has come to public awareness through such TV programs as Hoarders and Hoarding: Buried Alive.

A person who has hoarding disorder experiences an irrational, persistent difficulty in discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value.  Over time, they’ll collect so much clutter that it becomes next to impossible to live in their apartment or home in a normal manner.

It is estimated that hoarding disorder affects somewhere between 2 and 6 percent of the population.

(Source: Hoarding Disorder Symptoms, PsychCentral)

Here are some interesting facts about compulsive hoarding:

All About Hoarding Infographic
All About Hoarding – An infographic by the team at Bingham Self Storage

If you suspect your loved one may have Hoarding Disorder, you may find it helpful to read How to Talk to Someone with Hoarding by Cristina M. Sorrentino. As with any mental illness, you can encourage someone to seek professional help, but you can’t force them to do so.

Recommended Reading

  • Digging Out: Helping Your Loved One Manage Clutter, Hoarding, and Compulsive Acquiring, by Michael A. Tompkins & Tamara L. Hartl
  • Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother’s Compulsive Hoarding, by Jessie Sholl
Categories: clutter.
Tags: , .

2 Responses to Is your loved one challenged by chronic or situational disorganization?

  1. Janet Barclay

    I’ve never heard of any of the five “famous” hoarders mentioned in the infographic. It would be interesting to learn more about them!

  2. Olive Wagar

    Fantastic infographic!!

Leave a Reply