Certified Professional Organizer®, Linda Samuels, shares organizing tips for those who are chronically disorganized.
If getting and staying organized has been a consistent lifelong struggle, you might be chronically disorganized. The term, “chronic disorganization” was developed by Judith Kolberg, founder of the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization, which has now become The Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD). There are four hallmarks of chronic disorganization, which include:
• History of disorganization
• Unsuccessful self-help efforts to change
• Disorganization that negatively affects the quality of daily life
• Future expectation of disorganization
If you are organizationally challenged, traditional methods of linear organizing will probably not be effective. Utilizing other strategies and considerations can make the difference between having continued frustration or experiencing organizing success. Consider these ideas:
1. Readiness to Change – One of the keys to shifting patterns is the readiness factor. We might desire change, but aren’t quite prepared to move forward. To understand where you are in the change process, learn more from the Readiness to Change fact sheet I wrote for ICD.
2. Emotional Attachments – The organizationally challenged often have stronger emotional attachments to their belongings. This makes the editing and letting go process more difficult. There are many creative ways to facilitate releasing, including giving possessions “safe passage” to family, friends or meaningful charities. Another way to work through the letting go process is by taking photos or videos of the objects, which honors their memory and makes it easier to release the physical items.
3. Kinesthetic Sympathy – Especially for those that have strong emotional attachments to their things, the act of handling and touching them during the organizing process only strengthens those bonds. A simple technique of having another person hold the object for the decision-maker can shift the outcome. It de-intensifies the emotional attachment and allows the decision-maker to be more objective and able to let go.
4. Organizing Buddy – Getting organized can be less overwhelming with the help of an organizing buddy. This can be a family member, friend or professional. Using a buddy transforms the organizing process from a solo to a social activity, which can be extremely effective. If resistance and attention issues are prevalent, the buddy can infuse energy, provide encouragement, focus, objectivity, and fun.
5. Enlisting Help – We all have strengths. If organizing is particularly challenging for you and you’re feeling stuck, it might be time to enlist the help of a professional organizer. Consider hiring one who specializes and has training in working with chronically disorganized clients. Both ICD and NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers) have online directories for finding professionals in your area.
6. Patience – It takes time and patience to make changes. This is especially true when there is a long-term challenge with disorganization. Remember that chronic implies persistent and ongoing. Be patient with yourself as you take the steps towards your organizing goals. Expect that progress will be slow and not necessarily a straight trajectory. There may be times that you slide a few steps backwards and then move forward again. Backsliding is normal. Take small steps and build off each success.
Chronic disorganization is not a diagnosis. It’s a pattern of being. If it is causing you undue stress and struggle on a regular basis, the good news is that when you are ready, change is possible. Be compassionate, patient and open to enlisting help if needed. Are you or someone you know organizationally challenged? What is possible now?
About The Author
Linda Samuels, CPO-CD® is a compassionate, enthusiastic professional organizer and coach, founder of Oh, So Organized! (1993), author of The Other Side of Organized, and blogger on organizing and life balance. She has been featured in The New York Times, Woman’s Day, Bottom Line Personal, Westchester Magazine, Everyday with Rachael Ray, and Enterpreneur.com.
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