The Truth about Chronic Disorganization: What Causes It and How to Heal the Trauma of Lifelong Overwhelm and Frustration

Although I prefer the term “Lifelong Disorganization“, the established industry terms are “chronic disorganization” and “challenging disorganization” this is not intended to imply a medical condition, nor an “incurable” condition.

The intention of the terms are to distinguish an “ongoing pattern of disorganization” from the “short term situational disorganization” and clutter that is the normal result of grief, illness, having children, and other life events, transitions, and changes. That said, it is quite common for what started as “stituational disorganization” to evolve into “chronic” or “challenging disorganization.”


What is Situationally Disorganized?

When life throws you a curveball, most of us tend to accumulate clutter and become rather disorganized for a while. It’s happens to everyone. We become ill, a family member becomes ill, we are assigned a project at work that requires a lot of travel, or has a ridiculous deadline. Our lives change. We move, get married, have kids, or start a new job. During times of transition, a certain amount of chaos, clutter and disorganization is natural. This is what we call “Situationally Disorganized”: Disorganization that is a normal side effect of a life situation.

What makes “Chronic Disorganization” different?

Chronic Disorganization is different because when life transitions happen to you, instead of “recovering” and “restoring order” after a few months or so, the disorganization does not improve and may even continue to worsen over time. The clutter continues to accumulate. At a certain point, daily life becomes overwhelmingly stressful and chronic procrastination becomes a challenge as well. The clutter itself starts affecting your emotional state so strongly, you may find yourself so drained and depressed that you no longer have the heart or the energy to dig out alone.

Help will most likely be needed to recover. And, in many cases, it may be that you will need ongoing help to maintain a reasonable level of organization. If your quality of life is suffering, and you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed much of the time, and you don’t feel like you can fix it yourself, you are likely to be “stuck” in a pattern of being “chronically” disorganized. If you find that you tend to YO-YO between extremes of getting organized and then becoming overwhelmed with clutter, this “pattern” may also be considered “chronically disorganized.”

One of the key differences between situational and chronic disorganization is that not only are you functionally challenged, I have found that every CD person I’ve ever met or worked with, including myself, has been emotionally traumatized by the experience. Many of us become almost numb to the situation so don’t even realize the chronic pain we are in. There tend to be acute flareups of extremely intense emotions like frustration, anger, overwhelming grief and sadness for what your life could have been like, or disgust, followed by episodes of other addictive or compulsive behaviors like shopping, eating, creative projects, self-isolation, workaholicism, TV watching or other kinds of “escape.”

What is Chronic Disorganization?

Chronic disorganization is a term coined by Judith Kolberg when she noticed that some of her clients had great difficulty maintaining traditional organizing methods. Seeing a lack of resources for helping people overcome chronic disorganization, she wrote the book “Conquering Chronic Disorganization.”

In 2001, she founded the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization (NSGCD). With over 900 members, the NSGCD became the Institute for Challenging Disorganization and now includes psychologists, educators, coaches, and other professionals who work with people suffering from long term, severe clutter and disorganization.

The ICD defines chronic disorganization (now called challenging disorganization) as having all three of the following:

  1. A history of disorganization in which efforts to get organized
    have not been maintained.
  2. An ongoing undermining of your current quality of life due
    to disorganization.
  3. An expectation that you will continue to be disorganized.

The term “chronically disorganized” is NOT a “diagnosis” or an “illness”. It is a term used to indicate that conventional organizing methods designed by other people for the individual will probably not be maintained.   Healing and recovery will require custom designed organizing strategies and solutions tailored to the individual’s needs, learning style, and personality traits to become more organized. The individual may need:

  • Education and skills training to cultivate talents, aptitudes and mindset habits such as design thinking, emotional agility, decision-making, systems design, habit and trigger design
  • Agile needs assessment, agile SMART goal setting, and iterative solution and life cycle systems design approaches to organizing and time management needs
  • Personal Agility Coaching to cultivate self-leadership and inner conflict resolution skills as an alternative to relying on self-control
  • Coaching to design, redesign and cultivate habits and how to weaken the intensity of compulsive and impulsive behavior triggers that result in unwanted consequences
  • Emotional agility training to increase self-acceptance, self-confidence, self-advocacy and the strengthen the ability to detach from ideas, paper, things, commitments, etc with less intense grief
  • Hands-on coaching to establish a flexibly structured environment and develop iteration strategies for monitoring needs and making effective needs-centered adjustments regularly
  • Develop an integrative, iterative, agile lifestyle approach that is deeply committed to making time for meaningful self-organizing on a daily basis and views self-organizing as a creative, need-responsive part of life that is as essential to good health as eating and exercise are.

Much like someone might need a personal trainer, nutritionist or wellness coach to establish a lifestyle approach to healthy eating and exercising, severely chronically disorganized people are likely to need agility coaching in addition to a professional organizer and or therapist as part of their healing and transformation team.

If you are chronically disorganized, the standards for “being successfully organized” are different from what mainstream people perceive as well-organized and each individual will need to design their own standards and processes. For example, professional organizers often advise that  people open mail every day and process it immediately. For a chronically disorganized person, opening and processing mail once a week may be a more realistic, meaningful, and “good enough” standard.

Causes of Chronic Disorganization

Chronic disorganization is NOT a disease. It is a behavioral pattern found in all kinds of people, at every income level. Chronically disorganized people usually have some kind of neurodiverse personality traits.  They are often highly functional, exceptionally creative, non-linear thinkers and /or exceptionally technical, intelligent, empathic, emotionally intense, or sensitive.  They are often sociable, likable, compassionate, humorous, inventive, accomplished, energetic, enthusiastic and fun to be around when they are in supportive contexts and do not feel threatened or anxious. Other traits that seem to be related include: being ambidextrous, unusually open-minded, having many interests.

When stressed and feeling unsupported, they may exhibit impatient, controlling, perfectionistic behaviors as well as anxiety, angry outbursts, depression, grief and other expressions of deep disappointment, existential agony, and/or insecurity. Chronically disorganized people may be painfully shy or very extroverted.

Other potential contributing causes or correlated factors to consider include:

“Bricolage or Bricoleurs.” This group within the chronically disorganized community can be thought of as “inventive” types: People who experience an intense kind of joy when they invent or create something unique, whether it is a recipe, or a novel use for an ordinary item – a behavioral pattern called “bricolage” by anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss. Bricoleurs tend to collect things because they can see uses for the objects that most people would not notice. This challenges the notion that the drive to collect or hoard is primarily caused by OCD or a fear of scarcity or poverty. In many instances of hoarding, there is an intense pleasure factor driving an addictive relationship with objects.

Addiction to Insight.  The term “addicted to insight” was coined  in 2010 by Chris Fields, an extraordinary multidisciplinary scientist, researcher and synthesizer.  His work inspired me to create an experimental blog devoted to exploring how my life has been affected by being “addicted to insight.”

This group within the chronically disorganized population have an uncommonly profound and deep love of learning and researching: An extraordinarily strong drive to answer the questions of life and find meaning in everything.  When having an “aha” experience of deep understanding or insight, or when making a new connection or seeing a new pattern, insight addicts experience a rush of endorphins and a sense of euphoric well-being, energy and ecstasy that is similar to the kind of ecstasy that people describe from experiencing a “flow state,”  runner’s high, religious ecstasy, or even a shopping addict’s high.  This cognitive intensity can be source of social alienation and emotional trauma and even bullying.  This trait is also often associated with a tendency to challenge the status quo, challenge authority, and to seem argumentative and oppositional to people.  They often have a low tolerance level for mistakes and things that “don’t seem right.”

Neurotypical people have many pejorative labels for people like this ranging from nerd to  info-maniac to egg head, know-it-all, absent-minded professor, and book worms. Medical labels such as hypomanic and asperger’s are often given to people who exhibit a strong preference for learning, researching, and wanting to discover the truth.

Situational Life Events and Circumstances. Chronic disorganization is sometimes triggered by situational disorganization that has not been recovered for over a period of years. Situations that may trigger ongoing chronic disorganization include:

  • Traumatic emotional loss: divorce, death of a loved one – especially, parent, spouse, or child
  • Life changes that make organizing significantly more complex: getting married, having children, home-schooling, getting promoted, moving to a larger or smaller home, starting a business
  • A lifestyle with constantly changing needs such as moving frequently or having many children involved in lots of activities
  • Having been raised in an environment where life skills were not taught because everything was done for you, or you grew up with parents who were chronically disorganized, or you grew up in an abusive environment
  • Ongoing major chronic illness in your family

Personality Characteristics, Traits and Thinking Styles that tend to be associated with chronic disorganization include:

  • High intelligence / giftedness
  • High creativity / creative personality type
  • Right-brain dominant information processing style
  • A wide range of interests
  • Difficulty understanding own needs objectively
  • Strong emotional attachments to things
  • The energy of another person helps them feel “focused and interested”
  • Tendency to lose track of time
  • Ability to focus and engage so intensely that they may forget to eat and / or attend to daily life maintenance like shopping, cleaning & organizing
  • Difficulty focusing on things they don’t find fascinating
  • Tend to get easily stressed and frustrated especially if things don’t come easily or they can’t do something “perfectly”
  • “Global” thinking styles – tend to see everything at once
  • Difficulty categorizing and making decisions because they can think of so many possibilities
  • “Intuitive” and /or “Perceiving” preferences in their MBTI (Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator) personality type
Chronic disorganization is also commonly associated with ADHD, OCD, Autism, autistic spectrum disorders, chronic pain, depression, addiction to shopping, cluttering and hoarding, bi-polar disorder, Alzheimer’s, brain injury, and PTSD.

Are You Chronically Disorganized?

Whatever the causes may be, the signs are similar.  You may be chronically disorganized if:

  • Disorganization, clutter and poor time management are regularly disrupting your marriage, relationships, work and/or health
  • You have great difficulty letting go of things even when you no longer need them
  • Clutter is preventing you from using areas of home as you would like to
  • You have tried to organize many times but nothing seems to stick
  • You have purchased organizing books and organizing containers but not been able to apply them to your situation
  • You feel there is something wrong with you because you can’t maintain organizing systems

Chronic disorganization does not have to be a life sentence for chronic pain. Even though the tendency to become disorganized will always be present, many chronically disorganized people can heal from the emotionally traumatic elements of this pattern, design their lives to fit their needs and optimize personal performance, productivity and overall functioning using self-leadership strategies rather than self-control.

They can learn how to use their unique traits and tendencies to design uniquely inventive approaches to self-organizing. They can redefine organizing as a self-cultivating and nurturing process that is deeply meaningful, and can be very inspirational and improvisational.  The Agile Life Design approach to custom designing improvisational organizing systems can been used as part of a holistic treatment strategy to heal the impact of chronic disorganization and dramatically improve the overall quality of life.

Getting Help

Start with Changing  the way you See Yourself

If you think you might be chronically disorganized, a great first step would be to find a way to muster as much self-compassion as you can.  To help you shift perspective, try this exercise.

  1. Review your personal history to discover your personal patterns of disorganization and how it has evolved.
  2. Write or sketch a timeline of your life in 5 year increments. Create 3 columns for each 5 year period.
    1. Column One: List your significant, emotionally intense or stressful POSITIVE experiences.  Include achievements, happy events, relationships, activities that fully engaged you and where you felt most alive or accepted as you are.
    2. Column Two:  List painful, embarrassing or traumatic events, losses, etc.such as losing a job, being fired, divorce, deaths, serious illnesses, being bullied, developing an addiction, being diagnosed with a mental health condition, etc.
    3. Column Three: List significant events related to disorganization, clutter, etc. such as losing valuable items such as keys, purse, phones being punished for being late, being fired for disorganization, negative comments on school reports or performance reviews, relationships that broke up over disorganization, etc.
  3. Look for patterns and potential connections you may not have noticed before.  For example, making the honor roll at school, or getting a promotion at work and within the year becoming depressed or starting to drink etc.  This may have been a positive event, but the pressure to continue to achieve at a high level may be associated with an increase in hoarding behavior, lateness, addictive or distracting behaviors like TV or gaming, difficulty organizing,and more. This does not mean one thing caused the other, but they are connected and do make up part of your personal complex history with disorganization. Learn as much as you can about your own personal patterns without jumping to conclusions about what caused what.
  4. Make a list of all the ways you ARE organized.  What are you usually on time for? What are you always able to find or do easily because you are reasonably organized.  For example, some people are organized with their keys or purse or music or in the kitchen because they love to cook.  Some are organized at work but not at home.

 Even the most chronically disorganized people usually have a history of being organized in some area of their lives or with being able of helping other people organize. What are your bright spots of organization?  

Simply changing the way you see your own behavior and describing it to yourself differently will make it easier to design new, more effective approaches to the challenge.

Connect with Your Tribe

Find a way to connect with others who do not judge you and can help you see your behavior more compassionately. Consider connecting with a group that addresses chronic disorganization and has members who have experienced it themselves.

If the thought of having someone enter your home stresses you out, then joining an online support group can be a life transforming experience.

Hire Professionals

Professionals include life coaches, organizing coaches, social workers, therapists, counselors, professional organizers, or psychologists who specialize in chronic disorganization.  If you are anxious about having someone in your home, many professionals provide support over the phone or video-conferencing and can  help you become emotionally ready for in-home support.

Recovery requires accurately identifying addressing the underlying emotional needs, self-leadership, decision-making skills and cognitive habits that contribute to the behavioral manifestations of chronic disorganization. Sometimes a team that includes a therapist, life coach, hands-on organizer and/or cleaning crew may be indicated.

If you wish to consider working with professionals, the most important consideration is that you feel completely accepted and respected by them.  If someone makes you feel judged, stupid, or hopeless, of they make comments or use body language that feels condescending or disrespectful, do not work with them or end the relationship.

Select your professional organizer carefully. Recovery from chronic disorganization is usually a long term relationship that requires a lot of trust, respect and mutual commitment.  Not all people who call themselves professional organizers have the education and coaching skills needed to help people with a history of challenging disorganization recover.

Be prepared that, like dating, it may take several tries to find the right support for your unique situation. I recommend looking for a professional who specializes in Chronic Disorganization, ADHD, Autism or other neurodiversities.

One place to start is with the Institute for Challenging Disorganization.  ICD is the only organization I know of that is devoted primarily to providing education and training specifically on helping people with Chronic Disorganization.




Home Study Classes Programs and Books

  • ADDClasses offers and extensive library of 1 hour audio programs.  Two of my ADD classes (Neat & Simple Organizing Strategies, and Quantum Productivity) are available there.
  • Agile Living Reading List
ADD / ADHD Professional Referral Directories
Online Support Groups

Compulsive Hoarding


© 2009 – 2014 Ariane Benefit, M.S.Ed.

Ariane Benefit, M.S.Ed, Agile Living Life Design Coach, ADHD Coach, Author and Speaker. She is the founder of AgiliZen which help people heal lifelong performance impairment, and recover from anxiety, depression, addiction, chronic disorganization, clutter, overwhelm, and time management issues by cultivating the agile mindset. Ariane is dedicated to teaching people how to design sustainable satisfying success into their lives by cultivating the skills and habits of emotional agility, designing for your brain, decision-making skills, and creative, agile organizing.

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35 thoughts on “The Truth about Chronic Disorganization: What Causes It and How to Heal the Trauma of Lifelong Overwhelm and Frustration

  1. Pingback: Is it Clutter or a Collection? | Let's Clear Your Clutter!

  2. I’m back…….
    Nothing has changed much.
    I bought more cheap thrift store books on anything interesting………everything is interesting….info junky.
    Bought more plastic bins…….still empty.
    Have built-in drawers & cupboards ….yes…empty or hiding junk.
    I spend time organizing but forget the black hole I put it in…….re-buy when need it.
    Thrift & dollar stores seem to justify that……easier than tearing up the house again.
    Going camper camping for holiday……..always take 10 times more than I need…just in case.
    Hope to start fresh upon return.
    Unpacking camping stuff would be a good start…normally would leave it where it drops….until next trip.
    I wish I could be different. I’m tired of this way of living.
    If I could turn off my creative, inquiring brain, I would. It’s getting in the way.
    karen ann

  3. Yeah, this is exactly the kind of description I’ve been writing and thinking about regarding MY situation. I’m not a hoarder, but everything in my place is in the maximum state of entropy possible (well, I guess I could light it all on fire and increase it more…which I have considered, lol). I mean that not only are things out of cupboarsds and drawers and storage containers and areas, but the containers are empty, not even being used for the most part, things are spread all over every surface in the maximum possible state of disorganization.I sit here in self loathing about what I’m doing/have done to my life, and watch my self break promises to fix it on a daily basis from my state of paralysis.

  4. Me again.
    I pushed ‘submit’ in mid thought… mistake?
    Probably a good thing.
    I don’t think I would have actually sent it on purpose.
    Way too whiney & full of self pity……
    Yeah, glad I submitted it….need to get the monkeys off my back.
    I’m refreshed enough to get back to de-cluttering.
    Venting is good.
    Karen Ann

  5. I can see me in all of the above.
    The way people want to help is not the way I need help.
    I am going at my problem all alone and it is overwhelming to the point that I quit de-cluttering shortly after starting….and sit in it ashamed at my loss of self-control.
    I have seen counselors, but they don’t get it.
    Part of me would like someone to come in when I’m away and empty out the entire house so I can start fresh…..I don’t think I’d miss a thing…cuz it wouldn’t be my fault it’s gone.
    ..but if I am physically there when it happens, the only things leaving the house will be the friends trying to help me……been there with family….
    Blasting me with the woulda, shoulda, coulda’s…….and not just helping……
    I don’t need to be told what I should have done or not done…….there is no audio OFF button…I am already beating myself up about it.
    I can’t get over the possible embarrassment of seeing anyone seeing my mess, so, I am not even letting them in until I get the most embarrassing areas cleaned by me……catch 22…..I really don’t want them to see it all piled up in the driveway when coming out of the house…..the scope of my problem will be reveeled
    Family and close friends know it’s there, but haven’t seen it….they love me any way….good people….but, enablers????
    btw: I work in the office of my local fire department…….they haven’t a clue.
    I don’t know what I’d do if they ever had to come in an emergency.
    And….they will talk about it… a not so nice way. I’ve heard them before.
    I want to be fixed, but don’t know where to go anymore for help.
    I have future ambitions that involve moving out of my state…..none of that will happen until I get this resolved.
    Most of the problems are arts and craft supplies and books. I call myself an artist but have only made 3 things worthy of noting in 10 years.
    Someday I’ll use it all, I know that someday will never come…..time to re-direct my
    wants and let go of the never will be’s.
    I love life……I want mine to show it inwardly and outwardly…I chose life over things.
    please supply me with options…..or at least understanding of my issues.
    Keeping it a secret is a need for now….reminiscing later is okay….my be laughable.

  6. This is the first I have heard of this. It makes sense and in many ways seems to explain or describe me. The only thing that seems different is that I am very aware of enjoying daydreaming. I can sit amidst disorganization, clutter, and filth if I can day dream. I enjoy pulling out of the semi dream state and functioning and find I can be very very organized for brief periods of time. I have created a pattern of permission to day dream paired with periods of focused effort which in turn are rewarded with another time wasting period. Some how this year, I don’t feel like pulling out of the semi dream state anymore. It has affected my performance on my job, and now I feel really anxious about getting my work together. Reminds me of college procrastination and pulling all nighters to get high quality papers written. I am clearly taking it to the edge right now. I know my one daughter is now really grown, spending more and more time far from home as she studies law and prepares for her own life. I know I hate that. There is much more as would be expected given your definition of the causes of the problem. But the two things I wanted to point out are that it is not all misery at all and that loss triggers the need for escape.

  7. this has helped me to understand why im so messed up in myself and unable to think properly to organize my life. thank you for letting me see a little bit why this is so…it doesnt help me to get organized…just understand my problem somewhat…thanks

  8. I am a single mother with three children. All three of my kids are said to have ADHD. One of my children is also special needs. She has been diagnosed with neurofibromatosis, said to fall within the autistic spectrum, and possibly dyslexic. I myself am bipolar. I work part-time, am trying to go to school part-time, and sleep very little. To say our life is utter chaos would be an understatement. I had never heard of Chronic Disorganization until finishing your article just now. I am blown away. I have been miserably living with this situation for years and had no idea it was an actual disorder of sorts. I hate it and have tried all sorts of suggestions to correct it. Various people have helped at different times to get things cleaned and organized but within a month it is back to the same way again. I cannot afford to pay someone to come in and help clean on a regular basis. So, by this point, I am so stressed and overwhelmed all the time. We all are. Three of us are in therapy as well as on medication. It seems pointless to even try anymore because nothing has helped. If it were just me, I would be more than willing to put forth the effort to try and correct the problem because I hate living like this. I cannot find anything. I constantly feel stressed and on edge, unable to ever relax. I can never entertain or have friends over because the place should be condemned. I am mortified when someone stops over unannounced. It was suggested that I have someone come into the home to help out with my special needs daughter and her behavioral issues, etc. But that person turned me into DCS upon setting foot in our home. The case was closed and ruled that there just needed to be consistent chores assigned to keep things orderly. But no incentive plan, bribe, chart, etc. has proved successful. I feel as though people assume I am lazy and do not mind living in such messy quarters. That really eats at me because my place NEVER looked like this prior to marriage and kids. I’ll admit that I’ve never liked to do dishes. So, as long as I can remember, I have usually had a sink full of dishes waiting for me. However, aside from that, things were neat, clean, and peaceful. Then I got married to someone who I came to think of as the world’s biggest slob. It seemed so unfair to me that ALL three of our children inherited his infuriating “lazy” gene. But he, too, suffers from ADHD. I have since been told that a symptom of that disorder is the inability to finish a task or lacks the focus and initiative to even start. I do not know if this is true. All I know is that even if I was able to spend every waking moment cleaning and picking up, I still could not keep things under control. In any case, I have long felt that there was no hope for our situation and that it was just something I would somehow have to suffer through. But the reality of that only increases my depression. After reading about Chronic Disorganization, I find myself with mixed emotions. I am relieved to find out it is an actual condition and not laziness or sloppiness. However, I still find myself asking what the solution is in my particular situation. How do I train or “fix” all my kids into helping to resolve this situation? When I am not the only one making the mess, what can be done to help us ALL get things under control and remain that way?

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  12. Thank you for writing this. It really opened my eyes to some of the things I’ve been doing and didn’t realize why I was doing them. My son and I had carbon monoxide poisoning several years ago (longterm exposure) which caused brain damage. Since that time – I went from being an organized, structured business-minded person with an extremely successful business to losing it all after the illness and dealing with my new life and ways of thinking. I had no idea the poisoning had such an effect on me as I tried to go back to my normal life and fix up my business, etc. I’m now sick quite often – have low energy levels all the time and have developed the disorganization problems here. As I write, I’m sitting in the worst room in my home – my office – completely trashed worse than I’ve ever let it get before. I used to buy things from thrift stores – vintage suit cases because I liked them. A couple I actually use – the other are a waste of space. I feel sick from seeing the clutter. I want to rent a dumpster or rental truck and get it all out of here. I am ok with it and happy to do it – but need to make the arrangements and get it done. I have become highly artistic and creative – can paint and draw super realistically and sew. I am grateful to still have something that I can do well after the poisoning. But, I noticed I will go out and shop shop shop to buy more craft items maybe when I’m trying to avoid the fact that I need to clean up the house. I buy tons of organizers and wish I was OCD with organization. It’s not as out of control as some people – but it’s bad enough to make me really unhappy with it. Thank you for these resources – I need to get my problems at the home fixed. :)

  13. Ariane, what a wonderful, awesome blog post! You got it so right when you said, “Not all people who call themselves professional organizers have the education and coaching skills needed to help people create lasting change in their lives.” As a professional organizer since 1992, I’ve seen way too many cases where people feel bad about themselves because “professionals” have made them feel this way.

    I think it’s so important to help people right where they are, and make sure they feel good every step of the way. I like to liken getting organized to developing a muscle. Sometimes it’s about our habits. Sometimes it’s just about knowing where to start. Always it’s about how we feel along the way.

    I wish all of your wonderful subscribers the best on their organizing journey. Marsha Sims

  14. Are there any resources or advice for how to live with a chronically disorganized spouse? I strongly believe my wife fits this description and it has led to major problems in our marriage. I don’t believe she means to leave the house in such a condition, but I do not know how to respond to it after nine years of living together and the problem continuing to get worse. I am more than willing to help, but I think it is unfair to expect me to clean and organize everything that is her responsibility.

    • Hi Kevin,

      I can’t give specific advice specific to your situation via this blog, but I can tell you about resources developed by Dr. Ned Hallowell and Melissa Orlov that are designed for marriages affected by ADHD. They have written several high quality books. Learn more at

  15. Hi everyone!

    I have a friend just like Sally’s friend, she lives away from me so I don’t suffer with being late but with not answering my emails and the impulsivity. Well, I like her but I’m starting to get tired, so I will naturally get away and focus on other friendships that make more sense.
    Also I suffer with ADD and I’m a little disorganize and have trouble in keep schedules, but I do the best I can to treat my friends with respect.

  16. I have a friend who is extremely disorganized, her house is messy & dirty and when we make plans to meet she is always late & not 5-10 minutes more like hours. But she is caring, intelligent and has a wonderful heart.

    BUT as a friend (me who is on time and very organised) I find it extremely difficult to cope. Whenever I call her I know she will not answer so I leave a message and it may take her days or weeks to return the call.

    When I finally reach her on the phone I always feel as if I am intruding on her which I addressed with her and she says it’s not true. She says she wants to change but all the years I’ve known her she has been like this. Is there a way I can address this situation with her or myself to not take her too seriously, how does one do this to keep the friendship.

    • Hi Sally,

      I know this is a tough dilemma for you, but I’m glad you opened up the option of changing yourself. You cannot change other people. My recommendation is to use this relationship and your feelings about it to learn more about yourself. The brutal reality is that all options must be on the table including ending the friendship. If you go in with the goal of keeping a relationship, it puts you on an unsustainable, hard to win path that could lead to disrespecting yourself and your friend by trying too hard to change each other. The real issue here is for you to rethink what kind of friendships you want in your life and how far you are willing to go before you end it. Your friend can only give you what she can. You can request but not demand she meet your needs. It’s up to you to decide if you can be friends with her just the way she is.

      Thanks for writing as I know many people suffer from this kind of conflict in relationships with people who are different from them.

      I wish you all the best.

      • Thanks Ariane, a very good answer – it’s a hard one for me & I need to do some clear thinking ; but I do value her friendship she has a big heart but making plans or any contact is extremely difficult.

  17. Hi Ariane,
    I have always had problems with organizing but knew that I wasn’t a hoarder. I was diagnosed with ADHD in 2008 and have itunder control but still continue to have problems with organization.
    I have spent so much time trying to research and learn about organization but nothing was clicking or working. I had never heard of chronic disorganization until I came across your page today. I completely relate to this and know that this is what I am facing. I look forward to learning more about your programs. I think they could really help me.

    • I’m so glad you found this a helpful direction to start focussing your energy and attention. We would be delighted to have you join the Agilizen Foundation Program.

      You can join today and get access to 3 classes that I think you find very helpful.

      1) Intro to the 10 Mantras. about 2 hours long with examples and handout.

      2) The Agile Time Management class I gave on Jan. 17 about 90 mins. + handout
      3) The first Mantra class (a 3 hour program with extensive handouts) on “Aiming for the Agile Zone which provides concepts and tools for Agile prioritizing, Agile goal setting and more

      There is still time to register before we cut off enrollment in February. You can sign up for the Foundation program and get all three classes plus actually join the Facebook group and see what it’s like for just $67.

      If you find the program doesn’t fit your needs, you can unenroll at any time.

      Learn how to enroll here.

      Thank you for your interest. If you decide to join us, we look forward to supporting your personal growth and learning alternative ways to manage life with ADHD in 2013!

  18. Pingback: Agilizing Your Mind: Unlearning Clutter Producing Thinking Habits | Ariane Benefit, M.S.Ed

  19. Pingback: Gifted and Disorganized | Raising Smart Girls

  20. Pingback: What must I do to be…? | Write Away

  21. Thank you for posting such helpful information. I’ll work better with my clients with your good work as a resource!

  22. Pingback: Clarifying The Term: Chronically Disorganized | Organize With Charee

    • Charee, thank you so much for mentioning me in your article! Chronic disorganization and hoarding are far more prevalent than anyone ever guessed. It’s one of the last “secret shames” coming out into the open. You are spot on in noting that shame is a big part of it. Thanks for your valuable contribution to the conversation about this topic!

  23. Diana,

    Thanks so much for your note. I’m so honored that you chose to reach out to me. I know how hard it can be to ask for help. I don’t have availability to work one-to-one right now, but I am working on designing programs and groups for next year and look forward to your possible participation in them.

    In the meantime, keep the faith, keep working through the free material on this website, and consider also taking some of my recorded courses.

    All my best,

  24. I would like to reach out to get help. I am stuck. Withing myself…I have lot of knowledge, I do know where to go with it. I am feeling waste it.
    Please, help me find direction and to learn to put order in my life.
    Thank you!!

  25. I’ve been watching hoarding episodes online, and I know I have tendencies in that direction, although I know I also have a stopping point. I have always struggled with creating order and have just thought I am a lazy procrastinator. I have a neat-freak friend who claims to “vibrate” in the presence of disorder (she can’t handle it), and I’ve often wished I could “download” that trait, as it were.
    I would like to get a handle on the clutter, which just seems to spring up around me as sure as my heart beats. It seems that I can spend all my free time trying to create order leaving me no time for all the creative projects I would like to pursue.
    I feel like I am pursuing an unreachable goal (tidiness and order).
    Can I achieve this in my lifetime?

  26. I am chronically disorganized. I am 50 and single and have left the teaching field. I was a good teacher – but too disorganized. Slowly, over the years, it’s gotten worse and worse and worse. No one who knows me really “gets” how hard it is for me.

    Then again, I let no one, except the 7 pets and my sister, into my house. Everything in my life has been disrupted by the avalanche of important things and unimportant things all jumbled up in heaps and piles in my house. I desperately want help, but am not rich enough for expensive help. Any inexpensive help out there?

    November 6, 2011 | Cher

  27. This is me to a T! I’ve been in and out of counseling for years. I’m back to a “lower than low low”. I want and need help. I don’t know who to turn to. I’m on meds. I’m in my second marriage. I have 7 children and 11 grandchildren. I moved into a new house and finally have an office/crafting room. It’s a mess. I could not find a therapist in my area. Money is an issue.

    Having a diagnosis is great but now what?

  28. My son and daughter-in-law are very disorganized and live in constant clutter. The dishes can often be left in the sink for 24 hours at a time. They are both highly intelligent and creative. They are often chronically late. When I visit I feel like there’s a trainwreck waiting to happen. On the other hand they spend wonderful time with their 2 children and spend quality time doing what they enjoy.

    I recognize that I am very organized and never leave dishes in the sink. I’m almost anal about having my counters clean and washing dishes after every meal. I like my home picked up after what I consider a reasonable amount of time. So maybe this bothers me more than it should. We spent Christmas with them and every room was filled with clutter. I felt overwhelmed and energyless due to the surroundings. Yet my precious daughter-in-law spent a tremendous amount of time organizing gift-giving to 12 families.

    I ‘ve never said anything to them about this. My question is should I talk to them about it–I fear interfering where I should not.

    I just see how their lives are affected negatively by all of this. Thanks for writing this.

    January 2, 2011 | Jackie

  29. By your definition, im not a chronic disorganized person, but neither a situational disorganized, there´s something in the middle? My office, sometimes is a mess, but im not feel guilty and this do not stop my work.

    I let go a lot of things, including some that i will use… just to not see it again. I know where is everything until someone change something and only this stress me. I use to clean and organize my house once a month, (living alone), and do a lot of mess, specially in multi-uses room.

    My car is an extension of my house and my office, until no one can seat, including me. Well that´s sound like chronic… but since i have memory, i use to do a lot of mess, clean, organize, mess, clean, organize, and mess again. And im a excellent organizer, when i do.

    I do not read this complete at first, and i already found this:

    YES High intelligence and creativity
    I DONT KNOW Right-brain dominant information processing style
    YES A wide range of interests
    NO PROBLEM Difficulty understanding own needs objectively
    NO PROBLEM Strong emotional attachments to things
    MAYBE The energy of another person helps them feel “focused and interested”
    YES Tendency to lose track of time
    YES Ability to focus and engage so intensely that they may forget to eat and / or attend to daily life maintenance like shopping, cleaning & organizing
    YES Difficulty focusing on things they don’t find fascinating
    NO Tend to get easily stressed and frustrated especially if things don’t come easily or they can’t do something “perfectly”
    YES “Global” thinking styles – tend to see everything at once
    YES Difficulty categorizing and making decisions because they can think of so many possibilities
    DEFINITELY IM INTP “Intuitive” and /or “Perceiving” preferences in their MBTI (Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator) personality type

    October 15, 2010 | A disorganized person

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