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What is Chronic / Challenging Disorganization?

I’m a professional organizer, specializing in the field of chronic / challenging disorganization.  So, what exactly does that mean???  Let’s explore the meaning of those words.

Chronic can mean reoccurring, continuing, for most of the time or for a long time.

If asked to describe a person that was disorganized, what are some visuals or descriptions that might come up?

Maybe they often lose or can’t find their keys…

Or they feel scattered most of the time…

They have too much in their home or it is cluttered with excess.

Now, because emotions play such a large part in our daily lives, I would like to bring in the emotional aspects that could be thought of with chronic disorganization… Emotions like Frustration, Anger, Guilt, Shame, Irritation, Desperation, Depression and Overwhelm.

With all the descriptions regarding the term chronic disorganization, do you think there could be any feelings of Hope?  What about Comfort, Joy, or Happiness?  I believe that there is hope and I also see light at the end of the tunnel.

Three letters have brought that hope to me… You see, I belong as a subscriber to the ICD.  Those three letters stand for the Institute of Challenging Disorganization.

The ICD definition of Chronic Disorganization has 3 components:

First, having a past history of disorganization in which self-help efforts to change have failed,

Second, an undermining of current quality of life due to disorganization,

And third is the expectation of future disorganization.

Now you may have noticed, the letters in ICD stands for Challenging NOT Chronic.

So, what is the difference?  The term challenging describes disorganization that poses a problem for an individual.  For many people this may be a lifelong problem.  But for others, it may be a problem brought on by circumstances.  (By the way, ICD selected the term “challenging” to replace “chronic” in their name because it was seen as less clinical sounding, less confusing, more inclusive and more hopeful.)

Merriam-Webster describes challenging as difficult in a way that is usually interesting or enjoyable.

So now, more positive words are being used:

Interesting, Enjoyable… And, yes, I did notice the word Difficult was also in there!

And this is where the words Hopeful, Comfort, Joy and Happiness could come back around that I mentioned earlier.

You may have heard the phrase “Knowledge is power.”  I have learned through ICD that chronic / challenging disorganization can come from different situations:

It can be neurological or brain based:

Traumatic Brain Injury

Autism Spectrum Disorder

ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)

Diagnosis of Depression or Anxiety Disorder

Compulsive Hoarding Disorder

An aging brain that is experiencing Dementia or memory loss through Alzheimer’s

This can also be situational and stem from a traumatic life event:

A death,


An unexpected health emergency

Even happy life changing events can turn out to be challenging:

A marriage

Career change

The birth of a child

Or moving to a new home

Possessions may be viewed differently or time to get (and stay) organized may be at a much lower priority.  Some common characteristics of individuals with chronic disorganization are:

Accumulation of large quantities of objects, papers and possessions – Going beyond apparent needs or pleasure

They have difficulty letting go of things

They tend to be easily distracted or lose concentration

They may have cluttered living areas

Storage areas in the home or outside the home are often filled to capacity

Multiple projects are started but not finished – and they may have difficulty completing household tasks like laundry, housecleaning, and yard work.

Many treatments are available and can include working with mental health services including psychotherapy, medication and Cognitive-behavioral Therapy.  Support can also be accessed through professional coaches and organizers,

Chronic Disorganization can be difficult, however it is not hopeless.  With all of the new research and information available, there is a new hope on the horizon.

ICD is a non-profit educational organization whose mission is to benefit people affected by challenging disorganization. Visit


Published: July 2, 2016 | Comments: 0