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Getting Organized

Is Clutter Following You?

Vicki Norris
Restoring Order Congratulations! If you have been following our five part series on the causes of our disorganization, you have reached the final installment! Hopefully, you’ve discovered how you became so messy and frantic in the first place and have gained the motivation to dig out.

In our series, we’ve covered five kinds of causes of disorganization:

  1. Situational Disorganization-- When Life Events Get You Downright Disorganized
  2. Habitual Disorganization --When Your Habits Catch Up with You
  3. Historical Disorganization –When Family Matters When It Comes to Disorganization
  4. Social Disorganization –When Keeping Up With the Joneses is Keeping You in Chaos
  5. Chronic Disorganization--When Clutter  Has Followed You Throughout Life

 A Deeper Level of Disorganization

Chronic disorganization is another way people arrive in chaos. This phrase is not a subjective term. In fact, there is an actual condition called “chronic disorganization” as well as a group of people who study it. (Don’t jest, it’s a real problem and I belong to that study group!) If you’ve ever wondered why none of your efforts to organize yourself have succeeded, you might fall into this category.

In my organizing business, I have worked with a small percentage of people over the years who are chronically disorganized. Most disorganized folks do not fall into this category. They are simply overwhelmed by accumulation, life events, a fast-paced existence, and other transitory problems.

The chronically disorganized, however, are likely have a home or work space (or both) that is piled to the rafters with clutter. Often, they feel helpless to overcome their disorganization. Some television shows profile those with chronic disorganization, including hoarders and lifelong collectors. Indeed, chronically disorganized people require more specialized service than those who came by their disorganization by way of situation, habits, family history, or social influence. It is unlikely that a chronically disorganized person can independently pull themselves out of their circumstances alone.

Defining Chronic Disorganization

If you’ve tried a number of methods to dig out, only to find yourself in the same place you started, this may be your unique brand of disorganization. According to the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization (NSGCD), the definition of chronic disorganization is “having a past history of disorganization in which self-help efforts to change have failed, an undermining of current quality of life due to disorganization, and the expectation of future disorganization” ( In short, if you’ve been disorganized in the past, have tried to change on your own, and forecast similar unsuccessful results in your future, you may suffer from chronic disorganization.

Sometimes, there may be conditions that co-exist with chronic disorganization, like depression, Attention Deficit Disorder, or obsessive compulsive disorder. These conditions may or may not be present in an individual with chronic disorganization. These conditions can exacerbate the living and working situation of the individual with chronic disorganization.

The important thing to know is that just because you suffer from chronic disorganization does not mean that you are stuck in disorder forever. I encourage anyone who thinks they may suffer from chronic disorganization to visit the website of the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization. On this website, you can find more information and a referral directory in case you decide to enlist the help of an expert or investigate resources for you to conduct further research.

Authentic Organizing


If we really want to get organized for good, we have to change our thinking before our behavior will begin to change. If we want to banish our backsliding ways, we must identify and remedy the ways we became disorganized and we must embrace authentic organizing.

What is authentic organizing? It’s not what you’ve heard….it’s not about plastic bins and baskets. It’s not the latest shortcut, tip, or trick. It’s not about having a beautiful home that looks like it could be featured in a magazine. Authentic organizing is for the brave who are willing to examine themselves and change their own ways. You can become authentically organized when you willing trade your circumstances, past, bad habits, and social pressures for the freedom of quality of life. I invite you to throw off anything that has hindered you from getting organized –including these five causes of disorder--and step into the life you were meant to live!

Read How Did I Get So Disorganized, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4

Adapted from: Restoring Order™ copyright © 2006 by Vicki Norris (available now at and in July 2007as Reclaim Your Life™.  Copyright © 2007).  Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR. Used by permission.

About the Author: Vicki Norris is an expert organizer, business owner, speaker, television personality, and author who inspires people to live out their priorities. Norris is a regular on HGTV’s nationally syndicated
Mission: Organization, and is a recurrent source and contributor to national lifestyle publications including Quick & Simple magazine, Better Homes & Gardens, and Real Simple magazine. Norris is also author of Restoring Order™ to Your Home, a room-by-room household organizing guide.



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