About Chronic Disorganization

Chronic disorganization occurs when one habitually is disorganized over a long period. Judith Kolberg originally came up with the term chronic disorganization when she noticed clients who had the problem. The term means the person is constantly unsystematic in how she conducts life and business. One suffering from this problem may find relief in the fact that it isn't actually a diagnosis, illness, disease or even an "official" disorder. It's the continued lack of organization in many--or all--facets of one's life to his detriment.

Recognizing the Problem

Gathering information--through such mediums as newspaper clippings or whole magazines--and never filing the items can be a big symptom is this chronic disorganization.  Someone may become addicted to collecting a certain thing yet never organize the collection as it grows out of control.

This can especially be a problem for those with a lot of time and money at hand, yet the problem can be prominent for any type of person in a wide variety of situations.  One's personal attitude can often be a big part of why the chronic disorganization exists.

Simply because something is a particular way doesn't mean that's the way it should be, but people often lose sight of this.  Once the attitude of acceptance about being a "slob" or "procrastinator" is in someone's head, it's hard to remove.

It's important that one starts to change the thinking processes of negativity that, perhaps, led to the disorganization in the first place.  If someone tells himself that he is a slob, he will likely live up to that self-image created by him or by those around him.

By taking a step back and reprogramming that habitual thought, the actions made can more freely change as well One first receives true awareness of the disorder of chronic disorganization when it starts to negatively affect relationships with friends and family members.  Everybody becomes affected by this situation, especially those sharing living quarters with the one involved.

Expert Insight

Ariane Benefit, an organizing coach and chronic disorganization specialist, prefers to use the term "lifelong disorganization" when referring to the problem of chronic disorganization.  The National Study Group for Chronic Disorganization recommends that one get help through a professional organizer or a nonjudgmental friend.

The NSGCD worked with Monika Eckfield Petross, RN, MSN.  She's a doctoral student at the University of California at San Francisco School of Nursing.

Their study found that all of the subjects in the study had problems with making decisions.  There were varied reasons given for this problem of decision-making.

Among them were fears and prioritizing issues.  Research is ongoing for the link between problems in decision-making and chronic disorganization.

Hope for Chronic Disorganization

The problem of chronic disorganization is solvable.  However, once one's life has been let go into disarray, it is difficult to climb back to the top.

The person overcoming the problem should not be left to his own devices.  A professional organizer can work the person through this problem.

The National Study Group of Chronic Disorganization is the most trusted organization to go to for finding an organizer on the nationwide level.  Many organizers will not have the training to deal with someone with chronic disorganization, but ones found through the website below (in Resources) can have a greater chance of working successfully with the people who need them.


Pack rats are often considered victims of chronic disorganization, but this isn't always the case.  Many are capable of keeping lots of things, and keeping them in order.

The person with chronic disorganization will keep those things, yet keep them in disarray Many people associate chronic disorganization with having a clinical problem such as obsessive compulsive behavior, although this may seem at the opposite end of the spectrum.  Keep in mind that chronic disorganization is not yet classified as an illness or disorder, and that should be explained when approaching someone who has it.

An intervention-style discussion can be had with the person if you notice it starts to be truly detrimental, but the one involved should be offered all of the information about the problem, including the good news about it.  It is, after all, a solvable situation.

Disorganization as a Symptom

Chronic disorganization can sometimes be a symptom of a greater underlying problem.  Depression can cause extreme messiness as the one suffering loses interest in things that once mattered.

This is especially something to look for in someone who is usually exact about cleanliness.  Talk to your loved one if you notice any severe behavioral changes.

That could be a sign of something more problematic than disorganization.  Those suffering from anxiety disorders and a hoarding compulsion often are chronically disorganized.

Warning Signs

Chronic disorganization often begins with situational disorganization, something most people experience at some point.  Someone who has lost someone significant to him through a falling out may start to be disorganized.

Those who have experienced the recent death of a loved one are also at risk.  A broken-hearted person may fall prey to disorganization after the trauma of a divorce.

Someone who experienced changes in life and in his career may be prone to letting things like organization and order fall to the wayside.  However, one doesn't instantly have chronic disorganization.

Situational disorganization can often be resolved as one heals and picks herself up from the problems and traumas faced. 


"If you're going through hell, keep going" That's an old saying that's true about one's struggles with chronic disorganization.  Every person has the power to change within himself.

It's a matter of staying organized, one day at a time.  Those who have left chronic disorganization in the past have often done so by promising to stay organized simply for that single day.

About the Author

Robin Raven was first published in 1998. She has contributed to newspapers, magazines and online publications, including "The Malibu Times," "Act'ionLine" for Friends of Animals, USA Today Travel Tips and the official Melissa Gilbert website. Raven specializes in travel, health, beauty, culture, vegan nutrition, joyful living, arts and entertainment. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in writing.