When is a mountain of clutter NOT a clutter problem? When it’s a different root problem. There is no amount of bins, folding, or productivity hacks that will fix these problems that masquerade as clutter. Here’s how to tell when it’s not a clutter problem.
When It’s Not a Clutter Problem
Health Issues Cause Clutter
Health issues can derail everything. Whether it’s your health or someone else’s, when you’ve got a sudden onset of catastrophic health issues, your house won’t be magazine-ready, and that’s OK. There are things you can do to prepare for surgery, for example, but not all illness are pre-planned or quick recoveries. Without your health, nothing else matters, so you can relax your standards for a bit…but be sure to get outside help for laundry, meals, and general housekeeping if the basics are getting in the way of you being able to survive. By the way, brain health IS physical health, so brain injury and mental health need to be addressed, rather than focusing on the size and number of bins in use.
Overcommitment Causes Clutter
If you just have too darned much work for the amount of hours in your day, you might need an assistant, not an organizer. True, a pro organizer can often give you time back in your day through productivity improvements. But there are folks who are trying to just do too much. We all only get 24 hours in a day, and if you have way more than could ever fit into those 24 hours on your best day, then you need to delegate. Sometimes family members need to pick up the slack. Sometimes you need to hire help like for pro organizing. And sometimes a paid assistant is the answer.
Poor Project Management Causes Clutter
If you have a lot of open (or competing) projects, then you need some project management tools and focus. Putting things in bins, file folders, and dressers isn’t going to clear your projects. Making lists isn’t going to clear your projects. You might need true project management to help you determine what comes first, second, and third. Some actions are dependent on other parts of your plan. What resources do you need to hire? How much will different elements of your plan cost? Project management is way more than just a list. That’s one reason that people hire a pro organizer. We are project managers, getting through the right steps, in the right order, all the way to the end.
Trauma Causes Clutter
Trauma can stop us in our tracks. When it’s not addressed, you aren’t healthy. It’s still a bit of mystery why some people appear to process trauma and then move on with their lives, and others just don’t. Trauma can include the death of a loved one, life-changing health diagnosis, abuse, divorce or any loss of a partner, job loss, or other losses that you may never hear about. That year and a half we all spent protecting our kids while schooling/working/eating/exercizing/doing everything at home? Yeah, that was trauma, too. While some people got hyper-organized within the first thirty days of lockdown, some of us are just recovering from having too many people at home for too long. That’s not a clutter problem. It just looks like it from the outside.
Hoarding isn’t Just a Clutter Problem
Hoarding is not a clutter problem. The hoarding disorder was recently recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as its own disorder within the DSM-V. Hoarding isn’t just extreme clutter. It’s not just the inability to pick up after yourself. Hoarding disorder is a break from reality. It’s defined by an inability to discard items and being in distress if anything, even trash, is removed. I’ve seen people refuse to live by the immutable rules of physics, that only so many things can live in one house. Hoarding disorder causes financial and relationship pain. If you have a mess but crave and accept help getting to a better situation, you are not a hoarder. To start a discussion with someone you love about getting help for this mental disorder, start here with the Clutter Hoarding Scale.
The Good News about Your Clutter Problem
Yes, there’s good news! Lots of it. Circumstances change. You can learn new skills. You can get help. You can hire a judgement-free professional organizer, for starters. The free mini course from SORT and Succeed is a great first step. Today is the best day to start.