How to Help your Family Member who has Chronic Disorganization

Do you have a family member who is struggling with chronic disorganization?  Have you tried to help them only to be left feeling frustrated and both of you feeling angry at each other?  This is certainly a huge challenge that I am sure would not be easy to deal with.  Sometimes the individual does not even see that there is a problem.  Family members who mean well want to help but their loved one is feeling defensive and has trust issues with everyone.  That is why it is a good idea for individuals to have other supports available and in more severe cases they may need a wrap around team approach.

When a family member is resistant, it can be a matter of helping them to get to the point where they have done the minimum requirements to be safe and in some cases be able to keep their apartment or home.  As a family member you can stress to them that you are concerned for their safety and health.

So, how do you help your family member to be motivated?  Are they having difficulties on a day to day basis with remembering appointments, paying bills, finding things, tripping over belongings or piles toppling over?

What are the challenges they are dealing with every day?  They might be feeling overwhelmed enough that they are willing to accept some help.  What does your family member want to be doing with their days?  What are their goals for the future?  These are the clues for you to help them and to see how motivated they are to work on their issues.

There is a great book that is directed at family members called “Digging Out” and it takes a harm reduction kind of approach.  Here is some more information on harm reduction.

How To Practice Harm Reduction in Hoarding


  1. Let your family member know that they are in the drivers seat and they get to make their own decisions.  They get to decide on where to start or what to work on?  This can be difficult for the person helping, however, there still will be opportunities to ask questions in order to help with the awareness of pros and cons of a decision or possible consequences.
  2. It is best for the individual to always be responsible for decisions around the clutter.  Items should never be discarded without the individuals knowledge or permission.  I have seen this happen too many times and unfortunately this just leads to more distress and dysfunction.  Avoid doing the work for the individual and think about doing the work along with the family member.
  3. Show compassion and acceptance.  I know how hard this can be, but to really help our loved one, we need to let go of any judgement and try to be there for them.  Normalizing things as much as possible is really important.  Making jokes, going out for coffee or lunch can mean the world to someone who is struggling everyday with clutter and chaos.
  4. Acknowledge feelings “it sounds like this is really hard for you”,  “I can see you are sad about going through mom’s things” “its okay to be unsure about throwing this item away”, etc.   Let them know that you realize this is really hard work and that you are proud of them for starting the process.  We have a saying in our Clearing Clearing Support Group that is “SMALL IS HUGE”.  Reward small efforts.
  5. Learn more about clutter/hoarding issues.  Read my blog posts for some helpful information or check out some of the great books available.  I have some listed under resources.  Also, if you are local (in London, On) come out to one of my talks coming up and bring your family member with you.
  6. Be kind to yourself.  It can be really challenging to help someone who is struggling with hoarding.  You will need to take good care of yourself and also work on setting healthy boundaries in order for you to do this work.  Reward yourself.

Please comment below with any thoughts, questions or ideas about successes you have had while working with others.


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A Peek into a Professional Organizers Home – Welcome to my Grotto


I love change!  Actually, I love doing renovations in my home and always have plans for how I can improve things.  I love cleaning up my space and I am in my happy place when I have the time and energy to give my home some tender loving care.  I am all about decluttering my home and also upgrading.  

As a Professional who works with people who struggle with clutter, you might think my home would be perfect.  Not at all!  I really like the lived in look and want my home to be a sanctuary, a safe place and also a place where I can  relax and be myself.  I like to have things around me that I am interested in, reading or working on.  I want to be comfortable and at home. 

I am excited to tell you about my Grotto and my backyard space.  Its really my most favourite place.  Welcome to my Grotto.  

Dictionary Definition

A grotto is a small cave, the kind of place where you feel comfortable, cozy, and protected from the harsh realities outside.

A grotto can also be described as a secret location near water and because my space is near a pond, I thought this was the perfect name for this space.  

Here is a pic of my pond.

A number of years ago this is what this space looked like

but with some determination and a focus on my goals this is how the space looks now.  

The grotto is a sacred place where women (well, it has been mostly women but we welcome men as well) can come to relax, be at peace, enjoy nature, sing, drum and share stories.  

We have had workshops in the grotto, birthday parties, girls nights,  potlucks, visits with friends as well as a meeting with the POC London Chapter.  The very best time for a gathering is on a hot breezy night with the windows open, the curtains blowing in the soft breeze listening to the sound of the waterfall nearby.  I really love a nice warm rainy evening in the summer.  You are so close to nature and able to hear all kinds of nature sounds and wildlife.  The wood stove takes the chill off on a cool morning or a chilly evening and adds a touch of ambiance.

We spend almost all of our free time outside in the summer and can hardly wait to get out there to create a beautiful, peaceful and serene space.  We look forward to our new adventures this summer.

This post was created for the Professional Organizers Blog Carnival: A Sneak Peek Into an Organizers Home.

Thank you for following along and I welcome your comments or feedback.

Posted in De-Clutter Your Life, downsize, goal setting, Inspiration, Minimalism, Re-organize, sacred home | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Get Motivated to Declutter your Clothing

Can you relate to this?

Do you need some motivation to go through your clothing and de-clutter what you no longer wear, love or even fits?  Are you having difficulty on a daily basis trying to figure out what to wear?  Are you often running late, trying on clothes only to look in the mirror and think “uh, NO” only to throw it on the floor into a growing pile. UGH!!

I had an interesting experience with a friend who helped me with some de-cluttering.  It was really eye opening to be on this side of the fence and has been very helpful to me in working with others.

My friend asked if she could look in my front closet? She had me try on some of the many coats I had in there.  She would then ask me “what do you think?, “how does this make you feel”, “does it fit” and “does it make you feel like a queen?”  In most cases, as I tried on each piece of clothing, I would shrug my shoulders and my response was “meh” and the item ended up on the floor in a pile.  She said that if it didn’t fit or didn’t make me feel like a queen then it had to go.  As I watched the growing pile for donation on the floor she asked me “from what is left in your closet, what do you have that makes you feel powerful and in charge of your life” I looked around and I had to say it was my cloak which she had me put on.  I walked around a bit swinging my cloak and looking and feeling like a million bucks.  I was really owning my space and the world.  My cloak makes me feel like a queen and in charge of my life but of course I can’t wear that every day.

Here is a picture of me in my cloak with my friend Beth (I am the one on the left.   This was taken a number of years ago, but of course, is one of my favourites)

Some great tips for Decluttering your Clothes:

  1. Try on each piece of clothing.  How does it make you feel?  Does it make you feel like a queen?  In charge of your life? If not, get rid of it.
  2. Clothing that no longer fits.  Too big or too small.  Even if your body changes, you may need something different or that fits better.  See #1
  3. Clothing that needs to be mended.  Are you going to get around to doing that alteration or has it been sitting in a pile for way too long?  I got rid of a pile of clothes that needed to be mended because I just didn’t feel like spending the time doing it.
  4. Clothing from this past season that you didn’t wear?  Why didn’t you wear it?  As you know we wear 20% of our clothing 80% of the time.  If you don’t love it, likely you won’t wear it next season either.
  5. Throw out anything that is looking old, with stains or broken zippers, etc. At the end of the season throw out old worn out boots or footwear.  You are going to need new ones for next year anyway. Easy peasy, right?
  6. Sentimental items.  It can be hard to let go of a piece of clothing, boots, shoes or a purse that you have really loved.  But, if the item is old, worn out, doesn’t fit, etc. maybe it has served its purpose….thank the item and let it go.  Take a picture if you are worried you will forget about the item.
  7. Going through your clothing will help you to see what you have, what you might need and also will give you so many more options for getting dressed in the morning.

[bctt tweet=”Decluttering your Clothing will Simplify Your Life” username=”orgspaceforyou”]

Do you have some great tips for decluttering your clothing?  Please share in the comments……





Posted in De-Clutter Your Life, decluttering, difficulty Discarding, laundry, Organizing | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

The Connection between Mental Health and Chronic Disorganization

What is the connection between Mental Health and Chronic Disorganization?

It was once thought that OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, was the main issue with individuals who were living with “Hoarding Disorder” (which was deemed a Mental Health Illness in the DSM 1V in 2013.

OCD can be an issue and is very debilitating as it prevents its sufferers from being able to carry out the tasks of their daily lives. OCD is an anxiety disorder where individuals struggle with thoughts, feelings and sensations and then engage in behaviours to deal with them.

But actually a very low percentage of people who have OCD would consider themselves to have chronic disorganization or hoarding disorder. It is somewhat more prevalent that those suffering with OCPD Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder also struggle with hoarding.  They have a really difficult time with letting go of possessions.  OCPD has to do with having a strong sense of control and perfectionism. The idea is that if I cannot do it perfectly then I cannot do it at all.

You can read more about OCPD here:

Vulnerability Factors:

Maybe one of your parents had a lot of clutter and/or challenges with their stuff.  Your parent may have been around during the Depression when items were limited and they had to go without.  Or maybe you remember going to Grandma’s house and her place was cluttered but it was a lot of fun to play and look at her stuff.  Another factor could be a parent who was a perfectionist and wanted everything shining clean and spotless.  An individual might feel like rebelling and just doing things their own way.

There is a lot of anxiety associated with dealing with clutter. It has to do with how much clutter is comfortable to live with, how much stuff I am bringing in on a day to day basis and the challenge of letting go of items that are not needed or necessary. The anxiety comes from the inability to trust our own instincts, wanting to avoid uncomfortable emotions or soothe them and difficulty making decisions about our stuff.

You may have heard that clutter is all about holding on to the past and worries about the future.  It is usually not about the present.  Being in the present can be painful and uncomfortable. We are looking for ways to soothe ourselves even if this is unconscious. Shopping, acquiring cool stuff, finding treasures, numbing feelings with drugs or alcohol, planning for the future, moving stuff around (churning) and avoiding discarding are all ways we are taking care of ourselves and paradoxically they are also ways that contribute to having too much stuff.

Mental Health Factors:

Having an episode of depression or major depressive disorder is very challenging when it comes to trying to manage your life, your belongings, doing laundry, appointments, money, poverty, getting food, relationships, physical health, mental health, legal isssues, and possibly addictions.  An individual may be facing more serious crisis situations such as problems from a landlord, the Fire Department or eviction and consequently homelessness. Self esteem can be a factor as well. I remember a woman who came to our group saying that she had a lot of garbage around her apartment and she realized it was a reflection on how she felt about herself.

Most people who have struggles with clutter have had some kind of trauma happen to them. Now please note that not everyone who has trauma issues has clutter issues as there can be other resiliency factors ie: family supports, good friends, positive people in your life, financial supports, etc.

However, among those who have difficulty with their stuff, most if not all have had some kind of loss in the past, losing a loved one, a partner, friend or parent and inheriting their belongings, losing a child through death or (maybe even to CAS, Children’s Aid Society), violence and assault, a serious physical health illness, mental health issues, addictions, relationship breakdowns, divorce, moving or losing all of their belongings due to eviction.  All of these traumas which can cause symptoms of PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can also lead to having a Hoarding Disorder.

I would love to hear your thoughts.  Please add your comments below…..and thanks so much for following along……

Happy Decluttering!



Posted in chronic disorganization, compulsive acquiring, De-Clutter Your Life, difficulty Discarding, hoarding, Hoarding Crisis, mental health, Organizing | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Five Tips for Happy Spring Cleaning/Clearing

It’s that time of year again when we feel motivated to make some changes in our lives.  Longer daylight hours and seeing the sun a bit more often just helps us all to feel better.

Warmer weather allows us to open windows, feel and smell the fresh air, watch the new growth sprouting out of the ground and to start thinking about organizing and clearing out. The sun feels so much stronger now and if it is streaming in through your windows you are probably noticing the dust, cat or dog hairs, dirty windows, etc.  It can all be a bit overwhelming.  Here are 5 of my tips that I hope will help you to get motivated.

Five Tips for Happy Spring Cleaning/Clearing

  1. When the sun is shining through the windows and you are seeing the dust on the windows, on the blinds or the dust bunnies on the floor, this is the best time to clean up especially if you are feeling somewhat energetic and motivated.
  2. This is a great time to get all of the garbage, newspapers, and cardboard ready to get out to the bin or to the curb just because it’s easier to get out and about.
  3. Have you been noticing any winter clothing (coats, boots, mitts) that are scuffed up, missing buttons, with rips, holes?  They really need to go?  Hopefully, soon we can get rid of these things and next year they could be replaced with something better.  You deserve the best, my friend!
  4. Cleaning up the entrance way, shaking out some rugs, sweeping the floor can really feel good and can really pave the way for good energy to come through your door.
  5. Seasonal change of clothes.  You might not want to rush this but it can be helpful to start thinking about what you may not have worn all winter. It might be time to let go of some of these clothing items.

Once that beautiful spring weather is here I am likely not going to have a lot of time to work inside so I really want to get as much done as possible.  I anticipate I will be outside a lot.  I am so looking forward to Spring, going for walks, bike rides, raking all the leaves leftover from last year, (Ugh!! I will try think of this as great exercise), cleaning up outside and watching the world green up again.  How about you?  What do you love about spring and what are you looking forward to?

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Is there a link between physical and emotional clutter?

Declutter Your Life and Mind.  This is a talk/workshop I am doing on March 21, 2018 at a local library.  One of the areas I will be talking about is the connection between physical and emotional clutter.   How do we move the physical clutter and what happens when we do?  What about the emotional clutter that tends to come up?

Perhaps you find the idea of clearing out more appealing than actually doing the work. If so, you are not alone.   There are a lot of reasons why it is difficult to let go of our stuff aka clutter.  Getting started is usually half the battle.  If you are avoiding dealing with the clutter then it might be helpful to actually sit with your clutter and really look at what comes up for you. What is the resistance to doing this work?  You could try writing about your feelings and see what is coming up for you.  It might feel like you are not doing anything but this is a really great way to get started especially if you are feeling stuck. This helps you to start to take some control and to have power over your belongings and your space.

“Working on your physical clutter will help you with the emotional clutter.”

While it is easier to see the physical clutter, if you move it without being conscious about your feelings and not paying attention to what might be underneath it, likely you will just re-acquire and end up back in the same place again. When we look a little deeper we might find there is emotional clutter as well. The clutter can very well be emotional baggage and unfinished business.   Do you have old files from a previous career, love letters or cards from an ex-partner, a wedding dress from a failed marriage, books about dreams that you once had, clothing from a happier time or a time when you were a lot slimmer, or projects that are unfinished?  (When I was involved in a quilting group in the past we called these UFO’s Unfinished Objects).   These are all areas that can keep us emotionally stuck in our lives.  Clutter can be giving us a message that we do not want to or cannot move forward.

Messages like:

“I will be able to wear this when I lose 10 pounds” (someday in the future but for now looking at those clothes can make me feel bad about myself)

“I am afraid to try to meet someone and start a new relationship” (because I am sad and still thinking and dwelling on the past relationship)

“I spent a lot of money on this so I cannot let it go” (I will hang on to this even though I don’t love, want or need it and it is taking up valuable space that could be used for something else)

“Someday, I will fix, sew, sell this” (again, someday in the future but realistically am I really going to do this)

“I will not be able to clean this mess up, so why bother trying” (a good excuse to not even start and an easy out in some ways)

“I would like to have company over but cannot because of the mess” (relationships are tough and I have been hurt in the past so it is easier to not have people over)

“I am keeping these books because one day I will read them and then I will be able to get more organized” (my books offer me the promise of making things better but in the meantime they are taking up space and causing me to feel bad because I haven’t read them or actually done any of the work or followed up)

Can you see how some of these thought processes can hold you back and how they protect you from actually pursuing your dreams?

What is your clutter saying about you? How is it protecting you from moving forward?  Would love to hear from you.  Please comment below…..

Posted in chronic disorganization, De-Clutter Your Life, Emotional Clutter, Inspiration | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Peer Support Rocks!

The Clutter Clearers’ Peer Support Circle has been meeting now for five years.  They are coming up to their anniversary in April 2018 and are planning to celebrate.  Yes, Peer Support Rocks!

They might have a party in someones home.  Think about that for a minute.  This is certainly something that they would not have ever imagined could happen.  But yes, the Peer Support members do visit each other in their homes.  WOW!

There are lots of great benefits to attending this Peer Group.  There is always lots of laughter and “clutter jokes” that only those who struggle with clutter really get.  Laughter is so healing and the clutter jokes really help to normalize things and to reduce the anxiety.

Group members may have been quite isolated in the past and also may have family members who do not understand.  They  develop new friendships and connections with others who really get them.

This group encourages participants to work on their personal goals and challenges and also keeps people accountable to those goals.  The Peer Group Facilitator talks about how the group members are developing their “de-cluttering muscles or their housekeeping muscles”  which really just means working on developing some new awareness and habits.

If you would like to learn more about the Peer Circle from the early days please check out this link.

I am so proud of this group and honoured to be invited back every few months to check in and see how everyone is doing.

Peer Support Rocks!!

Personally, with my own goals I feel like I have finally developed a new habit which is hanging or folding up my clothes at the end of the day.  This has honestly been something I have tried to do over the years and by the end of the week I would have a huge pile of clothes to deal with. What a huge difference this new habit has made.  Success!!

Have you been able to develop an awareness or a new habit that you have been able to maintain?  Please comment below and thank you so much for following along.

Posted in chronic disorganization, families, goal setting, Inspiration, organize, Organizing, Support Groups | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

The Graduates of the Clearing Clutter Group – Week 8

Week 8 – Eight graduates finished strong today.

Eight Weeks really flies by and from what the participants wrote on their evaluations they wish that this Clearing Clutter Support  Group could be longer. Participants are usually invited to come back for another 8 weeks, however, the next group in April is already full with a waiting list.  A number of the group members asked if they can attend the next group after that which is likely to be in September.

Most of the group members are planning to attend the Peer Group next week which will help them to stay on track with their de-cluttering goals.

The three areas that participants made progress on are:  How much clutter is in the home?, How much difficulty do you have with discarding?, and How much are you acquiring?  In looking over the scores everyone has made improvements.  You can check out some previous scores here:

We had really great attendance for this group and we also had three participants who attended for all of the eight weeks.  We seemed to have a number of snow storms on these mornings too.  We had eight people attend strong on the last week.  We started the group with twelve so this is pretty good.

On the last week we discuss alternative ideas for finding enjoyment in your life.  This is especially helpful for those who find it exciting to find a treasure in a thrift shop, are having fun when moving things around in their homes or are excited to get some free items.  It can be important to find other ways to create comforts in your life.   Think about other activities that you can do other than going to a flea market or yard sales.

We also discussed some Tips for Overcoming Clutter Issues which were adapted from Dr. David Tolin.  These serve as a great resource, review and ideas going forward with confidence.

So, how did I do with my challenge this week.  Well, it was a busy week, out every night blah blah blah.  I know, excuses, excuses!!  I did clean out a drawer in my bedroom and it took about 10 minutes, filled up a bag for donation (it was already mostly full) and it is now in the trunk of my car ready to be dropped off.  My partner also got motivated and filled up a bag to go with mine so ……SUCCESS!!

My co-facilatator and myself will be attending the Peer Support Group next week along with the Graduates from this group.  The topics the group are asking for are Motivation and Procrastination.  Great topics.  Stay tuned as I will let you all know how it goes.

I plan to carry on with my de-cluttering.  My goal is to work on something every week.  How are you doing with your de-cluttering?  Happy De-cluttering and have a great week.



Posted in chronic disorganization, De-Clutter Your Life, goal setting, Inspiration, Organizing, Support Groups | Tagged | 10 Comments

Week 7 – Now What?

This is actually the second last week but participants are realizing that this group is coming to an end. They are starting to feel concerned that they will not have the same accountability when they are not attending the group.  Now What?

But surprise, this support does not have to end. Today, we had guests come from the Clutter Clearers’ Peer Support Circle. They came to talk about what they have been up to and to invite everyone (the graduates) to attend the Peer Circle. The Peer Circle meets at the same time of the week at an undisclosed location and is an ongoing group. This group operates with a similar format with group members checking in, problem solving and working on personal challenges. You can find more information about the Peer Group here.

A Visit to the Clutter Clearers’ Peer Circle

This has been a really great group with participants really getting the information quickly so it feels like we have really sailed through the material in some ways. One of the challenges that has come up is the dreaded “Paper”. We did discuss a handout a few sessions ago but I thought it was appropriate to re-visit this issue.

Paper can be so challenging because it is small and usually has information on it that we may or may not need and every single piece seems to need a decision. Ugh!! Things have really changed with how we deal with paper especially if we have access to a computer. We always tell participants that “if your system is working for you, then you don’t need to change it”.

So, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Bert Lance

How do you deal with all that paper that comes through your door? Mail, newspapers, flyers, junk mail, pamphlets that you picked up, receipts, etc. It can be helpful to have some kind of system or a flow for dealing with the papers that come through your door.
My partner actually told our delivery person to stop putting flyers in our mailbox, we don’t read them and don’t want them and these have stopped. This has been really good for us as there is now no pile of flyers and papers that we have to deal with. Just one less thing. Yes!!!

How did I do with my challenge this week? My challenge was to finish filling up a box for donation, getting it out of the house to charity and cleaning up the floor in the basement. I did take the time to do this (the night before group hehe) but it got done. Accountability can be a huge thing. I was able to clean up a few things, get the box filled up with a number of other items that have not been used in years including some mops which haven’t been used since maybe 2007. I was very aware of different emotions and indecision that came up.  It’s definitely a process and takes time.

This week I am tackling some messy dresser drawers.

How are you doing with your weekly challenges?

Posted in De-Clutter Your Life, decluttering, Inspiration, Organizing, Paper Organizing | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Doing the Work of Decluttering- Week 6

By week 6 the participants are really getting it and doing the work of decluttering. They are talking about some subtle shifts happening in their lives and homes. Most participants in this session are living with others whether it is a partner, sister or parent so this dynamic is coming up a lot. There hasn’t been any major roadblocks around this, however, it can be important for others in the family to know what you are learning and what you are working on. It is going to be best if you can work together, however, if this is not the case doing the work on yourself will eventually carry over to someone else.

After our check in with challenges and successes and then a discussion regarding the homework from last week we moved on to a Problem Solving Exercise. We always have a group member come up with a good example of a problem they are dealing with and then we go through the process together.

Most of us who struggle with clutter have a hard time with Solving Problems which has to do with making decisions and taking actions. It also has to do with trusting ourselves and knowing who we are and what we want. So, that is why it is important to pay attention to whats going on with ourselves, how we are feeling, what we tell ourselves and what actions do we take.

Think about a problem you might be facing. It could be something that has been on your to do list forever or maybe its a pile of boxes in a corner that you don’t want to deal with. Think about these steps to help you to move forward.

Problem Solving Steps

1. Define the problem and contributing factors
2. Generate as many solutions as possible. (doesn’t matter if these ideas make sense or not – we are just brainstorming here)
3. Evaluate the solutions and select one or two that seem feasible.
4. Break the solution down into manageable steps.
5. Implement the steps.
6. Evaluate the outcome.
7. If necessary, repeat the process until a good solution is found.

We talk a lot this week about really “doing the work”. So, that involves looking at How to Organize: Making decisions about your stuff using the Decision Tree, picking a place to start, gathering supplies, working on some categories for the stuff and following up with where things are going to go.  Individuals always say we make it look so easy but half the battle is just getting started and remember:  



So, how did I do on my challenge this week?  Well, I have to admit, I picked a fairly easy one.  I went through a big pile of books and journals that were sort of hidden in my bedroom.  Yes, I did go through them, found a few to go back on a bookshelf, some to donate, a couple I want to read and put the journals back with the other journals.  This exercise has helped me to feel more focused and able to work on my own personal goals.

This week my challenge is to get some donations out to a charity and clean up my laundry area.  Should be a doable challenge for a busy week ahead.  Stay tuned for next week when we have some visitors from the Clutter Clearers’ Peer Support Circle.

What are you up to with your de-cluttering goals?

Posted in chronic disorganization, Clutter, compulsive acquiring, decluttering, goal setting | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments