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Chronic Disorganisation

What is chronic disorganisation? Join Bonnie + Lily to discover the difference between being chronically disorganised and temporarily disorganised, and how being chronically disorganised does not automatically make you a hoarder. EPISODE SHOW NOTES

Episode Transcript

Hello and welcome I am Bonnie, and I am Lily, and this is Little Home Organised, the PodCast dedicated to helping you declutter, get organized, and reclaim time for the things you love.

LILY: Proof is in the pudding, right?

BONNIE: I like that saying

LILY: Yeah, I do like that saying too, and I don’t like pudding

BONNIE: Unless it is chocolate self-saucing or lemon delicious

LILY: Oh yeah, get off social media, stop doing that comparison thing unless you are following us. Ohh, I want every cheese from the fancy cheese cabinet; I’m not going to think twice. I would love to get to that point.


BONNIE: Hello and welcome. This week we are talking about chronic disorganization. We are going to chat about what chronic disorganization actually is, how it affects our daily life and what we can do about it.

LILY: But first, TikTok, check us out on TikTok if you haven’t already. Our videos are short and sharp and are resonating with a lot of viewers, so if you want to learn some quick tips to declutter and organize your home, it is just @littlehomeorganised on TikTok, in fact, we have just had a video go quite bananas on TikTok I think it is over 350,000 views within less than a week, it was wild.

BONNIE: I mean, all those days of you practicing in front of the mirror with the hairbrush microphone have clearly been worth it.

LILY: You mean like last year when I was doing that, not when I was a child, right
BONNIE: Well, I wasn’t placing a timeline on it but sure, if you want to admit that to the world. You go right ahead.

LILY: Let’s go for it. All right, so today we are talking about chronic disorganization; what does that even mean?

BONNIE: So I am excited to talk about this topic because we have just recently had our annual organizing conference for IOPO, which is the institute of professional organizers, which I am a member of

LILY: In Australia

BONNIE: In Australia, well, it is actually international, so we have members overseas in the UK and in Asia as well so

LILY: Oh, there you go

BONNIE: Yeah, most countries do have their own sort of kind of overarching

LILY: We are like Australasian then.

BONNIE: Yeah we use to have an industry body called AAPO or APO which was the Australian Association of Professional organisers but that one disbanded because it was volunteer run and the IOPO has kind of sprung up in its place in the last maybe 3-4 years and we have a very thriving membership community and we had our virtual COVID safe annual conference very recently and we had a full day that was devoted to talking about chronic disorganisation and it was really exciting because I was actually asked to speak at the conference, part of what we have been doing over the last few years with the NDIS in the National Disability Insurance Scheme is we have been working with a lot of allied health professionals in case managing clients together, so we will work with occupational therapists, or we work with psychologists or even a physiotherapist to help clients that have got severe chronic disorganisation or even hoarding disorder and so an OT and I presented on that and how to work collaboratively which was really exciting and we will do an episode on that down the track because I think it is something that a lot of allied health professionals once they get into working with a professional organiser and realising how beneficial it is for the support and management of their clients, it is quite life changing so we will talk about that down the track. Yeah, but today’s episode is all about chronic disorganization so let’s get into what chronic disorganization actually is

LILY: So the Institute for challenging disorganization

BONNIE: ICD as it is kindly referred to

LILY: Commonly in the Leyland

BONNIE: It is such a mouthful, isn’t it.

LILY: So they define it as you know if you are struggling with disorganization for a long period of time, if it is negatively affecting your day-to-day living, and thirdly if your self-help attempts have been unsuccessful.

BONNIE: It is interesting how many client homes we go to that have got some sort of decluttering or organizing book or books on the shelves, and they have read the books, or they have tried to get the help before, or they have tried to do it on their own, and they are just not able to, we do tend to identify that clients due tend to fall into one or two categories, one being the chronically disorganized and that is the I have struggled with this my whole life, as a child I struggled with being organized and then the second category is the temporarily disorganized which we will talk about in a moment but first of all, I wanted to talk about why being chronically disorganized can be a problem and the biggest thing for that is that it has this ripple effect and clutter, in general, can have all these impacts and these outcomes on us but being chronically disorganized can impact us in these ways, I guess even more extremely.

LILY: Bigger ripples

BONNIE: Yes, bigger ripples, like you have thrown a boulder into the pond rather than just a little pebble, so the first way that chronic disorganization can affect us is that it can actually give us poor physical or mental health, and I think society is really starting to wake up to the impacts of clutter on people’s mental health and depression and generalized anxiety and you know and agoraphobia, and of these sort of kind of disorders that are coming out and a lot of them there is like an element of clutter that is kind of contributing to it, and you know that saying a tidy desk is a tidy mind, I think that it kind of resonates across our poor mental health when we do have clutter around us, and I know that I feel this, I am less likely to feel motivated and inspired to eat well, to exercise, to drink lots of water, to get lots of sleep, the clutter just puts a dampener on all of that, don’t you think?

LILY: Yeah, I definitely don’t walk into, you know, a cluttered space and think, oh so relaxing, I just love it here. Yeah, let’s lie down and have a massage and put on some music, you know just don’t mind me while I lay out on the uneven piles of nonsense I have left on my dining table for several days, that was me this week, I was just having like such a week of denial with my belongings, not putting them in their proper homes, yeah is just doesn’t necessarily make us feel good.

BONNIE: No, it really doesn’t, and that then, in turn, can affect our relationships and choosey clutter report from a few years ago said 1 in 9 couples who ended up divorcing said that clutter was a significant contributor to their relationship breakdown, and another stats in that report also said that 50% of us have argued with someone in our family

LILY: Yes, it is so true, and there is actually like quite a few studies out there that talk about clutter and how it affects your mental health, so much so I actually did a TikTok video recently, and it talked about a study that was from this year 2021 which showed a strong relationship basically with a disorganized home and women’s well being and it is just like the evidence just keeps coming out and coming out, coming out, clutter is not good for our physical or mental health

BONNIE: No, and you know another study that I want to reference just because this stuff is so important. UCLA did a home-based anthropological study probably about 15 years ago now, but it is really the only kind of study that has come out in the last kinda 50 years about the way we live, and it is called life at home in the 21st century. They did a whole book on it, and they studies like 30 or 33 families in LA; they measured like cortisol levels, and they found that women’s cortisol levels did not actually dip towards the end of the day, which they are supposed to, men they did but with the women their cortisol levels remained elevated throughout the whole day in the homes that were the most cluttered, and I thought that is really interesting because that directly relates to stress, so that is a stat that is showing us that clutter actually does have a physical response in your body, it does make you more stressed.

LILY: The proves in the pudding right

BONNIE: I like that saying

LILY: Yeah, I do like that saying too, and I don’t like pudding

BONNIE: Unless it is chocolate self-saucing or lemon delicious
LILY: Oh yes, sorry, they are exceptions. Whenever I think of pudding, I think of Christmas pudding, and I remember going up to Grandma and Grandpa’s house and then like you know, traditionally hide the coin in it and me being like, I am only committed to this coin, I do not want to eat any of this fruit.

BONNIE: That fruit is not gone anyway; they might be going.

LILY: But I will find that 20 cent piece, and I will get to keep it.

BONNIE: The things you do for money, hey

LILY: Oh, you know, just reflecting when you thought 20 cents was, like amazing.

BONNIE: Oh my 6 year old still thinks that 20 cents is amazing, like a couple of times we have been at the park and he has found 10 or 20 cents and being like Mum look I have found 10 cents, and oh that’s great honey we can put it in your letterbox, your money box and it is funny because he lost another tooth in the last few days and I actually helped him
pull it out which I was really surprised about, this is the second one he has allowed me to help pull out and it is only because it gets to the point where it is so painful to keep it in that he is like oh okay just distract me and so he plays a monster truck game on my phone while I am pulling this tooth out and so the tooth fairy visited and because the tooth fairy was very very generous because there weren’t a lot of options in her storage he got a $2 coin and he came in this morning and was like mum look the tooth fairy has been and I got $2 and I was like wow that is amazing and he said I had $14.80 and I have got $2 so what is that all together and I helped him work out that maths and you know he worked it out find but I just thought how funny is it when you are a child and like that $14.80 is like so

LILY: That is big money

BONNIE: It is big money and like you focus not only the dollars but on the cents, and when you an adult you are like oh I might have cash in my wallet, oh it might be $20, or it might be this that or the other but money is such a relative object depending on your age and your stage of life

LILY: Yeah, and status

BONNIE: Yeah, your status too

LILY: You know like imagine being in a position where you could go to the grocery store and not have to think about what you are spending, oh be like oh I want every cheese from the fancy cheese cabinet I am not going think twice, I would love to get to that point, that would be really cool

BONNIE: It depends whether the people living with the person who is spending all the money on the cheese are actually happy with that

LILY: Oh, can afford it

BONNIE: Because I mean I love cheese, but I definitely couldn’t justify some of these, you know $80 french cheeses that people can purchase

LILY: Oh my gosh, something about cheese though

BONNIE: Yeah, It is worth it

LILY: It is my top 3, anyway back to chronic disorganization

BONNIE: Sorry for that little tangent

LILY: Tangent early, so it also can impact on your relationships being chronically disorganized as Bonnie was discussing with the choosy clutter report, like where it is causing arguments in your marriage, but you can imagine if you are someone who is living with someone who is chronically disorganized and you are not the tension that is going to be there in your home

BONNIE: Yeah, there is a couple of books about messy’s versus cleanly, which is really funny, and I mean, I think we all fall into both categories at certain times, but I definitely can think of yeah certain relationships and go yeah well, that person is more generally a cleanly and that person is more generally a messy

LILY: And if you are messy who has lived with a cleanly for a long time, you might find that you eventually become a bit more of a cleanly

BONNIE: Like my husband has

LILY: Your poor husband

BONNIE: You know like I shared this on our Little Home organized community group on Facebook a few weeks ago and if you are on Facebook, go check that out because there is a thriving community there, when we were unpacking because we have moved recently, my husband was unpacking the spices, and there is that typical cupboard right above the stove with the exhaust fan, and that is where the spices were in the old house, and that’s where they were going here, and so I just let him unpack them, and I went to use cinnamon like a few days later, and I came in, and he had alphabetized the spices.

LILY: It was so good,

BONNIE: I was like what I mean he had divided them as well into well what he thought was herbs and spices, it was 100% accurate, but that was okay, but he had alphabetized each little section, and I was just like oh wow like this is the guy that when we were dating, I had to declutter and spring-clean his room twice in a couple of years before we got married

LILY: Oh, I remember that,

BONNIE: Yeah, it was dirty

LILY: I think I came by at one point

BONNIE: He is still cranky at me for getting rid of a pair of shoes that had cobwebs and spiders living in them, and I was like, dude, like you know the proof is in the pudding

LILY: Yeah
BONNIE: There was so much dust there you are not wearing those.

LILY: Oh my goodness, these poor men.

BONNIE: I know

LILY: So another reason that chronic disorganization can be bad, of course, is it can affect your financial situation as well, especially if you are in a rental and you get booted because you are unable to keep the house up to the standard that the rental agency needs you to

BONNIE: Yeah yeah, those home inspections can be really disheartening when you are chronically disorganized, and if you do have like a shopping addiction and you are constantly buying and accumulating things, then it can be hard to work out to where to store them, and I find that when you have gotten so much stuff that a basic system kind of tends to get covered over and you can’t really see what the foundational system was, so say for linen you did have a system, there was towels, there was sheets, and there was pillowcases, but then over time you have added so much extra linen into the cupboard that now you just open it, shove it in and hope that the door will close, it is difficult to stop and get back to that kind of square one where you are back to that set of towels, the set of sheets and the set of pillowcases

LILY: When the problem becomes so big, it can be really hard to even know where to begin and how to navigate it. Of course, chronic disorganization can become so bad, and you can be so far along the spectrum that maybe you have actually got a bigger issue and you are someone with hoarding disorder.

BONNIE: Yeah, and I mean hoarding disorder; we will talk about this a little bit later in the episode, and we have talked about it many times before in the podcast, so we are just going to touch on it briefly today and if you want to go into more detail check out our episodes with Dr. Randy Frost or Lee and Beck Shuer about hoarding disorder there but if you are someone who is very chronically disorganized and you do have the predisposition for accumulating

LILY: Yeah, things can be so bad that you potentially may not have a roof over your head anymore

BONNIE: Yeah and we see that there was a really famous, still a famous case in Bondi Beach in Sydney where there is a mother and 2 daughters who live outside in tunnels in their yard, tunnels of stuff should I say because the house is so full and they don’t have you know power and water and whatnot, and that can be the extreme side of hoarding disorder, and that’s why it is a mental health disorder it is not just oh my Aunt is a hoarder because she has got a huge amount of shoes, no it is actually a mental health condition.

LILY: So before we take a break and jump into temporary disorganization, which I think a lot of our listeners are going to relate to, what can we do if we identify as chronically disorganized.

BONNIE: Well, the first step is to actually become aware so be empowered, learn about chronic disorganization, learn how it presents in your life as well, like what are the things that you do that are symptoms of chronic disorganization, and then you can actually make some kind of workaround to circumnavigate them.
LILY: Next, I would be saying reach out, so like ask your friends, family members, professionals for the help that you need

BONNIE: Yeah, absolutely, so reaching out can be the, asking a neighbor, it can be asking a family member to just sit with you and talk with you, or it can be engaging a professional. Like professional organizers to help you start sorting through and decluttering all the piles but reaching out is definitely the next step because we just can’t do it alone.

LILY: We can’t, and I think having the support of a professional organizer because there is so much empathy that comes with a PO as well as the practical skill-set can be really great for helping you feel progress and feel hopeful, so that is definitely something to consider and with all areas, the big advice that you love to tell people Bonnie is, of course, start small, start simple.

BONNIE: Yeah, just start something small, whether it is okay today I am going to focus on, you know, clearing my kitchen bench, or I am going to clear somewhere around the front door so that I can actually open the front door, like just start with a small area that is going to have a big impact and kind of work your way over from there, and probably the most important thing that I wanted to say if you are chronically disorganized is don’t compare your journey with anybody else’s, don’t look at Instagram or the home-edit, or Maree Kondo or anything like that and think oh I am never going to get there so why bother trying. Like we are all walking our own path, it is our own journey, so you have got to set your own personal goal and work towards that.

LILY: And a step forward is still a step forward regardless of how far you still have to go.

BONNIE: Small steps can still lead to a big journey.

LILY: Oh, let’s take a break after that.


LILY: We have listener questions coming in left, right, and center, and today’s listener question comes to us from Matthew, and Matthew is messaging us in from Brisbane, so Matthew says: Hi guys, my wife runs a business from home for baby gifts while she has a sorting and storage system she tends to make quite a mess through the process of making any ideas about organizing while working? So it sounds like he is dobbing his wife in. That’s hard, isn’t it? And I can actually probably relate to your wife on this point, Matthew, because I am a really messy cook. I need the entire bench space cleared before I start because I spread everything out; now, mind you, in the end, it is all cleaned up and orderly again, but during the process, I love just to be able to kind of go with the flow so I can appreciate that she may be the same as well, but I can understand that when you, that things can get a bit messy especially if you get interrupted halfway through, and if there is not a clear system in place it can be really chaotic and hard to jump back into where you were up to, and you know managing the chaos.

BONNIE: Yeah, I think the most important thing here is to make sure that for this whole process which is a bit of a factory line, make sure that there is actually a home for everything so that when you are finished, things can easily slot back into where they need to go. Because the thing that we need to remember is that horizontal spaces need to be free for activity, for us to be able to lay everything out and do what we need, and then we need to use our vertical spaces for our storage because that allows us to have those horizontal spaces free for those activities like the cooking and the creating the baby gifts and things like that.

LILY: Yeah, so I guess like think about it like you are going to have storage set up that is just for like all the pieces that come together to make the gift, then you are going to have storage for the finished gift before she ships it, sells it, whatever she does with it, but then also if you are trying to keep that flat space workable like that little work station, like maybe thinking about having adding some shelves, maybe above her working space where she has like in work in progress stuff

BONNIE: Yep yep or is there room underneath the bench for hidden storage under there, so draws, or even those rolling storage that you can get you know on the caster wheels, you can get, actually Ikea has got this great table, it is a dining table, and it folds down into oh I don’t know probably about that narrow, and it has got a bunch of draws on either side, like maybe 3-4 draws each side and they are quite you know a decent size but then on the sides, there are these two flaps that actually come up, and it then turns into a dining table, so if you had something like that, that was basically like a rolling work station, and you could put all of your gift stuff in there you could flatten out your bench space when you need to create things and then put your items back in those draws when you are finished, so that is something that wouldn’t take up a lot of space but is a dedicated zone just for those baby gifts, so that is also an idea.

LILY: The last thing that I am going to suggest with that is depending on how heavy and what the items are that you are using and creating if you could potentially use like a shoe plastic hanger that hangs on like the back of a door like you could have a hook on the back of your door, you could hang something like that up where you have got like multiple pockets that like hang all the way down, and she could maybe keep supplies and things in there as well, so potentially that could help but yeah hopefully that has helped you out Matthew and if you are listening and you have a question as well feel free to send it in, you just head to our Facebook page Little Home Organised and send it through as a message.


LILY: All right, and we are back talking about now temporary disorganization, so what does it mean if I am temporarily disorganized

BONNIE: So it is basically a situational disorganization that something has happened to change a set of circumstances in life and you’re not coping, or you are overwhelmed just because of that change. Now I am a really good example of this at the moment because

LILY: You are an example of a lot of things at the moment but go on

BONNIE: I have kind of hit the mark on quite a few of these, so these might be illness, someone has gotten sick, whether it is like a terminal illness, a chronic illness or you just had the flu or you know COVID or something like that, that can really throw things out of whack

LILY: Yeah, when we are unwell, things fall to the wayside.


LILY: Moving house, you have just done that.


LILY: Moved up the coast, so when we move, especially if maybe if we don’t have the time or maybe we weren’t mindful in the process of decluttering before and yeah, it can get really messy

BONNIE: Yeah, and I think I am an example of even if you are quite minimal in your stuff, it can still be an absolute disaster on the other end, just that unpacking. Like we chose to move in the school holidays, and we both have gone back to work straight away, so we, one of us is working, one of us is taking care of the kids, and it is on school holidays, and the person who is at home taking care of the kids is trying to unpack a room or trying to fix a garden tap, or like you know it is just you have just got temporary dis organizational.

LILY: Yeah, it is just a bit of chaos at the moment; it is what we do with that chaos, right, oh course a new baby or baby pending

BONNIE: Yep, that is coming too in July; yes, thanks very much

LILY: Yes, someone asked me the other day, oh like when is Bonnie due and I was like I have no idea, July, how do I not know that. Divorce is another reason, and oh my goodness, can you imagine if this isn’t personally you in this position? Think of a friend who is trying to navigate the emotions and the practicalities of divorce, life gets chaotic, or if they suddenly you know split and moved out the house and had to bring their stuff with them and so there is just stuff everywhere, they haven’t had the opportunity to set up their systems yet, they might look disorganized but again it is more associated with the situational change. It is associated to be temporary.

BONNIE: It is temporary, and this fits in really well with this last point of trauma and death, you know if there has been a really serious accident and someone has become chronically or terminally ill because of that accident or something that has resulted in a death in your family or in your friendship circle, then that can cause us to become really temporarily discombobulated and overwhelmed and cluttered because we are dealing with the emotion of that traumatic event, but we are also trying to deal with the logistics and the practicality and especially if you are someone who is dealing with the death of a love one, but you are the executor of their estate which we will talk about in a couple of weeks in a deceased estate episode then you also have that lovely task of trying to deal with your emotions, manage all the family members and do the logistics of actually wrapping up that estate. It is a lot.

LILY: It is a lot, so it is not going to be; you know it makes sense your house may be looking a little bit out of order.

BONNIE: Yeah, give yourself a break.

LILY: Yeah, that’s okay. Yes, please be kind to yourself, and I think what is really important in the terminology that we are using here with chronic disorganization versus temporary disorganization, there is something powerful about shortening time. So temporary gives us that hope that this is for a period.


LILY: Something to look forward to beyond these.

BONNIE: This too shall pass

LILY: This too shall pass, and I think what is important to identify is if you are someone who you acknowledge you are chronically disorganized, that doesn’t mean that you will be that forever. You can seek the right appropriate help to help get on top of it, build new habits, and before you know it, it could be a thing that you can then reflect on when you use to be chronically disorganized, so I do definitely want to reiterate that, it is not like this is what I am, and it is all I will be


LILY: This is just where you are at right now.

BONNIE: Yeah, and it could be something like if you have got a diagnosis of ADHD and you have to learn to manage it like right now, I am learning to manage that I have gestational diabetes, which is super fun on top of everything else that I am dealing with, but the biggest thing for me right now is accepting it, okay I have got it, let’s manage it, let’s not get caught up in the fact that wow it’s me, I can’t believe that this has happened but let’s actually take some steps to manage it because this is a temporary thing. It is going to be over in a few months, but I have to yeah manage it for right now.

LILY: Yeah, less chocolate, sorry. Okay, so if you identify that with your life right now and you are feeling pretty disorganized, but you associate it as a temporary situation, what are some things you can do?

BONNIE: Well, the steps actually remain the same whether you are chronically disorganized or you are temporarily disorganized, and the first one is to be aware, learn about what is going on with you, okay let’s stop and reflect I am overwhelmed because I have just moved house, alright I am going to be kind to myself and give myself time and space to unpack slowly and to get things into place and not put that pressure on myself of you must have this room unpacked by this time, and you must have this set in place so that you can properly settle into your new community, or whatever it might be. Be aware, and then be kind to yourself. Number one

LILY: And reach out, so reach out to family and friends, let’s say you have got a new baby, that is a very overwhelming time, there is a lot of things going on physically, mentally and emotionally, reach out and say hey I need help when you come around to visit and you want to cuddle bob could you cuddle-bob but also help me with this thing

BONNIE: And can you please bring me some food because food is life.

LILY: Yeah, especially when you are breastfeeding, you seriously

BONNIE: You eat a lot

LILY: Oh my gosh, I had to have muesli bars in my bedside-draw, and people told me I would need to do that, and I was like I don’t believe that for a second, and I was like ravenous.
BONNIE: Yeah is crazy, actually

LILY: You are just producing so much milk.

BONNIE: You are super, super hungry.

LILY: Yeah, you just have to get those calories in.

BONNIE: The other thing with reaching out, not only reaching out to your community but reaching out to outsource to professionals so if you have got a new baby or you have just moved house like we have, we normally do all our own gardening and lawn mowing, but a man actually dropped pass

LILY: I love this, it is so funny

BONNIE: A man dropped a pass a few days ago, and he said, look, I use to mow the lawns for the previous owner. Would you like me to mow yours? This just shows how bad our lawn really is because you know our house settled a month ago, and we have only just moved the lawnmower up a week ago, and so it has been like 5 weeks since this lawn has been mowed.

LILY: It looks like a swampland

BONNIE: And there has been some hectic rain, like when we moved in there was like a week of really crazy rain.

LILY: It was torrential

BONNIE: It was nuts, there was floods and all sorts of stuff, so I thought yeah, it looks terrible, and it was so lovely that he offered because we actually said yeah that would be really helpful because we can focus then on unpacking and getting things sorted inside, you can take care of the lawn for us this once and that will be a really big help to us. So outsource where you can.

LILY: Reach out, reach out, of course, start small, start simple, and don’t compare what is going on with you with anybody else. This is you are unique; this is your own unique journey. Just because someone else had a similar situation and handled it this way doesn’t mean it is going to be the same situation for you, be kind to yourself.

BONNIE: Yeah, get off social media, stop doing that comparison thing

LILY: Unless you are following us. We are all about progress, not perfection, so hopefully, you should feel good after the stuff we post.

BONNIE: Yeah, especially when I put photos of maggots in my house.

LILY: Did you.

BONNIE: Last year, yep

LILY: Yeah, I know
BONNIE: It was just a really great example of, even a tidy house can still have really gross little bugs in there.

LILY: Yeah, even Bonnie is disgusting. So

BONNIE: Ohh, that’s harsh, that’s harsh

LILY: Oh don’t worry, we had a maggot problem maybe like a month ago, every other week it was like maggots again, and you just see them crawling over the floor and you think

BONNIE: They are so creepy

LILY: Oh, I am trying peppermint oil and changing the bin nearly every day.

BONNIE: Yeah, you have to hey, it is just you can’t have meat in the bin, it doesn’t work.

LILY: I think half of our audience just tuned out. Okay

BONNIE: Sorry about that.

LILY: For the rest of you that stuck with us, thank you. We are going to now talk about what a hoarding and squalor. It’s very briefly; as we said, we have got some episodes on this, but just to distinguish it from what we have been talking about so far.

BONNIE: So in 2013, in the diagnostic and statistics manual that came out, the version 5, hoarding disorder, was introduced for the first time on its own, not as an umbrella, not under the umbrella of OCD and hoarding disorder basically states you have to fit these 3 categories and the first one is you have to have an over-accumulation of stuff, the 2nd one is you have to have difficulty discarding that items, especially those that others may perceive as rubbish and the 3rd key trait is that it has to have a negative impact on your daily life. So it might mean that you have got a stovetop that you can’t access because it so cluttered, or you have got a shower that you can’t use because it has got stuff in it or things have broken down, and you haven’t been able to get tradies in to repair them because the access is not there or something like that.

LILY: I think I remember Dr. Frost mentioning as well with the over-accumulation of stuff, is he was saying it pretty much has to be in nearly every room of the house, if not all of them


LILY: So it is generally not isolated just to like one space

BONNIE: No, no, it generally is something that does kind of take over the house unless you have a spouse or a family member who has control over a particular area, and they don’t let you

LILY: Don’t let you overflow into there.

BONNIE: Yeah, which is a really good strategy if you are living with someone who does have hoarding disorder is limited, creating public spaces and then limiting a few spaces where they can clutter it up and create a little clutter cave, but it doesn’t impact the rest of the public communal spaces.

LILY: Yeah so

BONNIE: The next thing I wanted to talk about is squalor, and we will talk really briefly about this, but squalor is basically referring to the environment that someone is living in, so the dictionary definition is that things are in a state of being extremely dirty and unpleasant, especially as a result of poverty or neglect.

LILY: So pretty unhygienic.

BONNIE: Pretty unhygienic, yep, but want I don’t really like about this definition is it doesn’t really take into account any mental health conditions like hoarding disorder, people who are suffering from, you know, post-traumatic stress disorder or yeah, generalized anxiety or depression and things like that, so there are mental health issues that can cause squalor to become the environment that someone is living in and that needs to be taken in account, but it also needs to be something that is taken pretty seriously because sometimes you can find like a temporary squalor situation in the case of like a client who had had a bunch of housemates who were very very dirty and they left a whole lot of rubbish behind, and then you know an organizer went in and said okay like what stuff can go and he basically said like all that stuff can go. So someone who went in and thought, oh, it was a hoarding disorder job, it actually just turned out to be a squalor job, and once all that rubbish got picked up by a rubbish removal company, the house was able to return to a more clean state, and the squalor wasn’t an issue anymore.

LILY: Yep, so similar to the other 2 kinds of categories that we were talking about, we approach it in a similar way, right

BONNIE: Yeah, so the first step is always to get informed, be aware, learn about hoarding disorder, learn about squalor environments, find out how your hoarding disorder might present, what are the triggers, what are the things that you are doing

LILY: On that note of hoarding disorder, hoarding disorder is something where we highly recommend you are working with a professional.

BONNIE: Absolutely

LILY: So for your mental health.


LILY: Because there is a lot of stuff happening for you and so it is really important that you are reaching out to a professional psychologist, psychiatrist, and then, of course, if you are able to engage with a professional organizer as well, that is a great plan for you.

BONNIE: Yeah, so that is your set, just like with the chronic and the temporary disorganization is to reach out and talk to family and friends and engage professionals and outsource.

LILY: There are also resources we should quickly mention, so Buried in treasures workshops are really great, and they are no offering online virtual workshops and then, of course, our friend Lee over in the States who we have spoken to on previous episodes along with his wife Bek he has now got a new program called the Oasis

BONNIE: The Oasis Club

LILY: The Oasis Club, and that is virtual as well. So definitely, there are 2 resources you can check out.

BONNIE: Yeah, and there are a bunch of books as well that are really great for hoarding disorder books by Dr. Randy Frost, Buried in treasures is another book as well, and then there is like Robin ZasioThe hoarder in you, and yeah, there are heaps of resources out there that are really good. If you are based in Australia, there is a hoarding home solutions course as well, some for family and friends, and there is also a course for professionals as well, so if you work with people with hoarding disorder, it is a really good course to sink your teeth into and learn all about it.

LILY: And like anyone, start small, start simple, don’t compare yourself to anyone else; it is just you on your journey.

BONNIE: Yeah, that is exactly right. Now for today’s tidy task, we are basically saying identify which of these categories you fall into, so are you feeling like you are chronically disorganized, are you temporarily disorganized or is there some struggle going on with maybe hoarding disorder or a squalor environment

LILY Or none of the above.

BONNIE: Or none of the above, but get aware, get informed about where you are at, be kind to yourself, get educated, and then yeah, reach out for help and start small, start simple and walk your own path.

LILY: That’s it for this week’s episode; we hope you have enjoyed having us in your ears.


LILY: See you later


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