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Compulsive Hoarding Versus Chronic Disorganization

How to tell if you're struggling with clinical hoarding or ongoing disorganization.

Many times I get asked by individuals whether they have hoarding disorder or whether they have a case of the chronic messies.

Let me break it down for you on the surface level so it's easy to discern between the two.

The three main features that define Hoarding Disorder include:

  1. The accumulation and failure to discard a large number of belongings that appear to be worthless.

  2. Extreme clutter in living spaces which prevent areas for being used for their intended purpose.

  3. Severe distress or impairment in functioning caused by the hoarding.

Let me also stress that Hoarding Disorder is a diagnosable mental illness according to the DSM V, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, Fifth Edition.

Other hallmarks of the disorder include:

  • Having a past difficulty resisting the urge to collect, buy, or acquire free things that contribute to the clutter.

  • The accumulation of clutter interferes significantly with occupational or school functioning, family and social activities, poses health and safety risks or causes problems with neighbors and the authorities.

  • The problem has persisted for at least 6-months and is not due to another mental disorder, medical condition or physiological effects of a substance.

The 3 main features of Chronic Disorganization (CD) include:

  1. Getting organized has been a challenge for most of one's adult life.

  2. Being disorganized negatively affects quality of life on some level each day.

  3. History of failed self-help attempts at getting organized.

Unlike hoarding disorder, chronic disorganization is a quality of life issue, not a medical disorder.

Other hallmarks of this issue include:

  • A common cause of CD is attention problems such as ADD or ADHD, other culprits can include chronic pain, TBI, or Alzheimer's.

  • After a life event such as a move, illness or death of a loved one, restoring order is often not feasible and the disorganization continues to worsen.

  • Using conventional organizing methods are not a good fit for those with CD.

  • Organizing strategies need to be tailored to take into account learning styles and personality types in order to be successful.

Both conditions involve learning basic organizing skills, removal of physical clutter from the home, and being able to address the underlying psychological issues at play.

Many experienced professional organizers and trained laypeople can work with persons who are chronically disorganized with successful outcomes.

It takes a professional organizer with some therapeutic training or a mental health professional to be able to successfully work with a person who hoards.

Please share with someone who could benefit from this information. And see below for an upcoming self-help group aimed at hoarding disorder starting up in West Hartford.

Join the


A FREE 15 week, self-help and support group for people

who have too much stuff and want to declutter their lives.

Each session will focus on a chapter from the book,

Buried in Treasures. Workbook provided.

When: Tuesdays from 1:30-3:00 p.m. beginning March 17, 2020

Where: West Hartford Town Hall, Rm 422


To sign up and learn more, contact one of the facilitators:

· Deanna Deshpande, LMSW: 860-561-7574

· Keren Paquette, LCSW: 860-561-7573

All who attend will:

· Gain increased insight and awareness into your own patterns of acquiring, saving and hoarding.

· Receive support from others and your own copy of the book.

· Develop strategies to de-clutter your home.

· Change problematic acquiring and discarding behaviors.

This group offers a judgement-free environment for people ready to make a change.

Please call Deanna or Keren to find out if this group is for you!

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