Wednesday, January 16, 2008

If this is true (and I think it is) I'm so screwed

Apparently clutter isn't only annoying or unsightly, it's bad for your health.

But experts say the problem with all this is that many people are going about it in the wrong way. Too often they approach clutter and disorganization as a space problem that can be solved by acquiring bins and organizers.

Measures like these “are based on the concept that this is a house problem,” said David F. Tolin, director of the anxiety disorders center at the Institute of Living in Hartford and an adjunct associate professor of psychiatry at Yale.

“It isn’t a house problem,” he went on. “It’s a person problem. The person needs to fundamentally change their behavior.”

I know this is true, but I will forever use lack of space as an excuse. I just know it.

Here's the really true part:
Excessive clutter and disorganization are often symptoms of a bigger health problem. People who have suffered an emotional trauma or a brain injury often find housecleaning an insurmountable task. Attention deficit disorder, depression, chronic pain and grief can prevent people from getting organized or lead to a buildup of clutter. At its most extreme, chronic disorganization is called hoarding, a condition many experts believe is a mental illness in its own right, although psychiatrists have yet to formally recognize it.
True dat. A solution?
On its Web site,, the group offers a scale to help people gauge the seriousness of their clutter problem. It also includes a referral tool for finding a professional organizer. But since the hourly fees can range from $60 to $100 or more, it may be worth consulting a new book by Dr. Tolin, Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee, “Buried in Treasures” (Oxford, 2007), which offers self-assessments and advice for people with hoarding tendencies.
I went and looked at the scale and apparently I'm not as bad as I think I am (or my husband thinks I am). I have evidence!

In any event, regardless of its reputation as a true disorder or whether it's a symptom of other disorders (I think this is probably the true cause), I don't think anyone can say that they want a disorganized living space. The hard part, in this case, isn't admitting it, but fixing it. And pain really does get in the way.