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  • Writer's pictureJosephine Paige, CPO, MSE

Working with the "Long-Term Disorganized" (LTD)

Updated: Jun 12, 2020

I want to say right off, I am not a professional therapist or counselor but I find the subject of the Long-Term Disorganized (LTD) especially interesting as it relates to the Professional Organizer client pool.

Long-Term Disorganized, is a term I coined to describe clients who have been disorganized in 2 or more areas of their life for most of their adult years. The areas include space, finance, relationships and career. Long-Term Disorganized people have made several attempts to hire an organizer and/or Life Coach and have backed-out shortly after beginning the process. They have been known to frustrate the professional to the point of quitting. They will use any number of tactics to end the organizing process. People with LTD display characteristics associated with both “developmental disorders” as well as “chronic disorganization”.

Not long ago I worked with a client I believe to be Long-Term Disorganized, the experience lead me to evaluate the relationship between the LTD need for chaos and emotional rejection of order. People with LTD embrace chaos and avoid order. Although my client alleged a desire to put his life in order, he often refused to participate in aspects of the project which required his attention. The client mentioned on several occasions the stimulus chaos played in creating a level of comfort, security and excitement. He mentioned how he would delay working on a project until the last minute to generate a sense of urgency which in turn would invigorate him. I was, for the most part, unsuccessful at getting him to participate in the organizing process. He intellectually understood, to some degree, the cost of continuing to live a disorganized life. However, his reluctance to change his behavior was more powerful than the consequence of his current condition. I must admit I was often perplexed about his vacillation in behavior around achieving order, especially since many LTD are otherwise very focused and decisive over achievers. On first encounter there is little or no indication that the overall personality is one of extreme chaos.

Because of the delicate subject matter I would suggest using a questionnaire to obtain information about the client and segue into a conversation to probe the client about his/her personality.

Today, I still struggle with what I could have done to help my client achieve his goals.

I’m convinced that a Professional Organizer alone is insufficient for LTD clients. I believe the Long-Term Disorganized should seek diagnosis and counseling concurrent with working with a Professional Organizer.

I welcome comments from the organizing profession as well as the counseling community.


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