By On January 3rd, 2008

Is hoarding a personal problem?

This time of year, in light of abundant gifts, gift giving, decorating, and New Year resolutions, people are purposing to get organized. Consider assembling a thoughtful care package for grandma, filled with her favorite treats and heartfelt reminders of your love and appreciation. However, there are some people that find that the task of getting organized is much more difficult. According to David F. Tolin, director of the anxiety disorders center at the Institute of Living, reluctance to get organized is sometimes “a personal problem.” The fact is that excessive clutter and disorganization can be a sign of something more serious, a health problem. Often time’s people with brain injuries and certain behavioral issues have a more difficult time getting organized. In particular, behavioral issues such as depression, ADD (attention deficit disorder), grieving, and pain issues can cause a lack of desire to become organized.

Taking the idea that disorganization and clutter are symptomatic of health issues a bit further, hoarding, although not yet a recognized diagnosis, is a word used to describe chronic disorganization that interferes with a person’s quality of life. People that suffer from hoarding find it impossible and even painful to part with items they possess. The good news is that there is hope for the disorganized and those that suffer from hoarding. A recent study showed that people suffering from hoarding experienced increased quality of life and less clutter after a six month period of cognitive behavioral therapy. The following is an excerpt of an article from the New York Times that discusses the issue of disorganization and health:

After the holidays, many shoppers load up their carts with storage bins, shelving systems and color-coded containers, all in a resolute quest to get organized for the new year.

The country’s collective desire to clean up is evident in the proliferation of organization-oriented businesses like the Container Store and California Closets. Reality shows like “Mission Organization” on HGTV and “How Clean is Your House?” on Lifetime feed a national obsession to declutter. The magazine Real Simple has even created a $13 special issue on cleaning house.

Getting organized is unquestionably good for both mind and body — reducing risks for falls, helping eliminate germs and making it easier to find things like medicine and exercise gear.

“If you can’t find your sneakers, you aren’t taking a walk,” said Dr. Pamela Peeke, assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of Maryland and the author of “Fit to Live” (Rodale, 2007), which devotes a section to the link between health and organization. “How are you going to shoot a couple of hoops with your son if you can’t even find the basketball?”

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.”

Click here to read the entire article from the New York Times

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