Yes! In my experience it does.
In light of Mental Health Awareness Month, I am sharing some thoughts on the connection between mental health and disorganization. My hope is that readers find this post hopeful in their efforts to organize themselves or to help a loved one get organized. I speak primarily of anxiety and depression here but other mental health issues are linked to disorganization as well. It is probably no surprise to readers that mental illness affects most areas of a person’s life and organization is no exception.
(Please note - I am not an expert in mental health disorders, I am not a therapist and I do not diagnose. My knowledge is based on five years of experience working with clients, many affected by mental health issues. I have seen the negative impact of these disorders on a person’s ability to manage his space. Further, I hold two Certificates of Study: one in Chronic Disorganization and one in Basic ADD Issues with the Chronically Disorganized Client from the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD). Comments to this blog post are welcome and appreciated!)
How exactly do depression and anxiety negatively affect clutter and organization? The typical symptoms that I see as contributing factors are below. Often, as noted above, co-existing mental health issues and/or neurobiological issues worsen disorganization.
- lack of motivation
- decreased energy
- lack of self-confidence
- lack of direction
A person with two or more of these symptoms often ends up with a cluttered space because he is unmotivated to declutter, lacks energy to declutter and lacks initiative to begin. Papers, clothes and other things accumulate as a result. From there, feelings of hopelessness exacerbate the initial symptoms of anxiety and depression. A self-perpetuationg cycle arises where more clutter accumulates as a result.
If that weren’t challenging enough, executive dysfunction is often present as well. Executive dysfunction is the reduced ability to carry out the typical organizational skills of making decisions, initiating actions, prioritizing, organizing, planning and problem-solving. Without these skills, digging out from clutter and disorganization is very challenging indeed!
You may be familiar with this vicious circle if you or a loved one has been diagnosed (or suspects) mental illness such as depression or anxiety. The next question you may ask, Is there any hope for improving one's physical space? Yes, definitely. Generally, reaching out to a professional organizer is a good place to start. I (and most professional organizers) offer a free initial phone call where potential clients can confidentially find valuable information and ask questions about how we work with clients. Professional organizers have many strategies to help clients dig out from clutter and establish systems for successful maintenance. Learn more in our subsequent post on the benefits and details of working with a professional organizer.
(The ICD mentioned above offers free fact sheets for the public on chronic disorganization as well as a clutter hoarding scale at https://www.challengingdisorganization.org/)