Does that surprise you? It seems like a low estimate to me, but I’m a certified professional organizer. The nature of my business may result in meeting more people with ADHD.
With such a large segment of the population diagnosed with ADHD, it’s about as common as freckles. One would think it was simply accepted as one of the different thinking styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, etc.) Instead, I’ve met people who avoid the diagnosis whether they’ve actually received a formal diagnosis or a family member has “diagnosed” him or her. If you are wondering why anyone would resist, try to put yourself in his or her shoes.
We live in a judgmental society. Some people have shared their reasons: fear of discrimination, avoiding the perceived label of a mental health disorder, believing a diagnosis won’t make a difference or referencing the many myths associated with ADHD. Therefore, I’d like to share some information in hopes of dispelling just a few of the myths that perpetuate a stigma about ADHD and may keep some from seeking support.
ADHD always manifests itself in hyperactive, inattentive, and impulsive children. In fact, ADHD can look different in different people. Some children and adults may have trouble with hyperactivity while others have difficulty getting started at all. One person with ADHD might struggle with wandering thoughts while another can hyper-focus on a topic of interest for hours.
Some believe adults outgrow ADHD. The truth is it stays with an individual throughout their lives. However, depending on the individual, it can begin in youth as hyperactivity and impulsivity and transform into inattentiveness and problems with relationships.
Some believe medication will “fix” their ADHD symptoms. The purpose of medication is to help one focus.
Individual needs vary. Medication, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and/or psychotherapy may be necessary to provide life-management tools, and, when appropriate, working with a professional organizer can help provide organization and personalized systems to aid efficiency and productivity. Experience as a professional organizer and family advocate (not as a therapist) has taught me that formal diagnosis is so important. Many issues can mirror ADHD, even stress. Therefore, diagnosis by a psychologist or a clinical neuropsychologist should be part of a reliable diagnosis and medical plan.
Creating routines, keeping often used items like keys in the same place every day, using task lists, breaking projects down into smaller tasks, and using your electronic calendar. These are just a few ways to create structure and ease stress in your life.
This term means that issues such as anxiety, depression, and mood disorders can sometimes accompany ADHD. Studies indicate a genetic or physiological link between ADHD and other diagnoses.
Feedback about arriving late, missing deadline, and conforming to “typical” classroom and workplace standards can often be negative for the person with undiagnosed ADHD.
Hopefully, more discussion and understanding about ADHD, its symptoms, and potential comorbidity will result in people seeking and accepting help. In addition, general awareness may help others to create a more understanding environment, reducing the stigma around this and other diagnoses.
Arm yourself with information. Knowledge is power!
You know I love you very much. You know I want us and our family to be happy. I treasure you in my life, and I want us to always be able to work out our differences and support each other.
Unfortunately, we always seem to have the same disagreement over clutter. You are very lucky to know how to organize and to keep everything organized. I, on the other hand, struggle with this daily. Sometimes, it becomes totally overwhelming, and I don’t even know where to begin. I know you have my best interests at heart when you say you will help me, but regrettably, we end up fighting and getting nothing done.
I have tried for years to do this on my own, and I know you think I should be able to do so. As you can see, I have not been very successful at this. This is not a reflection on you, and I am hoping you will understand that I need help. It is very hard for me to admit this, but I’ve decided the time has finally come for me to ask for help from a professional organizer. The professional organizer will:
Believe me, I love every gift you have given me through the years, but the one gift I would love is for you to support me in my need for organizing help. Thank you SO much.
Love you always,
The letter you just read is very real. It is from the heart and expresses a real need, and a real struggle. While this example is from a wife to her husband, husbands can explain to their wives, parents to their children, a child to their parent.
We all need help with things in our lives. Professional organizers can offer the assistance needed in this area. It doesn’t matter the size of the project. What matters is that you’ve heard what the person is saying to you. For example, a nurse practitioner client of mine is very overwhelmed with the disorganization in her home. In fact, she has taken naps after our sessions. I explained to her that removing a splinter for me is like having major surgery. Of course, I know that it isn’t, but to her, removing a splinter is nothing, but for me, it is more than nothing.
What can you do to listen to and honor your spouse’s, partner’s, parent’s, child’s, friend’s, etc. request?
Click on the title above to learn more about the featured author.
The Philadelphia Hoarding Task Force, a coalition seeking to improve the outcomes surrounding hoarding issues, hosted a hoarding intervention workshop led by Jesse Edsell-Vetter. Jesse presented an innovative intervention model that he has developed and implemented with an impressive 98% success rate. The key to his model is the shift of focus from the “stuff” to the person.
In the past, Jesse, a Case Management Specialist with the Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership, had used a common approach when dealing with hoarded homes. He would explain the health and safety issues and cite the code violations that had to be resolved to prevent eviction. After leaving the person alone to address these issues, follow-up meetings predictably showed little-to-no progress. A clean-out was the inevitable next step, costing an average of $10,000. Over time, Jesse observed the homes return to their hoarded state. Focusing solely on the clutter has proven to be extremely costly and unsustainable as a treatment option. Beyond the monetary cost, the emotional trauma is also a factor. In one tragic example, a family returned to their home after the clean-out and committed suicide.
In response, Jesse shifted his approach from focusing on the “stuff” to focusing on the person: who they are, their commitments, their struggles and what moves them. For the majority of us, life’s challenges leave scars and hurts that dissipate with time. For people with hoarding behavior, woven in the items they hoard are their scars on display for all to see and judge. While a clean-out removes the “stuff,” it does nothing to unlock the stories and hurts interwoven in the piles. Jesse’s model, in contrast, coaxes these stories out with respectful, compassionate and nonjudgmental interactions emphasizing the human side of the clutter, lessening the grip of extreme hoarding habits.
During the workshop, Jesse shared a case study about Bob, an elderly man challenged with health problems, living alone, facing eviction, and surrounded by paper piles, some as high as seven feet tall. Rather than mandate compliance to codes and leave Bob alone to manage his stuff, Jesse explained the safety requirements to Bob and asked how he could help. Jesse gained Bob’s trust with empathic statements like, “I worry that X” and “I am concerned because Y.” As Jesse rolled up his sleeves and sorted through the piles with Bob, he asked questions such as, “Tell me about your X” or “Tell me about these papers I see.” This technique of “curious questioning” revealed Bob’s vulnerabilities (mental and physical health, traumas, and family history), his cognitive processes (problem solving, attention, and executive functioning skills) and his core beliefs (values, responsibilities, and how he sees his place in the world). Jesse learned that Bob came from a very religious family. Three of his sisters were nuns, and he himself had wanted to be a priest. Struggling with his sexuality, at age 20 Bob told his family he was gay. He was then shunned by his family and his religious community. Fast forward from that time in the early 1960’s to the present day, Bob’s apartment was a manifestation of that devastating loss. One item Bob hoarded was church bulletins. He attended church services every day, each day taking copies of the bulletin with the intention of sharing them with others. From the overwhelming piles, it was obvious though that this rarely happened. Using a team approach, a cornerstone of his intervention model, Jesse invited Bob’s priest to collaborate. Seeing how committed Bob was to his religion, the priest asked Bob to assist him in providing communion to people who were unable to attend church. In that moment, Bob recovered his purpose in life and adopted a healthier expression of his deep connection to his church and community.
Bob’s story illustrates the human side of Jesse’s 98% success rate, showing what’s possible when we leave our judgments at the door, stop addressing the person’s “stuff” and instead, unlock the stories and hurts buried in the hoarded piles. When intervention models lead with the threat of a clean out, walls go up, but, as Jesse has shown, when the intervention is infused with respect, non-judgment, curious questioning, statements of concern, clearly articulated expectations and actions, motivation and genuine praises for milestones met, partnership and collaboration becomes possible and the work of letting go and healing begins. In Bob’s case, when the priest invited Bob to help him, Bob was able to connect to his life again and the importance of his “stuff” could take a back seat.
As a follow-up to my blog post from last year at this time, I am thrilled to report that the Philadelphia Hoarding Task Force (PHTF) is in its second year and making headway.
In 2013, the Philadelphia Hoarding Task Force a coalition of organizations dedicated to increasing access to services for people with hoarding behavior, created a bold mission:
“To improve outcomes for people who hoard and reduce the catastrophic consequences related to hoarding for residents of the City of Philadelphia.”
An ambitious undertaking to say the least!
In its first year, PHTF had four major accomplishments:
1. Resource Guide – This guide offers immediate and non-immediate resources that may help a person with hoarding behaviors live a safer, healthier life. It can also be used by organizations that have clients who have hoarding behaviors. Please click the link for further details Resource Guide.
2. Helplines – Assist those with questions regarding hoarding-related issues in the Philadelphia area.
Under 60 years of age: 215-751-1800
60 years of age and above: 215-545-5728
4. Educational Workshops – “Introduction to Hoarding Workshop”
This workshop is presented by one of PHTF’s Education Committee members and is offered free of charge to the public. These workshops are listed on the website.
Arrangements can be made to have an “Introduction to Hoarding Workshop” done for a specific group or organization that serves the Philadelphia community. Email PHTF at .
Standing on the accomplishments of 2014, the Philadelphia Hoarding Task Force is working to expand its services to include case management, support groups, therapy and cleaning services. The 2015 goals for PHTF are to:
A statistic listed on the PHTF website notes that individuals with hoarding behaviors account for two to five percent of the population—an estimated 23,600 to 59,000 adults in Philadelphia. These numbers are alarming and reveal the need to address this issue individually and as a community.
The approach of the PHTF is based on three key principles:
1. To focus on the person, not the problem or the items they hoard. At the heart of their work is an awareness that behind every hoarded home is a person who needs help, not judgment. They require patience and respect from everyone involved.
2. Since there can be serious consequences for people who hoard because hoarding can be a serious hazard, PHTF advocates solutions that will help resolve emergency issues while also providing support over time.
3. PHTF seeks a balance between the rights of the individual to live as they choose with the needs of the community. PHTF believes that hoarding goes from being an individual struggle to a community problem when it threatens health, safety and livability for those living in a hoarded home, their neighbors, and also the service providers, contractors, and emergency responders entering a hoarded home.
In short, PHTF works to provide individuals and organizations in the region with the tools they need to successfully overcome the challenges associated with hoarding behavior and the public safety hazards that may result.
May the ‘Force’ be with the Philadelphia Hoarding Task Force again this year as it continues to make headway through these uncharted waters!
Are you organizationally challenged? Professional organizers frequently hear clients proclaim this as they confess, “I just don’t know where to start” or “I don’t know how things should be set up”. Or, perhaps you are space-challenged, sounding more like this: “I’m organized but there just isn’t enough storage in my home.”
In either case, one way to begin addressing the task of getting and keeping your home, with all its charms and faults, organized is to set up zones.
As an elementary school classroom may have a carpeted area for reading, desks for writing, and an art area with supply cupboards, our homes — and the rooms within — can be arranged so that items found in a certain zone support the activities that take place there.
To make the shift from feeling as though you have everything everywhere to having just what you need where you need it, start by making a list of all the rooms you will address. List the activities you would like to happen in each room as your roadmap toward creating your dream home.
Dining Room – eat meals, do crafts
Kitchen – cook, homework, pay bills
Bedroom – sleep, exercise
Beginning with one room, let’s say kitchen, remove all items that have no relevance to the activities you have listed. Do you see any sports gear, toiletries or giftwrap lying around?
All these need to move out.
Once you’ve removed what doesn’t belong, it’s time to address what’s left. Think about what normally happens when you do the activities assigned to this room. Do you run to get a certain supply from elsewhere every time? If so, now’s the time to bring that item in. For instance, if homework and paying bills occur in the kitchen, are the basic supplies for those activities handy? Pens, pencils, stamps, a computer charging station? How about cooking supplies? Are you headed down to the basement for pans you use each month while storing the Thanksgiving turkey plate within an arm’s reach?
After you’ve determined that the supplies you have handy are the ones you need, it is time to set up your zones. Do you have trouble preparing dinner because your counter is cluttered with pens, glue and papers? Decide where homework and bill work is done and designate drawers, cabinets, bins or baskets to house those supplies. Relocate all your kitchen items according to their appropriate zone.
The final step is to assess the amounts that you need.
Now that you have all the writing instruments gathered into one area, will dozens of pens clog the supply drawer making it difficult to find anything else you need? See if just 5 or ten would suffice. Or maybe you haven’t assigned enough space for homework and office supplies.
Do you find that you no longer cook as much as you used to? Perhaps you don’t need to keep all three cupcake pans. When you got that new coffee maker that takes k-cups, did you hang on to the last one? How about the one before that? Do you have the space for all these extra appliances that might be useful again someday but take up lots of living space today?
When your zones are complete, take a moment each day before leaving each room to glance around for items that have wandered out of place and quickly move them back into their appropriate zone.
Let go of clutter and live your dream.
Let’s take a brief trip down memory lane. What was it that initially attracted you to your spouse? Perhaps you fell for his outgoing, life-of-the-party personality. Maybe you were drawn to her gifted, creative nature. In those initial stages of love, you possibly detected his or her organizing limitations but those flaws were a small price to pay to be with the one you loved.
Fast forward a year — or maybe twenty — and you are at your wits end. Why is it so difficult for her to keep the house straight? Why does he leave his stuff everywhere? Your spouse’s disorganization is putting a serious strain on your relationship.
We, who are naturally organized, are mystified by others who struggle in this area. We seldom run late, we rarely lose things, and our homes have always been relatively organized. We take our innate organizing skill for granted. After all, how difficult is it to keep a tidy home, go through the mail, or clear out a closet?
Studies have found the more creative a person, the more organizationally challenged. So, may I be so bold as to suggest that it probably is not just your spouse’s disorganization that is causing a strain in your relationship. Could it possibly be your own willingness to accept that something so simple to you doesn’t come so easy to him or her?
We live in a society that places high value on being organized. A lack of organization costs us both financially and emotionally. Your spouse most likely feels a sense of shame, guilt, and embarrassment for not having their organizing act together. They desire to get organized; they just don’t know how.
Enter the professional organizer. Our purpose as organizers is not just to help you (or your spouse) tidy up, but to transfer and impart those ‘oh so needed’ organizing skills. An effective organizer encourages you to let go of the excess in your home, strategizes with you to plan the best organizing systems for your space, and ensures that you have learned how to maintain a structure and order that works for you both.
So, the next time you feel tempted to nag your spouse over the mess in your home, focus on all those wonderful qualities that drew you together, and consider the value of a professional organizer. We may not be able to solve all your marital woes, but we can surely help when organizing opposites attract.