When a family member has a chronically disorganized home, it can put a strain on everyone's relationships. Here are some suggestions on how you can approach the situation in a supportive manner

1) Do a reality check first. Before you take any action, make sure that your concern is also shared by the person you care about. Although you may cringe every time you enter their house, they may not be bothered in the least by having those hundreds of books lining their hallway floor to ceiling.

2) However, if they have mentioned that they just got burned by an extra 28.5% interest charged to their credit card because they couldn't find their bill, or that they haven't had anyone over for a long time because they're embarrassed by the smell of all the dirty dishes in their kitchen, they may be ready to hear your concerns.

3) If you've decided to talk to them about their situation, don't bring it up in the heat of the moment, while you're waiting in their entryway, because they can't find their car keys again. Offer to take the person out to coffee or meet for a walk to get away from their surroundings. You may be more successful by bringing it up in a neutral location because sometimes just the sight of their situation can create anxiety, which can lead to defensiveness and resistance to your ideas.

4) At all costs, be tactful! Broach the issue by bringing up their own comments or frustrations they may have shared with you, rather than talking about how their disorganization affects you or others close to the person. Again, they may already be feeling depressed, anxious, or guilty and having you add your own fuel to the fire may make them feel even worse. If they shut you down, you'll need to let it go for now. As with any issue, if a person doesn't see it as a problem and isn't interested in changing anything, there is no sense in damaging your relationship by trying to press them to take action. Leave the door open for future conversations and let them know that you're happy to talk about it again if they change their mind.

5) However, if they're open to discussing it, brainstorm together how they might be able to address their situation. Maybe they want to start by attending an organizing class or reading an organizing book, to inspire them that they can actually change their situation. Maybe they'll agree to return all the clothes that still have the tags on to the store, or to donate all those toys the kids have outgrown. Or maybe they'll decide they need some hands-on help. The most important thing is to get the ideas generated so they don't feel like it's so overwhelming and can start to move forward.

6) If the person has decided they'd like you to become an "organizing partner" with them, there are a few definite Don'ts. Do not, under any circumstances, throw away or donate something of theirs behind their backs. I've been in numerous situations where a wife or husband will get rid of something while their spouse "isn't looking." This creates a huge amount of resentment, and it's important to remember that the relationship is first priority. Also, do not give orders, threaten consequences, moralize, or criticize during the work sessions. It's very normal for the person to hit some roadblocks along the way, and they should be in charge of making their own decisions so they can learn that skill for when they'll continue the process alone.

7) On the flip-side, some definite Do's are to be a cheerleader when they make progress or get past a roadblock. Offer to help with things like grabbing them some lunch while they keep working, or to drive some clothes to the donation center so the items can get out of their space quickly. If they get stuck, gently remind them what they said in the beginning about how they wanted to make a change so they can see the forest, and not just the trees.

8) If they do not feel comfortable having someone close to them help with the process, suggest a neutral party like a professional organizer, who can bring experience and a fresh perspective to their situation. This may be particularly important if the person's disorganization is a chronic, long-term situation. They may go right back to a cluttered situation if there are underlying habits and behaviors that do not get identified and addressed.

9) If your spouse is the disorganized person, you may want to consider beginning by working together with a counselor or therapist. The situation may have created a great deal of stress in your relationship, and by addressing and resolving the emotional component first, you may find that it's easier to move forward with the concrete steps without generating more bickering and resentment.

10) When the situation has moved beyond a concern to an actual health or safety issue, greater action will likely be needed. A good resource to start with is the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization. They have free handouts like the Clutter Hoarding Scale that you can use to identify how serious the issue is. Also, if you need to engage the services of companies specializing in the clean up of serious hoarding situations, you can find them online by searching under hoarding clean-up services.

Author's Bio: 

Sheila has owned her professional organizing business for almost five years, and has a proven track record in helping nearly 100 clients save time and simplify their lives by becoming better organized at home or at work.