Is This the Worst You've Seen?

Almost every single person I've worked with has asked me if their space is the worst I've seen. The answer is no, usually it isn't. Never the less, most people want to know where they stack up. The short answer is I'm not going to compare clients. Everyone has a different situation with different belongings, in a different space. The one thing I will do is share a scale to let you decide where you land, compared to yourself only.

There is an educational group called the ICD, the Institute for Challenging Disorganization. They help to educate both professionals and the public about the challenges that chronically disorganized people face, as well as struggles those with particular challenges come across (learning disabilities or brain injuries, for example).

Awhile back, the ICD developed a Clutter Hoarding Scale to help professionals determine how many resources might be needed on a particular project. The scale rates spaces in five levels, from low to severe, in five categories: structure and zoning, animals and pests, household functions, health and safety and personal protective equipment. The scale itself can be rather in depth, and is available for free download on the ICD's website. But, here's a general basis to get you started:

Level 1: Low
  • All ways in and out of the home are accessible, plumbing/electrical/HVAC working
  • Appropriate animal control and no evidence of pests
  • No excessive clutter, consistent household maintenance
  • Maintained sanitation, no odors
Level 2: Guarded
  • One major exit blocked, some systems non-functioning
  • Inappropriate animal control, light evidence of pests
  • Clutter obstructs some functions of rooms, inconsistent household maintenance
  • Non-maintained sanitation, some odors detected
Level 3: Elevated
  • Items normally stored inside are outside, slight structural damage to home
  • Inadequate sanitation, evidence of pests
  • At least one room not used for intended purpose, substandard housekeeping
  • Obvious odors, accumulated trash, debris, dust
Level 4: High
  • HVAC disabled for one year or more, structural damage for more than six months
  •  Audible and visible pest infestations
  • Several rooms not being used for intended purpose, improper use of appliances, moving from room to room inhibited
  • Dishes, linens unusable; mold/mildew obvious; rotting food
Level 5: Severe
  • Inadequate.non-existent ventilation, irreparable damage to structure
  • Heavy infestations
  • All rooms not used for intended purpose, exits/halls blocked, appliances and plumbing not usable
  • Waste and rot present, bed not accessible, pervasive mold
If any of the later three stages reminds you of your home or someone you love, please contact a professional such as an organizer, mental health professional or counselor. The ICD can also provide information on how to best approach someone in need.

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