Professional organizer with ADHD explores relationship between clutter and mental health: ‘You are not alone’

As a professional organizer, Kayleen Kelly (@kayleenkellyorganize) has seen firsthand how a clean and organized home can positively impact a person’s mental health. But as a woman living with ADHD, she also knows that it isn’t easy for everyone and that when life spins out of control, a neat and tidy home is often the first thing to go.

“I think the majority of people don’t know or understand the correlation and connection between mental health, trauma and clutter,” Kelly told In the Know by Yahoo. “And that education is so important … so there’s more empathy around the entire topic.”

In fact, having empathy and understanding for what people are going through is a huge part of what guides her overall approach to working with clients since starting her company, Kayleen Kelly Home Organizing & Redesign.

According to Kelly, there are two sides to the organization industry: The aesthetic side, which is all about making things look pretty and organized and Instagram-worthy, and the behavioral side‚ which has a lot to do with getting at the root of what’s causing the clutter.

Needless to say, she’s drawn to the latter.

“When I first started the business, the clientele that I was attracting was really, really struggling with clutter and their mental health,” Kelly shared. “But really, what I ran into was a lot of trauma. Clutter and trauma are very closely tied together.”

Since starting her business in 2014, Kelly has come across all sorts of reasons why people wind up living in chaos. While a person’s mental and physical health are huge parts of it, there are often other factors that come into play too, like having a child, the death of a loved one or any number of other life transitions.

Like Kelly, some clients also have executive-function disorders like ADHD, which can make living an organized life even more challenging.

“Things add up and the clutter builds, and it gets to the point where we are just no longer in control,” Kelly told In the Know.

There can also be a deep level of guilt and shame that comes with it.

“When I’m working with clients, it’s not really the stuff that they struggle shedding,” Kelly said. “It is that negative emotion and that shame. It is really, really hard to be self-compassionate when you’re in this situation … You look around, and you’re going to feel worse about yourself.”

But that doesn’t mean all hope is lost.

“I say that, as a neurodivergent woman with ADHD and also a professional organizer, I have brain-hacked my way through organizing and decluttering,” Kelly explained. “And what I mean by that is that I work with my brain instead of against it. And if you’re a neurotypical, neurodivergent — anyone, everyone should do the same.”

That’s why Kelly developed the CORE 4 method, which she uses with every single client, regardless of whether they struggle with executive function. It includes four simple steps, known as the Four C’s: Clear out, Categorize, Cut out and Contain.

Step 1: Clear out. Kelly tells clients to focus on removing any trash or useless items that don’t belong in a particular space.

Step 2: Categorize. This allows clients to put “likes with likes” by creating piles. According to Kelly, this part is an important step in order to see what you have before editing your stuff.

Step 3: Cut out. This is when clients finally get to the heart of decluttering and purging their items. For this step, she recommends her three-second rule.

“It’s either a yes, you keep it, or no, it goes,” Kelly explained, adding that the goal is to give an answer in three seconds or less.

If you hesitate, however, that’s an automatic keep.

“Doing it this way allows you to make quick, confident decisions, but you don’t regret anything by giving something up that you’re not ready to let go of,” according to Kelly.

Step 4: Contain.

“Once you’ve eliminated all of the items you no longer need, that’s when you’re going to take a look at your available storage,” said Kelly. “Create a layout that’s going to be functional for you. You want your items that you use regularly front and center. You want to make sure that you’re using clear bins or that you have baskets with labels.”

That said, the biggest hurdle when it comes to decluttering your home is often getting started — which is why Kelly’s services can be so helpful.

“If you are struggling with clutter and you look around and you just can’t seem to dig yourself out, if I can say one thing to you, it would be that you are not alone,” Kelly assured. “Addressing your clutter and creating a functional home, it’s not easy … it requires a lot of change, mentally, emotionally, habitually. And change, as we know, is not easy. But the rewards are endless.”

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