The NSGCD conference: Learning and networking and great food all rolled into one!

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NSGCD Conference

There have been quite a few major events for professional organizers this fall, and since many of you can only spare the time and funds to attend one (or maybe not even that), I’ve recruited some special people to let you know what you’ve missed. We’ve already heard about the POAA and AAPO conferences, and today Janine Adams is here to tell us all about the recent NSGCD Conference.


I had the brain on my brain after attending the annual conference of the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization in sunny Los Angeles, October 1 to 3. I’m a conference junkie (this was my fourth organizers’ conference in the past year) and NSGCD is always one of my favorites. This year’s conference did not disappoint.

One thing I love about the NSGCD conference is that it’s relatively small: there were 115 folks in attendance. That’s small enough to really get to know people. NSGCD subscribers are such smart, compassionate, fun people. From the very first one I attended, I always felt like I was among friends. Another bonus: The food at NSGCD conferences is always great (and plentiful). And the meals are included in the conference fee.

So why was the brain on my brain? Mostly because of the presentation called, “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life,” by renowned brain researcher, Daniel G. Amen, M.D. He spoke about keeping our brains young by avoiding certain behaviors (including smoking, drugs, excessive caffeine, sleep deprivation—he says that at least seven hours of sleep each night is essential) and embracing others (like a healthy diet, vitamins, fish oil, new learning, sex and exercise—he recommends table tennis). For me, the talk was enlightening and I gleaned information that will cause me to change some behaviors. And I’ve already spoken with some clients about what I learned from Dr. Amen.

But Dr. Amen wasn’t the only great speaker on the agenda. The two-day conference was full of them. In her lively presentation, Catherine “Ross” Roster, Ph.D., NSGCD Research Director, gave us an update on the association’s current research projects and encouraged NSGCD subscribers to get involved in two new projects: one with artist Corinne Botz, who will create art from objects of significance donated by people. The project, titled “The Secret Lives of Objects” can use the help of 20 to 25 NSGCD subscribers to identify clients who might wish to participate. The other project is to create a new Clutter Quality of Life Scale (CQLS), a self-assessment tool designed to measure the impact of clutter on an individual’s life and the consequences of clutter. Dr. Roster pointed out that the CQLS will be a great way for POs to engage clients in discussion of the impact of clutter, as well as quantify progress with their clients.

Also on the program was Tracey Greene Mintz, a social worker who, in a surprisingly entertaining presentation, advocated for the elderly in her talk on mitigating relocation stress syndrome in elderly clients. On the second day, Nancy Schlossberg, Ed.D., a vibrant 80-year-old and expert on change and transition gave two enlightening sessions on transitions. Because of a personal obligation, I had to take an early flight, so I missed Mark Odom’s talk on “Overcoming Resistance: Understanding and Engaging Reluctant Clients.” I was also sorry to miss the panel discussion on collaboration that ended the conference. In my opinion, one of the hallmarks of NSGCD is its reaching out to other disciplines to offer us different perspectives on our work. This particular panel included Tammy L. Chalmers, CFO of Crime Scene Steri-Clean, whose company specializes in clean-ups for hoarders; Marie K. Lee, Ph.D., a cognitive behavioral therapist; Margaret Riley, Neighborhood Improvement/Code Enforcement Manager for the City of Buena Park, California and the co-chair of the Orange County Task Force on Hoarding; Sheryl Vito, a Senior Social Worker with Orange County Adult Protective Services; and another social worker for older adults, with the City of Huntington Beach, Senior Services. To me, that’s an exciting panel. I truly wish I could have heard them, but I can always purchase CDs or DVDs of the conference sessions.

If you find yourself working with chronically disorganized clients and don’t feel equipped with the tools to make progress with them, I strongly recommend investing in NSGCD. The teleclasses throughout the year are great and the conferences truly rock. Mark your calendars now: Next year’s conference will be September 23 to 25 in Austin, Texas. Keep your eye on the conference page on the NSGCD website for more information as it becomes available.

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Janine Adams, CPO®, CPO-CD® is owner of Peace of Mind Organizing in St. Louis, Missouri. Together with life coach Shannon Wilkinson, she’s the co-creator of the e-course Declutter Happy Hour.

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