If you clicked on this article, you probably did so with some degree of incredulity. How on earth do professional organizers – the people who sort through old papers and arrange closets – have anything to do with keeping a job and maintaining a security clearance?

Let me explain.

From reading my prior articles or perhaps from security briefings, you may know that financial issues constitute the number one reason why security clearances are denied or revoked. That has been the case year-after-year, virtually government-wide for as long as I can remember.

As it turns out, many of those with financial difficulties are also incredibly disorganized. Bills end-up buried in piles of extraneous paper, collection notices are left to languish, and even tax lien notifications are strewn amongst excess clutter or shoved into drawers. More often than not, the means to pay the bills are there – or were there at some point – but the disorganization has significantly compounded what was once an easily manageable problem.

These situations may not rise to “Hoarders” level, but I can tell you unequivocally, as a result of handling literally hundreds of security cases over the years, that those who run into security clearance problems for financial issues often share the same underlying problems with disorganization. It is actually the disorganization that causes the financial problems in the first place.

The Solution to an Organization – and Financial – Problem

As is evident from shows like “Hoarders”, disorganization is often just a metaphor for having too much stuff. The solution is “de-cluttering” in addition to organizing; it is not enough to simply re-arrange junk. In order to make that happen, many people need outside help in the form of a professional organizer. Severe cases may require the involvement of a psychologist or other mental health professional.

My office employed this novel strategy in a recent case and the results were impressive. Not only was the client able to resolve numerous outstanding debts and retain his security clearance, but he also immeasurably improved his quality of life by letting go of significant amounts of needless junk that served no purpose other than to remind him of a difficult past.

If this sounds like you, I encourage you to seek out professional help or even just the assistance of a trusted friend or family member before your disorganized personal life begins to negatively impact your ability to earn a living. Waiting to take action until your eligibility for continued security clearance is called into question is often too late.


This article is intended as general information only and should not be construed as legal advice. Consult an attorney regarding your specific situation. 

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Sean M. Bigley retired from the practice of law in 2023, after a decade representing clients in the security clearance process. He was previously an investigator for the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (then-U.S. Office of Personnel Management) and served from 2020-2024 as a presidentially-appointed member of the National Security Education Board. For security clearance assistance, readers may wish to consider Attorney John Berry, who is available to advise and represent clients in all phases of the security clearance process, including pre-application counseling, denials, revocations, and appeals. Mr. Berry can be found at https://berrylegal.com.