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When a person with ADD talks about clutter, they are talking, believe it or not, about an organizational system. A flawed system, to be sure. But a system nonetheless. For us, the whole "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" thing is not just a handy expression, it's real ya'll.
It's the reason that the library books that I kept all in one place on a top shelf so that we wouldn't lose any of them back in May...are still sitting on that cursed shelf. It's the reason that my husband's doctoral paper that I promised to read and edit and so I slipped it into my work bag (where I wouldn't lose it) two weeks ago, only just this morning got read and edited after Mr. Frowzy had a good righteous pout. It's the reason that the cell phone bill that I filed away in a lovely little "to be paid" folder wasn't remembered until I reached for my phone to call my dear mother and there was no service. Again. These things were literally out of sight and therefore completely out of mind.
So, we ADDers leave things laying around in plain sight. But, the irony of that is once you start leaving several things laying around in plain sight, before long it looks like this:
Of course, the irony is that there is no longer anything in plain sight. And all I have is a huge eyesore full of clutter. And let me tell you, this guy's tail enthusiastically trotting through the room can wipe half of that mess onto the floor in the blink of an eye...er, the wag of a tail.
Now, you might think that we ADDers don't like neatness or thrive on disorder, and well we might tell ourselves and you that, the deep, dark truth is that I crave order and structure like I do those sea salt caramels they sell at the Farmer's Market. I have spent more money on books about organization and reducing clutter than I care to admit, because it got me absolutely nowhere. Again, I wallowed in failure, and embarrassment, and shame because they made it sound so easy and I really, really wanted to be a grow-up. If only I would just put out more effort.
Once I realized that defeating the ADD was not going to happen and that an organizational fairy godmother wasn't going to flit by and transform me into a glass slippered neat freak (but how cool would that be!), I decided to work with my ADD. And find out what I need to make things happen. And on time.
As I said in my article on ADD and cleaning, you will probably have to find out what really works for you. And if you have children who have ADD or you are suspicious might have it, try to think in these ways for them as well. For instance, we have lockers in our foyer. On the boys' locker is a magnetic clip with Oliver's homework he left on the desk and he needs to remember to take in. On the girls' locker are the forms to hold Eleanor and Fiona's place in preschool for next year that I need to remember to take in. (Yes, those stickers will be a future Whatever Wednesday.)
(And don't be fooled by those big blue eyes. She'd kill you as soon as look you. well, at least mess up your place real good.) If I left these in an "out file" on the desk, they would stay there f.o.r.e.v.e.r. This is my tidiest way of keeping things in sight and organized so they can go out the door to where they need to be.
Before Eleanor (we'll call that B.E.), I kept a basket at the front door on a little table. I would put everything I needed to take somewhere in the basket, so that on my errand running day I would just pick up the basket and take it to the car with me. It worked beautifully and those cursed library books wouldn't still be on that cursed shelf. I have yet to find another similar way that is Eleanor proof.
The same OSOM issue works with my school and work stuff, too. I have lovely calendars and planning notebooks that have lots of lovely events and plans written in them. But, once the cover is closed it's Out of Sight. So, I make sure that my assignments are never Out of Sight.
On the left hand side of my computer screen there is a super cool post-it note that has my weeks' worth of work on it. I have no choice but to look at the darn thing clucking its disapproval at me every time I answer another Facebook quiz instead of doing my work. (Yes, that is 52oz of icy cold Dr. Pepper goodness. Don't judge. It's a part of the creative process. and yes, that is 16lbs of chubby baby delightfulness. He makes darling noises when you squeeze him. And why YES that is the Better Life Twitter page! What? You don't follow us?! *gasp*)
If you were to come into my kitchen, you would find a giant calendar that has everything written on it, including the bills and their amounts due on their due dates. And yes, that gets transferred to my post-it note so I can pay the bill online. Next to the calendar there is also a bulletin board, that can start to look pretty cluttered, that has other essential and timely papers on it that need to say in my mind.
Information that I want to keep but put out of mind until I need it, go into my household notebook. Coupons and menus for take out, handyman's phone number, school information etc all goes into one place. It's truly been a godsend. (And needs to be cleaned out at the moment.)
This is how we combat needed stuff so it doesn't become clutter. The rest gets tossed and recycled. When dealing with a surface, you have to be ruthless. Clutter is a fertile little thing that reproduces quickly once given permission. The first thing that you allow to settle on a surface is just going to give permission to other things to settle on there, too. I have a drawer and my husband has a drawer. When his stuff lands on the buffet, it gets stuck in his drawer. That way if he can't find something, chances are good that it's in that drawer. Same with my stuff.
One major source of clutter is school. So much cursed paper! Each of the school age kids has bin in our art room. They choose what they want to keep and put it in the bin. If the bin gets full, they have to cut back on the "keepers."
These are some of the ways that we combat the clutter and work with the ADD. We aren't always perfect by any stretch, because as I said before, ADD works in cycles. but, 80% of the time we have most of the clutter under control. You can embrace your ADD through trial and error until you find a way that works for you.
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