How I Knocked Out Clutter

When her messy home had her on the ropes, this ADHD boxer fought back — thanks to a coach who helped her put clutter down for the count.

My Path Toward Organization, Part 2

My ADD kept acting up: I was sidetracked by any project that I thought needed my attention. Each time, Betty gently guided me back to working on the telephone table. She relegated a bronze plate from China, tarnished from oxidation, to a high shelf on an out-of-the-way bookcase, and suggested I deal with that another day.

Neat Strategies

After everything was sorted into piles, Betty gave me strategies to organize them. My job was to figure out which way worked best for me. I thought I’d use two file cabinets — one for household paperwork, another for career items; buy organizers to make the drawer self-sorting; keep a single notebook by the phone instead of the three that resided there; reduce my gaggle of pencils and pens to three; create a control notebook that contained all the important information for running the household: reminders of recycling day, garbage day, gas-meter-reading day.

Before Betty taught me her system, paperwork was my downfall. I would toss papers on an empty table or shelf — until it became a precarious pile. (Betty calls flat surfaces “horizontal monsters,” for their uncanny ability to collect papers.) If I needed work space, I’d stick the papers somewhere else, and seldom find them again. Thanks to Betty, that all changed. I didn’t have to remember where, say, the warranty for the new garbage disposal system went. I filed it away within an hour of receiving it.

Clear Desk, Clear Mind

To my delight, my home, and my home office, became functional. Instead of sitting in a wood chair that kept falling apart, no matter how often I glued it back together, I glided through the room on an office chair with wheels. My supplies were stored in a cabinet behind my desk. My projects hung in folders on top of my desk. On one of her visits, Betty said that she could tell my life was overbooked by observing the row of folders.

She was right. There were separate ones for job interviews, substitute teaching, a singles newsletter I was editing, the art gallery at which I was volunteering, two tennis clubs, two sailing clubs, my paddle tennis club. She helped me prune away folders for some of the less important activities.

Life was good — and it got better. The more organized my desk became, the better I was able to set priorities. Without two-dozen items competing for my attention, I could stick with a project until its completion. When I finally filed away the last bit of paper and looked at an orderly desk, it occurred to me that I had to look for a new job. With Betty’s help, I saw myself anew — as someone capable of managing my household and my life. I had silenced that inner voice that used to condemn me.

Organizing my life was as exciting as honing my boxing moves. Being in control of my surroundings released feel-good endorphins, the way a sweaty tussle with the slow bag did. I felt ecstatic every time I opened a drawer of tidily arranged spices right next to my stove. So ecstatic that I was inspired to have fun trying new recipes. Life never tasted better.

This article comes from the Fall issue of ADDitude.

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TAGS: Cleaning Up Clutter, Organization Tips for ADD Adults, ADHD Coaching,

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