Erica -- the woman I had called in desperation to help me clear out my clutter -- held up a yellow scrap of paper, and I crumpled in shame. I had misplaced this note at the bottom of a laundry basket full of papers that I stashed in my husband's office. The note was buried there for two years.
We women with attention deficit need our piles. We are so afraid we'll lose something in a drawer or a folder -- "out of sight, out of the ADD mind" -- that we keep everything in the open where we can see it. But after a couple of days, we can't see the important stuff anyway. It's buried under the new stuff we don't want to lose.
The Price of Being Disorganized
Disorganization is expensive for me. I lost the contract for a magazine article I wrote, twice, and was too embarrassed to ask for it a third time. When I cleaned out my car, a week before I traded it in, I found an uncashed paycheck that was eight months old.
Clutter causes me physical injury, too. I was picking my way through a narrow path of stuff in the garage and caught my shoe on a planter that was sitting in the walkway. I fell on the concrete, cracked two ribs, and broke my wrist. It still hurts to think about it. And there's the simple aggravation of not being able to find things when I need them. A researcher who studies such things says that if we spend five minutes looking for our car keys each day, it adds up to 30 hours a year. Multiply that by an 80-year life span, and we spend 13 weeks of our lives trying to find our bloody car keys.
The truth is, clutter drives me batty. I swear, ordinary household objects silently scream at me to be put away or tended to as I walk by: "Put me in the dishwasher!" "Call the repair guy, so I can stop leaking!" I don't stop to take care of those things in the moment because my brain is overloaded from thousands of other screams: "Can't you be on time for once?" "These pants are too tight; you need to go on a diet." Erica tried to organize me her way. We found a rolling cart, with lots of skinny drawers, in the attic. We assembled it, placed it in the kitchen -- clutter central in my house -- and labeled each drawer. The cart would have helped if I had used it. We can't use the systems that work for other people. We must have systems that are ours.
This article appears in the Spring issue of ADDitude.
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