Ending the Cycle of ADHD Clutter

Q:

"I've been learning lots of organizing techniques and have even had a professional come to the house. But because of the 'cyclical' nature of my ADD, all of these techniques are in vain when a clean area becomes messed up over and over. What suggestions do you have?"

Holly Uverity
A:

First of all, congratulations on learning organizational techniques and hiring a professional organizer to work with you — these are definitely steps in the right direction and I encourage you to focus on how long an area stays organized and neat instead of looking at how quickly it becomes messy again.

It's important to understand the difference between being organized and being clean. Organized means that everything has a home, it has its own place and it's in its own place. Clean doesn't necessarily mean organized—clean means that everything's put up or put away, but everything could very well be jammed into closets or cupboards.

In my view, the test to tell if an area is truly organized is to see how quickly it can be restored to neatness from messiness. For example, if your desk has papers piled all over it, and pens and pencils and other supplies scattered around the desktop, if you can quickly put everything back into its home in a matter of just a few minutes, then regardless of how messy it looks, it's still an organized area.

If the papers and supplies on the desk don't have a home, if there's no designated place to put them back to, then it is not organized. The key to organization is finding a home for EVERYTHING — once a home is designated for even the smallest of items, then it's simply a matter of straightening up and putting things away. As this should only take a few minutes, it can easily be done every day. There are no decisions to be made, no wondering what todo with something, because in and on an organized desk, all those decisions have already been made.

My experience tells me that if an area is continually messy and you are having trouble 'keeping it clean,' it's because the area is not truly organized after all. Make sure that everything in that area belongs there and has a home there and as things come out of their homes, you should have no trouble straightening the area up.

Holly Uverity is an organization expert who runs the Houston-based firm Office Organizers. She is the founding president of Houston Professional Organizers and is a very active member of NAPO, the National Association of Professional Organizers.

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