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ADHD Spring Cleaning Gone Wrong: Settling for Organized Chaos

Should the ADHD golden rule of organizing be to tackle projects one at a time, similar messes at once — or, to accept achieving less-than-perfect order?

I’m in the midst of reorganizing my office.

And my guest room.

And my media room/studio.

And my kitchen table.

And the hall closet.

And the top of the pool table (a.k.a my conference table).

And my bonus room (Read: Storage/junk room with a pile of clutter worthy of its own post, coming up next time!).

[Free Download: How to Tidy Up Your Home Like a Pro]

Uh oh. Sounds like a perfect storm of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) overwhelm. A more linear, less desperate being might say: “Why don’t you tackle one project at a time, Linda?”

My answer would be: “Because they are all connected!” And the gods of organization would smile down upon me, knowing that I have remembered the Golden Rule of Organizing:

Group All Like Things Together!

So I am trying to do that. I have a lot of computer flotsam and jetsam: errant Ethernet cables, adapters for every iPod size ever created, and miscellaneous curly power cords and transformers. Each object of clutter lurks silently in the dark corners of my office. And the bonus room. And the guest room… Well, you get the idea.

The Golden Rule of Spring Cleaning for the ADHD Mind: If I am going to organize, do the deep-down kind of organizing that will last more than a day or two, I need to get all of it collected in one spot, figure out what I need and what can be discarded, then find a home for the Chosen Ones.

It takes time, sorting through the minutiae of my office life. Originally, I was energized and optimistic, digging in fearlessly. I actually stayed up all night long collecting and rethinking and finding new storage opportunities. I made a big dent in the accumulation, but when I went to bed (at 6 a.m.!) the actual state of the rooms was worse than when I had started!

That’s pretty depressing, especially when my intention was to get things decluttered by the time my husband returned from an out-of-town trip. Didn’t happen. And now, two days later, I am beginning to fall into despair.

[Self-Test: Is Your Clutter and Disorganization Out of Control?]

How will I ever find the time to finish? I have other things that demand my attention and time — like clients and writing my book (still not finished either) and dogs and husband and GardenSpirit Guesthouse and… Oh, I don’t want to think about it right now.

I’m still optimistic. But I think I might need some reinforcements. Maybe a session with my professional organizer. Maybe asking my husband to simply sit in the room with me (but don’t touch anything!) so I don’t get paralyzed by indecision (they call that a Body Double).

Ultimately, though, it’s up to me to plow through the half-baked mess. I know I can do it. I’ve done it before (and that’s depressing, too, when I think about how often I have been in this exact situation).

Okay, here’s a thought: Since my previous attempts have led to failure, maybe I can try doing one category at a time. Maybe I can collect all the books and shepherd them up to the bonus room where I now have four new bookcases waiting to be filled (organized by topic first, of course).

Then I could corral the computer doodads into one of my many storage bins and ask the tough questions: 1) What the heck is this thing?, 2) Will I ever need it again?, and 3) Where can I put it so I can find it on that day that I do need it?

Ah, back to basics. Small steps. Focus. Time. Optimism. I can do this. I can do this. I can do this. I want my life back. I want my stuff to stop those silent screams each time I pass by. I want clean and open and spacious. And I’ll have it. But perhaps a small prayer to the gods of organization might be in order…

[Perfect Is Pointless: 16 Organization Rules You Can Follow]