Conquer Your Clutter Part 2
(This is part two of a three part series. Check out Conquer Your Clutter Part 1: Why? to get an introduction to this topic.)
All righty. Once you’ve split the different items of your clutter mountain into categories, you can start deciding what to do with them and where to put them. Below are suggestions that I have for dealing with each variety of clutter. Keep in mind that because you are incredibly unique, you may need to use your creativity to tweak these ideas so that they work with you and your lifestyle. K? K.
Category 1: Item has no home.
One of the most important strategies that those of us with ADHD can utilize is STRUCTURE. This may sound restrictive, but in reality, the opposite is true. When everything has a home (the RIGHT home, that is) it is EASIER to put your belongings away, which means you spend LESS time cleaning and MORE time doing things that don’t make you feel like jumping naked into a pit filled with baby porcupines. (Why BABY porcupines, you ask? Because I do what I want. Now, focus!)
SO! Any items that don’t have a home NEED one. As much as possible, that home should be located at or near the space where the item will be used (see number 4 for more on this topic). If no storage space is available where you want it, consider CREATING it. For example, the bills, envelopes, stamps, and pens that used to clutter up your kitchen table could be stored in a neat hanging pocket on the wall, RIGHT by the chair in which you will INEVITABLY sit to write your checks. A couple of shelves or a bookcase near your bedside could clear up the stack of books you put there anyway, and a storage bench could create a home for both shoes and purses.
Even if you don’t want to add storage to your home, you might be surprised how many options you can find when you get creative. For example:
For years, I used to leave my three most-used pairs of shoes scattered around on my bedroom floor. The reason? I liked to grab my socks from the dresser, plop down on my bed to put them on, and have my shoes RIGHT THERE when I was ready for them, instead of walking ALL THE WAY over to my closet. The problem? Every couple of weeks I nearly broke my neck tripping over a stray Asics on my way to take a midnight pee. Also, my husband disliked having a messy bedroom (it disrupted his calm.) I thought the solution was that I needed to try harder (we all know how well that works, right?) Then, one day, I realized I could LITERALLY store my shoes UNDERNEATH MY BED, reducing the hazard to my life and also making the room appear uncluttered, while STILL allowing me to be super lazy when donning footwear. Win, win, win!
Category 2: You are leaving the item out as a reminder to finish a task.
Solution: Stop doing this.
Bahahahaha….okay, but seriously. This tactic of leaving an item where it lies as a REMINDER to finish what you were doing is obviously NOT WORKING, and trying harder is not going to make it work better. You need another way bring yourself back to unfinished tasks EVEN when you’ve cleaned them up for the time being. Once you find it, you’ll actually be killing two prairie dogs with one shovel (I’m guessing I just lost some of you forever with that one, but it’s making me laugh while I edit, so…it stays.) Here are my suggestions.
- If you own and use a planner, start scheduling the tasks you need to finish later in the day/week. Then you are free to put your “reminder” items back where they belongs.
- If you DON’T own or use a planner, consider getting some help starting this habit. If you insist that planners don’t work for you, you may want to check out my upcoming article on this topic – I’m a strong advocate for making planner use a habit. Alternatively, you could leave yourself voice-mails, emails, or sticky notes as reminders to finish projects that you have put away.
- Create an out-of-the-way project center where you can go to complete tasks that might take a while and feel free to leave them out indefinitely (this works best for arts and crafts, or anything that needs to set or dry). Make it a rule that before you begin another project, you must either finish or put away the one occupying your “leave it out” space.
- If none of the above works…you might want to think about whether or not the tasks themselves are truly that important to you. Sometimes all it takes to put away “reminder” items is just to pause long enough to ask yourself, “Do I REALLY want to finish this? Am I REALLY willing to put it away later?
Category 3: Interruptions caused you to forget item and leave it out.
This is a bit of a tough one, because usually interruptions happen really quickly. The phone rings, the oven timer goes off, you have a sudden, urgent need to make macrame bracelets for your entire immediate family…
The strategy I find most effective in moments like these situations is to take five seconds, grab a pen, and literally write what I want to return to on my own hand. That way, no matter where I walk as I’m talking on the phone, and no matter where I drive in search of the perfect beads for the bracelet I just HAD to make, I will still carry my note with me.
Alternatively, you could write your task on a sticky note, your planner, or a central whiteboard, IF you are already in the habit of checking those places regularly.
Finally, you could attach something to your person that would remind you to go back to what you were doing. This could be a piece of the project (twirling a dry paintbrush while you chatter with grandmama) or something super annoying that you will want to remove as soon as possible (like duct taping the fingers on your left hand together. Hey, it worked for me once, okay?)
Category 4: You don’t put the item away because it’s inconvenient.
If there are too many steps involved (so, like, three) or if the item in question needs to be stored in another room, ADHDers often just forgo putting things away. Sometimes a creative solution is all that is needed, like me putting my shoes underneath my bed instead of in the closet. Other times, we must face the fact that the home we have chosen for this item simply doesn’t serve us, and we need a new one.
One of my friends likes to iron her clothes while watching TV in her den, but always thought that her ironing board needed to be stored across the house in the laundry room. She was able to finish her ironing, but never got around to puting anything away, until the day that she realized she could simply relocate the ironing paraphernalia to the small den closet her family currently used for housing board games. Yes, this meant finding a new home for the games, but since my friend ironed almost weekly and played games closer to once a month, she was okay making the games a little harder to reach.
Keep this in mind if you find that reorganizing or shifting things around is necessary. The items you leave out MOST OFTEN will be the items that need the most convenient home.
If re-organizing isn’t an option, you might find it useful to create “halfway” points, such as small tables placed near doorways or stairs. You can place items that need to be put away on or under the halfway point, and any time you pass by it you can grab one or two of the items waiting there. For example, I’ve placed a pretty, lidded basket near the stairs in my house. Throughout the day, I place anything that needs to be taken to the basement in the basket, and I’ve made a habit of checking the basket every time I start to go downstairs. This can work all over your house.
How do you feel after reading these suggestions? Hopeful? Excited? Less than thrilled at all the work you see yourself having to do know that you know what is possible? Don’t worry – I’ll give you a few tips about how to execute these tips and get it all handled in the last Conquer Your Clutter article.