Conquer You Clutter Part 3: Execution
(This is part three of a three-part series on Clutter. Check out Part 1 and Part 2 for a little background information!)
The ADHD struggle NEVER stops at learning strategies, because learning something new and exciting and filled with hope is typically not the problem. The problem is putting it into practice. To be honest, I’m a little shocked that you even made it to this blog post, given how tempting I know it must have been to say “Aha! I know what to do now!” before you ran off to NOT do it.
Implementation is not easy, and may never become so. But with some of the suggestions below, you might be able to make it slightly less painful to start utilizing the de-cluttering tactics from the first two articles in this series.
Get a Buddy
Enlist the help of a sibling, friend, or coworker to be in the same room as you while you organize. Stress that this person does NOT need to actually clean with you, but is merely required to BE there (and maybe occasionally remind you of your goal when they notice you have stopped working and started looking through old photo albums.) If you don’t feel comfortable asking a peer to be your buddy, consider paying a high school student from your neighborhood or church to come over and study while you clean. Chances are, they will be thrilled to accept a few dollars an hour to do what they were planning to do anyway.
Utilize the power of piles
Starting in one room of the house, create piles for like objects. Don’t bother putting anything away, yet – just put everything you come across in the correct pile. Examples are: papers/bills, clothing, knick-knacks, books, items-that-belong-in-another-room, items-that-I-need-to-return-to-someone, etc. If coming up with the piles you need causes you to go into overwhelm, just create piles as you come across items. “Aha! My missing five-pound dumbbell! This is a fitness item!” You can use large boxes for this process if it helps to corral everything. Then, once the room has been completely organized into piles, you can start putting each pile where it belongs.
Schedule your cleaning sessions
Chances are, cleaning your ENTIRE house or office will take FAR less time than you think. Schedule in a certain amount of time for this task in your planner or calendar. Earlier in the day is better (it’s less likely that other tasks will push it off) and frequent is better (HABITS ARE YOUR FRIEND). Some ADHDers find the idea of taking a whole Saturday and organizing EVERYTHING in one fell swoop appealing, but I don’t recommend it. Sure, you might be able to utilize your hyper-focus superpowers, but don’t forget that hyper-focusing often drains our energy, making it less likely that we’ll be able to repeat the process in the future. Also, if your hyper-focus DOESN’T kick in, you’ll end up doing twenty minutes of cleaning and wasting the rest of your Saturday anyway.
Consider creating a “do I really need this?” box, bag, or closet.
As a general rule, Americans (and perhaps MOST humans) have too much stuff. Yes, that is a personal judgement on my part. But I’m making it because so many people I know (including me!) own countless items we don’t use, enjoy, or even remember that we purchased. Contrary to what a lot of us believe, getting rid of the superfluous crap in our lives almost never makes us feel deprived, rather, it removes overwhelm and actually helps us appreciate what we decide to keep. In her wildly popular book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, organizing consultant and author Marie Kondo makes a strong case for ONLY keeping items you USE or LOVE in your home or office. For me, adopting this philosophy helped me realize that a lot of the clutter in my home resulted from keeping things I didn’t get any practical or emotional benefit from owning. Old magazines that “I might read again someday.” Clothing that was too small or made my face look red. Knick-knacks that I had been keeping for the sole purpose of remembering a time period in my life (solution to this? Take a picture of your “memory” items, and then get rid of them! The pictures will remind you just as well as the actual item!).
The POINT of my quasi-rambling is this: Simplifying your life is something you can do, and do quite slowly, if you so choose. As you organize one room, put any items you THINK you don’t use or don’t LOVE in a box or bag, and then put that box or bag somewhere you never look (like your utility room, or the trunk of your car.) Next, wait a month. If you haven’t thought about or needed anything you put in that box/bag in that entire time, chances are your life will be fine (or much improved) without it. Trash or donate the entire thing. Eventually, you will notice that there are less extraneous items in your life to put away, and that the lack of stuff actually restores some energy to your weary brain.
Note: seasonal items like winter wear, bathing suits, wrapping paper, etc obviously don’t belong in this box/bag unless you don’t use them even when the appropriate time comes along. Also, this exercise is NOT an excuse to throw out a bunch of old items just so you can run to buy new ones! You be good about this!
Comment with problems or suggestions!
Obviously, you are a special snowflake with your own set of problems and quirks. Please comment below if the advice I have listed here simply doesn’t work for you, if you have questions about your situation, or if you actually have wild success and want to let me know! Happy organizing!