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N in azaleas

House Beautiful

So, my cousin has been posting lately about House Beautiful. I look at my disorganized mess and think I might settle for House Organized or House Nearly Entirely Clean.

I keep putting off these large projects until the weekend, when there is No Time to do anything but laundry, packing, and visiting with friends (so as to nurture those friendships).

Periodically, I cannot stand my bookshelves any longer, and I do group by genre and alphabetize.

Here's the real barrier, though. I have ADD. Here's how cleaning the living room works: Stare at entire room and get overwhelmed. Feel the depth of the hopelessness of the task. Begin sorting the mail on the coffee table. Find a book under layers of mail. Wonder if you've read the book. Skim the last few pages. Put the book down. (The pile of mail is now sorted neatly into 6 stacks in a semicircle around where I'm sitting). Notice that the jackets from last week's suits are hanging over a chair. Get up to hang up jacket. Notice that the closet needs rearranging. Begin to sort clothes in closet. Remember orginal task involved the LIVING ROOM. Take deep breath. Go back in to stare at the living room which now looks worse with piles of mail. Wonder if I should vacuum. Look for vacuum bags in preparation for the possibility of having to vacuum later, when all the stuff is picked up off the floor. Wonder where to keep souvenir Arkansas State Capitol Christmas tree ornament. Place on one of the stacks of mail...

You see my problem.


Bekah is like that

Bekah also suffers from mild cleaning ADD. Luckily there are 2 mitigating factors at our house.

1--We've found the container store clear sweater boxes. These are a godsend, just big enough for one topical project each, clear so you can quickly find what you're looking for, and stackable. They also fit neatly into closets, onto deep shelves and under our futon/bed. In short they are so perfect for organizing the types of things bekah and I have that it's disturbing.

2--I've lived with enough messy disorganized people that I now have mild claustrophobia and a supreme unwillingness to live messy ever again. I can happily break down cleaning into component parts and gently remind bekah when she starts to get that lost look. The downside to this? I get irritated eventually, and so does bekah. We're cleaning twice a week for major reorganization projects and since everything not-trash is getting it's own box/place picking up during the week as we go is much much easier. It's not perfect yet--We have a financial document box that we'll have to sort when we get a filing cabinet, but it's working.

If you're going to be in town this weekend give us a call saturday afternoon--my cell is probably the best bet...and we will see about having you over to looksie.

If you don't mind my asking (feel free to respond in private email), when and how were you diagnosed? There has been some discussion in the house as to whether I may have ADD -- and your description of the cleaning the living room rings rather uncomfortably true to my experience. :)
I don't mind. I was diagnosed by a therapist and a psychiatrist a couple of years ago. I ignored them, as I've been able to complete Rice and a Master's degree and a half without medication or being diagnosed. I work as a consultant - a high-stress, quick-witted kind of job, so I didn't think I could have ADD.

I met a friend of Tiffany's in Chicago. She had just been diagnosed and talked about some of her symptoms. I shuffled my feet uncomfortably. She recommended the books: _Women with ADD_; _Driving to Distraction_; _Coping with ADD_.

I obtained said books and started to read. I got to the part about how women with ADD do very well with conceptual work and not so well with schedule details. Most women, rather than trying to get promoted to the level where their assistant is responsible for the details and they can concentrate on the concepts, hold themselves to the level where they can cope with their weaknesses: filing, project planning, detailed schedules.

That said, another view of ADD is that people who have it have an ability to hyperfocus -- concentrate on one task to the exclusion of all else. Usually, they wait until the last minute and use the adrenaline of the deadline to help them focus (a kind of self-medicating kind of thing). Conversely, once they stop the task, it takes a while to re-focus.

Fundamentally, my sources tell me that ADD results in an impairment in the ability to quash impulses, which makes it harder to control changing tasks, ignoring the urgent in favor of the important, refraining from over-spending, and so forth.

As Josh says, it's a label. I find that the medication and the coping strategies help me to meet the obligations of my life within the boundaries of who I am.

I've given up trying to change my basic nature - now, I'm just trying to change the supports I have in place and how I use my nature.
*squirm squirm* Yeah, this all sounds very familiar. Especially the impulse-quashing.

I'll look into some of those books you mentioned.

Thanks for the insights!
Cleaning party? How would I have one of those? Tell me more!

Organization -- Yeah, as I was telling Paracoon down there, I do best with right-brain organization. I've given up having a shoe tree. I won't use it. I do have a space for the shoes. I have a bowl for the hair things. My "filing system" is a series of drawers with different subjects. I'm not using it well, though, so it could be time to come up with a new system.

My best new thing is standing over the trash can to sort the mail.
Alan and I have the shoe hall. Sometimes systems evolve on thier own and it only makes it worse if you fight them. The shoe hall is a case of this. All of our shoes are lined up neatly in the hall between the bedrooms and the living room. All of them from my wedding shoes to his sneakers. Looks a little strange... but it seems to be working. And at this point- we take wahtever appears to be working and run with it.
Wow... you do alpha/genre? I wish I had the patience for that. I have a romance bookcase (once of those 72 inchers) and I just throw books at it once I collect them from various places around the house. That's about the extent of genre organization... stacks of books haphazardly scattered on the shelves. Books go off an on that shelf so often that I never have the patience to put them back where they belong.

At the moment I don't even have that- I was planning on moving and packed them all away. Hunting for a romance is always an adventure. Alan keeps his books neatly organized- mostly alphabetized even.

And he's right *points up* I have to use the buddy system to clean. We had an incident this week that I'm laughing at looking back. We had the living room floor covered in junk from our entertainment center that we had just taken apart... and I kept trying to wander off and organize the china closet so I could put a stack of games in there. I'd look at the mess in the living room go... holy cow no way!... and wander off to organize something that was nice and small. This would probably explain why it's taken years to make it back to semi organized.
The buddy system is one of my favorites. I stop to admire how little other people need guidance to stay on task. It's amazing to watch my friend T. -- she just does each thing in the task without being distracted.

You had to know I'd reply to this one.

I'm ADD, and also, if you listen to certain wives, mildly OCD. Or whatever. I think it's a big continuum and labels are just conveniences. Regardless, I like order, and once the level of chaos in my environment reaches a certain level, I go into "manic cleaning mode" to use someone else's phrase.

In my perfectly ordered universe, every object I own:

1) Has a necessary purpose for remaining in my possession

2) Has a logical home where it lives when not in active use

If everything was always returned to its home when it was finished being utilized, or discarded when its usefulness was at an end, there would be no mess EVER. But we all know how far this Platonic ideal is from reality.

Cleaning the Josh way requires a plan, which is made up of a central scheme plus contingencies. It's the typical breaking up of the task into smaller tasks- except that forethought must be given to these smaller tasks so that if you are interrupted, a controlled state is maintained.

For example, if you have chaos-inducing environmental elements (pets, children, etc), you must separate them from the work in progress.

Another example is how I wash the dishes. I do not begin by washing. I begin by collecting all the dishes from around the house. Then I sort the various objects. All silverware/cutlery/etc in a large bowl. Similar sized dishes stacked. *Then* I begin washing, starting with the silverware. If I am interrupted, I know exactly where in the sequence I am.

When faced with a large room strewn with random objects (toys, clothes, papers, books), the first thing I do is set aside a work area, which sometimes needs to be created. A tabletop, or open section of floor, out of the main traffic area. I begin sorting the room. If things live in another room, I keep them together, for transport to the other room all at once. If objects (such as your pile of mail or bookcase) needs another layer of sorting, I keep them all together, to be sorted after the mainlevel sorting is completed. This way the room actually gets an overall level of organization even if you are called away by something before you can do the subsorting.

Objects produce stress when they are not in their homes (just by being out and causing the environment to feel chaotic), and when one cannot find them because they are not home. Especially if these objects are financial in nature. Creating a logical home system is essential so that required objects can be retrieved easily and quickly. Objects which are needed less often can have less accessible homes (top of closet, back of cabinet, etc). All containers and homes should have a certain percentage of spare space (engineering background here) because there will always be more stuff to store there than you think at first. For me, personally, I would like as many of my possessions as possible out of sight at all times. If I have so many things that I cannot do this, something is wrong. Which leads to...

The trash is a magical place that removes stress. Throwing something away removes it permanently from your life and responsibility. The more stuff you get rid of, the easier your life will be. Objects thrown away will never bother you again, ever. I often keep the trash can with me while I clean so I can throw stuff away as quickly as possible.

If you can get your environment to the baseline clean state, where everything is in its home, it should, hypothetically, be easy to maintain this way.

And yes, I can hear you all laughing :)
I love the line about the trash. Tell me, you're not secretly related to my dad, are you?

Yes, I find creating homes is essential and part of my problem now is that I don't have homes for everything. I need to purge again, but that takes a level of emotional fortitude I'm not yet ready for.

Meantime, I'm stuck with coming up with organizational methods that work for me. I find the "right-brain organization" tricks work best for me -- having a small space with related objects that can quickly be sorted through. Maybe I'll start a thread..

Mm. Good point. Out of sight, out of mind, and all that. Sounds like a plan!
Holy crap, that sounds like me with cleaning.

I have no idea if I'm ADD or not. I never showed the school symptoms that get kids put on Ritalin, but wow this sounds like me.

So maybe it's not merely a flawed character or Pisces flakiness that keeps my house from looking like my Virgo mother's?

I am trying to make home behave more like the kitchen at work, where everything DOES have a designated home, and I have my task scheduling all worked out.

Adrenaline rush of deadline pressure as self-medication... I am DOOMED.
N in azaleas

September 2009

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