Monday, October 22, 2012
Organizing For Someone With ADD
Trying to get someone that has ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) to be perfectly organized is like trying to get a fish to climb a tree. Most people with ADD suffer from Chronic Disorganization. Not only do they have trouble organizing things, but they also have trouble organizing their time, their thoughts, and even data. Their brains are wired differently.
I hate that ADD is considered a "disorder". My youngest (18) has ADD. He is charming, witty, creative, outgoing, funny, and very smart. He has vast and varied interests and is extremely pleasant to be around. Some of the greatest minds in history had ADD; John F. Kennedy, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin and even Albert Einstein himself. I believe that ADD is a gift that can take a person far in life if managed properly.
The first thing that someone with ADD needs to do is let go of the idea of being perfectly organized. A closet that looks like this is simply not a realistic goal.
Actually, a closet that looks like this is not a realistic goal for anyone unless you're willing to buy only grey, beige and white clothes and space your hangers precisely.
By trying to attain this lofty goal of having a place for everything and everything in its place, a person with ADD is setting themselves up for failure. They feel ashamed of the piles and can't understand why they can't just get organized. But they shouldn't let their lack of skill in this one area of their life destroy them. And they shouldn't waste too much time or mental energy into trying to make it a strength. Instead they should put their energy into getting well enough organized to reach their dreams. I love that idea. It comes from the book, "Delivered From Distraction" by Edward Hallowell and John Ratey.
If you or someone you love has ADD there are some organizing strategies that will help tame the clutter.
1. Minimize the surface area. Most people with ADD think that if they just had more spots to put stuff that things would be better. In fact, having fewer spots to put things forces someone to put items where they belong. Having a desk that is only big enough to place essential items on will help stop the piles of paper on top of the desk.
2. Keep it simple. Do not create elaborate filing systems. Instead of having a folder for the electric bill, one for the gas bill, one for the cable bill and one for the phone bill consider putting all the bills paid for the house into one "Bills Paid 2012" folder. Yes, it will take longer to find a particular bill in this folder but no longer than searching for it under piles of papers because it didn't get filed in the first place because it was too complicated. The same with a closet. Last week I showed you my youngest son's closet. He has 3 bins in there; one for pants, one for shorts and one for work clothes. I did not divide them into dress pants and jeans or dress shorts and gym shorts. The simpler the better.
3. Keep things open. The less steps to putting something away the more likely that it will happen. Since people with ADD tend to put things in piles make it easy to put those piles into something that will contain them. With the example above, instead of a "Bills Paid 2012" file folder try an open box. As each bill is paid it can simply be chucked into the box. The same with clothes. My youngest would not put his clothes away in a dresser but he will chuck them into the open bins in his closet.
4. Keep things visible. People with ADD tend to be the "out of sight, out of mind" types. They know this and so this makes them procrastinate even more putting things away that they may need later. In an office, try a filing cart on wheels like this one from Elfa.
Everything is still visible so that it won't be forgotten. Elsewhere, choose clear plastic containers over solid colours so that the contents can still be seen.
5. Choose function over beauty. It's your home and, if you have ADD, it has to work for you. Besides, you don't live in a magazine photo shoot. Perhaps you don't have enough space in your closet to hang all your clothes so that you can see them. A free-standing clothes rack may be what you need in your bedroom. It may not look pretty in there but it gets the job done. If hanging clothes on hangers doesn't work for you then try a clothes drying rack in your bedroom to drape clean clothes over and keep them off the floor. Again, not pretty but if it saves you time in the morning trying to find something to wear then use it.
6. Try using shoe organizers. If taking the time to hang all your clothes on hangers is too much then try an over-the-door shoe organizer. Roll your T-shirts and put them in the pockets. Don't try to colour co-ordinate them, just put them in randomly. Shoe organizers are great elsewhere in the house. Put toiletries in the pockets in the bathroom, put office supplies in them in the office, put kitchen gadgets in them in the kitchen or use them in a child's room to keep their treasures in. They keep things visible and there are no drawers to open and close. You can even put one on the front of a door and one on the back of a door.
7. Use a timer. If you know that cleaning and organizing will drive you crazy within the first 15 minutes then set a timer for 10 minutes. You will be surprised how much can get done in 10 minutes.
8. Use a map. If I sent my youngest to his room to clean, he would have no idea where to start. Draw your room on a piece of paper. Divide it into 4 or 6 or maybe even 8 sections. Number the sections and then put those same numbers on small pieces of paper. Put the pieces of paper in a cup and draw one out. Set a timer and work in the corresponding area on your map. This will help show you where to start.
9. Ask for help. Can you build a deck? I'm going to assume the answer is no. So what would you do if you wanted to build a deck onto the back of the house? You could hire a professional or perhaps you could ask your brother-in-law to do it for you in exchange for something that you are good at. Being unable to organize is no different than being unable to build a deck. The best bet is a professional organizer (especially one that specializes in Chronic Disorganization). You can look for one in your area by visiting POC in Canada or NAPO in the US.
However, if a professional organizer isn't in the budget then ask someone you know. Do not choose the super-organized friend whose home is always spotless. Those types of people tend to have their own ways of organizing that simply won't work for someone with ADD. They keep things in drawers and cupboards and often have elaborate filing systems that are just too difficult for someone who is Chronically Disorganized to follow. Instead, ask the person whose home feels comfortable to you. They still have some things out in the open and their home looks lived-in. That is a more realistic goal anyway.
There are tons of websites out there that show how to become super-organized. For someone with ADD that simply isn't in the cards and, although it is frustrating, trying to become someone you're not is even more so. Embrace what you are good at and let go of what you are not. Become just well enough organized so that you can reach your goals.