Organizing for ADD or just being, well, a mom


Organizing a household is enough of a challenge for a person, but when you add in kids and all the stuff that they come with, then the task can seem overwhelming. It can also genuinely be overwhelming. I’ve got three kids, and much of the time it looks like a fleet of evil elves have taken armloads of clutter and thrown them up in the air — then held a hypercaffeinated zumba class while entertaining Shiva the Destroyer. And if that weren’t bad enough, whatever’s landed on the table, the cat has knocked onto the floor so the dog can chew it. If I clean one room, the others immediately fall into conspicuous decay, and it seems like I’m always picking up other people’s stuff. Socks, an entire library, the sadly abandoned end of a pickle.

I’ve tried Flylady and other plans, and read numerous books on how to organize my house. I’ve got all those books nicely organized on a shelf, but other than that, my implementation fell short in the hurry to drive people places, bury dead pets, and cook dinner. I’ve dressed to the shoes in the morning, bought way too many nice baskets, and made all sorts of lists for zone cleaning. Yet too often I can’t find simple things like my hairbrush, yesterday’s mail, or anybody’s underwear. Maybe it’s because I’m homeschooling, or maybe this is my karmic task for this life because I was an incarnation of Martha Stewart in another life or just someone who lorded it over others with my super-organized undergarments and total lack of dustbunnies.

Recently I was at the bookstore and bought a book called Organizing Solutions for People With Attention Deficit Disorder: Tips and Tools to Help You Take Charge of Your Life and Get Organized by Susan C. Pinsky. I was never diagnosed with ADD, nor have I even thought I had ADD-like problems (though I do admit to once managing to put deodorant only under one arm before deciding it was absolutely imperative that I check my email), but most of the “before” pictures in this book were painfully familiar. Baskets of random stuff on the bathroom shelves, mismatched plasticware sitting useless in the kitchen cabinet. Piles of unread mail, dishes stacked perilously in no logical fashion. Holy dustbunnies, Batman–is there a camera in my house?

Unlike most of the other organizational books I have, the tips in this one really were useful, and are simple enough that they fit into my hectic lifestyle without my having to turn into Martha Stewart or something else that I’m not, like an obsessive compulsive neat person with too much free time. There are a lot of pictures, and the book addresses specific trouble spots instead of overwhelming you with a whole philosophy or giant list of things to do. Even implementing one of these solutions could go a long way to making you feel like you’ve got some control over the chaos. For each particular challenge there are two pictures — before and after (or “you, loser” and “this is how to do it.”)

The key to success is that functionality and ease of use is everything. Things don’t need to be beautiful, they just need to work in the reality of your life. All those pretty baskets on the bathroom shelves aren’t doing you any good if they’re thoroughly randomized and so messy that you’re scared to look in them. Instead, you’re better off with a simple in-your-face rack that’s clearly labeled and intended only for essentials. Instead of a big (yes you guessed it) basket for your mail, you might want to have a smaller vertical storage place near a trash basket so that things don’t pile up into gargantuan proportions.

If you do have ADD, the idea is you need to organize things in your house so that things are so absolutely easy to find and put away in the right place that even you can’t mess it up. Most organizational books seem to be so taken with their own cleverness that they’re needlessly complex, or err in thinking that the storage solution is the salvation. The problem is, if the system itself doesn’t work for you personally, then you’re still left wallowing in your own filth. What I needed was just what this book provided–a no frills  slap upside the head.

Now my kids each have their own monogrammed towel (so I know who left theirs on the bathroom floor and, incidentally, who NEVER showers), and all our useful bathroom products are stored in plain sight on one shelf in a shallow basket. We’re not throwing out unused out-of-date medicines because we forgot we had them, or buying duplicates of things. Obviously, this solution wouldn’t work for people with small children, but we had far outgrown the locked medicine box that we haven’t used in years. My pots are now stored with their lids where I can reach them (who would have thought about that?) and the the kids have bins for their homeschooling materials labeled by subject. Now all I need to do is reclaim all the wicker baskets and laundry hampers that I bought before I knew better.

Take a look at this book. You might like it!