For many people, the New Year feels like a fresh start. A new beginning. A gorgeous blank page full of possibilities.
But for those with chronic disorganization, ADD / ADHD, brain injuries or hoarding disorder, January 1st can feel like just another day in a long string of difficult days.
Picture this: the well-traveled neurotypical road to organization is a winding path with a few challenges. It’s tough, but navigable.
But for those struggling with mental health conditions, it is a narrow trail, full of brambles, trip hazards and reasons to turn back along every turn. If you suffer from ADHD or know someone who hoards, think back on all of the times they tried to get organized and failed.
The new year is a particularly difficult time, because resolutions are set and often not acted upon. The perceived “failure” to do better compacts their feelings of shame and makes getting organized even harder and out of reach.
As a professional organizer, I have a lot of clients who struggle with these challenges. It is a great honor to work alongside them, and help them make changes, a little bit at a time. I see them begin to gain confidence. They start to get excited about our visits. And little by little, they get more organized. But these changes are not connected to the new year. They are made through slow and constant progress. Every day of the year.
So what can you do to get organized if you struggle with chronic disorganization? Here are a few suggestions, based on my years of experience as an organizer.
Ask For Help
If you struggle with one of these conditions, first and foremost I urge you seek help. Working with a mental health practitioner is such an important step in getting relief. There are lots of great hoarding workshops in Portland, like the Buried in Treasures group workshop, based off of the book, Buried in Treasures. And working with a professional organizer can help you create systems to support your unique brain.
Let Go of Perfection
When I organize with these clients, it is not about making everything color-coded and perfect. As you can see from my Instagram page, the “after” photos are not photoshopped or labeled to death. Most of my clients do not want that kind of system, because it is expecting their brains to act a certain way that is foreign to them.
So for me, it is about getting them organized ENOUGH. Organized enough to enjoy their lives. Organized enough to function well and find happiness. Not magazine perfect. But perfect for them.
So if you are holding on to some Martha Stewart fantasy about your future life, take that wish and put it into an imaginary balloon. Now let it go, watch it float farther away from you until it is out of sight. Focus on what is real, actionable and achievable for your brain and your mental health.
Get a Timer - And Use it
For many people struggling with Chronic Disorganization and ADD / ADHD, time is one of the biggest challenges. Developing an understanding of how time passes and how long things realistically take is a huge gift you can give yourself.
Sometimes we think projects will take 5 minutes, and they actually will take an hour. Or alternatively, we think they will take an hour, and they actually take 5 minutes! Having a timer will help you understand how long things take and become more realistic about how to plan your life.
I like the Time Timer, because it lets you see time passing. It is also great for helping kids stay on task, since they can see the red disappearing. The Cube timer is also a good one. Turn it to the time you want and it will beep when it has passed.
I don't recommend using your phone timer. Why? Because our phones are SO distracting!
Keep your timer beside you and whenever you have a task to do (especially something you don’t want to do), tell yourself that you will work on it for 15 minutes. You can do anything for 15 minutes!
Let’s say you are going to sort your mail. Set the timer for 15 minutes and sit down at the dining room table and begin opening and sorting. When 15 minutes is up, feel free to take a break - or keep going! When you are done, make a mental note how long it took. This will help you to plan better for next time, and avoid the feeling of overwhelm when you realize that it doesn’t take as long as you thought.
If you need other ideas for getting organized, I recommend reading The Professional Organizer's Guide to Getting Rid of ADHD Clutter. It has some good ideas for getting started. And of course, you can always contact me! I offer a free 30-minute phone consultation to anyone interested in working with me.