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Part Two of the Stuff – and Nonsense Series
by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie,

Repeat after me:
OHIO is a STATE, not a system for handling stuff!

You know the term, right?  OHIO.  Only Handle It Once.  Pick up the first piece of clutter and move it to its final resting place in one swift masterpiece of organizational wizardry.

Get a grip!  If we’d had it together enough to only handle it once we would never have been in need of clutter management to begin with!

Edited excerpt from: Stuff – and Nonsense: an organizing miracle cure that doesn’t start by making
you throw out your stuff!
   ©1998, 2002, 2011 – Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC; all rights reserved

Part 2 of the Stuff series – CLICK here to read Part 1 first

OHIO: Seriously off base for EFD clutterers or ADD clutter!

Connectivity between prefrontal cortex and oth...

Image via Wikipedia

The mind that finds OHIO helpful has probably never heard of Executive Functioning Disorders.

I also doubt that OHIO fans can even imagine that unhappy, deer-in-the-headlights state referred to as pre-frontal cortex shut-down in response to stress.”

Without going into the neurology hinted at by the chart at right, I can point out quite a few reasons to doubt the efficacy of that OHIO demotivator.

First and foremost, OHIO pays no attention what-so-ever to the very real fact that before you can even begin to only handle anything once you have to have a bit of clean, clear space in which to handle it at all!

It also ignores the realistic probability that:

1. You have MUCH more to do than organize stuff, or that, despite your best efforts,
2. You will probably be interrupted many times in your organizing process, or that
3. You may well have to buy/build/de-clutter a permanent home for these items you
are only supposed to handle ONCE – and that
4. You need to be able to find things when you need them during the time you are engaged in what will ALWAYS take more time than you planned for it.

The OHIO sorry-excuse-for-a-system pays no attention to the fact that handling these items once, given the state of chaos we are starting from and the sheer blind panic that has addled what remains of our brains, is utterly laughable!

The general disclaimer:

Just in case you are related to the person who originated the OHIO hoax, let me quickly add that once you have your clutter problem under control you may find some value in using that method to prevent future clutter from accumulating  (also remember that from the lofty perch of an already organized mind, the perpetrator honestly didn’t know, poor dear, how truly bad it can be down here in the trenches.)

Let’s Get REAL

For those of you dealing with a real clutter problem – including a great many of the ADDers out there – expecting you to handle something once and only once is not only unreasonable, it is probably impossible.

Trying to manage stuff using systems like OHIO is a big part of the reason why things got so out of hand in the first place. How much rumination time do you really want to dedicate to OHIO’s black and white thinking?  (Yeah, that’s what I thought.  NONE.)

  • OHIO only works for things that already have homes. You pick up an object and put it in a pre-assigned place: you file it, you throw it, you delegate it, and move briskly along toward cleanly-swept-and-clutter-free heaven.
  • The mind that can cope with OHIO belongs to an individual who has a time-management problem, NOT a clutter problem.

Natural Organizers

Here’s a BIGTIME reframe: not only are you not “organizationally impaired,” you are – by nature – a natural organizer, and have been since you were very small.

Yea, verily, EVEN you!  And I’m about to take you through the logic of the proof.

BlocksVerticleThe Logic

Have you ever been around children between the ages of two and three?  Have you noticed what they like to play with?

There is a learning activity game they all respond to that consists of plastic or wooden blocks in several shapes — stars, circles, squares, rectangles — and a wooden container of some sort that has holes in the top in corresponding shapes.

  • Children will spend long periods of time happily putting the square block in the square opening, the round block in the round opening and each of the other shapes in their corresponding openings.
  • Even when puzzled by the star shape, for example, almost all children will continue trying to find the correct hole until they ultimately try the star hole and the block drops in, to great delight all ‘round.

Most children love this toy and will dump all of the blocks onto the floor to “go again” repeatedly.  It is extremely rare to find a child who is not enthralled with this activity and even rarer to find one who can’t figure it out.

Some of those children still grow up to decide that they are “organizationally impaired,” but at that moment, every last one of them is a natural organizer, happily placing square pegs in square holes and delighting in the order of it all.  The complexity of the organizational system is just challenging enough to hold their interest and not so challenging that it frustrates them.

The key element in this organizing system (which you’ve already guessed if you have been following this blog) is an underlying principle that makes intentional change possible. In this example, it is this: every object has a “home.”  The child has merely to return said object to its home and all is well.

As long as we don’t ask the child to create the home, merely to locate it, she or he will naturally and happily return order to the scramble of blocks again and again and again.

Don’t try this at home

If you want to make a little kid cry, give her a block that doesn’t have a corresponding opening.  All interest in the game will quickly disappear the minute the child experiences the frustration of not being able to locate a home for that block.

It’s no fun to play a game you can’t win.

If you’re dumb enough to wanna’ watch a child go nuts (no kids, huh?), take away the box. NOW insist that the child “put away” those blocks.  Frustration will quickly escalate to rage.  The very idea is threatening to that kid.

There is no home for any of the blocks and the child has absolutely no idea how to proceed.

The fact that the child has shelves, drawers, a closet, and maybe even a toy chest makes absolutely no difference when s/he tries to determine how to “put away” those darn blocks without the organizational system s/he has come to rely on.

At most, little Suzy (or Sylvester) will dump the blocks unceremoniously and unhappily into the toy chest and lose all interest in the game.  And the likelihood is high that s/he will balk entirely.

Then you will have to put those blocks away yourself (unless you make friends with the reality that they will remain forever wherever they were when you took away that box.)

Sound familiar?

If you are reading this series, you are probably living in the functional equivalent of a scramble of blocks without their boxes — no system to create order out of the chaos.  Your living space is like that child’s bedroom.

You have shelves, drawers, closets, maybe even file cabinets, yet you are still boggled when it comes to putting away specific toys.

  • So you dump them all unceremoniously into some container at best, praying silently that you will be able to find them again when you want them.
  • Or you will leave them wherever they currently are, pleading lack of time and the fact that you are “coming right back,” standing solidly on the righteousness of the logic of not having to put them away just to get them out again to play with them later.

You will, in short, say anything to yourself and anyone within the sound of your voice to avoid dealing with the frustration of not being able to figure out the task without the system.

To decide, or not to decide

Is that the question?

Intellectually, restoring order when you finally note they are disheveled seems a simple process.

  • Even the most disorganized of us has no problem putting trash in the trash can, a book on a shelf, and the beer in the refrigerator, right?  Easy peasey!
  • Deciding whether something is trash, which shelf on which bookcase and
  • what to do with the produce you removed to appropriate the crisper drawer as a beer cooler is the problem!

And, whether you are one of the estimated ten million still-to-be-diagnosed ADDers or one of the lucky ones who know what you’re dealing with, you probably have domino problems as well.

Domino problems?

YEP! Stay tuned to find out more about those! BUT FIRST, we need to take a little side trip to explore framing and reframing – a couple of techniques from the linguistic field that coaches use all the time. You CAN try these techniques at home, once you understand the theory behind the concept.

Like I said, stay tuned. Much more to come in this series.

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About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

5 Responses to OHIO – OMG!

  1. Pingback: 10 Organizing Principles for the Organizationally Impaired | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  2. Pingback: Organizationally Challenged « Fameless Ramblings

  3. Eda Maria says:

    After reading your blog post I browsed your website a bit and noticed you aren’t ranking nearly as well in Google as you could be. I possess a handful of blogs myself and I think you should take a look here: http://dominateseowithwordpress.com You’ll find it’s a very nice tool that can bring you a lot more visitors. Keep up the quality posts

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the heads up, Eda, BUT ADDandSoMuchMore.com is a WordPress.com blog – no plug-ins allowed!! (:-[ )

      As time permits, I am working on getting my main website updated on the domain managed by Marty and Edy Crouch’s Webvalence.com (ADDCoach.com has been on the web forever, but obsolesced badly when I had to ignore it for five years due to health and personal challenges that took me “out of the game” – so I will check out your suggestion for THAT one (which is still, miraculously, ranking fairly well, especially since the new stuff isn’t even available to the search engines or to visitors yet!!)

      I spent 38 years struggling with the messes I kept creating in my life before diagnosis, along with quite a few more until I figured out how to “drive my own brain” since nobody had focused on ADDults until the time of my dx. So my objective here is to heal my own history by easing the struggle for other ADDers and their loved ones with info-info-info!! So I truly appreciate your kind comments about quality. For now, THIS blogsite will have to make it on links from others and word of mouth from those who appreciate my info, until and unless I find time to retread on an outside server (which is not in the planning at this time.) So help me spread the word!

      btw: Akismet marked you as spam – and I don’t usually over-ride and approve non-ADD sites once they land over there – but I’m taking a chance that your desire was to be truly helpful more than improve your affiliate rankings or whatever, so PLEASE don’t be a spammer who will take time I don’t have to remove everything from the site and block you. THANKS!!


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