Domino Problems


Domino problems?

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
From the Stuff series: Part 4

Yeah. Domino problems!

You know that game where you set a row of dominoes on end, then tap the first one to watch them fall, one at a time, as the domino before it knocks it down?

As hinted at in Part-2 of this series, for many of us (especially those of us with ADD/EFD Brain-wiring), DECIDING is journey fraught with domino problem land-mines!

Like I said, even the most disorganized of us has
no problem putting trash in the trash can, books
on a shelf, and beer in the ‘fridge, right?

So what IS the problem?

  • Deciding whether something is trash, which shelf on which bookcase and where in the ‘fridge is the problem!
  • An even bigger problem is deciding what to do with the produce you removed to be able to appropriate the crisper drawer as a beer cooler!

Every decision to be made seems to be complicated by another decision that needs to be made first!

The terror of tiered tasks

As an example, let’s continue to use something considered relatively simple by many with neurotypical brains: putting away the groceries on return from the store.

We’ve got canned goods and boxes and bags, oh my!  But the really tricky stuff needs to go into the freezer or ‘fridge — before it reaches a state where it is unfit for any place but the garbage can!


Remember that you can always check out the sidebar
for a reminder of how links work on this site, they’re subtle ==>

HOVER before clicking – often a box will appear to tell you what to expect

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

Decision Dilemnas

Where do you put produce, old and new, since all of the refrigerator shelves are full? Gotta’ make some space. You’ll need both hands to tackle the task, so you have to put that bag of fresh produce down somewhere while you move some things around.

Uh oh.

The dirty dishes are on the counter because the plant you are in the middle of potting is in the sink, and the dishwasher is full of last night’s dirty dishes.

NOW what?

Ok, you reason gamely, I’ll open the dishwasher, put the produce on the shelf made by the open door while I rearrange the refrigerator shelves to try to make some room. Clever!

But then what do you do with:

  • the container of leftover Chinese food that is surely beyond the pale,
  • the two science experiments in the Tupperware™ that are taking up a third of the second shelf,
  • and four containers of two teaspoons of various unrecognizable salad dressings
    since the garbage can is full?

Ok, so you’ll take out the trash and replace the bag so that you can throw away the moldy food and put the Tupperware™ containers in the sink — after you finish repotting the plant so that you can have the sink back.

Oops.  You’ll do all that AFTER you make yet another trip to the the store to buy more garbage bags, since the box where they are supposed to be is empty.

OY!  The terror of TIERED TASKS!

I wonder how long the produce is going to stay on the open dishwasher shelf?

Probably just long enough for beloved to enter the room to rant because you haven’t finished putting away the groceries, reminding you forcefully that,
“I can’t live like this!!!!!

See what I mean? Domino problems.

Dogs and kids

We can’t forget one of the key variables in every decision tree — interruptions!

Pity the poor dog who needs to be walked, or the “starving” child who wants something to eat during our decision making process.

  • Even if you live without children or pets, there is still that chatty neighbor who interrupts your thoughts on your way to the trash to inquire if you heard that awful noise last night around midnight, and goes on in detail about how hard it was for her to get back to sleep.
  • And even if you live without neighbors: standing in line, waiting for your turn to pay for garbage bags, there seems always to be some person in front of you who is constitutionally incapable of choosing an item with a price tag on it (who has twelve such items in the Ten Item Only Express Checkout).  Oh, and by the way, can s/he use your store discount card?

See what I mean? Interruptions.


Ah yes, the bane of every ADD/EFDer’s existence.  With every interruption comes the high likelihood that you will be distracted off task for an undetermined length of time.  And if you’re interrupted in the middle of your distraction . . . ?  Help.

ANYWAY, when you finally return with the garbage bags you barely remember
why you wanted them in the first place.  Something about beer?

Oh yes, you want one NOW!

Distractions and interruptions are another thing we need to Get Real about.  The way life is, you may be able to work on a task in one fluid chunk of time (like getting warm beer someplace cool, for example) — but it’s a lot more likely you will be interrupted many times during each step of every decision that needs to be made before that beer is chilling happily in the ‘fridge.

Structure and Systems

To use a metaphor from Part 2 of this series, you are probably living in the functional equivalent of a scramble of blocks without boxes — no system to create order out of chaos.

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

  • If you do anything at all, you dump things unceremoniously into any container with room to accommodate more, praying silently that you will be able to find them again when you want them.
  • More likely, you will leave them wherever they are currently, pleading lack of time or the fact that you are “coming right back” — standing solidly on the righteous 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.

The point here is that without structure and systems to make things do-able, if not exactly easy, you create pile upon pile of decisions to be made concerning the pile upon pile of items that clutter your space.  It won’t work.

What if I told you we could set it up so that putting away the groceries, for example, is as simple for you as it is for the child to put the square block in the square hole?  You don’t get to get out of the decision-making process, but we can make it easier to decide and do.

About those decisions, by the way . . .

  • You have no choice about deciding.
  • You DO have a choice about when to make the decision.

DON’T Do it Now!

“If you board the wrong train, it’s no use running along the corridor
in the other direction.”
 – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Here’s the deal:

Decisions do need to be made at some point, but let me introduce you to a new mantra that can change your life:

  • the further away from the moment of need the decision is made . . .
  • the easier it is to make . . .
  • and the fewer the distractions that will disable you.

Decisions made without forethought are good only when there is enough experience with the issue to have an inkling of what makes things better and what makes things worse. Expectations that you just-DO-it in an arena that is foreign is a recipe for the disaster that I wrote Stuff – and Nonsense to handle.

When one is knee-deep in clutter, I think it’s safe to say that organization is an arena that is foreign.

Action vs. Accomplishment

Some experts will tell you that jumping into action is better than doing nothing at all.  I disagree — strongly.   Vehemently, even.  Action and accomplishment are two very different things.

It is sheer folly to jump into action with no clear picture of the outcome.

  • Maybe you’ll “get lucky” – an ill-conceived action will turn out great.  Bad news!
  • When you “get lucky” there’s a high probability you will be lulled into the belief that your same ole’ way works just fine until you are so far afield you don’t know how to get back on track.
  • When you are dealing with a clutter problem, you won’t even be able to find the track.

Not only is the “just do it” strategy inefficient, the frustration and mistake potential is enormous!

  • How many times have you decided that you have finally had it with the mess and made a firm decision to get organized, jumping into action with the resolve of the truly desperate?
  • If you are like most of my clients (and like I was myself for many, many years),
    you moved things around but you didn’t make so much as a dent in the clutter.

Not only that, with everything in a brand new location, what happened the next time somebody needed to put their hands on something? Yeah.  Tossed salad.

  • How many hours of your life have you wasted merely rearranging your mess, stuffing things here and there to make room for everything, hoping to impose visual order?
  • How many minutes did it take to UNDO all that effort?

Trying to accommodate ten children in a double bed will always mean that somebody lands on the floor. (Calm down – I’m not making a case for throwing things away to simplify the problem.)

So What IS Next?

So far, I have helped you identify WHY dealing with stuff is such a bugaboo, at a level slightly more complex than “Just get rid of that nasty clutter!”  Hopefully, you feel encouraged that maybe you might, this time, hang on to the desire and drive to actually organize a few things.

Now you are probably exactly where you have been many times before –
primed and ready to do . . . what?

Hang tight!  I’m on my way to going way out on a limb to tell you actually how to do it.

In posts to come, I am prepared to tell you what to do to get you from where you are now to the very next level – whether you are just this side of total chaos or basically organized with a few pockets of disarray that have led to the creation of the current clutter that you bought a small library of books hoping to handle.

But I need something from YOU
in order to be motivated to DO IT:


Comments, questions, personal experiences – something down there in the comments section to let me know if I’m on the right track with this series.  

It’s tough to make decisions in a vacuum!! I can’t tell who’s reading what, so I don’t know how much of what kind of content to provide.  

Like most ADD/EFDers, I find it r-e-a-l-l-y hard to activate when I have to make decisions in the presence of NO INFO.

SO – I’ll return to edit and post the next article after I receive feedback on this post and/or the others in the Stuff Series. Meanwhile, I’ll use the time to continue to update and more apparently popular series on this blog.

IN ANY CASE, stay tuned. There’s a lot to know, and a lot more to come.

Shared on the Senior Salon

As always, if you want notification of new articles in the Transitions Series – or any new posts on this blog – give your email address to the nice form on the top of the skinny column to the right. (You only have to do this once, so if you’ve already asked for notification about a prior series, you’re covered for this one too). STRICT No Spam Policy

If you’d like some one-on-one (couples or group) coaching help with anything that came up while you were reading this article (either for your own life, that of a loved one, or as coaching skills development), scroll down to click the Brain-based Coaching Link below, with a contact form at the bottom, or click the E-me link <—here (or on the menubar at the top of every page). I’ll get back to you ASAP (accent on the “P”ossible!)

Related articles right here on

OTHER related articles on this site

Related articles around the ‘net
(articles below open in a new window/tab) 

Only if you’re ready to toss!

BY THE WAY: Since this blog is designed to be Evergreen, I revisit all my content periodically to update links — when you link back, like, follow or comment, you STAY on the page. When you do not, you run a high risk of getting replaced by a site with a more generous come-from.

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!"

20 Responses to Domino Problems

  1. Pingback: Sleep Timing and Time Tangles | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  2. I’ve just finished clearing out my late mother’s flat. She was a terrible hoarder. At one point I counted 15 packets of toilet rolls (each packet contains 4). We now have enough toilet paper for at least a 7 day episode of ‘Rameses Revenge’.

    Liked by 1 person

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

  4. Pingback: Change, Growth and Decision Dilemmas | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  5. Pingback: Overwhelm – Over IT! | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  6. Pingback: Predicting Time to Manage Tasks | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  7. Pingback: Choices and Decisions | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  8. Pingback: Attentional struggles? Not ME! | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  9. Pingback: Conclusion: 10 Best Practices for Habit Creation | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  10. Pingback: Yes AND vs. yes but | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  11. graceful you says:

    mgh, one thing my friend and i have agreed on, you’d be a great advocate for my cousin who just gets disrespected with the word “hoarder” and nobody really cares to take much time in understanding the frustration and confusion from living like that. They treat her as if she were to want that life style. it makes me ill. that people pretending to care and so worried, would do this.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Pingback: When you feel like you can’t bounce back | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  13. please click the next internet page says:

    Hello, I would like to subscribe for this web site to
    take most recent updates, so where can i do it please help.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey there – THANKS!

      TOP of skinny column to your right – it USED to say “keep me in the loop” but WordPress has mine saying “you are following this blog” — so who knows what YOU see now.

      ANYWAY, simply type in your email in the box below whatever it says, and submit (or “enter” or whatever words puts up there NOW ;), and you are done.

      Thanks for asking. I’m SO happy to hear you find it valuable.



  14. Roger says:

    I recently discovered your website. The Stuff Series really shines some light on clutter and organizing. I was thinking that all I really wanted to do was read about it. Other sources had great tips and suggestions, but I would get bogged down in the process and still have the same disorganization. I hope you continue the series. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Roger. Welcome! I *really* appreciate your feedback.

      FYI – The Stuff Series is part of an entire book (Stuff and Nonsense — no promises on when it will be out, however!). I am posting excerpts as I jump through the publishing hoops (in my spare time :-|)

      If you read through to the end of the article, you will see that I abandoned the Series because of lack of feedback, moving on to what seemed more useful to people.

      Now that I know that at least one person finds it valuable enough to want MORE, I’ll think about picking it back up in January or February. So thanks!!

      If you signed up for notification, you will know when a new one posts – otherwise, stop back by a couple of times a month & check the right column near the top of the “Newest [some number of] Articles” if you visit often. They “age off” after a couple of months, moving farther down the list as new articles post.

      Happy New Year!!!


  15. Grace says:

    you have provided excellant analogy regarding putting stuff away and how do you start ..
    the overwhelming part is twofold,getting started and catagorizing.file by alphabet,by subject? What if the file pertains to 2 or 3 related subjects,now what?I am an “everything out”, person,like to see my stuff which inspires creative thoughts to combine or revise..but then stuff gets pushed aside,lost,just awful…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comment, Grace – you nailed it. DECIDING – omg! Starting – ditto. It’s a wonder we aren’t ALL drowning in clutter, huh? The saddest part is how hard we swim against all kinds of currents to keep any semblance of org & order in our lives, and the fact that a good stiff wind topples our house of cards with one moment’s inattention (to mix a whole bunch of metaphors!)

      THAT’s what I set out to explore on the trail that led to Stuff and Nonsense — an ADD-friendly way to get the job done, because I simply couldn’t seem to do it the way “everyone else” did. Some of “their” things worked/made sense, much did not, and I often ended up feeling worse for the trying than if I’d just accepted “slob” as my middle name!!

      I’m STILL working on it – but I think I have a decent handle on how it happens and what I need to do to intervene before it reaches the point where I can’t MAKE myself do anything about it. Then life happens!

      So “recovery” is the key, I’m learning – not the 12-Step kind, the “get back on the horse” kind. Like I said, I’m still working on it.


And what do YOU think? I'm interested.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: