Ten ADD Organizing Principles

NOT Your Mama’s Organization

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
In support of the Challenges Inventory™ & ADD Coaching Series

As I began in an earlier post (ADD & Organized?) . . .

Yes, even YOU can learn to be organized —
the REASONS why you’ve been stopped in the past.  

HERE’S the KICKER: it’s a different mix of stoppers for every single one of us.  

If you don’t understand how YOU work, you’ll never be able to determine what YOU need to do to to keep from spending half your life looking for things that were “right here a minute ago” — and the other half tripping over dirt and detritus.

So much for helpful hints and tidy lists!  

That said, I’m going to go w-a-a-y out on a limb by offering ten ADD organizing principles that I call, collectively, The ADD Organizaing Manifesto — a summary of some basic concepts that need to be embraced and understood if you want to have a shot at working out what YOU need to do for YOU to be organized.

In future posts in this series, I’ll expand on some of the points below.
For NOW, print ’em out and hang ’em up!

The ADD/EFD Organizing Manifesto 

1.  Organizing for the ADD/EFDer has more in common with organizing for the physically challenged than with organizing for the neurotypical.

•  It makes no difference if “prime real estate” is between the head and knees of a standing person if the person who is using the item is in a wheelchair.

•  It makes no difference if “it only takes a minute to walk to the next room to retrieve those tax files you only need a few times a year,” if walking to the next room is exactly the stopper that makes the taxes overdue every year.

2.  All organizing must take continued FOCUS into account first:

•  How important is ease of retrieval to accomplishing the task at all?
•  How important is rapid retrieval?
•  What modality will the retriever be likely to use to locate the item?
•  How important are the kinesthetics of the retrieval?

And finally, rather than first, as with “neurotypicals” (non-ADDers)

•  How often is it used?

3.  For the ADD/EFDer, ease of storage is the primary concern

Conventional wisdom states that storage must be thought of first in terms of ease of retrieval.

•  If you don’t put it away in the first place, not only is it impossible for you to retrieve it, the unconscious knowledge that you won’t be able to find it when you need it becomes a disabling distraction — one more invisible ball to juggle.

•  If it isn’t easier to put it away than to “put it here for now” — or at least AS easy — don’t kid yourself! It won’t get put away AT ALL.

4.  All organizing must be thought of with a systems focus

•  What gets used with this item?
•  What gets used next?
•  How does the task of putting away this item (or the item prior) impact the next phase of the system?

5.  All organizing must take the usage by others into account

•  Whenever possible, don’t share.
•  Whenever possible, don’t tempt others to borrow.

6.  DUPLICATION is the ADD/EFDer’s friend – especially for “in order to” items

•  If everybody in the house uses a stapler, everybody in the house needs a personal stapler – MONOGRAMMED (or at least marked for identification)

•  If a single, solitary ADD/EFDer living like a hermit uses a stapler in several different places, every PLACE needs a place-specific stapler – marked for identification

When s/he stumbles across the office stapler in the bathroom, s/he won’t waste cognitive resources wondering if it belongs in the kitchen . . . or maybe the craft center . . . or . . .
“Oh, never mind, I’ll come back to the bathroom the next time I need it – at least I’ll know where I left it.”)

Uh huh.

•  How many trash cans does one living space really need?
As many as there are locations where trash accumulates!

7.  When organizing for the ADD/EFDer, everything must have a home and a vacation home

•  Any home must be able to be located kinesthetically, as for a blind person.
No thinking, no remembering, no looking — you’re body simply knows where it is.

•  Kinesthetics are especially important if the ADD/EFDer is highly visual (which makes just TOO much sense if you’ll think about it!)

Which means, if you really DO think about it, before you can set up housekeeping, the location of everything in the neighborhood must make sense cognitively.

Everything must ALSO have a vacation home 

•  Sometimes taking the fifteen steps to escort the handy-dandy velcro-enabled TV remote back to it’s velcro-docking-station in the cabinet under the television is simply going to be too much effort to fathom.

•  THAT is why you have a basket on (or under) the coffee table where you can house those little friends who refuse to go back home the moment you are tired of playing with them!

•  The next time somebody needs the remote, they only have to look, at most, in TWO places.

(Note to the neurotypicals: would you rather be right, or be able to change channels with relative ease?)

8.  NOTHING spends the night outside – EVER!

•  You must teach yourself to dedicate a “hateful half hour” to rounding up the renegades and sending them to one home or the other – EVERY night — before you are allowed to go to bed.

You will HATE this principle every evening, and LOVE it every morning.

•  Remember, you always have the option of sending things to one home or the other in real time.  Eventually you will find yourself needing increasingly less time to round up the run-aways.

•  The first night you get to skip the hatefulness, you will be on your way to becoming a convert.

9. You must make friends with “The Penicillin Principle”

•  First corollary of principle number eight: never inject viruses into the petri dish once you have hit it with the penicillin dropper.

Once penicillin creates a clear spot in the center of a teeming mass of virus,
only an idiot reinfects it

•  IN OTHER WORDS: once an area is decluttered, use your “hateful half hour” to KEEP it that way. EVERY day.  It’s the ONLY way to break free of the “mess it up/clean it up” cycle.

10.  Life without a broom closet is no life at all

•  Your utility closet is the ONLY exception to the vacation home principle – you MUST have a place to stash brooms, mops, vacuum cleaners, dustpans, and backups of ALL of the products you [will] use to keep some modicum of sanitation in your home!

•  If you don’t have ONE dedicated closet for cleaning tools, cleaning will always have too many tiered tasks to navigate often enough to please the Board of Health

•  EVEN if you have to set up a rack in the corner to free up space in a clothes closet, you MUST have a place to store the dirty, ugly realities of cleanliness!

As always, if you want notification of new articles in this series – or any new posts on this blog – give your name and email 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

**Thanks to Sean MacEntee for the artwork (via Flikr)

Related Post ‘Round the ‘Net

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!"

9 Responses to Ten ADD Organizing Principles

  1. Pingback: Executive Functions & YOU | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  2. Pingback: TIME to think about Group Coaching | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  3. Pingback: Why you can’t and how you can – Part 1 | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  4. Pingback: Executive Functioning Disorders – not just kid stuff | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  5. Pingback: AD/HD Organizing Manifesto | Streams of Consciousness

  6. Pingback: Testing 214 | Streams of Consciousness

  7. Pingback: Testing 123 | Streams of Consciousness

  8. Pingback: ADD/ADHD Organizing Manifesto | Streams of Consciousness

    • Thanks for the reblog – I’m pleased you visited and thrilled you liked what you saw enough to share with your readers. (I like your “streamlined” version too – well done!)

      I would have commented over there, but I “had to be logged in,” it’s almost 3:30 am, and I have MILES to go before I sleep!



And what do YOU think? I'm interested.

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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: