10 Organizing Principles for the Organizationally Impaired
Friday, March 24, 2017 117 Comments
NOT Your Mama’s Organization
by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
In support of the Challenges Inventory™ & ADD Coaching Series
my edited reposting of a five year old article
If at first you don’t succeed . . .
I know. I’m right there with you. You’ve read all the books and made a good stab at following their advice, and you still live in what might affectionately be called a pig stye if only it were that neat.
Give it up!
Those books were NOT written for you and me. They were written for fundamentally organized people with relatively reliable follow-through skills and abilities.
They simply needed a little how-to help and advice.
I don’t work their way.
Do YOU work their way?
How DO you work?
If you don’t get real about how you work, you will 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.
As I began in an even earlier post (ADD & Organized?) . . .
Yea verily, even YOU can learn to be organized —
just as soon as you understand
the reasons why you’ve been stopped in the past.
Those of us who struggle with any of what are referred to as Executive Functions work a bit differently than those neurotypical folks. We do not have vanilla-flavored brains. We’re more like the ice cream with the mix-ins. Our stoppers are not their stoppers.
HERE’S the KICKER: it’s a different mix of stoppers for every single one of us.
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 my top ten organizing principles that I now call, collectively, The Executive Functioning Organizing 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 will expand on some of the points below.
For NOW, print ’em out and hang ’em up and follow them!
The Executive Functioning
#1. Organizing for effective Executive Functioning has more in common with organizing for the physically challenged than 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 vanilla-brained advice:
- How often is it used?
#3. For those of us struggling with EF issues, ease of storage is primary
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 your friend – especially for “in order to” items
Oh how the organizing gurus love to encourage us to get rid of duplicates!
That’s a lousy idea for me – and maybe not the best idea for you either, unless you particularly enjoy scavenger hunts.
- If everybody in the house uses a stapler, everybody in the house needs a personal stapler – MONOGRAMMED (okay, at least marked for identification in some manner – and words work better than colors, btw).
- 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.”
Sure you will.
How many trash cans does one living space really need?
As many as there are locations where trash accumulates!
#7. When organizing for best executive functioning, 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 belongs and where to grab it.
- Kinesthetics are especially important if you are 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 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 back to one home or the other – EVERY night — sometime before you are allowed to go to bed. Set an alarm.
You will DESPISE 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. Don’t be that idiot.
- IN OTHER WORDS: once an area is decluttered, use your “hateful half hour” to keep it that way. Every single day. It’s the ONLY way to break free of the much more dramatic “mess it up/clean it up” situation.
#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!
You might also want to take a look at
the beginning of my Clutter-Buster Series:
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There’s a lot to know, a lot here already, and a lot more to come – in this Series and in others.
Get it here while it’s still free for the taking.
You might also be interested in some of the following articles
available right now – on this site and elsewhere.
For links in context: run your cursor over the article above and the dark grey links will turn dark red;
(subtle, so they don’t pull focus while you read, but you can find them to click when you’re ready for them)
— and check out the links to other Related Content in each of the articles themselves —
Related articles right here on ADDandSoMuchMore.com
- Brain-based Coaching with Madelyn Griffith-Haynie
- The Group Coaching LinkList – explaining how it all works
- Private Brain-based Coaching Fees and Formats
- The Link between Organization and Task Completion
- A Structure to Fullfill – setting things up so that you get to WIN
- Nine Challenges to Effective Functioning: What Are They?
- ABOUT Activation
- Naming the Game
A Few LinkLists by Category (to articles here on ADDandSoMuchMore.com)
- The Optimal Functioning (Challenges) Series of articles
(about the Inventory & articles from each category)
- The Walking A Mile in Another’s Shoes Series
- The Organization & Task Completion Series
Related Articles ’round the ‘net
(Warning: mostly neurotypical, but each with with a few useful tips for us too)
- Get Organized Now (Maria Gracia’s site)
- 5 Counter-Intuitive Productivity Tips
- It doesn’t have to be overwhelming
BY THE WAY: Since ADDandSoMuchMore.com is an Evergreen site, 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.