Author: Sue FrostChallenging Disorganization

ADHD is like your favorite fragrance, it’s a little different on everyone

Managing ADHD

According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 11% of children are diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder annually.

Does that surprise you? It seems like a low estimate to me, but I’m a certified professional organizer. The nature of my business may result in meeting more people with ADHD. 

With such a large segment of the population diagnosed with ADHD, it’s about as common as freckles. One would think it was simply accepted as one of the different thinking styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, etc.) Instead, I’ve met people who avoid the diagnosis whether they’ve actually received a formal diagnosis or a family member has “diagnosed” him or her. If you are wondering why anyone would resist, try to put yourself in his or her shoes. 

We live in a judgmental society. Some people have shared their reasons: fear of discrimination, avoiding the perceived label of a mental health disorder, believing a diagnosis won’t make a difference or referencing the many myths associated with ADHD. Therefore, I’d like to share some information in hopes of dispelling just a few of the myths that perpetuate a stigma about ADHD and may keep some from seeking support.

ADHD always manifests itself in hyperactive, inattentive, and impulsive children. In fact, ADHD can look different in different people. Some children and adults may have trouble with hyperactivity while others have difficulty getting started at all. One person with ADHD might struggle with wandering thoughts while another can hyper-focus on a topic of interest for hours. 

Some believe adults outgrow ADHD.  The truth is it stays with an individual throughout their lives. However, depending on the individual, it can begin in youth as hyperactivity and impulsivity and transform into inattentiveness and problems with relationships.

Some believe medication will “fix” their ADHD symptoms. The purpose of medication is to help one focus.

The good news is, ADHD can be managed very successfully. 

Individual needs vary. Medication, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and/or psychotherapy may be necessary to provide life-management tools, and, when appropriate, working with a professional organizer can help provide organization and personalized systems to aid efficiency and productivity. Experience as a professional organizer and family advocate (not as a therapist) has taught me that formal diagnosis is so important. Many issues can mirror ADHD, even stress. Therefore, diagnosis by a psychologist or a clinical neuropsychologist should be part of a reliable diagnosis and medical plan.

A professional organizer can help an adult with ADHD learn how to organize his or her life with tools such as:

Creating routines, keeping often used items like keys in the same place every day, using task lists, breaking projects down into smaller tasks, and using your electronic calendar.  These are just a few ways to create structure and ease stress in your life.

Another thing to be aware of is the issue of comorbidity.

This term means that issues such as anxiety, depression, and mood disorders can sometimes accompany ADHD. Studies indicate a genetic or physiological link between ADHD and other diagnoses.

Feedback about arriving late, missing deadline, and conforming to “typical” classroom and workplace standards can often be negative for the person with undiagnosed ADHD. 

Hopefully, more discussion and understanding about ADHD, its symptoms, and potential comorbidity will result in people seeking and accepting help. In addition, general awareness may help others to create a more understanding environment, reducing the stigma around this and other diagnoses.

Arm yourself with information. Knowledge is power!

Author: Sue FrostFamily General Medical Special Needs

Vive la Différence

The day has finally come. You arrive home from the therapist’s office to whom you and your child were referred to by the school. The diagnosis explains the challenges he has in class and with keeping up. You now have a label. Doctor’s names, medications, treatments, and therapies are spinning in your mind. In a way, this label makes sense; it gives you something with which to work with. In another way you want to shrug it off as over-examining a creative, energetic child. You have a foreboding sense of no return.

Solutions to either overcome the issue or control the symptoms so that they do not impact major life functions become your top priority.

Gather information about the diagnosis. Knowledge is power. The more you understand the situation the better prepared you will be. You’ll ask better questions and identify the best services for your loved one.

Seek support services for your loved one. Make a list of agencies that provide support to individuals and families impacted by the particular diagnosis. Does the support include family members as well as the child?  Are there tutors, therapists, and organizers who specialize in this area? Does Supplemental Security Income play a part? Is the child eligible for Medicaid? Primary and/or secondary insurance may be important if there’s a medical component to the issue.

Create an organized structure to maintain information. For instance, I love using the phone app to track tasks, calls, errands, and projects.  All lists can be easily shared with anyone you choose, and reminders can be linked with your calendar. Evernote is extremely useful for organizing notes and records. For example, I’ve created a “notebook” for a loved one whom I’m helping to navigate the healthcare system. Within his Evernote  “notebook,” individual “notes” have been set up for each doctor to track visits and medications prescribed. Another “note” can be added each time we visit a particular doctor. A parallel filing structure has been created for any paper records that need to be kept for the purposes of benefits and possible questions or disputes. 

Self care is as important as advocating for your loved one. This is hard for all caregivers, especially moms. However, the common anecdotes are true. You are no good to anyone if you’re depleted. Even brief periods of relaxation can be restorative. A few minutes of meditation, exercise, coffee, a phone conversation with a friend, or a lunch date can do a world of good. Healthful meals and good sleeping habits must be prioritized when under stress. I’ve heard some say that time away feels like time or money that should go to their child (or loved one). Please consider this, if you’re frazzled and on edge your children will pick up on it and may not understand your stress. Consider hiring a babysitter, taking turns with your spouse or a sibling for a little time off, ask a grandparent, or a trusted friend for help.

Most importantly, remember differences don’t need to be viewed from a glass in half-full position. In fact, the more we know about different disabilities, the more we know about their hidden blessings. Many people with differences have hidden talents (depending on the disability) surpassing the typical personal: creativity, an ability to recognize detail, sheer honesty, an indisputable sense of right and wrong, a great ability to focus for long periods of time, very high IQs, exceptional memory, unconditional love, dedication … I could go on and on. Back when I was in school, there was a focus on improving student deficits. Now, finally, thinking has come around to concentrating on and developing student talents. I hope it’s a bright age for those with differences and that we can learn from each other.

Meanwhile, gather information, seek support services, stay organized, and don’t forget to take care of yourself. I’m cheering for you!

Author: Sue FrostClutter General Home Organizing

Don’t you love impromptu guests? Spring isn’t just for cleaning anymore.

A beautiful grilled bbq spread - guests are surely coming!
After a bitter winter, the trees are flowering, the temperatures are climbing, and the sun is shining. You know what that means. People start visiting!

As surely as everyone mysteriously disappears during the cold weather, they reappear in force after the thaw. They want to drop by for coffee, hosting wine and cheese parties, and throw barbecue parties at the drop of a hat.

I have two major beliefs in life. The first, as an organizer, I believe in being proactive. Nothing feels better than opening your door to unexpected guests feeling prepared. Second, carpe diem, enjoy or seize the moment. We never know what life has around the corner. To live without regrets means to open your door to opportunity now.

Does your home need a little organizational catch up? No worries. You’re not alone, and you still have time.

If entertaining is your priority, begin with your “public spaces.” By that I mean, any spaces guests would normally walk through during a visit: foyer, the living room, kitchen, dining room, and powder room.

Next, list those rooms in order of priority. You may want to start with the easiest first. Accomplishment breeds motivation. Tackling one room at a time, methodically work your way around the room.

Instead of mentally searching for each item’s purpose, try looking at the reverse thought pattern. Ask yourself, “When was the last time I used this?” This is truly the best way to predict the usefulness of an object.

You will want 4 bags for things: 1) staying in the room, 2) going elsewhere in your home, 3) things being donated, and 4) things being tossed. You may also consider selling items. The desire to do so varies from person to person. Selling things via consignment stores, Craig’s List, eBay, or other sources is up to the individual. Always consider the time involved and shipping expenses in each transaction versus the estimated value of the items being sold. Another consideration is safety. Do your homework. Research safe practices. Take the same safety precautions when selling a $15 item as you would with a $1,500 item.

When you’re finished sorting a room, take a moment to place the items you selected to remain in the room. Find homes for the things going elsewhere. Put the bag(s) of donations in the car, and toss the trash(s). Then, begin room two.

It’s much easier to maintain order when a room is fully organized than if it’s partially complete. In addition, it’s easier to maintain order if we have organization “behind the scenes.” This refers to drawers, closets, cubbies, etc. If everything has a place to go, and that place is convenient, organization is easier to maintain. Storage spaces should always allow a little room to grow. Nobody likes shoving things into a tightly packed drawer. Order will deteriorate quickly.

Adding ten minutes of organizing maintenance time to each day helps keep that clutter at bay. It’s similar to brushing your teeth to maintain oral health, or exercising to maintain your fitness. A few minutes of putting things in their place each day goes a long way.

Lastly, make a list of pantry items that won’t soon perish and add them to your grocery-shopping list. Soft drinks, wine (if you imbibe), nuts, cheese, etc. If you always have fruit in the house, all these items can quickly be thrown together for a spontaneous visit. Do you have a favorite play list of music you can delegate to someone in the family? If not, go to to select some background music.

Embrace the unexpected. Your guests will think you’re so organized. 

Author: Sue FrostGeneral Organizing Seasonal

It’s Just Past Halloween So Merry Christmas!

TrufflesDoes your stomach clench just a little bit when you see holiday decorations popping up in stores before Halloween? Is it my imagination or do retailers rush the season just a little bit more each year?

We all react differently to the first signs of the holiday season. Some look forward to gatherings with family and friends, baking cookies and relaxing at home. Others hear a starting gun for a race full of tasks they can only hope to complete in time.

Many things can add to this sense of overwhelm. Seasonal tasks like decorating, writing cards, shopping, baking and hosting – added to a busy work schedule, school activities and volunteer obligations – can cause the need to breathe into a paper bag!

Fear not, my friends. Here are a few things to simplify your holidays.

  1. Create a budget and a list

Shopping without a plan often leads to overspending. Starting early is great, but avoid last-minute sales that entice some to spend even more. Having a list reduces the odds of forgetting co-workers, hostess gifts and, if necessary, a last-minute dash for a new holiday outfit. (In my experience, the less time available to shop, the more I am willing to spend. Desperation = $.) Simply start by creating a plan: total budget = $___, number of people and gifts for each, are you having a party, do you need a new dress?

  1. Consider giving experiences instead of stuff

Take a moment to review the things you treasure most in life. Are they things at all? Toys and sweaters come and go, but experiences become memories. My parents and grandparents were people of modest means but they were creative enough to fool us: house parties with cousins, ice skates with a few homespun lessons, tickets to a show at Radio City and, once, the whole family went to see the Nutcracker! As an adult, it’s still the time spent with the important people in our lives that far outweighs anything bought in a store.

  1. Control

As a recovering perfectionist, realizing the words need to and should only existed in my mind was an epiphany. Therefore, I feel obligated to share this with others. Think of sending cards, baking, hosting parties and so on as a menu. Pick some or all. You don’t need to do everything. (OK, the kids usually appreciate a tree, but the others are optional.) Annual cards can be sent on St. Patrick’s Day if your family celebrates this holiday or on the 4th of July if you celebrate patriotism. If you show your friends and family love throughout the year, there’s no need to make it up at Christmas time, unless it’s your choice.

  1. Parkinson’s Law

If you are not familiar with Parkinson’s law, this is a good time of year to learn its original meaning. It’s a simple one: work expands to fill the time available for its completion. Therefore, you can plan a party a la Martha Stewart with place cards, silver service, homemade favors and signature cocktails or, if pressed for time, you can host a potluck dinner. You make the rules.

The most important thing is the reason for the season and the people in your life!

God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)

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Author: Sue FrostGeneral

This Is Not My Beautiful Life…Yet

2016-08 FrostWhat is it about visiting a resort or spa that is so relaxing? Why is it that our moods change dramatically? Soon after arriving we begin to unwind. Our minds no longer jump frenetically from one task to the next. For some, the perfect retreat is hiking in the mountains; others enjoy a week-long yoga experience. For me, the beach is nirvana. Each can be a place that we feel a little more in touch with ourselves. Somehow our minds drift back to center. We begin to refocus on who we are, those dear to us, reestablish our goals, and step back from the pace of the world.

Resorts do their part in creating a beautiful atmosphere which facilitates this metamorphosis in us. If we pay attention, there are things we can do to borrow ideas and create our own, personalized havens.

If adopting some simple principles enables you to incorporate tranquility into your life, wouldn’t it be worth it?

When you return home, does the relief you experienced while away dissipate quickly? Here are some ways to work minimalism and simplicity into your own lifestyle.

  1. Surroundings ~ Close your eyes and visualize the last resort you visited. Chances are your surrounding were beautiful, simple and elegantly decorated. Everything you needed was within reach — no more, no less. There was no clutter to be found. The ten hangers in the closet seemed sufficient. Would you feel more peaceful at home if it were less cluttered? Would it reduce your stress level? If there were a beautifully made bed and fresh towels waiting for you at the end of the day, would your home become more welcoming? Due to flight restrictions, we’ve reduce our cosmetics and toiletries significantly. Therefore, bathroom counter clutter is cut in half as is our morning preparation time while away. What if we applied this change at home?
  1. Company ~ Who were you with on vacation? Whether you’re surrounded by your family, favorite friends or fly solo, you’ve made a specific choice about the company you kept. Why do we sometimes feel more in control of our time and choices while away than when living our everyday lives? Being with people that lift us may actually make us healthier. It certainly makes us happier. Do you include these people into your daily life as much as possible? Why not?
  1. Packing ~ What did you pack? Does the thought of losing your luggage make you flinch? It does for most people because we bring the best of the best. So, as a Professional Organizer I ask, what’s left over? Consider reevaluating the items clogging your closet that aren’t being used. Getting ready for the day while on vacation is easy. There aren’t many choices, and, usually, they are all good. What if you boiled your wardrobe down to the cream of the crop at home? What if you removed items that don’t fit, feel good or flatter you? What would you be left with? It’s probably the things in your suitcase. Weeding through the duds doesn’t start our day with the same sense of freedom. It weighs us down.
  1. Location ~ As discussed earlier, we all have different ideas of the perfect location for our retreat. What’s yours? Are there places like it near home? Can you plan day trips there? Better yet, can part or all of your home reflect your favorite oasis?
  1. Activities ~ What did you do while away? Chances are you never used the TV or iron. We’re often focused on making the most of our time while away. Was screen time on devices reduced significantly? What would it take to make similar changes at home? What were the benefits of these changes? Did you feel calmer, enjoy better connections and communication, or simply have more fun?

There’s no rule stating that retreats are limited to once a year. Take them home with you. Turn your home into your haven. Fill your life just a little bit more – with experiences, not stuff.

It’s not about a full transformation in one day. By making small comforts ordinary, our homes can become our havens and places we crave returning to each evening.

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Author: Sue FrostGeneral Organizing Productivity Time Management

Time Management Starts with Lifestyle Management

gardesana-762768_1920-2While visiting Italy I learned the maxim, Americans Live to Work, while Italians Work to Live. Their work day seemed a little longer, but the pace appeared less frenetic. They started a little later but enjoyed leisurely lunches and animated banter with coworkers.

Sitting in cafes observing the Italian lifestyle was as interesting as taking in their architecture. They appeared to savor the moment, dining alfresco, without waiting for the weekend to jam chores and fun into forty-eight hours. I admired this philosophy and tried to integrate it into my life upon return.

I became more aware of certain turns of phrase here in the States. Sentences such as, “I have to Chair the fundraiser again this year,” now had a different ring to them. When someone said, “I have so many events and obligations, but I can’t eliminate any of them,” it somehow sounded different.

Many of us approach work with the same mentality. Is there something about our culture that equates being busy with a badge on honor? Are we concerned about appearing lazy if our schedules are less than hectic? I’ll admit to needing to learn to say no. It’s not easy.

How does this relate back to time management? Simply stated, the way we use our time can often be a manifestation of our beliefs.

If we believe that anything less than busy is unambitious, our calendars will be filled accordingly. If we want a life that reflects our goals and dreams, decisions should be made mindfully before the calendar fills up.

In terms of time management, often the goal is to try to fit more tasks into our life. I lean toward minimalism in my organizing practice, and I believe the same minimizing principals can help us with time management. Yes, we need to plan work, meetings, errands, and time with friends and family. The idea here is to step back and do all this mindfully. Start with your goals or the goals of your family. We can work and give back, but we can do so joyfully. Here are some points to remember:

  1. Does your lifestyle reflect your priorities?
  2. Is there time in your life for those most important to you?
  3. Is there “down time” in your schedule? If not, burnout will ensue.
  4. If you find yourself saying, “I need to find time for “that,” stop – and schedule it. Time won’t magically present itself for any project. If something is important enough, pull out your calendar and schedule the task.
  5. Get eight hours of sleep. It’s difficult to accomplish much when we’re tired.
  6. Don’t forget your three square meals a day. Hunger can cause distraction. That said, overeating can cause sleepiness. Proceed carefully.
  7. If you have a home office, establish regular hours. Outlining your working hours will be helpful to you as well and your clients and colleagues. P.S. It sets boundaries with family and friends.
  8. Start each day with a short list of goals. It’s easier to stay on task.
  9. Establish “do not disturb time.” This will be your most productive time.
  10. Remember, multitasking is a myth. We can have multiple projects going on during the same span of time; however, we cannot work on multiple things, literally, at the same time.

Business and pleasure don’t need to be separate. As long as you conduct yourself with appropriate decorum, work can be fun too. Live in the moment. Strive to be present. It certainly seems to work in Italy.