As an ADHD specialist, I frequently have the privilege of meeting couples where one partner has ADHD (or ADD). As they lead me on a tour of their home, it’s not infrequent that the spouse without ADD makes comments such as, “I don’t understand why she can’t keep this place tidy!” or “He’s attached to everything and refuses to throw anything out!”
I feel immediate compassion for the accused partner. Having ADD is challenging enough; living with someone who refuses to accept the diagnosis or has little understanding of the brain-based disorder adds another layer of difficulty.
I’m not a therapist but if given the opportunity, I like to point out the wonderful qualities of their ADD mate. Chances are, if you have ADD you possess a host of awesome qualities. Maybe you’re creative, a talented singer or writer. Perhaps an academic or a super successful salesperson. You probably have a wonderful, warm and bubbly personality which attracted your mate to you initially. Alas, as the years go by, the partner without ADD starts to focus on your lack of focus, disorganization, your tardiness or other weaknesses.
There are many well-written books on ADHD. If you’re reading this and the above scenario feels oh so familiar, I recommend my all-time favorite book, Delivered from Distraction by Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., and John J. Ratey, M.D. Hallowell (who has ADHD) focuses on the positive, on the huge potential of the person. I find his approach refreshing and helpful to both partners.
What if you’re still single and looking for love? Hallowell dedicates a whole chapter to describing what kind of mate is best if you have ADHD. Here’s a short excerpt that brings tears to eyes each time I read it:
“Someone who loves you for who you are. Someone who gets a kick out of you. Someone whose voice lifts when he/she hears it is you on the other end of the line. It is helpful if the mate can educate (him)herself about ADD and not take the blunders that the ADD mate makes personally or as if they were done on purpose. ADD is not an excuse, but it is a powerful explanation.”
As Valentine Day approaches (and at the risk of being too sappy) I share this poem (also from Hallowell’s book)
By Cherie Dawn Mills
You are my hope.
You meet me where I am and love me there—
not pushing, nor blaming, but only rejoicing
with me, or lending me your handkerchief.
You gently hold me earthbound in the blackness
of my fears, or during my endangerment from
flights of fantasy.
You do not fear the depths of my weakness,
nor the heights of my strength,
You ever see in me the wondrous possibilities
that my sins and sorrows and daily concerns
have caused me to forget.
Your love empowers me to give my love to others—
to mold the dirty clay of my feet into
sparkling angel wings.
Happy Valentine’s Day to you all,
I saw every day as both an opportunity and an obligation to teach them about the world and life. From their first day home, I started talking to them about the beauty of nature, moral values and behavior, how to treat others, and why we lived the way we did.
Since I am wired to be the kind of person who becomes a professional organizer, I found life to be more messy and chaotic than I would have liked, and I had a sixth sense that it was only getting worse. And because I assumed my kids were wired at least somewhat like me, I knew they would one day benefit from knowing things like how to:
I wanted to teach them to enjoy and beautify the necessary activities of life instead of resenting them as an evil to be avoided until the last minute. Since education was a top priority, getting ready for school in an organized and happy way was part of that set of values.
And ending each year was a time for blissful relaxation: cleaning up together without hurry or deadline, purging and re-beautifying anything that was left in a mess. No matter what else might have been planned for the summer, down time to regroup and re-organize was also built in. No getting up and dressed in a rush. No obligations to any one or anything, just restful down time. We would snack and shop and play and bake at leisure. We would watch TV and clean up no-longer-needed schoolwork. We would update wardrobes and clean out drawers and closets.
Files would be created for any materials that might be needed the next school year. This was a time to take stock of materials and decide which products and systems worked well and might want to be repurchased in advance. We knew lists would be sent from school outlining what each teacher wanted for the next year, but we purchased whatever we could in advance to minimize time in the last-minute crowds. The girls and I did it all together in a spirit of leisurely family bonding and creativity. School, work, home-maintenance …these were all the ongoing art projects of living, enjoyed in an atmosphere of “eat dessert first.”
We always planned more private down time again before the beginning of school to gather focus and shop for remaining materials. We didn’t just race home from out-of-town the night before school, hoping someone would lend them a pen. We had been all but ready long ago!
There was nothing punitive about it; it was presented and experienced as a form of relaxation. To this day, when my daughters and I visit and want to relax at home together, we find something to improve. We joke that nothing tops a beautiful organizing product or system, or the joy of getting things done in advance.
For many, a New Year brings new ideas, new wishes and renewed hope. Maybe you’ve thought about getting organized but haven’t acted on it.
Getting organized takes some courage. The courage to take actions that result in change. It may take many steps – baby steps. But every step counts!!
Maybe you’ve had nagging thoughts. These thoughts become annoying or stressful. They sound like:
Let me help you imagine what can follow next.
First, you recognize that you’re having these thoughts. Being conscious causes awareness in the present. You are very Present! This is the first baby step you take.
You realize you want support. You take time to find the “right ” person who will help you get the job done. You inquire by asking others, searching the internet, or hiring a Professional Organizer – more baby steps.
Each baby step demonstrates your courage and adds up.
Even though it feels uncomfortable, you finally decide to reveal the secrets and feelings that are challenging – with courage.
You clear time in your busy schedule and make appointments to organize. You work hand in hand at the scheduled appointment, staying open to guidance and suggestions. You make decisions during the session, and even surprise yourself! Purging items you never thought you could, or would. You let the items go, out of your possession. Some that same day!
At this point you feel pleased with your progress, and the results from your hard work. You experience a sense of accomplishment, freedom, aliveness, motivation, peace. You commit to more work days and see a clearer space and vision for yourself.
All the baby steps have accumulated to cause a personal transformation – within yourself and your space!
Congratulate yourself, it doesn’t matter how long or what it took to get to this point. Take a moment, breathe, and BE. You have earned it!
Who likes change and welcomes it? Most of us fear the unknown, even avoid it. Well, getting organized is a process of change. And, as growth is a byproduct of change, by embracing this change you are embarking into new possibilities of growth. Remember, with every step of the process, change occurs externally and internally.
“Change always comes bearing gifts” Price Pritchett
“We have thoughts, feelings and emotions, but we are not our thoughts feelings or emotions” Frances Vaughn
Mental Clutter is more mysterious and different from physical clutter. It hides, and resides in the mind disguised. It can be defined as an abundance of thoughts, and self-talk swirling around in our headspace! Layers of current thoughts, past thoughts and thoughts waiting to be triggered will occupy the mind space. Then if emotions arise, the mental clarity is gone and the cluttered brain exists.
On one level, mental clutter can be caused by:
On a deeper level, other mind clutter may not show up on your radar screen, depending on how self-aware you are. Things appear as they are, and we say it’s just the way it is!! We are blindsighted by the thought. Here’s one example: perfection. The thought of being perfect exists, regardless of why, or how it is there. You hold onto the belief that being perfect is the way to be and think. There isn’t much freedom in having this thought. It sabotages actions, and brings on negative self-talk.
Here’s what is true: we are in total control of what we choose to think or believe. Although what thoughts are in the mind can come from limiting beliefs you hold on to and live by. Sometimes these are generalizations, ideas or interpretations that you hold on to and then forget you did. At some time you may have felt strongly connected to them but now you’ve grown and changed and they don’t fit! All these thoughts may be laying dormant until something triggers it to surface. Next, you are living a life that’s not yours.
Try looking at where this thought, or belief came from. You may realize the roots of this. With introspection you realize that it doesn’t serve you anymore at this time. It’s time to give it up and free yourself. What I mean by this is, you may have lost touch with what’s really important to you – now, in the present. Maybe at one time all these thoughts, beliefs, and truths matched what was important to you. You can ask yourself, how true is this belief? The end result is living true to who you are, and who you say you are. In any given moment you can “CHOOSE” what you want to think or what doesn’t fit. The choices you make can motivate and uplift your spirit. Staying true to yourself brings inner peace.
Mindfulness and awareness will be the guide for clearing the mental clutter.
The principles of organizing apply here:
Assess what’s going on.
Take Action – Either jot down all that’s in your head until you feel empty. Seek support, like someone to talk or vent to. This helps in getting all the stuff out of your head.
Sort what thoughts to hold on to and why.
Identify what doesn’t serve you anymore. Ask yourself if any of those thoughts are draining you and your energy? Can you rephrase your thoughts so they empower you?
Choice – With acknowledgment, awareness and conscious choice, a clearing takes place. The result can be more head space! This is freeing. You may notice your energy higher. You may feel like you shed a layer or two, feel lighter, and quite positive.
Space has been created and quietness of mind and peace attained – You now have a blank slate.
January is National Get Organized Month and it’s also the time for making resolutions and promising to follow through on all the advice in the self-help books on your bookshelves. Being the author of a self-help book, I can’t say I don’t recommend them, but striving to constantly improve your life and your home may not be the best advice.
According to Lindsay Myers on brainblogger.com, self-improvement represents a $10 billion per year industry in the U.S. alone. (In addition to high revenues, self-help has a high recidivism rate, which means that those same people already purchased another self-help book in the last 18 months.) Whether we want to lose weight, eat healthy, have a better marriage, or advance in our career, many of us rely on self-help books to improve our lives.
What’s more, home improvement is an almost $300 billion industry, which some say started with Bob Vila on This Old House and cable channels taking over from there with HGTV and DIY Network. I must admit that we bought our old farm house over 30 years ago and we’ve been improving and upgrading ever since.
Stop Improving Yourself and Start Living by Robert Jean Bryant is a classic self-help book that challenges us to end the perpetual quest for improvement and instead upgrade the quality of our daily lives. We are constantly bombarded by commercials and retailers who try to convince us to buy the latest and greatest stuff so we can “improve” our lives. But all that buying means more clutter, distracts us from the real issues and the real people in our lives, and takes us away from living in the moment. Bryant also says that when you get off the treadmill of constant improvement you help yourself to the freedom of creativity, joy and well-being.
I suggest that we start 2016 by getting back to the basics. Let’s break it down:
Finally, answer the question “I wish I had more time to…” and make it happen. As the saying goes, life is not a dress rehearsal.
Clutter Quote: “Know many, trust few, learn to paddle your own canoe.” Anonymous
When I read this headline, I had to smile: The Green Pope: Francis is putting the full weight of the papacy behind efforts to curb climate change. Many Professional Organizers base their businesses on being ‘green,’ recycling, and simplifying the homes and lives their clients lead. After being glued to the television for the Pope’s entire visit to the United States (I was painting my bedroom at the same time), I couldn’t help but see a connection between this incredible man and some of the same ideals that relate to the environment and the business of professional organizing. After the Pope’s visit, I did some research, and two documents written by the Pope stood out.
The first document was published on June 18, 2015, when Pope Francis released the encyclical Laudato Si: On Care of Our Common Home. In this document the Pope calls on all nations and peoples to address urgent environmental concerns, including climate change. Francis reported that this encyclical was not really an environmental document; rather, it highlighted the developed world’s indifference to the destruction of the planet while pursuing short-term economic gains. The Pope states, “Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years.” Professional Organizers work with clients every day to set up home recycling centers, and the significance of that labor isn’t lost on us; we are helping our clients save the planet one household at a time.
The second document released by the Pope was The 15 Diseases of the Curia. The Curia Romana is the papal court, or the people who assist the Pope in the government and administration of the church. Pope Francis explains that these ‘diseases’ do not only concern the Curia “but are naturally a danger to every Christian, every curia, community, congregation, parish and ecclesiastic movement.” Number 13 on the list is the disease of Hoarding. In layman’s terms, a person tries to fill an existential void by accumulating materials goods, not out of need but only in order to feel secure and, as a result, burdens the soul. As a nation, we see this every day as shopping has become the national pastime, and anyone can accumulate goods 24/7 by using the internet and television. When people become overwhelmed with clutter and don’t know where to turn, very often it is the Professional Organizer who gets the call for help.
Finally, my hope is that no matter what our religious preference, we all take the words of Pope Francis to heart and be responsible stewards of our planet– our first home.
Clutter Quote: “Creation is not a property, which we can rule over at will; or, even less, is the property of only a few: Creation is a gift, it is a wonderful gift that God has given us, so that we care for it and we use it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude.” Pope Francis