Why Do I Do This?

housefulJanuary 18, 2005

Hi all! I frequent some other forums, but after today, I thought I should join this one.

I started organizing the office which is adjacent to the kitchen. I got a cupboard from my laundry/storage room and filled it with home schooling stuff. I found some things that needed to go elsewhere, so I went in that room and before I could put the item away, I had to redo that room. Also in there somewhere, I started reorganizing the kitchen. I am sure you can see where this is going....by the end of the day yesterday, I was in more of a mess.

Why do I do this? Why can't I stay focused and just get one room done? I can no longer use the excuse that I get interrupted 50 times a day, because looking back over my life, I was always this way. I have tried the flylady thing, but I got so sidetracked by the emails. I need to find a system that works for me and I am determined to do that. But please, someone help me understand why I do this.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hi Houseful,

Except for the fact that I don't home school, you have described a typical day at my house....some days better than others. I find it difficult to stay focused on one thing for a period of time and so I move on, thinking I will eventually get back to the task on hand, but get sidetracked along the way. My house is always a "work-in-progress". (Whose isn't?) But it can be very frustrating at times.

I can dwell on psychological reasons why I am like this: always needing something on a to do list to feel useful, afraid that if I finish everything (excluding daily upkeep) that I will then feel I no longer have the "right" to be a SAHM, I would then have to focus on other areas in my life that probably need it (and I'm ignoring). Those are just a few of my "issues" and I'm sure a therapist would have a field day with me. Because I do desperately want "order" in my home, routines, schedules, etc. And I definitely feel better when I'm close. But then I allow everything to backslide :-(

I read a book a few years ago called "Get Your Act Together" by the SHE (side-tracked home executives) team, Pam & Peggy Young, which helped me focus better. I'd recommend that book.

While I mostly lurk here, the support from this group has been invaluable.

Best of luck to you.

Maura (thinking of re-reading this book!)

Here is a link that might be useful: Get Your Act Together

    Bookmark   January 18, 2005 at 4:55PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Houseful, your first paragraph described my typical day also! Looking back, I wonder if I have always had a little ADHD going on. I CAN sit and do crafts, so maybe it's not hyperactivity. Just getting distracted and starting another job. (sounds like it IS ADHD!) I often wonder why things seem to always be in need of arranging! I'm not a clean freak, but I do have to force myself to continue the job at hand.
You're not alone.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2005 at 5:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

This describes me as well. I was all over the place today, in rooms all over the house, but never did the one thing I had planned, priming my kitchen wall. I think I did the other things because I didn't feel like priming, but still feel good I got all that organizing done.
I do best when I have lists, and my kitchen sink is shined before bed. I am trying to develop a journal with the FlyLady and do find that my days go MUCH better when I've done my evening routine, and that shining the kitchen sink has an amazing domino affect on my whole kitchen.
I like to sit down at night and plan the things I want to achieve the next day and write them all down. I wake up and try to stay focussed on that list, working away at those things one by one, crossing them off as I get them done.
I need time on the weekend to organize myself and plan the coming week as well. If Mon. and Tues. don't go as planned I feel like a failure. That's me this week.
Hopefully I'll prime the kitchen wall tonight, when I could have been painting the second coat!

    Bookmark   January 18, 2005 at 6:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Yep, that's me too. A typical day for me might start going to the storage room for "something", forgetting why I came down, so I start straightening the family room, see a paper that should be filed, so I go over by the computer, think about something I need to do on the computer and while I'm on the computer I might as well check in at the forum and check my ebay auctions and emails . . . then, hours later, I still haven't gotten whatever it was I came downstairs for!! LOL!


    Bookmark   January 18, 2005 at 6:31PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I do this as well, often. But I find that I feel more satisfied, and am less likely to get sidetracked, if I either:

a) work in closely defined areas--if the ONLY thing I'm trying to do is tackle my dresser, then I don't end up w/ dresser stuff everywhere, plus all the OTHER stuff. If I try to do the whole room, I'll have a major mess

b) work in short bursts--I work in the whole room, but only for 15 minutes.

I also give myself permission to just "stick stuff" into the other, non-target area. I want to clean up my BR, and I find something that goes in the big closet. But the big closet needs organizing in order to be able to put this thing tidily in there. I don't deal w/ the big closet--I just shove whatever it is on whatever shelf I can find.

I'll get to the big closet later.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2005 at 6:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I call it the domino effect. It happens with nearly all projects I tackle. That is why Flylady recommends setting a 15 to 30 minute timer, and quitting at the end, saving some for next time. You still get a lot done - but you don't overtax yourself, and wear yourself out to the point that it feels hopeless.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2005 at 7:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


Its me from the bathroom's forum. I homeschool for many years and had children, lots of them, at the same time. The accumulated fatique and stress make doing anything right just about impossible. If your children are safe and healthy and learning, you are doing a wonderful job and have my heart-felt admiration. All of this is overwhelming and sometimes the symptoms of being over-burdened look like ADHD or out-and-out failure. I don't have any easy answers for you. However, your life will improve if you get as much sleep as you need, if you reduce your buying to only that which is necessary, and if you keep homeschooling really simple until your household is running in an acceptable way to you.

About Flylady, stop the emails. Only read the website. Just focus on the sink, getting dressed, offering healthy food and getting sleep. Things will fall into place (unless you have another baby!) in time. If you can control the flow of stuff going into your house (so hard with homeschool) then eventually you will move into a routine. Welcome to the forum! You're among friends!


    Bookmark   January 18, 2005 at 8:47PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You describe me, too. I spend more time avoiding doing what I need to than doing that thing. I have found that Flylady's suggestion to work for 15 minutes in JUST ONE ROOM is very helpful. When I just go and work for that long (15 minutes) I forget what I'm doing and will tend to start going out of the room to do something else. I don't always use my timer, but it really helps when I do. It dings every 5 minutes and reminds me to STAY IN THAT ROOM, and when I do that, it really DOES make a difference!

    Bookmark   January 19, 2005 at 7:09AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm like that too. I suggest you read Julie Morgenstern's "Organizing From the Inside Out." She describes herself as being like this once, so her suggestions have helped me a lot. I keep a copy to re-read when I get sidetracked. I have to force myself to stay on track. My natural tendency would be that if I'm organizing the bedroom & find some items that belong in the sewing room, to take them to the sewing room & then start organizing it instead of going back to the bedroom, leaving both rooms in a bigger mess than they were to begin with. Now I try to stay out of the other rooms. I get a box for items that belong in other rooms & put them in there. Then, when I'm done with that room for the day, I carry the box with me & put the items in their proper place.

It's all too easy to let interruptions sidetrack us. I usually pretty much ignore the phone if I'm home working. I also stay away from the computer, otherwise I waste a lot of time. If I do use the computer, usually to read this forum, I impose a time limit of maybe 10 minutes on myself.


    Bookmark   January 19, 2005 at 8:28AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm not sure why flylady's emails would cause to to LOSE focus.

As flylady repeats over and over again, people don't take the time to read her letter of instructions.

The emails are reminders to take care of small daily things that need to be addressed on a daily basis. They are the small baby steps that help everything fall into place.

Flylady is the antithesis of perfectionism and if you read the instructions and let the emails flywash you and just start taking small steps, it really helps.

As others point out, you need to pick a SMALL doable project, set your time for 15 minutes and then just do it. I've learned to do this from flylady -- I open a drawer (for example) and just do it -- I don't tackle the whole closet, unload everything etc. -- And I put everything away at the end even if it still needs work.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2005 at 9:17AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I do it ALL the time. In our house, it's call the "but firsts". In the last two weeks, I've been making a conscious effort to say to myself...one thing at a time. I do it without realizing it, taking on too much in one day. I clean a closet, to put it into another area and that area is a mess, then start on that without realizing. No more and my life has been calmer...It's taken me years to realize when I start doing this! Now I just say...this goes here for now, but this spot is another day.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2005 at 10:02AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Every single scenario posted is familiar to me. There is something to what Maura said...feeling useful, deserving to stay at home because there is sooo much to do, etc. It really robs me of time for things that I enjoy doing, like making stuff with the kids, or home improvement projects, or playing with my 3D architect program (got sidetracked with that today over on the building forum). It is so strange - I will spend an hour disassembling a faucet to get the hard water off, or another hour putting towels on the bar so they look just right, but the same piece of paper will sit on my dresser for weeks even though it doesn't belong there.

Regarding the Flylady emails - it was the testimonials that I loved reading. I would check the email so often looking for another story to read. This goes back about two years ago,before we started construction on our house, so I probably should revisit her website and only read that. Short bursts does work and then I reward myself with computer time (usually when I have to nurse the baby anyway.)

I was productive today. With only a half a day to work (got home from errands at noon), I pretty muched finished off the kitchen and office. I am determined not to be defeated. I guess we could over analyze this. It is best just to say I am what I am and I won't change overnite, but I will change!! Thanks for the support.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2005 at 8:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I will make sure to check out the books mentioned. Thank you.

Oh, Cindy, we probably will have another baby. When I am pregnant is the only time things are in order (nesting, you know). So I know I have it in me!

    Bookmark   January 19, 2005 at 8:05PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

So many people I know have the same tendency to get distracted from tasks,that I'm beginning to think that the people who do not have ADHD are abnormal...LOL

eliza ann

    Bookmark   January 21, 2005 at 2:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I tend to think it's because we have deep seated desire not to do he job in the first place. We succumb to any distraction to prevent us from completing something we didn't really want to do.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2005 at 11:56AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Excellent insight, Foggy!

    Bookmark   January 22, 2005 at 2:17PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I haven't taken the time to read all of the other responses. I need to go eat dinner and pay bills. I just wanted to drop in and offer some quick input.

I too homeschool. I have three kids under five right now.
I could easily act in the same manner you do- 'but first I have to ...' I have to activelly work against that.

If I clean out a drawer and find a hair tie that goes in the bathroom, I stop right then and put the hairtie in the bathroom. I do this because if I don't I'll have to touch the darn hair tie when I move it off of the counter, again when I pick it up off the floor and and and. So it is easier for me to go put it up right away, while it is in my hand. BUT when I do put up the hair tie- I have to make an effort to not clean out the bathroom garbage. By really thinking about it, I am able to discipline myself into doing one thing at a time to completion without starting another area.

Maybe thinking in terms of jobs- cleaning this drawer is a job and I can't work two jobs at once and still have kids... so I can't clean this drawer out and in the middle of it begin to clean another drawer out.

Just a thought.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2005 at 8:16PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I do what Ginger does...while cleaning an area or room and finding something that does not belong, I walk myself to the correct room/location and put it away. Otherwise, I would have to pick it up again later and by that time I might have run out of steam so it would be there the next time I look in the general direction. I also like to think of it as a sneaky way to get a little more exercise into my day since I do a LOT more walking back and forth through the house.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2005 at 3:28AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Sounds to me like you need to work on some self talk. Hope this doesn't sound too therapeutic but sounds like your brain is just moving in lots of directions at once (maybe more than the average person) so to combat, you need to talk to yourself in very strong language almost like a mantra, something that will work and get in the habit of saying it periodically even if it isn't obviously relevant at the moment, just whenever you think of it. Say it 50 or 100 times a day or more. Something short is probably better. Something like one of the following:
"I MUST finish what I've started".
"I WILL not allow myself to go to another task until I've finished the first(/last) one"
"I WILL complete the task I started with."
"I WILL stay on track."
"I will allow myself no distractions. I will not work on something else until I finish the one I've established as my first priority."
"Distractions will be tolerated only to the extent that I note them and decide later whether to pursue. MUST return to what I was doing."
etc, etc.

I think you know what you need to do. Now you just need to brainwash yourself into doing it. Sorry if this sounds a little freaky but it can work barring other kinds of reasons you might be sabotaging yourself.

Now if I would only follow my own advice. LOL.


    Bookmark   January 27, 2005 at 11:41AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you all for the encouragement.

FoggyJ, I think you're right to some extent. However, I do have a strong desire to get organized, I just takes me so long to figure out how to do each room that I get "bored!?!"

Alice, I love the idea of self-talk and I do use it. Sometimes my kids will hear me say, "Focus, Gina, focus!" and they look at me strange. They know what I am doing, though. Maybe I should say, "My family deserves the best!" over and over.

One motto I am trying to adopt is "if my hand touches it, it must be put where it belongs," which is basically what Ginger and Heidi recommend.

Eliza, that is funny about people without ADHD being abnormal. My first born is worse than me, my second is a neat freak and the others fall somewhere in between so far. I grew up sharing a room with a born-organizer and she would be in tears over my messy side!

My mother would dump my drawers onto my bed and make me clean it. I don't remember her showing me how to do it. The funny things is now that my mother is old, we have all discovered that she is really a pack rat and not as organized as we thought she was when we were growing up. She is so sentimental over stuff and it is really affecting her mentally now. She is sort of living in the past. We are all now trying to help her get rid of things. I don't want to end up like her.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2005 at 11:00AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"I found some things that needed to go elsewhere, so I went in that room and before I could put the item away, I had to redo that room."

DON'T PUT IT AWAY! That room will come later. When you are cleaning a room, get a big box and drop everything that needs to be "somewhere else" into it. After the room is tidied, take the box and drop off the items wherever they belong.

If this is a major decluttering, put a box in every room for the "should be put away in here" things and just dump stuff in the box until you get to that room.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2005 at 12:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I imagine most people who frequent this forum have a tendency toward the same sort of behavior. Certainly I do. Distractability and procrastination seem to go hand-in-hand much of the time, and I think what Foggy said about avoidance makes a lot of sense. I don't know anyone who procrastinates on tasks they love to do.

It is definitely possible to improve, though. I used to start out picking up the living room, for instance, and end up on the sofa with a magazine that I would open up and read rather than put away. I stopped this sort of thing by literally stopping myself. Recognizing the behavior is the first step toward changing it.

It's a constant struggle, though, and I don't want you to think that I've mastered all aspects of this. Far from it!


    Bookmark   January 29, 2005 at 7:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I strongly second the Julie Morgenstern book "Organizing from the Inside Out" She was totally that way, too. She tells a story in the beginning about cleaning her bedroom as a teenager and getting distracted and only organizing half her stuff before shoving it all into drawers so her parents would think she cleaned.

Her philosophy is to first organize things that are used the most and to organize around the way you use them (as opposed to cleaning out the crap in your basement that you haven't used in 10 years anyway--that comes later). I don't think that I am particularly organized, but when I first read her book four years ago, I made a list of all the things that I really get frustrated that i can't locate and some ways that I wanted to organize things I use all the time. I ran across the list a few weeks ago (when I was loaning the book to a neighbor) and I had accomplished all of those goals. Good luck.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2005 at 5:44PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Another thread too good to lose....

    Bookmark   November 26, 2012 at 4:04PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I found some things that needed to go elsewhere, so I went in that room and before I could put the item away, I had to redo that room. and If I clean out a drawer and find a hair tie that goes in the bathroom, I stop right then and put the hairtie in the bathroom

The only coping method I have found is this: accept that you will be distracted if you leave the area, and arrange a work flow so you do not have to leave the area.

Toss everything that belongs "somewhere else" into a box until you are through with the area you are working in. Or drop the stuff outside the area you are working on. Give yourself permission to address it later. It's not procrastination, it's avoiding certain distraction.

When you are finished with the area you wanted to tidy up, take the box or scoop up the pile and drop off the things into their respective areas. I have an "incoming clutter" spot in each room now, so I can dump and run, than make another loop and put things away, or wait until I'm working on that room.

If you are in the throes of a major decluttering, have several boxes, each labelled with the destination area of their contents. Instead of leaving the area and risking distraction while you return each misplaced object, toss it into the correct box.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2012 at 8:44AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Well, I can't really analyze your personality, but this stood out to me:

You wrote: "I found some things that needed to go elsewhere, so I went in that room and before I could put the item away, I had to redo that room."

Often when the pros tell you how to declutter, they tell you NOT to take things into the other room to put away, but to put all the "not in this room" stuff in a specific box. Maybe just one box that is "not in this room" instead of multiples.

Oh, I see lazygardens beat me to it.

Oh, well.

I also can scatter very easily. I've gotten better, and I found that one thing that helped was to specifically issue myself an order, "You cannot do any other project until THIS one is done. Period." I'd say it outloud: "Talley Sue, today you are clearing out the dining room. That's all--don't get sidetracked."

I also felt free to abandon Project 2 and go back to Project A as soon as I realized I was getting sidestracted.

And then I'd give myself a reward: "You can play on the piano when you're done." And I'd say it outloud.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 7:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

One thing that helps me is to discipline myself to tackle 5 or ten objects in one room, stay in that room till the 5/10 things are done. I throw out or properly put way my 5/ 10 items. Then I allow myself to move to another room. And any emergencies- such as a spilled drink or pet accident, get handled immediately.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2012 at 10:06AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I call that "do a dozen."

    Bookmark   November 30, 2012 at 5:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I don't know what brought me here today, but was surprised to see my old thread! I am still dealing with my issue, but to a lesser extent thankfully. The kids are getting older which helps. I am going to read this forum everyday now. I need this!

I do try to put things in a pile that have to go in another room rather than leaving the room to put things away. I WILL get distracted if I leave.

I have now finished my second cup of coffee for the morning which is my cue to get off the computer and get working. I am going to get started on the sock organization!

    Bookmark   January 17, 2013 at 8:34AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Forgot to mention that my sister bought Morgensterns book for my mom. I am going to try to read through it.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2013 at 8:37AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I find that using a timer really helps me. I time e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g, chores, work breaks, computer time, tea time, making the bed...beat that timer.

You can't do everything at once; no one can. You can tackle one drawer, shelf, small stack of papers, box, etc. for 15-20 minutes.

It helps me to look at my task. Yesterday I had to purge one box of fabric. I have to get rid of x number of pieces so the rest would fit loosely in a smaller container. I gave myself 20 minutes.

I had a box for the Thrift Store; I had the new container; I had the large, overstuffed container. I set the timer for 20 minutes. Sort, sort, sort.

The projects I no longer wanted to do; the projects I didn't think I'd live long enough to even contemplate completing, LOL, went in the donation box.

In just 16 minutes the "keep" container was 3/4ths full; the donation box was full and out in the boot of the car.

It was scarier to think about that it was to do. Someone is going to find a great deal and have fun using the fabrics that were choking my mental space.

Some things I will FreeCycle or offer on Craig's List, but often it's just important to get it out of your house and off of your mind so "life" can be about living, not about sorting and churning "stuff."

Keep going; the more stuff that is out of your house the more room you'll have to live!

    Bookmark   January 21, 2013 at 4:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My take on this is a little different: some projects need big chunks of time, but if I focus exclusively on them, none of the little jobs will ever get done, and psychologically, they are burdensome, because they constantly nag at me and interfere with my concentration. Writing them down on a to-do list can help get them out of my head, but many little chores never make it onto a list. So sometimes, I find that it's better--for me, anyway--to simply *accept* that today will be a day of doing all the little jobs, so that tomorrow, with all the trivial issues under control, I will be able to fully concentrate on the big project.

p.s. Waving hello to Cupofkindness, TalleySue, and other old friends from long ago!


    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 6:30PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"Keep going; the more stuff that is out of your house the more room you'll have to live!"


I don't use a timer necessarily, but I might focus on one job for say 5 songs on Pandora :)

Mtnester, you are so right about big vs little jobs. Today I started putting the new shelving in my walk-in pantry. Took all day and nothing else in the house got done by me. Luckily DH and kids did some laundry.

What I did do, however, was pack up 4 bags for Goodwill into the car along with a box of things to return to Home Depot. Dropped off bags, returned things at HD, got a $90 store credit and bought my pantry shelving! So, all in all, it was a good day!

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 8:33AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Wow, Houseful, that was a terrific day! You did both the big and little projects in the same day! AND you enlisted your family's help. What a bonus!


    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 12:12PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hi, mtnester!!

I love your point about accepting that sometimes it's a "lots of little projects" day. That's when you need a "reverse 'to do' list": You write down all the stuff you do, right AFTER you've done it. And then you cross it off.

That's sort of how I handle the "Toss Ten" concept. Some days, "one item" may be "all the junk in this drawer." Other days, "one item" may be "the single paper clip that's in the junk drawer instead of the office drawer."

You get to choose, based on your energy level, the time available, etc. But the great thing about doing "Toss Ten" is that (the idea is, anyway) you do it EVERY DAY. And so you constantly have forward movement. It may be slow, but it's forward.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 11:16PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I read this quote the other day which I had never heard before.....

âÂÂEat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.â by Mark Twain

And I had to read it over a few times before I figured out what he was saying. In other words, it is a funny way of saying, whatever is the worst thing on your list of to do items for the day, DO THAT ONE FIRST and get it over with and the rest of your day will be a piece of cake.

I'm liking that idea and will try to start trying it out, as soon as I finish working on diet and exercise goals that I started last November. I still have more work to do on that and I'm staying focused on it. I do believe that I used to take that approach when I was younger and it was a very helpful habit. I don't know why I got away from it.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 5:18AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Oh, a second inspirational thought I heard recently in a number of different ways, is about movement and momentum. That movement triggers momentum and so if you just START doing something and reduce the amount of thinking time, you get into action mode and that creates some momentum. I think that really is true.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 5:24AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I like that!!! "Movement triggers momentum."

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 2:10PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Meet and Greet - Please Introduce yourself!
I don't think I've ever seen that happen on this particular...
Why I look in the box before tossing
One of the boxes I recently sorted through was marked...
Best life lesson I ever learned
Best life lesson I ever learned was at 25 years old...
What to do with hundreds of CDs
I have nice storage boxes filled with hundreds of CDs...
How to get your kid (young, or young adult, or adult) to declutter
On one of the other threads (the "madwoman"...
Sponsored Products
Lanie Loreth 'Journey I and II' 2-piece Canvas Art Set
Missoni Home | Olafur Sky Pillow Case Set
DMX Decoder-Studio (24 Channel-3A per Channel)
72" Arrey Teak Double Vanity for Semi-Recessed Sinks
Signature Hardware
Caterina King Canopy Bed - WOOD/MIRROR
$2,999.00 | Horchow
Minka Lavery | Dyno Ceiling Fan
$199.95 | YLighting
Saarinen Style Executive chair
IFN Modern
Waverunner Sofa Set in Green
$1,499.00 | LexMod
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™