Are you struggling to stay focused?

alisandeJanuary 19, 2008

Like the Sidetracked Sisters and many others with disorganization problems, I've been easily distracted all my life. For quite a while I felt I had a handle on it. Awareness certainly helps, and I could force myself to stay on task. But for whatever reason, over a period of time I've backslid rather badly, and the state of my house reflects this.

I am determined to get control of the house and my inclination to fly off in 100 different directions at once. Do any of you struggle with these issues? Do you have any success to report? Or maybe just commiserate with me? :-)


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Hi, I want to ask if you have ever been evaluated for having ADD (attention deficit disorder)? Because there is help for it - various things that are not all necessary medication. I think it's great that you recognize a problem and want to deal with it before it gets out of control.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2008 at 11:06AM
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Oh, man, I know what you mean... There's SO much to keep on top of. Do you live alone? If you live with others, are they helping to keep things organized or just adding to your burden?
I too can bounce from one thing to another. I'm finding that having lots of containers and drawers (ie places to put stuff, even if it's not ideal) helps a lot.
Also having guests over is great motivation for cleaning and organizing. We joke about this a lot, but it is so true.
You're not alone!!

    Bookmark   January 20, 2008 at 2:04PM
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I feel your pain, girl, I really do! I agree with piegirl, company is a good motivational tool! lol

    Bookmark   January 20, 2008 at 10:12PM
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What about this for a plan - We could focus on one room in the house per week. Picking the room that Fly Lady uses would probably be a good option so that those who are doing her system can double up on systems. For that week, we could all report what wonderful organizational, decluttering, cleaning things we were able to accomplish. Since we will be focusing on similar problems, we can compare and contrast solutions. We will have a group mentality and cheering section. That should help with motivation.

This week Fly Lady is doing the master bedroom. (Keep in mind that she has the rights to her material. It is fair to link to them, but not to copy and paste them.)

    Bookmark   January 22, 2008 at 6:10AM
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I do live alone, which I think makes this (among other things) harder. When I had a full house I had accountability to help me. Now I'm able to drift with no one to suffer the consequences but myself.

Heavens, yes, I have ADD. I come from a long line of ADDers, actually. It seems to be an affliction of the creative. I haven't read anything on the subject in years, though. Back then medication was the recommendation. Meds aren't my thing.

Duckie, my master bedroom is screaming for attention.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2008 at 10:10AM
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Yup, I find it a problem too. Between the distractions and procrastination, I have had some famous cleaning binges that kept me up all night because company was coming. Of course, it is surface cleaning of 'public' areas then.

I find now that I am pretty successful if I decide on a task and then reward myself when it's done. No computer time until the dishes are done, no TV until the laundry is folded and put away. Etc. etc.

I have a bigger problem with finishing projects. For example, I reorganized the 2 large shelves in the laundry area. Used stacking baskets, labelled everything, etc. But, I have this one basket with stuff that belongs somewhere else, and it is still sitting on the dryer after 6 months. That is one of the reasons so much of my stuff goes to the Goodwill, then I don't have to deal with it anymore.

I too have been told I am a creative thinker and problem solver. I love to come up with the ideas, the methods to accomplish them, but don't want to be the one to do it.

Hey, gang, this forum inspires me to keep plugging away, and for that I am truly grateful.


    Bookmark   January 22, 2008 at 11:47AM
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I am not alone!!!

I have to consciously stop myself from wandering off. I could be standing at the dryer folding laundry (which I have to do, if I move it somewhere else it stays there for days or until it all gets worn again), suddenly I think "I wonder if I'm out of brown sugar? I need it for the cookies I'm making tomorrow." And I will stop in the middle to go check the pantry. I have to be aware I'm doing it, knowing the brown sugar will just lead to something else, and say "Fold the clothes, fold the clothes, fold the clothes. Check the brown sugar later."

It helps if I make a list. That way when I get distracted by thoughts of another task I write it down and it's OK to let it go from my mind b/c it's on paper- an extension of my mind.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2008 at 3:10PM
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I do that "wandering off" thing a little bit, too. I'm much better now. I've just decided that anything I think of (like the brown sugar), it's OK if I forget. I feel a little less "in control" in other places, but by gum, my CLOTHES are folded!

But my *KIDS* do it horrendously!

You cannot, cannot speak to my ADD son about ANYTHING else. And my daughter either

    Bookmark   January 22, 2008 at 3:34PM
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Since I still need to do a lot of purging, and remain prone to buying new things I don't need or am not ready to deal with, I am keeping a kind of diary--not too different from some threads in which folks reported what they'd gotten rid of.

I just list on the left side things I've moved out (to trash, Goodwill, whatever) and on the R, anything I've brought into the house or yard --usually can use one page for a week. I find this both encouraging and maybe even will help if I go looking for something I've forgotten I tossed !

It helps me see how easy it is, with unnecessary purchases (or just accepting things from in-laws, etc)to get overloaded if the R column is the same or bigger than the L, and how much simpler my home and life would be if I can keep the "in" column practically empty for several months.I can also see more clearly where I need to do the one-in, one-out ( magazines, books, clothes are the best examples).
In my left-hand column I also make a note of things I've accomplished toward resolving a "homeless" item, such as planting a shrub that has been sitting around in its nursery pot; hanging a picture on the wall. This helps me give myself credit for doing those things we tend to procrastinate about, but which are as much a part of "de-cluttering" as pulling out stuff to take to Goodwill.

I also have a page where I make a note of something I think I may be ready to let go of (maybe I came across it in the closet or drawer and thought, hmmm, but just wasn't into making a decision)Then I can try to think later why keep or not keep.

I'm sure I'm not tracking every paper clip, but I'll make these notes when any of the stuff is on my mind, and about once a week, usually on a Sunday evening, I'll try to sum up my ins & outs and see if I can do even better.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2008 at 5:30PM
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OHHH, I have found that I am not alone...I try..I start and then go do something else so often. I just have soo much I want to do that some days I do not get a darn thing done.
Now I am working in my room. We have a new quilt for the bed and I need to get all the clothes out of there that do not fit...there are 3 large baskets overflowing in there.
I have gone from a 20w to a 14 and I am not keeping anything that is too large...
I have been slowly selling my business attire on e-bay..but darn I want the stuff gone.
Karen L

    Bookmark   January 22, 2008 at 7:20PM
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Whew! I'm not alone! My DH -- Mr. one-thing-at-a-time -- thinks I'm nuts, but I know my monkey mind is the result of too much creativity for my own good. And ADD.

I find that lists help immensely. I also know that staying rested, and not eating sugar or caffeine helps. If you have ever fasted for even a day, you have probably noticed how much your mind settles.

I like to go with momentum. I couldn't do FlyLady because it's too piecemeal. Breaking up a project just compounds the problem. I would rather wait until Saturday and spend all day cleaning than do 15 minutes here and there all week.

I'm curious to see what other advice people offer you.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2008 at 8:58PM
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Ah, yes, "wandering off." We do it so well, don't we? I have a wonderful (if stupid) example from last night:

I was using a manual can opener to open a can of dog food when I stopped after two turns and wandered off to wash a knife. Then I checked the expiration date on a box of Alka-Seltzer and ended up throwing them out since they were 10 years old (I'd found them in my DH's office)! I forget what I did after that. Meanwhile, the dogs were getting hungry. I don't think I ever got distracted in the middle of opening a can before, but there's a first time for everything.

I like the idea of writing everything down as it occurs to me, although I could see those lists getting awfully long. Maybe convincing myself that it's okay to forget would be a better plan.

I gave up sugar 13 years ago (a GOOD thing!), and my caffeine consumption is minimal. Although I appear exceptionally calm (I have that kind of voice), my autonomic nervous system is not the best, and I startle easily and dramatically. Do not take me to a scary movie!

Nice to see so many in "the club."


    Bookmark   January 23, 2008 at 9:10AM
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I find I am much better at staying focused when I sit down (usually at the beginning of a weekend), make a list of what I'd like to get done, and prioritize that list. I will, then, do the most important things on the list and be happy with what I got done.

I will never get all of the list done -- I have a long list of things I'd like to do.

It seems silly that sitting down and writing it out would make such a difference -- I have the same list running in my head, right? But something about the process of deciding that these three or five things are the most important does change my thinking and my focus.

This seems very similar to me to Stephen Covey's advice in the _7 Habits of Highly Effective People_ to "begin with the end in mind". I figure out what I am trying to accomplish, first, then I go out and have more focused (and effective) efforts.

Jean Marie

    Bookmark   January 23, 2008 at 11:00AM
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Since I work and am moving things back into a newly remodeled house and trying to exercise its the same struggle everyone has. But I have a little voice inside that says "focus" you need to do this first. I make lists of course.
Sometimes I have a little map of where I am going to go first, second, etc. so I don't backtrack or skip an errand.
It is easy for all of us to get distracted, you don't need ADD--all you need is a phone call or two from your kids who want or need information, paperwork or simply to chat. Husbands need attention and want company and thats a priority, or like now they need to get picked up from the airport.
One of the things that has simplified things a little is picking a day of the week to get specific things done. That works in an office as well as at home. I find that getting up early --before 6 is the best bet as you get older. when I was younger I could stay up doing quilting or doing watercolors till 11:00, but those days are gone. so if you are young and energetic don't waste your time on the unnecessary stuff--your energy doesn't last forever. I thought it would and I was wrong.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2008 at 7:50PM
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I just heard this on the radio the other day; Forgetting where you put your keys is normal. When you forget what your keys are for, is when you've got something to worry about.
Is it distraction or boredom? I am very distracted when I'm bored; especially with housework. I have found going to the gym really does help. Also you might try 'Flylady'

    Bookmark   January 24, 2008 at 5:56PM
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Alisande, I sympathize, I think women in general are stuck with doing all these little piddly chores and actions, it's no wonder we can get sidetracked. Ever notice on the bigger jobs that's it's easier to stay on it?

This was posted a long time ago here, but worth reading again. I know I've had days like this, but change the coke to an iced tea or coffee!


This is how is manifests itself:

I decide to wash my car. As I start toward to the garage, I notice that there is mail on the hall table. I decide to go through the mail before I wash the car.

I lay my car keys down on the table, put the junk mail in the trash can under the table, and notice that the trash can is full.

So, I decide to put the bills back on the table and take out the trash first, but then I think that since Im going to be near the mailbox when I take out the trash anyway, I may as well pay the bills first.

I take my checkbook off the table and see that there is only one check left. My extra checks are in my desk in the study, so I go to my desk where I find a can of Coke that I had been drinking. IÂm going to look for my checks, but first I need to push the Coke aside so that I donÂt accidentally knock it over.

I see that the Coke is getting warm, and I decide I should put it in the refrigerator to keep it cold.

As I head toward the kitchen with the Coke, a vase of flowers on the counter catches my eyeÂthey need to be watered.

I set the Coke down on the counter and I discover my reading glasses that IÂve been searching for all morning.
I decide IÂd better put them back on my desk, but first IÂm going to water those flowers.

I set the glasses back down on the counter, fill a container with water, and suddenly I spot the TV remote. Someone left it on the kitchen table.

I realize that tonight, when we go to watch TV, we will be looking for the remote, but nobody will remember that itÂs on the kitchen table, so I decide to put it back in the den where it belongs, but first IÂll water the flowers.

I splash some water on the flowers, but most of it spills on the floor. So, I set the remote back down on the table, get some towels and wipe up the spill.

Then I head down the hall trying to remember what I was planning to do.

At the end of the day; the car isnÂt washed, the bills arenÂt paid, there is a warm can of Coke sitting on the counter, the flowers arenÂt watered, there is still only one check in my checkbook,

I canÂt find the remote, I canÂt find my glasses, and I donÂt remember what I did with the car keys.

Then, when I try to figure out why nothing got done today, IÂm really baffled because I know I was busy all day long and IÂm really tired. I realize this is a serious problem, and IÂll try to get some help for it, but first IÂll check my e-mail.

Do me a favor, will you? Forward this message to close friends you know, because I donÂt remember to whom it has been sent.

DonÂt laugh - if this isnÂt you yet, your day is coming! And if I have sent this to you beforeÂ.well, now you know why youÂre getting it again!

    Bookmark   January 25, 2008 at 12:35AM
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So you're saying the problem gets worse with age? That makes sense, I guess. I don't know why this didn't occur to me . . . after all, everything else gets worse with age, so why not this? :-)

    Bookmark   January 25, 2008 at 8:34AM
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I do the EXACT same things as kioni.

I have learned that I am more likely to do that if I am conflicted in some way about the task I am about to start, but not always. As in a form of subconscious procrastination. For example, I am less likely to get distracted loading the dishwasher, since it's a straightforward job, but more likely if I am "organizing" an area for which I am not sure how I want to do it; or planting something in the yard--easy if I am clearly happy/decided what I am doing (these pansies go in this planter) and more likely to get garden ADD if I am struggling to decide where is the best place to plant a tree.

So, one thing that does help is the age-old breaking down of tasks into very small parts, each one of which is less likely to provoke conflict or indecisiveness.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2008 at 1:43PM
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Keep a notepad nearby. When you feel the urge to change chores, write the new chore down. That way you know you won't forget to get to it later. Determine that the only chores you are going to do is on your to-do list. Then you can have the satisfaction of checking off each completed job.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2008 at 10:14AM
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that's a great post.

I've come to the same realization--that the lack of clarity is a huge part of the problem.

(That's one reason why people do "C" importance tasks first, because they're simpler, clearer--even if they are less important)

Dixiedirt, I used to fantasize about cutting down a white-board to 2.5x3.5, and hanging it on a cord around my neck. S'pose that's a product we could market?

    Bookmark   January 31, 2008 at 11:45AM
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Susan, I do not have ADD, but about ten years ago, a car mowed me down in the crosswalk. My life was completely upended. My body has healed and I am nimble again, but it had taken a long time to try to get my brain back to "normal," whatever that is.

The story about the can opener and the other about the Coke getting warm are so familiar. The specifics of the plot might be different, but that is so ME!

I have noticed that since the accident, I tend to get sidetracked so quickly that I would wonder where the day went. I was awake for X number of hours, yet I had very little to show for my efforts to keep up the house. I cannot count the number of times I looked around the house and said, "Where do I even begin?"

I don't find myself saying that any more. Somehow, I stumbled across FlyLady last summer, and my life has changed dramatically.

I have to admit that I don't always perform that day's cleaning & organizing challenge. I get off track for a few days or even weeks, but when things slow down and I get back to reading the messages daily, I find it helpful to have someone else give me an assignment. That way, I only have to think about one thing at a time. I am making my home a nicer place to live, instead of feeling overwhelmed and giving up.

FlyLady has reinforced what my husband had been saying for years. I needed to establish new routines. Some habits are starting to take care of themselves. It feels great.

I find the decluttering especially addictive. It feels so good to be surrounded only by what I need and use and LOVE!

Hang in there, Susan.


    Bookmark   February 7, 2008 at 7:27PM
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Yes, I have that problem too. I can write fabulous lists of what to do - but I can't even follow my own list. LOL. I try to break things up into small things and tell myself I only have to spend 15 minutes and then I can do something fun. Sometimes I'll get so engrossed with the project that I just continue and other times I'm so bored I have trouble getting back to finish it. I think part of the problem is this stuff is plain boring. You know once you get everything organized it's easy to keep it like that, but getting from point A to B is so hard.

I find it helps to not go near Marshall's, TJ Maxx, Target etc. and to have no subscriptions to magazines - in otherwords I'm doing better heading clutter off by not bringing it home than working on what I do have.


    Bookmark   February 9, 2008 at 3:00PM
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Oh, great posts! I'm laughing my socks off (but not about the one wherin Maryliz gets mowed!).

I often contend that I could only have been abducted by aliens who kept me for 3 to 4 hours typically, and then erased my memory of the whole experience. How else could I lose complete blocks of time? I'm also developing another theory based on being hypnotized by internet forces.

I have a really poor sense of time. I believe it's because if I acknowledge time I am forced to acknowledge its passing. Hence all the procrastination.

I really appreciate the insight on avoiding tasks that are complicated or require many decisions. Rings a bell!

ps my house is clean and orderly, just needs more decorating -- that's where I really get stuck.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2008 at 8:04PM
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While I realize these posts ended in February, I have to comment because I can TOTALLY relate to Kioni, Stephanie in GA, and others. I do that exactly - start one task, notice something else, and I get totally sidetracked to the point where I have to stop and think about what it was that I was going to do because I'm doing too many things at once. I get a lot done, but I get very little done when you consider what I had originally set out to do.

I also have lists - lists, lists and more lists. It starts off with one list, and then I do another "list" the next day of things I'm going to accomplish THAT day (because the first list is way too long), but they don't all get done, so then I have to make another list after that, and after awhile I have to sit down and consolidate my lists to keep track of everything. My husband thinks I'm list crazy, but it's the only way I can remember the million things I have to take care of. And yes, I HAVE wondered if I suffer from ADD (do I really need to ask?).

My friend's mother has already told me that I don't accomplish anything to completion because I take on too much at once. She hit the nail right on the head (though I wasn't even aware of it at the time). I have so many projects going on at once, but they're all in progress and nothing is to completion.

I have already put asparagus in the oven on low broil, and then I run around doing other things that lead to doing something else, to the point where I TOTALLY forgot about the asparagus until I came back upstairs and found that my kitchen is filled with smoke and my new digital oven is flashing "FIRE" on the display (I didn't even know it had that functionality!), and my husband and I spent a couple of hours wiping ashes off of the spanish plaster in the adjoining rooms. I remember walking downstairs after putting the asparagus in the oven, saying to myself, don't forget about the asparagus, don't forget about the asparagus. When I got downstairs, something else distracted me (I started organizing something) and it wasn't even what I went down there for in the first place. That's my life. I've also burned pizza to a blackened crisp several times, so now I set the oven timer for auto-shut off (thank heaven for technology). Cold pizza is better than burned pizza, by far.

And I do procrastinate until the last possible moment avoiding things that I dread. Like cleaning out litter boxes. It's always the very last thing I do, even though I will tell myself repeatedly that the litter boxes need to be cleaned. And my house usually gets a good thorough cleaning when in-laws are coming over - and yes, like others, it's a late-late night cleaning binge (until like 4 a.m.!). I hate that I do that.

I'm not lazy by any means, I'm always running around (like a chicken with her head cut off) - I avoid the things I dread, and get sidetracked even if it's not something I dread, and sometimes I get very little done because I am overwhelmed (where did my time go? What did I accomplish from my list?). So, instead of completing things on my list, in the process of getting sidetracked I only added more tasks to my list. Go figure!

I DID get my entire house organized last year - it was overwhelming, but nonetheless I accomplished what I wanted to. I think sometimes my focus goes in spurts, sometimes I'm able to focus better than others. Moments of clarity, I guess you could say.

Speaking of nutrition, I did give up sugar, but I drink too much caffeine. I use it as my excuse to get things done, but I think it has a counter-effect sometimes.

Maybe it's time to check out Flylady. I'm not really one who believes in taking meds (I've heard the side effects outweigh the benefits), though I have to say that I'm relieved to hear that I'm not the only one with this frustrating dilemma.


    Bookmark   April 17, 2008 at 2:53AM
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I have noticed, too, that certain tasks really send me into procrastination mode. Lately I have had a few of these going on. For instance, our car insurance went up, and I was checking out new rates. This included a whole folder of estimates, emails, letters, numbers to call back, and a list prioritizing all the estimates. It should have been done in a few days. Instead, it happened over a few weeks, and finally, I just kept the same policy since there wasn't that much difference and it got the whole thing done with. But I had that folder and all those papers out on the table for a few weeks, and the process seemed to 1) stall itself and 2) keep me from doing other things (not sure why). I keep lists, too, more so that I don't trust myself to remember every little thing than because I actually look at and cross things off the list. It is more like I find the list a few days later and cross off what has been done or no longer needs to be done ;) We are also going through the process of looking at colleges with my daughter. The whole process is pretty nerve wracking. And it seems to keep me wandering around worrying rather than getting things done. I don't know why. But it is nice to be able to talk it out here!

    Bookmark   April 17, 2008 at 10:16AM
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There are a couple of things I don't try to multitask. One of them is anything involving high heat in the kitchen, whether it's broiling or frying or sauteing: I stay there until the thing is done cooking. The other is ironing: I stay in the laundry room until I'm done. If I have to leave the room, I turn off the iron and unplug it.

As far as being organized goes, though -- can't help anyone with that!

    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 5:22PM
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Wow. I am so glad I am not alone.

I do want to share my most valuable trip for combatting the problem--the timer on my microwave.

If I have something simmering on the stove, I give it a good stir, then set the timer for 7 minutes (or whatever is appropriate), and then go off and do whatever I need/want to do. Then when the timer goes off, I remember to go stir the soup.

I do this for lots of other things, too. In the morning, I am running on a compressed schedule, so before I sit down to eat, I set the timer. That way I can read and eat my breakfast without checking the clock. It's enormously freeing! When I get home from work, I sometimes set the timer for 20 minutes of internet time wasting... the timer keeps me from staying on all evening. I know this sounds a little silly and perhaps restrictive, too, but it REALLY helps me.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 5:45PM
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I struggle with this all the time and one thing that has helped me is that I keep a single book of lists. I would make lots of lists and not be able to find them! So on top of procrastination and "age-related ADD" I would spend a lot of time looking for my list! I use a compact size covey 3 ring binder without all the fancy forms & planner sheets, just blank paper punched to size. I don't try to organize my lists, just keep them in the order in which I wrote them. Just having all lists in one place has made a huge difference in my life. I carry the book everywhere with me, including inside the house, just like my cell phone. Someone actually stole it out of my cart once in a store, probably thinking it was a wallet since its leather. I was bereft. Thank goodness some kind soul found it, discarded I guess since it only does have my lists, and I got it back. Oh, and in the pockets I keep coupons for things or places I'll be going to.

As to organizing, it might help us all if we were to think about why we dislike doing it so much, or, as Frankie pointed out, *why* some tasks are so difficult to clarify. My feeling is that if I could like doing the organizing more, then I would just naturally do more of it!


    Bookmark   April 19, 2008 at 9:55AM
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There are so many wonderful posts in this thread! I'll be back to comment on several of them, but for now I wanted to say I was startled to read Katie's because just last night I gave some very similar advice to a friend who was bemoaning the fact that he can't keep a thing in his head anymore.

When I mentioned lists, he said, "I DO make lists! And then I can't find my lists!" I told him he must keep all his lists in a notebook, and keep the notebook in the same place at all times. This is a man who never has a place for anything. I really don't expect him to follow the advice.


    Bookmark   April 19, 2008 at 11:07AM
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Kioni --
I honestly thought I HAD WRITTEN your post and . . . you know, forgotten I'd done it.
God, it's such a RELIEF to know there are other SANE people out there who are afraid they're [we're] losing our minds. I wish my DH could read your post, but . . . on the other hand, he wouldn't really get it.
"So you're not the ONLY ONE," he'd say.
In addition to my long list of undone's, I have a slight hearing problem. Funny, DH doesn't seem to notice that HE HAS ONE AS WELL!
I'm 58 next month, mother of two amazing daughters, grandmother of two incredible girls, 5 and 2. I taught school until I reached retirement age. Then my mother died, and the grandchildren started coming. DH and I bought our 2nd house, thanks to inheritance from Mom, and I'm happy as a clam -- assuming clams are blissfully happy. Maybe a gritty grain of sand comes along once in awhile, just to keep me on my toes, I guess. But I try to remember to count my blessings every day. And to be thankful for what I have. If only I could remember what I have. . .

    Bookmark   April 20, 2008 at 9:00AM
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Hey everybody, what a wonderful discussion. I'm 58 too, a former university professor, and I've been spending the last 3 weeks by myself here in our remodeled Santa Fe adobe getting organized. Papers, tools, stuff from storage locker, everything. One way to think about it is finally finishing a 2 year process of moving from LA to Santa Fe that included an extensive and exhausting remodel. My husband is away and I elected to stay here to get this work done;; we are so sick of looking for things! I've vowed to live the organized life for once in my life, and I have some new thoughts about it that have come as I've worked on it. Still not done of course!

The first is, a lot of us including me chastise ourselves regularly for being disorganized. Yet my main learning in the process I'm going thru is that our idea of being organized requires on the front end, and probably as maintenance too, an incredible amount of work. I'm not even talking about the emotional side, deciding to get rid of stuff, etc. I mean just the pure physicality of "getting organized." What I've realized is that there are many many steps, and it costs money too. And, that while these steps are going on, things are very disorganized, worse than before. *And,* that to get thru the process it takes many hours of concentrated work. I'm lucky--I am a house-creator (a term I like better than house-keeper) now, this is my job, no kids at home, and so I do have the time. But even for me, in this situation, the time demands are enormous. And we honestly don't have huge amounts of stuff--I would say a medium amount, but relatively lots of activity type stuff, such as sewing, hiking and backpacking, skiing, travel items, and lots of books. I'm not a packrat; one of the things I just did was to go thru my clothes and give away half of them, and this is after doing the same 2 times before over the last 2 years (I don't like having a lot of clothes, too confusing, does it really fit, etc.)

I know this is long but let me give an example. I'm organizing the garage right now. Major steps include: creating spaces for tools, paints, etc (I like to faux paint and paint furniture). This meant first painting the walls white, then buying and putting up shelves (we used closet maid runners with melamine shelves), cutting the shelves to get them to the right width, before this shopping to get an idea of the size of boxes that we wanted to use so the shelves would be the right width. This is before even starting to "organize." The lesson here is that you can't organize very well without *first* creating/cleaning/clearing off old junk to make a space to put the organized stuff on. This is a huge step that gets lost in the general concept of "organizing."
Then there's the shopping for, and getting of containers for the stuff you want to organize. I'm a believer that a key to getting and staying organized is containers. To be space efficient they need to be the right size, and they should be expected to hold up to dragging out and not to hide dust and mildew etc. I gave up on cardboard boxes a long time ago--cheap but dusty and can get moldy easily. A big problem until recently was that it was hard to shop for plastic on the web because the sizes were only given in quarts & gallons, not in inches, so who could tell what would fit where? In my book of lists I have lists of which stores carry which sizes in inches, and for how much. That means going and measuring. Time & work and "organizing" hasn't even started yet!

Then there's the dismantling of whatever's in the space you want to use already and the boxing up/sorting and putting back in of the stuff you now want to keep there. Oh and I didn't mention, sometimes after you're almost all done, like I'm going to do today, you realize that the shelves really aren't spaced right for the things you're putting in. So off comes all the stuff you've already loaded on, the shelves get moved, and on it goes again. I know I can skimp on this, just jam the boxes on somehow and not as many as I'd like, but my experience tells me that the organization system will eventually fall apart if I do this. The boxes will start cracking from being pushed too hard, it'll be too much trouble to have to pull them out and so stuff won't be put back.

And then there's just the physical work of moving stuff, even tiny stuff around so it's in its right place. I found some giant rubber bands of the kind I like to use to hold plastic bags on wastebaskets, and that are hard to find, in a random box in the garage. Up I went 2 flights to deposit them in their right plastic drawer thingy in my sewing room (where I keep them, who knows why). I try to group things to go to this room or that but somehow special trips seem to happen often. Or even across the garage to put the single just discovered screwdriver in the screwdriver box. My experience is that deep-down organizing eventually comes down to this. Lots of physical trekking and carrying of small items, even when grouped.

Sorry this is long, but I guess my point is, is it so surprising that so many of us, me included, are less "organized" than we want to be? It is a huge undertaking and I think the perhaps smartest question is, given how much work it is to get there, how much time & effort am I really willing to spend? Instead, maybe we should give ourselves credit for how "organized" we actually *are*, given the huge family and work demands so many of us face. I personally am involved in an experiment to see what it's like to be really organized--will it be worth it? I don't know. But one thing that keeps me going is that i'm curious about the process, and I'm thinking of all the physical work and carrying as a form of exercise!


    Bookmark   April 20, 2008 at 1:44PM
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