Getting My Sh*t Together
Some tips about getting organized from someone who probably has ADHD
I feel so scattered lately. Like my brain is one big, tangled mess and I can’t pull all the strings into a nice order again.
I think it’s because I’m lacking an active routine. Lately, I haven’t done much of anything besides sit on the couch and catch up on Law and Order. To be fair, I’m not really supposed to be doing much of anything, but I’m just so bored and restless it feels like doing nothing for much longer is going to drive me crazy.
Even though I hate to self-diagnose, I’m pretty sure I have ADHD. I’ve always struggled with attention, even since I was a kid. Yes, it has affected my schoolwork and daily life. Yes, I’ve tried shutting the tv off and playing outside more often. Those things just don’t work for me and some days feel like more of a mess than others. Like today, or this past week.. or for however long I’ve been feeling scrambled.
There are people out there who get me, but for those of you who don’t, I’ll describe briefly what it’s like to have scrambled eggs for brains.
I get up and have a plan to make some breakfast, finish an assignment on the computer, then practice my sketching. Sometimes, I’ll even have this stuff written down somewhere so I don’t forget. Even so, that plan is out the window within a matter of minutes because the sink catches my eye and I realize that the dishes haven’t been done in a few days, so I start doing the dishes. It’s 8:30 something. Then, I realize I have to soak some of the dishes because the smell won’t come off if I don’t, so I leave the dishes soaking. I can always find something else to do in the 10 minutes they need to get clean. 8:40 ish.
So, I start sweeping the floor since it’s gotten a bit dusty, but the silence of the house starts to bother me because I can hear the sweeping sounds too loudly. I turn on the tv to have some background noise. In the middle of me sweeping up the last of the dust, something major happens in my favorite show and I get so distracted by it I stand there until the rest of the episode goes by. Then another. Then another. I shake my head to snap myself out of the trance I put myself in and look around for my phone to check the time. Except I see the several texts from my fiancé asking me if I’m ok, where am I, what happened, was there an emergency. I totally forgot to text him as soon as I woke up like he asked me to, so I call him and flop on the bed for an hour-long conversation. By now, it’s about 12. I’ve completely forgotten about the dishes that were only supposed to be in the sink for 10 minutes, I still haven’t eaten, and I now have less time to do my computer assignment.
The kinda sad thing about that scenario is that is usually a daily occurrence. People like to say ADHD is just forgetting things and refusing to discipline your own attention span, but it’s more like finding it hard to remember anything and not understanding what someone is saying to you even though you know they’re speaking English to you.
“So how do you fix it?” you might ask. Truth is, there is no fixing it. Sure, you can take medication, but it comes with a few side affects that some people may not want to deal with (and by some people, I mean me). It drastically effects your mood and I’m already a very moody person, so that’s a no-go for me; however, I do not encourage that you go off your meds if you’re already on them. Especially if they are working for you.
That being said, I’ve resulted to having a system. I haven’t named it or anything, but I feel like I should because it’s pretty epic and took years of cultivating and failure to reach the level of success that it has. And I would, if I ever remember to do so. That was off-topic. Anyways, if you’re someone with ADHD looking for a little advice or just someone trying to get more organized, this is the system I’ve developed to work for me.
I used to always forget my engagement ring, keys, and wallet every time I left the house. It wasn’t until my oh-so loving fiancé scolded me for never bringing things that were important when I was out (“What if you got into and accident and you didn’t have your information on you? What if you got locked out? Is your engagement ring not important to you?”). So, in order to fix that, I set an alarm for every morning to remind me to get my ring, keys, and wallet before I leave the house. I did that for a solid 5 months until I didn’t really need it anymore. Victoria-1. Life-0.
Keep a Journal
I have a hard time tracking what events happened on which days/months/years. When I write a journal, I can keep a better record of what went on in my life. I don’t always keep it super detailed, but for special events like birthdays and holidays it’s nice to be able to look back on those moments with a clean recollection instead of sifting through other garbage in my brain. This is mostly for dealing with stuff in the past, and you don’t have to write in it every day. I only write in mine when I feel like it.
Keep a Calendar
This is kinda like keeping a journal in the sense that it keeps a record, but this is for future events. About 90% of the time, I will not remember something if I don’t put it down in my calendar. Trust me on this, I accidentally missed a shift I was supposed to pick up once because I never wrote it down. I use my calendar for everything I have to do, even household chores and scheduling personal time. It’s a nice way to look at your week/month/whatever and can potentially help if you have a problem overbooking events.
Make Your Plans Visible
So, this is probably one of the more important ones on here. Making plans and keeping a prestigious calendar are really good ideas, but they’re no use if you don’t actually remember you have them. I can’t remember what YouTube channel it was, but while going through videos designed to help people with ADHD, this lady said making a plan and not following it is like printing out a map to somewhere and then leaving the map at home. Sure, you took all the steps to get prepared, but it was useless in the end. I find that leaving my plans out in the open—like on a coffee table or taped to the wall—help me stick to my plans. I used to go as far as writing to-do lists on my wrist while I was in high school.
Make Designated Spots for Your Stuff
Another thing with that comes with chronic forgetfulness is constantly misplacing important things. I cannot tell you the amount of times I was crying because I was already super late to something and couldn’t find my glasses. Sometimes I would just give up and go throughout the day without them. To solve this little mystery, I started putting them in the same spot every night before I went to bed. Though sometimes I forget to put them in said spot, this has helped me be a little less hectic in the morning. Plus, I know if they aren’t in the usual spot, there are other designated places that I can look for them. They are almost always in those same spots.
Keep Your Space Clean
Last but not least, it’s important to keep your area tidy. If you’re anything like me, this is a major challenge. Between constantly starting new projects and getting distracted at every turn, my house sometimes shares the resemblance of a dumpster fire; however, I find that the less mess I have, the easier it is for me to find things and be productive. Sure, household chores are boring, but I would much rather spend an hour doing the laundry than frantically searching for my favorite sweater that I haven’t seen in a few months.
And that is my system! Though it’s (like I said) pretty epic, I do want to tag a little disclaimer here for anyone looking for solutions to their never-ending problems: this is not a miracle pill.
I say that because when people refer to miracle pill, they think of a cure-all or something that magically takes away all the struggles they’ve been dealing with. These little tricks are meant to help, but they aren’t going to make you not have ADHD. Sometimes you are going to have bad days like you’ll leave your entire planner on the desk at home or miss the due date of a really important assignment.
Sometimes, you will struggle. Especially if you aren’t taking medication. Still, the important thing to remember is that getting better is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight. Like this system, it may take you years of failing at one thing to finally start getting it right. Don’t get discouraged. It gets better in baby steps. Regardless of how many times you’ve locked yourself out of the car this month, you are awesome, and next time, you’ll remember to put the keys in your pocket instead of leaving them in the cupholder.