Have you ever heard anyone use the phrase, “organized chaos”? Well that is how I used to refer to the clutter on my home office desk. But, really, if I am honest, it was disorganized chaos and it drove me crazy!
I’ll explain, but first…
A great ride!
On saturday I went for a relaxing drive, it felt fantastic. My car seemed to drive better, smoother and dare I say it even smelled better! I really enjoyed being out on the road, sailing the streets and listening to rock and roll music. My mind filled with ideas I might write about. Ideas I could grab, hold on to and use.
My creativity was flowing right along with the speed of my car down the highway.
It’s the same car I have had for the last 5 years, but something was different.
For some unknown reason I woke up one day last week with an unrelenting urge to clean it. So I went and did what I’ve always avoided. I cleaned my car inside and out, polished it – the works!
No, I didn’t have a fever!
Have you experienced cleaning your car and then feel like you’re driving a better one? It’s this difference that I want to talk about today.
Clutter creates feelings of anxiety and distraction.
A couple years ago I got tired of all the clutter on my writing desk and cleaned it like never before – and I do mean, NEVER before! I followed the advice I read in a book by taking before and after pictures. Those photos are now posted on my board to remind me why I keep my desk mess free.
The difference between a clutter free environment and one that is a total mess can only be described as miraculous. Ultimately, the best way to describe it is that it feels better. A hell of a lot better!
I feel less anxious and less distracted. I no longer have to flip through piles of god knows what to find what I am looking for and I don’t have to stare at dust bunnies wishing they would just hop away. Oh, and believe me I would stare at them, yet do nothing about those low down dirty pesky rascals. I thought about naming them, but there were too many.
I am free! From clutter!
And it is this freedom that allows me to not only have more creative ideas, but also to be more effective with my creativity. The distraction, anxiety and general uncomfortable feeling that a mess creates is far too overlooked in my opinion. It’s too demanding to think clearly, much less use any thoughts or ideas when surrounded by disorder.
Why in the world did I not realize this sooner?
All too often I hear people with ADHD saying that they have thousands of ideas floating around in their heads, but can’t seem to capture and use any of them. I believe part of the problem is our surroundings; at least it was for me.
My ideas used to be like the clutter of piles I had all over the place. I knew something I needed was somewhere in one of those piles, but where? With my area clean and organized I can find things quickly and use them right away.
I tell you, it was like parting the red sea. (Can you see me raising my duster?)
Who has the will to clean up that mess?
I discovered that incentive and reward is very helpful for my ADHD brain.
- It’s important for me to understand why I need to do something (incentive).
- When I fully appreciate the resulting benefit to me (the reward) I am more likely to act and accomplish what I want or need to.
Not always, but I am getting better.
I know if I keep my desk clear of clutter I will be more effective and actually write. My before photo reminds me of what it was like when I wrote less, when I was more prone to writer’s block and when I would just sit at my desk clicking any shiny webpage.
I was doing anything but actually writing.
Clutter free I have become prolific, my creativity flows, I no longer sit here dismayed and distracted by a mess. If I am not writing a blog post, I might be writing a free eBook I’ll give away on our ADDer World ADHD Social Network or perhaps writing a longer book I’ll sell or maybe I am writing a sweet love letter to my wife (she likes those a lot).
Regardless of what I am writing, at least I am writing!
Incentive, reward and understanding.
However, don’t be too impressed. I didn’t ‘get it’ until the ripe age of 38. Here are some incentive ideas that may help others realize the power of a clutter free environment:
1) Clutter creates a generally ‘uncomfortable’ feeling that sometimes doesn’t even seem to be associated with the mess. Clutter can bring on feelings of anxiety, distress and even depression. As you can imagine it is difficult to write stuff that matters (or do most anything) in such conditions.
2) A clean, organized environment helps me have clearer thinking, a more comfortable feeling and helps reduce general anxiety. In this way my creativity can flow. It’s easier to go into hyper-focus.
3) For me incentive means to understand why, the reward is what will result from doing it and finally understanding the full concept. However, imagine telling a young person why he or she must do well in school. Not easy, hence realization dawned on me much later in life.
How to clean up for good.
1) Take a before photo of the mess. Keep it somewhere so you can always reference it.
2) Clean it all in one, single day and throw everything away that you do not need. I highly recommend asking a friend or hiring someone to help you organize everything and decide what to keep and what to throw away. Here’s a link to a book and another book I found very helpful.
3) Take an after picture and set the before / after photos side by side so that you can see the magic of your effort. Hopefully, you will feel elation and satisfaction, cherish these feelings, relish and log them firmly in your memory.
4) Every day allow yourself to take in and enjoy how much more comfortable your surroundings are and remind yourself why you keep it that way.
Procrastination has been the bane of my existence, but I find it less powerful when I understand the rewards and benefits. I know that if I want to accomplish something, feel better about myself and do something that matters then I need a clutter free environment. Easier said than done, I know, but it’s still a good idea to realize the effect. Don’t you think?
I know how complex and difficult this is for us, so consider those two books I linked to above, they helped me. Here they are again:
If nothing else, I hope this post provides you with a spark and sometimes a spark is all it takes to get started.
Well, that’s me. What about you? Share in the comments.
Not that I want to create any confusion, but I am not totally against distractions, just not the kind from a mess. I love some kinds of distractions, especially the kind that stirs me deep inside and gets my creative juices flowing, but that’s for another post coming soon!
(The links above go to the affiliate links to the Amazon ADD ADHD bookstore I created. If you browse around and have a book suggestion, please let me know.)