1. When schedules and checklists don't work for you...

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Track To Tidy Insights 1/6
In this series of blog posts I'll take you through the thought process that lead me to the game Track To Tidy. All these principles are common sense and were familiar to me already but I didn't really internalize and connect them until going through this track of thoughts. I hope my insights will help you find a solution to your issues with clutter, whether it's this game of mine or a different one you develop for yourself.

Fun Fact #1: In Finnish (my native language), there's the verb siivota, that can mean both cleaning (to clean away the dirt, to make things clean) and organizing (to sort things where they belong). Of course, there are separate words for making things clean (puhdistaa) and organizing stuff (järjestellä), too, but they aren't used in everyday discussions as often as siivota.

Maybe partly due to this, partly because of my poor executive functions and limited understanding of the subject, it took me >30 years to get the difference between cleaning and organizing. For me it has always been like this: if I wanted to (read: was forced to by the circumstances) clean, I had to spend A LOT of time and energy sorting the stuff away first. Usually the organizing part was so straining that I rarely got it done, let alone progressed to the cleaning part. (Nor did my husband, who had promised to do the cleaning, e.g. vacuuming, if only I bulldozed my clutter away from the floor and other surfaces first...). It never quite occured to me that these two are separate activities and some people (the tidy ones) didn't have to organize first to be able to clean! They just grab the vacuum cleaner and off they go - such a mindblowing concept for a messie like me!

Cleaning and organizing are separate activities!
Cleaning and organizing are separate activities!

Fun Fact #2: Finnish is a simple, easy, and fun little language: "siivoiltaisiinko?" means "how about doing a little bit of cleaning?"

(Seriously speaking, no, it's not easy or simple, but it's fun! The siivoiltaisiinko part is true!)

I believed I just was crappy at cleaning and me failing the cleaning part of the (alleged) weekly cleaning sessions was the reason our home was a disaster. Others knew how to do it properly and I just couldn't figure it out.

I devoted my spare time to studying cleaning hacks and fool-proof systems with weekly routines and daily check lists. I set calendar alarms and installed timer apps, printed worksheets and planned room-by-room schedules. It turned out I was brilliant in planning and preparations but sucked in execution. I tried to follow the systems but in a day or two life happened and the alarms became standard background noise and I moved on to try the next system or method hoping it would solve my problems. Little did I realize that my ADHD version of executive functions just weren't wired to be consistent with boring tasks.

After spending a couple of years trying different methods for getting organized and weekly schedules for cleaning and sorting a room at a time - and failing them all miserably, I started to feel hopeless. But then I found the concept of minimalism.
It sounded wonderful!
After having one major purge, I would never have to deal with clutter and chaos again. I imagined that I'd just spend the rest of my days in my spaceous, serene house sipping green tea and watching my kids play in harmony without having to organize ever again!

In the next part of this series, you can read how well this vision came true!