3. Do this one thing and you'll have a tidy home...
Track To Tidy Insights 3/6
In this series of blog posts I 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 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.
I had lost all hope after trying organizing routines and minimalism. I had accepted my fate, nothing would work for me, I was a lousy wife and mom and human being. Then I found out that I have ADHD and getting on medication brought a short burst of hope. But meds weren't the silver bullet I had hoped for. Doing chores was much easier, my memory improved a lot, and I didn't fall asleep when driving a car or in meetings, i.e. the quality of my life went through the roof but they didnt solve the algorithm for tidiness for me.
Now, this is where my therapist steps in the picture. We were just about to end one session and she was giving me homework about the subject we had discussed. Then she remembered: "Oh, yes, and if you want to work on the mess that bothers you so much, you could start with just one pile of clutter and analyze why, how, and when the stuff gets there. Okay, bye, see you next week!"
At first I didn't think much about the advice but the next day it started to develop in my mind. I went to one of the most crowded counter tops in our house and my inner dialogue went like this:
Me: "Hmm, why is the stuff laying on this counter top?"
My inner teenager: "Cause I left it there. *eye roll*"
Me: "Why did I leave it there?"
My inner teenager: "I donno, the counter top just happened to be there when I stopped needing the thing so it just landed there."
Me: "What should I do instead so the counter top wouldn't be flooding with stuff?"
My inner teenager: "Duh, the stuff should be put back where it belongs after use."
Me: "'Should be put back' - who do you think should be the one to do this?!
My inner teenager: "I guess that would be me, if I was the one using it..."
Me: "So, if I just would put everything back after use (and there was a place for everything), there wouldn't be chaos!"
My inner teenager: "How dumb can you be? That's obvious! That's what everybody has been telling me my whole life!"
Ok, I had heard “Just put things back after use and your house stays tidy” a couple of times (read: bazillion times) in my life and I had tried so very hard to follow that advice many times.
Actually, every time I had panic cleaned the house for a special occasion, I had promised myself that this time I would maintain the order and would put everything back after use. And - you guessed it - failed! I managed to keep up with it for an hour or two but then I'd forget it completely.
My working memory is like the Silence in Doctor Who: once I turn my back I've completely forgotten about what was in my hand a second ago. Hard to put things back if you don't even remember using them.
After me and my inner teenager had really digested the need to put things back to eliminate the mess, I had another piece of the puzzle. If only I could put everything back, I didn't need strenuous organizing sessions: everything would be tidy all the time!
But something essential was still missing as the "put it where it belongs" habit was impossible for me to learn as such. I knew myself well enough not to beat my head against the wall by forcing myself to try it again and ending up feeling miserable.
I went back to analyzing the advice from my therapist and found the missing piece - about which you can read in the next post!