Natural Born Messie

So who the duck is this?

3 min read

Some people are born organized, some aren’t. I’m definitely of the latter category. When I was a kid, my room was a hot mess until my mom made me to clean it up. The tidyness lasted for a day or less. When I moved on my own I was busy studying and enjoying student activities at the university and couldn’t have cared less about the appearance of my flat. “A clean home is sign of a wasted life” was my motto. I was sure that if I just had time and will to invest in organizing, I surely could do it, but I found other things in life more important.

When I graduated and got my first kid, I started to notice how impossible it was for me to keep things in order even if I tried. You shouldn’t keep stuff laying around when your baby is crawling on the floor, you know. Over the years I tried all the organizing systems and methods, and failed. I found Flylady and thought I’d found the cure. I tried Konmari and thought this would be it. I tried an expensive online course by a top professional organizer and hired different POs to work with me at my home. Every time I got my house in order I thought this would be it, this time I’d stay on track and would keep it like that - neat and organized. After all, it is very simple: just put everything back where it belongs after using it. (How many times have you heard that advice? If you’re born unorganized you know how frustrating it is to hear!)

Finally, it started to loom to me: No matter how hard I tried, even if I struggled on the brink of burnout, I wasn't able to get and keep my house tidy. sigh I had dedicated a major part of my spare time to study different decluttering principles, habit-forming methods, gamification, goal setting and achieving, affirmations (and afformations), mind tricks, you name it - just to notice that I couldn't stick to any of the ingenious systems and routines I created with them.

I felt like a failure. I was embarrassed to let anyone in. At work I felt like a fraud. I worked as a project manager in an ambitious IT project and did quite well. I was horrified by the thought that my collegues or superiors came over and saw the disgraceful state of my home. I think I would have died from shame. I was puzzled how come this was so impossible for me when for others it seemed so easy and natural. I had always succeded in school and worklife and I knew I wasn't stupid or lazy. For Pete's sake, I had managed to get a PhD in space technology and I couldn't figure out something that almost everyone else had no trouble with!

This was one of the several reasons I searched for help and - long story short - got diagnosed with ADHD-i, that is the inattentive version of attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder. It explained everything and I had high hopes that getting medicated would finally bring me peace with my material belongings. The meds helped a lot, for sure, but they didn't make me an organized person overnight. Or at all, really. However, it was much easier to start doing chores and declutter the piles of stuff that still kept spawning all over the house. But things didn't go where they belong by themselves, even if my executive functions were chemically boosted to a somewhat normal level.

Thanks to the diagnosis, I got a therapist who specializes in neuropsychiatric patiences, and in one session she quickly tossed out an idea that started to grow and evolve in my mind. It was like everything I had learned clicked together like pieces of a puzzle. The idea evolved into a game to learn clutter-busting habits instead of my clutter-forming habits. It worked so well - and was so fun - that I taught it to a fellow messy ADHDer and she found it working for her, too. I knew I had to get it out for other desperate souls who have tried and failed every other method, too. This game has changed my home, my self-esteem, and my life - and if you're a fellow natural born messie, I think it can change yours too!

In this blog I'll describe the game and the ideas and principles behind it. So stay tuned!

- Ilona

P.S. By no means do I mean to bash any organizing guru or decluttering system. They are brilliant and I appreciate them highly for the help they offer for messies like me. Their systems do work for many people, it was my executive functions that didn't work well with the systems. Yet, I wouldn't be here if I didn't try them and learn from them.