I organized the apps on my phone the other day. And then I organized my dresser. And then, I organized my calendar.
Now, I should note, I was also procrastinating about doing other, more pressing, but less interesting thing.
I didn’t want this to be another hot take on Marie Kondo and her Konmari method of cleaning up. I watched a couple of episodes not for the tidying up part, but for the deeper reasons as to why there was so much stuff to begin with (hint: there are some terrible husband’s out there, but also deep wounds around gender and identity). I get chills every time she greets a house. But I know myself – I will never be that neat and tidy and orderly. Ever. EVER.
Nor do I want to be.
Going back over some of the things (ok, the two things) I’ve written about this topic (Letting Go and Messy History), I was struck by my conclusion in both: that we get to choose what we let go, what we let in, what we choose to prioritize. For too many years, I beat myself up because I couldn’t get organized, couldn’t stop “hoarding”, couldn’t stop buying, couldn’t stop anything. It was a vicious cycle of self-punishment, which just lead to more “bad” behavior.
I was really, really good at self-destruction.
I can watch a show, now, like Marie Kondo’s latest, and watch it without anxiety, because these shows are for neurotypical people. I am not a neurotypical person, and that’s ok. This is huge for me. And it might be huge for someone else, which is why I’m writing this.
I’ve always loved clutter. It calms me. Like a lot of things about people with ADHD, this seems counter-intuitive, but it works for me. My stuff makes me feel better, makes me feel safe, makes me more productive. And this, of course, isn’t universal for everyone with ADHD, but it works for me, it brings me joy, so I stick to it.
I have impulse control issues, which is why I buy a lot of things I don’t need. But my brain thinks we do. It needs the thing. So I buy the thing. I’m better than I used to be, and I’ve started being able to let clothes, especially, go when I don’t need/wear them anymore, but my brain still loves to compulsively shop, to seek, to find that perfect thing.
I know I am not alone in this pursuit, but the ADHD makes it hard(er) to resist the compulsion. Will-power just doesn’t work the same way with my brain. I’ve learned to work around in to a certain extent, but really, I’ll keep struggling with it. At least my husband has the same compulsion with books.
I hate it when I walk into someone’s house and inevitably the mother says, “sorry for the mess” when their house looks about a million times tidier than mine. I hate that it’s mom who says it. I hate that we feel obligated in our society to say it (I’ve been guilty of apologizing, too, for the same reason). I understand some people care; a male acquaintance once came over to our house for a dinner my husband organized the same weekend I was coaching at a meet, and I had warned my husband that any cleaning would be up to him, but that wasn’t good enough for said acquaintance who called another mutual friend after leaving our house and eating our food to complain about how messy I was.
Not that I’m bitter.
No, I literally don’t care about how untidy your house is. As long as there isn’t rotting food and vermin, we’re good (and even then – you should have seen the place my husband lived when we first met). I know it’s a low bar, but I literally don’t care. It’s not one of the things that my brain can work itself up into enough focus to care about, or really even notice. If anything, it feels more homey, more welcoming to me.
But again, that’s just me.
And I know that many of the strategies that Kondo suggests just won’t work with my neurodivergent children. My son knows, he KNOWS that all of he things have a place; when he gets home from school, his shoes go into a shoe rack slot, his jacket goes on the coat rack, and his bag goes in the closet, all of which are within three steps from the door, and on the way to the bathroom.
Guess where all his stuff is when he gets home, every. Single. Day.
By the time he gets out of the bathroom, he’s forgotten about his stuff, walking over them, not noticing, and then starts watching YouTube. Telling him no YouTube or XBox until his stuff is put away does nothing because he literally doesn’t remember that his stuff is or isn’t put away, or that there is even any stuff at all. I am guilty of the same things, walking over messes because I literally just don’t notice, or get distracted while trying to clean up (everything is always half-clean) and then forgetting what I was doing.
It’s also why some of my sentences take off in two different directions; I literally forget where I was going mid-sentence sometimes.
We are also a family of people who have very strong opinions about where things “go” – the argument “IT DOESN’T GO THERE” never made sense to me as a kid, and it makes even less sense to my kids when it comes to their own stuff in their own spaces. Their bags look like my bags and their rooms look like my room used to, and as much as I enjoy listening to my daughter and husband fight over where things should go in her room, in terms of where it makes the most sense, most of the time, I get that, well, in their minds, that is in fact where it goes, no matter how nonsensical to us, because that is where it makes sense to them.
My kids are now old enough that they have chores, like unloading the dishwasher and keeping their rooms “tidy” (“Mom, I don’t have any swimsuits!” “YOU HAVE SIX.” “Oh, yeah, they’re under my chair, never mind.”), flattening recycling, and my son does the bathrooms while my daughter sweeps the whole house once a week. Between swimming and coaching and ballet and working and writing and travel for work, we don’t want to use what little chill time we have together arguing about making our house spotless.
That’s something we’ve all let go of. I’m ok with good-enough, at least for this. Let perfection ruin my writing, but not my home!
(HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA – wait, I’m the only one who found that funny, aren’t I?)
My untidy, cluttered (but clean, sanitary) house brings me joy. Knowing and understanding my ADHD and my kids’ ADHD brings me joy. Buying special things brings me joy. My messy desk brings me joy. Sometimes, getting rid of things and organizing a little brings me joy, but I will never find joy in folding laundry. Sharing my messy home but delicious food my husband cooks with friends brings me joy. I could be cleaning right now, but writing brings me WAY more joy.
Maybe it’s because I’m almost sort-of 42 now. Maybe it’s coming to terms with who I am and who I shouldn’t bother trying to be. If going all Kondo on your house brings you joy, then go for it. I’ll take my joy where I can find it, too.