When You Can’t Do It All, Do Something

A couple of weeks ago, I was reminded that, however good the scaffolding I’ve put in place to keep myself organized, it only takes a day or two with lowered vigilance to land me right back at square one.

This has been an awful winter, hasn’t it?  The same two or three seasonal ailments have been cycling through my family and classroom ad infinitum; it feels like every time we’ve recovered from one illness, we’re coming down with another one.  I – despite my classroom being absolutely lousy with germs, and having a typically hygiene-impaired four-year-old, managed to mostly escape getting sick.

Then, two weeks ago, I was hit with laryngitis.  The worst of the illness only lasted about two days, but it was two days when I was flat-out knocked on my ass, and let me tell you – my house fell to absolute chaos.

Because the persistent messiness of my life and my rampant ADHD don’t disappear just because I have the sniffles, I was faced, once I could walk and talk and think without coughing up a lung, with a once again seemingly insurmountable mess.

This time, I lucked out; I got sick on a Wednesday, and by the time I felt human again, it was Saturday and the start of my vacation, which meant I had no other obligations and the comfort of knowing that even if I spent an entire day (or two) fixing the mess, I still had days and days and days left to relax and chill afterward.  I’m happy to let you all know that I did, in fact, get back on track, and I’m ticking off most of the boxes on my To-Do list, most days.

But what if I didn’t have vacation? What if I had a super busy week coming up, or a series of commitments, or what if I was more seriously sick for longer?  How long do I let the house go for, and how long until it’s utterly, paralyzingly bad again (pssst – past experience says it really doesn’t take that long to get into a really bad place).

I started thinking about what I could have done if I really, truly felt like I didn’t have it in me – if I didn’t have the time, the energy, the “spoons,” whatever – what I could have done to keep that paralysis at bay without over-extending myself, without triggering my anxiety or wearing myself out physically or mentally.

So I’ve spent some time thinking, what’s one thing I could do in every room of my house to keep myself sane?  Just one thing to make me feel a little more grounded?

Like most things, I’m sure your mileage my vary, but I personally feel very sure of my list.  So, if my blog entries tend to resonate with you, maybe you’ll find this to be helpful, as well.

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Some Things to Keep in Mind

  • If you aren’t neurodivergent this list probably seems needless, obvious, and silly, but task paralysis is a major issue for me, and many others with neurodivergence, as is feeling overwhelmed by the inability to break down a task (and of course clutter and mess itself is a stressor for basically everyone, though it can literally stop me dead in my tracks). This list hopefully combats task paralysis by giving a starting point, and serves as a reminder that you don’t need to do it all at once; even completing one task makes a big difference (important for those grappling with ADHD perfectionism).
  • Even these tasks, in and of themselves, can be daunting on a bad day. I would love to eventually be able to offer a step-by-step break down on the way I get through these tasks (and others), and the strategies that work for me.  If you think this would be helpful to you (or as a general resource) please let me know and I’ll make it a priority.
  • I find that I function the best within a structure, but there is a point of diminishing returns with every increased point of rigidity or complexity within that structure (see my post about planners – the more “bells and whistles,” the more paralyzing, the more likely I am to abandon the system).  The catch-all bucket in the living room works well for me, as do broad categories of organization (an under sink bucket of general cleaning products (the more multipurpose, the better), bathroom bins for “hair stuff” (shampoo, conditioner, spray, gel), “body stuff” (shower gel, soap, lotion) and “hygiene” (toilet paper, q-tips, sanitary pads, etc) work well, because there is a system of organization that is broad enough to not be overwhelming, but clear enough to actually allow me to know where everything is.
  • I am in no way a cleaning or organizational guru, and holy crap, nor do I pretend to be.  I’m just learning, at age 36, what really works and what doesn’t work for me, and also learning to be patient with myself, let go of the need for things to be perfect, and work to the best of my ability within the head space I’m occupying at any given moment.  What works for me may not work for you, but sometimes, it’s worth a shot (and it may work for someone else).

 

Author: Jessica Cross

Writer, maker, geek, feminist, mom. Not necessarily in that order.

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