I’m one of those people who is always working on several things at once, and I have to have all of my task components out where I can see them. This means that like millions of people out there, I use the famous File By Pile system.
The obvious problem with that method is that one always has a constant supply of messes. And alas, one invariably loses Important Things under other Important Things, which can lead to the frantic I’m-On-A-Mission hunts to locate whatever. (I have gotten smarter over the years; we now own about eight pairs of scissors, which means we can usually find two or three at any given time. Of course, no one else ever borrows my lefty scissors, so they remain nicely sharp, but then I can’t blame losing track of them on anyone else, either.)
Another end result is that some tasks will take more than a day, and when stuff sits out for any length of time, it simply becomes part of the scenery and is no longer noticeable. You can physically see the stacks of papers laying atop the books in the bookcase, but you don’t notice them as things out of place because they are in a semi-permanent “temporary holding place”. This is how AD/HD people have terribly cluttered houses and offices: lots of ongoing projects, the tendency for things to become invisible to awareness, and of course, the inertia of task paralysis when it comes to cleaning things up.
Actual cleaning isn’t hard. It’s not the running the vacuum across the floor, nor swiping things with a tacky dusting cloth, nor wiping down tables, nor mopping floors. Rather, it’s getting to these surfaces, because first one must put a gazillion things away!
Putting stuff away can lead to terribly recursive bouts: taking the socks from the living room to the laundry and starting a load of laundry and going to the bedroom to get hangers for the dried clothes and picking up the full waste-basket while in the bedroom and dropping off the hangers atop the washer and finding a pair of undies stuck down between the washer and dryer and setting down the waste-basket to go fetch the yardstick to retrieve the garment and reaching underneath the hutch to grab the yardstick that has fallen down and finding some pieces of junk mail and another stray sock that have gotten kicked under there but not finding the yard stick and throwing away the junk mail and taking the sock up to the laundry and then realising that you still haven’t found the yardstick and then looking for it in the coat closet and having a basket of gloves and hats fall off the shelf and picking them up and …
Getting around all these endless loop-de-loops requires temporarily putting a laundry basket at the bottom of the staircase. All the stuff going up gets dumped in there to be distributed after I’m done vacuuming. That way, all the assorted dirty clothes are dropped off in one trip, all the hair elastics are returned to the bathroom cup in one trip, and so on. The basket interrupts the loop-de-loops by collecting things, and then allows me to visit each of the upstairs rooms just once. With any luck I won’t find a newsmagazine I’ve not yet read and get sidetracked by the editorial cartoons.
We also have a series of stacking drawers in the kitchen, one for each person. When I’m picking up, I just drop the miscellany in each person’s drawer for them to deal with. “Can’t find it? Did you check your drawer?” I have also put a waste paper basket right by where the mail lands, so the junk mail gets tossed immediately instead of defaulting to the “get around to that later” that rarely happens.
Of course, there’s a pile of paper on my desk. It’s mostly stuff I’m working on right now, and stuff I mean to be working on. Back when I was a freelance writer for magazines and newspapers and worked from home, I finally realised that I would have to implement some traditional office procedures.
No, I didn’t make myself clean off my desk at the end of each day. However, I did start my Friday mornings by going through my pile and sorting it out. (Initially I tried to do this on Monday mornings, but I really don’t have that much self-discipline or masochism, so it got bumped to Friday mornings.) That’s when I forced myself to do the filing – I hate filing papers in file drawers, but even I finally realized that putting away a few pieces of paper once a week was much less tedious than waiting until the pile was thicker than the Sunday newspaper.
That’s also when I rediscovered bills I’d had to postpone paying due to cash-flow issues, bank statements to balance, little scraps of paper with cryptic notes to myself about new article ideas, magazines I meant to read, catalogs I could probably toss, and other workaday ephemera including an occasional mislaid paycheck that wanted depositing – I’m not brainy like Einstein, but we do have that in common …
Now if you’ll excuse me, I must go vacuum the living room while I still have half an impulse to do so, and it remains visible.