The All or Nothing Cleaner, Part 1

I've been discussing ADD lately, and one of the symptoms of an ADDer (or even just the domestically impaired) is the tendency to be an all-or-nothing cleaner. If this is a problem for you, you know what that's like: You'll walk past a dirty sock on the floor 10 times, but you don't pick it up as you go by because it's not "cleaning time" just then. I don't know about you, but that sure describes me! I hardly ever perform cleaning-related tasks unless I'm actively "cleaning" at the time. And if this issue makes no sense to you, consider yourself one of the lucky ones!

Anyway, there is a section in Chapter 20 of The House That Cleans Itself called Learning to Quick Clean, where I present a solution to this problem. In that chapter, I suggest that you literally time yourself as you perform various minor cleaning actions that must be done repeatedly (such as unloading the dishwasher or watering the plants). The goal is to record a list of such tasks and the time it takes to do them, then post this list in each room of your home in an inconspicuous place. Because this list shows how long it takes to do an action, having it handy will encourage you to make the best of quick moments around the house by cleaning even when it's not cleaning time. In other words, this list helps you perform quick cleaning tasks in stolen moments, even though that probably goes against your personality and your cleaning style.

For example, if you're in the kitchen and have four and a half minutes until the microwave beeps, you can open the cabinet door to read your list, check the list of actions and times for kitchen chores, and see that it takes you exactly four minutes to unload the dishwasher. You get right to work and thus by the time your TV dinner is done your dishwasher is empty!

Come back next week for more about using Task/Time Lists to your advantage.


Is This You? Part 2

Last week, I posted a list of questions and asked you to see how many yeses you gave as your answers. Why did I do that?

Simple: This was a do-it-yourself symptom checklist to see if you might have ADD. Yes, I'm talking about Attention Deficit Disorder. The reason I didn't want to put that "diagnosis" in last week's post is because I didn't want anyone to spot the term, pre-judge, move on, etc. The more yeses you gave, the more likely it is that you have Attention Deficit Disorder. This is a common disorder but often misunderstood, and so I wanted to keep the name separate from the symptom list.

Are you surprised at the thought that you might have ADD? I was years ago when I came across a list kind of like this one and first figured out that I might have it. Disconcerted, I went to my doctor, who used a more clinical approach to help me figure this out. Her diagnosis was, indeed, ADD, and after some trial and error we were able to find a wonderful combination of medications, behavioral techniques, and alternative therapies to help me cope with this overwhelming disorder. In a future post, I'll share the road I've been down with this situation, including my own happy ending.

In the meantime, if you were nodding your head over and over as you were reading the questions, please go to this link:
which also has a symptom checklist along with a bunch of other resources. Do some reading and think about talking to your doctor. You might even take a few online ADD/ADHD assessment tests that help narrow down the types of ADD you may have. (Just google "ADD test" to find some. I took several of these and got the same results every time, that it was "likely" I had "ADD/Inattentive Type." Sure enough, I did.)

Because I have no medical credentials, I was reluctant to discuss ADD at length in the book The House That Cleans Itself. On this blog, however, I'm a little more comfortable throwing the thought out there, just in passing, as one domestically-impaired person to another. I'm no expert here, other than an expert on my own experience.

But the more I read, the more I know that problems with clutter and organization and money and time management often have their roots in an actual, medical disorder, one that can be successfully treated.

If you had a lot of yeses to last week's list, please follow the above link. And if you suspect you have ADD, gather up your test scores and lists and schedule an appointment with your doctor ASAP!


Is This You?

Read this checklist and see how many of the following questions are a "yes" for you.

Yes or no:

  • Does clutter prevent you from living the life you want to live?
  • Do you struggle to stay on top of the papers that come into your home, such as the mail, papers from your kids, papers from work, etc.?
  • Do you have trouble being prompt or managing time?
  • Do you have trouble managing money?
  • If you are in charge of food preparation for your family, does the planning/shopping/preparing of all that food often feel like an overwhelming or monumental task, one that makes you weary just to think about it?
  • Are problems with paper, money, time, or clutter preventing you from achieving your other goals in life?
  • Do you spend a lot of time trying to find things that have been misplaced?
  • Do you avoid having people over because of the mess in your home?
  • Do you frequently miss important events or deadlines, whether because of something you lost or forgot, because of procrastination, because you underestimated how long it would take, or because you didn't properly break the task down into doable pieces?
  • Do you have trouble calculating time, for example estimating how long it will take to perform a certain task or to get out of the house to an appointment?
  • Do you have great ideas—but often have trouble seeing them through?
  • Do you get "lost" for hours at a time in tasks you love doing, such as reading or writing or cooking or painting?
  • Are you better at starting things than finishing them?
  • Do people praise your "potential" more than your accomplishments?
  • Do you feel overwhelmed by sounds/smells/busyness/conversation/etc. that are around you? For example, do you have trouble shopping in a store where the music is too loud?
  • Do you begin each day determined that this is the day you'll finally get a handle on things?
  • Do you jump into certain things too fully with too much enthusiasm and then burn out before they are done?
  • Do you find yourself frequently apologizing for not returning calls/sending thank-you notes/giving gifts/etc. in a timely manner?
  • Do you seem to spend more time than the average person "in your head", i.e., daydreaming, being creative, imagining things, self-talking, etc.? Similarly, have you often been called an "airhead" or a "space cadet", either now or when you were younger?
  • Do you frequently realize that you can't remember what you were just in the middle of doing, for example, when you walk into a room you can't remember why you went in there, or in the middle of a shower you can't remember where you are in the shampoo/conditioner/soap process?
  • Do the people in your life, especially a spouse or children, frequently indicate frustration with how poorly you manage life tasks such as organization, cleaning, or time management?
  • Do friends or family members frequently tell you that you need more "self discipline"?
  • At the end of the day, do you consistently lament all the things you didn't get done that day, things you really intended to do but didn't have time to get to?
  • Do you look at other people who cope better/live better/are more organized/are more punctual and wonder how they do it?
  • Is your life out of control?

Now that you've read these questions, you may already know where I'm going with this. If not, you may be in for a big surprise. In my next post, I'll tell you what all of these yeses might mean for you. In fact, what I have to tell you could change your life!

I'm not trying to be overly-dramatic—nor being mean by making you wait. My intention is to stir your interest and maybe even give you time to run this list of questions by other people you know before you find out what I'm up to. Come back next week to find out what this is all about.