Of all the problems I
work with ADDers on,
controlling paper is one
of the worst.
What are your best strategies for
neatening up the house?
T GET YOUR HANDS INTO THE PILES. Dislodge the stacks from where they sit, stuck
like barnacles. Pry them loose and pick them
up. Feel the control flowing into your blood,
the endorphins of triumph over those nasty
A picture-perfect house is an
impossible dream for most of
us. ADDitude readers tell how
they come close to having it.
> I clean up in stages. I’ll dust everything
one day, clean the sink and toilet while my
daughter is in the bath, and vacuum all the
rooms on another day.
U MOVE THE PILES, ONE AT A TIME, to the
dining room or kitchen table or some other
place that is not cluttered, or take a pile to
the library in a box. The novelty of reclaiming your places and spaces is exciting. Soon
you will have the exhilarating experience of
walking into a nearly empty room. You will
feel a sense of ahh.
New York, New York
> I turn on music and keep moving from
room to room until almost everything is put
away. It’s not a big deal if I get distracted, as
long as I keep putting stuff away.
Helen E. Goble
I CHUCK IT. Pile by pile, pick away at what
used to be a total mess, filing what you need
to file and ditching the rest. Chucking the
piles, one by one, makes it clear who owns
what. The fact is, you own the piles, they
don’t own you.
> I have a cleaning person come every
other week. If I don’t pick up my stuff, she
of my home. When my children were young,
La Leche League had a saying: “Do I want
that knickknack (or whatever) on that table,
where I have to dust it, or do I want a nice
empty spot, so I can spend that time with my
baby instead of cleaning?”
O INITIATE PILE-CONTROL. When you have
disposed of your piles—once you have
rooted out the kudzu—develop habits that
will keep your garden healthy. I learned a
great way of doing it from a former patient
of mine. He suggested the acronym OHIO. It
stands for Only Handle It Once. Whether it
is a letter, a magazine, a bill, a memo, or anything else, get into the habit of acting on it
right away—by answering the letter or paying the bill—then putting it into one of the
labeled files you have created or recycling it.
After you develop these habits, the piles
will return, but they won’t take over your living space like an uncontrolled weed. A
> I keep only what we need. Get rid of
Tupperware and dishes that you don’t use,
as well as old clothing, toothbrushes, toys,
books, plastic bags. Use bins to transfer winter and summer clothing to the attic.
Sumter, South Carolina
> I use a chore chart with stickers, just
like the ones you would use with kids. I give
myself a sticker if I do some of the chores. I
emphasize progress, not perfection or completion. Doing a little each day means progress over time.
We bring in an organizing
coach every six months.
El Paso, Texas
> I’m old school. I use a to-do list. I discard
junk mail daily. I set up a file system for most-used papers, so there are no “treasure hunts.”
I keep one assigned “catch-all” basket in
every room, to temporarily hold things that
don’t belong there.
From Delivered from Distraction , by EDWARD
M. HALLOWELL, M.D., and JOHN J. RATEY,
M.D. Copyright 2005 by Ed ward M. Hallowell,
M. D., and John J. Ratey, M. D. Reprinted by
arrangement with Ballantine Books, an imprint
of Random House. All rights reserved.
> I use the Motivated Moms app for my
iPhone ( motivatedmoms.com). It isn’t
overwhelming, and it reminds me of daily
chores, as well as special ones.
An ADDitude Reader
> One word: FlyLady! I follow her plan to
keep extra stuff (or clutter, as she calls it) out
> I invite people over for dinner or a visit,
so I have to clean up for them.
San Francisco, California