Sunday, May 22, 2011

Crash, Boom, Bang: An Accident Leads to a Massive Attack of Executive Function

One night, my husband and I were woken up by a big crash.  Something went Bang in the middle of the night.  At the time, we thought it was a tree branch banging on our roof.  We had a number of tree limbs cut away from our house and there is still one tree with some branches that bang around on a windy day.   So we just rolled over and went back to sleep.A wall closet in a residential house in the Un...Wall Closet Image via Wikipedia

The next morning, I woke up and the bar in my closet that holds up my clothes had fallen down and all my clothes were in a heap on the floor.  Apparently, all my clothes pony activities coupled with cleaning up the downstairs closet led to this disaster.  My executive function went into overdrive and started to push the  frontal lobes of my brain to plan and organize my winter coats by moving them upstairs since they were no longer needed.   I think there was just too much weight on the bar and that caused the bar to bend and collapse.

Fixing this mess was not easy and necessitated a replacement of the top shelf and the bar.  So, on the weekend, hubby decided to indulge his spouse with a bit of wife porn and actually do a house chore without nagging.   I fed his ego and told him how attractive he looked wielding a hammer and screw driver.  So that got me a new shelf.

I also reorganized my closet and am grouping my clothes so that spring/summer clothes are easy to get at and clothes are organized by color.  I have been on a major organizational kick and was planning to do this room later on this year. I figured one project at a time, one room at a time.    But, I guess this room gets organized first.

My parish had "Rent-A-Teen".  The teens want to raise money for a trip to Boston so I figured that I would help them and help myself at the same time.  Unfortunately,  the first week was prom week and my teens canceled out on me.  The coordinator was really apologetic.  But what can you do?  Kids.  I know.

I wasn't thrilled as I had planned the big clean up needed to dig myself out of house chores that had got neglected during MIL's illness.  Hubby is studying for an exam so I got my adrenaline going and did the major chores myself.  It felt really good to get the house back in order and back on a regular cleaning schedule.

When the kids came the next weekend, I got them to do yard work that sorely needed to be done.   The rhododendrons needed to be pruned, the deck washed, the grill cleaned.  Inside the house, I got a second washing of the kitchen floor and a huge pile of laundry ironed.   I had to teach them how to iron.  Honestly, what is the world coming to?  In the good old days, I learned to iron my clothes when I was about 10 years old.  These are 15-16 year olds with no idea of how to iron.  What are their parents thinking?  By age 16, I was self sufficient in terms of clothes care.  When I went to boarding school, I had to function as a mini-adult and take care of myself.

At any rate, back to my grand organizational schemes.

But, it did feel good to have the kids help out.  While the kids were working, I got the second bathroom organized.  I threw out all the sample cosmetics and shampoos I picked up while traveling.  Honestly, some of the "waste not, want not" attitude actually does lead to more clutter.  I like to be frugal but I find some efforts at frugality lead to accumulating stuff I will never use.  I also threw out old medications and products that I don't use.  Getting rid of things like a water pic that I used to need as an accomodation, is a good thing.  Before doing some occupational therapy, I couldn't floss my teeth and was starting to get some gum problems, so I bought a water pic to use instead of floss.

Instead of doing the massive purge and organizing the house in a frenzy, I really wanted to get better organizational habits.  I wanted to do one room and get in the habit of keeping that one room organized.  The room I really wanted to pick on was the office because doing  that room would have the additional benefit of  getting our paperwork in order.  Our paperwork can spill into many rooms of the house and it is like sweeping doo doo in the tide trying to beat back the piles of paperwork that accumulate.  Getting this one room in order will have a spillover effect on other rooms.

I am getting a professional organizer to help us work on that room for a couple of reasons.  We need someone to help us get a system together that is maintainable.  Again, getting an organized isn't a one time task but developing proper habits.  There are tips of the trade to help with the mechanics of organization and a professional knows how to do this.  Believe it or not, there are people who actually love doing this stuff!  I don't want someone who will ask me to buy some closet organizer but someone who understands how to run a house.

Also, there are people who specialize in helping the ADHD types organize so that way my special needs get attended to and I don't get jammed into a system that won't work for me.

Finally, I need hubby's buy-in.   Having a professional organizer is a nice way to have a mediator negotiate between his way and her way.   I don't want to stand over my husband and make him do chores like his mother.  It has taken some time but I have finally got my husband to understand that organization and doing house chores is part of being an adult and not a punishment of men by women!  When I get my husband's buy-in, he complies with the new regime and thinks about adding twists to it that make it easier for him.  Also, he gets a bit disgusted with the tide of stuff that ebbs and flows in the house:  both with watching the tide of stuff pile up and the larger effort of shoveling stuff back.

I think I will still use the Fly Lady approach towards maintenance.  I do like the five minute flings,  the 27 thing fling boogie,  and a zone approach.  Kind of organizes the task of cleaning. Makes any mess easy to handle... well, almost.  I notice that Fly Lady is used by a number of special populations in addition to the normally orderliness challenged folks.  There are subforums for folks suffering from chronic pain, depression, add and subforums for pregnancy, working at home, military families, etc.

FlyLady and general organization strategies are good things to begin with when tackling the day to day problems with executive function but they are just the beginning of tackling problems with executive function.

I am starting to think I may have a touch of ADHD and do suffer a bit from using what Judith Kohlberg and Jean Nadeau refer to as the  “EAST Strategy”   Everything At The Same Time.”   An ADD adult will be looking for that jacket they love, get upset at how messy the closet is, and decide on the spot to take everything out of the closet.  Problem is now they are late for work, still haven’t found the jacket and now have a huge mess in their bedroom.  Plus since they are overcommitted they are not going to be home in the evening because they are committed to doing something they really don’t have time to do anyway so the mess will stay there for awhile making life crazier than it already is.  

I think that somehow things get disorganized because my brain will jet off in another direction when I really just want to put something away.  In order to maintain a clean house,  when I have finished using something,  I should return it to its home.   But I don't.  Either I get distracted or I am so tired from coping with something, that I just plop it down somewhere.  Then it becomes part of the ebb and flow of the Tide of Stuff and then something to fling about in a Fly Lady Frenzy of Cleanliness. Fly Lady gets shorter and more regular attention to house cleaning going but it doesn't tackle the questions of "Where is the Best Home For This?"  and "Where Do I Plop Something Down So I Don't Have to Pick It Up Later?"  

For answers to these questions, I looked at MIL.  MIL was very good at tackling her home.  She did have the above questions answered.  For the first question, everything had a home.  For the second question, "Where Do I Plop Something Down So I Don't Have to Pick It Up Later?", she had the answer of "If It's In Your Hand, Put It Away".   Unfortunately, with Motor Planning problems and Attention Problems,  "If It's In Your Hand, Put It Away" is really onerous at this point.  So I will have to ponder this later on.  

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