Guest Post by Carmen Jenkins:
Freeing Space in My Mind and Surroundings -
Tricks for Leveraging Virtual Tools to Reduce Clutter
As I write this article, I skim through a list of at least 30 great blog post ideas for articles that I will never write for an ADHD family blog that I will never create. If you are "one of us", you *probably* get that when you are in that moment of inspiration, your mind overflowing with ideas, you MUST capture them or they will be gone forever. Just like my closet full of yarn and knitting patterns, most of these ideas will never bear fruit, but it gives me comfort to know that they are there and if I need them some day, I can retrieve them.
I am a clutterer. I hate clutter. It is distracting. But it seems to follow me everywhere I go. Clutter is delayed decision-making. Clutter is piles of potential projects and schemes. Clutter is a physical representation of procrastinating undesirable activities.
I got to a point in my life that my clutter was paralyzing me. My house was becoming non-functional as a result: boxes of papers that I needed to "go through and file", but that I never would; dozens of failed organizational systems that, in the moment, I was sure would solve all my problems; half-finished projects; newsletter clippings; magazines that I would recycle as soon as I finished reading them; pictures, notes, recipes, and important legal documents all mushed together.
I finally had an epiphany that stuck.
I cannot manage the volume of paper in my life. I. Just. Can't. Do it!
I needed to remove as much physical paper from my life as I possibly could. I cancelled all my magazine subscriptions and newspaper. I put myself on the " No Junk Mail" list. Over time, I switched as much as possible to the virtual world.
These are some of the tools that I have found most effective:
I think of this as an internet "Junk Drawer".
I can just throw things in here: grocery lists, pictures, knitting patterns, some contact's phone number, inspirational quotes, meeting notes, private musings, ideas. Then I can retrieve them from any device when I need to - if I ever need to. But once I get it in there, it frees up a little space in my mind and it doesn't take up any physical space in my environment.
E-Bills and Electronic Bill Pay
This one has saved me from clutter and saved my credit report! I am horribly forgetful and could just not manage to get bills mailed by their due dates.
E-bills are a double blessing. I don't have to receive paper in the mail and make a decision to file it, shred it or throw it out (which, due to my delayed decision making, meant it would go to a pile on my kitchen counter and then to a box because guests were coming and I want to hide the pile on my kitchen counter). In addition, I can pay it automatically so I know it is paid, again freeing up a small space in my mind.
Scan and Ditch
Have I mentioned that I have trouble deciding whether to hold on to something or throw it away? Well, when in doubt, I have given myself permission to make an electronic copy of it and ditch the original.
This could be medical explanation of benefits, a sweet drawing that my child did on a restaurant placemat, a report card, a flyer for an event three months out, etc.
This one can be tough because scanning can take some time and work (do I put this in the "to scan" pile?) Luckily, camera phones and automatic backup have gotten so advanced, I can usually just use a scanning app on my phone or take a picture with my camera. Again, capturing this electronically frees up some space in my mind as well as my surroundings.
This is another life saver. There are many options, but Google Calendar works best for me and my family. I like that I can overlay my work calendar, the school calendar, etc.
It replaces having a zillion flyers, invitations, and paper calendars overloading my refrigerator. Now that my SAME calendar is available on my phone, from my work desk, and shared with my husband, I find I double-book less often and I am late a little less often.
It allows me to keep track of those details in a way that I can easily retrieve them. No more hunting around the house for that lost flyer for the band concert as we are walking out the door to figure out what building we are supposed to go to. Of course, I have to remember to put things in the calendar, but this has become the rule rather than the exception.
These are the big hitters for me, but there are so many more tools available and I try to experiment with them. Pinterest can replace magazine clippings, Trello can replace a planning binder for a PTA event, etc. So while I still have more physical clutter in my life than I would like, I am not paralyzed by it any more.
And for now, I will take that!