How to get over ADD without being ADD?
May 12, 2013 1:46 PM   Subscribe

I am sincerely a disorganized person. I never know where my keys are and my wallet is often empty, due to the fact that I forget to get cash. I have four purses, and they usually never had what I want in them, including a pen. If I had a plant, it would probably be dead.

I'm not ADD. I'm introverted and concentrate quite well. In work settings, I can organize all the little spinning wheels of a large, intricate, and complicated project. But at home, I can never find any freaking thing, ever. And often times, I'm scrambling for quarters, or pens, or keys.

Why is this? And how I make it stop? How do I get out of the mindset of always being two steps behind? I sincerely don't know how to do this.
posted by kettleoffish to Grab Bag (26 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Can you organize your personal space and/or create personal habits in such a way that you always know where your things are? I've done both. Before I leave the house, I have a mantra: "glasses, wallet, keys, rings, phone." And I literally pat my body, checking for each of those essential things. When I get home, I'm not always quite as disciplined (see also: the room cleanup I'm about to do this afternoon), but those essential things have a place (a tray on the shelf next to the door to my bedroom) where I always try to remember to put them.
posted by limeonaire at 1:50 PM on May 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

In work settings, I can organize all the little spinning wheels of a large, intricate, and complicated project.

What systems do you use at work to keep yourself organized? Can they be used at home in the same ways (or adapted to do so)?
posted by rtha at 1:55 PM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

1. Cut down on clutter. Do you seriously have four purses? Why? Can you cut it down to one?

2. Designate a place for things, and always keep them there. Your purse lives by the front door, and your keys live in your purse. Et cetera.

3. Treat your home life like your work life. You say you can keep your work life organized? So bring your work home with you, i.e., treat getting organized at home like coordinating a large, complicated work project. Use a calendar at work to manage meetings and track progress of a project? Do the same thing at home.

4. You may not have ADD (although, FYI, plenty of introverts who can concentrate on stuff have ADD, I am living proof) -- but that doesn't mean you can't use home organization tips aimed at those of us who do have ADD. Google "home organization ADD" or check out any of the organization/life management articles at ADDitude.
posted by palomar at 1:57 PM on May 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

I used to be notorious for leaving my things everywhere and never having what i need. So every time something went wrong I would think about what could have prevented it, and then tried to implement that.

Things that have helped me with stuff like this:
1. A key hook at the door for my keys. Works most of the time.
2. An actual physical lst also by the door that I run down before I leave:
Keys? iPod? Headphones? Cellphone? Work badge? Wallet? This has prevented more than 1 disaster.
3. One large work bag and one small purse that fits inside the work bag. This way purse stuff (wallet, keys, lady stuff, coins) and work stuff are never getting shuffled around, they just stay in their homes. I also have a little yellow leather pouch from American Apparel for my work bag that holds pens, paper, chargers, Apple cables, tape, ponytails, a Tide pen, etc. that way stuff is easy to find and it's easy to pop my purse in and out as necessary.
4. Not bothering with cash. It's not needed for most things, unless you take lots of short cab rides. The last time I lost my wallet with $160 in it was when I gave up on cash for good.

The key to good system is something you will find predictable. Think about what you need to set up in advance for things to fall into place with just a little bit of mindfullness.
posted by bleep at 2:07 PM on May 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think it's helpful to take a look at your situation and consider your biggest pain points, and then work on addressing them.

Tiny habits is great for learning how to create habits that will be successful.

Healthmonth is good for getting support with maintaining habits.

In your case, you might try sitting down and thinking about the best place to keep your keys and then thinking about the trigger for that behavior. Some people have a bowl on their bureau or a hook by the door. Then every time you come home, you put your keys back in that place.

Then imagine yourself coming home, unlocking the door, closing the door, and putting the keys on the hook. Then do what you need to do to set yourself up to succeed (get a bowl and put it on your bureau, or buy a hook and put it on the wall by the door). When you do it, congratulate yourself.

Organization does not come naturally to me - learning how to set up habits and support them has been HUGE.
posted by bunderful at 2:08 PM on May 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

(I have multiple purses - the ones I'm not using are emptied in a box on a shelf; the one in use has everything in it. When I change purses I move everything to the new purse and put the old one away).
posted by bunderful at 2:12 PM on May 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

My keys, swipe card, bus pass, loyalty cards are on a stretchy string thing attached to my one purse that has a special pocket for wallet and a special pocket for phone. That there has solved a number of problems in one go.

I have a list of things that belong in there, and periodically check to see if I've put them back or they need refilling (some of it being medication, other being pens and stuff) It's a very small purse. Very small. Otherwise, the bottom of it fills up with flotsam and jetsam.
posted by b33j at 2:19 PM on May 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

You just aren't giving enough attention to taking care of yourself. Instead of trying to figure out how to get better organized, set aside time just for you. Make a list of things that you would like to have around the house to make you feel more comfortable. And then go shopping. Treat yourself to a huge box of great pens. Plant several in every purse. They can live there! Taking better care of your own needs can become a good habit that will see you happily through life. Until it becomes a habit, schedule it in.
posted by myselfasme at 2:23 PM on May 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

You need to set up a routine for some of this stuff. A key hook at the door can be very helpful for not losing them as soon as you get in the door.

You could stash all your stuff inside a purse organizer and use that to transfer items between bags. Or you could try using just 1 bag until you get a better system in place.
posted by oneear at 2:25 PM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ask yourself, every time you come home, "What is the next thing I am going to do outside the house?" Then organize what you need for that, and leave it alone.

Get home after work: "The next thing I am going to do outside the house is go to dinner with Terri. I will need my wallet -- here it is, I am putting it in my purse. My keys -- here they are, I am putting them in my purse. My purse -- here it is, I am putting it by the door. That book I was going to give her -- let me see... ah, here it is. I am putting it in my purse. My new shoes -- here they are, I am putting them by the door."

And here's the critical part: Ask yourself again. Go through all the steps one more time.

Do this every time you get home (and maybe every time you get to work), and it will become second nature. Instead of five minutes of frantic searching and being late and freaking out because you're late and you can't find those new shoes goddammit where are those shoes oh shit I'm late... you spend five minutes getting yourself organized with no time pressure.

And if the next thing you need to do is tomorrow -- or even two days later, if you're staying in for the weekend -- then you still get ready for it. Lay out your clothes for the next day as soon as you're in for the night. When the morning comes, you're not trying to wake up while you try to remember everything you're going to do that day; you're just finishing up the last 10 percent of getting ready.
posted by Etrigan at 2:40 PM on May 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

One thing at a time.

Start with the thing you have identified as a problem here - your purse.

Start with the item in your purse that you never leave the house without: your keys. Get several sets of keys cut. If you have a nearby friend or neighbor you genuinely trust, give them a set of your keys in case you lock yourself out, and if you don't want to do that (I wouldn't), program the numbers of several 24-hour locksmiths into your phone.

Now that you have several sets of keys, you want to find a way to make sure you always have at least one set with you. What I would do is order a small purse organizer such as the Mini Joey Junior, and you can just pick that up and drop it into whichever purse you want to use that day.

The next time you forget an item that you use every day, like sunglasses, that can go in the Joey as well.

So already, your entire life may not be Organized but you have solved one problem, right? Just keep applying this principle one item at a time.

Another part of the template: at night, lay out all the clothes you'll wear the next day, including shoes, underwear, jewelry, coat, gloves. Check your diary to see if you need to take anything unusual with you, and pack that into your bag as well.

One thing at a time.
posted by tel3path at 2:56 PM on May 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

You need the One True Place to put your keys in as you enter your house. They will always be kept in the One True Place so you can put them in your purse before leaving.

I am ADD, and I am at least 95% successful at putting my keys in a specific bowl on a shelf at the back of my dining room (about 10 steps from the front or back door of my house). My keys may leave the house in my pants pocket, an outside jacket pocket, an inside jacket pocket, a purse or in a specific pocket of my backpack, but when I unlock the door and enter the house, they immediately go to the One True Place.

I also have a little box for ALL THE RECEIPTS! right next to it that I am at least 95% successful at using, too. After I put my keys away, I put whatever receipts are in the back pocket on my wallet into that little box.

Start small with 1-2 One True Places, and add on as you perfect your ability to use what you have started.
posted by maudlin at 3:35 PM on May 12, 2013 [5 favorites]

Apologies if this has already been said, but I have four purses and was thinking about that. I am going to put a pen, pack of tissues and small tablet in each one so I don't have to switch those things out.
posted by michellenoel at 3:49 PM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks all- I might have ADD, but I don't think I do due to never being diagnosed with it in school. I used to be medicated for it but it didn't help. These tips are going to help a lot.
posted by kettleoffish at 3:51 PM on May 12, 2013

I once spent a miserable two hours outside on a freezing cold February morning, having locked myself out while taking out the trash. I eventually ended up spending upwards of $200 to have a locksmith break and re-key my lock.

I swore I would never lose my keys again. I put one of these on my keys (as others have recommended above), and as soon as I'm inside my apartment, the first thing I do is hang my keys on the door knob. I also attach one of these and hook it to the metal ring on my purse.

I haven't locked myself out since, and I never fumble around looking for keys in my purse.
posted by invisible ink at 5:02 PM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Get one pouch and keep in it your keys, phone, wallet, etc., that you need every single day. Put the pouch (pouch or purse organizer or cosmetics bag, for examples) in whatever purse you're using. I find my life MUCH EASIER when I use a separate bag for each different "thing" I do -- one for the gym, one for school board meetings, one for teaching -- and I have all the stuff I might need for that "thing" in that bag. I'll get a second hair comb, a toiletry kit, a deodorant, etc., for the gym bag; extra pens, pads of paper, tampons, breath mints for the school board bag; etc. It does mean that I double or triple up on things, but then I ONLY need to grab my all-the-time purse and the appropriate bag for that activity. I don't have to think about what's in them. If I have to pack the bag every time, I forget things. I'm a pretty organized person but I am TERRIBLE at packing bags. I started doing this in college and it has changed my life, that my bags for things are always packed and I don't have to put them together. I even do it for my kids: I keep separate bags for them for preschool, outdoor activities, playdates, etc. It takes up more space in my closet, but that is OKAY as long as I just have to grab one bag!

When I used to switch purses, I did the same with purses. I doubled or tripled or quadrupled some things (pens, kleenex, gum), and kept my "all the time" things in a pouch that just went from purse to purse.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:38 PM on May 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

(Also I carry multiple redundant keys in my purse because I am crazy paranoid about accidentally locking a set in my car. I have two sets of car keys and two sets of house keys, one that I use all the time, and one that just sits in the bottom of my purse, JUST IN CASE. The extra housekeys were cheap; the extra car keys were expensive, but totally worth it.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:40 PM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

My own experience with deliberate habit formation says that it has to be done one habit at a time, and that it takes a couple of months for each new habit to stick.

For the first few weeks I will find myself actively fighting the new habit, looking for excuses not to do it, feeling resentful about it and so forth. To counter that, I remind myself every. single. time! that forming a new habit takes work, that having these reactions is natural, that none of them are sufficient reason to weasel out of practising the new habit, and that the habit once bedded in will save me work and/or stress.

The next few weeks will be a mixture of resentful reactions and feeling pleased not to be having a resentful reaction.

Only when I start having no reaction to the exercise of my new habit is it time to get working on the next one.
posted by flabdablet at 7:25 PM on May 12, 2013 [10 favorites]

Okay, things that help me.

1. Schedule time to be scatter brained. Yes, my morning routine has a few minutes built into it where I can wing it and do whatever I like; however, the rest of it isn't.

2. Coffee. 2a. Prep the coffee the night before, including a cup and sugar spoon ready. 2b. Get the coffee on early - like first thing, then knock off a few autopilot things, like walking the dog. 2c. Make my first cup of coffee when I get back from walking the dog.

3. Have a few different places for pens. 3a. There's a place on the fridge, a place in a bowl over the microwave, a place in a box near the back deck door, and a place in my home office. 3b. Check the places the pen should be first before looking elsewhere. 3c. If I find a pen, leave it in one of the 4 places.

4. The phone charger is placed at the highest foot traffic area. Guess where my phone and wallet are kept?

5. Contacts are great, but glasses with transitional lenses mean that I will never forget proper contact hygiene or where I put my sunglasses. My glasses go either by my nightstand, or next to my phone and wallet.

6. Racks, baskets and shelves. On the staircase up to our main floor, we have a place for keys (hanging), two places for shoes (a mat for wet ones, and shelves for other pairs at a landing), coats and umbrellas on a rack, and hats and gloves in separate baskets right below. There is also room for generic bags - diaper bags, school bags, spontaneous play weekend bags. There are also two dog leashes available to get the dog squared away. In the worst case scenario, I have to do a half flight of stairs if I make it to the bottom and I've forgotten to leash the dog. Lastly, My work bag goes up to the top of the landing - generally because I use it every night. Note - things that get used all have a place, there are some generic prep bags handy on the way out (complete with some snacks in them should it be necessary), and the stuff that gets constant use is brought all the way up to the top.

7. My wife's purse(s). 3 in the closet, one on the landing by the shoes. She rotates purses every 3 months or so unless there is a special event. Lastly, her ids and money are generally in a billfold sort of thing, which she can move into her purse, or a generic bag pretty quickly. Occasionally she forgets to move her billfold, but that happens, maybe twice a year....
posted by Nanukthedog at 9:04 PM on May 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

You also might do well to look into getting a small keychain pen and a small keychain fob where you can stash some cash for emergencies. Adding a select few tiny keychain tools like this could help your situation!
posted by limeonaire at 9:50 PM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Mindfulness. "What am I doing right now?" Pay attention to that. ADHD or not, that's the biggest reason (in my experience) that people get forgetful. The conscious brain has moved onto the next challenge/anxiety, but the rest of you is still finishing up the task at hand. So you aren't paying attention to detail.

It's like remembering where the car is in a parking lot. Every time, you have to take time to visualize where the car is. But if you are already thinking about what to buy and where to grab a cart, you just walk into the store on autopilot and have no conscious awareness of where you parked.
posted by gjc at 5:11 AM on May 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

Try setting alarms for everything that you need to do but might forget. Set the alarm as soon as you think of the thing you have to do, unless you can do it there and then, in which case, DO IT!

If it doesn't annoy you too much to have alarms going off a lot, you can set alarms for small things - like set it for 1/2 an hour before you need to leave to be somewhere, to remind yourself to get all the stuff you need in your purse.

You'll feel in control, because you will have done something to organise your life, yay! Plus it's one less thing that you have to remember to remember, so you don't have to worry about it any more, or at least not until the alarm goes off.

With the no cash in your wallet thing - 1) don't worry about it too much and always carry a credit card; 2) try to link getting cash with grocery shopping. Write it on your shopping list! If it turns out you don't need cash at that time, you can cross it off the list. If you run out of cash between shops, set an alarm for a time you might reasonably be near an ATM.

With the plant, OK I know it was a throwaway line, but seriously - a self watering pot is your friend. Get one where you can see the water level and you only need to water when it's getting low.
posted by pianissimo at 5:29 AM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have places for things and the places have LABELS and the labels keep it all straight in my brain. Also, store things in the MOST CONVENIENT locations possible to increase your likelihood of putting them away. For me, this means lots of open shelves and few closed cupboards, lots of hooks, lots of themed baskets i can just toss stuff into, and putting things I use all the time in the most accessible locations.
posted by windykites at 6:31 AM on May 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

My only solutions to this problem myself are:

- Only have one handbag unless you need, say, a special one for a wedding. One bag at once means less likelihood of leaving something in your other one. I'd like to be someone who 'accessorizes' with bags, but in actuality, that would lead to me forgetting my keys on a daily basis. NB I only need to carry round wallet, Kindle, keys etc, and not, say, baby equipment, so this might not work for you.

- Anything you use regularly should not be dark coloured - otherwise it's easier to put down and leave. My mobile is blue, my purse is green floral, my travelcard is in a light blue holder, my iPod in a green case.
posted by mippy at 8:22 AM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Try getting rid of superflous things and storing things not of daily necessity out of sight (and keep things of daily necessity in sight on a shelf, hook, rack, table- something like that . That way you should be able to scan for things you use in your space. I also like the bright colors idea.
posted by WeekendJen at 8:38 AM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Try getting rid of superflous things
I'd actually suggest the opposite - redundancy for all fungible things. Have enough pens, keys etc that you never need to scrabble around for one because there are loads in every drawer. I'm very disorganised and this has helped me tremendously. Also, when it comes to actually storing things, make sure you have a system that works the way your mind works. If you think of, say, cleaning products and bath products as being the same sort of thing, store them in the same place, as long as the bottles are different enough that you'll never confuse them. Don't be wedded to someone else's taxonomy.
posted by Acheman at 1:20 PM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

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