Also known as, “Hi! I’m Cassandra, and I Live in a Filthy House.”
That isn’t entirely true. As it stands, my kitchen is clean, which happens roughly three times per year. But my office is a clutter minefield, and there is an entire room in my house filled with stuff waiting to be put away. Suffice it to say that I could normally be a contestant on a junior Hoarders.
All right, show of hands: who else has scrambled to hide the–possibly moldy–dishes when surprise guests drop in? Parents with mental illnesses, how many Legos have imbedded themselves in your feet in the middle of the night? You’re not alone, and there’s a logical explanation why.
Primarily found in people on the autism spectrum or with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), executive dysfunction is the inability to set and meet goals, self-monitor, and resist wandering off while in the middle of a project. In persons with bipolar I specifically, the wiring in their frontal lobes is so tangled that they suffer these difficulties even during stable periods. It goes without saying that their capacity to execute plans drops sharply during manic states.
It looks like clutter in the mind really does lead to clutter in the house! Here are a few ways to tackle your piles head on:
Start small! Most people get excited about starting a routine and try to implement everything at once, like New Year’s resolutions. Invariably they fail because the habits they need aren’t in place. In addition, baby steps don’t tend to work well for people with bipolar; they get overwhelmed quickly and have delusions of grandeur about conquering the routine.
Rather than assigning one room per week at first, try dedicating yourself to one thing at a time. For example, I’ve constantly struggled with my dirty dishes. I tried doing them every three days, then two, then one. Gross? Sure. But it’s what I have to do to ease myself in. Most times I still fail!
Recommended Link: FlyLady – Marla Cilley, also known as the FlyLady, has garnered a lot of praise for sending specific instructions and encouragement via email. She takes a lot of the work out of building a routine for yourself, and one of the biggest proponents of “baby steps” around. If you can handle the volume of emails without being overwhelmed, this site may work for you.
Don’t kick yourself if you make a routine and then stop following it. Just start again tomorrow, or adapt the one you have. Sometimes I’ve made routines that worked well for weeks, and then stopped when I grew bored with them. You have a lot on your plate, so you’ve learned to be flexible. Your cleaning has to be, too. Track where your time goes and then figure out where you can squeeze in a ten minute burst of laundry duty.
Recommended Link: Unf*ck Your Habitat – Billed as an alternative to FlyLady, UFYH lives by the 20 minutes of cleaning/10 minute break method (20/10). They also allow readers to post pictures of their progress. But be careful: the blog mistresses “terrifies” people into cleaning via swear words. On the plus side, the site have a positively reviewed (profanity-filled) app for the iPad and iPhone.
Best of luck whipping your home into shape! But please remember that it’s a process–one we’re not wired for. In part II, we’ll be covering other ways you can build your own time-management scaffolding.