How Organization Creates Chaos

28 Jan

This morning I took my Christmas decorations down.  Yes, I know that it is January 28th, and that the 12th day after Christmas passed some time ago.  I have a history of being very last-minute where this kind of thing is concerned, and this laziness is, in fact, the reason we have an artificial Christmas tree.

When you have a real Christmas tree dropping dead pine needles and crap all over your carpet until February, things can get very messy.

The thing is, it’s always a bit of a hassle, not only to take the decorations down, but to put them up in the first place.  You have to dig out boxes that are buried under eleven months’ worth of crap in the storage room, then you have to clear a space for the Christmas tree and figure out how to make your home look festive without being tacky.  Let’s face it, I ain’t Martha Stewart.  I always envy those people who can casually throw a rug over a sofa and make it look like a designer item.  I can spend an hour arranging the rug on the sofa and it will still look like the results of the room throwing up.

Taking the decorations down is worse.  I mean, when do you get the time?  You’re so busy trying to recover – and get your kids to recover – from the remnants of the Christmas season.  You’re trying to catch up on work that’s fallen behind because no-one was at work.  You’re trying to figure out how the kids’ new toys work so you can show them, and you’re trying to figure out where the hell to put all of this new stuff.  With all of this going on, it’s no wonder my Christmas decorations stay up for so long.

This year, I have had an extra excuse, and its name is Autism.  You see, George’s autism hasn’t really affected the comings and goings of the Christmas decorations before, because George has always been pretty cool about things changing.  I always used to think that for a kid with autism, he was pretty adaptable.

That has all changed.

About six months ago, a fear of routine changes reared its ugly head. Now, understand that I’m not just talking about a dislike for or a resistance to change.  I’m talking about actual anxiety fear near-panic that sometimes gets intense enough to make George throw up. We had such an incident recently involving a mirror, and in that case, Gerard and I felt that the best thing would be to restore the mirror to its rightful place to ease George’s anxiety.

So today I took the day off work, with the intention of making a few changes while George wasn’t around.  They were necessary changes that included taking down the Christmas decorations and getting my scary mess of a desk organized (cluttered physical space translates to cluttered mental space and all that).  The kids went off to school, I took a brief moment to relax, and then I started working.  I got the Christmas decorations down and put away, and then I had a major decluttering session.  All of the boxes that were under my desk are now stored more appropriately, meaning there’s room to put my feet.  My filing cabinet has been rearranged, so my files are actually in the cabinet instead of in a broken plastic container on the corner of my desk, which now boasts two stacking trays instead – one for incoming mail, and one for the kids’ homework and school forms and stuff.

When George came home from school, World War III broke out.

First it was the Christmas tree.  Kiddo was insistent on the restoration of the Christmas decorations, and went so far as to start dragging boxes of decorations out of the storage room.  I firmly took said boxes from him and put them back.  He kept mentioning the Christmas tree, but I don’t think it took him long to realize that he wasn’t getting his way with this one.

My desk proved to be the bigger issue.  The broken plastic box that I had discarded?  George wanted it back.  George wanted it back so badly that he was almost panicking.  The poor boy was looking directly into my eyes – something that he only does when he’s feeling emotionally distressed and is desperate to impart a message to me.  Those eyes, those eyes… They had such pain and fear in them.  They were brimming with tears as George begged me to put the box back onto my desk.

I had to say no.  I’m always one to pick my battles with George.  If it doesn’t matter, I don’t make an issue of it.  I let George get his way from time to time.  But sometimes the battle does matter, and this is one of them.  I need for my home office to be organized.  I always have so much to do, so much admin to keep on top of.  The way I was going, I was paying bills late for no reason other than the fact that the papers were getting buried.  I had to arrange things so that I could keep up with everything.  This is definitely a battle I needed to win.

I felt so conflicted, though.  My friend Amy went through the heartbreak of burying her child yesterday, and here I was, with my child alive and well, and I was allowing him to be sad and fearful and distressed.  What kind of mother was I being?

Even with this conflict going on, though, I knew that I was right.  I knew that this was a storm I would just have to weather.  I needed to rearrange things on my desk, and George needed to see that things could change and he would still be safe.

The storm appears to be over – at least for now.  George was upset for a long time, but gradually calmed down.  He started walking around without looking suspiciously at my desk out of the corner of his eye, and he started jumping on the trampoline, making the kinds of sounds he makes when he’s happy and settled.  When he said, “Charlie is a girl” (with reference to Charlie the Unicorn), I knew that he was OK.

Sighs of relief all round.

At least for now.

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One Response to “How Organization Creates Chaos”

  1. Kerry January 28, 2011 at 10:49 PM #

    You are a wonderful mother. It is very difficult – to see your darling boy so distressed. You are a rock star. *Hugs*

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