Tag Archives: organization

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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Creating order out of chaos

9 Nov

I have realized that in order to make my life less overwhelming, I need to clean house. Literally and metaphorically. I need to clear away some clutter, change some things, make things more organized, rearrange the way I do things.  All of this is causing some pretty intense anxiety.  I look around me at all of the things I need to change in order to make my life – well, livable – and the overriding thought in my head is, “Where the eff do I start???”  Just looking at the chaos that is my life makes my palms go sweaty and my heart rate increase. Fight or flight.  No wonder I want to run all time.

Part of the problem, of course, is not having the time to do just that.  To be honest, that’s really what most of this drive to change my life is about.  I want to have time to run without having to pick between that and sleep. Everything else kind of works out. I come to work, groceries get purchased, bills get paid (sometimes late, admittedly, but not very), homework gets supervised. When I run out of hours in the day, one of two things gets sacrificed: sleep or running.  I need both like I need oxygen, so I cannot do this anymore.  I have to get my life together so that I’m not making such ridiculous choices.

So I’ve decided to make a list. First to be sorted out, simply because it’s easiest, will be my physical space. My desks both at home and at work are far more chaotic than they need to be.  Part of it is that I am (I admit it) a naturally disorganized person.  Part of it is my fear of throwing anything out.  Hey, you never know! Someday I might need that piece of paper with squiggles drawn on it!  I’m going to be ruthless.  If I don’t need it, it goes. If I do need it, it gets put away somewhere instead of cluttering up my desk.

Then I will get up to date with bills.  I’m not really behind on this, but I have a small pile of stuff that needs to be paid. I will get it done and file those bills away. One thing I do have going for me is an organized filing system. Any forms that need to be filled in and signed, the photo order for George’s school pictures, the invoices to be completed so I can get my respite funding cheques.  All of the admin that needs to be done will be done.

I have one more year of bookkeeping to do for Gerard’s business, and one year for the non-profit studio.  That will be done. I have set up a quick and easy system for doing this. It will take less than two hours in total. Then our taxes will be officially caught up and all I will have to do is stay current.

I will file away all of the receipts that have been recorded by my friend’s daughter (a real life-saver, that girl – thanks, Megan!).  I will gather together the receipts that need to be done and give them to her. I will come up with a better way of filing the receipts once they have been entered in the spreadsheet.

Starting tonight, I will be going to bed no later than 10:30.  That is a hard target, a set-in-stone rule that only a sick or distressed child will have the power to break. That means that when I wake up at five thirty tomorrow morning, I will have the energy to actually get out of bed and go for a run.

I will work on my daily routines, and find ways to use my time more effectively.  If that means using time timers and putting whiteboard schedules on the wall, so be it. I am even going to take the plunge and find a therapist. This is really something I should have done a long time ago. A few years ago, I went through a number of major life changes in a short period of time. In the space of eighteen months, I stopped working, my Dad died, my younger son was born, and I was hit with George’s autism diagnosis. With all of that plus some pretty intense post-partum depression, it’s no wonder my mind got a little scrambled and overwhelmed. I did see a doctor who put me on antidepressants, but that did not work for me.  The depression and anxiety were replaced by anger, and that didn’t help anyone.

I’m not in as bad a shape as I was in back then.  In fact, I’m pretty happy with the big picture of my life right now. But still. I could use a little help, and I’m going to seek it out.  Just about everyone I know is in therapy – if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!

As for the running, that will get better too.  I have discovered a running club in my neighbourhood, and this past Sunday I went out running with them.  I had a great time, and thoroughly enjoyed meeting real-life people (as opposed to Internet people) who share a common interest with me. My plan will be to go for Sunday long runs with them, which means I will have to do my midweek runs to keep up my fitness so I can keep up with them!

So, a lot is going to be changing in my life.  And that’s not even counting the fact that I’ll be getting married in a few months!