I know this about myself: I love tidiness. I find it very comforting to be in spaces that are clean and organized.
I also know this: I wasn’t born a tidy person.
Years ago, when I was a young mother with kids in and out of the house, I would often feel ashamed about the lack of order in our home. Things seemed to be piled up everywhere.
I’d visit neighbors with children and find it mystifying that their homes were so organized and tidy. How did they do it?
In my 40’s, I was diagnosed with ADHD. This explained a LOT. I began to understand that with a mind as busy and distractible as mine, it was easy for me to start cleaning up the living room, only to be diverted by something more stimulating.
During a professional development course I took called ADD Across the Lifespan, our lively instructor said,
“Do you want to know one of the hallmark characteristics of ADD? It’s when your piles have babies!”
Boy, could I relate! I had piles everywhere!
I was determined not to use ADHD as an excuse for my scattered approach to keeping up with the house. But it was a relief to find out that it was a factor. Understanding this helped me practice more kindness and self-acceptance, rather than harshly comparing myself to others who seemed to have their act more together.
Over time, I invested a lot of time in learning strategies that would help me stay on course with mundane tasks and reduce the “visual chaos” that I found so unsettling. Our home became a little more organized and orderly.
But there was another outcome that emerged in this process. This one was less visible.
I had always been a meditator, which no doubt contributed to staying reasonably calm, even with my ADD’ish tendencies. But I still had (have) a busy mind. When I wasn’t sitting in meditation, (and often, even when I was!) it wasn’t easy to slow down the constant activity between my ears.
I wanted my internal life to be less cluttered, too.
This internal de-cluttering is much harder to do than the external. With or without ADD, many of us have a steady stream of noise in our minds. We’re constantly juggling ideas, replaying conversations, and reviewing endless lists of tasks and obligation.
It can be exhausting, and much harder to remain present for our lives when we’re cluttered inside.
Over time, I’ve learned to be as serious about managing the internal clutter of my life as I am about what’s in my visual space. My home is now what I call tidy enough; it doesn’t qualify for a magazine cover, but it offers rest and relaxation.
And I guard my internal state of mind vigilantly. Sometimes that means saying “No” to an appealing opportunity that would add too much to my plate. Other times it means interrupting negative streams of thought that take me places I don’t want to go. And sometimes it means taking 3 quieting breaths in the middle of a hurricane of activity, to re-establish a sense of stillness and steadiness.
Being dedicated to de-cluttering my internal state has helped me create a less cluttered external environment.
If your life feels cluttered–inside or out– perhaps it’s time to notice what internal patterns might be expressing themselves in your external environment.
Or it might be the other way around! Reducing some of the physical “stuff” of your lives may have the blessed effect of creating more internal peace and serenity.
Either way, if you’re like me and are a little disorganized and scattered, please be kind to yourself. I’ve come to see that my ADD’ishness is a tremendous gift. I just needed to learn to work with my nature, in a loving way. I hope you can do the same, and enjoy more rest, ease, and serenity, even in the midst of your busy lives.