Thursday, March 22, 2012

27. ODD

Confessions of an Organizationally Challenged Troubadour
by Cori Connors

(Disclaimer 1: If you can see the countertop in your kitchen, or your floors have been vacuumed once a week the last year or so, or you can park your car in the garage and open the doors without hitting something, YOU DO NOT NEED TO READ THIS! Everyone else…welcome to my world!

Disclaimer 2: I don’t always follow my own rules.  But I know they work for me.)

Ask me to organize words and music, and I’ll work on it for hours.  Assign me to organize people or events and I’m willing and able.  But ask me to organize my house and you’ll get a blank stare. 

It never was natural to me, just ask my mom. When Dave requested my hand in marriage (mind you I was 18 years old) my mom said “Sure.” (He was Dave Connors, after all!) “But you’re going to have to hire a housekeeper.”  I was so offended. 

She knew then what I know now.  Mom’s are that way.  Now, decades later, if my kids come into the house and the kitchen is cleaned up and the floor mopped they will inevitably ask, “Are we having company?”

I’ve always felt a little odd, especially when I compare myself to my amazing neighbors.  And I guess I would be right, I do suffer from ODD: as in Organizationally Disabled Disorder.

Since I have survived over half a century, in spite of my disorder disorder, I have figured out a few things which, when I remember to remember them, considerably enable me to function better. Go ahead, take a gander.  If you are challenged, as I am, you might identify.  And if you are like many of my friends who also have beautiful yards and clean fridges, at least you’ll get a glimpse of how your world might be if the good Lord had not gifted you with your natural sense for order. 

Here, (in no particular order), are my personal rules for organizational survival for ODD balls:

People before things: Rule number one. Take care of your people before your things. As a young mother I had to make this little rule for myself.  It came after moving into an affluent neighborhood, where everything appeared pretty Oz-like to me.  I got sucked into the vacuum of comparing myself with others.  I ended up not liking myself, in much the same way as I don’t like myself when I’m on a diet.  When I’m dieting all I can think about is food.  When I was trying to make my palace sparkle that’s all I could think about as well.  I don’t recall what circumstance led to the creation of this personal rule for me, but I do remember which house I lived in and about how old I was.  It was decades ago. I think I was PTA president at the time. Now, if I am in the middle of loading the dishwasher or folding laundry and someone needs me, or I sense someone needs my help, I pause for a minute, say a little prayer for confirmation, and inevitably leave my task.  I can hear a little voice in my head saying “It’ll still be here when you get back”. I literally say to myself, regularly…people before things.

Rule of 3 / Rule of 10/ Rule of 1:

Rule of 3: If, as I am headed to the shower, I notice that stray sock on the bathroom floor, I can walk past it once.  I can even let it slide the second time.  But if I make note of it three times, then it’s time to pick it up.  I call it the Rule of 3.  My mom used to say, “Do what you need to do to get it out of your brain!” If something takes brain space that often, then I suppose it’s the Holy Spirit of Order nudging me to take care of it. I am, after all, a steward over all this stuff. We all need to be able to cut ourselves some slack, and for those of us who literally suffer from ADD, we need to be able to stay focused on our tasks, which means we have to step over socks sometimes.  But if something “speaks to me” three times, I take that as a signal to address it and get it taken care of.

 Rule of 10: When faced with something like the mountain of items lining the periphery of certain rooms (which if I squint my eyes sort of looks like the Wasatch Mountain Range), or the pile of papers on the counter, try the Rule of Ten.  Take care of ten items.  That’s it.  You don’t have to move the whole mountain, just a nice little piece of it.

Rule of 1 - Everything you do is something done: If I can’t even bring myself to take care of 10 items, I resort to this rule.  I repeat this mantra: Everything you do is something done.  Physically touch one thing, and don’t put it down until it is where it belongs. It’s motion in the right direction.

Emotional Time vs. Real Time:  We ODD people swing back and forth between being perfectly fine with the way we live and beating ourselves to an emotional pulp! I finally realized that, though I may have the real time to accomplish something, my emotional time may be spent.  I especially notice that we judge each other according to our real time situation, yet we have no idea what kind of savings are left in the emotional time bank. My friend may have a few hours in the day where she is not required to do any particular task.  And yet she has been dealing with non-stop company, an exceptionally challenging family matter, financial worries, and maybe even a good dose of PMS. Her emotional time is totally spent.  So cut her some slack…and she should cut herself some slack.  She may have hours on the clock, but her emotional time is gone, and she will need to have a chance to replenish by allowing herself to be still. 

Find your groove: If my emotional time and my real time are not at odds, and I have a little pocketful of each, then I start talkin’!  I have this conversation with myself about how great it’s going to feel to have a little order in my space, and how much I’m going to like myself cuz I did something I’m not that good at.  So I gear up: get my work clothes on and my shoes laced up.  Lift the shades on the windows, maybe even open them for some fresh air.  I force my brain to make a semi-plan about where I’m going to start (there are so many options in an ODD house). I gather my tools, and set the music! For me it’s Carole King’s Tapestry album.  Like I said, I’ve lived half a century already.  Carole King spoke to me in a big way when I was 14 years old.  She made me feel empowered from those first low bass notes she pounded out on the piano…followed by the syncopated flow of music and words…”I feel the earth…move…under my feet….”  The music makes me want to move.  It sets the pace for me, energizes me, and pretty soon I am accomplishing the impossible to the groove of Natural Woman.  Find your own empowering music and get in the groove.
For those of us with focus problems, we need to sieze the moment when we are in the groove and move forward without distraction. People who don't suffer from attention deficit don't understand how hard it is to keep yourself focused. So if your ODD friend has trouble sticking to her task, don't disturb her by asking her do something even small and menial. Once the focus is gone its really hard to get back.

“What would Helen do?”: When my mother-in-law, Helen, was killed suddenly in a car accident, we all had to shift the gears of our hearts in order to function.  Dave’s family all lived back east, and we were thousands of miles away in the west.  One day Dave’s little sister, Chelle called me from the grocery store in Pittsburgh. She was now the one who handled the shopping and cooking, in spite of being young and having never done it before.  “Cor, how do you know which bananas are good?”  If you’ve never had to purchase bananas you are full of all sorts of self doubt.  I made logical suggestions, but it’s kind of hard to walk someone through over the phone.  Finally I said, “Pretend you’re Mom.  Which ones would she pick?”

When I am feeling wholly incapable of organizing my personal space, I turn my head to the people I know and love who are good at it, and I pretend to be them.  Sorting through the clothes that are smashed together on the rack in my closet, I pretend to be my daughter-in-law, who has no problem letting go of things.  Organizing my jewelry, I imagine I’m my sister and hear her voice whisper, “Now remember not to mix the gold with the silver”. ODD people are often good at pretending, being creative by nature.  So embrace that gift and pretend to be someone organized once in a while.

The measure of its creation: I ask myself, when trying to decide if something is destined for the DI, “Has this item filled the measure of its creation for me?”  If I’ve benefitted from having it, and I don’t really need it any more, then it has served its purpose and can now be released.  I thank it for its service, give it a little kiss or a hug, and let it move on.

If you can get it at DI; give it to DI: I think I need to remember this more often. If my basement is chock full of stuff that I think I (or someone else) might need one day, then maybe it’s time to rethink what my space is worth.  If there is something that is regularly available at DI, and I need it only once in a blue moon, then I should give my copy of that item to DI and go buy another one from DI when I need it.  (Chances are, I won’t need it.)

All Things are Spiritual: D&C 29:34…Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things to me are spiritual.

I take this scripture as a comfort. All my struggles, not just the ones that involve reading scripture and attending the temple, are important to Him.  He wants to help me.  My success is His success.  So it is by all means appropriate for me to ask Him to help me know how to clean and organize my house.  It is good to give this aspect of my life emotional weight in my pondering and prayer.  When I quit beating myself up about it, and I pause and ask for His help, ideas come into my head that lead me forward with purpose. It is a healthy exercise to ask the Lord to show us our weaknesses.  He will show us in a much more gentle way than the world will show us.  Then, as promised, I think He can and will make our weaknesses our strengths. First, though, it takes a willingness to focus, to ask, to listen, and to act.  And, as in all of life, repetition is essential. I am working on repeating this prayer more often.

For Valentines Day, instead of going out and getting my true love a token of my affection, I evidenced my love by cleaning and organizing his shelves in our bedroom closet. He loved it!  And so did I, when I was done.  It sure took a lot of self talk, and repeated prayers to remain focused. But, by golly, I did it! Now I just need to remember to repeat my success J

One last note.  Make friends with this website:  Read her article on CHAOS (Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome).  Uh Huh…she knows!


  1. Oh my, how I do relate. Alas, my brain is just not organized to be an orderly housekeeper. And my ADD doesn't let me concentrate on anything for more than a short time. So thanks for the rules, they give me a plan...

  2. I loved this! I can just picture you stepping over that sock. Being on the side of the semi organized, I had to laugh at myself when I started reading the rules. I kept expecting to see Rule 1: then Rule 2: then Rule 3:. That's when I started laughing at myself because I was wondering why the rules weren't in order. Then I ask myself "Why do the rules need to be in any order. What does it matter?" I love you just the way you are and always remember who's basement the neighbor kids loved to come and play in when we lived in Shelley.