I am slowly getting my life organized. Apparently, when I was a young child, I would take it upon myself to put my toys away. Strangely enough, I don’t remember that, but I don’t doubt my mom when she says this, either, because although my life has long since become chaotic, I do have a starry-eyed pining for neatness and order. Even if I can’t make it happen in the physical realm.
A dream in the clouds is all there is, however; the dream has not yet come to fruition.
But it may be in progress. It starts with the little things. All positive-but-difficult changes begin with baby steps.
My first baby step is to cultivate the presence of mind to look around before I leave, for example, the office, and put away anything that I’ve taken out over the course of the day. That textbook goes back on the shelf. That pile of folders gets returned to the front desk for re-filing. That catalog goes into the cabinet, to join its fellow catalog-y friends. Only the latest version is needed; on a Saturday, or perhaps a Friday afternoon, I’ll come down to the office and sift through the cabinet, tossing the old, outdated versions into a big recycling pile.
By putting away the items I’ve taken out throughout the day, I can rest easy knowing that at least I didn’t create new messes or contribute further to existing ones.
I’ve also started to go through and unsubscribe from email newsletters that no longer apply or speak to me. I similarly prune my clothes closets and even my social media accounts. I get rid of Twitter bots and junk snail mail. I delete duplicate items on my computer (after making backups of the important stuff first, that is).
Something similar is taking place on the home front; my Giveaway Pile of items to donate is growing and soon it will disappear (when I take said pile to a donation station).
Does my Asperger’s/autistic operating system influence this, and if so, how?
The answer to the first part of the question is “of course. Duh”, and to answer the second part will require a little more elaboration.
Chaos, which includes the “overwhelming” effect of being surrounded by unnecessary excess, is not only anxiety-inducing but also burdensome. Items I no longer need simply begin to weigh me down, taking up space in my Space (my home space and my head space), until they are donated or otherwise eliminated.
I would thrive on simplicity instead. A place for everything, everything in its place, and an easily-recognizable pattern between the Everythings and their Places. This would be ideal. Perhaps I was a Buddhist monk in a previous life. I could totally go for that again. But I’m where I am now, which means that I probably really screwed up some karma.
To reach such simplicity nirvana in this life, however, requires steps I can’t easily take, using tools that hadn’t come sharpened, if they arrived at all.
In order to simplify my life, I would need to create a plan. I would need to (gasp!) make decisions at multiple points along the way. I would need to stay on task during a chore I have long despised. I would need to set aside–and override–my traumatic memories of the weekend environment at my house, push the “Stop” button on a whole cloud-storage account worth of Old Tapes and keep repeating “that was then; this is now” to myself until the words lost meaning or I lost feeling. My train of thought would need to not resemble a butterfly’s leisurely afternoon flight path.
The Swiss Army Tool for this purpose, known as Executive Function, came to me blunted, gnarled, warped, and stripped. A few of its functions are somewhat intact, even if barely recognizable, but let’s just say that as far as Swiss Army tools go, my executive function is a cheap knockoff.
Being autistic/an Aspie throws more than a few kinks into that Executive Function tool; I’m thinking it’s a middleman or meddler of sorts who stands at the Medieval-vintage crossroads and says, “aye, you are the chosen one to bring the lass her Executive Function? Here–” (swaps out the perfectly intact version headed my way for the crappy version I have now) “–she needs a Good Olde Lifelong Pain in the Arse to make life interesting; give her this one instead.” And with a raspy laugh, he and his lantern–and my would-be-full-use Executive Function–disappear into the night.
Simplifying one’s life usually involves cleaning, as a foundational component (although not always). I find the decision-making efforts involved in practically any cleaning activity are dang near insurmountable. Behold…
Do I want to keep this item? It’s usually not a clear yes-no situation. It’s usually more like, well, I haven’t used it in a long time, but every time I’ve given something away due to looking at it for ten years without using it, I’ve found myself (usually about two weeks later) in a position where I really could have used that item. In fact, I probably forgot I had given it away and spent several hours stomping around the apartment in frustration, assuming I misplaced it (again) and trying in vain to find it.
So no, I’m not in a huge hurry to get rid of something unless I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I won’t need or use it anymore.
It always amuses me how much judgment people pass on this whole situation, too. The less of a clue they have, the more judgmental they are.
“Do you really need (Item X, Item Y, X number of Y’s, Item X organized according to Classification System Y…you get the idea)?” Their intentions might be genuine or pure (although I’m starting to wonder about that), but (either way), it simply shows how ignorant and somewhat rude they are.
The simple answer to any of this Third Party Judgment-Passing Posed as a Flimsy Question is, “because I’m not you.”
When I’m feeling either particularly helpful or particularly feisty, I might go on to add, “…and our brains work differently, and what makes a good solution for one might only make another’s predicament worse.” The Particularly Feisty Me might punctuate the explanation with a single head-nod and an internal-only “so there”.
Answering the question of whether or not I still need something is way easier said than done. I’m sitting smack dab in the middle of a “versatile” time in my life–professionally, personally, recreationally, meteorologically/geographically, and internal-biochemically (hormone levels, body composition and shape, and whatnot). Thus, I have this feeling that I need to be ready for anything. I need to have a full spectrum of formal vs casual on hand. Athletic indoor vs rugged outdoor. Hot vs cold weather, everything from a South Texas summer to a Central Minnesota or Calgary, Alberta winter (I have far-flung family and friends; I also travel periodically for work). I might do anything from yoga to Nia to martial arts to road trips to off-roading to fishing or hunting (the latter two for food). I’m tough on clothes, so I need the right ones for each job.
Not only must I must answer that question, but I must also tackle others, like, “should I take these formal clothes to the closet in my office?”, “how should I organize/classify these tops?”, and so on.
Today, I did a bunch of that! Cleared clothes off the bed. Out of the laundry basket, too. Made laundry piles on the floor. I’m in the process of washing said piles. Put clean clothes away, according to an organized category system (yep, I even devised a system!). Completely cleaned out the suitcase I had used to go up north for Christmas (no heckling lol). Did a lot of dusting around the pertinent areas. Gathered various categories of items (such as hair scrunchies, for example) that were scattered around the apartment and funneled them toward designated focal points (such as the bathroom vanity, in our hair-scrunchie example).
I know I’m not done yet. In fact, I’m nowhere near done. I have a long way to go.
Additionally, it’ll be an ongoing thing (anything involving cleaning, laundry, etc always is), which is one attribute that, when considering my Asperger’s/autism operating system, might actually work in my favor!
Anything that occurs on an ongoing basis carries the potential to be incorporated into a routine. I hadn’t done that before, for reasons I can only speculate (and even the speculation is beyond the scope of this post). But maybe it can begin to catch on.
This would require quite a bit of work on several fronts and quite a bit of energy of several different types and sources. But perhaps, one of these days, weeks, months, years, I can do it successfully. That means that I try now, and keep trying. It also means I won’t beat myself up if it doesn’t happen (catch on) this time or the next.
I make progress by taking steps and if/when the new good habits become routine, I’ll know I’ve achieved success.
The routine itself will add to the simplicity by reducing its adversary, chaos. The more that is routine the less there is to decide. The more that is known, the less there is unknown. Each step of the routine represents a question that has already been answered, and the more answers, the more confidence, and also the fewer questions and uncertainty.
I’m guessing that will reduce a lot of my current chronic anxiety, and help me get more mileage out of each day. 🙂