Simplicity, progress, and Asperger’s / autism [Mental Health Monday]

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a Saturday, or perhaps a Friday afternoon, I’ll come down to the office and sift through the cabinet, tossing the old, outdated versions into a big recycling pile.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. 🙂

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24 Comments

  1. I am always working on this, too. In winter my executive function stops functioning and I find myself in spring ankle deep in unfinished projects and things not put away. Just when I get it all sorted out winter starts up again!

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Hehe yep I hear ya 😉. My theory is that it is and it’s not 😉. I think our energies naturally wax and wane with seasons and seasonal changes. I think that it affects some people differently than others 😊. I think that it can become an issue for some, whereas a merely amusing quirk for others, and some will be somewhere in between 😁💙💜

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds like a very productive day! 🙂 I haven’t forgotten the nom, by the way. 🙂 I’m trying to space them out a bit. Does that make sense? It’s just way too much omg, look ANOTHER award type thing for me. I hope you understand. Def, not blowing you off. Hope your day is nice and relaxing after all the chores! I have the same to do tonight, yet. Peace. 💖

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you luv! Omg I thought I had replied to this comment, then I thought I hadn’t, and now I realized that I had after all, but WP app on my mobile must have eaten it! (Grrrr). Sorry about that! My brain really does suck right now, but maybe not as bad as I thought lol. Technology sucks more! (Which is nothing new for me). Thank you so much for the heads up, though! This way I know I needed to try again.

      I totally know what you mean about spacing out the noms; I’ve been in that same boat too 😊💙. I totally understand! No problem, no hurry, no worries 😘😘💓. I know you’re not the type to blow me off, and please know that I operate the same way in that I’d never blow you off either I promise 😘❤️🌺🌷

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “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.”

    Or perhaps you decided, “Okay, now that I’ve got the hang of serenity in a calm environment, I need a life where I can work on achieving serenity amidst chaos — but not TOO MUCH chaos, just yet.”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I went from being a homemaker for 40 years to losing it all and having to downsize to living in one (albeit rather large) rental room. I had the basic tidiness thing down pat- until these last 7 years here. I am SO STUCK. I’ve reached the point of feeling paralyzed about getting rid of/organizing the rest of my belongings. I’ve been fighting it and it keeps winning- at best it’s a draw. Good luck with your situation. I wish I had a fairy housemother to come and help me. Can’t afford to hire one!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh wow 💞💞. So sorry to hear about that, as I can only imagine that’s quite a shakeup 💙💜. The stuck feeling- ugh, that’s the worst 💐💐. I totally can relate to your desire for a fairy house-mother!! Omg yes. And yep, it’s the $$$ that holds us back as well 💞💞. Thank you for the warm wishes, and I wish you the best of luck with your situation too! 👍🏼💙💜💓

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I totally click with where you are coming from. I seem to be forever putting things away, trying to find things, organize things, give away things ( I have a bag in the garage right now to go to our local second hand store too). I always seem to go one step forward and two steps backwards. Making decisions is my downfall. I tried going through my summer clothes but after agonizing over whether to keep or give away each of a small pile of tops I gave up. My brain was short circuiting! On top of all this, try adding in a housefull of your parents stuff! When I had to sell their house I got most of their stuff so now I get to painfully make millions of decisions about every object they ever owned. It doesn’t help that they were pack rats!! Thanks for your blog. I really can relate and I find your musings ( if I can use that word) highly interesting and engaging.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Sure, musings is a great term 😊. Thank you so much for your kind words, dear friend! I’m so happy to be of any help/support/etc possible 🌷. That just means that the balance is struck; so many blogs have helped me so much 😁. I can only imagine what you’re going through! Decision-making can be so difficult and that’s just one’s own stuff; I can’t imagine having to go through anyone else’s, especially loved ones, and especially if they were pack rats 😘💞. You are amazing 🙌🏼🌺💖

      Like

  6. “… 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…”

    Yes!!! This! Every. Single. Time.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Very glad you are finding ways to simplify. ❤I am a huge fan of simplicity. I hate clutter. Makes me very, very irritable. I do what I can to avoid it. Sadly, it’s kind of a tall order most times, seeing as five other somebodies have their stuff, too, that I must live with-one in particular who leaves his assorted tools and whatevers wherever he last used them. 😡If I dare move them where they are not immediately visible? Well, umm…batten down the hatches! I feel terrible saying this-as I love my family infinitely-but I sometimes dream of a tiny apartment with just the bare necessities. Ah, that would be heavenly! Lol. Funny-most people dream of more stuff and here I am longing for less! But, apparently, the streamlined life is not mine to live at this juncture. ☺

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Omg yes!! 👏🏼👏🏼. I can totally relate – to practically all of it! 😂 – the irritability, the “martial law” (my term) not to move my stuff, the One In Particular who just leaves their stuff where they used it last, etc lol. Omg the tiny apartment!! I love walking through IKEA stores where they have displays of *tiny* fully-furnished living spaces. Lol. I see those Tiny Houses online every so often and start drooling lol. Longing For Less is a fantastic way to put it! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼😘❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  8. This is so great that you starting to declutter. It truly does reduce anxiety. I’ve even started thinking less of what the item is that could be tossed and more upon when was it last used and when would it be used again. If not been looked at or needed for 6 months it usually goes unless a seasonal reason. I find more peace with less things around.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. This is a daily choice isn’t it. Each day our efforts are to develop good habits to squish out the old and not so good habits. Yet there is the dilemma of really looking at the old habits to see if they really needed to be replaced.

    Liked by 1 person

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