Thursday, September 12, 2013

The ADHD Guide to Junk Pile Taming

The Forgotten Beasts of Billed

There are beasts lurking in my home. They are jagged, ugly things that tower in corners. They sit by the TV and sprawl upon my kitchen counter. They come out at night in my bedroom to trip me in the dark. They are made out of forgotten intentions and the expensive dreams of the past whose sole purpose is to weigh me down and crush me under their toppling mass.

Oh, who am I kidding? They're junk piles. After I spent January thru March sick with flu & pneumonia, then March until now recovering from a car accident, I have created the nightmarish horror of several junk piles. My normally organized receipt collection and carefully sorted bill folders have been transformed into mounds of paper piles. If I need to find a document or bill, I must excavate it from the geological layers of my neglected shame.

Once you let them get out of control, junk piles are hard to manage. Important bills and letters can be mislaid, making you miss deadlines. Gifts can be lost as well. I spent two months digging through my piles trying to find free memberships to the local aquarium a friend gave us. I found them three days before he showed up with new printouts of them. If you think that was embarrassing, try receiving a call from a friend wondering if I had received an anonymous gift card yet. Yeah, $500 sitting in a junk pile. I was mortified. No matter how sick and injured I was, it was time to tame the beasts.

Why Do Junk Piles Give Adults with ADHD a Hard Time?

The problem with junk piles, however, is that they are boring. You don't have to be sick or suffering from two prolapsed disks to avoid them. Almost everybody has junk piles and finds them boring, but they don't like them around the house eating the guests so they tame the piles on a regular basis. They just roll up their sleeves and do the work, or, horrors, sort the mail & documents as they come in through the front door. They're so organized! It's unnatural, I tell you. Their attention span isn't a caged animal desperately looking for an escape like the one trapped inside my mind.

I recommend triaging the piles quickly into main groups. I have school, medical, bills, receipts, and other. My “other” pile is smaller than you might imagine because I follow the maxim “When in doubt, throw it out.” Anything you keep has to be important or it just becomes part of a pile someday. Once you have triaged the piles, tackle one beast a day.

Cleaning Junk Piles with ADHD

All that sounds simple enough, but it's still boring. How do I find the focus to get the work done? Well, first I am highly motivated. This can overcome ADHD’s intolerance for boredom. After all, while I was triaging I came across invitations to help a friend with two differeemt fund raising drives from August. I had promised to contribute my time and had forgotten all about them. My friend laughed because she had forgotten about them, too, so no harm done, but what else was in there awaiting further embarrassment? And who knows? Maybe there was another $500 gift card in there. I was motivated, but still needed a push. Here's how I chip away at each pile:

  1. High energy music
  2. A timer
  3. The torture

If you're able to multitask, you might try making a phone call to a friend instead of playing rousing music, but 15 minutes here and there will kill the beasts. There are treasures as well as sleeping dragons to be found, but being on top of your paper piles will help you vanquish the beasts. No more hunting around wildly for missing documents. No more stubbing your toes against a pile in the dead of night. Maybe, too, you'll be able to use that kitchen counter to prepare food for a change. The possibilities are boundless.

Adults with ADHD find chronic procrastination to be troublesome, but it can be managed if you break the problems down into smaller components. Junk piles are the worst form of procrastination because mislaid bills cost you more, menace your credit rating, and can cause random court appearances. It's not a recommended lifestyle. Turn up the music and get to work. Banish those beasts for good.