Organised & Systemised NOT Neat & Tidy

The ADHD way to organise narrow spaces

We live in a terraced house. The house is long and narrow. No garage. No cellar, and very little storage space in the attic.  Over the years I have become super ruthless about what items I allow entry into my home. The main criteria when buying stuff that we need for only one part of the year, for example beach toys for the summer, wooden sledge for the snow is, “Do we have room to store it?”

My family members have bought items in the past that have not passed my strict criteria. They have had to return those items to where they came from! No excuses…

My 3 boys aged 9-18, do a lot of woodwork and crafts.  My 18 year old son does bookbinding for the local synagogues and Jewish libraries. My boys did their work on a table in the corner of the kitchen, that spread to all four corners of the room and beyond… We recently renovated our home. I had no clue where their work station would go. All I knew was I did not want that mess again in my home. My family gave me all sorts of suggestions where to create their work station. None of them felt right. 

Then, as part of the renovations, the builders took away the existing cupboard that was under the stairs on the ground floor. Suddenly a light bulb went on inside my head! This was the perfect place for their work station.

I asked the builders to create a socket and a light switch in that corner.

I called in a company to create my dream.

Well, here it is…I got my way, despite lots of protestations and outright mutiny from some family members.

I created a work station and a coat centre. Both ideas work beautifully together.

Work station- There is a solid oak counter, and a small 3 door cupboard under the counter. On the wall there is cladding to store all the tools.

Coat centre – There are 3 pull out drawers. The first one is for coats, the second one for tools, and the smallest cupboard is perfect for shoes.


What I have learned from this project:

    1. Whenever there is change, there is always chaos before and after the change. That is to be expected. We needed clear the space under the stairs and move the work station to other parts of the house. Well, my kitchen got quite cluttered for a few days.
    2. When the cupboard was completed, sigh, we needed to sort and find homes for all the stuff. Not a job for the fainthearted.
    3. Some family members were upset that the drawer cupboards were smaller than they expected. Yes, the cupboards may be slightly narrower, but that part of the hall is a bit more spacious. It’s a long and narrow hall, so every inch of space makes a difference. Perfectionists want everything, but that is not possible. I know the organising principle, “Stuff fills up the space you give it.” The smaller the space, the less likely you are to over stuff it. This only holds true if one knows how to think flexibly. More about that in my ground breaking book on decluttering here.
    4. Despite extremely loud protestations from certain family members that the work station would be far too small, too messy, too ugly, an eye sore, I stood my ground.  This experience taught me yet again to listen to my inner soul voice… As you can see from the pictures, the tool station is hidden under the stairs and not immediately visible when you enter the house…
    5. All coats are now hung on coat hooks. Some family members were unhappy about this. They have since gotten used to it as I knew they would…
    6. It takes time to get used to a new space. As you can see from the photo, we haven’t totally sorted ourselves out.  We need more tool hooks and more boxes. Buying them will take time and focus. This is a normal part of change, and is to be expected. One doesn’t wave a magic wand and “poof” everything magically finds it place, by itself. It takes a long time, thought, and a huge amount of mental energy to adapt to a new space. This is even more true if you have ADHD…
    7. The boys feel proud of their new work space, and since they know where every item goes, (almost…) tidying up is far quicker and easier.
    8. My ability to decide, organise, get started on time, are all getting much more difficult as I get older. I look at my daughters’ energy and focus, and I see myself in them 20 + years ago… I now need more specialist ADHD tools to help me adapt and be more productive.
    9. These challenges are rooted in the brain’s executive functions. More about that in my book “Own Your ADHD – Discover Your True Potential.” Also available in kindle and audio book here. 
    10. Nothing is perfect. Since it is so hard to imagine how the space will look like, now that it is completed, I would make some really small tweaks. The ADHD default brain is to ruminate, and think and obsess. Life is too short. The cupboard has been completed. The skill and workmanship are really superb. There is no perfection in life.  There is only “Good Enough.” 

There is still a long way to go to acclimatise and transition to a new phase. There are lots of creases to smooth out, more hooks to buy, cupboard shelves to adjust, and family members to support along the way.

Little by little I am inching along the path.

The ADHD brain needs to understand that change happens slowly, not in one huge leap.

Such is life…

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