Saturday, July 07, 2012


The break from this series was both ironic and way too long.

 I admire people who can wade right into chaos.  Not me.  When chaos strikes, I need to step back.  I need information, I need time to process it.  Otherwise, I'm overwhelmed and can become indecisive or unable to act.  This can even be as simple as being asked to make a simple choice about where I'd like to have lunch.  I've learned some coping mechanisms, such responding with a request for a finite (preferably 2) set of choices.

I've really seen this play out rather dramatically in my son who has autism - too much of anything can overwhelm him.  Noise, motion, light.  His hands go to his ears, or he'll bury his face in your leg or he may just lay down and refuse to move.

I can also be overwhelmed by chaos represented by clutter. Sometimes it manifests itself as claustrophobia and I feel an immediate need to escape and other times, it becomes a compulsive need to bring over from the chaos, regardless of how much more important some other thing is.  Other coping mechanisms can be the "dirty room" where everything goes until I'm in a better mind to deal with it.

During a session with our daughter's neurobehavioralist, my wife and I learned a lot about each other.  She does not see the clutter as a problem like I do and is a "spreader" - if she can see it, she can find it again.  I would frustrate her no end when I would move stuff from the kitchen to the dining room table in an effort to clean the kitchen.  It turned out that it wasn't the moving, but the piling and re-sorting I did as I moved, believing I was helping.  My wife's still not 100% happy that I move stuff, but now I keep things the way they were when I relocate and her stress level's gone way down.  (I move because the goal is always to then move on to the dining room next, though I'm rarely as successful there because there's no next place to move things that I don't know what to do with.  Except the family room, but we've already done that too many times and agreed not to put more in there until we've dealt with what's already in there.)

My anxiety around clutter and chaos fits so perfectly with my desire for simplicity.  There will always be chaos I can't control, but there's no sense in me adding my own, or adding complexity that can become chaos.  Remember the Milk and Evernote are two tools I use to keep my life straight in this regard, using principles from Getting Things Done - get it out of my head and confidently know it's stored where I can find it again.

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