Taming the Paper Tiger: Humor, Filing and Adult ADD

beforeHere is a guest post from my friend, Addy Bell, over at Well-Ordered Chaos – enjoy!

This week, I tackled one of the most challenging organizational issues for anyone, let alone an adult with ADD.

I did the filing.

That’s right. I created a filing system for a couple of years worth of paperwork, and I did it all by myself. I am mighty!

The process was surprisingly emotional. My towering stacks of paperwork represented years of shame and failure. If you have ADD, I don’t have to tell you how much time and energy I’ve spent looking for lost papers, then giving up and figuring out how to get the information by some other means, and then, of course, desperately pretending to the rest of the world that I hadn’t lost them in the first place.

what I threw outOver the past five years I have slowly conquered my chaos — with the exception of my files. I’ve been putting off this job for a year and a half, letting my papers pile up on my kitchen table, always finding an excuse not to do complete this last and most daunting task. Part of the problem is that filing is important, in a grown-up kind of way that transcends knowing where the can opener is. Losing an important piece of paper from the IRS has serious consequences. Thinking about them is paralyzing. If you throw in some traumatic memories of being constantly ridiculed for your disorganization… well, that’s a recipe for some serious emotional overwhelm.

I realized that in order to get my filing over with, I needed to find a way to make the process fun.

It sounds crazy, but if there’s anything I’ve learned about organizing with ADD, it’s that there’s always a way to make it fun.

There are cool organizing gadgets that feel like toys, there are brightly-colored file folders, and there are even ways to inject humor into the organizing process. Not only do these tricks help you create an organizing system that you enjoy using, but having fun is a way to take ownership of your project. It’s a way to be gentle with yourself when you’re facing a job that intimidates you.

shiny new files!As I sorted my papers into categories, I let my inner child mouth off to my mean fourth grade teacher for making me clean my desk while the other kids got to go outside for recess, and I wound up with some pretty fun categories. For instance, my artistic income goes in a file marked “Pennies”. Receipts for art supplies and studio equipment are in the category called “Penury”. The folder related to art shows is “Creative Juice”. IRS documents are labeled “The Man”.

My inner smart-aleck kept me laughing through a task that could have overwhelmed me. A lot of us with ADD have learned to muzzle this side of ourselves, because it’s gotten us into so much trouble — but when we’re faced with an overwhelming job like filing, it can be a valuable ally, turning drudgery into something that is both functional and fun.[LG]Here’s a great set of Rolling File Baskets to get you started![/LG]

“Addy Bell is an adult with ADD. She blogs about the challenges of getting and staying organized at Well-Ordered Chaos

8 thoughts on “Taming the Paper Tiger: Humor, Filing and Adult ADD

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  • May 5, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    Great articles and helpful info. I’m glad I am not the only one that has piles, and piles, and even more piles of papers. This is giving me an incentive. That and some “notes” from the IRS.Thanks.

  • May 5, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    Ha – Nothing like a nice note from the IRS to put a fire under your butt! Glad we could help in a nicer way. 🙂 Thanks, DJ!

  • May 21, 2010 at 10:10 am

    Do you have any suggestions for organizing craft room?I have a crart room/spare room that is a disaster/overwhelms me. Is it good to seek person with organizational skills or will they just think that I’m lazy and dumb? It would make my life easier if things were somewhat organized. Thanks, Julie

  • May 21, 2010 at 10:46 am

    Julie – thanks for the comment! That is exactly what professional organizers do. They realize that we don’t all have the same strengths, and organizing is their passion! No one will think you’re lazy or dumb!
    Please check out some of the blogs on my blogroll and some of the authors on our “about us” page. Some of them are professional organizers offering services through their sites.
    Good luck to you – you can do it. Sometimes we just need a little help! 🙂

  • July 19, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    Great article. The paper can accumulate so quickly and you don’t even realize it, since it’s…thin paper. :0) I’ve developed a habit to once a week go through my inbox to bring it back to empty. As long as I keep that up, no problems…

  • February 10, 2011 at 9:17 am

    Wonderful article – thank you for sharing your success at overcoming what we call “organizational inertia” – just getting started. I LOVE your categories especially “The Man” – how appropriate! LOL!

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