Saturday, August 13, 2011

Perfectionism, ADD, and Organizing: Not a Good Mix

My husband recently asked me how I used to be able to stage manage shows, or how I can plan church work, but I can't organize my own office. (Well, I can organize my own office, but usually only in a manic organizing fit and it never stays organized.)

I can organize and manage things outside of myself because I can see the individual steps and I can see an end to someone else's task, but not my own. I am too close to my own stuff to be able to see the individual parts. When I look at my office, I see a ton of stuff and no plan. I get overwhelmed, panic, and become unable to decide what to do next. I can sit in my office for hours and get three-fourths of the room done and be paralyzed with being unable to figure out the last steps to complete the project.

However, invite me into your office, and I can organize the heck out of it. You will have a place for everything, and everything in it's place. And here is where the other problem lies.

I want everything to be perfect. If something can't be perfect, my first instinct is that it's worthless. If my office can't be perfectly organized, with a place for everything, I think it is pointless to try and put things away. I can't visualize where the individual pieces will go, so they just get tossed on my desk. Part of the perfectionism is because if I don't see something, I forget about it. I need things to be perfect so I don't forget anything.

For instance, I actually had all my makeup organized in labeled drawers, yet I barely used any of it. This is because I couldn't see it. The ideal storage system for me would be to have everything hanging on my walls so I see it at all times. As a step in this direction, that is what I did with my makeup this week, I hung it on a magnetic board.

Most people don't understand why I just can't get it together and be organized. Literally, I just can't do it. Multi-step systems of organizing, like writing appointments down and transferring it to my calendar, are too confusing. I always forget to transfer the information because if it is not in front of me, I don't remember to do it.

I have been told, and read in various books, that the inattention and inability to see the individual pieces of a project are due to my Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD.) The perfectionism is part of both the bipolar disorder and the ADD.

I have tried everything to figure out how to deal with these complications of my illness and I have yet to find a solution. I have read a ton of organizing books and they all are too complicated for me. There are files, steps, bins, buckets, and rules as to how many times you touch a piece of mail.

If anyone has a system that works for you, I would love to hear about it. I could always hire a stage manager for my own life, and I am seriously contemplating doing that.

Rev. Katie


  1. Hey, we could do a room exchange. You organize my office and I'll do yours!

  2. OH Gosh I get this too!

    So often, my craftroom will look like a wreck, and then I just won't like how something functions cos its not perfect, and so it gets hard for me to put things away into a place thats not 'working'.

    I often wondered myself if this was part of the Bipolar thing, because I clearly remember in highschool never worrying about such things, literally scrunching a piece of clothing up in the bottom of the closet was fine, nowadays that would send me into a panic attack! lollll. (My BP came in at about 20)

    But I LOVE the way you've organised your makeup, really looks neat and also can see how it works well too to 'see' everything, I am a visual person like that too, I like to SEE everything, not just have it hidden away in a draw!

    So good on you!

  3. I started out being pretty organized, and then my bipolar disorder hit and organization seemed extremely difficult. Now, after about fifteen years of disorganization, I have finally become more organized. Setting routines, making checklists, and using calendars have all helped a great deal. If you start these things, they will be unnatural at first, but as your organization improves and your life becomes easier to manage, you may be motivated to keep up the system you have developed. I think it is important that you develop your own system, because only you know what you truly need.

  4. Wanted to let you know I'm featuring your make-up board in a Magnetic Make-up Board Round up.

  5. Thank you Laura! Actually, I have been following your blog because when I made my board, I looked for other magnetic makeup boards and found yours. I also love your quote from "Wicked" on your header. It is one of my favorite songs.


    Rev. Katie

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  7. FINALLY someone is sharing my pains!

    I feel it's actually me who wrote this post, Rev.!!

    I'm a super manager and a leader by nature, but one day I looked at my desk and realized it's a reflection of my mind: my mind is a mess! I act mindlessly in my personal life, and my office is part of my personal life...

    I also realized that I often look neat in front of people, but not in my own personal I would wipe milk off a starbucks table when i've spilled some, but I won't do the same at home...

    it hit me: I act differently in public because I care about my image and how people see when i'm alone, i couldn't care less...

    I realized that being a perfectionist is a defense mechanism...

    I advice that you keep it simple: don't buy too much make-up if you are only using so much...and get rid of stuff u don't need...i could tell i don't need a certain thing by how much i use it...if i go on with my daily life and they don't surface, then i probably don't need them...

    I also like to keep all my appointment in one calendar...but of course i forget to look in i keep it open on my desk as much as i can to remember seeing the stuff i wrote down...

    I recommend the book "getting things done" talks about dumping all ur tasks into a system that functions outside of your brain...after dumping stuff out, all you need to do is to focus on checking on the system to see what the next task is...pretty neat...

    best of all