Does anyone else have this problem re: housework? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 7 Old 10-08-2010, 09:15 PM - Thread Starter
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Doing housework of any kind is a MASSIVE struggle for me. I'm just not one of those people who can turn on some music and get busy while singing along. I have to be 100% in my head focused on the task or I cannot do it. Its very likely an ADD type thing (pretty much 100% of my family of origin is, some medicated, some not) but I don't know how to move past it!

Some examples

I can do "black and white" tasks without difficulty. Unloading the dishwasher. Remove dishes. Put in cupboard. I'm done when the dishwasher is empty. Black and white. Laundry. Take clothes from hamper, put in washer, add soap, push buttons. Easy. Putting away is difficult because I can't put away in the kids rooms when they're sleeping and its difficult for me to do anything when they're underfoot. too distracting since housework takes so much mental energy out of me, I just don't have any to spare for even the simplest of kid chatter. I get so frazzled trying to listen/respond and do what I need to do that I'll finally just snap and scream.

so tasks that are not black and white, very difficult. if I'm loading the dishwasher, I'm thinking about whether a given dish needs to be rinsed, which i'd rather wash by hand if they're too big, whether they're packed so tightly they won't get clean, not to mention "tetris"ing everything in there. Thats a relatively tame example, because ultimately, I *can* do it.

What I cannot do, at all, is clutter. And thats the bulk of it. My kitchen counter right now, has a LOT of stuff on it. small appliances that I use often, like blender and toaster. plenty of dirty dishes, boxes of cereal, bottles of vitamins, a donut box that only has 1 bite left in it, plastic wrap, candle, fan, cooler, paper towels, newspaper ads, some things that need to go out to recycling.. and plenty more, thats just what I'm managing to pick out. Its kind of a two fold problem. "Seeing".. I mean, obviously my vision is fine but i see the mass as one whole entity. The Mess. I don't see individual things.. I guess thats hard to explain when I DID point out individual things, but trust me.. it takes considerable effort. Because not all of it IS "The Mess" Some of it is "legitimate kitchen counter items" The second part of the problem is deciding what the heck to do with it. Whats what? Its a good place for the fan on hot days. The paper towels belong. The plastic wrap is a huge costco box and would be very awkward to put into a cupboard. The dishes, and recycling are obvious mess. The toaster and blender.. well, the counter could be a good home, or they might need a home in the cupboard to declutter. vitamins are nice to have out and available, but its also more clutter. cereal boxes are nice to have out and available.... and do you see where I'm going? There is NO LINE between "saves time to just leave it out" and "put that crap in a cupboard so you have room to prepare a meal"

My SIL is like a tornado in the kitchen. She was over when I was having dd's birthday party, and she was just whipping through clearing things away as they weren't needed, wrapping up leftovers and cleaning up spills.. stuff that would have gone WAY over my head. Its just her personality and strength. My brain does not work that way. I probably can't force it to, but gosh, it'd be nice to have some amount of skills in that department. I don't expect to have a perfect house, but to have a clue what to do so that cleaning in 15 min spurts, or making mondays be cleaning day, or whatever I decide is even a possibility.. it would be nice.

Does anyone else have this problem?

dd (9) ds (7), ds (4) & ds (1)
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#2 of 7 Old 10-08-2010, 09:37 PM
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I have a perhaps similar problem in that I tend to get distracted with "but firsts" when doing housework. Let's cook dinner, but first do the dishes, but first chop the onion so it can be caramelizing while I'm doing the dishes, but first... I also strongly suspect that I have ADD.

However, it sounds like my solution is the opposite of yours: I _add_ distractions, and that lets me do the work. If I cook and clean with a book propped up on the counter or in the hand that isn't dusting or spraying or carrying things around, stuff gets done. I can't tell you much about how I make the decisions or get it done, because apparently paying attention to that process, keeps it from happening.

For the specific problem of the kitchen counter, could you let your tornado SIL make all the decisions about what belongs where and how often it should be put there (immediately after use, every night, once a week, whatever), and then write them down in a list, tape the list up on the fridge, and live that way for a couple of weeks or a month? That way you'd be back to the firmly defined tasks.

Then if you decide after that couple of weeks or a month that you're tired of, say, getting out the plastic wrap, you could make a considered decision to change that, and edit the list. So you'd still be in charge, but you'd be starting out with a setup designed by someone who has the skills that you feel that you don't have.
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#3 of 7 Old 10-08-2010, 10:38 PM
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Sounds frustrating! I think it's awesome that you're asking for help - we all need it in one area or another!

It sounds like you have quite a bit of stuff that doesn't really have a place where it actually belongs. Is that true? It's super hard to clean when there's a lot of stuff "out," so definitely finding someone who will help clear out all that clutter could be super helpful. The goal of "a place for everything, and everything in its place" might be especially important for you. That turns a task into a much more black and white proposition.

So who are the people in your life who could help you out with this? It sounds SIL is a great suggestion from pp. Are there others? A friend? Another family member? Is there someone you could pay to do this, if needed?

Last suggestion, which we use for our kids but might be helpful to you as well. We took a picture of dd's bedroom in its "clean" state. It has a brief bullleted list underneath: clothes put away, toys on shelves, corners vacuumed, bed made. We can now tell her to go clean her room and between the list and the picture, it's almost an easy job for her, whereas before we struggled and struggled. Thought it might help make it even more black and white for you as well.

Good luck!

Married to DH since 2006.  Adoptive mom to DD1 (June 2002), DS (Jan 2006), and bio mom to DD2 (May 2009).

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#4 of 7 Old 10-08-2010, 11:44 PM
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My husband has ADD and is the same way...if he can't hyperfocus on cleaning, then he can barely focus on it at all. And that kind of deep focus is next to impossible to achieve with small children around. I'm the tornado, so I just do most of the organizing and "scavenger beetle" (dealing with crap and debris) duties, and let him fill in for some of my own weak areas.

Your sil would probably actually have fun organizing your kitchen for you, then afterward you could tweak the organization if it didn't suit you exactly. Maybe you have a creative talent that you can share with her in return.

Or, if you want to make a start by yourself, you could decide how much counter space you want to keep free, and start finding other homes for things until you have it--one thing at a time.

I practically have mental lines painted all over, designating free working space that needs to be cleaned up, versus more static space, where things are allowed to linger. (My husband, though, has a hard time visualizing anything, and I would just about have to paint real lines on the counters for him to remember where the zones are.)

My eyes glaze over too, when things start coalescing into a Mess...and it makes me terribly uncomfortable, so I usually tackle it right away. As others said, sometimes you can see the problems more clearly if you take a picture.

There was a book, Organizing for the Creative Person, that my husband found somewhat helpful.
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#5 of 7 Old 10-09-2010, 12:06 AM
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I agree with the PP's to get some help. Let someone who is good at it, get 1 room in your house all organized (with your input). Then try to maintain it for a month (or even a week if a month is overwhelming!). Then invite the person back to help you troubleshoot things, and make changes.

I find I am mentally a lot calmer and happier if my stuff is all in its place. My hous is nowhere near perfect/minimalist/whatever, but stuff is in certain places, and certain horizontal surfaces are either clear or have distinct piles. Getting to that point makes it easier to keep up with.

When you try to find a place for your stuff you have to compromise between what works best for your life (ie cereal out is handy) and what works best for keeping you mentally clear (kitchen counters are cleaned off). Maybe you could put a basket out on the counter and everything has to be contained to that. Or literally tape a line like the PP alluded to.

Suzan, mama to DS 9-18-07 and #2 EDD 3/4/10 GIRL!.
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#6 of 7 Old 10-09-2010, 12:48 AM - Thread Starter
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Yeah, I should see if sil, or anyone, wants to come help! Love the idea of designating sections of counter space as "always clear" vs more...flexible. That could really work for us. And the picture idea is awesome! I think I'm going to do that for dd to help her learn to clean her room.

And yes.. yes.. we are having a serious "stuff" problem. I need to go through and find stuff that we can get rid of. We moved over the summer. And moved into a furnished home that the owner is going to be coming back to. So this complicates things, a lot. The garage is way too cluttered for us to add any boxes that we want to store (holiday decorations, old baby items that we want to save) so, for most the summer we lived here only having taken a handful of van loads from our old place. Just recently, we decided to get serious about moving and got a uhaul. Now.. imagine packing a 15 foot uhaul and unloading it into a house thats already furnished and being lived in and doesn't in any way appear to be empty/lacking anything? Yeah, its kinda giving me the shakes!! (we gave away all our furniture except our beds/dressers) When we first got here, we had a ton of offers from people at church to help us move in/unpack.. and we were like, nah, we're good.. because we were! We only brought what we could fit in a minivan and the kitchen was fully stocked, pots, pans, utensils.. so there wasn't really unpacking to do. I think its time to go to all those people and be like, "hey! Yeah, wanna help unpack now?"

That said, my OP isn't a problem because of moving. Its pretty much always been a problem. But seeing boxes everywhere is a definite "omg AHHH I need this place clean and organized NOW" kick in the pants.

dd (9) ds (7), ds (4) & ds (1)
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#7 of 7 Old 10-09-2010, 07:15 PM
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i'm in a place now where i'm just having to reign in my husband. he's a total piler, and honestly does not see messes. it's largely because he comes from a family of piling pack rats.

it is a constant battle to get him to throw away paper, so i do have designated spaces where he can make a mess. one basket, one corner of a desk, and one section of counter in the kitchen. that's it, the rest is kept clean. usually by me, but it's still managed in an on-going basis.
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