One of the most interesting things about ADD is the defense mechanisms that develop in the people who have it. Add to the fact that there are many different types of ADD/ADHD and differing levels of severity to the different experiences everyone has depending on friends, family, environment, socio-economic standing, and so on, and you get a million different ways to handle the little inconveniences that crop up due to ADD.
However, despite the unique nature of how people cope with the curve balls life throws at them, there are some themes that emerge as common actions or reactions for certain groups of people. One of those common defenses is keeping everything just in case something is important.
Packrat Defense Syndrome
Having been burned one time too many by not having the right piece of paperwork or having accidentally thrown away something that was actually important, many ADDers respond by keeping virtually EVERYTHING, just in case. I like to call this Packrat Defense Syndrome. (I like to name my own things 🙂
Packrat Defense Syndrome, or PDS, works because IF the need ever arises, then the person will undoubtedly still have whatever scrap of paper, receipt, contract, box, packaging material, or whatever. There is usually a question of just where the necessary item resides, but for a big enough issue, it is worth digging through a very big pile. The trouble is, that PDS leads, by necessity to either very complicated organization or conversely, disorganization.
The average household generates an amazing amount of records that either can be important, or seem important each and every month. From form-letter type notices sent by companies, to cancelled checks, to bills, to insurance statements, bank statements, brokerage statements, and all manner of receipts, it all quickly adds up to a large amount of stuff. So much, that it can quickly overwhelm a filing cabinet and numerous file boxes. The only solution is to start organizing the organization.
Boxes with serial numbers consisting of month-day-year and then a 01, 02, 03, etc. to designate months with more than one box, all stacked vertically in storage by year, is just one example I’ve seen. Some resort to electronic systems, scanning nearly every piece of paper to cross their desk. Again, complicated spreadsheets or databases or tagging systems are necessary to keep track of it all.
In other cases, closets stuffed to the ceiling with piles and boxes of papers and other records virtually define pack rat. Finding something in there requires time and effort to dig it out. Generally, the amount of time and effort required must correspond favorably to the nature of the need, or the ADDer decides it isn’t worth it and just takes the hit like they didn’t have whatever is needed instead.
The Expiration Solution
One solution that has worked wonders for those with PDS is to stage your organization with expiration dates.
Whether very organized or not organized at all, a large amount of any paperwork or records lose their potential to be important over time. For example, receipts and packaging kept just in case it was necessary to return something lose their value after the window to return it expires. Leases, rental agreements, and even contracts stop being valuable after their termination date.
Unfortunately, with PDS, there is no purging of records and thus, even though the system has become overwhelmed, it must continuously expand rapidly.
Expiration dates can make a huge difference. Try taking a single filing box and marking it with a date 90 days from when it gets filled and you put the lid on it. For non-organized types, any box with or without a lid will do. Just throw something on top of the box so nothing else gets added once you write the date on the box.
When that date arrives, pull the box out and go through it piece by piece. As you do, you will come across things that you no longer need. In fact, you might even wonder why you saved it to begin with. Things like ATM receipts, directions to a party that you’ve already been to, and so on can all be shredded or recycled. Other things will still need to be kept. Just make 3 piles, Keep It, Shred It, Recycle/Toss It.
When you are finished, put the Keep It pile back in the box and cross out the date. Write in the date 180 days from the current date. After another six months, even more of that pile will have lost all purpose and you can further winnow the stock. Repeat the process. Anything remains after this second sorting can enter your permanent organization system, whether it’s the closet or the numbered filing cabinets. Either way, you’ll find that your system grows at a much slower rate and your organization will be that much better.