No Commiseration for an Earthquake of Clutter, by Amy

By September 20, 2019 November 12th, 2019 NVLD Bloggers

On a Thursday morning a couple of weeks ago, I found my keys in the kitchen sink. I had been frenetically searching for them amid the “rubble” of the recurrent earthquakes of unkemptness that seem to erupt on a regular basis inside of my 690-square ft. apartment. I finally waved an invisible white flag of surrender when the all-too familiar catchy couplet resonated in my mind: “St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come around. My _____ (keys) have been lost and must be found!” I had to find them quickly in order to drive over to a local ATM prior work, as a friend who cleans my apartment would be arriving in a few hours. (Yes, I will painfully admit that I have been paying for assistance in cleaning such a small space over the past couple of years.) After conducting a speech-language therapy session at a client’s home that evening, I finally decided to respond to the conspicuous illuminated low fuel icon on my dashboard.

It seems that, in spite of persistent admonishment from my parents and past mentors, I cannot muster the self-discipline necessary to stop at a gas station before less than probably 0.2 gallons remain. I then reaffirmed my timing to be incorrigible when I realized that I was entering a parade of cars that was preparing to ride out Hurricane Dorian’s wrath. When I finally arrived at the pump, I discovered that, amid the farrago of speech-language therapy materials, toys, art project pieces, apparel, papers, etc., my purse (the only item that actually mattered) was not in the car. I realized that I would have to resort to handing the cashier the two single dollar bills that I had serendipitously excavated from one of my disheveled therapy bags approximately two hours earlier. My seemingly perpetual state of disorganization would yield a small blessing that would avert the perilous mishap of being stuck off the side of the highway at night. Unfortunately, I would soon confront the reality that this incident would only be postponed. The next afternoon, I would find myself apprehensively waiting for over two hours for a technician to arrive with a container of gas.

If one of your former assistants has asked you if messiness is your style, if your parents have implored you to get a house cleaner, if you practically always leave something at your parents’ house unless your mother inspects the rooms as you prepare to walk out the door, or if an assistant principal has informed you that your office looks like an explosion, rest assured that you are not alone. Deficits in the visual-spatial skills required for maintaining some degree of organization can prove to be a particularly nettlesome thorn for working adults. I would contend that organization functions as the lynchpin of efficient service delivery and productivity in a variety of professions. When someone has a reputation for nearly impeccable organization, we may attribute that to a personal choice that only affects the individual. However, when someone is notorious for a dearth of organization, we may be inclined to recognize the domino effect of disaster that emanates from it. It is impossible to deny the inevitable cascade of consequences when a student’s or client’s evaluation protocol is missing, when you are late to meetings because you can’t locate the reference guides that you would like to provide to the parents, or when your unkempt office serves as a catalyst for your students’ self-stimulatory behaviors.

It is easy to speculate that someone who leaves messy footprints everywhere must exhibit an indolent or apathetic attitude towards tidiness. I would certainly challenge this assumption, as it seems as if my brain goes adrift when structure and categorization do not take the helm. My three brothers and I were assigned frequent household chores when growing up, and I have always despised clutter, but it often takes an inordinate amount of time and requires intense concentration as well as the recruitment of verbal strategies. When exhausted or distraught, it can be very difficult to “activate the mode” necessary to enlist the recourse of the compensatory strategies. It seems that a predilection for “checking items off a list,” engaging in structured activities (i.e., volunteering, young adult religious events, etc.), and accomplishing tasks that have a definite starting and ending point (i.e., prayer, projects for my clients and patients, continuing education, and exercise) is not always compatible with the never-ending and abstract nature of maintaining organization in an apartment, car, and workplace. Moreover, I find it necessary to “escape” my apartment as a coping strategy to mitigate the anxiety and combat a sense of entrapment and isolation (that may erupt when I cannot regulate the anxiety efficaciously). The act of organizing would also assuage the anxiety, as it would impart some degree of control; however, it is practically impossible to initiate an organization project when I become embroiled in this state. My parents and other relatives have understandably conveyed their dissatisfaction over the years, but it can be hurtful when your relatives and friends will not visit because your small place does not conform to the quintessential standard of welcomeness.

Similar to other aspects of NLD, the faucet of organization can be perceived as paradoxical: Organization may be pivotal to optimal focus and mental clarity for the cluttered NLD brain, but maintaining organization can be very difficult without concerted energy and effort. Do not get discouraged. Embrace your verbal strengths by talking to yourself to keep track of things when possible. Yes, it is annoying and may be different, but, no, you are not crazy. When you ready for a tidal wave of tidiness to ravage and reset your apartment, car, or workplace, remember the words attributed to Leo Tolstoy: “A Disorganized Desk is a Sign of Genius.”


Hi! As a speech-language pathologist, I am committed to empower others to reach their communication potential. I assist with the middle school youth ministry of my parish, volunteer with handling reptiles at a science center, and own a blue-tongued skink named “Professor Lexicon.” (-:  I have a fiery passion for words, religious liberty, and the sanctity of life.

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