Organization has been something I have trouble with for all my life. My very first school report cards include comments about my organization, and I remember getting chided for losing stuff more than other kids while still in preschool. This is something that surprises and confuses people who know me well.
You see, I’m very good at organizing things.
Except when I’m not. And then I’m a fucking train wreck.
When it comes to putting order to chaos, to systematizing a set of data, to seeing patterns and sorting things into categories, and to similar work, I am very good at organizing. I am the person who other people run filing systems past at work. I am the person that other people go to for designing systems to be easy to find, logical and sensible. I do it in writing, when I formulate arguments for papers and proposals, on my computer with my system of filing scientific papers, and so on. I know how to set things up in a way that makes sense. Even when it’s a job that would drive most others up the wall with tedium, I get a quiet satisfaction out of bringing order to the chaos. I enjoy it.
But when it comes to keeping things neat on a day to day basis, and other organization tasks that require keeping track of small things or remembering to do things that aren’t easily put into a routine, like doctor’s appointments and running unexpected errands, we leave “strength” territory and enter “train wreck” territory.
Other people can’t understand how I can be so good at organizing things, yet so bad at keeping myself organized. I’m not really sure I understand it myself, except that I’m pretty sure it’s executive function related. But, to make a long story short: the set of skills used to see patterns, and make things conform to those patterns – i.e., those used to make a one-time organizational effort – are completely different to those used to keep track of appointments and clutter and suchlike. People bundle both skill sets under the heading of “organization” and assume it’s the same thing, and then can’t understand why I can be so good at it until I’m a train wreck.
There’s different types of organization. I’m good the system-design type and the follow-routine type, but very bad at the keep stuff neat and keep track of things types. This is why I can beautifully organize all my books alphabetically and by subject… and then over the next few months/years, entropy will take over until the organization is destroyed, until the lack of organization ticks me off again and I re-organize.
And don’t tell me that if I do “a little bit at a time,” it’s easier.
It’s not. If it was easier for me to do it your way, don’t you think that I would?