Organize? NO! Search? YES!

Atypicals don’t like to organize. In fact, we’d do almost anything to avoid it. Seems like a waste of time. “I should be DOING!” It’s a need to stay in motion.

It’s also a lack of thinking ahead. The present is what’s important and the future may never arrive, so toss it on one of the clutter piles and keep hustling. 

When something could be returned to its proper place or neatly filed, we put it off. We’re happy to sort through stacks of papers for an important document or misplaced item when it’s needed. Things only become important when we need them. This is our “now” focused thinking.

Just my quirky system

Filing and organizing is easy to avoid because it doesn’t prevent us from moving forward; we can just place things wherever. When we need the important document again later, suddenly we are prevented from moving forward. We are forced to spend time and effort searching. This seems acceptable to us, but is more work (and stress) than proper organization would have demanded.

When people look at our stacks of stuff and say, “Wow, what a mess,” we pleasantly reassure them that, “this is just my system and I know exactly where everything is.” Even if that part is true, the visual clutter inevitably saps our focus and impacts others’ perception of us. That’s stress too.

Forward with wild abandon!

We are constantly rushing forward, foot mashed down on the gas pedal. Just enough time to jerk the wheel and careen around obstacles as important documents fly out the windows. “We’ll swing back through when that becomes important!” our ADHD reassures wildly. It’s terrifying, and exhilarating. In our natural state, we’d only do anything (beyond our most passionate desires) if it was unavoidable: eating, sleeping, etc.

But the neurotypical system we live in does not operate on the same adrenaline-fueled whimsy of our passions. This is an area for adaptation!


1. Use a quick and dirty filter first 

Is this thing important or not?

If it’s not important, throw it away immediately.

Do not handle anything for more than three seconds.

Don’t get weird and sentimental about paper. You could leave it behind in a fire and that might actually feel pretty good; freeing.

2. Folders

Now get enough folders to sort your life into categories. Some example folders could hold documents related to: Finances, Education, Hobbies, Vision Board, Action.

The Action file should be red (the color of action), filled with the documents you need to take with you on important errands. 

3. Prioritize

You can prioritize documents by classifying them mentally as important and urgent, important, but not urgent, or interesting.

  • Important and urgent is always the focus. Put the documents you need in your Action folder, write a time to take care of it on your calendar (with a reminder alert), and take care of them.
  • Important but not urgent goes into your other folders (like tax info in Finances folder).
  • Interesting stuff also gets filed or just thrown into a BIIIG bin (which magically turns everything inside it into trash after 30 days).

4. Train yourself to spot this behavior

Atypicals like to search and hate to organize.

Recognize when you are rushing past organization and contributing to clutter. Pause. Take a breath. 

Organize more often, even if it’s uncomfortable at first. It is a good habit that will save you time and effort.