Autism – Keeping Things Tidy and Organised To Reduce Stress

If you ask any of my family who is the most organised and tidiest person they know, they would say me. Every aspect of my life is planned out and everything I own is stored and organised really well.  For example:

  • My wardrobe is separated into two sides: one side work clothes (that have been ironed and sorted in day order), the other side for casual clothes.
  • My filing cabinet has separated sections for receipts, passports, bank statements and so on.
  • I have three sets of coat hooks (one for me, my wife and my boys) so I have my own coat hooks for my own coats and accessories.

To people that know me I appear to be incredibly tidy, organised, and have an excellent memory. But in reality the opposite is true. I just use many systems to keep organised and in control of my life. There are many reasons for this:

  • I don’t have to spend time making difficult decisions that take me too much time (due to my autism) such as the clothes I will be wearing that day and what clothes go together.
  • I am naturally forgetful so need to write things down to remember.
  • I can’t handle large tasks so have to break them down into smaller tasks to manage.
  • It saves on the stress, time and upset that it would cause me if I cannot find something I need.
  • Before having a filing cabinet I stored everything in one place uncategorised which made it very difficult to find the documents I needed which caused me a great deal of stress.

As organised as I am, I still lose things. Such as, in my house we have got lots of key hooks and I will always try my best to use them.  But there are occasions I forget and put a key in a place such as my pocket or on a counter and forget about it.   When I do this there have been a few occasions where we have had to search the whole house, for hours, just to look for one key I have lost causing a great deal of stress.

How I am different to the rest of my family

My wife and children are in many ways the opposite to me. Before we bought a sideboard, with lots of drawers, receipts and letters were left on worktops and on the table which upset me a lot. I used to leave it until it got so frustrating that I had to organise it all and tidy it away. If something of my wife’s or sons’ drifts into my areas I will also have to move it. This often annoys them as I like to keep many of my areas, such as drawer tops completely empty, so they cannot understand why they cannot place something of theirs on a free available surface.

My children, being children, often leave toys scattered across the floor. I am very clumsy (probably due to my autism) so will trip over them all the time (I often walk into stationary furniture and door frames so it is just more obstacles I have to try and avoid). If it was up to me I would have the floors completely empty, apart from a couple of toys the children are playing with, but it is not fair on the rest of the family so I let it get a mess.

When my house is clean and tidy I feel much happier but I know that it cannot be this way most of the time. Many years ago I used to try and keep it perfectly clean and tidy but found I was doing too much work tidying and cleaning after everyone else so I stopped doing it. I do my fair share of cleaning but will leave some things messy now. I talked to my sister about it once and said I could spend a few hours tidying and cleaning the house but by the end of the day it was a complete mess again, what’s the point. She said that it is because I cleaned it and I know the hard work and effort that has gone into it so I want it to stay clean. Because other people have not put the work in they are not as bothered. If my wife tidies I will try to keep this in mind and try not to spoil her hard work by leaving my things out where they are not supposed to be, but to be honest I don’t manage this all the time. There are a few occasions when I do make sure the house is perfectly tidy and clean such as when I have got an interview for a job as I believe anything that can give me a slight advantage is worth doing, it does not always work but I have to try my best.

My Advice

I do not believe that being organised, neat and tidy is a disadvantage but it can certainly upset other people.  Especially if I expect them to be the same as me (which many people are not, and I am lucky to realise this).  Just like most things in life it is about finding a happy medium and trying to compromise with other people who will almost certainly be different to you.  I think the most important thing is that you cannot let those differences upset you too much.  For example I always like to be early for everything and used to never ever be late for anything but some people are not like me.  They are more laid back, and will often turn up to everything late.  I have leant over the years that this is fine and that they are just different to me.

By keeping things organised and stored correctly it frees up my mind and saves times which can be spent much more productively on the things that are more important. Organising does take a lot of time to set up but once it is in place it will save much more time and stress in the long run. There are many aspects and areas of my life which actually need to be more organised and I am currently working on them.  But I also keep it in the back of my mind that I could spent too much time doing this so I need to find a good balance between being organised enough but not being too organised so that it takes over my life.

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