Updated: Jun 14, 2022
"Wow. Why is this suddenly so easy?"
"How am I able to get rid of these things with you here?"
"I can't believe I'm paying someone to sit with me to go through this stuff, but I wouldn't have been able to do it otherwise."
These are some of the most common questions and statements I hear as a professional home organizer. You see, home organization is not just about sorting items into pretty baskets, throwing on some Cricut-cut labels, and peacing-out; it is about helping clients to establish their end-goals, develop rules for items to discard, donate, and keep, and to learn strategies for successful upkeep. These processes are actually the most important because they provide meaning and understanding to the client; they serve as the foundation for building the habits needed for maintaining the space long(er)-term. But for many people, determining where to start the decluttering and organizing process and finding the energy and drive to get the job done can be extraordinarily difficult.
Not only can the process of getting organized be a challenge for those who are neurotypical, but it tends to be even more daunting for those with ADHD. Why? Because ADHD is a neurological diversity that impacts one's executive functioning skills, actions involving task initiation, planning, and space/time management are particularly complicated for those who live with it. And wouldn't you know... organization is essentially all of these skills wrapped up together in one pretty little bow. This certainly does not mean that those with ADHD can't organize their homes and workspaces, though; in fact, our amazing superpower of hyperfocus enables us to get stuff done... we just have to want to.
Neurotypical or not, the best way to gain the motivation needed to begin the organizing process AND to build the accountability needed to finish it is only two words long: it's called body doubling.
As I mentioned in the introduction to this post, the statements I hear most frequently when working with clients involve wonderment on how my presence helps them to make decisions that once seemed impossible. Even though I'd like to say that I have some sort of one-of-a-kind magical quality that makes this true for them, I don’t (and that's not meant as a put-down; I'm not fishing for compliments over here). The simple fact is this: having someone present during the organizing process helps you to get focused, stay focused, and remain accountable for getting the job done.
Not only does having a trusted comrade by your side make tackling a previously disregarded space in your home or work area tolerable, but it can even make it, well, kind of enjoyable! How, you ask?
Engaging in feel-good conversations with friends increases dopamine, which is what our brains crave (especially ADHD brains). The more natural dopamine, the better, right?
Deciding which items to donate, discard, and keep is much easier when someone you trust is there to guide you. No more debilitating indecision here. Your friend will remind you of the rules you established and encourage you to stick to them.
Taking reward-breaks in between tasks or after completing your target job can be more enjoyable with a buddy by your side. Stop and have a cup of coffee together. Run out for lunch. Play a card game. Whatever floats your boat. Having your body double with you during these reward-breaks may help to keep that dopamine flowing and, in turn, encourage you to want to keep going!
Remaining focused on the task is easier with someone there to remind you of your end goal. Your body double is not only there to help you, but more importantly to watch you; he or she observes and notices when you are checking your phone a little too much or taking one too many trips to the loo. Organizing takes focus and quick decision-making, and having a friend to assist with these tasks makes all the difference!
You may be saying to yourself, “Well that’s great information, Kim… but how can I use this strategy when a friend or family member is not available to assist me?” I get that completely. If you're struggling to find a body double when tackling a space you are desperate to get cleaned up, you can body double yourself. What shall we call this… self-doubling, perhaps? Here are some ways you can try self-doubling while holding yourself accountable:
Record yourself organizing a space on time-lapse and enjoy watching it over and over and over again. Strange, yet satisfying.
Take a before picture and text it to a trusted friend or family member. Let him or her know what your goal is for that day, and ask this person to text you in a certain amount of time for a progress picture. You can even set a timer on your phone, smartwatch, Alexa, egg timer, whatever, to remind you to send the progress picture on your own.
This is a big accountability one... Post your before picture on social media. Do you really want to hold yourself accountable for getting a space organized? Posting your starting point on social media is a big motivator for getting the job done. If you are thinking of trying this one, be gracious to yourself and start with a smaller task like putting your dishes away or organizing your laundry into piles.
I need to tell you that I did the whole self-doubling on social media with yoga a few years back and it was the BEST accountability decision I ever made for myself. Posting my daily yoga streak on an Instagram page that I created strictly for my yoga content helped me to practice for 18 months straight. Yes, you heard me. I did not miss a day of yoga for 547+ days. So take it from me... this strategy does work! You can even maintain anonymity by creating a new account to post daily before and after pictures or videos on; this would incentivize or gamify the whole organizing experience for you and, once again, keep you feeling accountable for completing an organizing-related task each day.
PS-If you choose to try the self-doubling on social media thing, I'd love to support and celebrate you! Please invite me to follow you by finding me @abalancedabodenj!
Here's a little truth bomb for you: Even in my own business as a professional home organizer, I benefit from having a body double with me. Before bringing my organizing assistant onto jobs with me, I would find myself allowing my perfectionism to affect my ability to make decisions as quickly as I would have liked to. Having someone present to verbalize my plan to before diving into a project has really helped me to strategize in ways that make the organizing process more efficient. I also appreciate being able to gain a new perspective on more challenging spaces with a second pair of eyes and second problem-solving brain in the room.
So, how might body doubling or self-doubling work for you? Or conversely, what might your reservations to these strategies be? Share your thoughts below... let's build some community here!