“Oh my God,” you’re thinking. “Erin must have wrecked the car…or maybe Jen completely forgot about something really important…” Rest assured, it was nothing like that. We had a big fight about the pantry.
The kitchen is officially Jen’s domain. I wash the dishes every night, but my authority in that room is limited solely to the sink and dishwasher. My motto, like the old UK game show, is Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook. Jen loves to cook and is exceptionally good at it, so I’m happy to let her have full reign over all things culinary.
Recently, Jen tackled a project she’d been putting off and cleaned out the pantry. It wasn’t awful to begin with, but it wasn’t very organized. She would get frustrated every time she went in there because she couldn’t find what she needed. So she took everything out and reorganized it in a way that made sense to her, and more importantly worked with her individual ADHD, which is exactly what she’s been advising clients to do for the past decade, and which is a big component of the Kiss Your Clutter Goodbye toolkit. The pantry came out looking very nice–not necessarily the way I would have arranged it–but very nice. She was happy to cross it off her list.
And she explicitly told me not to mess up her system.
Fast forward to yesterday. I came home with a couple of items from the store, including a box of individual snack-size bags of chips that are just for me (Jen doesn’t like them). Chips being a pantry food, I opened the pantry and looked for the best place to put them.
(If you’re cringing like you’re watching a horror movie and the main character has just decided to check out that noise in the basement, you’ve got the right idea.)
I literally thought to myself, “I don’t want to mess up Jen’s system, so let me put these chips somewhere out of the way. I’ll put them behind this box of granola bars. That way they won’t interfere with anything.”
When Jen spotted the chips, she was very displeased, and I couldn’t understand why. Things escalated into a fight–Jen trying to explain why the chips threw off her system; me defending my choice of chip placement as behind all the other food/not in the way. It took longer than it should have for me to come around.
The reality is that people with ADHD need to create and follow their own organizational systems. Not just in the kitchen, but in all of the spaces that impact their daily lives–drawers, closets, desks, etc. What works for one person may not work for another. The fact that I don’t mind my snacks being tucked away behind another box doesn’t mean that Jen has to feel the same way.
Not only that, but Jen explained to me that one small interference with a system, even something as benign as some chips tucked behind the granola bars, causes a slippery slope. One little compromise here, one haphazard misplacement there, and before you know it, you can’t find what you’re looking for.
I can’t say that I understand how she feels. But as her partner, it’s my responsibility to be cool with it and not mess with her efforts to stay organized. I lost sight of that yesterday.
So I’ll leave you with some words of wisdom: It’s not your job to make sense of the way your ADHD partner does things; it is your job to let them do what works for them without judgement and without interference!