Check out all the recycling I put out this past week—loads of old papers and magazines! I cleaned all this out of my home office, where, along with a very few useful items, it had cluttered the floor and blocked access to the window since about 2005, judging from all the kindergarten newsletters.
But I didn’t accomplish this task alone. I had help from a volunteer nonprofessional organizer—my mom, here for a Thanksgiving visit. Thanks, Mom!
It reminded me how helpful it can be to work with someone else. Having my mom here helped even when she was just listening to me ruminate about whether to keep my old alumni magazines or five-year-old bank statements or that picture my daughter drew of a rose bending over “because the cheetah is chasing the zebra at 70 miles an hour.” It helped even when my mom was just sitting in the room with me as I worked quietly.
There’s a term for this in ADD circles: body double—a person who hangs out with you while you work on an agreed-upon task. “The body double,” writes coach and former ADDA president Linda S. Anderson, “serves as a physical and emotional anchor for the distracted individual who feels more centered by the presence of another person in their space.” The body double doesn’t have to do anything except be in the room with you—and perhaps pay enough attention to notice if you wander off task.
I’ve realized that my ten-year-old daughter and I serve as body doubles for each other when she does homework at the dining room table in the evening while I do the dishes. But I’m thinking I could use more body-double activity in my life. Writing dates at a tea house? Decluttering sessions with a friend? How about a webcam setup for remote body-doubling? (Mom?)
Well, in the hopes that my daughter and I will act as body doubles for each other as she gets into middle school and high school, I plan to set up a desk for her here in what will become our home office. In fact, a year or so ago, I found the perfect desk for her at the used furniture store. It’s still sitting on its end in the garage, though, right where I tipped it out of the car. No room for a desk in here—until now, with a little help from a great body double!
ADDitude magazine has a short article by Patricia Quinn on how to use a body double.
Linda S. Anderson’s quote is from her interesting article “The Body Double.”
If you’re wondering whether you need more organizational support than a friend or family member can provide, check out “Should I Hire a Professional Organizer or Work with a Friend?” from the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization (NSGCD).
For advice on how to hire a professional organizer, check out “How to Hire a Professional Organizer” from the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) and “How Do I Find a Professional Organizer Who Is Right for Me?” from NSGCD.
By the way, you can go to NSGCD's website and download its publications for free. I've reprinted the two publications above for easier access to them for educational purposes.