How I Stay Organized with a chronic illness

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If there is one thing you should know about me, it is that I have to stay organized ALL the time. Since I’m always running out of spoons (aka energy), I am constantly forgetting where I put things, when I put them there, and why I moved it in the first place.

From a young age, I have always liked my space in a particular way. Growing up, my grandmother would come over to help us with laundry while my widowed father was at work. Sometimes she would put things in the wrong drawers, which drove me crazy.

So, she asked my sister and I to label our drawers so she would be able to place them where we wanted them. From that day forward, I fell in love with organization, space, layout, and essentially, design.

Making things organized brings order to chaos, one of the most basic functions to understand in design. Seeing as this is what I do for a living, it is something that I like to reflect away from the computer or canvas when I return to my apartment. I like to go home from a chaotic day and know that everything in my home is organized for the next chaotic day. It’s the basic principle of balance and there should always be work/life balance. This is my version.

Sometimes you’ll find that finding that work/ life balance can be challenging, especially when living with roommates. It can be difficult to adjust into their organization methods. Everyone has their own habits and sometimes you need to compromise on shared living spaces to create that balance of having it be everyone’s home. I have lived with many roommates, but have always been able to compromise on space, layout, and where things are kept. Usually we just divided the room in half, or had designated areas for our belongings, such as specific food shelves or bathroom shelves. Without a doubt, though, my favorite roommate has been, and probably will always be, my sister. So many of our living habits are similar and while my sister is anything but dirty and disorganized, I take things to the crazy level…but for good reason of course!

One of the things I have learned about living with a chronic illness is that there will always be fatigue in ways you have never even fathomed. Unfortunately, I usually realize I am in this state of fatigue or exhaustion when I am trying to retrace my thoughts to remember where I placed something. I am constantly forgetting where I put things and usually draw a blank when I’m trying to remember back to what I even ate for lunch. For this reason alone, I keep everything in a very particular space and my sister is supportive of this. Whenever we go somewhere together, for example, she’s always reminding me to keep my belongings in one place. When I move something, she scolds me, reminding me that I’ll forget about it. Without a doubt, if it’s not in my little corner, I will forget that I even brought it.

This has happened too many times and I have lost very expensive items, including ski boots, skis, passports, and more (really sorry about that one Mom and Dad). All of these moments I am completely embarrassed about, but that’s just me– I’m absent minded. While I am not proud of this trait, it is a reality and something I work very hard at keeping under control. While I cannot always control my poor memory outside of my home, I have complete control in my own home. Which, strangely, gives me a sense of pride and accomplishment, even if it is knowing where my last pair of ankle socks are. By keeping things obsessively organized, labeled, and stored in specific locations around my home, I avoid the foggy memory.

You’re probably thinking, this girl is crazy. To me, though, I am able to reach for something by muscle memory even when I am completely tired and groggy in the morning, or exhausted from work at night, or just chronically fatigued. If it is not in it’s set place, then I know to ask my sister if she has the item. Otherwise, it’s missing. There are only three options of the places something could be, which is far better than several locations for what I’m looking for. Also, it makes it easier to backtrack where I used something last.

There are tons of ways to stay organized to keep your memory sharp. Muscle memory is the learning style that works best for me, so I actually write everything down on my good old fashioned hanging wall calendar.

Everything I write down, in pencil, is constantly being looked at, which helps me to get into a routine of remembering the days I need to pay student loans and bills or remembering to actually put something on the calendar so I don’t forget. I firmly believe that it is important to have your life organized completely off of a technology app because you just never know!

In addition to my calendar, I also have six folders that I use to categorize my important physical documents. Even when you are completely organized with your files on Evernote, sometimes it’s important to have the physical files as tangible proof. Rather than storing them on Evernote and printing them out again, I just keep the important ones, to save paper for future reference. Usually I’ll write little notes on the document as well, such as paid on [date] and the confirmation number. In addition, I have a checklist that I have maid and with every bill I pay, I mark it off on the checklist, write the confirmation number down, the date it was submitted, and then write a few notes about who I talked to, for example. Therefore, it is in two different locations in case I loose one or mix things up. I know myself too well!

Though I am awful at remembering where my things are outside my home, I’m great at finding new things to put inside of my home. In other words, I love shopping. It’s not so much that I enjoy having tangible items, it’s more that I truly enjoy seeing how much money I can save– “the best bang for your buck”. Basic math is actually difficult for me, so I enjoy practicing. My Nana Marcia is literally the Coupon Queen and has been my entire life. She was saving thousands of dollars a year before it was even cool or vastly accepted throughout society. I’ve never seen companies pay you for items such as ballgown dresses, designer perfumes, and home goods–in person. The best part is that she shows me the math!

Watching her coupon from a young age showed me the importance of organizing chaos, or what would now be called an excel spreadsheet. Though I am not quite there with excel and don’t have my printer just yet, I still write everything down. Pretty soon, though, I’ll have a printer and will be able to save myself time. I’m excited to receive my printer in the mail and guess what? I saved on that, too! (Thank you Groupon!)

Along with saving money, I also love saving time! I was always told, “work smarter, not harder”. This particularly pertains to my life as someone with an autoimmune disease. Time is a variable that directly impacts the amount of spoons I have to spend for either before or after work. Inevitably, this time spent affects my energy level, or spoons. Therefore, it is important that I am managing my time extremely well, not just over the course of a day, but week to week. If an opportunity arises to save myself time and therefore, spoons, in the future I take advantage of that opportunity. One way that I save on spoons besides stocking up from compounding, is by laying out my morning routine.

Muscle memory is something I cannot stress enough. In the morning, when I am tired and achey or groggy, I know what I must do and each step prompts the next. My routine is down to a science. Everything I do in the morning is about fluid motion.

First I start with the caffeinated fluid, which I set up on the burner the night before with my coffee cup set out on the counter. Next to the mug is a glass of water, emergen-c packet, vitamins and medicine, and my bowl of oatmeal. Once I start the brew, I move back to my room to change.

My clothes are always laid out. I could count the times on my hand that they are not. I enjoy waking up with my shoes and purse layed out for me– it looks ready for me, even if I am not ready for my day. My parents always told me that if you looked good, you felt better, and if you felt better you could do your best. Therefore, I always prepare the night before to look my best.

What do you do to prepare for a days success? What helps you save spoons for your school or work week?

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International Marketing Graphic Designer

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