Sudden Chaos: How Did We Get Here (and How Do We Deal?)

By Sue West

You’re overwhelmed and you don’t know how you got to this point. Sudden chaos! The house is a mess. Your time is completely out of control. But you’re using the same systems you always have. To organize your days… your desk… your time… What happened and what can you do about it now? And what can you do next time, so you spot this earlier?

This is common. Things change, and we deal…. but end up in chaos. The good news is you’re normal. Read on for ways to read the signs before the storm hits.

“Sudden” Chaos – Chaotic Transitions

    • Big AND small life changes cause chaos with your “stuff.” This includes your things, thoughts and time. Something big and likely emotional has happened, a change you made or one that was foisted upon you. (Divorce, death, care-giving, marriage, children and so on.) Now you have something new to contend with and integrate into your life.
    • We love our guests:Friends or family are in town for a visit. It’s a temporary change, but with far-reaching effects. Your schedule will change. You need to make space for people. You need to be aware of their ‘stuff’ and where it shows up in your common living spaces. And they will need things/time from you.
    • The college-aged student or graduate returns home. You’ve lived the whole school year on your own, as has your student. Both of you are more independent than when you last lived under the same roof.
    • New responsibilities in your business or at work: There’s a ripple effect here. You need to get organized forthis new responsibility. But adding a role doesn’t add hours to your days. Something has to give. What could you cut back on? Or stop doing? How will you reorganize your days to accommodate the new role? If you’ve stepped into a management role, reduce your time in tactical tasks. You need to take on more of a big-picture perspective. How can you make this simple? How will you enlist coaches, your team and other good minds around you?
    • A new physical diagnosis:  How does the diagnosis impact your energy? Do you need to rearrange things at home/work to reduce the impact on your energy levels? What can you make easier to do? Do you need to reorganize meal planning? Reconsider how much you can fit into your days. What does your morning routine entail now? If you have a diagnosis such as Lyme disease or MS, your energy levels will be unpredictable. Always have a plan A and a plan B for which type of day it is (and organize or mark your tasks that way, too.)
    • A new mental health diagnosis: What does it mean for how you organize your days? Does it affect how you keep track of things to do at work? What about medications, refills and appointments? Do you need to fit more exercise, mindfulness or meditation into your days? Your self-care is your highest priority. Do you need to change the way you work? Do you need formal or informal accommodations for your working style? And how will you accept that this is part of you and manage it?

    Chaos to Calm – Suggestions

    • Acknowledge the event or change. Plan for your changes. This makes you feel more in control of the change and lowers your negative stress about it.
    • Any of these changes adds more to your life. And creates stress. Rely more than usual on your “external memory.” (Calendar, lists, notes, and reminders.) Memory suffers when under stress.
    • Sit down and make your list, diagram, or calendar – whatever you use to keep track of your life. If this is not something you usually do, now is the time to get it out of your head.
    • Don’t hang on to how you have “always done things” Resistance creates stress. Let go a little bit.
    • Asking for what youneed gives you a sense of control. Enlist the help of others. Ask for quiet time. Get a little more sleep or take a nap. If you can’t exercise for an hour, try for half an hour. Every little bit helps.
    • Dealing with people is more important than dealing with our tasks and our things. So if your home or office needs to look like a tornado hit it, give yourself guilt-free permission to let it go…. for a bit. Plan a time to reset your office or home soon though.
    • What did you learn from this time to apply to the next big life event? Reflect on it and you’ll remember it better for next time.

    Stop. Pause.

    What is changing around you? How can you prepare ahead of time and hold off the storm? You can’t plan everything, but you can think ahead, if you want more calm in your days.

    Sue West is a Productivity Coach, ADHD Specialist and President of Institute for Challenging Organization. Sue uses her expertise and years of experience to help adults with ADHD clear the clutter in virtually every aspect of their lives. Click here to learn more about Sue.


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      • Lisa
      • July 25, 2018

      I find myself always readjusting and improving ways to make sure I keep organized. It is very exhausting but recognizing and accepting my situation makes it a little bit more manageable. Thank you for your article.

      • Reply

        The organizing is what keeps us all afloat, right?! Flexible, creative, engaging your own brain. Recognizing is hard; good for you for getting to that point! ~Sue

      • Betty Bennett
      • July 25, 2018

      Good advise.

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