Orderliness

People on the Neurodiversity Spectrum often seem to be closer to the extreme ends of the orderliness spectrum.

Some need cleanliness, simplicity, order and neatness so as not to get stressed, confused or overwhelmed by their environment. (Being a perfectionist is not a personality disorder, it’s a personality type.)

“I feel very ‘uncomfortable when things are not in its place. So I maintain my house in a way that it always looks the same. I never leave anything in the kitchen that still needs to be washed up: I wash up immediatly after using anything. I don’t like dust on the floor so I race the vacuum cleaner through the house almost every day. I don’t like dirty clothes piling up so I do the laundry almost every day.”

– Lida, Aspie from the Netherlands

“I’ve discovered that organising, sorting and cleaning is my special interest. When I had my own apartment it was (periodically) squeaky clean i the fridge for example and I’d put all the containers and cans in symmetrical order. If the rest of the apartment was disordered and I felt low I could just go there and gawk and I’d feel a bit better.”

– Ohana, Aspie from Sweden

“I recognise this with cleaning and symmetry, not that I’m that interested, other than that I have fascist order among my files, which are also colour coded depending on subject. 😀 Unfortunately there are not many as many colours as I would wish in that department. 😀

– ‘weasley’, female Aspie from Sweden

Some seem to instead have extra big difficulties keeping things in order. Many Aspies – especially those with ADHD, dyspraxia or inertia – have expressed a preference for order but say that they still find it difficult or impossible to create or uphold themselves.

“SLOB here.  🙂  Major slob.  No one comes close to me.  Do I like things being out of order?  No.  Do I want to put them into order?  Nope.”

– Linda, Aspie from USA

Some may actually feel most comfortable among clutter and find orderly environments sterile and uninspiring. Some have their own system of order, which may look disorganised to those unaware of the system.

“I think there might be people who enjoy living in cluttered homes and gladly cruise around or step over piles and don’t see it as a problem (…). I’ve lived like that and quite enjoyed this chaos in my home for periods. At other times I am orderly, especially if I’m expecting visitors.”

– Noli, female Aspie from Sweden

“My house is organized chaos,  I know where everything is, but other people think its a mess.”

– Beth, Aspie from USA

“My room APPEARED cluttered and disorganized, but I NEEDED it that way. At any given time I knew what I had and where it was. If I had a precariously balanced stack of papers on my desk, I knew what was in that stack. If I had a drawer full of jumbled stuff, I knew what was in that jumble. Whenever my mom told me to clean up my room I simply could not because there was no other system that would have worked for me to keep things categorized and quantified in my mind.”

– Tom, Aspie from USA

Some don’t care one way or the other.

“I have no interest in order and minimal interest in symmetry. I usually clean when I don’t find things I’m looking for.”

Leif, adult with Aspie traits from Sweden

Many are both perfectionists and slobs at the same time, but in different areas. A poll in a Swedish Aspie bulletin board rendered the following result:

A. Absentminded Slob – 27%

B. Anal Perfectionist – 10%

C. Neither A or B – 5%

D. Both A and B – 56%

“Perfectionist:
When programming and other logical problems.
At work in every way.

“Slob:
At home on all accounts.
Social contacts.”

– ‘UFO’, male Aspie from Sweden

“Perfectionist:
I’m never satisfied with jobs etc.
I never get high enough grades to be satisified (one mistake = one too many).
I want every thing clean, neat and in order.
I always dress, in my opinion, well ‘among people’.
I never leave the house without having taken a shower.

“Slob:
I rarely have the energy to was dishes, do the laundry, throw out garbage etc. to my own satisfaction.
Clothes that fall on the floor stay there for a long time.
I have difficulties concentrating which leads to errors.
I often forget to eat/sleep etc.
When I eat it’s often junk that’s quick to make.
I’m forgetful and absentminded in general.

“Much depends on how clear my head is that day. On my ‘good’ days I give 110 and do everything I’ve neglected the days before.”

– ‘MsTibbs’, ADHD/Aspie from Sweden

Unfortunately, those who love order tend to be rather intolerant of disorder and vice versa, and each type usually feels strongly that their own degree and variation of order is the ‘right’ one. When those on the opposite ends of the orderliness spectrum are living together (like Oscar and Felix in The Odd Couple) the only solution I can see is a negotiation process where each person’s needs are respected as much as possible.

My suggestion is to start off by at least letting those who have their own room have it exactly as they please. Its only the shared spaces that need to be negotiated about. Even if it is a child, their room should be considered their own private space to do with as they wish, as long as it doesn’t become a sanitary hazard.

If a child or other family member makes their bed or not, for example, should really be their own business since it is only they who have to sleep in it. And it’s actually good to leave the bed unmade since this makes it less hospitable for mites! So, pick your battles and focus on matters most.

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1 Comment »

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