How to tidy after brain injury in 4 steps

Following a brain injury, most patients have issues with their short term memory. Pair this with confused decision making, and you have created  the recipe for a diabolical organiser.

As I currently don’t work due to my brain injury, I am now the homemaker, for now anyway. So I do the majority of the cleaning and tidying, while my partner James goes to his rather demanding job. You might think that sounds like a reasonable arrangement, but there is a glaring fault. Me. When I do the tidying, there’s a good chance you’ll never find it again.

Its not lost in your house only lost in your mind. Tidying after brain injury.

When I do the tidying the finished result looks great, but it’s not until later you begin to realise the mayhem that’s brewing.

I promise at the time, it all makes sense. I’m focused on the end result and so as I come across things that need to be put away, I quickly decide where they should be. But that’s the problem. With a brain injury sometimes your brain doesn’t categorise things properly and so makes mistakes.  Sometimes I notice as I’m doing it. Like how a zillion times a day I try to put the cat food in the fridge, when it belongs in the cupboard next to it. (Alright maybe not a zillion, otherwise the cat wouldn’t fit though the cat flap any more.) But if I don’t notice, things can be put in places that any sane person would never think to look. Also I have a problem with throwing things away. I want the clutter gone, so it goes in the bin.  But sometimes it was something I needed.

My poor efforts at tidying creates hours of frustration.

As my memory and attention span have been affected by my brain injury, I can’t remember where I put things. If they went back in their usual “home”, then that’s fine. But if not, they might be lost forever.

So here’s 4  tips on how to avoid this happening to you. 
  1. Commit to the job

    – If you’re not in the right mood, you probably won’t be able to complete the task. So make sure you’re ready to commit.

  2. Throw away rubbish first

    – We can become easily distracted by items. Thinking about where they came from, or what you last used it for. Next thing you know you’re off in your own world and not concentrating. Just find things you know that need to be thrown away, and if you’re not sure leave it for now and move on.

  3. Tidy by categories, not by room

    – I know it sounds crazy, but this way you are helping your mind to focus more. Whether it’s collecting all the kids toys, or going through clothes, you can make sure you see the bigger picture of this category. Rather than just seeing a messy or tidy room, your thinking more about each items purpose.

  4. How does it make you feel?

    – So those items that you weren’t sure if you wanted the keep or not, what do we do with them? If it’s documents you probably should let someone else help you decide. (I say this because I throw away letters I should keep, but you might be OK at this) Otherwise think about if you want it, if you don’t need it. It’s about what you want to keep, not what you want to get rid of. Some things might be sentimental, but useless. So these can be packed away to make sure they are kept nicely, but you don’t need them out as they’re not used often.

    Tidying after brain injury

This is a simplified version of the method described in Marie Kondo’s book  Spark Joy: An Illustrated Guide to the Japanese Art of Tidying.

I’m sure I will continue to make mistakes, but that is just part of being human. OK a brain injury makes it more likely, but lots of people can say they have at some point put the house keys in the fridge. So don’t beat yourself up over it when it happens.

Other articles you might like:

Do you have similar issues with tidying. What’s your best tips?

You can follow me on Twitter, I’m @michelle_munt

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2 Replies to “How to tidy after brain injury in 4 steps”

  1. I am horrible at cleaning and organizing now. I once put my cell in the fridge after getting something to drink and left it there all day. I cannot tell you how thankful I am for lifeproof cases for iPhones because I am always cold and wear a sweater. These cases make your phone waterproof and I’ve left my phone in the sweaters I’ve had on while doing the laundry and just thrown them in the wash. Yep, phone in pocket. And, putting up laundry is a job a despise. There is still laundry from last week in the baskets needing to be put up. Good thing it’s only me and my hubby or I’d be in a real mess. I still fall a lot. Have epilepsy from the brain injury. Have had to have surgery on my c-spine bc of spinal cord compression where I broke my neck. My brain and my body is a mess. I’m still “Forgetful Lucy” from the movie “50 First Dates.”

    Brain injuries are the WORST!! It took me a long time to figure out who the new person was that took over was. The way I describe TBI to Everyone is that it’s like an alien life force took over your body bc you don’t know anything about the past, the present and you really don’t know your future bc you’re stuck with this new person and learning who took over your body forever. I say foreve bc if you have one BI you’re likely to have another one and another one throughout your life.

    It’s something that never heals completely, one may get better over time but they are never the same and no matter how many tactics or different things they try to do to be successful; if you don’t write it down or do video diaries- it didn’t happen, in our world. Kind of like not being able to find tax forms. That’s why every thing is on a calendar or in a video or in a journal otherwise I wouldn’t know where anything is and even though my iPhone has been washed about 2900 times it’s clean and it’s apart of my brain bc wo it I’d be lost.

    I do remember bits and pieces of my wreck, now. But only what led up to it and them bringing me back.

  2. Fantastic! I’m a bit of a tidy person. And things have their place. My couch is a bit of an ‘in-tray’ with things I’m working on or need to process. But when I visit my mum who seems to have no systems what’s so ever I feel the worst case of OCD/ADHD ever! I feel the need to play my game called “What the fuck is this? And does it need to be here?”

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