Autism AMA: Neat & Organized

Back in April, I offered to participate in an Ask Me Anything (AMA) for my fellow teachers, and I responded to their questions as time allowed. Over the next few days, I’d like to share some of those questions and answers with you.

Corey asks:

Are you very neat and organized in your way? Do you have tried and true methods that non-spectrum people might benefit from?

Ah, the neat and organized stereotype. Yes, I am neat. I am much more neat than I am organized. I will clean, clean, clean – sometimes at the expense of being able to find something later. I can’t tell you how many things I’ve regretted recycling or throwing away once a cleaning rampage is over. So: neat, yes. Organized: sometimes.

To prevent this (and this may somewhat answer the second part of the question), I’ve gotten in the habit of cleaning/organizing as I go, as opposed to getting something done and organizing afterwards. If I’m grading or putting class materials together, I have have the necessary folders, binder clips, etc. already there so I can keep things organized *while* I’m working rather than after.

Another example: when cooking at home, I’ll be cleaning and putting dishes back where they go during the waiting steps of the cooking process, so, by the time I’m done cooking, I have very few dishes to worry about. In contrast, if I wait until the end to start cleaning (and there’s a huge pile of dishes), I may start cleaning so fast that I’ll put things back in the wrong place for the sake of getting it out of the way.

If you want to get organized, don’t do it all at once. All of my books, movies, CDs and games are organized alphabetically by different criteria (author, band, title, etc.). If we move a bookcase, I’ll get everything back up quickly, so it’s off the floor. Remember: neat first, then organized in my world. As I use things, I’ll put parts back into the correct order. Everything will soon be back in place, and I won’t overwhelm myself with trying to alphabetize hundreds of items at once.