I learned quite a few things during my time working as a Mental Health Practitioner at Fraser. A recurring theme, in numerous settings, was visuals. I first used then when I worked in Day Treatment classrooms and then when I provided services in-home. I helped staff find ways to use them in-home and I taught families what visuals were and came up with ways to use them when I was a Visual Consultant. Visuals are huge for people on Autism Spectrum and are huge for their families, teachers, and peers. But do you know what I learned? With the exception of a very few number of people (whom I will never be able to understand), we are all very visual.
Numerous times while making visual schedules for little kids who struggled to get through daily routines at home I reassured anxious parents that nearly all of us are visual. Right now this child may need to see pictures to understand what comes next.. but maybe that’s because they don’t yet understand words.. hopefully someday that schedule will become smaller and smaller and potentially nonexistent someday. But maybe they’ll still carry a checklist in their pocket as a teenager.. who knows? But how many of us don’t carry a checklist around with us from time to time? Do you write yourself a grocery list? Do you make a list of what you need to pack or do before heading off on vacation? How about a checklist of daily chores? Do you cross things off as you go? Make a little check next to each item? Erase them? Just because there aren’t pictures involved in these lists doesn’t make them any less visual… they’re still visual aides and I’m assuming you’ve used them before, if not daily.
I am very visual. I think in maps when I’m driving somewhere.. I picture myself on a map and I have an ariel view perspective. If I look online for a map of how to get somewhere I rarely consult the street names… I just follow the route, the turns I make, the ways the roads curve, and I find my destination. I also write lists. Sometimes five times a day I’ll write a different list for a different thing. But often those lists fail me, unfortunately. I’ve come to realize that my brain think it’s smarter than my lists. And my brain doesn’t realize how gosh darn distractible it is. I honestly wouldn’t be surprise if I was diagnosed with an attention problem if I sought that out.
Here’s why: I make a list of the things that I want to accomplish any given day. On my way to do thing number one I decide that thing number four is easier or more important or more fun. But in the middle of thing number four I cross paths with thing number six so I skip over to thing number six until I realize that I forgot to add something very important to my list… so in comes thing number twelve. And this process continues and repeats itself until I have twenty five things on my list and by the end of the day I have only completed thing number two and a portion of thing number one, thing number four, things number six through eighteen, all the while thinking constantly about thing number twenty five. That’s no way to get things done, now is it?
When I taught families the usefulness of visuals one aspect I would frequently highlight is that they are concrete. “Oh, you don’t want to do that right now, well the schedule says that’s what it’s time for.” Pretty simple. You shouldn’t get mad at mom, you should get mad at the schedule. Mom may be showing you the schedule but it’s the schedule that’s saying it’s time to get dressed. In my case I made the schedule and I made it on a piece of paper and I still have the pencil in my hand so.. scratch scratch.. scribble scribble.. why don’t I change my schedule a little bit? It’s much better now, isn’t it? Yeah, I try that ten times and then realize that they day is over. Whoops.
I also get extremely overwhelmed by all there is to do at my house and in my life that I sometimes reject my little lists because they’re just… pointless… how can a little list get me anywhere when I have ten million things to do to this house before we can even think of selling it? Why should I waste my time cleaning the kitchen when I hate the kitchen? When the floors are screwed up and the ceiling is weird and there is tile where there shouldn’t be tile and the stove smells weird?
As I’m sure you can imagine my time spent at home with Olive since her birth has been… interesting to say the least, in terms of my accomplishing daily tasks and having a relationship with our house.
I may be jumping the gun here but I think I have found a solution to my problems and I feel moved to share it with you. And who knows, maybe it will help you, too. It’s a little thing called Motivated Moms. Sounds pretty, uh, cool… right? It’s basically a chore planning system but it’s done for you. You don’t have to figure out how many times a month you should do thing one or if thing eight is more important than thing twenty three. Just do what Motivated Moms tells you and forget about the rest. Don’t stress out about that dirty thing you just walked past because you have your tasks for today and that dirty thing will surely be taken care of in the next day or two. It’s available in both paper and iPhone App form. I’m trying to Motivated Moms Lite right now. It’s a two week free trial and after that I’m going to purchase the full app. It’s $2.99 for the rest of 2011. Each day there is a checklist and when you’re done with a task you tap it to check it off.
Over the past two days my life has changed. I have gotten more done than everything combined in the previous month. I am completely serious. And it wasn’t stressful and it wasn’t difficult and it felt oh so good.
changed the towels and dish scrubbie in the kitchen
changed all of the towels in the bathroom and washed them along with the rugs
cleaned the top shelf of the refrigerator (isn’t that so much more manageable than the entire refrigerator?)
clipped olive’s nails
organized and dusted the dressers in our bedroom
dusted in olive’s room
cleaned the kitchen counters and the kitchen sink
emptied all of our trashcans
washed the dishes… a few times
made our bed
read Joel 1-3
read Olive a couple of books
took my vitamins
cleaned the bathroom sink
And I also did a few things that the App didn’t tell me to do…
I painted 1/3 of the trim in my room
I made kheer
I made some phone calls
I worked on editing photos
And probably some other things
cleaned the kitchen sink
vacuumed the car, the car mats, and cleaned trash out of the doors and other little crevices
cleaned our hairbrushes
wiped the kitchen counters
dusted in the living room (even the blinds!)
emptied the trashcans
made our bed
mopped the kitchen floor after i vacuumed it
read to Olive
straightened our bedroom closet
took my vitamins
wiped out the bathroom sink
And again I did a few things that the App didn’t tell me to do…
I painted another 1/3 of the trim in my room
I cleaned up pup poo in the backyard
I took out the compost
I clipped my fingernails
I took a shower
I gave Olive a bath
I made bread
I almost made coffee cake but we don’t have enough butter. So maybe I’ll make butter again when I’m done with this post.
I still have to read Amos 1-4 and order a free Experian credit report…
Wow. That feels so good. :) The App tells me what to do and I trust that it’ll get around to everything that needs to be done eventually. No need for me to stress out about some dog hair on the floor – I’ll get to that tomorrow or in a couple of days. And the App is structured and concrete… I can’t scribble on it. I might whine but then I’ll tell myself “Oh, you don’t want to do that right now, well the App says that’s what it’s time for.” And then I’ll do it and be happy when it’s done. My brain can’t outsmart this because it didn’t come from my brain.
So if you’re a stay-at-home mom or dad or you just need a little help structuring what to do each day after work I really encourage you to check out Motivated Moms. I’m almost certain I can say it’s changed my life though I may be saying that too soon… seeing as it’s only been two days.
I am writing this out of the goodness of my happy, organized, non-stressed heart. Yes, it’s a review I suppose, but only because I wanted to… not because anyone told me to. Also, a big thanks to Emily from Joyful Abode for posting some photos of her cleaning process on instagram. Without that I may not have learned about Motivated Moms! And then were would I be? Probably walking in circles between thing number seven and thing number forty one.