Category Archives: Tips and Strategies

Things I’ve picked up while improving my situation… tips, strategies, on what works, or what does not work.

Laundry Managment for Aspies

Taking care of the laundry is oftentimes exhausting.

And still, it has to be done — if you’re wondering. Otherwise, people will smell you, and they will never tell you, just stop being around you… that’s people for you, so yes, it has to be done and no one, except perhaps your mom, will ever tell you so…

The points of Laundry Management

Here’s a list of the points I’m going to go over in this article:

  • Distribute the effort — sort the laundry in easy to carry containers, one for each machine — everytime you throw the dirty clothes in the laundry
  • Keep the follow-up work minimal — can you get away with no ironing? do all clothes have to be folded? where do you keep the clean clothes for minimal effort when putting them away (and picking them out)
  • Plan the next wash day in advance

How often do you do laundry?

This may be obvious to you. I’m going to cover it briefly anyway.

How often do you do laundry?

It comes down to one simple rule of thumb: you always change your underwear after having showered or taken a bath. And you should probably do that at least twice a week. Maybe even daily.

Then it’s just a question of how much underwear you have to figure out how often you need to do laundry. You can always get more underwear, to a certain degree. You still want to be able to do all laundry in one pass.

Distribute the Effort

Back in the days I used to throw my dirty laundry in a bag or a corner, and then sort it before I had to go to the washhouse (laundromat? the place where I’d do the laundry — getting your own wash machine is, of course, a premium solution here, if you can afford it, and have the space for it…)

Nowadays I make sure to sort the laundry even as I put it in the dirty bin. I do this by keeping several containers with laundry one for each machine (usually separated by color — dark/while — and temperature — you know, the normal way you separate laundry into different machines — and if you don’t know, you can Google it…)

I use paper shopping bags (the large sort with handles) for the different sets of laundry and for some a couple of plastic net containers (paper bags aren’t that stackable).

I happen to have a wardrobe full of paper bags so for me they are cheap, but you can use other containers/bags as well.

Sidenote: Do you think you’d look silly carrying around shopping bags with dirty clothes? Remember that other people don’t know what you do; they’ll just go “there’s someone with shopping bags… whatever.” People do after all walk around carrying shopping bags.

On the other hand, where I come from, many people carry their dirty laundry to the washhouse in an IKEA-bag, so I guess in Sweden it’s par for the course to carry dirty laundry in shopping bags…

If your culture has some other style fashion conventions for what you should carry around your dirty laundry in, by all means, feel free to use something else… šŸ˜€

Make sure you keep the laundry in something that breathes (or your laundry will start to stink within a week), but also that it is something you can easily pick up and carry to the washhouse (e.g. something with a handle).

To make the whole ordeal with doing laundry less taxing, the strategy is to distribute the effort over many days (doing the sorting in prepared, easy to carry, containers) so that the actual day contains an as minimal effort as possible.

On a side note, laundry day is also pizza day (mainly because I won’t eat a whole pizza, so I cut it in pieces — in fact using a pair of scissors. you should try it! — and eat it both for lunch and dinner).

That way I won’t have to worry about cooking either.

Keep the Follow-up Work Minimal

A long time ago, I used to fold and sort my laundry, and it kept me busy for a week after laundry day.

Today I use another set of paper bags, one with underwear, the other with T-shirts (the rest of the stuff is on hangers and shelves). Oh, and socks in a cardboard box.

The box and the paper bags with underwear and T-shirts fit in a wardrobe, by the way, so they are out of sight.

My wardrobes have this 100% dysfunctional design with a shoe shelf at the bottom, making it impossible to put any sane set of drawers or similar in them — and renting the place makes me wary of too much drilling and screwing around in there as well… hence the paper bags…

I simply dump the clean clothes in those two bags and the socks in the box.

You don’t need to fold your underwear, you don’t need to iron it… the only reason to keep underwear and T-shirts in any other order is if you have very different types and want to decide which to wear (several smaller bags/boxes?)

If you only need to grab one of each after the shower, paper bags will do just fine!

I also have shirts. I only buy them iron-free. I put them on a hanger and let them hang-dry. No need for ironing there either!

Book/Plan the Next Date in Advance

Once the paper bags with underwear starts getting a bit empty, it’s time to book the laundry again.

For me, it’s about 2-3 weeks between laundry days. If you find you have to do it more often, I’d recommend booking the next date before you leave the washhouse, if you can. And then put the date in your online calendar (you do have one, right?) and/or set up an alarm on the mobile…

I use to book Saturdays, because it’s the weekend, and I get the Sunday to deal with any effects (getting in bed late on Saturday because I got riled up etc).

It is always better to have a preset date. The worst case scenario, at least for me, is to just go over there in the hope of getting a time.

I guess it depends on where you do your laundry, but for me, that’s a coin toss, at best. Very exhausting not knowing if you’ll be doing the laundry or not.

If you can plan it a week or so ahead, you know you have the time slot, and you can prepare for it properly.

Laundry Management

To avoid being exhausted even before laundry day comes around, follow these tips:

  • Distribute the effort — instead of sorting the laundry on laundry day, keep containers (paper bags or similar), one for each machine, and fill them with dirty clothes as you use them
  • Keep the follow-up work to a minimum — it’s neat to have your clothes folded and arranged as if they were sushi on parade, but is it necessary? Can you get away without ironing the clothes? can you hang dry clothes that are iron-free? is it okay if your socks or T-shirt is a bit wrinkled? Then go ahead and simplify!
  • Plan the next laundry day in advance — avoid the extra stress of not knowing when you’ll be able to do your laundry by booking your laundry date in advance.

Focus Cards: How to keep focus

Focus Cards can be used by people with high level of distraction and bad short term memory to quickly regain focus when they get distracted.

The problem

Since I’m a person with a pretty bad short term memory (due to Asperger, I think), and are pretty good at getting distracted (mostly due to ADHD), I’ve found, thatĀ part from my to-do-lists (in GTD-style), I need something to keep me focused while I am working on a task.

Continue reading Focus Cards: How to keep focus

Getting Organized

If you are an Aspie you probably have a lot of things. Old stuff you cannot throw away.

Perhaps you collect things? I’ve heard examples of anything and everything from model airplanes, to plastic buckets, to rubber boots, to pictures of horses. Aspies seem to have the collector gene in spades!

As a consequence, you probably have a rather messy home. I know I used to. I had piles of things covering the floor, only leaving small “paths” snaking through the mess and connecting my bed, my computer, the kitchen and the hallway.

Given that an Aspie can get rather stressed out by a too cluttered surrounding or by not being able to find stuff, this is usually a problem that needs to be solved.

Continue reading Getting Organized

Mindfulness at the dentists and other “problematic” places

I had a dentists appointment this morning, and I thought it would be a nice place to try some mindfulness.

I figure you’ve basically two main strategies here. Either use mindfulness to distract yourself by focusing on some place other than your teeth (e.g. Your feet), or focus on what’s happening with your teeth here and now.

I should mention that there was no drilling involved in this visit, but I usually has a lot of tartar that needs to be scraped off, and I have very sensitive dental necks, so it’s usually not a walk in the park.

I started to focus on what the dentist (or actually hygienist) was doing with my teeth, and I very quickly noticed that it seemed to hurt more if I lost that focus. When I really experienced the things she did to the teeth with a kind of curious interest the pain became much more tolerable.

I think for two reasons: I was really there, feeling what was happening, not what I anticipated would happen, and I accepted what was happening – it was almost as if I was involved in the actual “poking around.”

So, the link to Asperger and ADHD?

Some experiences and situations might feel a bit like a dental exam to an aspie, and if using mindfulness on those situations, I think they would become much more tolerable..

Mindfulness and morning sleepiness

I’ve started a treatment (for Asperger Syndrom, and it’s actually experimental, but I am pretty sure this one’s here to stay), consisting of CBT and mindfulness (I’ll try to write more about this), and using the mindfulness I had a revelation (almost in the literal sense) this morning about my morning sleepiness.

When I wake up I am almost always “hammered” (no not drunk, but it’s not far from it). Sometimes I am so “heavy” in the body I can hardly walk straight, and I am so light sensitive even a candle makes me whine and want to hide under the cover again.

This morning, like many others, I was sitting at the toilet, almost falling back to sleep, knuckles on the floor, chin on the bathroom sink, eyes crossed. And just for the fun of it, or if it was a newly acquired instinct or what it was, I said to myself: “I feel tired…”

For those who have no idea what mindfulness is, in short it’s about learning to observe your thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations from a distance, going from letting them define who you are to viewing them as separate entities in your mind. That is, going from “I AM tired” to “I FEEL tried”.

What happened this morning was pretty amazing. Imagine a bridge (like one of those you see in an Indiana Jones movie) breaking in two and collapsing. That was what happened to my tiredness. It just fell off.

I was amazed and shocked, but it made me think.

My conclusion, so far, is that I’m heavy in the body from residual sleep paralysis (what keeps us from rolling out of bed when we sleep, or perhaps more evolutionary correctly, falling out of the tree ;o) and I am light sensitive, well because I’ve had my eyes closed for several hours. However, the tiredness is something I’ve probably learned to associate with these two feelings. It may be a made up feeling …

Sure, I am probably tired some mornings, I’ve almost fallen asleep more than once although I’ve already left bed, but I suspect that might also be a bi-product of me being heavy in the body. I mean, after all, most people doesn’t faint from tiredness, they go to bed and fall asleep long before they do that, a little like eating before you get hit by “hunger panic”… kind of.

Well, knowing that I might have to deal with being heavy in the body and light sensitive in the morning instead of just being tired might help a lot when it comes to getting up (and avoid snoozing, did I mention: I’m a snoozer! :o)

Update: well, I’ve actually had mornings where I was really tired, and didn’t had the above effect, so… I guess the situation is that I can use mindfulness to lessen the effect of being tired, but what I really should have done is using it to get into bed at a good time the night before… (in spite of any thoughts about how hard it will be to fall asleep or how meaningless it is, or how strange – I mean, sleep: you lose consciousness for 6+ hours, hallucinate wildly and wake up with more or less, total amnesia…)

Mentalization

Some persons with Asperger Syndrome has problems mentalizing (although it not being part of any diagnose criteria as more than “impaired” skills in social interaction and communication – I’ll add a source if I find one!)

I’m one of them, but before I get into my personal experience of it lets define mentalization:

“Thinking is thinking. Mentalising is thinking about thinking and feeling, our own and other peopleā€™s.” – http://www.organiclemon.org/id7.html

“To understand the behavior of others as a product of their mental state” – http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/mentalize

Mentalizing – the ability to understand oneself and others by inferring the mental states that lie behind overt behavior” – http://www.ucl.ac.uk/psychoanalysis/unit-staff/mentalization_bpd.htm

You may also find this article on Wikipedia helpful: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mentalization

Sometimes I’ve heard Aspies are supposed to have problems with empathy (which is totally wrong in my case – I empathize). I think Aspies probably have trouble with the mentalization (among other things – some people are actually too shy to talk much even when it is obvious the other person needs it – that, however, is not me! :))

If you are unable to, or having a hard time to imagine the other person’s feelings and thoughts correctly, you’ll also have a hard time figuring out the correct emotional response. And when you laugh or look serious in the wrong situation people will start wondering about your empathic abilities.

I have a bunch of examples from my past, like the girlfriend I was feeling was sliding away – and when she had her birthday without inviting me I call her to ask why, and finally breaks up with her… just to realize I did this on her birthday… but by then it was too late. Foot firmly inserted in mouth. What I’m saying here is, breaking up might have been the right thing to do, but not on her birthday… or over the phone for that matter. Sure I had an idea about what was going on, and what I should do, but I never stopped to think about how she would feel about my behavior.

Having problems mentalizing also makes you an easy target for anyone wanting to con or take advantage of you (I stopped counting the amount of money and time I’ve thrown out the window on idiots I didn’t figure for idiots until too late). If you don’t get a feel for the other person’s thoughts, needs etc, you use yourself as a reference instead, and I happen to be a pretty nice and honest person (too damn honest – but that’s another post). So when the signal doesn’t get through you start by saying – hey they have honest intentions, right? And then when you get burned and the signal still doesn’t get through, you start saying – hey this (completely different person) is probably going to do just the same thing (as the other, completely psychopathic person did)… right?

Another consequence is that you might seem selfish or self absorbed. You’re having a hard time getting the feel for what’s going on in the head of other people so you start using yourself as the yardstick. And this in turn makes talking about everything from your perspective an important part in understanding everyone else.

Lacking in mentalization also means an Aspie might say, “hey I don’t want to talk about that, it’s boring…” Which isn’t the best of conversation starters, but because you’re not so much in tune with what’s going on in the head of the other person you miss the fact that talking about what you want all day might actually be boring to them.

However, there’s some hope. First of all, like anyone else, I’ve also grown up. And as you get older things starts falling into place. I might feel a conversation is boring, but try to steer it into something else, something both parties might actually find interesting. Not just say: “boooring” right out. And since I have rather narrow interests (another Aspie thing) I’ve become an expert on not just seeming interested, but finding interesting things in what people tell me (like when they go on about painting the boat or orchids – the orchids conversation actually got me thinking about getting more flowers to my apartment… see?)

Another thing is, most people actually aren’t as complicated as you might think. They have a few things going through their heads, different fears (of not fitting in, or lacking in some way, or that someone near or dear will get hurt, or won’t like us – fear is a huge part of what goes through people’s heads on a daily basis) and needs (love, safety, self worth… well basically Maslow’s hierarchy of needs), and so on. It takes years to figure it out, but even after a short while you start understanding – on a logical level – what’s most likely going on in the head of the people around you.

I’ve found books on body language and facial expressions helps a lot (think “Lie to Me” but less fantastic and more scientific). My favorite book (which unfortunately doesn’t exist in English) is called “The art of Reading Minds” (translation of “Konsten att lƤsa tankar” by Henrik Fexeus, there’s also a German translation, but I have a hard time thinking there wouldn’t be equivalent texts in English or other languages.)

What I like about this book is that it’s scientific (in spite of the title), it does not claim to contain any truth or only way to do things, and it’s pragmatic. Instead of tons of theories on rapport (to mention one of it’s subjects) you get; try to speak and breathe in the same pace as the other person, and you’ll start creating rapport, and when your body is on the same level of alertness as the other person, it might be pretty easy to figure out what they feel and think – simply by looking at your own thoughts and feelings, which is more often than we’d like influenced by our breathing, alertness level and other purely corporeal factors.

So, by analyzing behavior, it is possible to do what most people does by instinct, even though it takes longer to get there, and you may sometimes come off as a bit self-centered or too analytical. The core of the problem, however, was nicely described to me by a friend from many years ago. We were having a rather philosophical conversation and she said, “you know, I can ask if you understand, and you might say, sure I do, but I’ll never be able to know for sure that you really do.”

And that’s the human condition for you šŸ˜‰