Cleaning my workspace with WORMS
Posted Friday, April 15, 2022
The studio where I do art and electronics projects tends to get very messy very quickly. When I'm working on something, my focus is dialed up to 11, and I avoid anything that might distract me or take me out of the moment. That means scraps fall to the floor, tape remnants get stuck to the arm of my chair, coffee cups pile around, and supplies and tools are abandoned on the nearest surface.
By the time I've snapped out of my Art Trance and begun to assess the damage, the task of cleaning feels deeply daunting. My ADHD brain, struggling to get a start on the task, throws me into a negative feedback loop of my own creating. What's worse, my escape hatch is often to walk away from the problem entirely, leaving the mess for poor Future Me!
I wished there was some kind of formula or simple structure I could use to help me breakdown the tasks needed for tidying a chaotic workspace. Ideally, it would be flexible enough work for different kinds of spaces... sometimes a tabletop, sometimes a room, sometimes a bookshelf. So, after some trial and error, I created one that works well for me. It starts with the tasks that require the least decision making in order to build progress and momentum quickly. I'm sharing the strategy here in case it's useful to anyone else.
In this system, cleaning up a workspace is divided into five sequential stages: waste, out-of-towners, residents, miscellany, and style. (That spells, you guessed it, WORMS.) I admit that it's a little odd to refer to my art supplies as out-of-towners and residents. But the idea that my workspace is a little village with guests and residents is a funny, Animal Crossing-inspired mental image that has stuck in my mind.
Each stage of WORMS is done completely with respect to the workspace before moving on to the next.
I've been a messmaker my whole life, and that's probably never going to change. But this somewhat silly mnemonic has helped me get over the anxiety of cleaning it all up. It seems to work especially well for workspaces and small rooms that have eclectic contents. After doing the WORMS thing, I'm at least ready for the next fun project and the mess that will inevitably ensue.