Remember Doc, the white haired, mad eyed inventor from Back to the Future? The scene where Marty goes to visit Doc in his workshop and walks through a cluttered kitchen where a complex Rube Goldberg machine is set up to feed the dog? I swear my twelve-year-old son is a modern-day kid version of Doc.
My son’s recent projects include: Various robots made with Makeblock; An Arduino powered laser pointer mechanism designed to entertain our cats; a Lego EV3 cobra which slithers around and pretends to bite the cats (they love pouncing the silly snake); taking apart Nerf blasters and “modding” their functionality; an Arduino powered, soda bottle pontoon style boat; and a Raspberry pi powered version of Amazon’s Echo (Alexa).
All these projects require a lot of bits. Little LED lights, servo motors, resistors, transistors, battery packs, bread boards, and wires, lots and lots of wires. Then there are tools. And Lego pieces. All these things exist in a messy jumble on my son’s desk (and floor).
His inventiveness and creativity are praised in our family, but as him mother, and as one who hates clutter, I silently cringe when I see his workspace. You see, visual clutter stresses me out and overwhelms me. I can’t focus and get anything done if my environment is chaotic. I simplify, I declutter frequently, and tidy up before I go to bed. It truly keeps me saner and makes me a more patient mommy.
My son has ADD. This means that he struggles with focus and organization. He wants to play and invent, but he sees little reason to put things away. In his closet and around his room are many half complete, abandoned projects. My mad scientist invents and loses interest as soon as a new idea pops into his mind. I know this is typical of the ADD brain. He does well at school and home with a predictable weekly schedule and routine.
Part of this is learning organizational skills. He and I declutter his entire bedroom a couple times a year. We give away toys he has outgrown and we toss some of his abandoned creations. He has become quite good at getting all the Lego put away into shallow bins that fit under his bed. We store his multitude of tiny wires, servos and lights in a hardware storage box with 24 small labeled drawers. Putting away these tiny bits is the hardest, so we often work on it together.
My son loves when his room is roomy and clean. He tells me so. It lasts a couple of hours and then he begins working on another project. I know that learning organizational skills is a long-term process for someone with ADD. My hope is that by the time he creates his first famous invention, his workshop will be a bit more organized than Doc’s.