Do you call your Mom when you wash the dishes? Catch up with your best friend every time you fold the laundry? You hunt down your first high school boyfriend’s little brother, 30 years later, just to have someone to talk to because you have to do the clearing up before the housekeeper comes – those blippity-blip LEGOS!!!! “Better” yet, have your friends and family come to expect you to bribe them with pizza to come over and keep you company whenever you need to do paperwork? YOU ARE NOT ALONE. And you might need a body double.
Judith Kolberg, a founding member of both American professional societies for Organizers (the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) and the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD)) long long ago recognized that many of her clients needed another person to anchor them to their tasks while they organized, especially for chores her clients found boring, intimidating or otherwise difficult. She coined the term “social organizing” for that tool in her foundational book Conquering Chronic Disorganization and explored several methods for filling the need. Linda Anderson, a highly experienced ADD coach and another guiding light in NAPO, first developed the phrase “body doubling.” Other bold, inventive and observant souls have developed six distinctive techniques for body doubling. Terry Prince, CPO-CD, the first ICD President – look for the explanation of “CPO-CD” in another post, because I ain’t got the energy here! – has a wonderful paper detailing those six styles for me and my fellow Organizer geeks.
In simplest terms, body doubles are people who will keep you company while you work. They can be with you physically, on the phone, even on Skype or Facetime. How someone keeps you company can get complicated, as I’ve mentioned: do you need someone quietly reading in a corner, or someone who takes a more active assistant’s role? Do you need help with the occasional decision, or truly someone, just by being with you, who is a living, breathing, friendly in-the-moment reminder that this ickiness gotta get done? It’s not as easy as it sounds. The great news is that a friend or family member can be taught the techniques if you haven’t got the resources to hire an Organizer. Ideally, an Organizer will at least first teach your double. There are potential substitutes for a real-live human. I don’t like starting my clients with those, but nonetheless they are sometimes what a budget and personal situations allow.
You’re asking “Why do I need this?” There are several possibilities, which Linda Anderson talks about in an extremely readable paper on her website. You might need the boost of being accountable to someone else. You might need the biochemical/neurological stimulus of the other person’s presence. She outlines other theories as well.
PS – Your pet can sometimes be a suitable body double. If he isn’t stealing 1.5 pounds of salmon off the kitchen counter, or sitting on the newspapers getting bundled for recycling. Miss you, Trevor and Snickers.