I Hate Entropy: When Chaos Is A Trigger

Entropy: a process of degradation or running down or a trend to disorder.  Merriam-Webster

I’ve come to the conclusion that I hate entropy.  Scientifically speaking, it’s the reason that my house is a constant state of meltdown and chaos, despite my best efforts.   Note the problem with that sentence: my efforts.

Small children and 2e kids have something in common – weak executive functioning.  Think about it.  We don’t expect a toddler to put toys up when they’re done with them, right?  We model the behavior, we ask them to help pick it up, but we don’t seriously expect them to put things back on their own.

Fast forward a few years.  Would you expect a 5-year-old to put things back when they’re done?  Mostly.  After all, they’re still a kid.  They still have to be reminded.  But in general, when you’re done reading a book it goes in the bookshelf.  When you come home you put up your coat.  Right?

::sigh::  The Engineer has had over 4 years of I-expect-you-to-do-this training and he still forgets to hang up his coat and put up his shoes when we come home.  The younger two rarely remember either, and will happily run around the house with a full winter coat on until I remind them that they might be too hot.

From a practical standpoint, that means my house is a complete mess.  Oh, I’m not talking about house cleaning, although that doesn’t get done often either.  Hah!  I read one mom talking about zone cleaning where she wipes down the bathrooms every day.  After I finished hysterically laughing, I broke down just a little bit and admitted that will probably never happen in my house.  Why?  Because it’s so darn pointless.

I clean the bathroom.  A day later, it’s back to normal soap splatter on the walls, water drips on the floor, and you do NOT want to know why my cleaning rag was yellow after I cleaned the walls near the toilet.  I vacuum the floor.  Five minutes later the Destroyer dumps every toy we have out on the floor and wades through them laughing hysterically (sensory seeking behavior.)

I do ALL of the kid laundry, neatly fold it, and put it away – over the course of 3 days, who am I kidding!?  The next day the laundry hamper is full.  What happened?  I mentally calculate 3 kids x 1 outfit for day + night = TOO MUCH LAUNDRY!

If it wasn’t for entropy, my children wouldn’t reliably spill food on every set of pajamas.  If it wasn’t for entropy, things wouldn’t magically move from one end of the house to the other with no-one touching them.  Don’t believe me?  Ask my kids how that crayon got to the front door:  “Not me!”(Princess)  “I didn’t do it!” (Engineer)  “Uh uh!” (Destroyer.)

You might read this and think “she’s not training those kids right!  Crack the whip, stand over them and make them do the work!”  And I do.  Make them clean up, that is.  The problem is that if you tell the Engineer to pick the toys up, he freezes.  “I don’t know what to do!” he complains.  We’ve modeled the behavior, demonstrated ways to clean, and still, he freezes up in anxiety and can’t handle the simple task of picking up toys and putting them away.

That’s a problem.  Because he has SPD, having too much stuff laying around triggers him.  It’s overwhelming.  Every time we clean the toys up and there’s room to play without stepping on things, he breathes a big sigh of relief.  “Look at all this room to play!” he exclaims, and promptly challenges his sister to a race around the house.

When the Engineer first had visits for OT, we were told to maintain a calm, organized home environment to help him stay calm.  I try.  I really try.  But I’ve come to understand that it’s almost impossible.  I do my best and I do a ton of work, but expecting the kids to pitch in is like waiting for the metro.  Painful.

Worse, the chaos triggers me.  Having my workspace (the kitchen) cluttered with toys, mail, school activities, and anything we don’t want the Destroyer to have is stressful.  Super stressful – just looking at it is enough to trigger my breathing issues sometimes.  It’s critical to my well-being and even my health to maintain a level of order and clutter-free in my work space.  It’s a constant struggle – because if something doesn’t have a spot it goes on my counter.  Doing a grocery run is stress-inducing because the new food takes up space.

I don’t care about the dust bunnies – they won’t bite.  The cobwebs in the corner aren’t hurting anyone.  But the mess – the constant mess of toys – that’s a problem.

Executive function issues or not, I’m not letting it slide.  The kids need to learn to take care of their stuff, and to respect their own needs.  We constantly practice this, and we’ll keep practicing it until it starts to stick.  It’s just painful.  So frustrating – annoying – chaotic!  Just one more way that 2e has turned normal upside down into chaotic and crazy.

I need some zen around here!


  1. thank you for understanding. this is us too. augh! + entropy! 3 kids at 3,6,9 w spd and attention and other. gosh is it difficult, even though i know they are still trying real hard.


    • They are trying – and it gets better as they get older, so I guess we’re doing something right. It’s just hard! Thanks for commenting 🙂


  2. We live in this environment too. Ours is a 12 yo. I learned quite a while ago how to make it her problem, not just mine. As long as I took her ‘specialness’ into account, the problem was only mine. Now if she wants to do something fun (skating, hanging with friends, electronics, etc.) she has to have a clean room. I’ve helped her many times, so she knows what to do. I’ve transitioned from taking over when she cried and had a melt down because she ‘couldn’t do it’ to telling her I’m confident that she can find a way that works best for her as long as it meets my standards of clean. It has taken a few meltdowns and missed activities, but guess what – she does it and even does her own laundry. I guess I quit believing she was incapable when she just needed space to own the problem and fix it herself. btw we were late to this idea – didn’t start until she was 9ish and it is a work in progress. ((hugs)) Hang in there. Sometimes we are the ones who need to learn. lol


    • Good points! Oddly enough, the Engineer does fairly well with his room. It’s the rest of the house that’s a disaster zone!


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