man in red jacket looking across field in fog

Some labels are useful.

It’s good to know what the bottler considers a serving when buying juice.

A label that offers instructions is very helpful, particularly when trying to repair a flat tire.

But labels for people in the form of a diagnosis may be of little use or detrimental, so perhaps we should move slowly and deliberately when considering one that’s been applied to us.

Do we trust the source?

Were we already frightened when we went looking for outside information?

How about when we first heard the label?

Is acceptance of the label the answer to a long-held fear or worry?

Does it fill in a bunch of missing pieces?

Or does the label scratch at the back of our neck (figuratively)?

Is it ill-fitting but we still feel like we have to wear it?

...since I wasn’t interested in what they were teaching me, they had no responsibility to seek new or different ways to engage me.

With all of the information constantly directed at our receptors — our eyes and ears and mouth, our skin and our hearts and our minds — I am a bit suspect of labels like OCD and ADHD as panaceas for an inability to focus and concentrate.

I definitely believe that those conditions exist and people suffer from them.

But I wonder if, sometimes, they’re just easy to reach for and slap on anyone who has a hard time sitting still or is easily distracted.

Could the inability to focus be about hunger? Or thirst?



Some other condition?

I was often told that I wasn’t working to my potential as a child. But no one ever tried to engage my potential.

They just evaluated my disinterest as a failure on my part. As if, since I wasn’t interested in what they were teaching me, they had no responsibility to seek new or different ways to engage me.

I was even moved into a gifted child program for one year where I was charged with creating my own curriculum. I was ten years old at the time. Really? Left alone to teach myself at ten?!

I certainly worked to my potential when I was riding my bike, or playing little league, using my chemistry set, hunting frogs, or any number of other activities that drew me in and fed my imagination and desire to master something.

As an adult, in spite of my occasional under-achievement as a child, I’m engaged most of the time. Because now I have the confidence to trust myself and the ability to think critically. Neither of which I learned from a course in school. I may have picked it up while at a school, but it was never something that was directly taught to me.

So if you’ve been labeled, I want to suggest that you consider carefully the source of the label and if it really fits.

Are you willing to accept it because it’s easy?

Or because it’s accurate?

Do you feel empowered or defeated by the diagnosis?

Does it feel like a relief, like finally there’s a name for what you’ve been feeling all these years or do you feel labeled and trapped within the diagnosis?

When attempting to get organized, and applying these principles to move your life forward in a powerful and focused way, I don’t want you to let yourself off the hook with a simple label that singles you out and makes you ineligible for the benefits of an organized life.

There are workarounds for diabetes, and many other chronic conditions and diseases. There certainly are for ADHD and OCD.

A diagnosis does not disqualify you from living a full and fierce life of your own creation. Only you do.

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About The Author

Andrew Mellen's picture

Andrew Mellen is an organizational expert, public speaker, and the #1 best-selling author of Unstuff Your Life!

Andrew has helped tens of thousands of people worldwide to declutter and simplify their lives while regaining time for the things that matter.

A sought-after authority on organizing and productivity, Andrew's addressed audiences from The Great British Business Show to TEDx. 

Corporate clients include American Express, Genentech, NetApp, Time, Inc., and the US Depts. of Education and Homeland Security.

The media has dubbed Andrew “The Most Organized Man in America.” He writes a featured column called “Ask The Organizer” in Real Simple. In addition, he has written for and/or appeared in: The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Oprah Magazine, America Now, The Lisa Oz Show, The Nate Berkus Show, Oprah & Friends, Martha Stewart Living Today, ABC, NBC, CBS, CW11, HGTV, DIY Network, LiveWell Network, KnowMoreTV, Better Homes & Gardens, Ladies' Home Journal, Woman's Day, Family Circle, USA Today, GQ, InStyle, All You, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Healthy UK, American Way, numerous trade and travel publications, and NPR.

He leads workshops and speaks internationally while maintaining a private practice working with clients ranging from Fortune 100 companies, trade associations, and non-profits to CEOs, award-winning filmmakers, and authors, as well as overwhelmed parents everywhere. 

In 2013, Andrew founded Unstuff U®, the world's first completely virtual personal organization training center, offering classes, workshops, and other online resources for businesses and individuals. 

Andrew is a member of the Experts Collective and serves on the faculty of the New York Open Center in New York City. He speaks frequently on the intersection of spirituality and organization at places including Omega Institute, San Francisco Zen Center, Tassajara, All Saints Church, JCC Manhattan, and the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment, among others.

Previously, Andrew was an award-winning playwright, actor, producer, and director and the former Artistic Director of Alice B. Theater (Seattle), DC Arts Center (Washington, DC), and Shuttle Theater Company (New York). He is a contributing author to Yes Is the Answer: (And Other Prog-Rock Tales).

Andrew lives by his motto: More Love, Less Stuff!® 

Find him on the web at

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