You walk into your home. All the dishes are neatly stacked in the cabinets. The sink is freshly scrubbed. The countertops are cleared of glasses, mail, and newspapers. Walking into your bedroom, your clothes are neatly hung up in the closet. The bed made with crisp, clean linens.
Your files in your home office are organized alphabetically and stored in two matching filing cabinets. On your tidy desk sits one small stack of bills, which you will pay on Sunday afternoon, like you always do.
The dog toys are contained in a small basket you keep next to your favorite recliner.
You’re home now, relaxing after work, and pleased that the laundry is done. You took care of that last night. The kids’ toys are placed in their labeled toy boxes, neatly stacked on their bedroom shelves.
All that’s left to do before you turn on your favorite TV show is to fold the three kitchen towels left over from last night and return them to the top drawer on the left, next to the sink.
Then your toddler starts to wail. Your brain shifts out of this wonderful daydream as you assess the actual situation at hand.
You forgot to turn the dryer on and now the baby has no clean, dry pajamas. The rest of the dirty clothes are flung over chairs or piled on the floor. Even worse, you forgot to plan tonight’s dinner. No wonder she’s crying.
Welcome to living as an adult with ADHD!
Part of living with ADHD may mean being chronically disorganized. Some of us may also be prone to procrastinating, especially about things that are boring and routine (think: laundry, dishes).
We might even avoid tedious tasks, living in endless clutter — from dirty socks to overdue bills — and feeling this near-constant state of anxiousness. It’s no fun.
In fact, it can be so painful, it can cause significant problems in your life, from avoiding having people over to falling into depression.
If you experience any of these symptoms, help is available. There are individuals and organizations that can offer support to help you get and keep your home organized.
Here are some resources:
Tips for Organizing Your Home
As of writing this, there’s no cure for ADHD, but… there are ways to work around it.
For me, one of the hardest rooms to keep clean and organized is the kitchen because that’s the room that sees the most activity.
What works for me in keeping it tidy is to practice the “clockwise cleaning” method: I start at the sink and begin de-cluttering the counters by going clockwise, not allowing myself to shift my eyes anywhere else.
My rule is, if I come across items that don’t belong in the kitchen, I don’t leave the room to put things away — that’s a totally distracting disaster. It could lead me into a maze of other activities.
Instead, I place all the dislocated items in either grocery bags or laundry baskets for later redistribution.
Once the counters are cleared, I return to the sink and begin the cleaning process, with the sink, again, being the starting point. Round two is done!
I repeat this process with the floor: Sweeping clockwise, until I return to the sink, then washing, using the same routine. This system can be used in every room of the house. It’s a huge help for avoiding getting distracted and ending up in the attic admiring old photo albums.
“Do I really need this?”
Another strategy is to avoid clutter in the first place. While shopping, ask yourself exactly where you plan to put the desired item. If there’s no room, put it back!
If it’s a clothing item you’re eyeing, ask the clerk if the store offers a hold policy. If so, this can give you additional time to think about whether you need to make this purchase.
If you’re still in love with the item and really need it, return to the store. Chances are, you’re impulse buying, an activity near and dear to the ADHD adult’s heart. Recognize your tendencies to do this and use these strategies to help you control your buying patterns.
Many adults find that getting rid of credit cards (or leaving them at home when you’re craving a nonessential shopping trip) is helpful. It’s harder to let go of hard cash on things that aren’t necessities.
Taming the toy pile
If you have young children and your house is overtaken by toys by the end of the day, assign a laundry basket to each child with their name marked on it. Kids hate picking up their things and putting them away as much as you do, so remember M.I.F. — make it fun!
Set the timer and whoever fills their basket and then puts their things away first gets a prize. It can be as simple as an extra 10 minutes of free time before bedtime.
Paper, paper everywhere
Paper is a headache for most adults with ADHD. For mail coming in, find an attractive basket or other container and keep it near the mail slot. Have a small garbage can there as well and immediately toss the junk mail in that for recycling.
Some people are able to sort their mail daily and place it where it needs to go — on the desk for bill paying, on a bulletin board for reminders, etc. That simply doesn’t work for me.
Instead, I first assess if there’s mail that needs immediate attention. If not, I keep all of it in the basket and assign one day of the week to go through it, organize it, and pay the bills as needed.
If at all possible, pay your bills online. That will get rid of the piles of mail —and the paper clutter. You can also request to have mailers, junk mail, magazines, etc. stopped. Immediately unsubscribe from all magazines if possible, since they’re now available online and at the library.
Catalogues become a real headache, especially around the holidays. Check out this service to cut down on unwanted mail.
Get two things done at once to make it less painful. An example of twinning would be sorting your laundry while watching your favorite TV show. During commercials, you can switch items from the washer to the dryer or use the time to fold and put clothes away.
Make a list
I love checklists! Write down chores you need to do. You can list daily chores, as well as weekly and long-term goals for de-cluttering/organizing. For daily checklists, you can make them via your computer and print them out. This ensures you have checklist every day.
Once each chore is done, check it off. For long-term projects, break them down into doable parts. For example, to clean the garage, it could look like this:
- toss broken items
- start a donation box for things no longer needed
- organize items by type: all tools, gardening equipment, auto accessories, etc.
Then… write down each task on your calendar so you’ll remember to work on your project. This will then help you hold yourself accountable.
Keeping your home organized and clutter-free is not an easy task when ADHD is in the picture. You shouldn’t compare your home with anyone else’s.
You may need to change your expectations a bit based on what works best for you. That’s OK. Hopefully these tips will help you get started and keep you on track.
You may be amazed at how great you’ll feel once you get things done. It may seem overwhelming at first, so celebrate every small success. You’ve earned it!
For more information on how to manage ADHD, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team.
ADHD-US-NP-00058 JUNE 2019