One of the challenges of having ADHD that has been the most embarrassing for me over the years–especially as an adult–is being messy. My theory is that ADHD is basically messy room psychology. I have yet to meet an ADHDer that hasn’t struggle with this challenge in at least one place in their life, so if you want to know the messy room psychology, look no further than your nearest ADHDer…ha!
And there’s nothing worse than someone popping by your house and seeing papers and trash all over the tables, every dish in the house dirty in the sink, and clothes all over your floor. Or giving someone a ride and having them see the war zone that lives in your car. It’s…awkward…
I tried so hard to hide it from people because it’s a bit embarrassing; it feels like you’re failing the whole adulting thing. It was a huge relief to find out that I wasn’t just a lazy slob– It’s that whole executive dysfunction thing that we ADHDers have the joy of wrestling on a minute by minute basis. (Executive dysfunction= messy room psychology. Am I right? I’m just sayin’…)
Trying to find resources on organization strategies and how to conquer the clutter specifically for ADHD hasn’t gone well either. Most of the advice out there seems like it’s geared toward neurotypicals but branded for ADHDers. Any time I see an article saying, “do this organization thing and then keep it like that” I just want to slap someone. Getting it organized is only one small part of the problem–for me, keeping it that way is, and has always been, basically like tilting at windmills. (Yep, that’s a reference to Don Quixote cuz I’m a cool nerd like that.)
Lucky for you, I have made some progress on that front that I’m willing to share. There are two really important things you have to keep in mind as you look for ways to master your ADHD cluttered environment:
The Two Guiding Principles of How to Conquer Clutter When You Have ADHD
- Your organization must make it as easy to put things back where they belong as it is to just leave them lying around. That means that your organization might not be as pretty as Marie Kondo’s but it will be a heck of a lot prettier and more functional than the mess you usually have. Plus, it will be easier to maintain or “keep it that way”. I’ll go into more detail with some examples in a moment.
- You will never conquer clutter if you hang on to everything you have (and keep adding more!). Keeping the house clean with ADHD is just about impossible if you have a lot of stuff. Even Marie Kondo agrees with that one, ADHD or not.
If you’ve been following the Konde Marie method, you know her framework for getting rid of stuff is whether or not it sparks joy. It may be the ADHD talking but that I could see myself overthinking.
My framework is a bit different so in case you need someting different, here goes:
If I made myself 100% take care of this item exactly as I’m “supposed to” (for clothes think wash, dry, fold, put away…along with all the other clothes) every single day, would it be worth all the effort? If the answer is no, I get rid of it.
Yes, I sometimes don’t have enough clothes…ha! But it means I get rid of a lot more than most people do which has significantly cut down on how bad my house gets now and improves my ability to keep it clean and organized. If you take nothing away from this post, the biggest things you could do is reduce the amount of stuff you have to keep clean and organized. Seriously…
Overcoming your ADHD Cluttered Environment is About Making things Easier on Yourself.
When I started trying to overcome clutter, the first step for me was to notice the areas that created the biggest problems for me.
Examples of those problems:
⏩In my house, we have a tendancy to leave our trash wherever we are. Eat a yogurt while watching tv? The empty yogurt container tends to stay on the couch or end table. That makes for a lot of trash just sitting around.
⏩ We also have difficulty with leaving clothes wherever we are when we change. That means there are clothes everywhere.
⏩ In the kitchen, we have difficulty leaving the coffee and accessories all over the place, creating clutter on the counter tops (along with the discarded plastic wrap of various things like yogurt containers). So the countertops stay pretty messy.
Applying that first guided principle (which is alot easier to do when you’ve already followed the second guiding principle), I asked myself, how can I make it easier on myself?
Strategies that have worked:
⏩ To minimize the trash problem, I looked at the places in the house that tended to collect the most trash–near the couch, the kitchen, the bathrooms, and laundry room. Then I made sure that there was a trash can right there. Now, when we’re watching tv, it’s just as easy to throw away the empty yogurt container as it is to leave it on the end table. That’s cut down significantly on the clutter created by trash.
⏩ To minimize the clothes problem, I looked at the areas of the house that tended to have the most discarded clothes and why they were there. Sometimes, we have clothes that aren’t necessarily dirty–maybe we only wore it for an hour and we are planning to wear it later in the day. We didn’t want to put them away but also didn’t want to put them in the dirty clothes. For that problem, I put over-the-door hangers in the parts of the house that we were likely to leave those kinds of clothes–the bathroom door and the closet door.
For the clothes that were legit dirty and needed to be washed, I made sure (like I did with the trash cans) that laundry baskets were in the areas with the highest amount of accumulated clothing–the bathroom, laundry room, and bedroom. Now, instead of just leaving the dirty clothes we are changing out of in the floor of the bedroom, it’s just as easy to toss them in the laundry basket sitting by the bed. (For us, this works best with open top baskets. If you have to take the extra step to open the lid, the ADHDer is more likely to just throw it on the floor).
⏩ To minimize the kitchen counter top clutter, I created a coffee basket that sits beside the coffee pot which holds the coffee and all accessories that we need. Now, instead of just leaving everything out on the counter, it’s just as easy to put it back in the basket. Plus, for the other trash, I have an open top trash can that sits (uncovered and out in the open) beside the counter top.
Putting your trashcan away in a cabinet or closet takes that extra step to use and makes it less likely that we will consistently do it.
With these examples you can see how I’ve identified my biggest clutter problems and answered the question how can I make it easier on myself?
Now it’s your turn. Follow the steps:
- Look around your house. What makes up the majority of the problem? Clothes? Trash? Shoes? Random stuff without a home? Paper? Junk mail? Rank in order of what is causing the biggest amount of clutter. (I suggest writing it down). Nest, you’lll tackle each problem one at a time.
- Pick an area and start getting rid of stuff using whatever framework works best for you in getting rid of the most significant amount of stuff. Joy, ease, whattever priniciple you prefer.
- Now, with the stuff you have left, ask yourself, What could I do that would make this problem easier on me to keep uncluttered?
Make sure whatever strategies you implement are only one step as much as possible (so use a laundry hamper without a top, because having to open the lid adds an unnecessary step that lessens the likelihood of consistently using it).
If you have the spare money, it may be worth it to you to invest in a few items that make life a little easier.
⏩ For instance, a Roomba for those who hate sweeping and vaccuuming or an iRobot Floor Mop if you hate moping can really help put those tedious tasks on autopilot. are some of the most tedious household chores out there.
⏩ Scrubbing Bubbles Automatic Shower Cleaner can help take the (sometimes disgusting) bore out of keeping your tub from looking like a green swamp.
Even just one of these can make a huge difference if some of your problem areas are floors and showers.
If you don’t have the spare money, you might try negotiating chores with other members of your household. If you have difficulty staying on top of cleaning the showers but you do alright with dishes, see if others in your household can take over the floors while you focus on the dishes. If you have difficulty with this conversation, make sure you stick around the blog because I have a post coming about successfully nagivating difficult conversations that may help.
Above all, remember your two guiding principles for conquering the clutter:
- Get Rid of Stuff and
- Make sure keeping the rest of what you keep organized is as easy to maintain as it is forget about.
These will guide you to a more organized life that you can maintain even when you have ADHD.
What are some strategies you’ve had success with? Any challenges you need help overcoming? Post it here or, for more timely feedback, join the “That ADHD Life” Facebook group! Here’s to you, your ADHD cluttered environment, and learning how to CONQUER THE CLUTTER!
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