If you have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you may find it challenging to organize your home in a way that works for you. Luckily, whether you have been diagnosed with ADHD or not, this guide will show you how to eliminate clutter, establish a cleaning routine, and create a storage system to maintain a clean and tidy house. Check out these 16 organizing hacks to create an ADHD-friendly home.
How Does ADHD Affect Home Organization?
While every person experiences it differently, ADHD can affect how you manage your daily life. The following ADHD symptoms may create challenges in your home environment.
- Distractibility: Distractions occur all around, especially at home. People living with ADHD may find it difficult to focus on one household task and start cleaning multiple things at once without finishing the first task.
- Memory: Memory problems, such as forgetfulness, have been linked to ADHD, making it harder to keep track of a chores checklist and cleaning schedules.
- Organization: Difficulties with distractibility and planning can make it harder for people with ADHD to stay organized. You may find your space cluttered and messy, which exacerbates ADHD symptoms for some people.
- Planning: Struggling with making and maintaining plans can interfere with household productivity and organization.
- Prioritizing: Since most people have activities and responsibilities competing for their time, you must decide which ones to do first. If you find it difficult to prioritize, it may seem easier said than done.
- Procrastination: Procrastination can have a snowball effect. Putting things off creates more stress, which may worsen your ADHD symptoms and make it more difficult to complete tasks.
- Time management: Nearly every task—from leaving the house on time to completing a home improvement project—requires time management. If you struggle with focusing, planning, prioritizing, and multitasking, it’s more difficult to complete tasks on time.
Dr. Harold Wong, a board-certified physiatrist at New Waters Recovery, said that people living with ADHD may have difficulty with tasks like keeping track of bills and financial paperwork and finding a designated spot for belongings. “These symptoms can lead to challenges with decluttering, keeping a consistent cleaning routine, and managing the day-to-day responsibilities of running a household,” Wong said.
Organizational Tips for Maintaining a Clean Space
If you struggle to keep your house organized, knowing where to start can be the toughest part of making a change. The following suggestions offer ways to help organize your home—and keep it that way.
1. Eliminate Unnecessary Clutter
While it’s easy for anyone to get sidetracked while cleaning, people with ADHD may feel prone to distraction, causing further distractions and cleaning procrastination. Decluttering can help you stay focused and make it easier to get things done.
You can declutter by:
- Starting with the easiest space first: Tackling the smallest job first can prevent you from feeling overwhelmed and procrastinating.
- Setting a schedule and creating rules: Try maintaining a set decluttering schedule and setting rules, such as getting rid of anything you haven’t used in the past year. Give yourself a time limit for working and set timers for breaks.
- Dividing the space into manageable sections: To prevent procrastination and boredom, break your task down into attainable chunks. Then, work through each section one at a time, avoiding jumping between tasks.
- Enlisting help: Share a decluttering schedule with your housemates and follow up to keep each other supported and motivated.
2. Use Clear Containers for Storing Items
It’s easy to lose track of how many pasta boxes or tomato sauces you have stored in your kitchen cabinets. Storing items out of sight can lead to accidentally buying unnecessary items, leading to a more cluttered space. Instead, use clear containers to easily visualize your items.
Try out the following organization and storage tips with clear plastic containers:
- In the bathroom, store products you don’t use every day in a clear storage bin under the sink to keep things out of the way but within reach.
- Organize garage items by category in clear plastic boxes, keeping the boxes neatly on the shelves so you can see the contents of each box.
- Store less-used items like hats and shoes in clear containers.
- In the kitchen, store pasta, cereal, beans, and other dry goods in clear containers. Repeat this process inside your fridge by grouping perishables like condiments, cheeses, and produce.
- Keep track of your remote controls, chargers, and other media by storing them in open or clear bins in your living room.
3. Place Items in Visible Spots
Keeping frequently used items in visible places can help improve your home organization. That way, you can find what you need quickly, rather than relying on memory or searching in several spots.
- Designate spots for important everyday items, like keys and wallets.
- In your pantry, group and store spices, teas and coffee, and baking supplies together.
- Place dressings and condiments on a turntable inside your refrigerator and customize compartments by putting fresh produce visibly in the door and saving the crisper drawer for items that last longer.
- Organize your closet based on item and frequency of use.
4. Label Everything
Labels can save the day when searching for something in hard-to-see storage areas like cardboard boxes, opaque tubs or deeper shelves. Like clear bins and open boxes, labels tell the contents of the container without having to go through it. Labeling containers with categories— cleaning products, scarves, gardening tools—makes items easier to find and put away.
Start by labeling the following items:
- Bins, shelves, and the inside of cabinets by item or category
- Boxes of less-used or seasonal items
- Interior shelves and cabinets
- Document folders by type, like banking and healthcare information
5. Color Code Items
Since distinctive colors tend to stand out in our brains, color coding can improve memory, organization, and time management. Try color-coding items into groups, such as:
- Keys: If you carry a hefty key ring, try color coding them to make it easier to grab the one you need.
- Cords and cables: Add a color-coded label to your electronic cords and cables to keep them organized when not in use.
- Seasonal items: Color code the exterior of your holiday storage bins by marking fall decorations with orange tape and winter holidays with green tape.
6. Designate Spaces for Different Types of Tasks
Suppose you use your dining table as a workspace, gaming area, and spot to eat. Using one space for too many activities can lead to distraction and disorganization.
“Having a designated space for different activities, such as studying, exercising, paying bills, and so on, can be helpful,” Wong said. “For example, having a specific working area for paperwork can help you stay on top of bills and other important documents.”
Try these ideas for designating task spaces:
- Keep a filing system with labeled folders for bills and finances at your desk.
- Carve out a distraction-free zone to work from home that’s away from the TV or areas where other family members socialize or play.
- Set up a designated space to work on your hobby and keep needed items nearby.
Tips to Reduce Procrastination
When you feel distracted or overwhelmed, you may put off completing household tasks, which stresses you out, making it even harder to complete your to-do list. The following tips can help you address this common issue and increase your productivity.
7. Organize Tasks in a Calendar
Using a calendar or planner can help you start prioritizing right away. Whether you use an old-school paper calendar or a smartphone app, planning tools allow you to visualize the tasks on your agenda and help you prioritize and schedule them. If you opt for a hard-copy calendar, tack it to a wall in a central location where you’ll see it often.
Here’s how to use a calendar effectively:
- Keep track of appointments and events instead of relying on your memory.
- Break longer-term or multi-step projects into smaller milestones to be completed at different times.
- Add reminders for tasks to reduce procrastination.
8. Consider Using a Chore Chart
If you struggle with time management, you may procrastinate chores more than other tasks. A chore chart can help you visualize what needs to be done around the house and track your progress.
Sussan Nwogwugwu, a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner, said, “Managing ADHD might mean losing track of what’s already done. Therefore, a chore chart could mean tracking different tasks and chores.”
Use a chore chart effectively with these tips:
- List your chores and when they need to be done.
- Cross off chores as you complete them.
- Try dry-erase charts for daily tasks like feeding the dog and watering the plants.
- Delegate different tasks on the chart to partners and children.
9. Use Sticky Notes as Visual Reminders
Colorful sticky notes provide visible reminders of important tasks, especially when you stick them near the required task. Some people prefer physical notes to electronic reminders because phones and computers can create distractions of their own.
- Put a “phone, wallet, keys” note next to your key rack to remember the essentials when you leave for work.
- Keep your grocery list on a sticky note on the fridge, and then take it to the supermarket.
- Put a note on your bathroom mirror for tasks you must complete before breakfast or bed.
- Assign different colored notes to each family member, so they know which tasks correspond to them.
10. Create a Detailed To-Do List
Sometimes getting started is the hardest part of managing your household responsibilities. If you dread following your to-do list, try breaking it into more manageable chunks.
Follow these guidelines for creating an effective to-do list:
- Order your to-do list based on difficulty and then divide larger tasks into smaller tasks.
- Set a time limit of 5 or 10 minutes, and write down all the things that come to your mind that you need to get done.
- Cross off tasks as you complete them.
11. Complete One Task at a Time
Although multitasking may seem appealing, doing one thing at a time (single-tasking) helps you focus better. To make each task achievable, take it one step at a time using mini-goals, smaller subtasks, and time limits to finish before moving on to the next item on your to-do list.
Here are some single-tasking tips:
- If you need to clean an entire room, segment it into sections on a sheet of paper to visualize your plan.
- Set a timer to work on one section for 15 minutes, rest for 5 minutes, and then move to the next section.
- Dedicate a day to each weekly chore, such as vacuuming on Tuesdays and laundry on Thursdays.
Time-Management Tips for Increased Productivity
Although many people with ADHD struggle with time management, practicing this skill can increase productivity and decrease stress. The following tips can help you manage your time to complete tasks faster and more efficiently.
12. Work Your Way Up to Hard Tasks
One method to ease yourself into productivity—and stave off procrastination—is starting with easier tasks and working your way up to the most difficult ones. For example, if you need to reorganize the kitchen, work in sections and complete one cabinet first. If you have the energy after completing that task, move on to the next cabinet. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment as you cross items off your to-do list and gain momentum as you continue to work.
13. Set Time Limits
Time limits can make tasks feel less overwhelming and easier to start. A specified end time can also make it more manageable to finish chores by preventing burnout and boredom that would otherwise cause you to jump to another activity.
Start by estimating the time needed to accomplish a task, and then divide that into short work sessions that you can manage. Set a timer and work until it goes off or a playlist ends if you enjoy working to music.
14. Schedule Time for Breaks
Like giving yourself time limits for working on tasks, you should also schedule breaks to reduce anxiety and provide time to mentally switch to the next task. Setting timers can make it easier to keep to your schedule.
Set a timer for the beginning and the end of your scheduled break. Allot a limited number of breaks so you can rest and recharge without getting distracted from the task at hand.
15. Work With a Friend
In a concept known as “body doubling,” having a friend work on similar tasks at the same time can help people accomplish difficult or boring tasks. Body doubling makes unpleasant tasks more enjoyable by having someone to keep you company while completing these responsibilities.
Make a plan to talk to a friend or family member on the phone while both of you complete chores in your own homes. If you live with other people, plan a time to work on chores together.
The buddy doesn’t necessarily have to perform the task with you—they can check in with you or help you in any useful way.
16. Make Time to Celebrate Your Wins
Organizing your space takes time, effort, and patience, so be sure to celebrate your wins. Recognizing your successes can give you a feeling of accomplishment and help motivate you to stay on track for the next project. Establish a reward system for yourself to enjoy after completing a task or goal.
“With ADHD it is easy to become frustrated because you often have to work harder than others to achieve the same success,” said Daniel Wysocki, Ed.S., of Wysocki Psychological Services. “Be present for your achievements and enjoy that moment.”
If you find cleaning and organizing difficult, we hope these organizational hacks get you closer to a pleasant living space that works for you. Pick one—or try them all—to curb procrastination, improve your time management, and increase your productivity. Visit HomeAdvisor to get more home tips or to hire a professional organizer to help you arrange an ADHD-friendly space.
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