An ADDitude reader recently asked: “I’m 35 and a wife and mother to two boys. I was diagnosed with inattentive ADHD two years ago. I like to hold on to stuff — knick-knacks from my grandmother, a ticket stub from a play I saw with my husband five years ago, and so on. The only time I ‘sort of’ clean up and get organized is when I invite friends or relatives over for dinner. This doesn’t happen often these days, because I’ve run out of closet space and other hiding places for all the junk. Can you help me, so I can have my friends over again?”
Clutter-shame is a complaint of many adults with ADHD. There are lots of reasons we find it hard to let things go. Here are a few:
1. We have many interests and find it hard to set boundaries (on what we buy, what we keep, and where we put things).
2. It is easy for us to see possibility and potential, so we tend to hold on to things “just in case.”
3. We struggle with systems and getting things done, so it’s easy to wind up with stacks of mail or piles of laundry.
4. We keep things because they help us to remember an experience (tickets, programs, souvenirs).
5. We form emotional attachments, making it harder to let go of things (even if we dislike our aunt’s embroidered napkins or struggle to find space to store 200 drawings our children did in grade school).
6. We keep things visible because we might otherwise forget about them. We tend to “file by pile” because “out of sight is out of mind.”
7. We make impulsive purchases when shopping because ADHDers are usually in search of ways to stimulate their brains. This adds to clutter at home.
8. We have difficulty prioritizing and making decisions, so we just find it easier to keep everything.
9. We get distracted and leave things where they were as we move on to something else, whether it is a kitchen counter with the remnants of last night’s dinner or a sofa with piles of magazines on the cushions.
10. We forget — or can’t find — what we have, so we buy extras.
11. Poor time management and lack of interest makes it challenging to follow routines — emptying a dishwasher to avoid a sink full of dirty dishes or putting away clean laundry before it gets wrinkled.
The result? Our home becomes, and stays, a mess.