ADHD and Clutter: Is It Organized Chaos or Just a Mess?

Many ADHD adults have cluttered workspaces and homes. If you work well in those surroundings, then it's time to make peace with your organized chaos. If not, learn how to prevent clutter from overwhelming you.

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Don't Let Clutter Overwhelm You

One of my clients was clearly a slave to his mess. He piled stuff -- papers, clothes, sports equipment, unpaid bills -- all around the dining-room table, kitchen counters, coffee table, and other shared spaces in the house. His wife picked up, but didn’t know where to put the homeless items. He suggested storing his clutter in his office, which was in the basement. They agreed it wasn’t fair for her to have to run up and down the stairs to get his stuff out of the way.

The solution? They placed a large wicker basket -- about the size of a milk crate -- in every room. They refer to the baskets as their “designer dumpsters.” Whenever she sees his stuff cluttering up shared space, she deposits it in the basket in that room. He always knows where to find the items that he’s misplaced.

At one point, I sat on the trunk in my office -- amid the disarray of books and papers -- thinking about giving up on my thesis. My thoughts came so fast that I didn’t think I could capture them in an outline. I took photos of the floor and desk -- and of myself atop the trunk -- to preserve the moment when I almost gave up. The photo reminds me that I am more than my mess. I am an ADHD coach whose contributions and academic achievements have made a difference in people’s lives.

Look beyond your mess -- assuming it’s not messing up a colleague or spouse -- and find something about yourself to applaud. I’m already clapping for you.

Clutter Control Tips for ADHD Adults

  • Use baskets/containers without lids for like items (e.g., boot box, gloves/hat/scarves box, kitchen spice box).
  • Place a wastebasket in every room.
  • Place a magazine rack in rooms where you read.
  • Spend 15 minutes a day de-cluttering (throwing and putting things away, filing, if necessary).
  • Designate at least one junk drawer in every room. If you don’t know where an item should go, or if it doesn’t have a home yet, put it in that drawer.

More Tips for Organizing with ADHD:

16+ Life Organization Tips for ADHD Adults

ADHD Child Proofing: How to Ensure a Safe, Organized Home

ADHD at Work: Organized, Focused Mornings

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