ADHD and Organization: Clear Clutter from Your Workspace

This 10-point plan, designed by a professional organizer, can help ADHD adults de-clutter and organize their desks and office space -- in less than two hours.

Organizing Strategies 1-5

Organize-Organization-Desk

Step 1: Quickly sort clutter into four categories: Keep, Trash/Recycle, Shred, and Belongs Elsewhere. We used three cardboard bankers boxes (Keep, Shred, Belongs Elsewhere) and two trash bags (Trash and Recycle). Trash/Recycle and Shred should be your biggest piles. I call this a “quick sort” because everything, except trash, will be re-sorted, so you can make decisions quickly. (30 minutes)

This step enables ADHD adults to break through the obstacle of not knowing where to start and the fear of throwing away valuable items. You can always decide later if you want to transfer them to a different category (from Belongs Elsewhere, for example, to Keep). If you can’t maintain your focus for 30 minutes, set a timer for 10-minute work periods. Take a short break after each period.

Step 2: Do a detailed sort of the items in the Keep box. We ended up with papers, CDs, books, electronic equipment (computer accessories and cables), and general office supplies (pens and paperclips). (10 minutes)

Step 3: Start with an easy task, to avoid getting overwhelmed. M and I found a home for some items from the Keep box. We placed books on the bookshelf and office supplies in desk drawers. On a bookshelf, items are visible but not cluttered: You see a shelf of books, not other objects, when scanning it.

Desk drawers are tricky for ADDers, who have “out of sight, out of mind” syndrome. The key is to store a staple of supplies, of the same general type, in a single drawer. I had M store often-used office supplies in the top two drawers, and less frequently used computer accessories in the bottom drawer.

To build M and J’s confidence, I had them do another easy task: placing CDs (or CD-ROM software) in a CD wallet. The wallet fits nicely on the bookshelf, minimizing the space a CD collection takes up. It also groups similar items together, so M and J could find them quickly. (7 minutes)

Step 4: Put infrequently used electronic equipment in an old inbox. M’s Elfa Drawer File, which he used as an inbox, wasn’t helping him stay organized. He piled on more stuff -- and found less of it. We stored items (an extra mouse, cables, USB hub, and battery charger) in it and placed it in a nearby office closet. We purchased a letter holder to use as an inbox (see Step 10). M remarked, “The room is less cluttered already.” (5 minutes)

Step 5: File papers in a file organization kit like the FreedomFiler system. This all-in-one filing system eliminates the need to go through piles of paper to decide what to keep and what to throw away. The color-coded FreedomFiler lets you know when you can get rid of a document or when to move it to another category. You set up the files once -- no need to relabel them each year. [Initial set-up of the FreedomFiler system may take up to an hour, although the company offers a simpler, pre-assembled kit as well.] (20 minutes)

Next: Organizing Strategies 6-10

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