"My sister has ADHD and needs help organizing and maintaining her home. How can I help her feel less overwhelmed?"
by Sandy Maynard
Your sister is not alone. For many ADDers, dealing with the mail and the clutter that can result is not easy. There are three basic organizing rules to follow when it comes to preventing the clutter that mail can cause.
1. The first is O.H.I.O., an anachronism for "Only Handle It Once." Make a decision about each piece of mail at the time it is opened and take care of it right then and there. If it is a magazine, it needs to go in the magazine rack. If it is a value pack of coupons, (and your sister clips coupons or saves them), then the pack needs to be gone through and the coupons put into a coupon organizer.
There should also be a designated place to put newspapers until they are read or recycled. Bills need be separated and put in a special place, until your sister is ready to sit down and pay them at scheduled times. Some individuals make bill payment a part of the mail sorting process and others find that scheduling time to pay bills weekly or bi-weekly works well.
2. The second rule is to sort mail over a wastebasket. This will make it easier to immediately get rid of unwanted mail.
3. The third rule to follow when managing the mail is to get off junk mailing lists. Write or call the companies that send unsolicited catalogs or requests for donations and have them remove you from their mailing lists. They are required by law to do this.
Unfortunately most ADDers get distracted all too easily while sorting the mail and it ends up everywhere or they can not make quick and easy decisions "in the moment" as to what to do with it. This is where a coach (and wireless or headset phone) can be of help. I have literally walked clients through sorting their mail daily, keeping them on task and helping them decide what to do with it, until they are comfortable doing it on their own and have established a habit of doing it each day.
Maintaining the laundry is best done on a routine basis, being sure to plan enough time each week to keep up with it. Some Laundromats provide same day laundry services where you can drop off your laundry in the morning and pick it up in the evening all washed and folded and you pay by the pound. For many, this has been worth the expense and is now a part of their weekly budget.
Every household should have a file cabinet for important paperwork that needs to be kept organized and out of the way. This eliminates much of the clutter that may be adding to the overall disorganization. A professional organizer can help your sister in determining what files need to be created for a file system that works for her.
If toys are adding to the clutter, toy boxes are needed to store the toys in when not in use. Children need to learn where to put their toys when they are done playing with them. Special shelves for books and games that children can reach are a must. Taking the time to find a place to put the toys and instructing our children in how to put them away neatly can save much time in the long run.
If there is just too much "junk" than space to put it away, then it might be time for a tag sale or a trip to the Salvation Army or Goodwill Store. The rule for clothes is simple. Unless it is a gown or tuxedo, if you haven't worn it in the last year, chances are you won't, so give it away. If something is broken, make the time to fix it or toss it.
Creating physical order in an overwhelmingly disorganized household is not an easy task for anyone, let alone an ADDer. It takes time and lots of it, as well as support. Many ADDers need the help of a professional organizer to do this. If your sister does not have the financial resources available to hire a professional, then a family member or friend who has good organizational skills and a lot of patience can help. It is important that who ever works with your sister be non-judgmental and understanding of attention deficit disorder.
For reading material, I would recommend Stephanie Winston's Best Organizing Tips by Stephanie Winston.
For an audio tape, I would suggest, "Freedom of Expression: America's Most Radical Organizing Methods" by Judith Kolberg and panelists. This tape, recorded at the 1999 National Association of Professional Organizers' annual convention, can be ordered by calling 888-VWTAPES or visiting VWTapes.com.
Continue to love, support and encourage your sister with her organizational efforts. Remember that there is no better medicine for an ADDer than praise itself for a job well done, especially when it comes from a loved one!