Ask the Experts

Q: I Have an Overwhelming ADHD Clutter Problem

Is ADHD-related disorganization causing you (and your children) frustration and anxiety? You need a system that makes sense to you — not the rest of the world. Here, learn how to find what works to help you and your kids stay on top of clutter, once and for all.

Q: “My daughter’s room is an absolute disaster, and mine is not much better. Instead of hanging clothes up or putting them away, we both dump them wherever it’s convenient. The disorganization is causing anxiety because we are overwhelmed wherever we look. How can we find a system that works for us?” —Kcalm

Q: “My two adult children and I are all diagnosed with ADHD. How can we keep on top of the clutter? We seem to let it get to the point of being overwhelming.” —Frustrated Mom

Hi Kcalm and Frustrated Mom:

Your questions are among the most common — and commonly frustrating — for parents AND children with ADHD. It’s not only difficult to find organizing systems that work for you; it’s nearly impossible to maintain the ones you get going. Here a few guidelines to get you started — and consistent.

  1. Everything Needs a Home! Barbara Hemphill once said that clutter is delayed decision-making. So if you don’t know where something lives in your home, you’re more apt to let it sit wherever it lands. Start by designating specific “homes” for all your belongings. And make sure your areas are clearly labeled. When you’re tired after a long day, visual reminders make cleaning up that much easier.
  2. Use My “Triple S” System — Short, Simple & Specific — to Set Daily Goals. Try to organize everything in one day, and you’ll end up overwhelmed and frustrated. Try specific daily intentions instead.  “Thursday night we’re going to put away the clean folded laundry.” “Saturday morning we’ll tackle the weekly mail.” In other words, break down your tasks into manageable parts to feel more in control.
  3. Make It Fun! Crank your favorite music and throw yourself a dance party. Set a timer and play “Beat the Clock” by seeing how much you can get done before it goes off! Grab your favorite candy and “have a treat while you make it neat!” Infusing energy and play into your organization routine is a wonderful way to get your ADHD brain moving!
  4. Pair Up to Pare Down! Grab your children and work together! Sometimes “body doubling” (being in an environment where others are doing what you’re doing) helps us to initiate and stay on task. Plus hard work goes faster when we do it with someone else.

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Organization guru Leslie Josel, of Order Out of Chaos, will answer questions from ADDitude readers about everything from paper clutter to disaster-zone bedrooms and from mastering to-do lists to arriving on time every time.

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