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Q: Which ADHD Organizational Tools Actually Work?

Getting organized has never seemed so easy. We are bombarded with tools and apps that claim to simplify life and solve clutter woes, but it turns out ADHD organization needs and tools are not one-size-fits-all. ADDitude recently asked its readers to share their most fruitful organizing purchases, as well as the not-so-useful ones.

Close up of woman preparing plastic food boxes with fresh green onion, strawberry and blackberry for freezing on the wooden table.
Close up of woman preparing plastic food boxes with fresh green onion, strawberry and blackberry for freezing on the wooden table.

Have you ever (very enthusiastically) purchased a new filing or organization system that was abandoned within 6 (or even 3) months? Or an expensive, fancy planner that now serves as dormant countertop clutter? Finding an organizing system that actually works is a life-long quest for adults with ADHD. Folders, shelving systems, calendars, or apps that click for one ADHD brain may only complicate things for another. Low motivation and poor working memory can get in the way of staying organized, too. Many products promise a simple, almost magical, way to get back on track, but do any of them actually help?

ADDitude recently posed this question to adults with ADHD, who shared the tools that have helped remedy messy workspaces and cluttered rooms. Here are some of our favorites; share your recommended ADHD organization tools in the Comments section below.

ADHD Organization Tools You Love

“I bought clear containers from the dollar store for classroom supplies. It saves me time because I can see what’s in each box. At home, I hang my work clothes but keep the rest on open shelving. I wound up buying duplicates or near-duplicates when I kept my clothes in dressers because I forgot what was in my drawers.” – Anonymous

“I use a lined coil notebook as a bullet journal and it works great! I brain dump the tasks in my head, assign them, and actually get things done! I don’t often buy gadgets or services.” – Glenda

“The Planner Pad (#CommissionsEarned) has become a huge part of daily, weekly and monthly planning for me. Every Sunday, I add the week’s meetings, workshops, and other appointments. I enter my to-do items at the top, how I’ll tackle them in the next section, and finally a dedicated time in the bottom section.” – Linda

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“I bought The Minimalist Home (#CommissionsEarned) by Joshua Becker as well as his online program. I’ve only just begun reading the book and I haven’t logged into the program at all, so I’m already behind and feel bad. I buy new gadgets, books, or online programs about every three to six months, but I lack the self-discipline to keep at it.” – Anonymous

“I recently bought folders, inclined file sorters, and storage boxes for hanging files. I am working on my Ph.D. and my desk was a disaster. I keep the things I am actively working on in the file sorters on my desk. Everything else goes into the storage containers. It is so much easier to search through than piles on my desk.” – Anonymous

“I bought clear organizing containers (#CommissionsEarned) for my pantry and my teas. My partner and I need everything to be SEEN. When everything has a place, I don’t have to rely on my memory to help me figure out where things are. I buy a lot of organizational gadgets because I’m messy, but it stresses me out.” – Mabel

“I put all makeup together in a basket. If I had a makeup container with all those fancy dividers, I would never put the makeup back where it belongs. By having one basket that it all goes in, I can toss it in there and it’s always where it belongs. Organizing systems don’t work for me because they generally require you to subcategorize – that’s too many steps.” – Stephanie

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“I got a few different colored wallets and wallet chains. They allow me to separate my bus pass, ID, change, and other items I use frequently and attach them to my belt. That way I can’t leave them anywhere and don’t have to waste time looking.” Anonymous

“I bought inexpensive chrome over-the-toilet shelves (#CommissionsEarned) that have helped me organize things I need in the bathroom. They look nice on display and keep my counter space uncluttered. They are transparent so I don’t forget where things are.” – Anonymous

“Last week I bought three-inch binders with slip sheets to keep track of finances – I’m now tasked with my mother’s financial affairs in addition to my own. So far, it seems like this is a better way for me to organize our paperwork.”– Anonymous

“I bought storage bins for my garage. I labeled them with their contents and stored similar items in each bin. I regularly buy organization tools when something changes in my life or when I realize the system I put in place no longer works.” – Amanda

“The last organizational products I purchased were food storage and shelving for my refrigerator and pantry. They allow my ADHD brain to quickly pinpoint availability and arrange healthier items for better access.” – Anonymous

ADHD Organization Tools You Ditched

“I bought the Define My Day pad (#CommissionsEarned) for keeping track of daily tasks. It seems like it would be useful if I actually had the motivation to use it. I recorded what I wanted to accomplish the first day I got it (about a month ago) and haven’t looked at it since. I buy new ADHD organization tools about every three months or so.” – Anonymous

“I have a bunch of different divider boxes and cases which remain empty, while my living space is closer to a cyclone aftermath.” – Russ

“My husband made shelving in the basement to organize my seasonal décor, but he’s frustrated because I have yet to organize anything! I dig in one box to get started, but quickly get bored. I wish I could afford a professional organizer. I do believe that once I have a system, I could keep more organized. – Linda

“I bought a diary to help me stay on a healthy meal plan and maintain better household organization. It lasted two days. I’m not even sure where it is now… I buy organizational gadgets frequently but nothing has stuck.” – Anonymous

“I have purchased every organizational product available, from ELFA closets at The Container Store to plastic boxes at the 99-Cent store. I tend to do better with things that are transparent so I can see what is inside. I am always keen to try whatever is advertised because I remain hopeful the next thing will ‘do the trick,’ and I will effortlessly be organized.” – Leslie

It is the system more than the item that makes the difference. Because organization has always seemed like this mysterious, unattainable thing, I believed for a long time that it had to be a complex monster. But, simple is better and easier to maintain in the long term – particularly for our chaotic brains.” – Anonymous

ADHD Organization Tools: Next Steps

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