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You Can Call Me Ms. Clean

I want to be able to invite friends over to our home at a moment’s notice, so that means having some MLN — a Minimum Level of Neatness.

I don’t mean to reinforce stereotypes, but it’s true that many people who have ADHD have difficulty with tasks like household cleaning and organization. The requirements of these tasks often max out our ability to logically and emotionally even start them, never mind follow them through to completion. But I’ve made great progress recently toward maintaining a manageable level of clean and organized, in my home, and it feels so good.

Oddly enough, I kind of like cleaning. Even when I was a child, I got a certain satisfaction from cleaning tasks. But put these tasks in the adult context of routinely maintaining a household, and even someone who likes cleaning can get overwhelmed.

What changed? I wish I could tell you that I found a magic switch to flip, but I didn’t. What I did find was that, in order to get it done, I had to make it my highest priority, and make a plan. I realized that we like to have visitors in our home, but that it was stressful having them over because we had to do so much cleaning before they came over. I decided that my house had to be clean enough, at all times, that we would feel good about letting friends enter our house on relatively little notice. I’ll add that I don’t think we could have done this a few years ago, when our kids were younger, but now that the youngest one is nine years old, the messes of tiny people are not something that we have to deal with.

There’s a lot of variety to be found in household cleaning and organizing — and perhaps stimulant medication has made it seem less difficult. I’m taking more pride in putting this effort into my home because I see opportunity everywhere I look, to improve my living space.

Once I identified my goal, I had to make some decisions. I decided to cut out any other extracurricular activities right now, aside from cleaning and organizing my house. I don’t know that I would recommend that for everyone, but it’s what’s working for me right now. It’s given me a new perspective — I have a better understanding of exactly what it takes for me to maintain my home. I calculated that it takes 20-25 hours/week to manage and care for my household (timers can help with figuring this out). Now I’m working on trying to delegate some of it to other household members.

The plan: I do at least one daily load of laundry. And the dishes are all washed, nearly every day. The cat litter also gets scooped daily. These are the only tasks that I allow to be repetitive each day. My goal is to maximize novelty so that I don’t get bored with this.

Once I finish the laundry and dishes for each day, I sprinkle weekly tasks into my week. Washing the floors, cleaning the bathrooms, vacuuming. I also keep a sponge next to the sink in the main bathroom, to wipe the sink and counters down quickly when needed. Doesn’t matter which day of the week that I do the weekly tasks, as long as they get done.

By making sure that each of these tasks is done during the week, our house is in pretty good shape. I fill in around these with other tasks, like organizing the kids’ rooms. Wiping down dirty cabinets. This week, I’ll be painting the front door because I just noticed that it looks really old and dirty. Because I have the regular cleaning tasks under better control, my husband has been inspired and he’s freed up some of his time to deal with some organization and de-cluttering issues.

I don’t mean to give the impression that we are living in a showroom now. That’s hardly the case. We have five humans and six animals living in the house, so we have a lot to keep up with. But it’s at the point now where if someone stops by, we aren’t embarrassed to let him or her in. If we decide to invite someone over on short notice (like my husband did tonight), it only takes me 15 or 20 minutes to straighten things up.

It’s done wonders for my self-esteem. I have taken a couple of days off in the month that I’ve been doing this so far, but skipping one day doesn’t ruin it, as long as I get back to work the next day. I motivate myself to do that, by reminding myself of my goal – to be able to enjoy having people visit my home. I’ve motivated myself by intentionally making plans and inviting people over, or letting the kids invite people over.

It’s also improved my sense of inner peace. Because of my ADHD, I externalize a lot of my thought processes in a variety of ways. It’s always been the case for me, that I have a hard time thinking when I’m in the middle of a mess, and I’ve lived a lot of my life in the middle of a mess of one kind or another. Having a more consistently clean living space is something I’ve wanted for a long time, and it feels so good to achieve it.

3 comments

  1. Oh my goodness. Could not relate more, down to the kids age and the feeling that I can finally come up with a plan to start to manage. Thanks so much for this encouraging, and affirming, article.

  2. Thank you for sharing your struggles. Since I have been searching out blogs and articles about ADHD and housekeeping I now realize that I am not just lazy after all. It is a daily struggle for me to keep my house presentable. Making matters even worse- I clean other people’s homes for a living!

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