Manage Your House

4 Organization Projects That Spark Joy in Quarantined ADHD Brains

A state-mandated quarantine is the perfect time to vanquish those home organization projects you’ve been avoiding, right? It’s not that simple. First, there’s the stress, anxiety, and fear that’s eating up your energy. Second, some appealing decluttering tasks are actually counter-productive right now. Here, learn how to choose the organization projects that will make the biggest impact on your daily happiness and your long-term sense of accomplishment.

How to get organized: A family clearing out a garage together

When the emotional roller coaster of stay-at-home orders began, many of us felt equal parts terrified and excited. We feared the reality of working and learning (concurrently) from home, but we also dreamed of vanquishing all of those closets, drawers, and boxes that have lingered for years. That burst of motivation to organize was, for many of us, short-lived.

Amid an overwhelming amount of change, fear, and distraction, we did not clear out the attic or the garage — and that is okay. In hindsight, we all needed a few weeks to adjust to process some deep concerns, figure out how to work effectively from home, and learn about helping the kids with online homeschooling. Now, with some new routines and habits hammered out, we are looking at home organization with fresh eyes — and priorities.

Now, knowing that cleaning for the sake of cleaning is not helpful or realistic, what projects should you tackle? How can you organize in a way that will benefit you in the long run and maybe even bring some happiness and a sense of accomplishment?

How to Get Organized Rule 1: Follow Your Energy

There is no perfect mood-boosting organizational project. What I usually say is this: Follow your energy.

If your bathroom drawers have been driving you crazy, then start there. If you just want to go through your closet with the beginning of a new season, start there. If you have never had this much time at home before, and so this is the perfect time for you to tackle that easy-to-put-off storage room project, start there. Do the projects that you want to do that let you use your gross-motor skills (more on this in Rule 2 below).

[Click to Read: Why Can’t I Tackle All These Home Projects While Trapped Here?!?]

Wherever your organizing energy is highest, that is where you should start, because chances are greater you’ll be able to sustain your energy longer and achieve visible results. You’re doing something you’re excited about. You’re eager to see the results. You’ll keep going when it gets boring.

Whatever project you choose, make it small and manageable, with a clear beginning and end. Do one project a day. Move from one small project to the next small project each day so that you feel a sense of accomplishment, which in turns fuels more motivation to keep going. This approach also keeps your house from getting more cluttered in the process.

And for anyone who thinks that ADHD organization is an oxymoron, I’m here to tell you that organization is a skill that can be learned. I’ve raised my two children to young adulthood, and both of them have ADHD. They’ve learned and use organizational skills successfully, and you can, too.

How to Get Organized Rule 2: Think Big

There is no such thing, in my mind, as a bad organizing project, but there are better projects to do right now.

[Get This Free Download: Organize Your Home By Working With Your ADHD Brain]

Generally, the best types of organization projects for anxious times are ones that require larger gross-motor skills. Projects like cleaning the garage, organizing the storage room, or cleaning out your closet will give you a physical sense of well-being, as well as a final organizing result that you can see and appreciate. Large gross-motor activities, like physically moving a bunch of stuff, reduces the amount of adrenaline and cortisol in your body, giving you both a physical and mental organizing boost that will, in turn, elevate your mood.

Smaller tasks — like organizing individual papers, photos, or your craft room — are typical places to start because they seem less daunting. But because these projects require much more detailed, fine-motor organizing skills, and don’t offer that physical release of accomplishment that you get when organizing a larger space, I recommend going after the bigger projects instead.

For those living in small apartments or smaller homes, the biggest benefit may come from keeping common spaces organized — and keeping the peace with your quarantine mates. Try to think in terms of “temporary organization” and see your space functioning as a work, life, fitness, and relaxation area — just for now. Don’t be afraid to move your furniture around so that your experience working at home is better, and remind yourself that it won’t stay this way forever.

How to Get Organized Rule 3: Get Family Involved

Just like many other activities, organizing during this quarantine is a little different. Usually, when we set out to deep clean or organize a space, we send our family away or find some alone time to get organized. But we don’t have those luxuries now, because we are all in this together! That’s why I recommend tackling those aforementioned large projects with the whole family, assuming everyone can pitch in and help.

How to Get Organized Rule 4: Know the Difference Between Decluttering and Organizing

I’ve spent years fine-tuning the process of decluttering and organizing. Both tasks can both give you that immediate sense of “I accomplished something,” “This is great,” or “I feel physically better now that I’ve done that!” feelings. But there’s an important difference between decluttering and organizing.

Organizing: When you organize — not just clean or declutter — the area stays organized for more than just a week, a month, or a few months.

Decluttering: Gives you an immediate sense of release and/or accomplishment, but it has to be done over and over and over again.

For example, if the front hallway is constantly a mess with coats, book bags, and shoes, installing hooks for the coats, and a cubby or some sort of small shelving for book bags and shoes permanently solves the root issue. Clearing the accumulated clutter to another location does not.

When you really get to the root issue of why the space is getting decluttered over and over again, and then fix that issue with organizing, then the problem is solved for good!

How to Get Organized: Four Projects to Do Right Now

THE KITCHEN PANTRY

  • Take all the food out
  • Check for expiration dates; trash expired foods
  • Plan and make fun dinners using the ingredients that you have
  • Make a list of what is left; plan future meals around those ingredients; add whatever else you need to the next grocery list
  • Put remaining ingredients back in the pantry or cabinet sorted by meal and by family member (if there are special food issues) so you use them up faster

BEDROOM DRESSERS

  • Empty one dresser drawer
  • Get rid of what you don’t use, is worn out, doesn’t fit, or you do not want anymore
  • Fold the remaining clothes and put them back in the drawer
  • Donate the items you’re not keeping

FRONT HALL CLOSET

  • Take out all the coats
  • Decide what to keep
  • Clean out the top shelf and the bottom floor, too
  • Donate what you’re not keeping

BONUS AREA! BATHROOM VANITY

  • Take out all the samples you’ve collected, all the new products you have bought, everything you have been collecting
  • Try on the makeup you have not used before and decide whether to keep it
  • Decide if you want to change your makeup or hygiene routines going forward
  • Then get rid of everything you will not use (TIP: Homeless shelters will often accept unused toiletries)

[Read This Next: The Ultimate Room-by-Room Organization Guide]


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Updated on July 22, 2020

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