Take the “Boring” Out of Chores
How can you make your most tedious tasks go by more quickly? By having fun doing them!
Reviewed on April 3, 2019
Have you ever avoided getting organized by Googling “fun ways to get organized”? I have. I found a lot of fun products — from colored tote containers and eye-catching labels to cool furniture. I also stumbled on a way to get my house “fake clean” in 15 minutes a day. None of the sites told me how to have fun organizing my stuff, though. It still looked like work.
We know that organization is good for us — it reduces stress and calms us down — but it is not a natural state of being. Our home/office disorganization is a sign of our internal disorganization.
But getting organized is tedious work. We need to be motivated, interested, and excited to put our brains to such tasks. We can do them, but getting started on them is torture.
As the “Queen of Play,” I have tried to make chores fun. First, you have to know the ADHD motivators, the six strategies that engage your ADHD brain: competition, urgency, novelty, interest, humor, and play. As with ADHD medications, these motivators activate the dopamine pathways in your brain to help manage the challenges of ADHD. I also suggest a few basic tools: a timer (or two), music (lots), friends (lots), costumes, apps, and bubbles (just because).
Competition and Urgency
1. Use a timer to play “beat the clock,” or race another person to be the first one done.
I track my time on tasks I have to do regularly to see if I can improve my efficiency. Because I hate housework, I also have cleaning races with my kids. First one to strip the bed and get the sheets to the basement is King for five minutes!
I don’t suggest setting kids up for a win/lose scenario. The race itself is great competition. Depending on whom you’re racing (say, your child), there may need to be an additional incentive. If it’s ice cream, everyone wins!
2. Use a timer to create a sense of urgency. With a visual timer, like Time Timer, you see time passing. Combine it with the procrastination approach — waiting until the last minute to do something — to see if you can get the house clean before your relatives arrive!
Novelty, Humor, and Play
3. Create a playlist. Put together a selection of the songs that get you motivated. If you are getting organized with another person, make sure that the music takes both people’s taste into consideration. Playing music while you clean, get organized, and make plans gives your brain that jolt of dopamine it needs to stay engaged. And you can always take a moment to dance!
4. Get in costume. Take a boring task, like sorting documents, and do it in your everyday clothes. Then do it wearing your favorite dress, your “special occasion” underwear, a fun hat, a clown nose, or a Halloween costume. Now you have a story!
Sometimes when you feel stuck, the spurt of dopamine you get from doing things differently can get you going. You might take a picture and put a quick post on social media to get reactions from friends. Research shows that sharing humor or fun stories makes tasks more motivating.
A client of mine, who was a hoarder, found that if she prepared herself for each organizing session by putting on a favorite dance outfit, she was less overwhelmed by the task. She surprised both of us by how quickly she was able to tackle her projects when she was dressed to dance.
5. Doing tasks in a novel setting also makes organization more fun. My friend, Leslie Josel, suggests doing work in the bathtub (water optional).
There are many places, in or out of our house, that make unusual workspaces. If you work at a desk in your office, try working at a counter in the kitchen. Getting out of the house, say, to a coffee shop, can also serve this purpose.
6. Friends make tasks more fun! If organizing is not your forte, and you have a friend who loves it (and you), ask her to come over and have a work/fun get-together. I have a friend who loves to clean. Even though I hate it, when she is here, I will put effort into cleaning because it’s fun with someone else.
7. Take any task and turn it into a party. Anyone up for a tax party or fall fever cleaning party? I’ll bring the pizza!
8. Launch a scavenger hunt for misplaced items. This is a great way to find something you’ve been looking for but can’t find. Create your own rules. In my scavenger hunt, any place that I look has to be left clean and organized. I hide “lost” items (things that aren’t missing) in some of the areas where we plan to look, and I invite my kids to join the hunt.
Bonus: Find Your App
The app Habitica (habitica.com) is my latest find for turning life into a game. It allows you to earn gold to buy rewards, while transforming dishwashing into a quest to clear a heap of dirty plates and bowls. The app incorporates a strong social network to inspire you. SaveUp (saveup.com) makes saving money a little more fun. The service turns saving into a game in which you earn credits for making smart financial moves. As you earn credits, use them to enter contests to earn prizes, or trade in your credits for a gift card or cash.
Find several apps that work for you. While apps can make some tasks fun, I have yet to find one for organizing that motivates me in the same way as the ones I use for my community service efforts.
Use some of the products you found mentioned in the articles about “fun ways to get organized.” When I like how things look, and have time to play because I am organized, I will stay organized — for a while.