Feeling disorganized is one of the main complaints of adults with ADHD. Their homes and desks may have piles of unopened mail and papers. Getting started on many tasks requires sorting and searching these piles for the information they need. They often have no idea where they put things. Life seems like one long search for keys, wallets, and cell phones. Feeling this overwhelmed, stuck, and frustrated frequently results in wasted time — or giving up altogether.
Deficits in executive functioning skills are often to blame for this disorganization, according to the National Resource Center on ADHD. These impairments can cause difficulty with skills such as getting started, remaining engaged, remaining alert, maintaining a level emotional state, applying working memory and recall, and self-monitoring and regulating actions. Unfortunately, all these skills are needed to get organized and stay organized.
Organization may seem elusive to many people with ADHD, but it isn’t impossible. The following ideas may help.
Decide what organization means to you
Before you begin the daunting task of becoming more organized, think about what that term means to you. You might picture your colleague’s orderly desk and want yours to look like that. You might imagine your neighbor’s uncluttered house and think your home should be free of clutter. But organization is individualized. Think about what type of organization is going to make your life easier. Don’t compare your home to your neighbor’s, your sister’s, or your cousin’s home. Your home should work for you, your family, and your lifestyle.
Focus on strengths
Set up chores for family members based on each person’s strengths. Someone may be in charge of picking up all the clutter each evening; another person might be in charge of going through the mail each day. Divide daily chores to prevent any one person from feeling overwhelmed. If you find the system isn’t working, change it. Try alternating tasks to prevent boredom. Use each person’s strengths to your advantage.
Get your family involved
Don’t try to clean and organize your home yourself. Start a family clean-up time. Try writing each chore on a separate piece of paper and put them in a jar. Have each member choose one or two chores and then complete them within a set amount of time. You might want to turn on some music to help get everyone moving. Working together makes it more enjoyable, and the job gets done quickly.
Increase family communication
Start a family communication notebook. Use a lined notebook and attach a pen to it. Keep it in a place where everyone can easily access it. Every member of the family can write down notes to help each other remember tasks. For example, you might want to remind your spouse about an upcoming doctor’s appointment, or your child might want to remind you about an upcoming field trip. Rather than leave it up to memory, write it down in the notebook. Each person is responsible for reviewing the notebook each day.
Create a launch pad by your front door
Launch pads are places where you can deposit everything you need before you walk out the door. Use this area to put items that are frequently forgotten - keys, papers, or backpacks - in easy reach as family members head out the door each morning.
Eliminate junk drawers
Every house seems to have at least a few junk drawers. These are the places where all the small stuff you have gets dumped. The problem is that it is usually impossible to find anything once it goes into the junk drawer. Instead, use over-the-door shoe holders made of clear plastic. The clear plastic lets you see what is in each compartment. Use these in the garage, in the kid’s rooms, or next to a workbench to hold small tools, nails, screws, and other small items.
Sign up for electronic delivery of bills and account statements. Create a folder in your email to hold the bills to eliminate piles of mail and papers. Pay your bills online to avoid having to send payments. If you do receive an important paper in the mail, scan it or take a picture and then file or throw away the hard copy. Technology makes it easier to organize and eliminate piles of papers. Make sure to back up your computer.
Use your phone’s calendar
Chances are you always have your phone nearby. Use the calendar to help you keep track of appointments, events, reminders, and notes. Set an alert to remind you of important tasks.
Create keepsake binders for your children
If you have children, you are familiar with the constant stream of art projects, tests, and other papers they bring home from school. Many land on tables and counters and add to your household clutter. Create a keepsake binder for each child. When they bring home tests they are proud of, art projects, or any other papers they want to keep, use a three-hole punch and place the paper in a binder. You can make one for yourself as well and keep important papers in it to avoid accidentally throwing away something important.
Set aside 10 minutes a day
It’s hard to get motivated to clean and organize your entire house. It’s easier to motivate yourself to get busy for 10 minutes. Instead of focusing on the whole job, decide to work for 10 minutes at a time. You might be amazed at how much you can accomplish in 10 minutes.
See more helpful articles:
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.