Ways to Manage Clutter With Adult ADHD

by Eileen Bailey Health Writer

When you have adult ADHD, organization is a never-ending quest. You try and try, yet you never seem to get any more organized. You still have piles of papers and clutter all around. You still lose your keys on a regular basis and spend time every day looking for your cell phone. Don’t lose hope. The following tips can help you organize your home.

Messy closet.

Start small

You might start off strong but soon get distracted and end up getting nothing done, or become so overwhelmed you give up on the project. Break the task down. Start with one small area and work on clearing the clutter in that area only. Don’t think about any other areas of the house until this one is completed. If you find this overwhelming, set a time limit.

Woman taking out trash bags.

Don’t be afraid to throw things away

There is probably a lot of “stuff” that you can get rid of and never miss. Many people with ADHD find it difficult to throw things away, thinking they might need it in the future. Try designating one spot in your house, such as a drawer or closet, to keep those items you aren’t ready to let go. Once this area is filled, go through it and get rid of the things you haven’t used or thought about.

Online shopping cart full of packages.

Cut down on new stuff

Impulsively buying things that draw your attention is a sure-fire way of filling your house with clutter. Think about when you are most likely to buy the trinkets and gizmos that fill your house. Do you shop online? Browse stores because you are bored? Need to spend money every time you get paid? Recognize your triggers and avoid them.

Woman getting ready to clean her room.

Schedule declutter time

You can set aside 10 or 15 minutes a day or an hour each week. Experiment to find out what works best for you. Pick a small area each day, such as cleaning out one kitchen drawer or picking up the clutter from the living room. You might want to make it a family activity once a week and have everyone work on clearing the clutter from a small area. It is often easier to keep at a task when you work together.

Girl carrying a box full of clothes.

Ask a friend to help

With a friend, go room by room and sort your items into separate piles. One pile should be for donating, one for keeping, one for trash, and one for “not sure.” Once you complete a room, immediately take the items to donate away and put the throw-away items in the trash. Designate an area for “not sure” items. Once the area is full, you must decide what to do with them. This is much easier to do when you do it with someone.

Online banking.

Go digital

Many bank statements and other financial documents are available online. You can save them directly on your computer rather than having papers stacked in piles everywhere. For documents not available online, scan them into your computer and save them. Create a folder on your computer labeled “financial documents” and save all in that folder so you can easily find the one you need later.


Establish a routine

Do you and your family tend to drop items as you walk into the house, making every flat surface a breeding ground of clutter? Keep a large basket, a shelf or cubbies by the front door to leave keys, umbrellas, backpacks, books, purses. As soon as someone enters the door, they put everything in the right place, where it can be easily retrieved later.

Father with a chore whiteboard.

Stick to one task at a time

Constantly switching tasks can add to your clutter. You start putting something away and are distracted and move on to the next task. To combat this, put a white board in the kitchen. When you think of something you need to do, write it down rather than stopping what you are doing and switching tasks.

Man stressing about messy office.

Look around

You might not see the clutter. You see the stacks of papers, the piles of unopened mail, the many knick-knacks, the overflowing magazines as necessary (or potentially necessary) things. Start with a small area and look objectively at each item, and then ask yourself: Do you love it? Will you use it? If the answers are no, get rid of it by putting it in the trash or donating it. Surround yourself with things that are truly useful or that you love.

Woman consulting a life coach.

The takeaway

If, no matter what you do, you can’t seem to get clutter under control, consider working with an ADHD coach for organization. A coach works with people with ADHD to come up with systems and routines to help reduce clutter.

Eileen Bailey
Meet Our Writer
Eileen Bailey

Eileen Bailey is an award-winning author of six books on health and parenting topics and freelance writer specializing in health topics including ADHD, Anxiety, Sexual Health, Skin Care, Psoriasis and Skin Cancer. Her wish is to provide readers with relevant and practical information on health conditions to help them make informed decisions regarding their health care.