10 Tips for Attacking the Clutter Your ADHD Brain is Wired to Create

clutter tips and hacks Apr 08, 2023
Photo by <a href=Şahin Sezer Dinçer on Unsplash " />

If you have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), you know how difficult it can be to stay organized and on top of clutter. ADHD can make it challenging to focus on one task for an extended period of time, leading to piles of clutter in various parts of your home. However, conquering clutter is essential for managing stress and staying productive. In this blog post, I'll provide ten tips for conquering clutter for people with ADHD.

  1. Start With a Small Area

Conquering clutter can feel overwhelming, especially if you're starting with an entire room. Instead, start with a small area, like a desk or a closet. This way, you can see progress more quickly and feel motivated to keep going. If your goal is to eventually conquer an entire room, break it into quadrants or even smaller "boxes".  Tackle one at a time.  Once you get one box decluttered, do NOT allow yourself to put things from other boxes in the decluttered area "temporarily"... we all know how that goes.

  1. Create a Routine

Create a routine for decluttering that you can stick to. Set a specific time each day or week to tackle clutter. This way, you can make decluttering a habit, and it becomes easier to maintain a clutter-free space.  Look for something that you already do consistently - like making a cup of tea or coffee every morning - and tack a short (5 minute) decluttering session on to that. ("When I turn on the coffee maker, I'll spend 5 minutes going through that ONE pile of papers on the dining room table."  As an aside, does anyone use their dining room table for dining anymore?  It is crazy how many of us with ADHD use dining room tables as clutter collectors!  But I digress... on to #3.

  1. Use the "One In, One Out" Rule

When you bring something new into your home, get rid of something else. This helps prevent new clutter from accumulating.  Part of our problem with clutter is that we really don't have a place for many of the things we acquire.  By consistently removing one thing for every similar new thing we bring into the house we are less likely to overload the space that we do have.  This is one of my wife's favorite strategies, and I'm getting better at it all the time.

  1. Use Storage Containers... or Not.

I have a love/hate relationship with storage containers.  They are great for things that you have made a conscious, thoughtful decision about keeping and that you don't currently have a place to use or display.   Storage containers provide a safe place to put the things that we don't need to have immediate access to. And they can be stacked neatly, optimizing your use of space.  HOWEVER, storage containers often become "doom boxes".  When decision fatigue sets in while you are decluttering to just say, "screw it! I'm just going to throw all this stuff into a container, slap a label on it, and stack it in the basement"... that may or may not be an actual quote from me at some point in my past...  If you do use containers, try to use ones that are clear or labeled, so you can easily see what's inside. And if you are putting a lot of small things in a large container, putting them in things like ziploc bags can be helpful to keep them from getting all mixed up.

  1. Keep a Donation Box

Keep a donation box in your home where you can put items you no longer need. When the box is full, take it to a donation center. This will keep clutter from piling up and help others in need. It is also helpful to put a day on your calendar each month (and set reminders for a couple days ahead of time) to take stuff to the donation center.  Otherwise your donation box(es) in your garage or hallway or on the dining room table will just become part of the clutter problem.

  1. Set a Timer

Decluttering is hard.  I find it to be one of the hardest challenges for my ADHD brain.  I become easily overwhelmed with it.  But I CAN handle it in small doses.  I set a timer for a specific amount of time, 20 minutes well works for me, and declutter for that amount of time. This can helps me stay focused and avoid feeling overwhelmed.

  1. Get Rid of Duplicates

If you have duplicates of items, like kitchen utensils or clothing, get rid of the duplicates. I grew up in a home where one of my dad's mottoes was "always have 100% backup".  And while there are times when this proves true, it requires you to use WAY more space than you really need most of the time.  Truthfully, we are seldom in situation where not having a duplicate of an item represents more than a temporary inconvenience.  We create a lot of clutter and associated stress and anxiety hanging on to duplicates of things that we will probably never need or use.  If you have two of something, donate, toss, or sell one of them. (And if you are not an eBay super-seller, you're probably better off donating it.  Selling something online is likely just one more task to add on to your already overwhelmed life).

  1. Stay Put!

If you are decluttering in one room and find something that needs to go in another room, create a pile of things that "go somewhere else".  Avoid leaving the room you are working in.  Once you are done with the room, or area, or time interval, finish by taking the things that need to go elsewhere to the places they belong.  Leaving the room is just asking to be distracted by something in one of the other rooms.

  1. Take Breaks

Decluttering can be physically and mentally exhausting. Take breaks as needed to avoid burnout. But, be intentional about your breaks.  If you plan is take a 15 minute break and then come back to work some more, SET A TIMER. And don't use sedentary activities for breaks. Go for a walk, do some jumping jacks, put a load of laundry in the washer, make some coffee or tea.  The break should be something to help clear your mind before returning to decluttering.  Pulling out your phone to check social media, play a game, or check email often leads to hyperfocus.  The odds are much higher that you won't come back to decluttering.

  1. All Progress Should Be Acknowledged

Be sure to celebrate your progress. Decluttering can be a long process, but it's important to acknowledge the progress you've made along the way. Working on one pile of papers for 5 minutes is progress.  Acknowledge it and give yourself a pat on the back.  You have just done something that is HARD for your ADHD brain to do.  And DON'T compare yourself to others who successfully declutter differently than you (or maybe never make clutter in the first place!) Their brains are just wired differently than yours and that is okay.  Once you find things that work for you, embrace it and go with it, celebrating each step forward.

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