ADHD organization sometimes seems like an oxymoron. During COVID virtual appointments, my husband described an appointment with his doctor. He showed the doctor his home office, as a demonstration of the impact of ADHD on his life. He was clearly embarrassed at the state of his office. But if it’s an embarrassment, why doesn’t he just keep it clean? Here are 5 ways I have recently learned how to make sense of ADHD organization. It’s a journey, but understanding why standard advice doesn’t works has helped a lot.
Pretty is not necessarily practical
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You know those cute matching containers to store things like q-tips and cotton balls for the bathroom? ADHD family members can’t take the extra step to take the old cardboard roll off to put the new toilet paper roll in place. In reality, they also won’t through the steps to stock the items in their pretty matching containers. I don’t have time for the extra steps either, as the working, homeschooling, neurotypical adult trying to hold things together.
ADHD organization strategies need to be efficient, easy, and minimal steps. Tailor organization according to those principals. It will make it less likely to have the matching cute containers sitting empty. The cardboard box of q-tips and plastic bag of cotton balls won’t sit open on the counter next to the cute containers adding to the frustration.
Store things near location of use
When the girls were younger, I tried so hard for them to hang their jackets and sweatshirts on the cute hooks in their bedroom. However, their bedroom is upstairs, and we are a family on the go. I added several of these cube storage systems in the main living area. These made a huge difference. We have one in the hallway only a few steps from the door from the garage. I labeled each of these fabric storage cubes for frequently used items such as jackets, bags and items the girls need for gymnastics and dance, hats and gloves, bicycle helmets, etc. While things still get dumped on the couch sometimes, this has made tidying up so much easier. And having things readily accessible makes getting out the door that much easier.
We love this lift top coffee table with storage. We do homeschooling, arts and crafts, and many of our meals on the couches. It has made a huge difference to have handy storage space. The girls love having dinner close to our cozy fireplace. But constantly walking all over the house to put things in their place was a painful chore. Storing frequently used items right there made clearing off the coffee table a breeze. For us, I used inexpensive (dollar tree) open top plastic storage containers under the lift top to organize the smaller items such as pencils, pens, and other school supplies.
Understanding how true “out of sight, out of mind” truly is with ADHD has been eye opening. This is similar to viewing time as ”now, or not now” which I discuss in my post on ADHD time management here. Leaving everything cluttered over every surface doesn’t really make it easier to find things, although that may be claimed. But storing items such as extra toothpaste or deodorant in an infrequently opened cupboard will likely result in it being forgotten, and more purchased. Excess stuff will only add to the clutter and overwhelm.
Here’s how the visual storage works in our home. Lots of clearly identifiable labels for all of our open face storage bins in the cubbies makes it easy to see where things live. Open faced bins remove extra steps to access items. Less frequently used items are stored in clear storage bins to be able to see at a glance what is inside. Storing extra products in these sliding baskets to organize under bathroom cabinets has been a huge help. Place shorter supplies in the front, and taller supplies in the back, which makes it easy to see everything.
Prioritize frequency of use
I have assigned a place on my kitchen counter for my crockpot to live. I use it almost every day due to our busy evening schedules. It doesn’t make sense to store it in a difficult to access cupboard on the rare days it’s not in use. It makes sense to prioritize storage based on frequency of use. Daily use appliances might have a home on the counter. Commonly used items should be stored in easily accessible locations. However, there are a few rarely used items such as the turkey roaster that I store in a hard to access cupboard above the fridge. If frequently used items have a home in an difficult to access location, they won’t ever get put away.
The same principal applies for bathroom storage. Daily use items may as well have a home on the counter. Handy open storage can keep things organized. Store items that are commonly used, but not daily use, in an easy to access location, such as just opening a drawer.
This principal is probably the hardest in our home. I didn’t intuitively understand early in our relationship that decluttering would almost entirely fall on my shoulders. A frequent conversation among my coworkers is how many young adults (themselves included) are poorly prepared for ”adulting”. As a result, mildly excess clutter from the early years of the relationship exponentially grew once kids were added to the mix. However, chipping away at the task regularly makes a huge difference. It is much easier to utilize the other strategies if there is less stuff overall.
It is almost a daily occurrence to see my husband rushing through the house rifling through things throughout the house trying to find something. He commonly states things have ”vanished” when he can’t find them. It is much easier to find items when there are less of them. Check out my post on ways to group tasks. Assigning even a few minutes each day to tackle a small decluttering project makes a difference. Designating small chunks of time make it less of an overwhelming project.
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The content in this post is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is merely opinion based on personal research and experience.