Keeping your home clean, finishing chores, and staying organized can be challenging for adults with ADHD. Here’s how to develop the skills you need.
For most people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the condition doesn’t go away when you become an adult. You still face some of the same challenges you had as a child, they just look different.
These challenges, though, can be overcome. If you’re living with ADHD, these home organization tips can help you create and maintain a clean and organized home without all of the stress.
1. Finding the right techniques for you
Organization isn’t out of reach if you have ADHD, though sometimes it may take you more time than neurotypical folks to develop the right skills and habits.
The key is to find the techniques that work for you. Many people need a combination of strategies to make a new habit work.
To begin, try a strategy for a few weeks. If it’s working but you need more support, consider adding another strategy. If it’s not working, then you may want to stop using that strategy and try another.
When it comes to ADHD and cleaning, one of the biggest obstacles can be losing track of what you’ve already done. Organizing chores by day and checking them off when you’re done can solve that problem.
“Pomodoro” is Italian for tomato. Named after the tomato-shaped kitchen timers, the Pomodoro Technique breaks down work into chunks of time. The amount of time in each chunk is up to you. For example, it could be 15 minutes or 45 minutes.
You can set the timer for the time period you want, then work until it rings.
Once that timer goes off, you can take a break. Your break could be 5, 10, or 15 minutes — whatever works best for you. You can spend that break time doing anything that relaxes you.
Any timer will do for this technique. You can also use your phone, an online timer, or a smart home device.
Time boxing vs. time blocking
Designating a specific period of time to do tasks is a great way to make sure your chores get done. It can also help improve your productivity.
In time blocking, you block off a specific amount of time on a specific day to accomplish each chore. When that day and time come, you follow your schedule and do the chore.
However, if you know that you tend to spend more time on each chore than you would like to, consider time boxing.
Time boxing is similar to time blocking, but there’s a hard stop at the end. With time boxing, you designate a certain amount of time to a chore, and when that time is up, you stop, no matter what. Then, you review whether you were able to complete that task within the time you allowed.
For example, if you know the bathroom needs to be cleaned, but you don’t want to spend hours scrubbing every nook and cranny, you set a timer for the time period you’d like to spend.
When the timer goes off, you stop, even if the toilet hasn’t been scrubbed. This will help you stay focused while you’re cleaning, and it will give you a better idea of how much time you might need next time.
2. Skirting boredom
If chores bore you, considering thinking up other, more enjoyable activities you can do at the same time.
This may help make chore time more fulfilling. You might even look forward to it.
Stimulating activities you could combine with chores include:
- listening to music — you could even dance while you work
- listening to an audiobook, podcast, or the radio
- calling a friend
- doing a little role play — like pretending to clean as though you are a character in your favorite TV show or movie
- buying some silly or adorable cleaning supplies that make you smile
- engaging in a friendly competition with a friend to see who can finish the chore first
3. Building a routine
If you have to repeat the same chores each week, you can form a habit by creating a routine.
You can begin by writing down all of your chores to figure out how many need to be done each day. For example, if you have 14 chores to do each week, you could do two a day.
Consider combining similar chores in one session. Here’s what this could look like:
- Tidy two rooms that are next to each other.
- Clean both bathrooms in your home.
- Vacuum everything that needs it, but don’t mop or dust.
Once you’ve figured out what each chore looks like, you can select a time do to it and write down your new routine.
4. Reminders can be helpful
Lists are great, but if you have piles and piles of lists, you may need some reminders to actually look at those lists.
Creating calendar reminders for each chore you need to do will help you remember to do those chores. Remembering your routine chores will get easier as they become habits.
Also, while you’re doing a chore, you can set a timer or alarm so that you know when it’s time to move on to your next task.
5. Simplifying challenges
You can set yourself up for success by removing as many physical and mental barriers as you can.
For example, when it comes to household chores, it’s much easier to keep the appropriate cleaning supplies in each room or area than in one central storage area.
With easier access, you’re more likely to reach for the supplies and actually get things done.
Consider which of your own expectations might be too much of a challenge to achieve regularly and simplify them. Your home doesn’t need to look like an interior design magazine at all times.
For example, fancy jars or storage containers with personalized labels aren’t necessary. You can be proud of yourself for putting things away just as they are.
6. Treats can be a treat
If you want to treat yourself after accomplishing your daily chores, go for it! A little reward for a job well done is always great motivation.
7. Consider sharing responsibility
If you have the means to hire a professional organizer to help you create a more organized home, that can go a long way toward regularly completing your chores.
Similarly, hiring a regular cleaning crew, whether it’s weekly, biweekly, or monthly, can help you keep your space clean and organized.
You can also delegate responsibilities to the people you live with. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and need some assistance, create a family chore chart. Sharing the responsibility is what family is for.
8. Attitude is everything
If you think you can, you can. Unhelpful or negative self-talk is a common characteristic among people with ADHD, and it can really wear you down.
Changing those unhelpful voices in your head isn’t easy, but reminding yourself that you can do this will go a long way toward helping you stay motivated.
Nobody’s perfect and no one expects you to be. Do what you can every day or week to accomplish your chores. That said, if you don’t do them all, it’s OK.
It’s OK to feel bored by chores or to want to put them off. Considering granting yourself some self-compassion. It’s unhelpful to focus on what you didn’t do. Consider, instead, focusing on what you’ve accomplished. A mostly clean home is a lot to be proud of.
Breaking down your chores by type can help you divide and conquer.
Opening and paying bills can be a challenge for adults with ADHD.
It’s a boring chore, and since bills don’t offer any immediate gratification or reward, it’s hard to find the motivation to open and pay them.
Nevertheless, if you don’t pay your bills, the electric company will turn off your lights, you may be charged late fees, you might damage your credit, and potentially face other consequences.
To avoid falling down the rabbit hole of unpaid bills and the feeling of overwhelm that comes with it, setting a weekly date with yourself to get it done can help. Afterward, you can reward yourself for a job well done.
To make life easier, consider a small basket of cleaning supplies for each bathroom.
Daily wipe downs of counters after (or while) you brush your teeth means one less chore you have to do weekly.
You can tackle the rest of the chores once a week. If you don’t get them all done in some weeks, be compassionate with yourself. You’ll do it next week.
Keeping the inside of your car clean is really difficult with ADHD, especially the back seat, which is often out of sight and out of mind.
Here are two simple tricks to help minimize the clutter:
- Take only what you need into the car. Do you really need several pairs of sunglasses or shoes?
- Consider adding “clean out car” to your weekly list of chores.
Decluttering with ADHD can seem impossible, especially if you’re using several lists and you need to keep your tasks visible or you’ll forget.
If you want to keep your clutter under control, decluttering must become part of your regular routine. You can spend 15 minutes every morning and every evening tackling your most cluttered areas.
Eventually, this routine will become a habit and you’ll do it automatically.
There’s no one right way to do the dishes. It’s all about figuring out what works best for you.
One idea is to consider when’s the best time for you to wash the dishes and how you prefer to wash them.
Here are some tricks to make the experience more enjoyable:
- Dishwashing gloves will keep you from touching food stuck to plates
- A sponge can make it go faster
- Nice-smelling soap is, well, nice
Prepping the kids
Research has shown that having ADHD symptoms when you’re a parent can make parenting more challenging.
Trying to remember to pack your kids’ lunch, check their homework, and make sure they’re bathed and fed can be overwhelming, especially when you sometimes forget these things for yourself.
When possible, try to delegate tasks you find challenging to the parent without ADHD. Still, if you need to take on challenging, kid-related tasks, creating a checklist for yourself and a reminder to go through it each day will help.
Getting in the habit of wiping down your counters and sweeping your floor at the end of each day will go a long way toward keeping your kitchen clean.
Consider setting a monthly reminder to clean out your:
- dishwasher filter
- junk drawer
A basket is a perfect place for smaller items, like your most-used spices. Alphabetizing them isn’t necessary, but you’ll want to keep them together so they’re easy to find when you need them and easy to put away when you’re done.
Clothes organization can be a challenge for people with ADHD. For many people, doing a load of laundry isn’t the problem. It’s the folding and putting away part that’s the challenge.
If you find this hard to get around to, consider placing your clean clothes in a location that’s purposely in your way, like on your sofa or bed. That way, you may be more motivated to put them away.
On the other hand, if you find that putting your dirty clothes in the hamper is the main challenge, consider moving your hamper to a more accessible location in your bedroom. If you typically dump your dirty clothes in the bathroom, it might be a good idea to put the hamper there instead.
Snail mail and email
Some of the biggest challenges with snail mail are that you might find it boring, it can cause anxiety, and you may need to do more than just read. For example, you might need to respond to mail by making a phone call or writing a check and putting it in the mail.
To tackle these challenges, you can set aside a specific time and location to open your mail.
You’ll want to make sure you have enough time and all the tools you need, such as a letter opener, recycling bin, and notepad. That way, you won’t have to walk away until the task is done.
When it comes to email, less is more. Here are some ways to streamline your inbox:
- Unsubscribe ruthlessly. Unsubscribe from any email newsletters you don’t read, and use the filter function so that you can separate out what’s most important.
- Block off email time. Set aside a specific time, or multiple times, during the day to read and respond to emails. Then, turn off your email notifications so you’re not distracted from other tasks every time an email arrives in your inbox.
- Create an autoresponse. If you’re worried about missing important information, consider setting an autoresponse that asks people to call you if it’s urgent.
- Set expectations in your signature. You could add a line to your signature that apologizes for any typos or delayed responses.
- Consider using video. You could respond to email messages via video if that’s easier.
ADHD can make cleaning and home organization challenging. The key to tackling your chores is to make each task clear, remove as many barriers as you can, create routines, and use lists, charts, calendar reminders, and other tools that help keep you on track.
Whether you use chore charts or dance parties to get motivated, these tools and tactics will help you stay organized so you can enjoy a mostly clean home.