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3 More Myths About Organizing for Adults with ADHD

storageRecently, we shared several common myths about organizing when you have ADHD. The problem with myths is that they stall your progress and steer you in the wrong direction. You might wonder why a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t working for you. And you might resign yourself to believing that you’ll never get organized.

But as an adult with ADHD, you may need to try different strategies and approaches. You may need to switch up strategies more often because the novelty wears off.

Below, ADHD experts share three more organizing myths along with what does work.

1. Myth: You’d be organized with the right storage.

Fact: “Magazine articles [rave] about the fabulous storage containers you have to have if you want to get organized,” said Dana Rayburn. Rayburn is a certified ADHD coach with group and private coaching programs. She helps guide ADHD business owners and professionals to get organized and manage time so they can live more successful and effortless lives.

Many people think that if they just buy the right storage system, it’ll solve their problems with clutter, she said. But it won’t. In fact, if you’re like most of Rayburn’s clients, you actually already have too many containers.

“Most people have a stuff problem, not a storage problem,” Rayburn said. That’s why the first step in getting organized is getting rid of things you don’t like or use, she said. Shopping for storage is the last step (if at all).

2. Myth: Digital is best for getting organized.

Fact: There are many helpful productivity apps and software programs. However, a lot of people don’t feel comfortable using technology for managing their tasks and time, said Terry Matlen, MSW, ACSW, a psychotherapist, ADHD coach and author of the book The Queen of Distraction: How Women with ADHD Can Conquer Chaos, Find Focus and Get More Done

Both she and psychologist Abigail Levrini, Ph.D, emphasized that a simple paper planner may be most effective.

“[T]he act of writing things down brings information to the surface and triggers your brain to pay attention,” said Levrini, co-author of the book Succeeding With Adult ADHD: Daily Strategies to Help You Achieve Your Goals and Manage Your Life and co-author of the forthcoming book ADHD Coaching: A Guide for Mental Health Professionals. Paper and pencil systems help to store the information into working memory, so it’s easier to recall when you need to, she said.

“Furthermore, the part of the brain that is associated with writing is also the part most affected by ADHD; therefore, by writing you are helping to strengthen connections that may be lacking. In a way, you are ‘treating’ your ADHD just by writing.”

Matlen’s favorite paper tools are: a teacher’s calendar, which has big boxes for writing and the entire month at a glance; and a regular spiral notebook she keeps by her phone in the office. In it she jots down phone calls, notes and reminders.

3. Myth: Once you have the right systems, you’ll always be organized.

Fact: According to Matlen, “The truth is, staying organized is a lifelong struggle for just about everyone I know who has ADHD.” This may be hard to accept.

However, she stressed the importance of still finding strategies that work specifically for you. (You can get better and make big strides.) She suggested getting outside help for managing clutter, such as a hiring a professional organizer; and changing your expectations and accepting that your life will probably be more cluttered than other people’s.

Matlen often tells individuals with ADHD to stop comparing themselves to others and how they manage their homes. Keeping things in order takes tremendous effort for people with ADHD. “As Dr. Ned Hallowell, co-author of Driven to Distraction says, ‘just be organized enough,’ meaning: It doesn’t have to be perfect.” And that is totally OK.

Further Reading

These pieces, which include expert tips, may give you helpful ideas for getting organized:

  • 32 of the best ways to get organized when you have ADHD
  • Help for organizing your household
  • Tips for staying organized
  • Strategies for adults with ADHD to get motivated to get things done.

Woman with boxes photo available from Shutterstock

3 More Myths About Organizing for Adults with ADHD

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Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. is an Associate Editor and regular contributor at Psych Central. Her Master's degree is in clinical psychology from Texas A&M University. In addition to writing about mental disorders, she blogs regularly about body and self-image issues on her Psych Central blog, Weightless.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2018). 3 More Myths About Organizing for Adults with ADHD. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 6 May 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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