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32 of the Best Ways to Get Organized When You Have ADHD

13. Say no to junk.

Remove your name from junk mailing lists, Maynard said. You just end up tossing it anyway.

14. Keep certain items in sandwich-sized bags.

Matlen keeps one plastic bag in her car for driving directions and another for quarters for meters. She also keeps a baggy in her purse for receipts.

15. Single-task.

“Clear your desk and work on only one thing at a time,” Maynard said.

16. Set small goals that you can finish.

For example, “Don’t tackle the entire garage all at once if you do not have the time to finish it,” Maynard said. Instead, start and finish just one corner, and keep it organized ‘til you’re ready to move on to the next section, she said.

17. Assume tasks will take longer.

Lack of time may be one reason you haven’t started or completed a task. “A useful rule when estimating how long something will take is to make your best guess and multiply that times two,” Dupar said.

18. Learn from yourself.

“Analyze what you do organize well, and adapt that strategy to other things you are not so organized with,” Maynard said.

19. Have a home for everything.

For example, keep your wallet, purse and keys in a basket on your entryway table. And keep your planner on your desk, Dupar said. This way you don’t lose anything and don’t waste time looking for things.

20. Be mindful of placement.

Because people with ADHD have a hard time with “Finishing Tasks,” it’s important to make following through easy and convenient. Instead of keeping the outdoor trashcan in the backyard, keep it next to the garage door, so you can fling in your kitchen garbage on your way out the door, said Pinsky, who’s also author of The Fast and Furious 5-Step Organizing Solution. In other words, “[You want to] reduce the barriers to putting things away by making your system as user-friendly as possible,” Tuckman said.

21. Delegate.

Many people with ADHD beat themselves up because they can’t do it all. But delegating isn’t a sign of weakness. Rather, it’s a smart strategy. Experts suggested hiring a housekeeper, bookkeeper, virtual assistant, laundry service, lawn service, professional organizer or any other service you might need to make your life easier. “Focus instead on doing those things that you are uniquely suited for and everyone will benefit,” Dupar said.

22. Have a recycling basket.

Pinsky also is adamant that people can eliminate the majority of their paperwork. Even though she’s a business owner, author and mom to three kids in college, Pinsky only uses two file drawers.

To reduce paper piles, Pinsky recommended having a ‘Paper Only’ waste bin under your desk. Get a bin that’s large enough for papers to lay flat and deep enough to fill up in a year, such as a milk crate. Here, you might toss in “just in case” paperwork, Pinsky said, such as confirmation numbers for purchases. “On the 1 percent chance that you will need that information again, it will be filed chronologically in your waste bin for a year before the bin fills and is tossed.”

23. Keep your files manageable.

You don’t want to go overboard with file folders. Pinsky said that a manageable number is six to 12 files per drawer with two drawers max.

24. Don’t be so prepared.

One of the biggest reasons people accumulate so much stuff is because they think they’ll need it in case of an emergency or some other rare occasion. But this ends up taking space and requires more organizing. “It is better to be resourceful than prepared, and it is saner to be resilient about occasionally doing without than to keep lots of overstock,” Pinsky said.

25. Grocery shop for one week only.

Groceries also quickly pile up. The key to simplifying is buying only what you’re going to eat until your next regularly scheduled shopping trip — minus one meal. If you shop weekly that means only buying food for six dinners. Pinsky said. “Be resourceful with leftovers rather than stuff your cabinets with overstock items.”

26. Have a shoebox for tax receipts only.

You don’t need to categorize every receipt that comes in. Keep only those receipts that have tax consequences and simply throw them into a shoebox. When important tax information arrives, such as your W2 or 1099, stash it in the same shoebox. “As long as you start a new box on January 1st for the New Year, your receipts will be all together and easy to tally on the one afternoon in April when you put together your taxes.”

27. Keep policies in one place.

Some experts will suggest putting your policies (such as insurance and homeowners) in separate file folders. But Pinsky said that just one folder with all your policies makes it easy to file and find. This also reduces the number of files in your drawer — and your overwhelm. “After all, why read a novel when a poem will do?” she said.

28. Buy only what’s on your list.

Impulsive shopping is a common problem for people with ADHD. So Pinsky suggested “keeping a running shopping list and never buying anything that hasn’t spent some time on a list.” Let’s say you see artwork that you think will be perfect for your house. Measure it, go home, measure your space and think about it. Impulse buying doesn’t only lead to more stuff (and less in your wallet), but there’s more receipts to track and organize. And it’s more fun buying something than returning it, anyway, Pinsky added.

29. Organize items based on how you retrieve them.

As Tuckman said, “The goal of putting things away is to be able to find them when you need them, so think about how and when you will go looking for those items.” So make sure frequently used items are handy.

30. Keep contacts in one spot.

Rather than having scraps of paper with phone numbers all over the place, Matlen has a dedicated folder. She keeps information from babysitters, old friends, potential doctors and other professionals.

31. Use clear bins.

Store your items in clear plastic bins, Sarkis said. Also, you can use a labeling machine to list the contents (or just write them out).

32. Know when to say when.

Tuckman cautioned readers against going overboard. Remember that you don’t need to organize every piece of paper and keep every space spotless. Take receipts, again. There’s no need to categorize them, he said. Just toss them all into one place. If you actually need a receipt, you can just go through your pile, which will naturally be in chronological order, he added.

32 of the Best Ways to Get Organized When You Have 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.

APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2018). 32 of the Best Ways to Get Organized When You Have ADHD. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 1, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018
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