Managing ADHD and Clutter is Possible

After a lifetime lived to the contrary, I have learned that managing ADHD and clutter are possible…with a lot of patience and a willingness to take it slowly. But to be honest, I had begun to give up hope and I had started to accept that I would just step over piles for the rest of my life.

Let me start by saying, I hate disorganization and clutter. Yet, for as long as I can remember, I have been (almost uncontrollably) disorganized. In high school, my papers were haphazardly stored in my notebook, my locker was trashed, and my desk (at home) was storage for whatever random thing I put on it. As an adult, I have lived a very similar existence.

Hiding the Clutter

When you are disorganized (and managing ADHD), there are certain tricks that you learn along the way. One of them is to have a room that you can put everything in to hide the clutter from visitors. Unfortunately, that trick is only effective IF your entire home is not a disaster area. 

One day, our new neighbors came over to bring fresh baked brownies. Our whole entryway was destroyed. I had my husband meet them at the door…. where he informed them that they could not come in. I heard them ask, “Seriously?” I was mortified, yet relieved that they couldn’t see what was going on. A few days later, I saw them outside and explained that there was a lot of clutter. I apologized profusely and promised to make it up to them. 

Figuring It All Out

Professionals (and neat freaks) make decluttering, organizing and cleaning look SO easy. All you have to do is keep what you love, get rid of the rest, and put things back where they go. But that’s easier said than done. For many of us with ADHD, the inability to do something so (seemingly) simply adds to the feelings of, “Why can’t I just be like everyone else?” “Why do I have to be this way?” 

Although I wasn’t aware of my ADHD, I was aware that I had struggles —and, I tried to do everything within my power to motivate myself to be different. For example, I: 

  • bought books
  • joined a variety of Facebook “support” groups
  • watched YouTube videos
  • binged episodes of Hoarders

Piecing Myself Together

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was trying to treat each symptom individually…by whatever method worked. I was piecing together the puzzle of me

At this stage in my life, I knew that it was never in the cards for me to be like everyone else. That was painfully obvious. Even if I couldn’t be like what I thought were the normal people, I at least wanted to be less of whatever I was.

The ADHD Piece

After joining an ADHD Facebook group (before my official diagnosis), the puzzle started to make sense—my life (up to that point) started to make sense. Eventually, I found a therapist that specialized in ADHD. I finally had an answer for what I was dealing with. The diagnosis, along with strategies that I had cultivated on my own made life a lot easier (and less cluttered) to live.

managing adhd and clutter are possible when we work with our selves instead of against

Carving Out My Strategies

Looking back, I recognize that becoming aware of (and using) what motivated me, rewarded me, and fulfilled certain values were important to my process. I had unknowingly begun to solve, at least a portion, of the problems I was struggling against. Some of my observations included:

  • Getting rid of the physical clutter energized me, motivated me, and improved my mood. The more things I got rid of, the less things I had to organize. 
  • Completing even the smallest of goals is incredibly satisfying and motivating. 
  • Structuring my days and tasks around stimulating tasks and activities, based on my values, felt like accomplishments.
  • Learning to be compassionate with myself and embrace my uniqueness—not trying to force myself into a mold—helped me to formulate what worked for me.
  • Making a game (or fun challenge) out of what was once overwhelming decreased my procrastination.

While living with ADHD has its challenges, learning how to work with… instead of against ourselves is one of the keys in making it manageable. In order for that to happen, we have to recognize that we are different from neurotypical people and we are different from other people with ADHD. It is a spectrum and what works for one may not work for all. 

Managing ADHD with Personal Strategies

Learning to personalize our strategies may be a learning curve, but it’s well worth it, especially when we are new to managing ADHD and clutter. Becoming aware of (and using) what motivates, rewards, and fulfills us will equip in all areas of our life and health. 

Time

It will take time to figure out the best solutions for our unique lives. This is perfectly fine. What matters is that we discover what works best for us… and that won’t be overnight. It’s a process that involves learning , growing , and tweaking along the way.

Patience

It is absolutely essential to be patient with ourselves and to remain focused on the process, not the timeline. Frustration and overwhelm are common when we look at the mountain of a task that we have in front of us. For me, I also struggled with the why/how I could let things get so out of control. We have to remember that no matter how frustrated or overwhelmed we become, patience and grace will allow us to recognize what we’re struggling with and move forward. 

Observation

Paying attention to what we do (or don’t do) and why can help us come up with ways to get around our obstacles. Being mindful, throughout our day, will become the foundation for our success. Keep in mind that observations can also include looking back over what has (or hasn’t) worked for us in the past. Additionally, jotting down these observations will allow you to recognize your patterns and map out solutions, based on what you’ve written down. 

Recognition and implementation of our values

Having fun, challenging myself, and feeling accomplished are all a part of my value system. I was able to use those values as motivation to declutter and organize. For example, I noticed that I cleaned as long as I was entertained or distracted. So, I sought entertainment. Sometimes it was talking on the phone, listening to music, or participating in my Facebook cleaning group. At other times, I would make my own “fun” cleaning challenges:

  • Challenging myself to see how many things I could get picked up in a certain amount of time.
  • Setting a timer and spending 2 to 3 minutes cleaning every time I walked into a particular room.
  • Picking up 3-5 things every time I walked into a messy space.

Trial and error

We may need to brainstorm and try several methods before we find what works for us. We may need to combine methods or even use a different method each month to break up the boredom. It’s really up to the individual. 

What are you most motivated by? Which of your values would be the most helpful in your strategy? What tips would you share with others who may be struggling?

list of what it takes mentally and emotionally to make sure managing ADHD are clutter possible.
<span class="has-inline-color has-black-color">Char Aukland </span>
Char Aukland

Hi! I’m Char Aukland…thank you for joining me.

As a holistic personal trainer
, healthy lifestyle coach, and U.S. Army veteran,
I blend experience from my personal struggles with lessons I’ve learned working with psychiatric inpatients, as a team member in the physical rehabilitation of amputee soldiers returning from the war, and helping my clients to move past their challenges.
In addition to being a Christian health coach and personal trainer, I am the author of Life’s a Trip, a lifestyle workbook that takes an inside out approach to inner and outer weight loss.


Because I believe that self-awareness is key, you are invited to participate in a FREE course I specifically designed to help people find and understand their personal sticking points. Simply click the link below to get started. 

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