ADHD and Remembering Your Belongings

In his book, ‘Scattered Minds’ Dr. Gabor Maté tells a story about a gentleman with ADHD and his dog.  They, like other humans and dogs, go for daily walks together.

In preparation for their walk, the man puts on his coat, shoes and hat,  and the dog stays peacefully under the kitchen table. The man leaves the house, and the dog waits under the table. The man comes back several times for forgotten items, such as keys and wallet.  Then the third time the dog gets up and joins his owner for the walk. This wise dog has gotten the hang of living with an  adult ADHD!

Does this sound like you?

While this is a funny story, forgetting daily items before you leave the house can have big implications.  You can end up being late for work and  feel scattered, frantic  or down on yourself.

Your delays might cause members of your family to be late for their commitments too, and not everyone is as patient as the dog in the story :).

Being prepared and having everything you need as you leave the house involves memory and organization skills. This might not come naturally to you as an adult with ADHD; however, there are work arounds.

1) Have External Memory Prompts

Create a check list of everything you need before leaving the house.  The list could include the standard items such as your wallet, cellphone, keys and bag. It should also include other items that are personal to you.

Tape your checklist  to the back of your front door so it doesn’t get lost and is easy to see.

Before you leave the house, run through the list and check that you have everything. Using a checklist isn’t cheating or childish. You can learn more about checklists here

2) A Home For Everything

Do you get a sinking feeling when it’s time to leave, and you have absolutely no idea where your keys are?  They could be anywhere. You might look in the logical places first, like in the pockets of the clothes you wore yesterday, or your bag, or on your dresser. Then, feeling a bit more panicky, you look in the less obvious places like under sofa cushions and even in the fridge until you find them.

If you have a huge search every time you leave the house, you end up feeling completely exhausted before you have gone anywhere!

Go to your front door and take a look around. Could you put a hook in the wall by the door? Or is there room for a table where you could have a key dish?  Pick somewhere, and designate it the new home for your keys.

Now look around and think where you could designate  a good home for your other important items that you take with you every day.  Finally,  is there a wall socket where you can plug your cell phone in? That way it will always be fully charged when you leave for the day.

3) Create a New Habit

Now that you have a memory prompt (checklist) and are organized (key hook), it’s time to create a new habit.

When you come home, even if you are really tired,  the cat wants petting or your phone is ringing, put your keys on the hook. Then put your other belongings in their new homes.

Since it is a new habit,  it might feel strange at first.  However, the great thing about habits is they require no mental effort once they have been formed.

It can be helpful to talk yourself through your actions. ‘I am now putting my keys on their hook,’  ‘My bag is now on the shelf.’

If there are people around you can talk quietly; however, talking yourself through your actions like this helps you to stay fully present in what is happening in the moment. You are less likely to absentmindedly wander into a different room for instance.

This new habit only takes a minute (time yourself if you don’t believe me) yet it will save you hours and help to seriously reduce your stress levels.

How do you remember everything before you leave the house?


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  1. Cassandra Genereux says:

    I like to take my checklist and count how many items are on it. Now I know I need 9 things to go to work in the morning. This way I just have to remember 1 number instead of an intimidating list.

  2. I know where everything is until they get moved like moving house for instance or going on holiday. Then I can only remember where they used to be!

    For going out with the dogs I often forget to put their muzzles on them or forget my gloves so I gave to stop and look around before we leave and do a checklist out loud.

    I find I am getting worse as I get older 🙁

    X x x


  3. “Everything in its place, and a place for every thing.” is my motto, and always has been. This is why I did not know I am ADHD until I was over 50! I never lose anything. I always have put everything in its place and that way I don’t have to worry about it. Now, try to stop me from interrupting when you talk, driving too fast, being impatient on line at the store, that’s when you’ll know I’m ADHD. But losing things? Nope. Rarely, if ever.

    If I have to travel, which requires a different set of belongings to take with me, I make a “pile” on the kitchen table the night before. Sometimes I’ll start it several days before departing. As soon as I think of something, it goes in the pile. Or, if it’s something I use frequently, I have a note pad beside “the pile” to write down the day-to-day things I need to also bring on the trip (toothbrush is an easy one to leave behind, since brushing is usually the last thing I do before I leave the house. e.g., I end up putting the toothbrush in its holder in the bathroom, and drive to the airport without a toothbrush packed!). The way around this is to write “Toothbrush” on the note pad. But sometimes even that has failed. Solution: I always carry an extra toothbrush with me in my purse, and another in my briefcase. I have so many toothbrushes, I could loan you one if you forget yours ha ha. I wouldn’t because I’m a germaphobe, but that’s a whole other discussion.

  4. Rob says:

    I have found that slowing down and making a list before leaving the house or transitioning to the next works best!

    Also my laptop bag is the place I store all the things I need including keys, phone, etc.

  5. I don’t usually hunt for my keys and things, but then I’ve built a routine to keep things where they should be, and a mental checklist. Handkerchief and keys in left pocket, phone, wallet and knife in left pocket, cards in shirt pocket.

    I also have a waistcoat with many pockets that I use when I drive. I keep everything I will need in the car in there. Sunglasses, hands-free kit, house keys, car keys, headache pills, Garmin, a small torch. That means I only have to take one thing when I drive.

    I also leave the house quite slowly, building up the point where I’m sure I’m ready to leave. When I’m being rushed, that’s when things stay behind.

    Wonderful how I developed these coping mechanisms even before I knew about ADHD.

  6. Let me be the first to say that I am the woman with the dog! LOL This is the story of my life and my husband was sitting along side me smiling. I misplace the things I use everyday (keys, cell phone, hairbrush) but I swear ask me where something is that I have not used in MONTHS and I can take you to it with no hesitation. Thank you so much for all you do with your blogs.

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