Why do ADHDers Find it Difficult to Have an Organized Space?

Tidying UpLiving in a cluttered, unorganized environment is a common thing when you have ADHD. However, being surrounded by ‘stuff’ can make your ADHD symptoms worse. It is harder to focus and concentrate. It is easier to lose important items like keys and important paperwork, and it can also exacerbate coexisting conditions such as anxiety.

Here are 8 reasons why ADHDers find it hard to have an organized space

1) Distraction

You might start one activity, get distracted and then you start working on a second activity leaving the items from the first activity lying around.

2) Out of Sight, Out of Mind

You don’t like to put belongings away in cupboards because you are scared that you will forget about them.

3) Procrastination

Tidying up is one of those boring mundane tasks that ADHDers hate to do. This means that you keep putting it off for another day.

4) Memory

You keep newspaper articles and other objects as visual reminders of things you want to do and see. Your fear of forgetting means you accumulate lots of items, and they are difficult to keep organized.

5) Collector

ADHDers love to collect things: teapots, baseball caps, pens, etc. It doesn’t matter what it is; I bet you collect at least one thing. These collections can grow large and are tricky to keep organized.

6) Overwhelmed

You feel overwhelmed just looking at your cluttered space, and you feel parallelized, fatigued and can’t take any action.

7) Don’t Know How

You honestly never learned how to be tidy and organized. It’s not an excuse, but being tidy and organized isn’t a skill that you were born with and maybe no one taught you how to do it properly.

8) Decisions, Decisions

Organizing requires many decisions in a short space of time.

Making decisions is hard when you have ADHD. It takes mental effort, and you might second guess your decision or beat yourself up for making the ‘wrong’ decision.

How many of those points resonated with you? Don’t worry if it was all of them!

The opposite of a disorganized cluttered space, is a calm, peaceful one in which you know where your belongings are, and you feel happy to invite an unexpected visitor into your home. How do you create that space? With the help of a brilliant book by Marie Kondo called, ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing”.

The difference between this book and every other book written about organizing is that you ask yourself a different question. Rather than asking ‘what could I throw out’, you ask ‘what do I want to keep’. Marie suggests holding each item and asking “Does this bring me joy?” If it does, then you keep it, and if not, it is time to say goodbye.

It’s simple yet very powerful!

This simple question is very helpful for ADHDers because it cuts out all the mental negotiating that can happen in your mind. You don’t have to consider if the item was a gift, if you used it in the last year or, if you might need it again. Just ask one question, “Does this bring me joy?”

Here are 3 of my favorite tips from the book that I think will help you too.

1) Pick an Area You Want to Declutter

Start small, maybe a shelf. Remove everything from the shelf. Next, only put back  the things that bring your joy. After  you have tried the technique on a small area, and experienced for yourself how easy and fun it was, you will be very motivated to continue.

2) Start with Items That are Easier to Part With

Marie says people have trouble throwing out things that have:

Functional value (when you could still use the item)

Information value (has information you think you might need)

Emotional value (being anything sentimental)

Don’t start with any of these things! It will sabotage your good intentions. Instead, pick a category that will be easy for you. Marie suggests starting with clothes.

3) Don’t Let Your Family See What You are Getting Rid of

When people see what you are donating, they might seem shocked and you might find yourself second guessing your decisions. You have done so well to get to the donate / throw out stage; you don’t want a third person to change your mind.

With fewer items in your space, it is much easier to keep the area clean and tidy without even trying!

Have you tried any of these suggestions?

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  1. You make it sound so much easier! I found my way to this post via links through the travel post. Everything along the way struck a bell for me. Realizing these issues I have are closely related to the new ADHD diagnosis is a relief somehow. Just knowing I’m not alone I guess! I will try to implement these ideas

    Thank you for your amazing articles and newsletters!

  2. Amy says:

    This book has been very useful. I also recommend a “parody” book called “The Life Changing Magic of not Giving a F#@&!” Which is all about mental clutter. The author read the first book and realized that when decluttering there was a lot of mental attachments so she used the same technique to prioritize her focus.

    • Hi Amy! I saw the book you mentioned in a book store, but didn’t take a closer look. Now you have described it, I think I will go back and get it. It sounds great! Thank you for telling us about it!

    • Cc says:

      Wow, this is encouraging to know that it is a good system to implement. I have a lot of trouble with getting rid of things that others give me and sometimes it’s junk! I find myself looking at model homes a lot — I feel like living in a space like that would be so motivating to keep surfaces and spaces tidy.

  3. Dave Hinsdale says:

    Bought Marie’s book about 4 weeks ago. This book should be part of any therapy program for ADHD! I did the clothes first, books second, and I am about 90% through all the paperwork. Next will be my tools (I’m semi-retired), then food/kitchen, then holiday decorations, then memorabilia. Wife may put up battle over last one. Dave

    • So happy to hear you enjoyed the book too David!! Its full of great strategies that really work isn’t it. We took lots of bankers boxes of paper work to be shredded this weekend. I find it easier to get rid of paper when I don’t have to shred it!

  4. Hi Jacqui
    The Miracle Group that I belong to gave a challenge to give away, throw away or recycle 27 things a day for 9 days as a clearing exercise. Even though I had recently moved house and downsized, I was still able to do this and it felt so freeing and added to the group energy 🙂

    x x x

    • What a great challenge Val!! That freeing feeling is awesome isn’t it? Stuff does way us down, physically and mentally. Your group sounds awesome!!

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