How to Do Your Laundry When You Have ADHD

How to Do Your Laundry When You Have ADHDLaundry is one of those tasks that is vital in order to succeed in life. It is also boring and a multi-step process; two things that fill ADHDers hearts with dread!

The problem with all multi-step tasks is that you can get distracted at any point. You might put in a load of washing, only to find it 4 days later, still in the machine. It has been washed, but because it dried at the bottom of the washer, it smells musty. Or you might take your clothes out of the dryer and not put them away. Maybe you leave them on your bed. When bedtime comes, you are too tired to put everything away. So you pop the pile of clean clothes on the floor. Over the next few days, if you need to wear an item, you take it off the floor. In the meantime, your dog is thrilled to have a new place to sleep. After a few days, you realize everything needs to be rewashed.

If you don’t have clean clothes, you either have to put clothes on that you really shouldn’t (which may be a bit smelly or stained) or you are dashing around trying to ‘make do’, putting outfits together that don’t really ‘go’ or at the very least, you are wearing odd socks and hoping no one notices.

The trick to doing laundry when you have ADHD, is to do all the steps one after another, so the laundry doesn’t get held up anywhere. Here is a checklist to make it as painless as possible.

1. Have a laundry room or area where you keep everything. The machine, dryer, laundry detergent, stain remover, etc.

2. Have laundry hampers for different colours. One for whites and one for darks and one for gym clothes (for example). Keep the hampers in the room where you get undressed, (bathroom, bedroom), so you don’t have piles of dirty clothes on the floor.

By having separate hampers, you have completely removed the ‘sorting’ part of the laundry process. You are doing it continually every time you get undressed.

3. Pick up one hamper and go to your laundry area. Put a load of laundry in the machine.

4. Set a timer to go off when the laundry load is finished. If you aren’t sure how long yours takes, time it. It will probably be in the range of 20-40 minutes.

5. Carry the timer with you, so you will hear it when it goes off.

6. Now you have X number of minutes to fill. Don’t do an activity you hyperfocus on, as it will be very hard to tear yourself away. Do do something that keeps you on your feet. Maybe food prep, exercise or housework.

7. When the timer goes off, go straight to the washing machine and move everything to the dryer.

8. Set your timer to go off when the tumble dry has finished. Usually it’s between 40 minutes to 1 hour. Time yours, so you know for the future.

9. If you are doing another load of washing, have a second timer to let you know when that is done.

10. When the tumble drier is finished, get your clothes and carry them to your bedroom.

11. Set your timer for 10 minutes. If you move swiftly, you will be able to put away all your laundry by the time the timer rings.

12. Hang the shirts up (as you might not need to iron them if you do this straight away) and put them in your wardrobe.

13. Folder or hang everything else.

14. Match your socks up and put them away.

High Fives!! You have finished!

How often you do a load of laundry depends on how much washing you generate. However, don’t go longer than 7 days,because then it becomes a huge task and it will be easy to procrastinate doing it. Having a particular day that you always do laundry is a great idea. Because then, you know you will always have clean clothes. Some people like to do one load of laundry a few times a week. Other people like to do all the washing on one day. Try both methods and see which is easier for you.

How do you do your laundry?

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  1. Paris says:

    Dear Jacqui,
    I have a stackable washer/dryer in my kitchen – super close to my front door and stove/sink. I walk by it for everything so I don\’t have the excuse of hiding laundry in the basement! Still, though I often have a laundry monster taking over my kitchen (all clean waiting to be folded and put away). The only way it gets done is if my son helps me – (Body double!) we chat and joke and work quickly. When he isn\’t home the task is daunting and I can\’t explain how much I dread it. My mother says \”just\” do it. She has never understood things aren\’t that easy. AdHD doesn\’t make us lazy – it is about time blindness and executive function issues. When a person sees a blind person with a cane or a person in a wheelchair it is easy to see their \”disability\” but with AdHD it is invisible like dyslexia so people expect us to function like they do. But just like the blind person or the person who can\’t walk we are able to do things for ourselves, we just do them differently or in our own way. And we need help and support. Not criticism. As a mother with AdHD with 2 boys who have it I break directions down for them and we work well together. They are growing up differently than I did. I thank goodness for that. Their self esteem will not suffer as much as mine has. One suggestion I have for many of you: pare down on your amount of clothes you and your family have. Keep to neutral colors & styles and dress them up with a little jewelry and scarves. If you have 10 loads of laundry (clothing) a week for 3-4 people, you may have too many clothes. Buy all the same color/style socks so sorting is easy. And fold the laundry in front of your favorite show instead of eating snacks! During a commercial (if you watch cable) or between binging episodes put the clothes in drawers or closets. Good luck, everyone. We are all in this together!

  2. Rebecca says:

    I’m a single lady, so I’ve got it easier than some o’y’all, but I found something that works for me.

    1) Sturdy socks and underwear get their own load, and I’ve stopped folding underwear. Amazing what a difference that made! It’s not as if I have to worry about wrinkles, and it makes this load almost an afterthought.

    2) Delicates get their own load. It takes a moment before washing to sort them out and put the appropriate items in mesh bags, but doing tasks back-to-back is far more successful than having to remember to come back for multiple steps. Dryers are hard on clothes, so this load is usually hung up shortly after the load finishes. Ms. Sinfield suggests hangers as they are more visual, and switching to hanging has done wonders for my fashion sense, but hanging clothes also saves a lot of time!
    I hang blouses, trousers, blazers etc. On hangers and line them up on the shower curtain rod. Trouser socks, hosiery, and brasierres usually go on a laundry rack. The benefit is two-fold: it’s much faster than drying and folding, and because they’re hung over my shower, it’s an easy reminder to move them to the closet when dry enough, which takes less than a minute.

    3) Items that are impractical to hang-dry, such as towels, bedding, thick denim, etc., is saved for the weekend. Most importantly, I only wash one type of load at a time. If I know a load is all towels, it’s so much easier to get around to just folding a couple towels than dreading having to sort out and fold socks and underwear, or untabgle bedsheets.

    I used to only do laundry when I had a really full load for ‘efficiency, but since switching, I’ve not noticed any difference in my utility bills, and I don’t run out of clothes anymore, either.

  3. Rachel says:

    After years of doing battle with laundry, I finally have a system that works pretty well:
    – each bedroom has its own hamper
    – I do laundry for Mom&Dad Monday, Towels&Sheets Tuesday, and “WeeOnes” Wednesday (I have three kids under 6),with an extra day “Stinky Stuff” Saturday to catch anything that can’t wait a full week.
    – on each load’s day, I only have to wash/dry/fold/put away ONE LOAD of laundry!
    I fell off the wagon for several months free my youngest was born, but recently I have gotten back on track and it makes such a big difference. I hope this system helps some of my fellow suffering, struggling homemakers. <3

  4. Jennifee says:

    Great article. Only problem is what to do when it’s already so overwhelming that it would take a week to get caught up on all the laundry. I have myself, my 2 boys and my husband’s laundry to worry about. I have a huge piling problem. Ugh I can’t remember the last time all the laundry in the house was clean and put away.

    • Hi Jennifee, try not to focus on how much laundry you have. Instead, focus on one load of laundry at a time. When you have finished 1 load, focus on the next. This will stop you feeling overwhelmed and all your energy disappearing.

  5. ashley says:

    How on earth do I explain to my boyfriend how hard it is to finish a load of laundry for me? he just doesn’t get it. am I alone?

    • Perhaps you could show him this article Ashley and the comments from other readers. That might help him to understand its not just you.

  6. Antoinette Smith says:

    My 17 year old daughter was just diagnosed with severe ADHD. I will try helping her with this, but do you have any suggestions for the clean clothes and how to organize those?

    • ADDers are very visual and like to be able to see things, other wise they forget about them. So maybe hanging clothes on coat hangers might be good, rather than tucked away in drawers

  7. Jacqueline, The whole house is a MESS! I am a single bachelor at 56 years. Having ADHD is like having being an invisible leather nick tie that never quit tightening up!! I have 4 to 5 weeks worth of laundry! Shall we Pray!!! I feel so overwhelmed, that 10 minutes is just starring at the laundry! Shell we talk about thee other aspects of the 3 Rooms of the Martha Stewart Night Mare of my house! Jacqueline, “HELP!” How do I get past the 10 minute rule for real action. Di you have any great ways to clean a Terrible Shower and toilet as well. HELP!!!

    I love your article, but this is a sever case. This is a Real Man’ Case…..Help Me..

    • Hi William
      You can do this!

      Start with ONE load of laundry.
      Don’t think about the shower or anything else.
      Get a basket, and fill it with some of the clothes that need washing (as you are doing this don’t think of the other clothes that need washing that aren’t going in the basket. That will just make you want to give’s how the brain works)

      Next put your clothes in the washing machine and switch it on.

      THEN come back here and let us know that you did it so we can celebrate with you!

    • Cynthia Frey says:

      Go to Laundry Mat! Worth it in these situations! Time is Money;whenI cant walk into laundry room….24/7Laundromat here I come…

  8. Melissa says:

    Laundry has always been an enormous challenge for my ADHD brain to process and stay on top of consistently. I would end up with mounds of clothes in our laundry room; most of them dirty with clean piles of clothes both on top of and in the drier.

    My amazing ADHD life coach suggested to me about 6 weeks ago that I have a laundry basket for each of my family members. She said their dirty clothes always go in their laundry baskets in their rooms.

    On Sundays, I do three baskets of laundry: my 2 young kids’ clothes share a basket and a load since they share a room and their clothes are littler; my husband’s is often a load, and my clothes). After I wash, dry, fold, and put away my kids’ clean clothes, for instance, my family’s laundry is only 1/3 completed, but my brain still releases that lovely dopamine because my kids’ clothes are completely done! Huzzah!! This strategy has worked beautifully for me and has allowed my brain to chunk laundry into 3rds and to feel a sense of laundry accomplishment 3 times in a single day, plus I get to go to sleep with this still new-to-me amazing feeling of our clothes all washed and put away neatly and ready for our week!

  9. Tracy says:

    Setting timers helps me with many types of tasks including the laundry and when I put anything on the stove or in the oven. My timers often drive my loved ones crazy but they are a necessity for me.

  10. Miranda says:

    As a clinically depressed, anxiety ridden, ADHD mum of 3 (2 with ADHD and anxiety). I hate laundry! We don’t have a dryer and I have the extra steps in hanging out my washing and bringing it in – however I hate going out in the hot sun, but then am too exhausted or simply forget in the evenings. I find sometimes I can just do it and other times it doesn’t happen for a few weeks (with maybe a load or two of socks and underwear thrown in). But it’s still good to read this and not feel so alone. Thanks

  11. Katie says:

    Wow, as a 31-year-old stay at home mom who suffers from ADHD, I must say, this article was extremely uplifting! So true the way you depicted our laundry ‘routine’. This is great advice! 🙂

    • lisa says:

      hey im also a 31 yr old mom with severe adhd. send a msg if you want. im struggling cuz i have 6-7 loads that need to be folded and put away. My bf thinks hes helping by washing and drying, but thats the easy part. The machine does all the work. Now im stuck with the part i hate, folding and putting away. And when the pile your looking at is a small mountain size, how unmotivational is that? ahhhhhh. i can feel the energy draining away, and ive only folded one basketful….

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